Skip to content

Spring/Summer 2019 edition of Magnets and Ladders

Magnets and Ladders
Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities
Spring/Summer 2019

Editorial and Technical Staff

  • Coordinating Editor: Mary-Jo Lord
  • Fiction: Valerie Moreno, Marilyn Brandt Smith, Kate Chamberlin, Abbie Johnson Taylor, and Bonnie Blose
  • Nonfiction: Valerie Moreno, John W. Smith, Kate Chamberlin, Bonnie Blose, and Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Poetry: Valerie Moreno, Abbie Johnson Taylor, Leonard Tuchyner, Lynda McKinney Lambert, and Brad Corallo
  • Nature and the Outdoors: Kate Chamberlin, Bonnie Blose, Peter Altschul, Cleora Boyd, Annie Chiappetta, and Marcia Wick
  • Technical Assistants: Jayson Smith and John Weidlich

Submission Guidelines

Writers with disabilities 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.

Do not submit until your piece is ready to be considered for publication. Rewrites, additions, deletions, or corrections are part of the editorial process, and will be suggested or initiated by the editor.

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.

Have You Published a book? If you would like to have an excerpt of your book published in an issue of Magnets and Ladders, please submit a chapter or section of your book to The word count for fiction and nonfiction book excerpt submissions should not exceed twenty-five hundred words. Poetry book excerpts should be limited to five poems. Please include information about where your book is available in an accessible format. We will publish up to one book excerpt per issue.

Authors under age 18: Please include a statement from a parent or guardian that indicates awareness of your submission of literary work to Magnets and Ladders.

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. It is also available in recorded format from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. 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. If you would like to join our group and receive access to our phone conferences and mailing list, please complete our quick and easy membership form at

If you would like to learn more about Behind Our Eyes, or if you would like to make a donation, please visit our website at

Table of Contents

Editor’s Welcome

Hello. As the days grow longer, and the temperature slowly increases, we welcome spring. My favorite part of spring is always the clean, fresh air, followed closely by the continuous chorus of birds in our yard. We have a 200-acre park near our home, so we always have a nice variety of birds.

I’d like to thank our anonymous donor for making the Nature and the Outdoors contest, honoring the memory of Ernie Jones possible. Ernie had been a member of Behind Our Eyes since 2006 and was a frequent Contributor to Magnets and Ladders.

The “Nature and the Outdoors” section has a group of poems about many aspects of nature and the joy of welcoming spring. Read about some amazing memories and snapshots of life events in “Looking Back” and “Slices of Life.” Take a minute to reflect on the issues presented in “Points to Ponder.” “The Writers’ Climb” as always has articles to spark your creativity. “The Melting Pot” has a great mixture of stories and poems, ending with a story that you don’t want to miss.

In the Fall/Winter edition of Magnets and Ladders, we invited members to share their six-word stories for possible publication in the Spring/Summer edition. See “The Writers’ Climb” for the top six stories.

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 a Grand Prize winner for the Nature and the Outdoors contest along with our contests with cash prizes in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Many contributors are honored in this edition’s contest. For the first time, each of our winning authors is not earning a prize or mention in more than one category and we have a three-way tie for the second Honorable Mention recognition in the fiction contest. With the Nature and the Outdoors Grand Prize winner and the other contest winners, seventeen authors have received a prize or mention in this edition of Magnets and Ladders.

Below are the Magnets and Ladders Spring/Summer 2019 contest winners.

-Nature and the Outdoors:

  • Grand Prize: “Sycamore Ghosts” by Wesley D. Sims


  • First Place: “Mother Earth Gets Psychiatric Advice” by Leonard Tuchyner
  • Second Place: “Hitchhiker” by Ellen Fritz
  • Honorable Mention: “Quill” by Susan Muhlenbeck
  • Honorable Mention: “Me Too” by Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Honorable Mention: “French Silk Pie” by Abbie Johnson Taylor
  • Honorable Mention: “Reflections” by Kate Chamberlin


  • First Place: “The Sound of Blindness” by Burns Taylor
  • Second Place: “Breaking News from the Class Reunion” by Jeff Flodin
  • Honorable Mention: “Starting Over” by John Justice
  • Honorable Mention: “Hey, Hey, Hey; This Is No Choke!” by Janet di Nola Parmerter


  • First Place: “Tumbleweed” by Shawn Jacobson
  • Second Place: “A Fragile Thing” by Lynda McKinney Lambert
  • Honorable Mention: “In the Gardens” by Elizabeth Fiorite
  • Honorable Mention: “Violin” by Gretchen Brown

Congratulations to all of the prize winners.

The Magnets and Ladders team hopes that you have a safe and fun filled summer.

Part I. Nature and the Outdoors

In memory of Ernie Jones

Sycamore Ghosts, poetry, nature and the outdoors Grand Prize
by Wesley D. Sims

Midwinter, late day, slanting sun
filters through the southern woods,
glints on bare trunks and branches
of sycamore trees lined across
the ridge like a brigade
of Confederate gray ghosts,
their energy now depleted,
their hope diminished,
bodies threadbare and mangled,
their weapons lost or broken,
their bruised, gnarled limbs
aimed heavenward as if
in abject surrender.

Bio: Wesley Sims has published one chapbook of poetry, When Night Comes (Finishing Line Press, 2013). His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Breath and Shadow, Liquid Imagination, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Artemis Journal, The Avocet, Nature Writing, Pangolin Review, The Tennessee Magazine and others.
He lost hearing completely in one ear and has severe hearing loss in the other.

Spring Thaw, poetry
by C. S. Boyd

Earth snuggles under a white quilt,
sensing it is time to wake.
Ice crystals glisten on bare limbs.
Twinkling eyes view the peaceful scene.
Narrow footprints track through patchy snow.
Tears slide down cold, crumbling fingers.
Hungry fox sniffs at rabbit hole.
Rousing, spring warms a quickening earth.
Eager life wakens to blossom anew.

Bio: As a person with Retinitis Pigmentosa, Cleora Boyd first pursued a career in Accounting. After receiving a B.S. degree in Math from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, she went on to obtain employment with a major pharmaceutical corporation in Fort Worth, Texas, where she still lives. Now retired, she joined a writing group, enjoys reading, taking adult education courses, watching TV with her cockatiel Dusty, and writing about whatever may be on her mind. Her creations have found a home in Magnets & Ladders and Consumer vision. Cleora also writes under the names Sly Duck and C. S. Boyd.

Early Blooms, poetry
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Hello, yellow daffodil,
Forsythia, and tulip;
How did you find your way out?
It’s been so cold for so long.

Does Old Punxsutawney Phil
Have a vision problem too?
But Mother Nature promised!
Did you get your strength from her?

Welcome to our world again;
Tell your pink and purple friends
It’s safe, and it’s warming up;
Thanks for believing in spring.

Bio: Marilyn Brandt Smith worked as a teacher, psychologist, and rehabilitation professional. She has edited magazines and newsletters since 1976, and was the first blind Peace Corps volunteer. She lives with her family in a 100-year-old home in Kentucky. Her first book, Chasing the Green Sun, published in 2012, is available from Amazon and other bookstores and in audio form. She loves writing flash fiction stories, and was the primary editor for the first Behind Our Eyes anthology, as well as Magnets and Ladders from 2011 through 2013. She enjoys college basketball, barbershop harmony, and adventure books. Visit her website:

In the Gardens, poetry Honorable Mention
by Elizabeth Fiorite

Dedicated to the “Old Crow”


I hover like a helicopter, I circle, dart and fly.
My iridescent purple wings are dazzling to the eye.
You will not find more beautiful any hue or dye,
You search in vain, oh mortal fool, for I am DRAGONFLY!


I wonder why you call me “bumble”.
You never see me halt or stumble.
I can zoom or zither,
Never flustered, in a dither.
I’m buzzing, buzzing, always busy.
Don’t try to follow, it will make you dizzy.


I’m munching, crunching, as I crawl.
So much to eat; I love it all.
Soon I’ll sleep, I ‘ll make my bed,
I sleep so well, you’ll think I’m dead.
But come back later and squint your eyes,
We’ll both be in for a big surprise!


Graceful, delicate, my beauty’s so fine.
With colors incomparable, with resplendent design,
Was that a dream, that I once crawled on the ground?
How long can this last, this freedom new found?
When my wings spread, my beauty’s displayed,
What wondrous deeds our God has made!

  1. The Dandelion

My golden head reflects the sun,
My tender shoots make one fine salad.
But I’m misunderstood by everyone,
With statements far from valid.
Why do you wish to see me gone,
My bright and cheery face be banished
From your lush and lovely summer lawn
Your only wish: to see me vanished.

Bio: Elizabeth Fiorite has been a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, for over sixty years. Her first career was devoted to Catholic elementary education. After vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa, her second career began as a social services counselor for the adult blind in Jacksonville, Florida. Since retiring in 2013, she has enjoyed participating in church projects, Justice and Peace activities, facilitating peer support groups, and “Women of Vision.”. Her art work has been displayed in the Cummer Museum, and her articles have appeared in Behind Our Eyes, Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look, The Braille Forum, and in the National Catholic Reporter.

Do Butterflies Remember? poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

Caterpillars are ready to go.
Of parents they have no need to know.
They consume their ways out of their eggs.
Post conceiving, they keep on eating.
As seasons slip forward,
their segments grow moreward,
’til too big for their britches,
Tight skin splits their stitches.

They’re really not different,
only longer and thicker.
Each segment, twixt fore and aft,
strictly defined and static.
I’d wager a caterpillar,
it knows who and what it is.

But soon their season ceases.
They form little cubby holes
to live out the winter cold.
Their well-ordered body forms
then turns to amorphous mush,
no longer caterpillars.
In the spring they are reborn.

The emergent are magical,
not crawling, inching insects,
but beings of angel wings,
with florid flower colors
that dance on summer breezes
and dine on blossom nectar.
From the lowly, lords are spawned.

Still, I can’t help but wonder,
Do butterflies remember?

Bio: Leonard Tuchyner has Stargardt’s disease, which was first noticed during his teenaged years. He is now seventy-eight. 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-nine years and their two dogs. He is active in the local writing community, which includes attending critique groups. He also facilitates a Writing for Healing and Growth group at the Charlottesville Senior Center and writes a column for Dialogue Magazine. He recently published a poetry book through Cedar Creak Publishing. His hobbies include Tai chi, and gardening.

The First Day of May, poetry
by Carrie Hooper

Birds chirp with joy.
The sun shines its greeting.
The breeze whispers, “Hello.”
Budding trees and flowers
Clothe the earth with splendor.
My heart rejoices at your return,
Oh, melodious May!

Bio: Carrie Hooper was born and raised in Elmira, New York. She has been blind since birth. She received a B.A. and an M.A. in vocal performance and an M.A. in German. She also studied at the Royal University College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden as a Fulbright scholar. Carrie currently lives in Elmira, New York and teaches German at Elmira College. Furthermore, she teaches voice and piano. She is proficient in German, Italian, Swedish, Spanish, Albanian, and Romanian. In addition to teaching and learning foreign languages, Carrie enjoys writing poetry. In August of 2018, she published her first collection of poetry, Word Paintings, a bilingual volume that includes poems in Albanian with English translations. Carrie also gives vocal recitals, serves as pianist at her Church and sings in a community chorus.

Violets beside the Old Water Pump, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Once within a much younger year,
I had the idea of finding wild violets in a wood
and transplanting them at home.
Of course, my dad and I went violet hunting,
harvested some of the purple flowers
from a wooded spot alongside Highway 163,
on a memorable Hoosier hill.
Uncertain of my plan,
my dad still was a stealth accomplice.

At the inset of the southwest corner of our home,
shaded partly by the soft maple
on the other side
of the curving, white-rock driveway
was one of our three wells.
A concrete, rectangular frame
with a six-inch-deep cement lid
formed the base for the four-foot high, old iron water pump
that my father painted the same bluish green
that he painted the foundation
of our “Heartland House,”
built in 1914.

Since city water lines
had come into our rural area,
we did not have the same needs for the pump.
When city cousins, with eleven children,
came to visit from Kankakee, Illinois,
the wild eleven were
fascinated with our pump
and worked the handle more in one day
than it had been used in three months of a summer.

With sidewalk to the east of the then ornamental pump
and unsodded grass
around the other sides,
the knoll was the perfect spot
for my transplanting
the wild violets–
violets for remembrance.

Borrowed from an Indiana wood,
these violets flourished
for many years
to the north of the old pump
and below one of my bedroom windows.

Now, on my front porch
and behind my townhouse,
I tend a summer garden
of sixteen containers;
among these are
three containers of rosemary
because rosemary, too,
is for remembrance.

Bio: The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the holiday Season is the first book by Alice Jane-Marie Massa. To read more about this collection of holiday memoirs, short stories, and poetry (available from Amazon, BARD, etc.), please visit Alice’s author page:

Additionally, Alice invites you to visit her Wordwalk blog: where, since 2013, she has posted her poetry, essays, memoirs, or short stories concerning her four guide dogs and other topics.

With master’s degrees from Indiana State University and Western Michigan University, Alice taught for 25 years, including 14 years of teaching writing at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

A Fragile Thing, poetry Second Place
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

Before daylight
lone black crow lands on swaying tree top
high above rushing waters of the creek
crow’s voice hollers out
sharp staccato jabs, high-pitched notes
mingled with swift moving water

Canadian geese
build nests on flat rocks
beside a torrent of white-water
near Rhododendron bushes
super stars, each of them
magnificent blooming wall of flowers
before dawn this morning

Life happens slowly
like growth of lavender-pink
Rhododendron blossoms
smallest details
hundreds of them
wide open
everything in sync
a fragile thing.

Bio: Her name is Lynda Jeanne/ caring; self-motivated; inspired; smart/ Esther is her mother; Bill, her father/ Ida Matilda, her maternal grandma/ She likes crystals; poems; nature; crows/ She believes in Heaven, stars and timeless boundaries/ aubergine; der Hirsch; helix; woodlands/ She wants to stand in Charlemagne’s Palace Chapel again/ Virgo girl arrived on a Friday in August, Peridot Stone/ The Village of Wurtemburg is home/ Lynda McKinney became Lynda Lambert.

Of Smoke & Mirrors, poetry
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

This early morning fugue
feels like a contrapuntal composition
opens with melodious notes in the firmament
one line holds it all together
through seasonal changes and
crystal geological structures.

Early morning sky is a silver-grey Tahitian pearl
curved into a finicky setting
held aloft by venerable sterling prongs
of lacey tree tops shivering in translucent fog
point-counter-point melody.

This early morning fugue
saturates the earth – my feet sink into soggy tunnels
beneath bottle- green blades of grass

This early morning fugue
takes flight – soars across musical keys
Soprano – Alto – Tenor – Bass
like a painting by Jackson Pollock
as he walks across his canvas
flat on the ground
splashes out runs of Call and Response.
Dripping down. Intertwined vines.

This early morning fugue
A swath of colour turned into a round
lyrical strokes of sound layers
harmonies weave together
opalescent wind in tall pampas grass
a soprano begins the song
pale golden citrine, a piccolo in flight
foggy quartz – of smoke and mirrors
duet of tenor and alto voices
flat burgundy leaves from towering oaks
drop final line of bass notes
this early morning fugue

Note: The fugue is a musical form that dates back to the 16th century in France. Its popularity was strong from 1600 – 1750.

“Of Smoke & Mirrors” was published in Wordgathering, Volume 12, Issue 4. December 2018.

The Crickets’ Song, poetry
by Ria Mead

In an arena of darkness this August night,
my Labrador, calico and I
are tucked into three front porch Adirondacks,
mesmerized by the summer music of crickets.
Individual sounds created by the insects’ vibrating wings:
intricate, varied, unmistakable as hearts beating.

Little time is left for August,
leaving less and less time for crickets to sing.
Do they sense their imminent end? Will death take them mid-song?
If I knew my fate so near, could I hold my complaint?
Keep strength in my voice? Have purpose until that finish?
Before our appreciative triad disappears into the silence of autumn,
a soloist bids us a sweet and clear goodnight,
enriching our dreams and tomorrows.

The crickets sing their late-summer song;
a tireless hum of chanting that swallows the black hours completely,
as sunlight swallows dawn’s mist.
It is not about sadness or leaving, though it leaves me sad,
knowing they’ll soon be gone.

Until that inevitable note,
I believe each member of their choir will shelter
the music of our summer nights,
beating within their wings.

Bio: Ria Meade, 62, a Long Island poet, has been blind more than half her lifetime. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in painting. Twenty-five years after losing her sight, she began to paint with words. Her poetry chronicles these life experiences, especially those with six guide dogs. Ria says the sounds, smells, and touch of nature affect her differently now. Her most recent book of poetry, Someday A Sunrise, was published in 2013. In 2016 her poetry was featured in the Oberon Literary Review, Crosswinds Journal, and Absoloose, a Loose Moose publication.

Tumbleweed, poetry First Place
by Shawn Jacobson

Borne upon the wind,
the flying bushes of the plains
sail across the road.

Heading out from Pueblo going east,
we leave the mountain’s grandeur in our wake,
and enter upon plains with flat expanse,
vast in reach, unbounded and so free.

A wind arises from the howling north,
a sky of cloudless blue turns dusty brown.
I hear the keening in the chilly air;
a storm is calling through the empty land.

And then I see a sight unique with wonder.
A drove of plants the size of steers arrives
sailing across the emptiness around us,
flying over unencumbered land.

We flinch as these weeds cross the road ahead;
So sudden, collisions cannot be avoided.
They slam the car with slapping thudding sound,
breaking themselves on our metallic helm.

Through prairie towns our tumble weeded way
takes us in our eastward journey home:
La Junta, Lamar, Garden and Dodge cities,
and smaller towns swallowed by emptiness.

In time we’ll leave this empty widespread realm
and eastward find familiar fenced-in land
of cities reaching skyward in their might,
and bid nature around it mind her place.

But memory of this forgotten space
will linger as we contemplate the sight
of dusty skies that tell of distant storms
and plants that sail through, empty prairie skys.

Over unfenced land
Flying bushes travel free
across memory.

Bio: Shawn Jacobson was born totally blind and attained partial eyesight through dint of several operations. He works as a mathematical statistician for the Federal Government, when he is not being furloughed. Shawn lives in Olney, MD with his wife, son, and a couple of dogs. Shawn enjoys reading and traveling. His travels serve as the inspiration for much of his poetry.

Part II. Points to Ponder

The Sound of Blindness, nonfiction First Place
by Burns Taylor

Some years ago, I was standing in the back yard of the home of my attorney friend, Don, in Los Angeles. He was talking to one of his celebrity clients on his cell phone, a young lady whose family contributed millions of dollars for various philanthropic projects around the world. She was in Hawaii.

My friend had told me many interesting stories about her bizarre behavior. Once she paid him to fly her three dogs across the Pacific—just my buddy and her three dogs in a private Lear jet. The faucets in the bathroom on the plane were gold, as were the buckles of the seat belts.

I’m sure he told her about some of my wild escapades as well, like that night in Juarez, Mexico…

When Don handed me the phone, I knew it was time for me to meet his famous client. “Hello,” I said, “It’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.”

“Yeah,” she said, “Same here. I’ve heard some pretty amazing things about you, ALSO. By the way,” she added, “You don’t sound blind.”

I had to mull that one over for a second. Then I was on my game. “Funny you’d say that,” I chuckled. “You really don’t sound rich either.”

The human voice resonates with many secrets, like masked strangers that often hide the subtlest mysteries of the heart. We who are blind know that an attentive ear can decode MANY OF those secrets and reveal those mysteries.

An experienced listener can read many characteristics of the human condition in the voices of others: their moods, physical states, ethnic origin, gender, etc. Over the telephone, for example, MOST OF us are ABLE TO identify a person’s emotional frame of mind, whether they are angry, happy, fatigued, and so on.

An experienced blind person can discriminate even further. He or she may recognize such characteristics as regional dialect, approximate age and even make a judgment about the physical size of the person on the other end of the line.

But blindness? Is it possible for an astute listener to recognize that the person they are speaking to is blind by the sound of the voice?

For years, that exchange between my lawyer friend’s client and me Sat in a special pigeonhole in my bank of private jokes about blindness and blind people, like the one about the blind guy in the department store. He picks his guide dog up and twirls him around his head several times.

“Sir. Sir. May I ask what you’re doing?” asked a customer nearby.

The blind man retorted, “just lookin around.”

But I didn’t really take it seriously; just sort of fantasized about what the “sound of blindness” might be. I didn’t take it seriously that is until just the other day when the subject actually surfaced in a repartee between members of a blindness listserv I joined recently.
A partial transcript of that dialogue follows:

“Now, excuse me if I say something,” said the first speaker, “and I hope that those of you who are on list know what I mean, but certain blind people, you know, sound blind. If you don’t know what I mean, I can’t explain it, but it is something those friends of mine and I have discussed and know well…”

“You’re right about a person’s sounding blind,” said another lister. “Sometimes I can tell it right away and sometimes I can’t. Some people show it in their timidity of speech and I think there’s some kind of voice quality that I can detect, probably more so in people who have been blind from birth. Hard to explain but it sometimes comes out in a little bit of a lisp sound.”

“I also get what you mean about someone sounding blind,” the first speaker resumed. “For a long time I have tried to come up with a way to explain what I mean, but it’s something that has remained indefinable. It sounds awful for me to say, but I know it when I hear it. One would think that the voice wouldn’t be affected by a person’s loss of sight. It does, in my opinion, have something to do with some of the social isolation that can come with blindness. In the ‘blind’ voices, there is a strange lack of something….”

After reading this provocative exchange between thoughtful blind persons, I began to speculate. Was my attorney buddy’s client on to something those many years ago? Could it be that some blind people really do sound blind?

I wondered who among my friends and acquaintances had this quality. There was that guy, Tommy in L.A. He always sounded a little disoriented and fumbling. Then there was Jesse, my buddy in Houston who sounded like he was just floating in space, not really anchored to anything or anyone.

The more I thought about it, many of my friends began to sound blind. My God! Was it possible that there was a universal blind sound that had escaped me all my life? So that’s why I had been turned down on so many phone requests for job interviews. They could hear blindness in my voice. And what about sighted people? Could they sound blind, too?

My paranoia was rapidly ramping up to the “red alert” stage. And what other qualities and characteristics might be projected in the voice? People could probably tell that I was skinny and poor and white, too.

