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Fall/Winter 2019/2020 edition of Magnets and Ladders

Magnets and Ladders
Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities
Fall/Winter 2019-2020

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
  • Technical Assistants: Jayson Smith

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.

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Table of Contents

Editor’s Welcome

hello. There’s something magic about fall, with the crunch of leaves under foot, the wind as it blows in heavy gusts, and the peaceful sound of the outdoors at night. The air has a crisp, freshness and everyone is commenting on the beautiful colors everywhere.

This spring, the members of Behind Our Eyes and the Magnets and Ladders staff were saddened by the deaths of a long-time member and our friend and proofreader. Deon Lyons and John Weidlich both passed away in April after battles with Cancer.

Deon Lyons had been a member of Behind Our Eyes since 2010. He was a frequent contributor to Magnets and Ladders. He participated in phone conferences, on committees, and on the mailing list. Deon’s cheerful attitude and incredible writing will be missed by the Behind Our Eyes community.

John Weidlich volunteered to be the final proofreader for Magnets and Ladders in 2012 and continued to provide us with invaluable assistance through 2018. His generosity and wealth of knowledge are missed by the Magnets and Ladders staff.

We will feature previously published pieces by Deon and John immediately following The Editor’s Welcome.

Do you like to think outside the box? Be sure to read “Not What I Expected” and “Points to Ponder.” “Looking Back” and “Slices of Life” have stories and poems about all aspects of life. “The Writers’ Climb” has articles and poems about creativity. “Seasonal Sensations” has stories and poems that will make you smile when you read about snow.” The Melting Pot” ends this edition with a reminder that spring will come again.

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

We had contests with cash prizes in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Three authors earned an Honorable Mention in both the fiction and poetry categories. Below are the Magnets and Ladders Fall/Winter 2018-2019 contest winners.


  • First Place: “Smash” by Susan Muhlenbeck
  • Second Place: “A Heartfelt Revenge” by Bonnie Blose
  • Honorable Mention: “Spirit Freedom” by Lorice McCloud
  • Honorable Mention: “In the Closet” by Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Honorable Mention: “Bank Line” by Nicole Massey


  • First Place: “Barney and Our New Neighbor” by Leonard Tuchyner
  • Second Place: “A Taste of Winter” by Marcia J. Wick, the Write Sisters
  • Honorable Mention: “A Veteran’s Day Reflection” by Brad Corallo
  • Honorable Mention: “10K” by Susan Muhlenbeck


  • First Place: “Carnival Fugue” by Brad Corallo
  • Second Place: “The Mountain I Can’t Climb” by Shawn Jacobson
  • Honorable Mention: “Big Sister and Little Brother” by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega
  • Honorable Mention: “Winter Conspiracy” by Wesley D. Sims
  • Honorable Mention: “For Thirteen Years” by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Congratulations to all of the contest winners.

The Magnets and Ladders staff wishes you a safe and happy holiday season.

Part I. In Memoriam

Baker Street Station, fiction
by Deon Lyons

“Baker Street Station, next stop, Baker Street Station.” The train conductor’s voice bellowed over the speaker inside the commuter car, snapping Paul to attention. The smell of burnt axle grease and stale city, along with the pungent aroma of day old perfume and deodorant sifted through the creaking passenger car, as it rocked its way down the tracks. He squirmed and shifted his position on his seat inside the car. Clutching his briefcase at his feet with one hand, Paul leaned forward and grabbed the shiny steel pole in front of him with the other. He sat on the edge of the cracked and torn vinyl seat in heavy anticipation.

Would she be there again? He thought to himself. Would her hair be pulled back, like it was yesterday? I wonder what she is wearing today. He nervously shifted again in his seat as he looked out through the opposite window of the commuter car. The stop was just ahead, and he didn’t want to miss the chance to see her again.

Every night for the past two weeks, she had appeared across the tracks, standing on the platform, all alone, waiting for the southbound train. Paul was on the northbound. He had seen this vision from heaven every night on his ride home for nine nights. This glorious creature was an angel in disguise. A gift to mankind straight from the Gods. She was everything he had ever craved in a woman. Long dark hair that was full and flowing around the most beautiful face he had ever seen. She didn’t appear to wear any make up. She didn’t need to. Her natural beauty pulled him towards her, like a June bug drawn to a sixty watt light bulb on a cool summer’s night.