It occurred to me that we in the rehab field have been missing the boat. We should be training people in how not to sound blind. There it is! I thought. I’ll start a school to train people to sound like what they want to be: strong, tall, famous, etc.

“Want to sound intelligent, rich and good-looking? Register now for classes in VOICES FOR SUCCESS.”

So when a graduate of my new program calls up for a job interview the secretary’s message to her boss would be something like, “Mr. Brown, you got a call this afternoon from a Mr. Jones who sounded very rich and quite good looking.” Neither of them would ever suspect that Mr. Jones was actually blind, considerably overweight and a little gone in the face.

Bio: Burns Taylor lives in el Paso, Texas with his wife, Valora. They are both totally blind. Taylor has an MFA in Professional writing from USC. He published his most recent book, Hands Like Eyes, in 2014. In 1972, Taylor edited and published Passing Through: an anthology of contemporary Southwest literature, awarded a two-year adoption as a freshman reader by the El Paso Community College. Taylor’s works have appeared in Publishers Weekly, The Texas Observer, Reading Lips and Other Ways to Overcome a Disability and most recently, a 2500-word interview in My Heart is Not Blind, 2019.

Mother Earth Gets Psychiatric Advice, fiction First Place
by Leonard Tuchyner

She gazed around her doctor’s office before settling down. Doctor G regarded her with a benign smile, before glancing at her records.

“Ah, Mrs. Earth, it’s really good to see you again. It seems like ages since we had a chance to speak. Why don’t you settle down here,” he said, gesturing to a comfortable- looking couch made of cosmic dust.

“I see you don’t use plastic, Doctor.”

He looked at her inquiringly, “Plastic?”

“Pardon me, Doctor, but where I come from, I am drowning in plastic. It’s everywhere. Hard plastic, soft plastic, clear plastic, colored plastic, bumpy plastic, smooth plastic, tiny pieces of plastic, big blocks of plastic.” She pauses and gasps for breath.

Before she could continue, the doctor puts a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Mrs. Earth, calm down. You’re going to have a stroke. Breathe slowly. Take a gentle, deep breath. Hold it for a count of four. That’s it. Now breathe out slowly for a count of seven. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. That’s good. Again. That’s right.” He removes his hand from her shoulder.

“Now, suppose you tell me what brings you here.”

“Nothing much.”

“Nothing much? Come on, you’re here for a reason. If you don’t tell me what is troubling you, how can I help?”

“Nothing. I’m sorry for wasting your time. I’ll just go home and die quietly.”


“Yes, Doctor. I’m dying. But it’s okay. There are lots of planets like me. No one will even notice.”

“I’m quite sure I would notice. Tell me, Mother Earth, what makes you think you’re dying?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. It’s too terrible.”

Dr. G, with an air of consternation, wanders about his office, fighting down an impulse to let her leave. Then he turns and says, “Before you leave, why don’t you tell me how you and your husband are getting along.”

“Why would I want to talk about Sol? He’s a bum. He doesn’t care about anything. Certainly not about me and his children. About Venus, he cares. He’s a lot closer to her, hot head that she is. It’s hard to believe we’re sisters. She’s never going to have any life to her. So Sol doesn’t have to worry about taking care of her children. Me, I’m just a big bother. No matter. Soon I’ll be dead. I’ll be happy. He’ll be happy. I don’t want to be a bother. I’ll make him happy and just die. Who knows, at the rate I’m going I might turn out to be just like she is, all heat, stormy and no life. No kids for Sol to worry about. Nobody will call me Mother Earth ever again.”

“Do you think Sol would love you more if you were all heat and no love?”

“I don’t know, but planets like that are worth a dime a dozen. Why do I need a schmuck like Sol, anyway?”

“Why don’t you leave him?”

“Where would I go? I’m already middle-aged. I can’t start over again. What star would take me in? And even if they did, would they give me an orbit in keeping with my needs? Who knows whether I’d ever get a second chance at life? Besides, Sol isn’t so bad. He’s got a lot to think about. He’s worried about Mars because he can’t seem to hold on to an atmosphere. He can’t get close to Saturn, Jupiter, and Uranus, and Neptune. They’re having enough trouble trying to start their own families. But if Sol ever winked out, they wouldn’t be such independent big shots. They’d miss him. They may be far-out guys, but Sol is the closest thing they have for a father.”

“So, tell me Mother Earth, is Sol your problem?”

“No. Not really. May he live and be well, despite his shortcomings.”

“Is Venus your problem?”

“No. She’s a lovely sister. Who could ask for a better sister?”

“So what is your problem?”

“I’m ashamed to say.”

“Mother Earth, I think you know that I know what’s at the bottom of all this travail.”

“Good, then you tell me, and save me the trouble.”

“That wouldn’t do you any good. You have to say it.”

“Boy, some doctor you are. You make your patients come up with their own diagnosis. Even a dumb asteroid could be a doctor like that.”

(A long pause. Doctor G just looks at Earth and makes her feel uncomfortable.)

“Okay, Okay, I’ll tell you. But you are responsible. A mother should never say this about her children. THEY ARE KILLING ME! My own loving children are digging my grave.”

“All your children are killing you?”

“No, not all of them. Just the ones that look like you. You know, made in your image. The others just kill themselves. Little spats and necessary death to sustain life. It’s the stupid smart ones with the great IQ’s, that should know better, who are the culprits. The other ones like birds, insects, squirrels and cute little bunnies wouldn’t know how to kill off their poor, struggling Mother. But these human little brats are too dense to even know that they are putting me in my grave.”

Mother Earth begins to sob. Doctor G. puts an arm around her, murmuring, “There, there now. It’s all right.” After a few years, her sobs turn into sniffles.

“Doctor, I don’t mean any disrespect, but that’s easy for you to say. You’ve never been in danger of dying.”

“Oh, I’m not too sure of that. I’ve been declared dead before.”

“Yeah, sounds like something my kids might say once in a while. But what can I do? My hands are tied. I’m helpless.”

Doctor G. stands up purposefully, walks away a few steps, and turns to say, “You’re not helpless. You’re too close and involved to see your options.”

“Oh good, I’ve got options. Why couldn’t I see that? Now I’ll go home and exercise my options. Boy, you are some good doctor.”

“Did you know that you use sarcasm to avoid something you are afraid to face?”

“Yes, I do know that. So I’ll stay. Not that it will do any good, but just to show you respect, I’ll give you a chance. So what are my wonderful options?”

“Okay, what do you call an organism that kills the body it lives off?”

“I ask you a question, and instead of an answer, you give me another question. Do you think you’re Socrates?”

Doctor G. stares her down, until Earth looks away and mumbles, “A fatal disease. My kids are not a disease.”

“Why not? Why aren’t they a disease?”

“Because no good can come from a disease. A disease is an evil thing that you need to destroy.”

“Actually, Mother E, that’s not always true. There are many diseases that are useful. For example, among humans, sickle cell anemia can be lethal if it is too prevalent, but in moderation it can protect against malaria.”

“My kids aren’t funny-looking blood cells. They are people.”

“It was only an example. You know, I’m beginning to have a lot of sympathy for Sol. My point is that sometimes a disease is a disease only when it is out of control. Please understand that I’m talking metaphorically. Humans can be, and have been, enhancers of the quality of your life.”

“You’re saying my children are out of control, and that makes me a bad mother. Maybe I deserve to die.”

“Don’t tempt me, Mother Earth. Contrary to popular belief, I do have my limits, and patience isn’t always my strongest virtue.”

“What do you expect, Doctor? You are calling my favorite children diseases. There are some things a mother does not want to hear, even if they may be true.”

“The doctor offers something to swab her tears, which are flowing freely. “It doesn’t please me to be coarse about it, but Mother Earth, softening the truth won’t help. I’m only talking metaphorically about humans being a disease.”

The doctor pauses, his brows knit in, his hand cupping his chin. “There are other models I could use to describe the human dilemma. They definitely are children. At best, they are unruly adolescents. Not all of them, mind you. Some are responsible adults. But for the most part, they are self-centered, rebellious, selfish teenagers hooked on drugs. They’re addicts.”

“Oy veh, from diseases to addicts. I feel so much better now.”

Doctor G. continues, pacing the room pensively. “They are full of themselves. Drunk on power, requiring more and more of it. Dependent on luxury. They are eating their way to oblivion. They consume more and more, depleting your resources, polluting your systems, your water, your air, your land. Using poisons to kill the balance of nature for short-term gains. And, like addicts will do, they refuse to accept that there are terrible consequences to their actions.”

Mother Earth stands up defiantly. “That’s not fair! Lots of them see what’s going on. They are trying to make things right. If only the rest would listen.”

The doctor smiles, “Yes, humanity is trying to heal itself. In fact, more and more of them are beginning to see the light. Therein lies the hope. Right now, the addicts have the power and are holding on to that power desperately, grabbing more and more for themselves. They are gorging and choking everyone under their despotic rule.”

“Dear Lord, what am I supposed to do? Do you want me to kill off all my bad seeds?”

“No, no, no. First of all, I’m not comfortable with the idea of them being bad seeds. Only time will tell that. They just haven’t matured. Most of them haven’t stopped growing. I’ve seen too many examples of spurts of growth in people who seemed like poor prospects for evolution. Second of all, change must come from within the species.”

Still standing and defiant, Mother Earth challenges Doctor G. “You said there were options, but you didn’t tell me what they are, unless you mean sitting by and watching my children fighting one another is an option. I know who the winners of that fight would be, and they are not the ones that would save my life. I’d rather die quickly and be out of my misery than be witness to this horrible self destruction.”

The doctor puts his hands on Earth’s shoulders, gently but firmly. “You have more options than that. Please sit down while we discuss them.”

Earth allows herself to be settled back into the stardust couch, and listens.

“To sum it up, tough love is the medicine I recommend. These teenagers need to be confronted with the consequences of their actions. Instead of trying to smooth things over, ameliorating the wounds that they are inflicting, I prescribe speeding up the consequences. See if you can make them get beyond denial. Throw hurricanes and fires at them.”

“And if that doesn’t work, what then?” Mother Earth asks.

“Throw more at them. Quakes are another gadget in your box of tools.”

“Doctor, quaking is something I do very well. But won’t those things just make the situation worse?”

“I’m afraid so. It is a little bit like chemotherapy. Weaken the grip of the addicted ones, so the evolving humans can have room to heal and honor you.”

“Yeah, I remember when you prescribed a comet when the best life I could produce was giant dinosaurs. I’m not ready for another one of those cures, Doctor.”

“Would you rather have giant dinosaurs, or humans and birds?”

“At this point, I’m not sure. The dino’s weren’t threatening to kill me.”

“True, but they weren’t allowing room for further evolution of consciousness.”

“They were evolving. They just needed more time.”

“How many more millions of years do you think they would have needed? You weren’t getting any younger, you know. The big ones were getting bigger and fatter and fatter. Now, their descendants are smart, beautiful, live harmoniously within their biosphere, and are very successful. They did better than just survive. But if you don’t do something about your youngest children, they may not continue to survive.”

“Oh, I know, I know. Okay, okay, I’ll throw everything I can at them, before you’re tempted to prescribe another comet. I’ll quake, I’ll send floods, fire, locusts, deserts, landslides and tsunami’s. What did I leave out?”


“Between you and me, Doc, do you think they have a chance?”

“They are a resourceful and stubborn species. If any life form can survive these circumstances, they can. I’m as anxious to see what happens as you are.”

“Oh, while I’m here, Doctor G, is there anything you can prescribe for Sol?”

“Goodbye, Mother Earth. I’ll make an appointment for you twenty-five years from now, to see how your treatments are going.”

“If I live that long.”

We have a Choice, poetry
by Brad Corallo

Why among our people is death such a diminishment?
Why not a transcendent moment of joyful release?

The spirit, ascending in brilliant radiance.
Striding boldly into the next realm of being.

Announcing its arrival with unquenchable energy.
To begin anew, with wisdom gained.
And a chance to reach new heights of compassion and understanding.

Perhaps the Vikings had the right idea.
To send their fallen heroes boldly home,
in fiery triumph,
to sit at table with the Gods.

None among us know the truth of death.
So it is in our power to choose:
to plod on in sorrow with eyes upon the ground
or to rejoice in the release and freedom of a shining spirit,
no longer bound by the constraints of matter.
On the threshold of a new adventure,
one step closer to reunion in the Clearlight.

Bio: Brad Corallo, a writer in multiple genres, is a Long Island native. His work has been published in nine previous issues of Magnets & Ladders, in the William B. Joslin Outstanding Program Awards Journal NYSID Preferred Source Solutions and by The Red Wolf Coalition. He has been a life-long student of fine wine, food, music, books, space exploration, several professional sports and relationships of all kinds. He makes his living as a certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC) and mental health therapist. Due to LCA (a very rare genetic retinal condition) Brad has experienced impaired and worsening vision throughout his lifetime.

Canary’s Song, poetry
by Ria Mead

with quotes by Rabbi Daniel Wassermann

We echo each others disbelief,
Not here in America!
until the massacre of eleven Jews at worship in their synagogue.
Senior ages did not protect them.
Gave years remembering
why they came to this country,
promising refuge, religious freedom,
opportunity and peace.

We cannot bury the victims,
until their remains are collected:
including the blood.
They will be buried whole.

This tradition must be honored.
It is what they practiced,
believed, lived.
Their blood is everywhere.
The remains must be reunited.

I cannot cry. There is work to be done.
There is the blood, their blood.
We need to scrape it carefully, return it to the earth.

Scraping blood; footprints of a woman, size 6, of a man, size 9.
Scrape, scrape.
They were in motion, a chaotic design,
seeking escape, screaming of the slaughter!
Their songs that prayed – to bless others, to be blessed –
now a mockery. They will never sing again.

I will hold back my tears, until I can’t.
I will find a small corner, then fall apart.
But I pray, not now; There is work to be done.

Not here in America …
What are we to do?
Are we cowards not to act?
Is the canary’s frantic trill a warning?
Is her song not familiar?

There is work to be done!
We cannot cry or fall apart.
We’re left to sing the songs for the dead.

Hitchhiker, fiction Second Place
by Ellen Fritz

“Lose the number plate bro, lose it now!”

Eric tried to keep both hands on the steering wheel while pinching the cell phone between his shoulder and ear, not an easy feat when you’re driving down an off-ramp far faster than the speed limit allowed.

“Where are you now?” the voice continued in his ear. “They’re coming after you. You need to…”

“Lucas,” Eric hissed between clenched teeth, “I’m off the highway now. I’m taking a smaller road, but it’s still busy! Just let me get on a quiet road and I’ll change the plates.”

“They’re after you. The cops, man, they were tailing you,” Lucas repeated. “They picked up old Doug, but I think Renee and Peter got away. They’ve had their work cut out for them with that dog that has been doing the rounds mutilating kids and attacking people and all.”

“Guess they’re going to the dogs then,” Eric quipped as he took another dangerous turn onto a very badly paved and potholed road. The pickup fishtailed a bit and his two remaining dogs fell about in their cages.

Only two dogs, he thought bitterly. That morning he had set out with six prime fighting dogs, all of them his special pit-bull cross variation. Unfortunately the others had better, stronger, more vicious dogs. Four of his dogs had been killed, either during their fights or destroyed afterwards because their wounds were too grievous to heal.

“Great that that’s not one of our dogs that is causing the havoc, hey,” Lucas continued. “Good dog too, to keep the cops busy!”

Wincing at Lucas’s uproarious laugh in his ear, Eric replied, “I’m cutting this call now, Luke. I’ll ring you when I get home, or I’ll whatsapp you or something. Got to concentrate on this road now and there’s a storm coming.”

After another turn, he had to slow down. The dirt road was rather bad, twisting in and out of dense trees and dipping through sudden ditches. He pulled off the road, grabbed the spare number plate from the passenger seat and opened his door.

Before climbing out, he switched off his phone and removed the battery. Overkill perhaps, but one never knew what kind of tracking they might be using to locate him. Then he removed a screwdriver from the cubbyhole and dumped the phone and battery in its place.

Thunder rumbled ominously and drops of rain started plopping down here and there. Eric unscrewed the number plate and flung it in the roadside ditch. Something scrabbled in the underbrush. For a moment he wondered what he had disturbed, bird, rabbit or snake? Then he applied his attention to getting the spare plate screwed on.

He was wiping his hands on his already filthy jeans when he heard the rustling again. A huge black dog poked its head and shoulders over the side of the ditch.

“Here boy,” he soothed. “You want a ride?” The dog panted and clambered further out of the ditch. “You want to be the first replacement for one of my boys?” Eric continued.

The dog looked perfectly friendly as he came up to Eric, even wagging his long tail a bit.

“Yes, I think you want a ride,” Eric said and walked round to open the passenger door for the dog. As though pickup riding was something he did every day, the dog hopped in and sat on the seat. Looking at the caged dogs, he growled softly.

“Now, now, that won’t do. They’ll be your brothers in arms,” Eric said as he shut the door and walked round to the driver’s side.

While he maneuvered the pickup back onto the road, he thought that this dog didn’t seem aggressive enough for the fighting ring, but then, dogs could be made to be aggressive.

As he drove, carefully, he thought about his other life, before he became the wicked man he was now. Eric without a surname lived on a remote small holding. A lonely man who seldom bathed, kept his fighting dogs in filthy sheds and taught them not to make any noise by shocking them with a taser if they so much as opened their jaws to yawn. After one such encounter, the mere buzz of the device would silence the bravest of fighters.

“No one is better than you,” he heard his wife, now his ex-wife, say from the past.

Sandy believed in him. He was somebody to be believed in back then. Eric Bradley was a vet with his own practice and the respect of the community he served. Then Diablo, the huge black Great Dane came along and destroyed all of it.

He almost drove off the road as vivid images started hitting him. The little girl on the floor, bleeding and choking while her hysterical parents tried to staunch the blood that was pouring from her torn throat. And the dog, the huge black dog, its teeth still dripping red, just standing there. Standing there in the old farm kitchen and shaking his head as though he too couldn’t understand the brutality that would rob a little child of her life.

He should have known that something was wrong. He was the vet, but he had dismissed the dog’s bouts of lethargy followed by sudden bursts of energy as some form of depression or other behavioral disorder. Perhaps it was frustrated because it was confined to the fairly small back yard rather than being allowed to run free on the farm.

This sudden attack had happened mere minutes before he had arrived on the farm to look at an ailing horse. After the incident it was revealed that the poor dog had an enormous tumor on his brain. A tumor that he should have picked up on, because no one was better than him, as Sandy very mistakenly believed. He should have had tests and scans done on the dog the first time it displayed any behavioral deviancy, but he was so cock sure of his superior knowledge. What had become of Diablo, he wondered. The aftermath of the attack was now inextricably entangled in his own, very rapid, downward spiral.

Suddenly lightning flashed and the dog on the passenger seat growled and shook his head violently, bringing Eric back to the present. The dirt road ended and he swung onto another lonely stretch of potholed paved road. The dog had gotten up and was shaking his head again.

“Poor boy,” Eric said, “you probably have ear mites. We’ll fix you up and then we’ll make you into a champion, won’t we.”

The dog growled again and Eric noticed that it had moved closer and was facing him with an open, panting mouth.

“Sit boy,” he said, but the dog only moved closer. A glare of headlights distracted him.

“Stupid fuck!” he shouted as a drunk driver driving on the wrong side of the road barreled down on them. Eric swerved, throwing the dog against the passenger door. The dog came up snarling.

“Now, now, down!” he commanded. The dog put his huge paws next to him on the seat. “Down!” he repeated but the dog just shook his head and snarled in his face. Suddenly he thought about what Lucas had said, the police being kept busy by the dog that had attacked several kids in the past week. Did he smell blood and flesh on the breath that was now invading his space?

The tall trees next to the road were spectators at the fighting ring. The lightning was Doug’s attempt at flood lighting. Eric realized that he was hallucinating and that he was heading for the considerable drop at one side of the road before something closed on his throat.

“No one is better than you, Diablo,” he thought at the dog as the truck left the road and was rolling over and over. Yet none of it mattered because the pressure on Eric’s throat had become a wrenching pain that sent him into utter darkness.

The next morning the police discovered the truck at the bottom of a ravine. Eric was dead, as were his dogs. The two dogs were still in their cages but Eric’s throat, inexplicably, looked like it had been torn out by a very large predator. There was however, no third dog, nor any tracks of any other living being, in the thick mud surrounding the crumpled truck. Weeks of searching shed no further light on the mysterious death of Eric Bradley; no dna, paw prints or even stray fur of any kind was ever discovered near the mangled truck.

Bio: Ellen Fritz is visually impaired and lives near Johannesburg, South Africa with two visually impared friends and her two dogs. She works as a book reviewer, does freelance writing and administrative work and is involved in several personal writing projects.

Me Too, fiction Honorable Mention
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Anna stole a thirty-minute lunch break between classes. The hour she was actually allotted was shortened because a new Braille student got teary about his blindness toward the end of class. She couldn’t just walk out. He deserved her attention since she’d lost her sight from an auto accident just as he had, but hers was ten years ago. Maybe she’d made him feel a little better, a little encouraged, time would tell. It had cost her the thirty minutes she’d planned to use for a stop at the drug store.

Anna heard coworkers all around her in the little cafe off the large area where shop workers had their tables, sewing machines, and assembly lines. She had plenty of time for a quick tuna sandwich.

Her employer was one of the largest providers of services and employment for persons with visual limitations—rehabilitation, social services, and production contracts. Anna was fortunate to have been in the right place when her credentials for teaching Braille came through. Advancement was a definite possibility. The supervisory position at the rehabilitation center would be up for grabs in a couple of years after a planned retirement. Sam Rackley had worked his way up from mobility instructor to executive director. Her goals weren’t that high. She had a good shot at the supervisory job. Her experience with blindness was based on having been there and done that, not just theoretical blindness as was true for most of her colleagues who experienced it in training under a blindfold.

“Are you going to join in with the rest of us,” Sharon from volunteer services asked in a muffled voice as she approached.

“Can we talk?” Anna asked, touching the empty chair beside her.

Sharon waited a moment before edging the chair away from the table. “I didn’t eat this cookie,” she said, holding it out to touch Anna’s hand. “Want it? It’s chocolate chip.”

Anna accepted the offer. “Best chocolate chip cookies I know about,” she laughed. “Thanks.”

“We talk to the board at a special meeting next Monday after work. Your testimony would really help,” Sharon said softly.

“He only did it once,” Anna whispered. “It was when I became communications supervisor three years ago. He left me alone after that—I guess because I made it clear I didn’t like it. I just made sure not to be alone with him anywhere.”

“You seemed pretty mad about it at the time,” Sharon huffed.

“Yeah, I thought it was unprofessional, disrespectful, chauvinistic, and all that. I guess I wrote it off as workplace drama, and I wanted to keep that job. Did someone get turned down for a raise or something?”

“Well I’m sure that’s happened,” Sharon admitted, “but he’s just not supposed to be accepting bribes for favors. We think the board already knows, but just looks the other way, and we need to scare them and scare him a little. I mean you know, we can threaten court action, media attention, and oh my God, what would his wife and kids do if it went public?”

Anna thought it over for a minute as she finished her cookie. “So what do you want, his job, or just for him to swear off his behavior in the workplace? If you want his job, it will probably go public whether you threaten it or not.”

“You got it,” Sharon laughed, “and wouldn’t they love to hear about some of the working conditions and silly rules about vacation time, sick leave, and all the other stuff we get short changed on?”

Anna sighed. “I don’t really think Mr. Rackley is a bad guy, and I hate hurting his family. Who knows what they’d replace him with if he did get fired?”

“We want them to replace him with Josh. He supervises the workshops, and they all like him, and he’s never made a move on one of us women.”

Anna was disturbed. “You think they’d let you control that? I like Josh fine, but does he know enough about rehab, social services, and fundraising to run the place? I think they’d bring in new blood with degrees and references.”

Sharon got to her feet. “Well, we’re having a prep meeting Thursday at 7:30 at my house. I hope you’ll come, because you sure could really help.”

Anna stood and moved toward the hallway. “I know I’d have to testify if it went to court,” she admitted, “because I went crying to several people when he locked us in the office and supposedly accidentally pulled my pants down.”

“See?” Sharon said. “I knew if it’d happened to be an issue then you’d have gone to bat with us.”

“I just talked because I wanted to warn other people. I didn’t want someone who wasn’t as strong as I was to get hurt. But that was then, and this is now. I don’t want to be on national news or local news with my story. I know some of you others have stories as good as mine, but that’s not how I want people to think of me.”

Sharon stomped her foot. “So you’re saying no, right?”

“I don’t feel the cause like you do. I know there is one, and I don’t want to be unfriended by everyone if I don’t go along,” Anna explained.

“Oh you won’t be,” Sharon smirked, “’cause you know we can quote what you told us anyway. Sure it’s just hearsay, but…”

Anna interrupted, “What did he do recently that brought this all about?”

“Nothing big, it’s just the history like yours, and there’s so many other little things. Changes are long overdue here, and we think he’s a good place to start. Come with us Thursday. Tell us why you think we shouldn’t go after him.”

“Okay,” Anna sighed, “I’ll come. It’s not about what’s fair for him, it needs to be about what our real agenda is. Is this really the best way to go after change? I’ll come, and I promise not to stop you or rat you out if we can’t agree on a better approach.”

Sharon reached for Anna’s hand for a shake, and they both went back to work.

The Evolving “I”, poetry
by Kate Chamberlin

I was born in abject nakedness.
Thus, to cover my nakedness
During my lifetime,
I wrap this earthly vessel
In many layers of physical affectations,
A sense of humor, hair style, clothing,
Use of words, and a sense of self.

But, is this who I really am?
My outer form is a facade.
I extend inwardly in time and space
In ways that no one sees.

I might smile broadly and shake your hand vigorously,
Saying, “That is a very nice ensemble you are wearing.”
While inwardly shaking my head with chagrin,
Thinking: Do you really think that style looks good on you?
You would not know what the “I” within me is really feeling.

I could share how I enjoy a glass of chilled, red wine
With a savory home-cooked dinner,
Or snuggle under the Wedding Ring quilt
With my husband on a cold, Winter night,
Or wear tooled, Western boots with a flared denim skirt,
But it still doesn’t let you know what’s inside of me
That makes the “I” of me.

There is always a kernel of self
That we keep tucked away
Into a very special, safe part of our being.
Perhaps, it is labeled the dark core of our being,
The depth of our heart, or the essence of our soul.

It is conceivable that self can be as a prison,
A negative,
Something people try to alter through means of
Drugs, alcohol, putting on airs,
Being a bully, or being ultra-passive.

I could tell you that I don’t like visiting zoos,
Because, the animals are trapped in cages.
Yet, I silently howl with rage,
Because, I am visually trapped within my body.
My feeling of oneness with others who are trapped isn’t something you would notice.
Our deepest words and feelings of self-need not be negative,
But can lead us out of personality,
Into other realms of spirituality
And productivity.
Words are always approximate,
Groping, trying to get close to something that they don’t ever quite match.
Since The “I” within me is ever evolving
And words can’t catch up,

I, alas, cannot tell you who I am.

Bio: Kathryn (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 for elementary students, Feely Cans and Sniffy Jars Workshop, where participants interact to gain an understanding of the abilities of those with low-to-no vision, and as a popular lecturer. She is a published children’s author, Anglican educator, free-lance writer/editor, newspaper columnist, and proud great-grandmother. She was the CoOrdinating Editor of Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look anthology. Her children’s books: The Night Search, Green Trillium, and Charles and David are available from Amazon.

Driving Dreams, nonfiction
by Marcia J. Wick, The Write Sisters

Often in my dreams, I’m driving. Always in the driving dreams, I’m peering over the wheel of a big boat of a car, a tank from the ’60s, a two-door V-8 sedan with a stick shift on the column. Inevitably, I’m navigating in the dark without headlights; I’m forking across traffic lanes at the last second to catch an exit ramp; I’m circling the stacked levels of a parking garage; or I’m zooming in reverse down a highway, my arm flung over the back seat while I gaze through the rear window artfully dodging oncoming traffic.

Some may dream of flying, or running faster than the speed of light. I dream of driving like I used to, when I could see the red and green traffic signals, turning lanes, and roundabouts. Progressive vision loss meant losing my ability to drive around age 40. I was an excellent driver in my day. I could work the clutch and stick shift to gear my VW Rabbit up the steepest hills in San Francisco. I could steer without sliding to a safe stop in the deepest Colorado snow. I could work my way across the country from New York to California with the company of an eight-track tape player and an accordion road map.

For me, passing my driving test at age 16 was a rite of passage. No matter that I was operating an Orange Nova or a clunky station wagon, driving the family car was cool enough for this teenager at a time when most families had only one car. With a high-mileage purple Chevy, I moved myself and my meager belongings across the country after college to take my first real job. With a steady income, I soon enough purchased a brand new silver hatchback with leatherette interior. Years later, I married a man who drove a hot golden brown Camaro, which we eventually traded for a reliable Honda Civic that could accommodate two baby car seats. That’s the last car I ever drove; I couldn’t see well enough to pass the eye test for a new license after we moved home to Colorado.

Being forced to stop driving at first felt like being robbed of my adult identity. I had to call my daddy for rides, I had to walk or take the bus, and I had to depend on my teenage children to take me shopping. Gradually, to my delight, I began to enjoy being a pedestrian. I was in better shape thanks to walking, and I was making new friends thanks to paratransit.

Nowadays, the buzz is all about self-driving or “autonomous” vehicles. You’d think this would be a dream come true for someone like me who had to give up driving on account of vision loss. I admit I sometimes miss the feel of pushing the pedal to pull into the Frey. I could regain my independence. I could go places on impulse. I could accept last-minute invitations and join spontaneous gatherings without worrying about a ride home. But what if the foolproof technology failed?

Today, at age 63, I don’t miss driving at all. I don’t worry about the impact of bad weather on road conditions. I’m not cursing at distracted drivers. I don’t stress about getting lost, breaking down, finding parking, hassling with the insurance company, or fighting a speeding ticket. I’m grateful for buses and trains, paratransit, and ride sharing services. I wouldn’t trade my four-legged guide dog for a four-wheeled vehicle in a blizzard. What is it about driving then that still haunts my dreams?

Bio: Marcia Wick enjoys retirement along with grandchildren, gray hair, and time to write. Her essays have appeared in Magnets and Ladders, and Vision through Words. She reflects on parenting, caregiving, living with a disability, and adventures with her guide dog. Marcia’s career in communications, desktop publishing, and public education spanned 40 years. She now partners with her sister as The Write Sisters. Legally blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, Marcia also volunteers with Guide Dogs for the blind, advocates for public transit, and enjoys a variety of sports with her husband as her guide. Contact her at

Some Assembly Required, nonfiction
by Jeff Flodin

As my vision has deteriorated, I’ve entrusted household tasks to those with a sharper eye. I handed the lawn mower to a landscaper who doesn’t impale the blade on tree roots. I passed my saw to a handywoman who doesn’t cut boards a quarter inch short. I’ve outgrown the need to supervise my hired hands, choosing to provide moral support and stay out of their way. I’ve come to believe that somebody with decent eyesight and a screwdriver can finish my old jobs in half the time, without profanity or bloodshed.

Recently, I was struck with a vision of a Felix the Cat wall clock gracing our kitchen, above the little window with the checkerboard valence. You remember Felix the Cat-a two-tone cat with a clock in its tummy, with eyes and a tail that moved back and forth to mark time. The Amazon ad said that every six seconds someone bought a Felix the Cat wall clock. I counted to six and ordered mine.

Felix the Cat arrived in a box the size of a mouse trap. “Felix the Kitten,” I muttered, placing four plastic body parts on my desk and the print instructions under the OCR. I could kind of noodle out what to do except for how to “snap the plastic bracket so that one end attaches to the tail lever and the other end attaches to the eye mechanism.”

“Honey,” I said, presenting the dismembered cat to my wife, “Will you please help me put this damn thing together?”

She scanned the instructions and ordered me to retrieve a small slotted screwdriver and one AA battery. I did as I was told.

“‘Loosen the screw and remove the back cover, exposing the battery compartment,”‘ she read from the directions.

“Got it,” I said. “Where’s the screw?”

She guided my finger to the screw.

“The screwdriver’s too big,” I said. “And we don’t have a smaller one. But not to worry, I’ll use my thumbnail.”

“Failure to secure the bracket will result in…” my wife read.

“Ouch!” I cried. “That screw ripped my thumbnail.”

“And I can’t get this bracket to snap into the tail and eye slots,” said my wife.

While I searched for a nail file to unscrew the screw, I thought, “She ought to be able to figure this thing out. She can see the instructions. She can see the parts. What’s the problem?”

The nail file loosened the screw and I handed Felix to my wife to remove the back and insert the battery. I tightened the screw and my wife snapped the bracket into the tail and eye slots and then held up the clock against the kitchen wall. “Tick, tock,” she said.

I thought, see? My theory is proven. All it takes is good eyesight.

Then, Felix’s tail fell from his body, bounced off the countertop and hit the floor. “I give up,” said my wife. “Sorry, Honey, but I don’t know how this thing works. I’m out of ideas.”

While I thought about how I used to be able to put things together, how now I felt so stupid and powerless and frustrated and how I blamed my wife for not being able to do everything that I can’t do anymore, I said, “That’s OK, Honey. Thanks for trying. You did your best.” After I repacked Felix for his return trip to amazon, I trimmed my damaged thumbnail and smoothed the edges with the same nail file I’d used on the screw.

I don’t have a Felix the Cat wall clock hanging above the little kitchen window with the checkerboard valence. But some assembly required taught me a few things. One-my wife does her best and knows when to quit. Two-I must not displace onto her the impatience and frustration I feel at my own limitations. Three-having eyesight doesn’t necessarily solve all problems. And four, this message for Amazon-if every six seconds, someone buys a Felix the Cat wall clock, then every twelve seconds, does someone return one?

Bio: Jeff Flodin is the author of the blog, “Jalapenos in the Oatmeal: Digesting Vision Loss” He is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Access Fellowship. His work has appeared in several publications. He is a Licensed Social Worker in the State of Illinois. He has been living with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) for three decades. He lives in Chicago with his wife, his Seeing Eye dog and two cats whom, along with his sense of humor, he credits for maintaining his sanity.

Part III. Looking Back

Starting Over, memoir, nonfiction Honorable Mention
by John Justice

Booking agencies sometimes make promises that are not kept. While I was on tour with the Dennis family review, an agent approached me. He said that if I came back to New Orleans alone, he could guaranty me work at a good price. I went back home but that offer stayed in my mind, so one day I called the agent. “Is that job offer still available?” At first the agent didn’t remember who I was, but then he got it. “Oh yeah! You’re the blind piano player. Sure. The work is there. Are you still in the area?” When I told him that I was back in new jersey, his first question was understandable. “How soon can you get here? Do you have a place to stay when you reach New Orleans?” I asked him to give me a day to check on schedules and I promised to call him back.

Back then, riding a bus was nothing out of the ordinary. I never thought of using the train and the cost would have been much higher. I called and found out that there was a bus leaving New York that would take me to New Orleans. Most people used that line, but got off at earlier stops. From New York, that trip took me almost fifteen hours. We went through Baltimore, Washington DC and places in Virginia. Then we entered the real South. I don’t remember the other cities that the bus passed through. I finally reached New Orleans at about 9:30 PM.

The booking agent had promised me that he would find a place for me to stay. But when I called him, there was no answer. I spent part of the night in the bus terminal. Finally, someone from the Salvation Army took pity on me and offered to have me stay in one of their residences. The man warned me to hold on tight to my personal possessions. “Don’t show them your wallet or anything else that has value.” He drove me to the facility, but when the manager saw me, he went ballistic. “Are you crazy? This guy is blind! There are some rough Characters staying here. For sure, they’d try something on him.” I thought I’d be turned away, but the manager led me to an office. There was a long couch along with the other office furniture. I put my suitcase in a corner and stretched out on the couch. The manager locked the door and was gone. I woke up later when someone opened the door again. “How did you get in here?” I explained what the night man had done, and the chaplain agreed with his plan. What could he do anyway? I was already there and had stayed overnight.

As soon as I could find a phone, I called the booking agent. He was there in ten minutes. The man apologized for the misunderstanding a drove me to an old-fashioned boarding house. I met the proprietor and she seemed very nice. The agent had another surprise for me. “We have made arrangements to have you picked up by a car service each night you play. When the job is over, they’ll bring you back here. Your part of the arrangement will be fifty dollars which will come off the top of your daily pay.” That included breakfast and lunch. To me, after everything I had experienced on the road, it seemed like a good arrangement.

My first job was at a ratty old bar called the Pussy cat. The piano sounded like a train wreck. I asked the owner to have it tuned. He agreed. “Nobody has played that thing in a long time. We’ll make sure that it’s in good shape for you.”

At the pussy Cat, I found out what B girls were. They were pretty women who encouraged the patrons to drink. Some of the men would buy drinks just to have them stay. What they didn’t realize was that the girls weren’t drinking real alcohol. The bar tender added something that looked like liquor but had no power at all. Those girls would literally try to get the men drunk while they stayed perfectly sober. I don’t know whether that kind of routine is illegal or not. I never asked.

One night, a man came into the bar and sat down near my piano. Everyone seemed to know him. They called him Skinny. Skinny went out to his car and came back with a clarinet. He asked if he could “horn in” a bit. We chose an old standard and Skinny made that thing talk. I was having so much fun that I played better than I normally did. When it was time for my break, Skinny sat down near me. “I play on board a river boat called the Delta Queen. We need a new piano player badly. Our old guy got a bit too fond of the hooch. How would you like to join our band?” I’d never been on a boat like that before. Skinny described the boat in detail. Then, he surprised me by saying that the booking agent had suggested he come and listen to me. “I’m glad I did, John. You can make those ivories sing! If you agree, we can start rehearsal in a couple of days.” So I joined the band on the Delta queen. The agency kept my room for me, so I could have somewhere to go between trips.

There were two tours offered by the Delta Queen. The most popular one started in the morning and took the passengers up river. Then the boat would turn around, coming back to the dock at about 7:30 PM. The second tour was a two-day excursion. The boat would go up river and dock at a place that had once been a plantation. The main house was now a hotel. Everything was done as it had been before the Civil War. The staff treated their guests in the old Southern style. We stayed overnight on the Delta Queen. The rooms were small and too close to the engine room. The crew always kept some steam up, so it was hot down there. Each room held two or three people. Some of us went up on deck and put up with the mosquitos rather than being in those ovens. The next morning, the passengers boarded and we returned to the dock.

I started that job right after the last Dennis family engagement which was on Christmas Eve. Now it was well into February. I thought I was going to be there indefinitely. Wrong! One day the agent met me when I came down the gangplank. What he said made sense, but I hated every word. “John, I have bad news for you. We’re going to have to terminate our arrangement. Soon New Orleans will be celebrating Mardi Gras. During that time, there is no way we could guaranty getting you to your job. People literally take over the streets. They have parties, dance and fight right out where the cars normally go. It just isn’t safe. You have done a great job but we’re going to send you home before that mess gets started. I have arranged for a nice check as a token of our appreciation. You will be welcome after the celebration is over.” His idea of a nice check was five hundred dollars. Whoopee!

I was taken to the bus terminal and started back home. With each long tiring mile, I got madder. The agent was right of course. Trying to work in New Orleans during Mardi Gras is a challenge. What made me mad was the entire life style. Once again, I was on my own without being able to control anything. I had nothing to show for it except memories and a growing sense of frustration.

I made it back to Hackensack and slept for two days. Then I called the service manager at Wurlitzer. He invited me to the office and soon we sat down for the negotiation. My primary concern was transportation. I was to go to the Gimbals stores throughout the New York area and tune the pianos on display. There was no problem with the main store in Manhattan, but getting to the ones out on long Island or in some of the remote areas of new jersey was going to cost quite a bit. We finally settled on eleven dollars a piano. That was lower than the normal rate, but Wurlitzer agreed to pay my transportation charges if I could present receipts. Right then and there, I decided to put my music on the back burner and concentrate on a real job. I was going to receive regular pay and have my charges covered. There was no medical plan or anything else like that, but I took the plunge.

As it turned out, I did get occasional playing work and some of it was enjoyable. Now, I had another job to keep me busy and performing was something I did because I enjoyed it. The additional income made it possible for me to move out of the YMCA and into my first apartment.

As time passed, I had to make other changes in my life. But I did retain one piece of valuable knowledge. If you have a talent or a skill that is marketable, you can survive the nonsense life throws at you. There will be times when starting over is the only option.

Bio: John Justice was totally blind by age three, due to Congenital Glaucoma, a rare and devastating disease which impacts the eyes directly and results in blindness from damage to the optic nerves. John is a professional writer and entertainer with more than fifty years of experience. He lives in Hatboro, Pennsylvania with his wife Linda. John has four books currently in print. Further information about his work can be found at the following web address.

A Day at the Corner, memoir
by Greg Pruitt

In the summer of 1957, when Ike was president and Elvis was king, my father, my younger brother Ron, and I attended a baseball game in Detroit. The I-75 expressway, which eventually would connect Flint and Detroit, was incomplete, so the 70-mile trip on mostly two lane highways in our 55 Chevy took hours. Consequently, we needed to be out of bed early, and on our way by midmorning.

On that day, I looked forward to attending my first major league game, as we were going to see the Detroit Tigers play the Boston Red Sox. Both teams were struggling to salvage winning records that season. With nearly identical wins and losses, the Red Sox and Tigers were, as usual, several games behind the despised New York Yankees, who were enjoying their customary perch at the top of the American League standings.

At that time, the tigers played in Briggs Stadium, later renamed Tiger Stadium, one of the old style baseball venues built in 1912. Affectionately known as the Corner, the stadium was located in Detroit’s historic Corktown neighborhood where when the Tigers were doing well over 50,000 could gather to watch a game. However on that particular sunny Thursday afternoon, fewer than 9,000 attended the contest between the two mediocre teams.

Once in Detroit, we drove slowly down a neighborhood street near the park, where we came upon a man waving a tattered Tigers pennant, shouting that he had two-dollar parking, and directing us into a vacant lot, where his accomplice collected our money. Except on the 70 or so game days when it was converted into a makeshift space for parking, the overgrown, trash-strewn property was otherwise neglected. These lots were sometimes adjacent to occupied homes and so informal that it was difficult to tell if parking were legal and whether or not our car would be there when we returned. Hoping for the best, we parked and began our walk to the stadium.

Our trek took us down sidewalks and through alleys. As we neared the stadium we began to pass through an increasingly large throng of people selling pennants, shirts, and hats. We were approached by shady looking characters, scalpers attempting to sell surplus tickets, which was illegal, but overlooked by the police who were scattered throughout the crowd.

We purchased our tickets at a booth and walked through the gate. We entered the stadium, where we moved along a large, dimly lit tunnel-like area bordered by concession stands and restrooms, eventually climbing a ramp that led to the lower level seating.

I stood at the top of the walkway, momentarily spellbound by the spectacular arena appearing before me. There were two levels with seating for thousands, but I mostly remember seeing the dazzlingly bright sunshine, spotlighting the large expanse of perfectly cut, vibrantly green grass contrasted by the lighter gray of the base paths, with the playing field outlined by white foul lines that extended to the right and left field walls.

Continuing to glance at my surroundings, I followed my father to our seats, which were located in the lower deck, along the first base line, about 20 rows behind the visitor’s dugout. These were excellent seats in a stadium that could sometimes find less fortunate fans positioned directly behind steel supports that obstructed much of their view.

We were not only there to see the Red Sox and the Tigers. We had come primarily to watch one man, our hero, Ted Williams. Williams at age 38 was nearing the end of his career, and this might be one of the last times for us to witness the play of perhaps the greatest hitter in baseball history. We had arrived early so that we could observe the Red Sox take batting practice, and we were thrilled as we saw the left-handed legend casually smack one fly ball after another into the right field seats. When finished taking his swings, Williams walked toward the backstop where Van Patrick, a Detroit sport’s announcer, was waiting to interview him.

There he was, number 9, less than a hundred feet away. Dressed in his warm-up jersey, his six foot four frame seemed to tower over the shorter reporter. I excitedly asked my father if we could move closer, and he said we could. My brother and I raced down the concrete steps and eventually worked our way behind home plate where we leaned against the backstop. We were literally just inches from one of the greatest players of all times. Separated only by the wire mesh, we pressed closer, stretching our tiny fingers through the screen, attempting to touch the uniform of the man sometimes known as “The Splendid Splinter.”

I listened patiently, while staring at the face of my hero, as the two men discussed baseball. The interview lasted only a few minutes, and when it ended, my brother and I nearly in unison shouted, “Hi Ted.”