Her figure was another slice of heaven that curved gracefully around and down, leading into a long pair of legs that could have easily been deemed illegal. She was the definition of perfection that he had always imagined for himself, and she had been only 30 feet or so away from him.

He took a deep breath as the platform neared. There was the usual small crowd gathered there at the station, waiting for the next south bound train to pick them up and carry them towards the rest of their lives.

Some obviously unknowing pathetic fool in Paul’s car got up and stood in front of his seat, blocking his view of the approaching Baker Street platform. He nervously shifted in his seat and swore under his breath at the incompetence of the moron in front of him.

Unable to adjust his position to get a clear view, Paul quickly got up and found a vacant seat to his left, and was once again lined up with a perfect view of the upcoming platform. Paul had sat towards the end of the car, so as to only have minimal passenger traffic inside the car impeding his chance to gaze at this beauty across the way.

He had a burned image of her running through his head since he first noticed her the week before last. He had run through a thousand different scenarios in his mind with her image in front of him, beside him and around him. There wasn’t a thought of her that remained untouched in his deep seeded desires. He could hear the laugh of her voice. He could smell the sweet aroma of her smooth skin as he caressed her face. He could feel her gaze into his eyes, followed by a smile that could easily light up a thousand rooms. It seemed so perfect to him. In so many ways she had managed to grab hold of his desires, and pull them into her possibilities.

Surely she would, if given the chance, find him as irresistible as he imagined her to be.

It had been warm those past two weeks, and he was thankful for it. She had usually been dressed in skirts with blouses. Her lovely shape was mind bending, even from 30 feet away. Her dark, deep set eyes and strong cheek bones had been circling around his brain. She looked Italian, and he had always been intrigued by the natural beauty of Italian women. Again, he pictured her smile, her laugh, the way she brushed the hair away from her face as she shyly looked down at the ground.

“Baker street station. Now arriving at Baker Street station.” The train conductor’s voice barged in on Paul’s imagination once again.

This is it! He thought to himself. As he sat and stared out the opposite window, he pictured the layout of the Baker Street Station in his mind. He had been to both sides of the tracks in the past, as it was the area hub for the local semipro baseball team, of which he was an avid fan.

I can jump off, run underneath and make it to the other platform in less than a minute. His mind rotated and glided from one movement to the next as his mental image presented him with a vision of amazing grace being slowly wrapped up inside every nook and cranny of his deepest desires. That’s it! It’s now or never! Again he wrestled with his anxieties, his passions, submitting to his addictive nature.

Paul’s train started slowing down as it approached the station. The loosening of his tie, the screeching brakes and the methodic tug of the stopping motion, and there she was. The world stopped for an instant as he zoomed in on her every feature. There seemed to be a glowing orb that was surrounding her and illuminating the platform where she stood. Paul’s heart suddenly stopped for a few seconds, and then restarted with a thump in his chest. His eyes opened wide, as he was being completely engulfed by the approaching image of this breathtaking beauty across the tracks. Her hair was pulled back again, showing off her long slender neck, and glowing features. He swallowed hard and stretched his neck to take in every ounce of her beauty. He didn’t think it was possible, but she looked better than she did the day before.

Looking around the inside of his car quickly, he wondered how everyone could be so unaware of this magnificent creature that was glowing, just across the tracks.

She was dressed in a peach colored blouse with a flowing flower print skirt. Pure heavenly bliss was all he could think of.

As the train continued to approach the station, she appeared to be looking right at him. He knew it, he just knew it. He could feel her gaze as beads of nervous sweat broke out on his brow.

Paul swallowed and smiled as he nervously got up from his seat and walked over towards the sliding doors. The train rocked back and forth as it came to a slow stop at Baker Street Station.

As the doors opened, he took one more look at her as he started to exit, then stopped dead in his tracks just two steps from the doors.

A shock wave pummeled down through him as he watched her turn to her right and smile as a tall, well-dressed man suddenly walked up to her, wrapped his arm around her, and pulled her into a long, deep kiss.

Paul’s heart rapidly fell thirty-two stories straight down into the pit of his stomach, smashing hard at the bottom like a fifty pound sack of flour on a dusty basement floor. He couldn’t breathe, nor could he swallow. His vision was instantly shattered into a million pieces as he staggered backwards and sank back down onto the vinyl bench seats.

He looked again, and saw that they were still hugging, still kissing, and still ripping and tearing the visions out of his downward spiraling mind. Paul’s gaze fell down to the scarred, dirty floor of his subway car, as the doors closed and the train slowly started leaving the station.

He looked up once more at the opposite platform where she once stood alone. The platform slowly drifted away from sight.

“Commonwealth Avenue. Next stop Commonwealth Avenue.” the conductor’s voice rang through the car as Paul’s dreams of the angel slowly dissolved from view.

Looking down at his briefcase, he noticed something shimmering in the late evening sunlight running through his car. It was his wedding ring. Paul leaned back in his seat, and chuckled under his breath as he spun the ring on his finger with his other hand. Shaking his head, he took another deep breath, smiled and closed his eyes as the train rocked and clicked its way down the tracks. He was seven stops from home.

“Baker Street Station” was published in the Fall/Winter edition of Magnets and Ladders

Bio: Deon Lyons lived in Central Maine with his wife of thirty-seven 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, 2019 after a courageous battle with cancer. His amazing talent, humor, positive outlook and ongoing support to members is greatly missed by the Behind Our Eyes community. You can read many poems and stories by Deon in past issues of Magnets and Ladders.

A Review of a Writer’s Companion from National Braille Press, nonfiction
by John Weidlich

A few questions before we get started:

Does our Constitution give you the right to bare arms?

If you can keep a secret, would you best be described as discreet or discrete?

If you and your guide dog ran into an immovable object in a parking lot and you decided to write about the experience, would you refer to the object as stationery or stationary?

What is the difference between the words all ready and already or is there one? What about altogether and all together?

Is Washington, DC our nation’s capital or its Capitol?

How can you tell a person who is a boor from one who is a bore?

How is a Council different from a Counsel?

Do you have a flair for writing or is it a flare?

Which is the animal, a gorilla or a guerilla?

Which is correct: It’s a Wonderful Life or Its a Wonderful Life?

If you answered all of those questions without hesitation, then you probably don’t need this grate( great?) new book for writers from National Braille Press that I am about to review. You can move along to the next article. But if not, read on, because there is a wealth of information waiting for you in this very small volume.

The book is A Writer’s Companion, a Pocket Book of Homophones compiled by the folks at the National Braille Press in Boston, MA. Homophones: those pesky words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings, words that can and do trip up even very good writers who aren’t careful. NBP decided to put together this book because of homophone mistakes that they keep seeing in emails, such as references to “sited people,” “sell phones” and the “right to bare arms.” This small volume lists hundreds of them, from fairly obvious ones like there, their and they’re to such less familiar ones as discreet/discrete, bazaar/bizarre, elicit/illicit and one that always seems to confuse me affect/effect. The entries are very brief. Here are a few, just to give you an idea of what you will find:

Altar: (pedestal,) alter: (to change)

Affect: (to change or influence,) effect: (a result)

Discreet: (modest; can keep a secret,) discrete: (distinct; unrelated)

Pedal: (bicycle pedal,) peddle: (to sell,) petal: (flower petal)

Its: (possession: its paws,) it’s: (contraction, it is)

Raise: (raise your hand,) rays: (rays of the sun,) raze: (to destroy completely).

You can see from these examples that the explanations are not complex; there is just enough information to help you distinguish the words and to help you know which one to use. Some of the entries are not strictly homophones in that the pronunciations are not exactly the same but they are words that can cause mistakes like medal, metal, mettle, and meddle.

But as helpful as this is, the homophone entries comprise only the first half of the book. There is much more of value to aspiring writers.

The next section is called Transition Words, a list of about seventy words and phrases that you can use to begin a new sentence or thought, beginning with a few minutes later, and ending with which is to say.

Then we come to lists of descriptive word choices. To quote from the book: “good writers select just the right word to convey a thought or to describe a situation or person. For example, bulky and monstrous both describe something big, but they imply different qualities.”