I would like to think that Williams failed to hear us, for if he had, he did not reply. He simply turned and walked away. Many years later, I learn that Williams had abhorred baseball fans, especially those in Boston. He blamed sports’ writers for their criticisms that he believed prevented him from receiving baseball’s highest honors. He was reluctant to give autographs and refused to honor the long-time tradition of tipping his cap to the hometown crowd after hitting a homerun, so we probably were not the first kids he had ignored.

Feeling a little hurt and disillusioned, we returned to our seats where we then snacked on hot dogs and soft drinks and watched a relatively quick, but somewhat boring game.

While the Tigers had pounded out a number of hits, they had failed to record a single run. In contrast, the Tiger pitcher, Jim Bunning, had dominated Red Sox hitters that afternoon. He had allowed only one hit and no runs until the seventh inning of the scoreless game, when Williams came to the plate.

The scene was then set for the unique drama that is frequently created in the classic battle between the pitcher and batter. Like the bull and the matador, the two men eyed one another, knowing that the contest would not favor both. The outcome of the game can sometimes hinge on a solitary mistake made by either player. This particular moment was no exception, as the much younger Bunning gazed at the veteran Williams.

Bunning’s heart must have been racing as he stared intently at the catcher for the sign that would decide the next pitch, while the confident Williams appeared to wait patiently. Then, in an instant, the ball was thrown, and with an explosion of concentrated energy, the slugger’s powerful bat launched his 33rd homerun of the season into the right field upper deck.

That single swing would be enough to give Boston a 1-0 victory. The hometown fans were dismayed, but I was elated. I still remember seeing the ball leave the bat, soar high into the air, and come down somewhere beyond the right field wall. Only a bottom of the ninth inning walk off homerun could have been more dramatic.

Three years later, Ted Williams retired from playing baseball. Over his 21 seasons in the major leagues, Williams had amassed a total of 521 homeruns with a lifetime batting average of .344. Baseball aficionados can only imagine what his statistics would have been if Williams had not been away from the game for nearly five years, during which time he served his country as a Marine combat pilot in both World War II and the Korean Conflict.

My story now moves ahead 15-years to 1972, when Nixon was president, but Elvis was still king. I had graduated college, married, and was working as a teacher. My brother had attended Michigan State University where he played baseball and had been named a first team All-American as a catcher his senior year.

In June of that year, the Texas Rangers, formerly known as the Senators and recently relocated from Washington D.C., selected Ron in the second round of baseball’s amateur draft.

The Rangers were managed their first season by Ted Williams. In early summer, newspaper sport sections in cities with teams affiliated with the Rangers featured a photo of a smiling Ted Williams with his arm wrapped firmly around my brother’s shoulders. Ironically, the little boy who had once been ignored by the great man, now had gained his full attention.

However that brief reunion was their last encounter. My brother spent his first season as a professional in the minor leagues, and by the time he reached the majors, Williams was no longer the manager. His disappointing debut as the first Texas Ranger skipper was also his last season serving in that capacity. Their paths never crossed again.

Understandably, my brother has little memory of attending that first major league game. He was six years old on that day. Over his career he was involved in thousands of baseball games. Only a relative few of which must have been outstanding. Whereas I remember parts of that long ago August afternoon clearly. I can picture my father and Ted Williams, now unfortunately both gone, one standing at my side and the other rounding the bases, while I enjoyed the magic that is created by heroes, baseball, and being a little boy.

Bio: Greg Pruitt is a retired teacher living in Fenton, Michigan. He is a graduate of the Michigan School For The Blind and Central Michigan University. He has been legally blind since the age of nine as the result of an undetermined retinal disease. His work can be found in several issues of Magnets and Ladders.

Reflections, fiction Honorable Mention
by Kate Chamberlin

I sat looking at the treasures from many generations that had been amassed in this dusty attic. Watery light squeezed through small, filthy windows near the low roof ridge. I heard voices and noticed a tiny spider near a tall, beveled mirror in a carved oak frame atop a oaken dresser coated with a fur of dust.

“This evening,” Spidey fairly hummed to himself, “I carefully lowered myself down on my gossamer thread from the roof ridge. I want to make a web in front of the mirror. Special designs are my expertise.”

“Well, if it isn’t the eight-legged chronicler,” Mirra said. “Come to spin another tale?”

“Hey, Mirra,” Spidey said, clinging to the surface of the mirror, “I didn’t mean to wake you up. I was going to leave a design for you, but since you mentioned tales, tell me more about little Gracey, as I create my design.”

“I was the first item in her room,” Mirra stated. “I held her baby clothes; then her first bras and stockings; then her cashmere sweater/skirt outfit; and of course, her faded blue jeans and tee shirts of varying sizes.”

“Yesterday,” Spidey prompted Mirra. “You reflected how Gracey had long, dark brown hair and blue eyes. She was about 3-years-old.”

“Yes,” Mirra replied. “Back in the day, she was adorable. One outfit was a red and white checked shirt over dark blue slacks. She was dressed up to ride in a Radio Flyer in the Memorial Day parade. The Cub Scouts in Her big brother’s Den pulled her in that wagon the whole way.”

“Yeah,” Spidey chuckled, going up his thread. “I’ve seen that old wagon. It’s still in the barn under a bunch of other stuff.”

“I have so many images of that child as she grew up,” Mirra said. “One morning, she sat on her bed having a hissy-fit as her Mother talked to her. There were going to be school photos that day. She wanted the Cosmic red background; her Mother could only afford the basic blue background, which would complement Gracey’s coloring and outfit. Eventually they compromised. Her Mother paid the basic price and Gracey made up the difference with her allowance. She certainly was a head-strong child.”

“I’ll bet that wasn’t the worst thing she ever did,” Spidey commented, going down on his thread.

“Oh, you got that right,” Mirra said. “As a teenager, she preened in front of me a lot. One afternoon, she took a hand mirror to look at the back of her head. Can you believe it!? She’d shaved off the hair on the back of her head. She let the top hair fall down to cover up the shaved part. I doubt her mother ever knew what she’d done.”

“Teens!” Spidey scoffed, going to the left. “They can be so frustrating.”

“They would often sit on the bed in my reflection And have tea time,” Mirra said. “A quiet time of just the two of them. They would talk about anything and everything. One evening, the Mother told her that someday, they’d be able to just raise their arms, like a sleep walker, and levitate themselves to go wherever they wanted to go.”

“Yeah,” Spidey quipped, going to the right. “And I’m chopped liver!”

“Another time,” Mirra said, “I think she was home from college for a visit and, Oh Dear Gussie! I blush to reflect what I saw her doing with a boy on that bed!”

“Awesome,” Spidey burst out, going to the left. “Sure wish I’d been a fly on the wall to see that!”

“On her wedding day,” Mirra said, “Gracey did her make-up and then, preened in the gown she and her mother had sewn standing before me. She was of course a beautiful bride. She was so feisty and full of fun.

“The newly-weds took me with them to their first apartment. I have fond reflections of their three children growing up, until they too left home and we came back here to live in the farm house.”

“Yeah. They jammed all the extra stuff up here,” Spidey said, going down diagonally. “I made lots of cool designs.”

“Gracey and her husband grew old together,” Mirra said. “Her hair now reflected pure white as newly fallen snow, while her husband’s pate was like a shiny new cue ball! Her ageing skin was still smooth with pink cheeks. Her smile was one of contentment.

“After her husband’s death though, Gracey’s shoulders slumped, her hair became as thin as silk threads, and her eyes clouded over.”

“My Pappy Spidey always said, ‘ Don’t grow old; you won’t like it!'” Spidey quoted, going to the right. “I guess he was right.”

“After Gracey died,” Mirra said, “the grown children and grandchildren put me up here in the attic. They didn’t even take out her clothes and never found the chintz covered diary she put in my top drawer.

“I’m tired. My silver backing is tarnished and peeling off, so I don’t look or feel good anymore.”

“My design and your tale,” Spidey said, going around and in curlicues, “make one gossamer veil of beauty.”

Mirra fell silent. Spidey returned to the roof ridge. I sat, mesmerized by what I’d just heard about my great-grandmother. In the center of the gossamer veil covering the mirror’s face, I saw a moon beam high-light the message: “R I P, Gracey.”

Just Like Mom’s, memoir
by Kate Chamberlin

Some people collect sea shells, or rocks, or sands from beaches they’ve visited. Other people collect heirloom quilts, or sports memorabilia, or concert ephemera. My grandmother collected pitchers of all shapes and sizes. My Mother collected recipes.

As an at-home Mother with two young children, my feisty, curly dark brown-haired Mom participated in the local Parent-Teacher Association, attended local lamp shade and craft classes, and clipped recipes from numerous ladies’ magazines. She carefully and lovingly pasted these gems into 9-inch x 6-inch, three ring scrapbook binders or wrote the recipe on 3×5 index cards. Our family of four frequently benefitted from her gourmet extravaganzas as well as the plain fare meals.

She never liked her handwriting. One rainy summer day, I must have been bugging her about how bored I was with nothing to do. She sat me down with the typewriter and her over-stuffed cedar box of 3×5 recipe cards. It took me several days to type out all her recipes. She sure beat the Devil to putting my idle hands to work.

I was an at-home Mother with young children when she died. I inherited her recipe binders and cedar recipe box. As I fingered through the carefully typed index recipe cards, I wished I could have seen her scrawny scribbles once again. The typed cards seemed so cold; however, by following the directions on various cards, Mom’s favorite dishes came back to fill our hearts with love and tummies with stick-to-the-ribs goodness.

Cooking and baking with children of all ages has been a favorite family bonding, shining teaching activity, and who doesn’t love to eat?

From time to time, as my children grew up, they’d ask for this or that favorite food, so I’d go to Mom’s collection and bring her essence back to life. In due time, even my sister-in-law was asking for Mom’s Baked 5-Bean Casserole recipe. I was able to put my finger right on it and e-mail it to her.

I put together a cookbook using Mom’s and other family recipes to give to each of my and my brother’s children as they married. I included brief biographies of each cook. It seemed like a nice heritage thing to do and of course, I titled it “Just Like Mom’s”.

During my research through Mom’s recipe binders, a small, yellowed piece of paper with scrawny scribbles on it fluttered to the floor. I picked it up to find a rather special recipe that combined Mother’s love of cooking, gardening, and sound Motherly advice.

“Spring Planting Time”
-First plant five rows of peas: preparedness, promptness, perseverance, politeness and prayer.
-Then plant three rows of squash: squash gossip, squash anger, squash indifference.
-Then plant five rows of lettuce: lettuce be faithful, lettuce be loyal, lettuce be unselfish, lettuce love one another, lettuce be truthful.
-No garden is complete without turnips: turnup for church, turnup for community activities, turnup with a smile, turnup with a new idea, and turnup with determination.

Collecting recipes may not be the most impressive or earth shattering of hobbies; however, its spiritual and physical values can be redeemed each time we prepare a meal just like Mom’s.

City Lights or City Frights, memoir
by Janet di Nola Parmerter

Take a walk with me down memory lane. Do you remember the old television series Green Acres, which ran from 1965 to 1971? Eva Gabor’s love for city life was a strong contrast with Eddie Albert’s love of the country. In an old straw hat, overalls and tools in hand, he sang to his television wife, “Land spreading’ out so far and wide, keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.” Elegantly singing n her pearls, evening gown and a sassy indifferent attitude she responded, “New York is where I’d rather stay, I get allergic smelling hay. I just adore a penthouse view, darling I love you but give me Park Avenue.”

Thus, the age-old debate continued, What’s best? City or country life? Outdoor lovers would shutter at the thought of living near a bustling metropolis; for people who thrive on a peaceful country setting, city life could be frightening. Nevertheless, for those willing to grab onto the proverbial brass ring, city life is exhilarating.

A Metropolis like Manhattan offers round the clock options for anyone, with something to satisfy and stimulate every sense. Parks, museums, sports, galleries, music, restaurants, bars, theatres and endless stores guarantee countless possibilities.

Yet, dotted throughout the city, one can still find a secluded hideaway offering moments of peaceful solitude with a tree, a bench and perhaps a small waterfall. From jazzy Harlem, mid-town Manhattan’s beautiful Central Park, to Broadway and downtown’s fast-paced Wall Street, individuals from all walks of life make sidewalks come alive. While passing people on the street, I curiously wonder, are these people tourists, or local homeowners? Do they share a condominium, sub-let an apartment, live in a shelter or subway tunnel?

Whether a visitor or local, everyone feels alive in “the city that never sleeps.” With Manhattan’s population OVER 1.7 MILLION, people can easily mask their true identity. Yet, when communicating one on one, New Yorkers can enjoy and experience their cultural differences.

In ethnic neighborhoods, the melodic sound of each foreign language floats through streets like an unfamiliar musical score. Such foreigners add a beautiful zest to Manhattan, while simultaneously changing the appearance of a tiny neighborhood.

For example, the Asian atmosphere of China town explodes with colorful red Chinese signs, Pagoda phone booths and restaurant windows displaying hanging ducks.

One block north on Grand Street, aromas of cheese, Bolognese sauce, and espresso lure hungry patrons to “Little Italy.” Outside an Italian cafe, handsome well-dressed waiters wearing black vests and starched white shirts invite you to “Mangia alfresco.” Pavarotti softly sings “Mama,” as people eat at cramped, side walk tables with red and white checkered tablecloths. Under red, white and green umbrellas, the aroma of robust bottles of Chianti blend with plates of spaghetti marinara and fresh baked bread. Adding to the din of music and laughter, Italians passionately speak over one another in decibels rivaling a New York Subway. Hands wildly gesture with forks and spoons, as New Yorkers shout, “Ya gotta luv dis.”

As a Jersey girl, I loved living across the Hudson River opposite the skyline of Manhattan. Though visually impaired, I still felt excitement when I could somewhat see a shimmer from the brilliant skyscraper lights reflecting across the river.

Living near Manhattan, my parents often attended the theatre. As a child, I thought everyone loved the theatre and knew all about Broadway, the many theatres, plays, musicals and the Toni awards. That was what I learned from my parent’s and what I enjoyed with my daughter Ninet and our friends. With limited sight, I usually bought front orchestra seats. Yet, even from the first row I needed to use binoculars, which often caused curious reactions from the actors.

Once at the David Letterman show, after seeing my binoculars, he joked about me being a sniper. We had what I thought was some cute dialog about my disability, but soon after that, on the Bob Costas show David claimed my binoculars plagued him throughout his performance. Somehow, we must have had some miscommunication in our dialog, yet, he remained one of my favorite talk-show hosts.

Other times, actors waved, smiled, talked and gestured to me. As Jim Dale played a happy go lucky character in Me and My Gal, he wandered on stage and noticed my binoculars. Using both hands, he made two circles like binoculars and periodically looked at me through his fingers. It totally fit the part of his quirky, eccentric character. Later he sent me a note, saying he didn’t care if I “watched with a telescope,” he was delighted to see me laughing and thoroughly enjoying the performance.

Another time after a musical, we hired a horse drawn Hansom cab. When the driver stopped the carriage, his girlfriend jumped on and curiously kept looking back at me. Finally, with a giggle she asked, “Hey, were you using binoculars in Evita?” After saying “yes,” I sheepishly asked, “Were you at the play Or, umm, were you an actor in the musical?” She said, “Yes, I was an actor on stage.” Nervously I commented, “I hope my binoculars didn’t scare you!” We all had a good laugh when she answered, “Oh no, I didn’t see them until the second act. I thought you wanted to see if I had cavities.”

Nonetheless, in 1977, when Ninet was four years old, we saw The Wiz. Dynamic Stephanie Mills playing Dorothy, captivated Ninet who loved and knew the lyrics to every song. At the play she confidently sang every word. During the finale she folded her hands and jumped up and down begging, “Please, please, please mommy; can we please see this again?” Sadly, I answered, “I’m so sorry Ninet, plays are not like movies. At $30 a ticket, they are just to expensive to see again. What’s more,” I added, “there aren’t any other plays which allow little children to attend. You won’t be able to go to the theatre again until you are a big, big girl.” Just to put all that into prospective, at that time, our rent was $110 a month.

About 27 years later, everything changed when Disney on Broadway opened their doors to children. By then, my 4-year-old granddaughter Sydney had already attended three Broadway musicals, and the price of one ticket cost more than the combined price of three tickets in 1977. Fortunately, for the disabled, there is an outstanding discount ticket program called TDF (Theatre Development Fund). They offer discounted special services including: wheel chair accessability; close seating for people with low vision; ASL (American Sign Language) performances; and other special productions. Anyone in any state can get on their mailing list.

Mmany years and 100 Playbills later, we left city life and followed our children south. We live quietly living 35 miles into the suburbs of Atlanta, where our home rests one block from a number of cows, mockingbirds and pond frogs. However, thanks to the Fox Theatre, we do not suffer Broadway withdrawal. The fabulous Fox also has a program for disabled patrons of the arts. So with four seats throughout the Broadway season, three generations in our family enjoy Broadway together. The stage is huge, performers are first-class, and they still have a marvelous live orchestra. Yet there are two main differences. The Fox is on Peach Street, not Broadway, and instead of binoculars, presently I wear a digital vision headset by Patriot

Now I can not only hear the tap dancers, but I can actually watch their feet dance, jump and twirl across the stage.

When John Palmer, the owner of Magnifying America first put the headset on me, he placed my husband Keith across the room. When the goggles came on, I cried when I saw Keith’s face. Ok, not because he’s scary looking; I cried with joy being able to really see him for the first time. In seconds, I saw things I had never seen before, like John’s own eyes tear up with emotion at seeing my excitement. What an amazing feeling to instantly be able to see! At that moment, I thought of something wonderful. I took off the goggles and excitedly said to John, “Oh my goodness, I’m actually going to see Hamilton!” Sounding a bit confused, John asked, “Hamilton, who’s he?” Well, I guess that proves one thing, not everyone loves the theatre.

Bio: In 1959, Stargardt’s slowly diminished Janet’s sight. Undaunted, she has been a runway model, travel agent, Bible teacher and international tour leader. Sighted clients within her tour groups may be surprised, but soon laugh at bizarre situations which inevitably occur in her professional and personal life. Passengers urged Janet to chronicle these hilarious happenings, therefore Janet began writing a memoir. Yes, life is challenging, but remaining positive, she strives to find a touch of humor in each situation. her motto is, “True life can be funnier than fiction!”

A Year of Firsts, memoir
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

1974 was our first full year in Sheridan, Wyoming. We moved from Tucson, Arizona, the previous summer. I was twelve years old, and my younger brother Andy was five. Grandpa Johnson died a couple of years earlier, and Dad felt obligated to run the family’s coin-operated machine business. After staying with Grandma for a couple of months, we found a house in time for us to start school.

The two-bedroom white structure was at the top of a hill, and Linden School was at the bottom. When we lived in Tucson, my parents drove me to and from the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind. Now for the first time in my life, I could walk to and from school. This gave me a great sense of independence, especially since I had some vision. I often walked with friends, but sometimes I walked alone. I rarely walked with Andy because he had his own friends who accompanied him to and from school every day.

In the winter, I slid down the hill, often landing on my rear end, but like any other kid, I got to my feet, dusted the snow off my pants, and continued walking. Andy often sledded down the hill with his friends. I tried it once or twice, but I was afraid of falling off the sled. In January of 1974, we returned to school wearing new coats, hats, mittens, and boots that we’d received for Christmas.

I got two other gifts that year that I really liked. One was a remote control box along with a speaker that Dad installed in my room. They connected to a jukebox in the basement. Unlike the jukeboxes he serviced, this one was rigged so I wouldn’t have to put any money in it. I could play it any time I wanted.

My friends and I listened to such songs as “The Streak.” Andy and I re-enacted this song by running through the house naked yelling, “Ethel, don’t look!”

The other gift I received was an electric blanket. My room was once part of the garage, and it was chilly during the winter. Although there was a heat register, it didn’t always work. It was nice to climb into a warm bed on those winter nights.

During this time, after having taken piano lessons since I was five, I started singing and accompanying myself on the piano and developed an ambition to become a professional musician. In February, I entered a local talent competition where I performed “El Condor Pasa.” I didn’t win, but I didn’t give up. I entered the contest every year and finally won first place during my sophomore year in high school.

My sixth grade year at Linden School was different from any of my years in Arizona. Linden was a public school, and all the grades, except for kindergarten, had two classrooms, each one with its own teacher. Mr. Mathis, my homeroom teacher, taught English, spelling, and social studies and read to us each day. Mr. Chapman taught math and science. The last period of each day was set aside for studying.

A braillewriter was set up in the hall outside Mr. Mathis’s classroom, and I used this to do written assignments during the school day. At home, I read the assignments to either Mother or Dad who wrote them in print, and I gave them to the teachers the next day. Some of my textbooks were in braille, and other materials were read to me either by another student at school or by Mother or Dad at home.

Soon after I started the sixth grade, the school board bought me a closed-circuit television magnifying system which was set up in Mr. Mathis’s classroom. I hated it at first because my eyes kept getting tired, but once I got used to it, I loved it. The first book I read was IThe Wizard of Oz*, which is still one of my favorite stories.

At Linden School, book learning was supplemented with hands on activities. In Mr. Mathis’s English class, we produced a yearly school newspaper. I was assigned to interview the kindergarten teacher and write an article about what her class was doing. To be more frank, I volunteered for this job so I could check up on Andy, but I didn’t see him because the interview took place while his class was at recess.

In Mr. Chapman’s science class, we built rockets and launched them. We assembled the rockets in teams of two. I was paired with Robert, who was glad to do all the work while I observed. I felt inept when it came to building things, and I wasn’t encouraged to help with the process, which was fine with me.

In the spring, we took an all-day field trip to some point outside of town to shoot the rockets. Mr. Chapman rigged some sort of launching apparatus that was connected to his pick-up truck. Although others soared above the field, the rocket Robert built never left the ground. Several times, we yelled, “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, blast off!” I pushed the button on the apparatus. Nothing happened.

The sixth grade had weekly business meetings which incorporated officers. I was elected secretary. I used a cassette machine to record meetings, wrote the minutes in braille, and read them aloud.

When I look back on 1974, I smile. It was the year of my first experience walking in the snow, my first attempts at journalism and rocketry, and my first job as a secretary. It was the first year of our new life in Sheridan, Wyoming.

I now live in a house down the street from Linden School, which has been replaced by a child development center. The hill is still there, and on cold winter days, I occasionally hear the happy cries of sledding children. My life has turned a full circle.

Bio: Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. Abbie is currently working on another novel. She has a visual impairment and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming where for six years, she cared for her late husband, who was totally blind, and became partially paralyzed by two strokes soon after they were married. Before that, she was a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. Please visit her website at

In the Garden, poetry
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

There are no trees, just an expanse of dirt
with steps leading down from the yard.
At the age of twelve, while Mother and Dad work,
I sit on the steps,
study seed packets of peas, corn, tomatoes.
With limited vision,
I read labels, gaze at pictures.
Five-year-old brother Andy is out riding his bike.

Sirens wail in the distance, come closer, are silenced.
“It sounds like fire engines,” says Dad.
After a while, the phone rings.
I hurry in the house to answer it.
A male voice asks for my mother.
I rush outside, call her to the phone.

“Hello,” she says.
“Oh my god! We’ll be right there.”
She slams down the receiver,
returns to the yard, me in tow.
“Ed, we need to pick up Andy at the police station.
He was playing with matches near that shack
at the bottom of the hill when it caught fire.”
I’m abandoned in the garden.

Penny Candy, poetry
by Sally Rosenthal

Snow crunching beneath our boots, grandpa and I
trudge small town streets on our daily ramble.
His measured arthritic pace slows even more
To match my unsteady gait as
my braced legs struggle on frozen pavements.
With my mittened hand in his, I feel secure
And know he will not let me slide or fall.

He greets each person we pass and stops to talk
While we wait for our Boston terrier, who must
Read the neighborhood canine news on every tree trunk.

Reaching the fire station, we drop in to catch up
With Grandpa’s cronies, one of whom lifts me high
So my four-year-old hands can touch the gleaming red engine.
At Beyer’s Bakery, a warm cocoon of cinnamon and sugar
Engulfs us as we choose vanilla twists to take home.

Our last destination takes the most time as
I carefully survey the penny candy counter in Schwartz’s corner shop,
Spending the coin Grandpa gives me on
Malted milk balls, snowcaps, chocolate squares, taffy chunks, and red licorice.

Heading home, an old man, a cantankerous dog, and
A little girl stamp snow from their boots and paws
While her hand clutches a small brown bag filled with love.

Bio: A former college librarian and occupational therapist, Sally Rosenthal left both professions due to blindness. Her poetry, nonfiction, and book reviews have appeared in numerous academic and popular journals and anthologies.

Leatherhead, poetry
by James R. Campbell

He was small enough to rest
In my tiny hand.
I was eleven at the time,
In 1966.

A group of children caught him
While visiting Lake Texoma.
It was the Fourth of July,
A pleasant evening for a picnic.

Carefully, I felt of the skin,
Which covered his flat body.
I named him Leatherhead
A fitting name, given his appearance.

His kind are often reviled,
Some people use them for food.
This is a practice
Of which I disapprove.

I wish I could have kept him
As an exotic pet.
But he was better off in his home,
At Lake Texoma.

Leatherhead is a memory
One of many
From that distant time
Of simple pleasures.

Bio: James r. Campbell lives in Odessa, Texas. He is totally blind, and an active writer. He holds a Bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Texas of the Permian basin. He lives with his elderly aunt, his dog Copper, an cat Milly. He is sixty-four.

Meeting My Man, memoir
by Trish Hubschman

It was June 1988. What was I going to do for the next three months until I started training at the Helen Keller Center for the Blind? I recently graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree in English-Writing. I didn’t know what kind of job I would get with that, but HK was going to give me skills and computer training; I was looking forward to it. I just had to get through the long, hot boring summer without going crazy. My closest friend, Carol worked full-time at a bank, so I couldn’t count on her to hang out with during the day. My friend, Patrice and I had drifted. It looked like I was on my own. I was depressed and driving Mom up the wall.

One night while I was sitting in my bedroom watching TV, Mom called me into the kitchen. “Bring a paper and pencil,” she said.

I looked up from the TV set. “Why?” I called back.

“Just do it,” she added. What choice did I have? I went into the kitchen and plopped myself down in my sister’s spot at the table beside Mom. She had the newspaper open in front of her. She looked up at me. I stared back. “I’m reading the Personal Ads. They look interesting. How about I read some to you?”

I didn’t understand. What’s a Personal ad?” I asked. As I learned, Personal ads were want ads for friends. Mom read me about eight of them and I jotted down notes. My instructions were to write a letter to each of these guys, telling about myself and my hobbies. I liked to read, write short stories and watch TV, not what you’d call group activities! This was not going to be easy. Heck, I was a writer. I could come up with something and I did. I in essence became Wonder Woman. I liked to sky dive, water ski, snow mobile and hike; I played tennis, jogged, disco danced and a lot more.

One guy named Scott called. We made a date to get together, but he canceled. I had trouble hearing on the phone and hated it. It was back to the drawing board. “Mom, I need you to read me more ads,” I said and she did.

One guy responded again. His name was Kevin. He sent me a letter. I liked that. He sounded nice. I sent him back a letter, being more honest. “I’ve never been sky diving, snow mobiling or water skiing.” We corresponded a few times, and then we exchanged pictures. I sent my college yearbook photo and he sent me a nice one of him. He was cute. He asked if he could call me. What could I do? I wanted to meet him. I sent him my phone number. He called and we made plans to meet at a diner up the block from my house. I could walk there.

I was so nervous. What if I was, as Mom called it, a giggly goop? I’d look like a moron. I’d just have coffee, nothing to eat. If I dropped some food, I’d look like a slob, but how much coffee could I drink? I didn’t want this, let’s call it, first date, to end in ten minutes. Mom kept telling me to relax, so I did my best to pretend I was playing it cool. I got dressed and left the house.

While I sat in the diner vestibule, Kevin came in. He was very tall and friendly. We went inside and claimed a booth. We ordered coffee and began chatting. Suddenly, we were interrupted. “Hi, I didn’t know you were going to be here tonight, Trish. Who’s your friend?” came a familiar voice.

“What are you doing here, Carol?” I asked almost accusingly.

She laughed. “Jill and I were across the street at the movies and we came over here for a cup of coffee,” she explained.

My mouth dropped open. It sounded suspicious, but I couldn’t say anything then. Later, when Carol and I were alone, I’d find out the scoop. As she explained, she was looking out for me. She wanted to make sure Kevin wasn’t a bozo, loser or lunatic. He passed with flying colors.

Kevin and I must have talked for over an hour at the diner, while drinking coffee. I knew we’d have to say good night soon, for one thing, I had to go to the bathroom. One of us would have to make a move or this would be the last time we saw each other. “Are we going to get together again?” I blurted. Oh boy, that really sounded forward.

Kevin looked relieved. “We could go roller skating or to the beach,” he offered.

The roller rink was across the street behind the movie theater. I have a balance problem. I can’t skate to save my life. I opted for the beach, though my disabilities would be hard to hide in that situation too.

I didn’t have to hide them. Kevin figured out about my walking/balance problem right away. I wore my best Macy’s bathing suit and tennis sneakers. I couldn’t wear my leg braces. I leaned heavily on him when walking. He already knew I had a hearing problem. I wore glasses so my vision problem took him longer to detect, but it was okay with him. He accepted me as me from the start.


On Christmas Eve 1990, Kevin picked me up after work. For the past few months I’d been employed as a typist for a New York State insurance agency. Kevin and I sat in the dark car for a long time, not saying a word. It was frustrating. I was having dinner with Dad and going to Mass with him. Suddenly, Kevin flipped the overhead light on. “I want to give you a gift now,” he said. He handed me a Fredericks of Hollywood box. I stared down at it. It definitely wasn’t what I’d hoped for. I opened it slowly. Inside was a handwritten note that said, “This certificate is good for one real diamond engagement ring.” Oh, I see, it was an IOU for what I wanted.

“Very nice,” I said, closing the lid of the box and placing it on the dashboard. There was more. As I watched, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring box and flipped the lid open. I couldn’t stop staring. Tears pooled in my eyes. I was crying uncontrollably. He started the engine and we drove back to my house and he parked at the curb.

“By the way, you still haven’t answered my question,” he said. I hadn’t the foggiest idea what he was talking about, but I didn’t say anything. “Yes or no? Are we getting married.”

I threw my arms around his neck. Was that answer enough?

On March 21, 2019, we’ll be celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary. We seem to grow happier and stronger with each passing year.

Bio: Trish is deaf-blined with a walking/balance problem. She’s married and as two wonderful dogs, Hope and Charlie, ages 15 and 8. She is the author of a romantic suspense novel, Stiff Competition Miss America (a Tracy Gayle mystery). The links to the book can be found on the publisher’s website

The New Patient, flash fiction
by Bill Fullerton

Gwen left work at five o’clock and hurried out to the nearby bus stop on First Avenue. The usual stop-and-go Friday traffic appeared stuck on “stop.” The sound of an all-news station came from the open windows of a gypsy cab.

“In other national news, a Defense Department spokesman said 18,000 of the 31,000 US troops ordered into Cambodia by President Nixon have been withdrawn.”

Before this summer, news about Vietnam had been little more than the background noise to her life. She wanted the war to end–had worked at a student nurse run aide station during what the press had dubbed “The Wall Street riots.” But she cared most about those serving over there, and wept when the weekly list of US fatalities appeared on TV. The war had never been personal. Now things were different. The new patient had fought over there, and been wounded.

“Investigations are continuing into the killing of protesters at Kent State and Jackson State universities. Authorities are discounting recent allegations by Mississippi officials that both incidents were started by snipers firing from student dorms.”

Two weeks ago, the south had been just a blur to her. Now, that had also changed. She’d met someone from there, the new patient.

The noisy arrival of an over-crowded bus drowned out any more news. In Gwen’s opinion, getting on a city bus during rush hour was a form of hand-to-hand combat. People in front and back pushed and shoved, while she battled to hang onto the handrail, whatever she were carrying, plus her tokens, and good luck finding a seat.

She had to stand on the First Avenue bus and then on the long subway ride, but she lucked out and found a seat on the Q65A Queens Transit bus. All she had to do now was endure the pothole-filled ride from the subway stop in upper crust Forest Hills to her home in working-class Flushing. Well that and endure the usual welcome home grilling from Mrs. Esther Katz and Mrs. Irene Goldman.

As Gwen got off the bus, the ladies were in their accustomed spots on the front stoop of their four-story, brick apartment building. They tabled whatever subject had been under discussion to give Gwen their undivided attention.

“Evening, doll. Hi ya doing?” asked Mrs. Katz, who had known the newcomer all her life.

“You always look so nice in your pretty nurse’s uniform,” gushed Mrs. Goldman. “So tell me, dear, do you still like working at the VA?”

“Yes ma’am,” replied Gwen, in a brief, consolidated response to all their questions. Both women had well-deserved reputations for knowing practically everything about everyone who lived in the building. This included Gwen’s summer job as a nurse tech at the Manhattan Veteran’s hospital.

“Those old vets aren’t giving you a hard time, are they?” Mrs. Katz gave her a knowing wink.

“You know they are, Esther,” teased Mrs. Goldman. “I mean, as cute as she is, especially with those pretty legs of hers and the short skirts all the young girls wear these days.”

Gwen felt her skin flush under the appraisal. “Now, Mrs. Goldman, remember I’m working on an ophthalmology ward. Most of the patients are pretty old and have such bad eyesight they couldn’t tell if I even had on a skirt, much less notice its length.”

Of course, that most definitely did not include the new, twenty-something patient. But no way would she ever mention that to these two gossips.

As the ladies teased her about “dirty old vets,” Gwen made a show of checking her watch. “I hate to scoot, but I really need to change before Danny comes for me.”

To Avoid any questions about when she and her long-time boyfriend were getting married, Gwen said her goodbyes and headed inside. They’d be waiting for her on Monday morning, but she didn’t mind. She’d be heading back to work, back to the new patient, the one wounded in Vietnam, the tall, charming southerner named Mark Cahill.

Bio: Bill Fullerton has been a country grocery store clerk, an oil field roustabout, an infantry soldier, a government paper-pusher, a struggling writer, and out of work, among other things. In between, he’s cranked out two unpublished novels along with a host of short stories, sports and general interest columns, online and print, picked up a bachelor’s from LSU, a master’s from Louisiana Tech, both in history, and had academic work published. At last check, his personal inventory included: one Purple Heart, two non-functioning eyes, three kids, two dogs, one wife, and a spectacularly unspectacular apartment in Chandler, Arizona.

Tornado, memoir
by John Justice

Shreveport Louisiana was baking in the sun as we rolled into the parking lot. I remember thinking, Hhow can these people stand this heat all of the time? We climbed out of our bus and box truck and stretched.

As soon as we came through the doors, some of the mystery was solved. The inside of the club was at least 20 degrees cooler than the lot. The owner sat at a desk, working through his receipts and inventory. “Hi y’all,” he called cheerfully. “You must be the Dennis Family Review. Just bring everything you need right in and set up the way you usually do. We aren’t picky here. I’m Paul Thibodaux.”

We started to turn away when a loud raucous alarm went off. “Damn! Tornado! Folks, don’t open that truck just yet,” said Paul. “In fact, help me get these windows and doors open, will You? Now hurry up before that damned thing is on top of us!” We raced around opening the windows and doors as he directed. Paul hit the main breaker switch and every piece of equipment went silent. “Now follow me down here,” he said. “You are in for a real noisy time. I’ll bet this twister makes more racket than you do.”

We trooped down the stairs. The wind started to rise and furniture began to fall over in the empty room. Then we heard a noise I’ll never forget. Our ears popped as the pressure fell and then there was a sound like a locomotive coming closer. The noise grew and we could hear the scream of wind and a chuffing sound that nobody could explain. The building shook and dust filtered down all over us. We could hear tables and chairs flying around upstairs and at one point, something made of glass shattered into a million pieces. Somehow Rita and the other girls ended up in the middle and we tried to shelter them from whatever might come next.

As quickly as the noise came, it subsided. There were occasional puffs of wind and something rolled across the floor above us. Then we heard nothing. The silence was almost as scary as the storm itself. We heard sirens and someone yelling far away.

Another signal came over the battery powered alarm and Paul led us up into the main room. All of the chairs and tables were turned upside down or thrown into corners. A large mirror above the bar was shattered by what looked like a piece of tree which was embedded in the wall. Everything was filthy. Paul just chuckled and said, “Well y’all, maybe we’d better clean up before you start arranging your instruments.” We all pitched in and righted the furniture. Everyone took turns sweeping out the dust, leaves, bits of wood, glass and God knows what that was about an inch deep on the floor. Other than a few bottles rolling around behind the bar, nothing was broken except for the mirror. In a very short time, the club was clean again.

Then we remembered the vehicles. Our drivers ran outside. Both our bus and equipment truck were fine. The truck had one long scratch on the driver’s side but that was it. There was enough wood and bark around to start a good camp fire. Paul began picking up what he could.

There was a wail and we heard someone crying. Like one person, we all turned toward the road. Across the street from the club, there was a large trailer park. But it wasn’t there anymore. Some of the mobile homes were still visible but many of them had been torn into pieces of sheet metal and frame parts. One little 40-foot home was upside down in the middle of the highway. “MY Lord Almighty! Would you look at that,” exclaimed Paul.

“There are 300 people in that place! Come on. I don’t know what we can do but we’ve got to try!” We all ran to the trailer in the road. The doors were swinging open and no one seemed to be inside. With a nod of relief, Paul led us into the battle ground that had once been a neatly laid out park. Little trees and bushes had been ripped up by their roots. Whole sections of lawn were gone. Wires were sparking and popping all around us, so we avoided them. One double unit was burning and flames shot out of the sides. Rita said it looked like a barbecue grill that had been over filled with charcoal.

It was Luanne who found the body. The woman lay half in and half out of her doorway. That part of the trailer was still standing but beyond her, there was nothing but rubble and open sky. “Oh no! Oh my God, no,” Luanne whispered. The look of terror was still frozen on the woman’s face. She had on her panties and a bra but nothing else. The police and fire department arrived at that moment.

“Jack, it’s a good thing you can’t see this,” said Marlow, our leader. “Personal belongings are scattered everywhere. There must have been 50 or 60 trailers here but not one of them is still in one piece. Here’s a car that is sitting on its roof. Jack, it’s horrible! There’s nothing we can do here.” He raised his voice and yelled for attention. “Dennis Family, the best thing for all of us to do is to get out of the way. Come on everyone. Let’s go back to work!”

Rita took my arm and we walked back across the street and the crew began to unload and set up for the night. “Who needs a drink? I’m buying,” said Paul. The funny thing was, not one of us took him up on that offer, not then anyway. Rita brought me to the stage and I waited there to help run the cables as I usually did.

At the same time, things were getting organized outside. We did find a way to help. We all carried some of the bigger tables out into the lot and somebody came up with a big canvas awning. The firemen had that thing rigged in no time and the medical staff turned it into a temporary first aid station. There was plenty of room so lots of folks found shelter from that unbelievable Louisiana sun. I have no idea where they came from but there were at least 3 doctors, about 10 nurses and policemen who kept things running smoothly. The firemen had quickly put out the blaze in that double wide and the power company was already at work, rigging shunts to divert the electricity away from the damaged trailers. Fortunately the place didn’t have natural gas. Everything was operated with propane. There were tanks everywhere. While we were outside arranging tables and chairs, there was a loud bang and then a hissing sound. “Son of a bitch,” exclaimed one of the firemen. A propane tank had been lying next to that overturned trailer. Suddenly, the fitting blew out and the canister skidded along the road as if it was a rocket propelled sled. The tank ran out of pressure after 15 seconds or so and that run away stopped dead.

One by one, the people started arriving. Some of them were refugees from the trailer park and Paul seemed to know who they were. They couldn’t buy anything. He wouldn’t take their money. Others were thrill seekers. Paul stared some of them down and even ordered a few out of his club. The press arrived and there wasn’t a damned thing you could do about them. They were just trying to do their jobs in the best way they knew. Some of them were really decent folks. One jerk from New Orleans tried to take pictures of the dead. We learned that 16 had died in that place. Paul’s parking lot became a trauma center for the injured. There were cuts, bruises, a few burns and some broken arms and legs. One guy named andy had a cut that ran right across his forehead. “Sally’s mirror did that,” he said. “Sally’s my wife. She’s visiting a friend down the road. That blasted mirror flew right off of the wall and broke. The next thing I knew, the twister was throwing pieces of glass at me. I missed all but one.” Andy took 17 stitches that night and he ate and drank free. That was the kind of guy Paul Thibodaux was.

Little by little the place settled down. A big crane had come and lifted the little trailer back onto its wheels. The roof was dented in and the inside was a disaster, but they were able to get it off of the highway and traffic went back to normal. Ambulances loaded with injured people pulled quietly away. The crowd of onlookers dispersed when they figured out that there would be no more excitement. The firemen, policemen and medical people stopped for a cold drink and then went on their way. But some people stayed.

That night, we had a wall to wall crowd for our concert. The audience seemed determined to have a good time in spite of the death and destruction that happened so nearby. Marlow called our manager and told him what happened. We wanted to donate our pay to the people whom had been wiped out, but the agency from New York of course wouldn’t hear of it. So at about 9:30, Marlow stepped to the stage. He made a great speech. I don’t remember it all exactly but he thanked everyone for coming. “But there are some neighbors who might have been here tonight but won’t be coming any more. Their lives ended when the tornado took everything they had. We hope our music is helping you to forget for a while, but that wrecked trailer park is still out there. I’m going to start a collection for those people by asking my band for what they can spare. We’ll leave it with Paul, who seems to know everyone around here. Can I ask you folks to help as well?” Well, they did. Marlow took a 20-dollar bill and put it into his Stetson hat. He brought it to me next and I put in a a $10. Everyone in the band, even Donna our drummer put something in that hat. I mention her because she was notorious for paying for things down to the penny. At one stop, she paid for a Coke with 49 pennies from her purse. Donna was that way. I don’t know what she put in the hat, but Marlow said that everyone contributed. Finally the hat was given to Paul and he dumped it on the counter. There was more than $300 in that collection. Now that wouldn’t even begin to buy a new trailer, but it was a start. Paul matched the collection from his own pocket.

We stayed there for 2 days and then packed to move on to the next town. I’ve played a lot of places in my time and traveled many miles doing it. But I’ll never forget Shreveport or that terrible storm.

“Hey, Hey, Hey; This Is No Choke!” memoir, nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Janet di Nola Parmerter

For almost forty-five years, my father worked for Pepsi Cola in New York City. With clients in and around Manhattan, part of his job was entertaining them with dinner and tickets to the latest Broadway smash hit. At home, my mother always played a vinyl album and beautifully sang the score of each Broadway musical. Understandably, I passed on that love of the theatre to my daughter and her children. So far we have collected over 90 program Playbills, which proudly stand on their own prestigious shelf representing a lifetime of cherished family memories. Each “Playbill binder” stands tall, patiently waiting for future Playbill memories to squeeze into their proper alphabetical slots.

One Playbill, entitled Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, is the basis for the following frightening “Murder or Mayhem” experience.

July 8, 1987 was a rough day. I desperately needed a break from stress. Regrettably, the terror I would experience in that dark theatre would soon cause my blood pressure to shoot through the balcony roof! The first act was quite humorous. Then before the intermission, as they say, the plot thickened.

Laurel and the girls left for the lounge, while I stayed back trying to identify the potential villain. Reviewing act one, I mentally scrutinized each suspect and before long felt sure I knew which character would be the murderer. The audience began returning to their seats as the chimes rang signaling that act two was about to begin. When the lights dimmed, an older gentleman sitting to my left passed in front of me and sat down. Suddenly, at the exact moment the curtain began to rise, something slowly touched my neck and right ear. It slipped over my entire head then around my throat.

First allow me to interject one important point. Being a frequent theatre patron, I’ve attended various plays with audience and cast interaction. However usually I knew that prior to a performance, but not today. Somewhat confused, my mind justified this shocking situation by reasoning, well, this is a murder comedy, this is only some playful audience interaction. Sure, I thought to myself, that’s it exactly, and they chose me. Now that explains what’s happening. I rationalized, what could be and apropos in a murder comedy than pretending to attack someone in the audience? Oh yes, I decided, this is a brilliant idea on the part of the director. How dramatic, incorporating an almost fake murder into this comedy murder mystery.