What follows is several lists of words to describe various qualities. You don’t have to say something is big. Instead you can describe it as astronomical, broad, colossal, considerable, enormous, gigantic, grand, great, huge, immense, inflated, jumbo, large, mammoth, massive, mighty, monstrous, roomy, spacious, substantial, tremendous, along with several more that I didn’t give you. These are just lists of descriptive words. The words are not defined or differentiated but you can consult a good dictionary or thesaurus to help you decide which of the many choices you might want to use. There are lists of words for big, small, very, a lot, a little, fast, slow, good, bad, loud, soft, hot, cold, light, dark, hard, soft, wet and dry. Some of the lists are quite long, with over sixty words for good and an equally large number for bad.

But we’re not done yet. The next section is called What Color is That. Designers like to play with the names of colors, which can make it hard to know what color they mean. So there are words for black, blue, brown, gray, green, orange and all of the other common colors. For example, blue can be described as aqua, azure, cerulean, cobalt, cyan, electric blue, indigo, midnight, navy, sapphire, teal, turquoise and ultramarine, among others. These, I think can be extremely valuable to those of us who have never seen colors or who just don’t know how the new colors relate to the colors with which we are familiar.

Finally, there are more word lists, ways to describe how people look act and feel. Want to introduce a pretty girl into a short story? Make her adorable, alluring, appealing, attractive, beautiful, becoming, breathtaking, captivating, charming, chic, classy, elegant, gorgeous, irresistible, lovely, ravishing or stunning. The old person in your story might be adult, aged, ancient, frail, grizzled, venerable, wise, withered or wrinkled. If you want to convey the idea that someone is nice you have choices like affectionate, agreeable, amiable, approachable, compatible, delightful, genial, likable, neighborly, polite, warm and welcoming, as well as many others. There are lists to describe people who are mean, outgoing, shy, funny, serious as well as strong or weak in body or mind. The section on how people feel contains words for happy, sad, angry, bored, excited, scared and surprised.

This book is available in one Braille volume of 53 pages. But if you don’t read Braille, you can download it as a Word file to use on your computer. The book costs $10.00. This is a book that you will refer to often in your writing. To order it, Contact National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115. Phone: 800 548-7323, email or go to the web site

“A Review of a Writer’s Companion from National Braille Press” was published in the Fall/Winter 2012 edition of Magnets and Ladders.

Editor’s note: Although a Writer’s Companion is out of print and no longer available from National Braille Press, the information in John’s article is still valuable and relevant. He has given several examples of commonly confused homophones and ideas to encourage writers to explore transitional phrases and descriptive words for characters and settings.

If you have a copy of a Writer’s Companion, you might want to put it at the top of your writing reference stack for easy access. If you purchased an electronic copy and are unable to locate it, I have great news. You can log into your account with National Braille Press and download it.

There are several books on Amazon that address homophones and other commonly confused words. You can also use google to be sure that you are using the correct homophone. A good thesaurus will help when looking for good descriptive words.

Bio: John Weidlich lived in St. Louis, MO with his wife Donna and was totally blind from birth. He
worked for over thirty years as a program director for MindsEye Information Service, a local Radio
Reading service. John loved music, played piano, and was an avid Cardinals Fan. He was involved with the
Missouri Council for the Blind, where, in the past, he edited their magazine; United Workers for the
Blind; and Southwest Baptist Church, where he served in the music programs and as a Deacon.
Although John hadn’t done much creative writing, he was an avid reader and appreciated good writing. From its inception, John contributed thoughtful reviews to the db-review email list and often wrote notes of encouragement to members when needed. Support of others was important to him. John’s mission was nurturing potential wherever and whenever he found it. Heartfelt messages of condolence noting his kindness, compassion, and encouragement of others were sent to this list for many days after his passing. Gentle and soft-spoken, he honored the written word and encouraged all who read to love them. John was the final proofreader of Magnets and Ladders from 2012 through 2018. He passed away on April 27,
2019. His wisdom and helpful nature will be missed by the Magnets and Ladders team.

Part II. Not What I Expected

Smash, fiction First Place
by Susan Muhlenbeck

Sabrina carried the package up the stairs of her house as the UPS truck drove away. This present came right on time, she thought as she set it down on the dining room table. Today was her birthday, and her husband had left that morning for a business trip.