My thoughts jolted back to reality as this strange cord around my throat tightened. By now, the curtain was up, and I wondered what was happening. As the infamous cord became excessively tight, actors walked around the living room set seemingly reciting unintelligible dialog. At this point I was getting angry! I decided I had a strong aversion to this type of audience participation. In fact, I mused I really DON’T LIKE being chosen at all.

with another jerk of the cord, I was pulled to my left. The cord tightened, and I struggled to breathe. My anger at being chosen for this audience participation turned into fear. Doggedly I decided, I’m NOT going to be a part of this any longer! With one hand, I reached to grab the menacing cord, but it tangled with my fingers and waist length hair. More irritated with each passing second, I was convinced this was the most downright, stupid idea any director ever had!

Frantically struggling for air, my wild movements began distracting others. Since we were seated in the third row, Laurel leaned over whispering, “stop! The actors can see you.”

Still being pulled left, the cord tightened, so to relieve the pressure, I lifted my body up and found myself practically on top of the gentleman to my left. With the next jerk of the cord, I was completely against his chest and all over this guy. At this point, I thought he’d hit me, so I kept trying to squeeze out the words, “Help me,” but all that came out were large choking sounds.

As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, Laurel made it worse. While the frightening scene played out, she grabbed my right arm, pulled me back, and firmly said, “Hush up and be quiet! Everyone is looking at you!” Inadvertently her act of pulling me to the right made the cord tighter than before, and I gasped louder. Still struggling to loosen the cord, I yanked my arm away from Laurel and for the second time, tried relieving the tension by once again pushing my body onto the poor bewildered man.

My hair, hand, and the cord were in a sweaty, jumbled knot. Angry people around us began muttering, “Shut up and sit down.” At this point, I was chest to chest all over the old guy, and the poor dumbfounded, embarrassed man didn’t know where to put his hands. Finally I manage to get my long-tangled hair out of the way, freed one hand, loosen the cord just a smidge, and took a deep breath. With the other hand, I grabbed the cord, gave it a sharp tug, and loosened it just enough for me to yell, “Hey, Hey, HEY!” Meanwhile, on stage, the visibly annoyed actors continued their performance and every so often shot us dirty looks.

After freeing one hand, I finally secured a solid firm grasp of that almost fatal cord, and with all my strength, gave it one strong tug. To my shock, as I yanked the cord, a woman in the row behind us jerked forward and flew onto the back of that still traumatized man. She flew toward him like iron onto a magnet. He was stunned! Women were attacking him from all sides. His newfound machismo not only confused him but perplexed the woman on his neck. What force pulled her out of her seat? Now draped over his shoulder, she looked scared, bewildered, yet determined to unravel the whole situation. She analyzed the jumbled mess: the cord; my tangled hair and hand; the man with me on his chest; and her on his back. She put together the pieces of this bizarre puzzle. When the woman realized what she started, it caused her to burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

Therefore, to explain this incomprehensible comedy of errors, I need to return to the point the curtain rose for the second act. As this unsuspecting woman behind us returned to her seat, she carefully squeezed her way through the row in front of those already seated. She held her purse which had an unusually long, thin loosely dangling leather body strap against her body. To avoid touching the knees of those already seated, as she politely slid down the row, she leaned forward just enough to latch the long thin leather strap around my throat. Hence the unintentional choking. Her strap was so long, she was seated two seats away before my lack of oxygen caused my seemingly senseless behavior. Then struggling to breathe, I attempted to release the mysterious cord which became intertwined with my fingers and hair. When I finally gave the threatening strap a strong pull, the force pulled her forward off her chair and onto the back of the old man. Seeing her purse strap around my throat; my fingers tangled between the cord and my hair; and me on top of this guy, everything clicked. The puzzle pieces fit, and she recognized her complicity in this bizarre situation. The result was that she began laughing like a hyena.

At that point, angry people yelled at all three of us, and who knew what the actors thought. With tears of laughter, the out of control woman turned to everyone and apologized while trying to explain the bizarre mishap. As she untangled my hair from her choking purse strap, the older gentleman finally caught on to the insanity, and became even more hysterical than the woman. Alternating between giggling and babbling he glanced side to side, verbalizing his inner thoughts to the audience. Confessions poured out of his mouth, as he admitted, “I was getting really excited; women have never attacked me like that. Well, it’s been years.” He went on. “First it shocked me, but I kind of liked it!” His unnecessary ramblings only infuriated the already disturbed audience who were ready to choke all three of us.

Annoyed patrons watched us untangle ourselves, then gradually understood the strange sequence of events. At first, small groups of people snickered with their neighbors as they began whispering their evaluations of the weird situation. As the explanations traveled row to row, others joined in the laughter, until all in the orchestra section knew the whole story. Generally laughter is welcomed in a musical comedy, but at the time of all this laughter, absolutely nothing funny was happening on stage.

To our surprise, the ushers didn’t throw us out and thankfully the cast handled the situation like the professionals they were. Except for some curious looks toward the orchestra, they never missed a beat. Truthfully, I felt sick for the actors who slipped an occasional glance at our seats and wondered what in the world was happening down front.

How could I have EVER explained to the cast of a musical comedy murder that tonight in the audience, there was almost an unintentional, non-comical real murder? Mine! Yes, it’s true; that night, I did have the last laugh, but it could have been my last laugh EVER!

Part IV. The Writers’ Climb

Color-Full Words, nonfiction
by Nancy Scott

“We all need to know the violet sun,” says Dorothea Lasky, in an older issue of Poetry magazine. Her essay is about color and poems. I read it in case I can learn something.

I first knew the sun was yellow from drawing pictures with my younger brother. Mark said, “Draw the sun with a yellow crayon and a traceable jar lid.” Grass was green lines and sky was blue scribbles at the top of the page with the yellow circle.

I also knew that mixing too many Play-Doh colors made “a funny-color” and you could never get a real color back after that.

My astronomer friend painted his garage. He mentioned “school boy blue” and “blue sail.” He told me color names along with asteroid names and ring tones. They are all good for poems.

Dorothea Lasky’s essay proposes many colors. I bet “ruby red” is brighter than “carnation red.” For me, carnation has green growth mixed with a vague high school vibration. But there is that spice scent, maybe that’s red.

I had to have a “sea-glass” quilt from QVC because “sea-glass” sounds expensive or artistic. Or like I know something about decorating. Luckily, sighted folks say it’s a lovely color.

Why do TV shopping channels use marketing words for colors? What color is “sand” or “winter white?” I usually call a friend and say, “turn on the TV and tell me which color to buy.”

I prefer black and gray slacks, but there are “charcoal” and “heather.” Is there “midnight black” or “sophisticate black?”

I used to look like I had my hair frosted; but I’m now past frosting, but not cream cheese frosting! What color would that be? “Poignant pink?” I think I am getting the hang of this.

I had to write a poem once for a “plaid” art show. First someone had to explain plaid. In the end, I chickened out and wrote about not being able to see it. I made it a silly rhyming piece correctly called, “Bad Plaid.”

Dorothea Lasky suggests checking nail polish colors. What color would “creative genius” be? That’s the color I want.

Sometimes it looks like I make really bad color choices when I screw up or when I forget to check the talking color identifier. A neighbor mentioned my different colored bedroom slippers. I said I wore them to see if sighted people were paying attention. He laughed but then said, “Okay, but what really happened?” I got a fun essay out of that.

And speaking of the color identifier, a dark room is “black.” That surprised me. I always thought sighted people talked about “seeing black” for darkness was exaggeration.

People sometimes ask if I “see black” all the time. I’ve never seen and don’t know what “black” is. But I don’t think I see anything. Maybe I could decide to see “sea-glass”? Is “sea-glass” ever really glass? It would be a smooth dolphin or a sharp shark’s tooth.

If I need to know about a color, I ask a sighted person and just keep them talking. They usually really want me to get the visual. I can’t get the visual, but I might get some very poetic phrases. I steal their words and readers think my writing is imagistic. It is a day with color of low humidity and late-May birdsong. The air conditioner hum next door is a wrong brown. My husband hated brown. He said it didn’t look good on him.

The Poetry magazine Braille dots are the color of ROYGBIV, which for some reason I have remembered from grade school. That’s all I know about primary colors, but it might come in handy if I have to sound like I know about primary colors.

Riffing about color is fun. The sun will soon shine more on my balcony outer edge than through the windows. The musical clock tones louder in bright sun and the talking color identifier says, “white light.” Why doesn’t it say “yellow?” Marilyn Smith wrote a book called, Chasing the Green Sun. I bet Dorothea Lasky doesn’t know about that sun.

Bio: Nancy Scott’s over 750 essays and poems have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies, newspapers, and as audio commentaries. She has a new chapbook, The Almost -Abecedarian (on Amazon), and won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Her recent work appears in Disabilities Studies Quarterly, Kaleidoscope, One Sentence Poems, Philadelphia Stories, and Wordgathering.

How Can I Do That? Tips for Presentations and Public Speaking for Visually Impaired Persons, nonfiction
by Ann Chiappetta M.S.

This article will examine the various ways that I as a blind person utilize text to speech technology, often referred to as a speech program, when speaking and reading in public. Blind people cannot take a peek at a paper or read a teleprompter. Some visually impaired people can use magnifiers and large print, while others cannot; many individuals who lose vision later in life do not develop the skill required to read proficiently aloud from brailed notes or documents. Therefore, should a visually impaired person wish to speak or read in public, a reliable means other than braille must be identified.

I will introduce you to the method of audible prompting that I use when presenting or reading in public. I’ll Share some of my techniques and suggest appropriate equipment. You will learn how to format your document to bring your best presentation to potential audiences.

A Note on Memorization:
Many people panic when asked to memorize and repeat a series of numbers or a piece of text. For better or worse, this is the age of remembering passwords and user names and it is overwhelming; perhaps the ability to commit your own writing to memory is unrealistic. As a result, this article posits a person can combine memorization with other audible prompting tools to gain confidence and benefit from a successful presentation. This is what is meant by audible prompting.

You cannot be over-prepared. Good preparation produces a good presentation; it helps to relax the performance anxiety just enough to make it look effortless. It also is a back-up plan should things go awry, stressing the old adage, “always have a plan B.”

Preparing the Text:
This element is very important. If the text is not formatted to flow when read aloud, you will encounter trouble when reading it aloud. A presentation is a type of performance, and the piece you present is the script. If the line is too long, the natural pause and other rhythmic breaks will be lost and result in a very stiff and stilted recitation. Similarly, if the speech program speaks too fast, you will become overwhelmed and lose your place.

Take a twenty-line poem and listen to your speech program, then repeat it. You may benefit from slowing down the speech program to help you practice repeating each line after hearing it. It will seem awkward at first and you will need to invest some effort. When reading the piece, take note of the natural pauses and breaks as you repeat what is spoken by the speech program. If you cannot remember the line completely with one listen, make a new line at the point where it becomes hard to recall the words. A long line will hang you up when reading, while shorter lines can be accessed quickly by using the down arrow for navigation. Shorter lines mean better performance and quick orientation in terms of this medium, especially if you lose your place. Practice until you are comfortable and record your presentation. Play it back and listen for places where you become tongue tied or struggle to follow the text. You may find you will need to edit the presentation, which can also help make it stronger.

I use a laptop and a single ear headphone or ear bud. The day of the presentation, I bring my laptop with the presentation saved in Microsoft Word on the hard drive, a/c adapter, ear piece, spare headset, and a back-up on my iPad. I check both before packing them.

I have already practiced and revised until I feel confident; I could even muddle through should every piece of technology fail. Hope for the best and Plan for the worst.

The key to becoming proficient with audible prompting takes practice. This method helps not just presenters who are blind, but other individuals who are challenged by printed materials. Individuals with Dyslexia, for instance, use effective listening to help with presentation notes. Think of this method like the old-fashioned script prompter whispering your lines. By the time you step onto the stage, all you will require is a little help.

Bio: Ann Chiappetta M.S. is an author and poet. Her writing has been featured in many small press publications and collegiate journals. Ann’s nonfiction essays have been printed in Dialogue magazine. And her poems are often featured in Magnets and Ladders. Her poetry is also included in Breath and Shadow’s 2016 debut anthology, Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow. Her first collection, Upwelling: Poems and Follow Your Dog a Story of Love and Trust, released in 2016 and 2017, are available in both e book and print formats from Ann’s blog: Ann’s personal website:

Sully Street, book excerpt
by D. P. Lyons

The year is 1973. The place is a town in Central Maine. The town, Fairfield, is a quaint, bustling little town which has a history that is strong and true. With a school rich in academic and sporting achievements, its residents follow along the footsteps of those who walked down a long line of heritage, packed with dignity and honor.

Majestic, old houses and manors dot the countryside, adding their beautiful tales and antiquated stories within the town’s bound chapters that have formed over the years. One manor in particular, the Merriman Manor, has a unique story of its own. Its aged timbers and warped floors cling tightly to a hidden story that has remained a secret for over a hundred years. One manor’s story that holds dignity, pride, and a slice of faith, topped off with a spoonful of freedom. A surviving story that no one remembers, or knows. A story that needs to be made known and real.

It’s the late days of summer, 1973, and Fairfield is a town with a bustling, steady heartbeat. It is a town that supplies a constant adolescent building block, chock full of vim and vigor. It is a town that holds the imaginations and curiosities of five adventurous teenage boys. Five boys who, in the course of three hot, summer days, unknowingly stumble their way into a twisted, forgotten truth about the human spirit, all but lost in time. It’s about the innocence of five friends, whose camaraderie grows stronger with every beat of their youthful hearts. It’s about the unmatched bond of youth, and its ability to withstand the elements of their times, shining through brighter and stronger than ever.

Journey back into those golden olden days of 1973, and ride along with Dustin, Kevin, Wally, Teddy and Frankie as they ride their bikes and take you along, back through the years to rediscover the simple joys and pure adolescent passions that are such a big part of this moment in time. Pull up your kickstands, check your tire pressure and come ride along with them as their innocence is tested, and the will of pure teenage camaraderie proves to be the glue that binds their friendship and holds tight to the true meaning of the everlasting spirit of youth.

Chapter 12. Orange Crush

“So what did you tell your folks about your scrapes man?” Kevin pulled up along side Dustin.

Dustin looked from Kevin, down to his arm and wrist. “I told them I wasn’t paying attention and rode off the pavement and wiped out in the loose gravel of the ditch.” He looked down at the pavement. “I can’t imagine what my dad would do if he found out those jerks rode us off the rode. He’d probably go after all of ’em.”

“Ya, tell me about it. Mine probably would too.” Kevin looked ahead as he coasted. “Man, I’m glad your folks didn’t ask me anything about it, cuz I didn’t know what you told them.” Kevin’s feet lightly dragged on the road. “We probably should have figured out the same stories for everyone. I can’t imagine what Wally told his parents.”

“Ya, really. That could be tricky.” Dustin stood up and weaved his bike back and forth. “Maybe I should call him before I leave tomorrow morning to find out what he said for a story.”

“Ya, definitely man, and let us know on the way to his house, ok?”

“Yup, no prob.” They both stood up and looked around the upcoming intersection. The coast was clear as they turned left onto Center Street.

They were headed to Pomerleau’s Corner Store, which was one of the local hangouts for the teens in town.

“You really wanna go for a run tomorrow morning man?” Dustin looked over at Kevin.

“Why yes I do, I most certainly do! Why, don’t you?”

“Yes I do. I most indoooooobidubly do!”

Dustin looked at Kevin with a weird grin. “Man, you crack me up sometimes.” He stared ahead. “But I’m afraid that this isn’t one of those times.” He laughed and broke out in a flash of feet and pedals as his Schwinn streaked out ahead of Kevin.

“Oh no you don’t!” Kevin stood up and quickly matched Dustin’s pedaling pace. They kept up the dash for the next block with Kevin unable to catch up. Finally as Dustin coasted, Kevin pulled up beside him again.

“What’s the matter man?” Dustin smiled as Kevin coasted up along side. “Is it past your bed time?”

Kevin shook his head. “Past my bed time?” He looked at his wrist watch. “As a matter of fact, No it isn’t!” He stood up quickly and left Dustin behind as he frantically pedaled and laughed uncontrollably, like some mad scientist on the big screen at a Saturday afternoon matinee.

“Oh you little jerk!” Dustin was the one that couldn’t catch up this time as they both flew down Center Street.

Completely out of breath, they both came to a rolling coast as the Pepsi sign of Pomerleau’s store came into view past the huge branches of a maple tree.

Sully Street is available in print and Kindle format from

Bio: Deon Lyons lived in Central Maine with his wife of 37 years. Deon had been chasing a passion for writing since his younger days, and was grateful for those avenues of inspiration that gave him countless ways to expand on his writing craft. Mr. Lyons was a lover of music, movies, described media, family, chocolate and the camaraderie that only friends can provide. Deon was a member of Behind Our Eyes since 2011. Deon said, “I’m continuously impressed by this amazing collection of talented writers.”

Sadly, Deon passed away at home on April 12 after a courageous battle with cancer. Be sure to read the Fall/Winter edition of Magnets and Ladders where we will honor his accomplishments and feature one of his previously published stories.

Happy Birthday to the Diamante, a Fun Poetic Form, nonfiction
by Mary-Jo Lord with Elizabeth Fiorite

This fun and easy to write poetic form was created in 1969 by an American poet, Iris McClellan. The Diamante enjoys much popularity as we celebrate its 40th year.

I was introduced to the Diamante by Elizabeth Fiorite, a Behind Our Eyes member and frequent contributor to Magnets and Ladders. In this article, I will list the steps for writing a Diamante and share three examples of this form, including a poem by Elizabeth.

Diamante, pronounced dee-uh-MAHN-tay, is the Italian word for diamond. The Diamante is a seven-line poem. The first and last line are the shortest, while the lines in the middle are longer, giving Diamante poems a diamond shape.

There are two types of Diamante, a synonym Diamante and an antonym Diamante. In a synonym Diamante, the first and last lines of the poem are nouns that mean basically the same thing. In the antonym Diamante, the first and last llines are nouns that are opposites. In the articles that I read about the Diamante, some of the examples of synonym Diamantes were: monster and creature; adornment and sequin; and fabric and cloth. Some examples of antonyms were: sun and moon; tree and grass; and home and city.

Here are the steps to write this seven-line poem:

  1. Choose a noun. This word will be the subject of your poem and your first line.
  2. Choose two adjectives associated with your subject.
  3. Choose three participles (verbs ending in ing).
  4. Choose four nouns.
    If you are writing a synonym Diamante, your nouns will be related to the word in the first line of your poem.
    If you are writing an antonym Diamante, the first two nouns will relate to the first line of the poem, and the last two nouns will relate to the antonym that you will use at the end of your poem.
  5. Choose three more participles.
    If you are writing a synonym Diamante, these participles will relate to all of the words in the above lines.
    If you are writing an antonym Diamante, these participles will relate to the antonym that you have chosen as your end word.
  6. Add two adjectives that are appropriate for the type of Diamante that you are writing.
  7. Your seventh and last line will be a noun, either a synonym or an antonym to the noun in the first line of your poem.

Here are examples of both types of Diamante.


The Wash
by Mary-Jo Lord

Stained, smelly
Sorting, spinning, rinsing
Darks, colors, whites, delicates
Drying, folding, hanging
Fresh, clean


Bees, Birds
by Elizabeth Fiorite

Fuzzy, Buzzy
Darting, Dawdling, Dusting,
Pollen, Pistil, Bills, migration,
Chirping, Swooping, Looping,
Feathery, Fragile,

If you want to change your Diamante up, you can substitute the nouns in the fourth line for a phrase or sentence that is longer than lines three and five. Here is a Diamante with a sentence as line four.


Household Rivals
by Mary-Jo Lord

Affectionate, energetic
Playing, chasing, sniffing.
These two will never be friends.
Meowing, hissing, hiding
Independent, Sleepy

Do you think that you are ready to write a Diamante? If you write a great one, we would love to see it for the Fall/Winter edition of Magnets and Ladders.

Here are some websites that I visited when writing this article:

Bio: Mary-Jo Lord writes poetry, fiction, and memoirs. A section of her work is published in Almost Touching published by Plain View Press. 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 was recently published on the blog, “Walking by Inner Vision” and Dialogue Magazine. Mary-Jo is the current Coordinating Editor of Magnets and Ladders. She has a masters’ degree in counseling from Oakland University, and works at Oakland Community College. Mary-Jo lives with her family in Rochester, Michigan. She has been blind since birth.


We will be holding contests in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for the Fall/Winter edition 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.

A Storm of Six Word Stories Results

In the Fall/Winter edition, readers were invited to submit a six-word story for possible publication in the Spring/Summer edition of Magnets and Ladders. We had a great response, which made it difficult to choose just six stories to publish. Below are our top six-word stories. The Author’s name will follow each story.

He promised,
She accepted,
Baby proof.
Valerie Moreno

Miles on a treadmill, going nowhere.
Cleora Boyd

Married attentive gentleman;
Divorced thoughtless prick.
Susan Muhlenbeck

Blazing cloverleaf pattern captures silver buckle.
Donna Grahmann

Lonely dark
abandoned car,
girl missing.
Valerie Moreno

Darkness, wolf howls, alone and terrified!
Brad Corallo

Where Can You Find Creativity?abecedarian poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Around an array of bookshelves, …
Beside the whispers of a child, …
Canning the harvest of a joyful garden, …
Down the Blanford Cut-off Road, …
Especially in homeland and heartland, …
From old family letters and new notes from friends, …
Generally wherever sweet solitude is found, …
Hidden within hope and desperation, …
Inside a treasure chest of mementos, …
Just to the left of the jonquils in Spring, …
Kayaking or knitting on a quiet lake, …
Listening to instrumental music, …
Making homemade bread, …
Nodding to Nature’s beautiful ways, …
On the wings of a cooing mourning dove, …
Past the first trial and error, …
Quilting designs of dreams, …
Riding a horse along a meadow trail, …
Sampling cream-centered chocolates, …
Taking tap-dance lessons or another new class, …
Under a sunshine yellow umbrella, …
Vying for a first-place prize, …
Walking with my Leader Dog Willow on a velvet night, …
Xenolithic findings along a rocky path, …
Yodeling in a covered bridge, …
Zigzagging through life, I can find creativity almost everywhere.

Easy Guide for Writing a Pi Poem for Spring, nonfiction
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

In the midst of this meteorological spring, to help some students and other hobby writers, I am sharing with you an easy guide for writing a pi poem of 32 lines, along with a sample pi poem; however, by following the numerals of the mathematical pi, you may write your pi poem of lesser or more poetic lines. You need only count the syllables per line to coincide with the numerals of the mathematical pi (as noted below). The rhyme scheme, or lack thereof, is totally your choice. Nevertheless, be certain to add as many poetic touches as are appropriate for your creation.