“Sorry, but it can’t be helped,” he had said as he set his suitcase in the car. “We’ll celebrate your birthday when I get back next week.” She was disappointed but tried not to let it show.

She ran her hands along the box, enjoying the moment while she thought about what could be inside. “Now try to think,” She said out loud, “what’s not too big and not too small, and who had sent it anyway?” She peered at the label, then let out a sigh of disgust and exasperation. The gift was from her husband Ron’s Sister Linda. Linda had not liked Sabrina right from the start and had no problem letting her know.

“If you have to marry a teacher,” she had said to Ron within Sabrina’s earshot at their engagement party, “you could have picked a math or English teacher, but an art teacher?” she scoffed. “Come on, Ron, really?”

“What’s your problem?” Ron had shot back. “You got something against art?”

“Hey, I’m just trying to look out for you,” she had said, putting a placating hand on his arm. “You can do better than that. I know you can do a lot better.”

“That’s enough,” he hissed between bared teeth. “Keep your rude comments to yourself,” he snapped as he walked away.

“I’m telling you, you’re making a mistake,” she retorted, determined to take a parting shot. “You just wait. You’ll see.”

Sabrina opened the box slowly as she recalled that evening. She had wanted to confront Lousy Linda as she had nicknamed Ron’s sister and put her in her place, but she didn’t wish to ruin the party, so she went out of her way to ignore her. So she’s sending me a birthday present, she laughed, half expecting to find a box of dead rats.

She was in fact surprised. She lifted the lid of an ornate box to find a collection of broken ceramic. The pieces were not wrapped up, so maybe they had been broken before being shipped, she thought reasonably. “Leave it to Lousy Linda to try to ruin my birthday,” Sabrina muttered as she carried the box out to the trash. She set the box on top of a pile of trash waiting to go out the next day.

“You won’t believe what that Lousy Linda sent me for my birthday,” she said to her friend Violet over the phone a few minutes later. “Can you believe it? A box of broken ceramic pieces!”

“Hey, I’m curious,” Violet said slowly. “Maybe you should try to put the pieces together and see what it was before she broke it.”

“No, you think so?” Sabrina laughed. “Maybe I’ll do that. Now you got me curious.” She retrieved the box from the trash and set it on the table. Tomorrow she would buy some crazy glue and try to piece it back together. It might be fun, she thought as she got ready to meet Violet for birthday dinner and drinks. It may be like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

“It’s a shame Ron couldn’t be here for your birthday,” Violet said over their seafood feast later that evening. It was a cool, crisp evening in late October, so they opted to sit outside of their favorite restaurant which had a fire ring burning on the patio.

“Tell me about it,” Sabrina sighed, sipping a glass of red wine. “He couldn’t have waited a day. That’s all right. He’ll make it up when he gets back.”

“So what do you think Lousy Linda sent that got broken?” Violet asked over dessert.

“I don’t know, but I’ll send you a picture when I get it assembled,” Sabrina promised.

The next day after school, Sabrina started putting the pieces of the broken sculpture together. This was no easy task, for some of the pieces were quite small. Fortunately, there were enough larger pieces that she didn’t get easily discouraged. Ron called every evening of his trip, but she decided not to tell him about the present until he got home.

The day before Ron was due to arrive home, she finally finished assembling the statue. She was disappointed but not at all surprised at the result. The statue was some sort of mythical creature, which appeared to be half human and half bird. It was the most hideous thing Sabrina had ever seen, but she decided to use a little reverse psychology when she emailed Lousy Linda. “Thank you so much for the birthday present,” she wrote. “It is very beautiful. Your thoughtfulness is very much appreciated.” She laughed as she hit the send key. Lousy Linda had probably not expected her to glue the pieces back together.

The reply came almost immediately. “I saw that thing, and I knew it was you,” it read. Sabrina resisted the urge to send another message full of curses.

“What do you think this thing is?” she texted Violet along with a picture of the creature.

“I don’t know, but it sure is gross,” came the reply.

Ron seemed to have a different opinion. “What is that thing?” he asked when he got home the next evening, pointing to the monstrosity on the mantle. “I never saw anything like it. Where did you find it?”

“It was a birthday present from Lousy Linda,” Sabrina fumed. She couldn’t bring herself to admit that it had arrived in pieces. “Is it not the most disgusting thing you ever saw?”

“No,” Ron said, reaching out and touching the head. “I think it’s kind of cute, and don’t call her Lousy Linda. That’s my sister you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, the sister that can’t stand me,” Sabrina spat. “I can’t believe she thinks an art teacher is such a menial job. It’s no worse than being a bank teller like herself or a security guard like her husband. She has no room to talk.”

“She’ll come around,” Ron said reassuringly, patting her shoulder. “Just give her time. Besides, your brother doesn’t like me either. What does he call me? Rotten Ron?”

“Only because you wouldn’t put your sister in her place at the engagement party,” Sabrina reminded him.

“Let’s not talk about that right now,” Ron said, fishing out a gift wrapped box from his pocket. “Happy belated birthday!”

She unwrapped it slowly and gave a little cry of pleasure as she lifted out a gold locket. “Wow! That’s very pretty!” she exclaimed as she clasped it around her neck. Thank you. Now can we shove that ugly statue in the closet and just put it on display when your sister comes to visit?”

“Let’s just leave it up there for a while,” Ron insisted. “It’s not hurting anything.” Sabrina wanted to argue, but she kept her mouth shut as she followed Ron outside. He took her to an Italian restaurant for her birthday, and all thoughts of the mythical statue vanished for the rest of the evening.

She thought about it again the next morning during her first art class. “You know it’s almost Halloween,” she told her class of middle school students. “Your next project is to make a mythical creature. You can do a drawing or a painting, or you can make a collage or a sculpture from a bunch of junk you find around the house. It can be from any culture, and I want you to write a couple of sentences describing your creature and why you chose to make it. Any questions?”

“Yeah,” a boy named Ken called from the back row. “Can we make a costume?”

“Sure,” Sabrina agreed, “that sounds good too. So today we’ll go to the library, and you can do some research to figure out which creature you wish to make.”

By the end of the week, all the projects had been handed in. Sabrina was delighted by the enthusiasm and creativity of the students. There were several drawings of the Sphinx, sculptures of the Hydra, oil paintings of the Chimera, and some others she never even heard of.

One sculpture made of cardboard, plastic, and feathers was especially interesting. Sabrina thought it looked suspiciously like the human vulture sculpture she had at home. It had the head of a maiden with a pale face and very long claws on its hands. Deidre Ramsey, the student who made the sculpture wrote on the card attached, “This is a Harpy. It is a half human and half bird creature found in Greek and Roman mythology. Its name means Snatcher or Swift Robber because the Harpies are known to steal food from their victims before their victims can eat it. They are also known to snatch evildoers and take them to the Erinyes or Furies. They are cruel, vicious, and violent. I chose to make one because I recently watched the movie about Jason and the Argonauts. The Argonauts encountered King Phineus of Thrace on a deserted island. The gods gave him the gift of prophesy after abandoning him on the island for angering them. The gods gave him a buffet of food, which he could never eat because the Harpies always stole it from him. Phineus promised the Argonauts that he would tell them how to manage the next leg of their journey safely if they promised to get the Harpies to stop bothering him.”

Sabrina sighed, then laughed aloud as she read the description of the Harpies. Instead of feeling the usual anger and resentment towards Lousy Linda, she decided to make a conscious effort to try to feel sympathetic towards the pathetic fool. She was surprised by how much less energy it took to feel sympathy.

“So she thinks I’m a Harpy,” she told Violet over lunch the next day. “I think she has too much time on her hands.”

“How immature!” Violet laughed. “Don’t let her bother you. We all know who the real Harpy is.”

“You know what’s interesting is that her gift inspired me to get my students to make mythical creatures for an art project,” Sabrina grinned. “There were some really good ones, and I found out what my sculpture is.”

“What I would do is knock it off the mantle and tell Ron it was an accident,” Violet suggested.