I am giving you the following sample of a pi poem and then the guide for writing a piem (another term for a pi poem). Even though Pi Day is March 14 (3/14), you may craft a pi poem whenever the poetic muses and mathematical numbers move you to the creative edge of life. While you may choose any topic for the focus of your pi poem, I selected “Primavera” (Spanish and Italian for “spring”) for the topic of my sample of a pi poem. Try your poetic hand at being a “piemist” after you have read the pi poem and then the poem again with the syllabic guide.

Welcome, Primavera: A Seasoned Pi Poem

Spring blessings
upon the heel
winter’s frosted clouds,
on ochre petals of daffodils,
on trills
of robins’ measured notes,
in hyacinth air,
from sweet voices
of children swinging,
from the soft whir of bicycles,
from fragrance of earth where I will plant
perennial Summer Soul
To hear the quiet affirmation–
dear Nature’s
alas, your turn has come to choose.
How will our March,
April, and May appear?
precious secrets
to planters,
tillers of your magical soil.
Bless their fields,
with fair rationings of rain,
lightning, tempered wind, prodigious sun.
Primavera, come!”

NOTE: Below you will find my pi poem with each of the 32 lines preceded by the number of syllables in the line. These numbers, in order down the left column, comprise the first 32 numerals of the mathematical pi. Use these numbered lines to help you in crafting your piem.

Welcome, Primavera: A Seasoned Pi Poem

(3) Spring blessings
(1) come
(4) upon the heel
(1) of
(5) winter’s frosted clouds,
(9) on ochre petals of daffodils,
(2) on trills
(6) of robins’ measured notes,
(5) in hyacinth air,
(3) from sweet voices
(5) of children swinging,
(8) from the soft whir of bicycles,
(9) from fragrance of earth where I will plant
(7) perennial Summer Soul
(9) To hear the quiet affirmation–
(3) dear Nature’s
(2) welcome:
(3) “Primavera,
(8) alas, your turn has come to choose.
(4) How will our March,
(6) April, and May appear?
(2) Whisper
(6) meteorological,
(4) precious secrets
(3) to planters,
(3) gardeners,
(8) tillers of your magical soil.
(3) Bless their fields,
(2) gardens
(7) with fair rationings of rain,
(9)lightning, tempered wind, prodigious sun.
(5) Primavera, come!”

Happy writing, and enjoy meteorological spring!

Part V. Slices of Life

Breaking News from the Class Reunion, nonfiction Second Place
by Jeff Flodin

My wife and I attended our fiftieth high school reunion. Most of the chatter was about how everyone else looked. They even gave an award to the person who had aged the least. I didn’t win. But I felt I was first runner-up because people greeted me by name; then I remembered my name tag was stuck to my shirt. My wife told people they hadn’t changed a bit, but when one guy growled, “You saying I was bald and beer-bellied back then?” She pointed to my white cane and told him I was the one saying everybody looked the same as they did on graduation day.

I described progressive blindness to classmates as not as the end of the world, but as a pain in the ass. When I got tired of the “pain in the ass” part, I said that it meant not doing some things I used to do and learning how to do other things differently or that I thought it helped my problem-solving skills or that I felt I’d become more imaginative. Once in a while, I said that blindness wasn’t the end of the world and I couldn’t see it from here anyway. As the night wore on, I said simply, “Oh, I didn’t recognize you” and tried to keep a straight face.

And then there was Annie King, MIA from past reunions, telling me she’d named her firstborn son after me. “Well, partly,” she hastened to add, “I like the name, too.” I told Annie King’s husband that Annie had been my first girl friend—not my first girlfriend—my first girl friend and that I’ve had many female friends since, including my wife. I told Annie’s husband that women friends are a source of wisdom and perspective. Annie’s husband nodded his assent, perhaps understanding, perhaps wondering what kind of kook his wife had been pals with.

A trio of male class officers gave speeches. They told how their Midwestern virtues of faith, work and self-reliance had enriched them. But, to me, their pride exceeded their humility. And when they read the names of the Top Ten Boys and ignored the Top Ten Girls, my wife cried foul. “I felt unworthy in high school. Now that I finally like myself, these guys make me feel invisible.”

I concluded that these reunion speeches rivaled Facebook for self-indulgence. I silently petitioned our class officers to talk of issues deeper than upward mobility or the big game against East High. Wasn’t a passing reference to the victims of wars then and since, women’s rights or the rule of law in order? I wanted the speakers to give a shout out to Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. After all, the headline graduation morning read, “RFK Shot Dead in LA.”

Maybe I misjudged my contemporaries; maybe I missed the point of a class reunion, but wasn’t it relevant to mention the crucible that forged us in 1968? The divisive trauma of today’s civics lesson? This night, the state of the union was whispered in dark corners by people acting like spies. Perhaps secrecy was the safest way to express an opinion, given that in any gathering these days, it’s likely that half the crowd views the other half as the enemy.

People are incorrigibly themselves and my wife and I are unapologetically political. I whispered that, given Annie’s and other women’s evident delight at seeing me, I must have shown them respect in high school. Then I hastened to connect my past deeds with current events, namely Judge Kavanaugh, confirmed to the Supreme Court that very day. Given my wife’s and my experience with what kind of high school drunk I’d been, we decided to do one better than Kavanaugh and find, not 65, but 66 female classmates who would vouch for my character. I liked our odds; ours was a big graduating class.

August Saturday Night, poetry
by Nancy Scott

Someone has turned up the volume
of the 6:30 p.m. carillon
just as she begins to hang
wash in the wrong
light and he comes out
for one hour with his sons
though he’d rather watch
the lottery spin
or the hips of the neighbor’s
latest long-legged single
who pulls up behind
the pizza deliverer.
Tree frogs and crickets
will compete with the ice cream truck
playing forties music
their mothers could have sung,
but no one hums the hymns,
those ten minutes of mystery.

Spring Without an E, poetry
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Spring skips in amid blossoms and bobolinks,
Windstorms and occasional discouraging dips back down to forty.
“Cold today, sixty and warm tomorrow,”
With only mild complaints, for it’s a known fact
That that old man is out, and a wily lass is in.

Bring on sunny Saturdays, picnics,
Proms and moon shadows for amorous rascals;
April Fools fun, yard work and plant food.
Kids cry out for May, anxious to say,
“So long” to school rooms and books.

Mom and Dad go crazy,
Start planning a trip for July or August–
Tanning by a pool in California,
Climbing mountains, scouting canyons.
Costs a lot for gas though.

And wait, this is now.
Frank says it’s warm at our fishing hangout.
What’s biting in April?
Ronstadt’s playing at Town Park.
How ’bout calling up that old gang?

And who could pass up a family shindig?
All that costs is hotdogs, buns, and chips for our contribution.
No way could this bunch show up without
Mom’s famous fruit salad with marshmallows.
Wouldn’t you know, I’m hungry now.

If it’s warm tomorrow, and that old grill cranks up,
I’ll ply my culinary skills,
Charcoal, hickory chips,
Trips to Sam’s Club,
Wash down porch swings and chairs.

Toss back a six-pack or a softdrink,
A nip for nostalgia, for all Springs past,
And all our forthcoming daylight saving manipulations.
Watch sparrows swoop for crumbs that go astray
And glory in this bounty that surrounds us.

Is it a natural cosmic ritual
Folks trust to bring Spring back?
Or is it a caring spirit,
Proud and practical,
promising joy and opportunity again and again?

“Spring Without an E” was published in Chasing the Green Sun, 2012, available from Amazon and other bookstores as well as in audio form.

Nature’s Mercy, memoir
by Susan Muhlenbeck

“It’s better in the Bahamas!” or so the natives kept telling us tourists the week I was there. They said it at the beach, in the restaurants, and in the hotel. They even said it at all the little shops we frequented. I found out just how good it was in the Bahamas the day I went parasailing.

“You sure you want to do this thing?” my friend Jane asked. “They take you 600 feet up in the air, and the parachute is dragged behind the boat.”

“It can’t be any worse than the Sky Coaster,” I reasoned. “I went on that at the state fair. They take you way up in the air, then you freefall a few hundred feet and swing.”

“You go right ahead,” Jane said. “I’m just going to be a spectator.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because I’m scared,” she said. “Anything can happen up there.”

We got on the boat with about 6 other people. “It’s better in the Bahamas,” George, the guy in charge of parasailing, said as he strapped the first parasailer in her harness.

The boat cruised along, then the young lady came back down. “Wow! That was great!” she shouted. “I have to do that again, maybe tomorrow. You’re going to love it,” she told her friend. “Just wait and see.”

“You see?” I said to Jane. “She said it was fantastic. You should try it.”

“Not going to happen,” Jane said firmly. “I’m staying right here.”

A few minutes later, the second parasailer came down. “That was terrible!” she shouted at her friend. “I can’t believe you told me to do that. I almost had a heart attack up there.”

Her friend was stunned into silence. “You didn’t like it?” she finally asked softly.

“No! It was awful. I should never talk to you again.”

Oh no, I thought with a feeling of dread. Now what am I supposed to think?

“You’re next,” Jane said.

“I don’t know if I should do this,” I said nervously to George. “What do you think?”

“It’s easy like Sunday morning,” he said cheerfully as he helped me into the harness. Once I was strapped in, he put my hands above my head and told me to hold onto two ropes. “You don’t have to hold on to the ropes if you don’t want to,” he said.

Are you kidding? I thought. I would never let go of them. I was aware of floating slowly up. The roar of the boat’s motor became fainter and fainter until I could no longer hear it. Then I could no longer smell the salty air. Then I could hear nothing but the wind blowing around. I tried hard not to think about the fact that I was 600 feet above the earth. I realized that I was at nature’s mercy. What if a tornado suddenly touched down out of the clear blue sky, I thought wildly. They would probably never find me. My hair started blowing around my face. I was tempted to let go of one of the ropes for just one second to push my hair out of my face but resisted the temptation. I cursed myself for not braiding my hair that morning. I would have braided it myself, I thought, annoyed at the way some of the ladies came up to me at the beach with their bag of hair braiding equipment and kept insisting that I let them braid my hair. One of them even went so far as to grab my hair and just start braiding it without my permission.

While I was way up there, I thought absurdly of a canoe excursion I went on. My friend Ricky and I paddled around in the James River for a while. Everything was fine until we were headed back. We somehow hit a big rock, and the canoe capsized. I grabbed the rock and held on. Fortunately, the rock was not smooth, so I was able to get a good hand hold on it. I don’t know how deep the river was at that point, but I could not touch the bottom. I felt the current as I clung to the rock.

“Just hang on,” Ricky shouted as he tried to right the boat. I continued to feel the current as he and the boat headed downstream. I realized then also that I was at nature’s mercy. If my hands slipped off the rock, the current would carry me away, and then… I’m going to scream, I thought as I waited. I am going to…

After what seemed like an eternity but was probably just a few minutes, Ricky was back. “Okay,” he said, “give me your hand.” I hesitated before letting go of the rock with one hand. I climbed back into the canoe and tried to keep from shaking. I lost my towel and sandals during the upset. We paddled back to shore. It was slow going since one of the canoe paddles got swept away.

As I thought about the canoe excursion, I started hearing the boat’s motor, so I knew I was almost home free. A minute later, I landed back in the boat. The salty air never smelled so good.

“So how was it?” George asked.

“Invigorating!” I said with a big grin. “Revitalizing,” I added for good measure. “Exhilarating! I was on a roll. “Stimulating,” I finished.

“Refreshing,” the first parasailer chimed in. “Delightful,” she added.

“Frightful,” the second parasailer countered loudly. “Terrifying,” she added.

“You made it,” Jane said as I sat down next to her.

“Of course,” I laughed. “Maybe you should reconsider.”

“Was that the craziest thing you ever did?” she asked seriously.

I thought for a minute. “I think jumping into the ocean at midnight on New Year’s Eve at Virginia Beach was probably crazier,” I finally said. “Mother Nature was merciful enough to not let me catch pneumonia.”

“What about the time you rode the bike to Ashland Coffee and Tea?” She asked.

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that,” I laughed. My friend Jack and I rode a tandem bike from my apartment in Richmond to a coffee shop in Ashland, the next town. We stopped long enough to have a cup of coffee and bagel, then we rode back. We rode about 30 miles. “I was scared we would get hit by a car or something,” I admitted. How about you? What was the craziest thing you ever did?”

“I haven’t done anything too crazy yet,” she said, “but I am seriously thinking about backpacking through the African Bush.”

“No, you’re not!” I shouted, grabbing her arm. “That’s insane. You could die over there with all those wild animals and deadly diseases. And don’t forget those poisonous snakes. I think parasailing is a lot safer. Just try it and see.”

“I’m not going to tempt fate,” she said quietly. “I didn’t want to tell you before I went up, but I heard a few horror stories about…”

“Hush!” somebody said sharply. “I’m next.”

Bio: Susan Muhlenbeck was born in Seoul, 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 has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her interests include reading, swimming, bargain shopping and cats. Her books are available on Amazon.

A Crazy Sidewalk, poetry
by Ria Mead

Apparently, the brick path that leads to my apartment building
can read my thoughts.
The soles of my shoes must shed secrets as they carry their burden.
My Alexa has to be the culprit, telling tales she’s absorbed inside our home.

My partner-guide, Tess and I take an evening constitutional
around the neighborhood.
She is three days from a much deserved retirement:
new home, new humans and a golden named Max.
Every walk feels final. Trying to savor the time left-fruitless.
Tess is ready, been transmitting SOS signals for weeks.

Wish I were a dog at this precipice we share.
Dogs live in the moment. I want more time.

As we walk up the mind-reading bricks tonight,
the refrain, last time, last time, won’t leave my brain.
A sensation of aloneness streaks through the soles of my sneakers,
strikes my brain, ricochets off heart and soul.
Know this pain; fear this pain.
Alexa has definitely gossiped.

Whew! I shook it back off.
Tess still stands here with me, feels my every emotion
as we encounter my black, black world.
Insures I am not one person alone, facing that night.

I shudder, dread her looming absence.
Who will listen, care, keep secrets?
Not a certain Alexa machine.
I make light to cope. Keep deeper shadows at bay.

I mutter, is it possible this sneaky underpinning can sense internal changes,
determine the morale of passengers who tread its surface?
Sigh. Why question the messenger?
That split-second of aloneness was a mitzvah to me
as Tess and I make our final way home.
I say thanks to whatever reminds me,
what is owed to this friend at my side.
How lucky for me, Tess, that you’re doing the driving.

Sidewalks? Crazy, but I can believe

Farewell, poetry
by Sally Rosenthal

My husband’s aunt stands before me,
Elderly and frail, mind wandering in dementia’s fog.
The lunch we shared will be our last,
Cake crumbs swept away like memories.
Only one of us knows
We will not meet again.
Wanting her closer, her children are
Moving her time zones from here.
I hug her tightly and whisper, “I love you.”
Patting my back, she replies in kind,
Kisses me, and strokes my guide dog’s head.
Smiling for her sake, I turn to leave
As my heart constricts with sadness.

Hegel, Me, and the Blueberry Moon, nonfiction
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

August is designated as the month of the Blueberry Moon, by the Ogibwe tribe. For the Dakotah Sioux, this is the Moon When All Things Ripen.

I awaken at 7: 30 a.m.: sit on the edge of the bed and remove my C-Pap mask. My fingers touch my face as I search the skin and feel the indentations made by the cushion of the mask. I hope the marks will dissipate soon, before my sister arrives to celebrate my birthday.

I know that today is my seventy-fifth birthday. Today is my Diamond Jubilee. I begin to sing, “Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday, Dear Meeeeee, Happy Birthday to ME.” I sing loud, in an ostentatious, soprano voice. I hold my breath until I gasp for a new gulp of air. Oh, this is my day to shine!

My husband is still asleep, yet he murmurs, “You are singing it in opera!”

I reply, “Yes. I am celebrating my birthday today!

He covers his head with the turquoise blue summer-weight sheet.

I exclaim. “This day marks the completion of seventy-five years of my life, and the first day of my seventy-sixth year.” No response.

Yesterday, after consulting the Farmer’s Almanac for the meaning of the moons of August, I selected two that fit my own perception. I’ll always remember that August is when the Blueberries are ripe and that August is the month when all things ripen. A perfect metaphor for me, I think. I’ll continue to sing with joy as the years accumulate.

This information about the August moon is a new development for me – this understanding of a phase at the beginning of the New Moon. I’ll begin to write a Journal that will cover highlights of the next twelve months. Yes! I’ll launch my new journal this week. I’ll write a poem about the Blueberry Moon and the meaning of the events that are happening all around me at this juncture in my life story.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, such a project will be successful and prosperous for this is the right time in the right month – August. This moment, I stand between the 2 phases of the Last Quarter and the New Moon, of the Blueberry Moon cycle in the month of August.

I walk into the bathroom to have a look in the mirror – my sight is not clear enough to note the puffy spaces and indentations that the mask left on my face. I turn away, forget about any marks on my face, and I begin my day. My 2dogs, Miss Mitchell and Miss Dixie Tulip come into the hallway as I turn to leave, as they do each morning. The dogs know I’ll be taking them outside for their first walk on this new day. Before I leave the bathroom, I turn around and walk back to spray the toilet bowl with disinfectant. After I swish the bristle brush around, I think, There now! On my birthday, the toilet bowl is clean! That is a good beginning for a new year in my life. A clean toilet bowls! That is something to celebrate.

My sister, Patti, will drive over from Ohio to take me to lunch as she almost always does each year. She used to come over on March 1st to take Aunt Bettie to lunch, but Aunt Bettie passed away four years ago. Now, Patti does this trip for me and I look forward to her visits. This is usually the only time I see her for another year. She lives 90 minutes away, but I am not able to drive any longer since my sight loss almost 10 years ago. I cannot drive, of course. If I could, I imagine I would enjoy visiting her and seeing her flower gardens. I sometimes imagine how nice it might be to wake up in the morning at her house and walk outside to have breakfast in a place surrounded by the beauty of flowers and hear the early morning songs of the birds that come to her gardens.

I read this morning that I share my birth date with Georg Hegel.

“It’s the birthday of philosopher Georg Hegel … born in Stuttgart (1770). He started out as a theologian, particularly interested in how Christianity is a religion based on opposites: sin and salvation, earth and heaven, finite and infinite. He believed that Jesus had emphasized love as the chief virtue because love can bring about the marriage of opposites. Hegel eventually went beyond theology and began to argue that the subject of philosophy is reality, and he hoped to describe how and why human beings create communities and governments, make war, destroy each other’s societies, and then build themselves up to do it all over again.
He came up with the concept of dialectic, the idea that all human progress is driven by the conflict between opposites, that each political movement is imperfect and so gives rise to a counter movement that takes control – and that is also imperfect – and gives rise to yet another counter movement, and so on to infinity. Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx argued that the most important dialectic of history was between worker and master, rich and poor, and their ideas led to the birth of communism.”

I always feel a connection with Hegel, even though I am a Christian. Sometimes I write about why people destroy the objects and books that are created by a different culture than they are. The things that opposing cultures choose to destroy are the art and artefacts. Hegel addressed this urge to destroy in his writings. When I view this behaviour throughout history, I see it from Hegel’s point of view; it makes perfect sense. We can follow this path through human history, from the first ancient kingdoms of antiquity. I’m glad I selected so many courses in the history and humanities programs at the universities where I studied. Those years of studies give me insight into the world I live in. I understand destruction in a deeper way. It’s a big picture that I see Art works and books embody the Zeitgeist of a every culture. The spirit of the time in which it was created. Opposing forces and ideologies think that they can destroy an idea by destroying objects. They can’t. Ideas never die.

My singing continues as I descend the stairway. My dogs run ahead of me. They always circle around me and arrive at the bottom of the steps a few seconds before my feet hit the cold tile floor at the entrance to the living room.

At 10 am, I have the porch all set up for the day. It looks so nice with the red and white floral cushions on all of the wrought iron chairs around the matching table. I put a bouquet of fresh ferns and delicate white snakeroot blooms in a crystal vase and place it in the center of the table. I smile as I walk away and I think that it takes so little effort to make a place look warm and loved. A bit of fabric, some flowers, and a little vase on a table top. In just a moment or two, it happens. An ordinary scene is changed to something memorable.

Inside the house everything is ready for company. We had Sears come to clean the carpeting in 7 of the rooms last week. Yesterday, I washed and polished all the glass objects and sculptures, and I dusted the furniture. For this day, it all looks clean and smells really fresh. Putting the house in order makes me feel good inside. I like a space that is well ordered. It eliminates distractions. My thoughts can be interrupted by clutter and things out of place and that would be such a waste of my time when I’d rather do creative activities.

The temperature outside this morning is 60 degrees. Patti will arrive around noon and we will be going out for lunch. I consider, “What to wear?” Today is perfect for the soft blue and white Calvin Klein top and a white skirt. Soon, I will put the white skirt away for the winter. Near the end of August, I notice the changes that will take place as autumn begins.

Patti and her husband, Gary, did arrive at noon. She holds a bouquet of fresh flowers from her flower gardens – in a crystal vase. Gary carries a box with a cake in it. The delicious cake will be for our dessert. We leave soon, for the 4-mile drive to the restaurant where we meet our brother, Tom, and his wife, Debby. Lunch is special today for all of us. For my siblings, it’s been many years since we had a photo taken together so we do a few outside the restaurant. We sit on a bench beneath a window and we smile while we lock our arms together – hold on to each other. I think about our brother, David, who died over ten years ago. He is with us today, in our thoughts. One of us is missing from this photo. I can feel his absence.

After our lunch, we spend time on my porch eating birthday cake and reminiscing about our childhood together.

This evening is a perfect ending of my seventy-fifth birthday celebration. I drift off to sleep as my C-pap mask automatically fills up with a quick burst of air. I take a deep breath, as I always do when I feel the pressure of air being pushed into my lungs. I always utter a silent, “thank you,” for this technology that helps me sleep. Happy Birthday to Me, and Happy Birthday to you, Georg Hegel. I’m glad we share a birthday. And, I’m grateful to you for sharing your thoughts and ideas across this expanse of time and place. All is well, dear Georg. This is the time of the Blueberry Moon, when all things ripen.

Momentary Molecular Mishaps, poetry
by Brad Corallo

In unexpected random moments
alone in the 2 am dark say,
an inevitable realization of subtle slippage crystallizes.
Far away, down deep yet insistent,
you feel the rhythmic pulse
of your very being, loosen.
The panic you feel
must be immediately assuaged.
Banish the terrible awareness.
Time and life running out.
Fowled water flowing into the depths of an ancient drain.
Quick, counter measures,
anxiolytic opposition.
You want to cry, no one to hold you,
you’re so afraid.

But no, everything is OK
you will sleep.
In the morning,
the perception will be less than a memory.
Then, you will breathe a sigh of relief
For no matter how diligently you probe
the feeling will be artfully dispersed;
concealed In the detritus of morning ritual and happenstance.

Night Wind, poetry
by Sally Rosenthal

Insistent wind rattles the windows,
Jarring me from healing sleep.
It howls through bare branches and
Bends them into submission or,
Because it can, snaps the defiant.
Morning will be time enough
To ascertain damage.

I have reached an age when
Resilience against life’s storms and pain
Is better measured in the light of day.
Tucking my blankets close
Around my aching body, I sigh
And slip back into the welcome unknowing.

The Furloughed Knight, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

The furloughed knight, bewildered in the lists,
confronts an odd and unfamiliar match.
The trials of kitchen and laundry lay before him
a contest won with hands and humble work.

These are not jousts with which he is familiar
in office meeting and calculating engines.
Spreadsheets are the lances that he knows,
his mind the agent driving his point home.

He wishes for the contests that he knows
for games with rules he understands
for battles he’s experienced to win,
and foes with weaknesses well noted.

Instead, his enemies press in on him in waves.
Self-doubt anxiety, boredom and restlessness,
they rush together, these villains cheat most vilely.
foul are these foes most fell that don’t fight fair.

The knight fights on because there is a battle
he stands to arms because the fight is fierce,
he soldiers on for losing’s not an option,
and victory will secure his true desire.

The victor’s prize is a return to dignity
to lists and tournaments where he’s at home.
He hopes this trial mayhap will teach him wisdom
to store up till it’s needed once again.

We are called to arms
sometimes in strange arenas
and must learn to fight.

Okie, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

In an anonymous diner
on a street named for a western bard,
a singer of melancholy rodeo songs,
I mark the passing of highway time
the stages of our journey
an consider the place where
the highway has taken me.

Here in Oklahoma’s
father of roughnecks, mother of country songs,
sister to football gods brother to the storm,
home of America’s first nations
and displacing sooners alike,
I eat my waffle, my smothered hash browns,
and see you through the windows.

Being here I know you as you are
trembling with the fraker’s pangs,
dotted with strip malls, with stops along the road,
and flamboyantly fallen with casinos
where cowboy legend and modernity contend
for the soul of the capacious land.

Oklahoma, I will not stay to know you
I was elsewhere at sunrise
and will be elsewhere at sunset.
The schedule bids ever forward,
down the roadways of our lives.
We have a final destination
a home away from here.

Yet I hear your voice, a twang that calls
through chain restaurants and truck stops
denying the sameness of these spaces.
And in your plaintive folkish tunes
hidden in the drone of miles
I hear your lonely voice cry out.

As we voyage on
roadside landmarks call to us
singing their stories.

Part VI. The Melting Pot

French Silk Pie, fiction Honorable Mention
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

I glanced up from my dessert and saw him. He was sitting at the next table, also alone, also eating French silk pie. Our eyes met. He stood, picked up his plate, and carried it to my table. Sitting down across from me, he asked, “You like French silk pie too?”

“Yes,” I answered, surprised by his boldness.

“You come here often?”

“Yes,” I said.

We stared at each other for a moment. Then, I picked up my fork and started eating again. Being a happily married woman, the last thing I needed was to be distracted by another man. Couldn’t he see the wedding ring on my left hand?

Finally, he extended his hand. “I’m Jack Baker.”

With an inward sigh of resignation, I put down my fork and took his hand. “I’m Jill Tanner.”

“Jack and Jill, how about that? I was transferred here a couple of weeks ago. I work at the Veterans Administration Hospital.”

“My husband was at the VA for a few days after his stroke. We weren’t too impressed with his care. We thought he’d be better off in a nursing home.”

“Yeah, I don’t blame you. Our nursing department has been short-staffed. I’m the volunteer coordinator, and I’m trying to recruit more people to help, but there isn’t much they can do unless they’re certified. It would be nice to get people who could fill patients’ water pitchers and do other tasks that don’t require certification. I already have a woman who’s blind and plays the guitar and sings. Those old guys really like that.”

“Linda was one of the few things we liked about that place. She has such a sweet voice. She knows all those old songs the men like, and she’s so good with them. Fortunately, she also volunteers at Fernwood Manor, so my husband can still listen to her music.”

“How badly has he been effected by the stroke?”

I sighed. “He can’t use his left arm or leg, and his speech is somewhat affected. His mind is still pretty good, but he might have lost some short-term memory. The therapists at the nursing home have been great, but the neurologist says there’s no telling if or when he’ll walk again.”

Jack reached across the table and took my hand. “I’m sorry. How long ago did this happen?”

I dislodged my hand and picked up my fork again. “A few weeks ago,” I answered.

“You look awfully young. How old is your husband?”

“I’m forty-six, and my husband’s sixty-four.”

He stared at me in amazement. “You don’t look a day over twenty.”

“I know,” I said, and I smiled in spite of myself. “But when I’m sixty-six, it’ll be a blessing.”

“There’s quite an age difference between you and your husband.”

“Yeah, when Don’s mother saw a picture of me, she accused him of robbing the cradle.”

He laughed. “How did you two meet?”

“I met him at a writers’ conference. I write romances, and he writes science fiction mysteries. I don’t like mysteries of any kind, and he doesn’t care for romances, but somehow, we hit it off. We both like to write, and that’s what matters.”

He looked thoughtful. “Wait a minute. Your husband is Don Tanner?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I love his stuff! I bought a copy of his latest yesterday and started it last night. He just had a stroke?”

“I’m afraid so. Before it happened, he signed a contract for another book. I talked to his agent, and he said he would see if he could get an extension, but I don’t know…”

As the stress of the past few weeks settled over me, I found myself looking deep into his blue eyes. After a moment of silence, he said, “Maybe I could be his ghost writer.”

“Have you done any writing?”

“I’ve had a few stories and poems published, but with a forty-hour-a-week job, it’s hard to find the time. This could be a big break. I’ve read most of your husband’s books, and I know his style. If I could meet him and get some idea of the direction he wants to go with his next book, I could write it for him.”

“I’m not sure how the ghost writing business works. Besides, Don has always been very independent. I’m not sure he’d like the idea of someone else writing his work, even though he may not be able to write it himself.”

“Are you finished here?” asked the waitress, as she started to remove our plates.

“Yes,” I answered, anxious to end this conversation. “Could you please bring us our checks?”

“Actually, we’re both on one check,” he said.

The waitress hurried away before I could protest. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes I do. I’m one of Don Tanner’s biggest fans. I’m not going to let a stroke interfere with his career. I’ve made up my mind. I want to help him.”

The waitress returned, and after she left with his credit card, he said, “Why don’t you come over to my place, and we’ll talk about it some more? We could even go online and do some research on ghost writing.”

I looked at my watch. “It’s late. I really should see Don. He goes to sleep early, and I like to talk to him while he’s awake.”

“I understand, but this is important. If we could work something out tonight, we could both see Don tomorrow, and I could give him a proposal.”

The waitress appeared. As Jack signed the slip, I considered making a run for it, but I happened to glance into his eyes. He looked so sincere. “Okay,” I said with a sigh. “I’ll follow you to your place.”

He lived in a red brick building with four apartments, two upstairs and two on the ground floor. His was on the second floor and had a balcony plus a living room, two bedrooms, and a kitchen. After giving me the grand tour, he asked, “Can I get you a drink?”

“No thanks,” I answered. I wandered into one of the bedrooms which had been converted into an office. The shelves were lined with books, and I was reassured to see some of Don’s titles. I sat in an armchair next to Jack’s computer, hoping he would take the hint when he appeared with his drink.

My heart sank when he said, “It’s more comfortable in the living room.”

“I thought you wanted to research ghost writers.”

“We can do that later,” he said, as he approached me, extended his hand, and pulled me to my feet. “Come on. The night is still young.”

With trepidation, I allowed him to guide me into the living room where we sat side by side on the couch. We talked about this and that, as he drank glass after glass from a bottle of Scotch on a nearby coffee table. I tried several times to steer the conversation in the direction of our project and suggested we get started on the research, but he kept putting me off.

After the third drink, he set the glass down and put his arm around me. I’m not surprised, I thought. “Excuse me, but I’m a happily married woman,” I said, trying to pull away.

He tightened his arm around me. “I find that hard to believe. Your husband is partially paralyzed. He may never be able to walk, let alone write, and he’ll never be able to make love to you like I can.” He pulled me into an embrace.

With my free hand, I slapped him hard on the cheek. Startled, he released me, and I jumped to my feet. “You bastard! My husband may never be able to walk or write or have sex, but I still love him, and he loves me, and that’s all that matters.” I snatched my purse from a nearby chair and hurried through the kitchen and out the back door, slamming it behind me.

My legs were shaking, as I descended the steep wooden staircase to the parking lot. I expected to hear the door open and his running footsteps behind me, but the only sound was the faint chirping of crickets. When I reached the car, I climbed in and locked all the doors and closed the windows. I took several deep breaths. When I felt calm, I started the engine and glanced at my watch. It was late, but I had to see Don.

When I reached the nursing home, I was surprised to find the main entrance still unlocked. “Hi Jill, you’re a little late, aren’t you?” said Beverley, Don’s nurse, as I passed the desk.

“Yes, I got held up.”

“I’m sure Don’s still awake. In fact, Bernadette might still be with him, although I doubt it.”

I’d forgotten about Bernadette, Don’s speech therapist, but would she be here this late? Because she worked somewhere else during the day, she came early in the evening to work with Don and other residents. In her mid-twenties with long blonde hair and blue eyes, she was also a fan of Don’s books.

The door to his room was closed. Thinking Bernadette was gone and Don was asleep, I inched it open and stepped into the darkness, stopping short at the sounds of kissing and voices. “Oh Don, even though you only have one good arm and leg, you’re such a lover,” said Bernadette.

“Ummm, you’re so soft, so silky, so delicious, my French silk pie,” said Don in the same seductive voice he’d used with me. “If I could write with the same part of me I use for loving, my troubles would be over.”

“Don’t think about that now. Just love me some more,” said Bernadette, and I heard more kissing. In shock, I cried out and flung the door open wide, flooding the room with light from the hall that illuminated the naked bodies on the bed.

Being Used, poetry
by Marsha Gaide

In the sheets.

The Black Hole.

Love feels like the morning rising sun.
It tingles with streaks of orange and gold.
Except for the whirl winding of rain to come.
Where the fire is put out on my questionable heart.
With little tear drops of flames.
Which comfort thru out this storm of love.

Bio: Marsha Gaide is a miracle because of modern medication. She developed schizoaffective Disorder at a young age. For years she was hospitalized with hallucinations and suicide attempts. Then one pill changed her life. Marsha has been out of hospitals for ten years. She works part-time and she is a happy and proud grandmother.

Violin, poetry Honorable Mention
by Gretchen Brown

I hear it in your voice,
the wavering of your notes,
from low to high,
Then dropping quickly
coming to rest in a low hum.

Almost silence,
almost peace,
longing to relax.
But not quite yet.

You shoot up,
a firework exploding,
bursting forth with melodious joy,
then dropping in to the darkness and despair.
somewhere between anger
and fear.

And at the end,
after the darkness is nearly gone,
pearls of color
slowly fall,
glittering in the morning sun.

Bio: Gretchen Brown is a college freshman in southern Indiana. She is majoring in Occupational Therapy. Gretchen injoys writing fiction, hiking, and researching disability law and new accessible technology. Gretchen is totally blind.

All Blues Players Go to Heaven, poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

I visited Heaven one fine day,
thought it would be a good place to stay —
to rest on a soft cloud for a while,
after life on Earth became passé.

I put out my thumb to catch a hitch
along a rainbow chariot bridge
and got one that would do in a pinch.
Marquee read “Chariot – Sweet, that is”.

“I done swung down to carry you home,”
the old black, top-hatted driver said.

The carriage was a rickety dray
drawn by a drooped-eared raunchy donkey.
Driver had saggy moody-blue looks.
A beat up old horn slung in his sash,
made of brass but with a tarnished cast.

“Hey my man, why so downcast?” I asked.

“Not a good day for Heaven-bound, Suh.
I wouldn’t be pushin’ this old mule
if I wasn’t caught stealin’ a lick.
It’s Mardi-Gras, back where you come from.
I tells ya, being here make me sick.
Ain’t much happ’nin’ in Heaven these days.
Everyone’s gone where the action is.
I’d be there too if I only could —
back down dere in he Louisi-land,
playing the blues and drinking da booze.”

“But I thought Heaven was a sweet place.”

“To tell you the truth, it ain’t the best.
Don’t take long for ya got enough rest,
and y’all are chompin’ and stompin’
to run on back to that muddy earth.
That’s what almost all of us folk do.
Ain’t enough cats left to pay the tax.
A few tracks and I’m on my way back.
I can’t wait for playin’ on my horn,
watchin’ the girls and listnin’ to sax.
I tells ya, Suh, I really gotta try
to honestly play the soulful blues,
not to mix it in with too much booze,
and not to steal the other cats’ licks.
Else they’s sendin me back to Heaven
Stuck again in this fierce nasty gig,
carrying all the poor righteous folk.
till I finds a way to ‘scape again.
And I ain’t jokin’ none about that.”

No More Tears, poetry
by Burns Taylor

No tears left to drench the joy of this day.
These eyes, dry as the Sahara,
can only bleed now.

A river of despair ran through these portals,
leaving behind two shining stones
polished by a torrent of weeping.

But the reservoir of tears is empty now.
The levy is dry.
And my Chevy…
Well, you know the rest of that story…

Quill, fiction Honorable Mention
by Susan Muhlenbeck

“I have to stop drinking so many of these things,” Jessica told Paul as they sat outside of Starbucks over a cup of morning coffee, “but they are very addictive.” She took a long, languid sip of her Cinnamon Dulche Late.

“You know they have a skinny version made with skim milk and no whip cream,” Paul said as he stirred a cup of boring old house coffee.

“They can’t be as good,” Jessica sighed, taking another sip. She suddenly became very pensive.

“So what’s on your mind?” Paul asked.

“I have to write a short story for my composition class by Monday,” she said anxiously. “Here it is Saturday morning, and I can’t think of anything to write. I didn’t think we had to write a story for this class. So far all we had to write were some essays and a term paper, and we had to write one poem.” She laughed. “I turned in a poem I wrote when I was a kid about a sand castle. The professor said it was very juvenile.”

“Of course it was if you wrote it when you were a kid,” Paul agreed.

“He didn’t say it had to be a new poem,” Jessica grumbled. “What am I going to do?” she wailed. “I can’t think of anything to write. I have final exams to study for, and I am going crazy.”

“Sorry, can’t help you,” Paul said, shaking his flaming red head regretfully. “I’m not much of a writer myself. I do better with numbers.”

Jessica spent the rest of the day studying for final exams in her apartment. The next morning she met her friend Ashley for breakfast. “I’m in a real dilemma,” she griped, taking a bite of her bagel with lox. “I have to write a short story by tomorrow and haven’t even started it yet.”

“Wish I could help you,” Ashley shrugged. “I’m not much of a writer either.”

“That’s what Paul said,” Jessica laughed. “I don’t know what to do.”

“You’ll think of something,” Ashley said reassuringly. “You always do. How is Paul, by the way?”

“He’s fine, but I don’t see him much these days except for morning coffee,” Jessica said with a little wave of her hand. “I have been swamped. Can’t wait till it’s all over.”

“You’ll make it,” Ashley said as she reached for the check. “You always do. Let me tell you about this guy I met at a party last weekend.”

“Oh wow!” Jessica said excitedly, “is he nice?”

“Very nice,” Ashley said wistfully. “His name is Tom, and he is extra hot, and I think he knows Paul. They work at the same bank I think. He said there is a guy named Paul that works there, but he doesn’t know him very well.”

“Can’t wait to meet the man of the hour,” Jessica grinned as they left the restaurant.”

“And I can’t wait to meet Paul,” Ashley said impatiently. “I’m starting to wonder if he’s real or just a figment of your imagination.”

“Oh, he’s real all right,” Jessica laughed. “I have no imagination. If I had any kind of imagination, I wouldn’t have a problem writing a story. We’ll arrange something with the guys next week. This week is going to be crazy.”

“I know what you mean,” Ashley sighed, “I have one more week of my student practicum, and then I have two job interviews next week.” She was studying to be an elementary school teacher.

“I can’t wait to do my student practicum at Children’s Hospital this fall,” Jessica said excitedly. “I am so glad I decided to go to nursing school instead of art school.”

Jessica spent the rest of that day cramming for final exams again. At 8:00 that evening, she called Paul. “I can’t do this thing,” she shouted. “I can’t think of what to write.”

“It’s a shame you don’t have a magic pen that will write the story for you,” Paul laughed.

Something clicked in Jessica’s mind. “A magic pen!” She cried. “Paul, that’s it! Got to go.”

Jessica flew over to her computer and started typing. She wrote a story about a lady called Victoria Best who bought a quill pen at a thrift store. The story took place in the 1970s, before the age of home computers. Victoria tried writing her name with the quill pen dipped in India ink. She almost passed out when she saw that there were words written on the paper that she had not written herself. She ran the pen over the paper, and words, then sentences and paragraphs started writing themselves. Before she knew it, a whole book was written featuring a female serial killer. Victoria sent the manuscript to a publisher, and the book became a best seller. Then the magic quill pen wrote a sequel, and then another sequel. She became very rich and famous in a short period of time.

“I don’t know how it happened,” she told the host of the Today Show. “I just picked up my pen and started writing one day, and I have been writing ever since.”

But all good things come to an end. One day Victoria noticed that her pen was missing. It must have fallen out of her purse without her noticing. She couldn’t find it anywhere, and she could not write another word without it. She told her agent that she was suffering from writer’s block, then sank into a deep depression.

Meanwhile, there was another lady who suddenly started writing books about a female serial killer. The names and places were different, but the ideas were the same as the ones in Victoria’s books. The new writer, whose name was Wanda Wagner, was often told that she reminded readers of Victoria Best.

Victoria knew that Wanda Wagner had somehow gotten hold of her magic quill pen. She was determined to get it back, so she broke into Wanda’s mansion one night with a gun and commanded her to give her the pen back. Wanda insisted that she didn’t know what Victoria was talking about. In a rage, Victoria shot Wanda dead, then tore her house apart looking for the magic pen. She never found it. One of Wanda’s neighbors, who was a night owl, saw Victoria leaving Wanda’s house. She was immediately caught and tried.

At Victoria’s trial, she insisted that Wanda stole her pen that magically wrote all these bestselling books. She was declared insane and was sent to a mental hospital.

Jessica stood up and stretched. It was almost 3:00 in the morning. She had to finish the story, and she had to finish it fast.

One day the mental hospital burned down, and all the patients died,” she wrote quickly. “Victoria Best, however, lived on in people’s minds. Some people remembered her as a best selling author, some remembered her as a cold blooded murderer, and some remembered her as a mental patient, but she was never forgotten.”

“I did it!” she told Paul over another Cinnamon Dulche Late the next morning. “I finished my story around 3:00 this morning, and it was all because you mentioned a magic pen.”

“Good, glad I could help,” Paul said smiling.

“Look what Professor Singer wrote about my story,” Jessica fumed, handing it to Ashley that Thursday. They were meeting for lunch at the school cafeteria.

“‘This story is imaginative and suspenseful,”‘ Ashley read aloud. “‘However, it has poor format and some careless writing errors.’ You got a B. That’s not bad.”

“But I wanted an A,” Jessica griped, tossing the story in the trash can. “You know, I was in such a hurry to finish the damn thing that I think I forgot to run it through spell check–brilliant! That’s all right. I’m just glad it’s all over. My last final exam is tomorrow morning.”

“Hey, let’s surprise the guys at the bank tomorrow,” Ashley suggested. “We’ll take them out for lunch. What do you think?”

“Fantastic idea,” Jessica agreed. “So what does this Tom character look like? You said he’s extra hot.”

“You’ll see,” Ashley giggled. “See you tomorrow.”

“I can’t believe we have the whole summer off,” Jessica said as the girls walked to the bank the next day. It was a lovely day in May. The sun was shining brightly, and the flowers never looked fairer.

“Maybe we can all take a trip to the beach this summer,” Ashley said as they opened the door to the bank.

“That would be great,” Jessica sighed. “I haven’t been to the beach in years.” She spotted Paul standing near the door. “Paul!” she cried, running up to him.

“Tom!” Ashley said at the same time, running up to the same guy.

The girls stopped in their tracks, staring at the dirty player in shock. “Paul?” Ashley whispered.

“Tom?” Jessica asked in wonder. They stared wordlessly at the philanderer, who had the good grace to hang his head. His face had suddenly turned as red as his hair. Jessica wanted to smack him.

Before anybody could say another word, the door of the bank opened again, and a harried looking woman with a head full of perfect copper curls rushed in and ran over to Paul/Tom. “Sorry I’m late, Mike. The traffic was terrible. Ready to go to lunch?”

“Mike?” Jessica and Ashley said together.

“You all know my husband?” the woman asked anxiously.

“No,” they said together. “Not at all,” Jessica added.

“You don’t know him very well either,” Ashley said under her breath.

“Excuse me?” the copper haired woman asked. “What did you say?”

“Never mind,” Ashley said quickly. “He’s not who we thought he was.”

They watched the couple leave the bank. The girls stood there for a full minute, then walked out together.

Ashley’s anger quickly turned into a flood of uncontrollable, humiliating tears.

Jessica was overwhelmed with too many thoughts and feelings. She had received two nasty blows in less than a week. First her English Teacher gave her a B on her amazing story, followed by this thing with Paul/tom/mike. It was too much. Then her English professor’s words came back to her. His feedback wasn’t all bad; in fact, some of it was really good. She knew what she was going to do. “Come on Ashley,” she said almost giddy with excitement and ideas. “Let’s get some lunch, then I’ve got a story to write.

This literary magazine is produced by Behind Our Eyes, Inc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization of writers with disabilities.