“I thought about that too, except I would hate to see all my hard work of gluing it back together go to waste,” Sabrina said resignedly. “Besides that, I kind of got used to it sitting up there, as ugly as it is. I think I’ll put it on the porch on Halloween night. Maybe one of the trick-or-treaters will take it,” she said hopefully.

If only that were so, Sabrina thought ruefully. Halloween night found Sabrina handing out hard candy and gum to the neighborhood kids. She was pleased to see that two of her students were dressed up as the mythical creatures they had made in her art class, one as a Siren and one as the Minotaur. Unfortunately, at the end of the night, the Harpy still stood on the porch.

“What is that ugly thing?” several of the kids had asked. “That looks like something from a horror movie.”

“Oh it is,” Sabrina said in all seriousness. “Check out the movie called ‘Jason and the Argonauts.’”

To her surprise, about a week after Halloween, Ron came home from work on a mission. “Okay, you win,” he said plaintively, taking the Harpy off the mantle. “We’ll put this thing away and just bring it out when Linda comes to visit. I think it sat up there long enough.” Sabrina was too stunned to speak. Ron carefully placed the Harpy in the box in which it had arrived. He stared in astonishment as he noticed that the top of the sculpture stood a good three inches above the top of the box. “There is something wrong with this picture,” he said in a hoarse whisper. “This statue couldn’t have fit into this box unless it was smashed into smithereens first.”

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.

Barney and Our New Neighbor, nonfiction First Place
by Leonard Tuchyner

My 45 pound little beige dog, has no proclivities or intentions toward the profession of guide dog. He has the looks and strength of a sled dog, with the dogged stubbornness that gets him where he wants to go, even if he has to take his leash-wielding provider with him.

Picture a porch deck perched outside my sliding glass door. Picture a number of bird feeders and suet baskets hanging from metal arms protruding from the wooden siding. These feeders dangle at eyelevel two feet from said window. One more important aspect is that the porch is two stories up from the ground from which two flights of stairs ascend as access to and from my back yard.

Now imagine this tranquil scene in early spring at 2:00 a.m., when hibernating bears and reasonable people are sleeping snug in their dens, which is exactly what Diane and I were doing when Barney the dog went ape.

I should mention here that his sleeping mat is on the indoor side of the glass door. Suddenly, I became aware of a cacophony of thuds against the sliding glass door, and enough growls and barks to wake the dead.

Reluctantly awake, I waited for Diane to investigate. It seemed reasonable to me that she should be the one to go downstairs to see what in the world was going on, since she is a much better seer than I am. But she didn’t move. With a few half-muttered expletives and whines, I untangled myself from my cloying blankets and felt my way to the dresser to consult my talking watch. 2:00 a.m..

As I bumbled my way down the upper bedroom stairs, my mind slogged back to the last time Barney went into conniptions. The cause then was a raccoon trying to mooch off the bird feeders. I doubted that I would be able to see a raccoon on the porch, but maybe I could scare it away by banging on the glass door. On second thought, Barney was already doing that, not to mention his barrage of vocalizations. Well, maybe I could calm the dog down and go back to sleep. I should be so lucky.

On my way to the ruckus, I passed Chloe’s couch, which is against the wall opposite the glass door. I notice Chloe, our Foxhound Terrier mix seated in her usual sleeping place. I wondered why she wasn’t joining in the fracas. She seemed to be telling me, “I don’t want any part of this.” That was strange. She had enjoyed joining Barney in chasing away the raccoon of the previous year.

Barney was behind the door curtains, getting in more barks per minute than I would have thought possible. He was not just standing there. He was jumping up and down, throwing himself against the door, and pawing away at the glass as though he was trying to dig his way out.

I drew back the curtains and switched on the porch lights. I keep denying that I’m mostly blind, and peer into the eternal impenetrable fog. I couldn’t see a thing. I tried to calm the dog down before he had a heart attack. It was like trying to stem the rush of a cataract. Then I tried yelling and threatening him, to get him to stop his infernal barking. He briefly stopped jumping, but the barking and growling continued unabated. Instead, he started shaking like a car going ninety on unbalanced tires.

Feeling helpless, I retreated back upstairs to the bedroom. Refusing to accept Diane’s act as a peacefully sleeping bystander, I said, “I can’t stop him. I think you need to go downstairs and see what’s going on.”

She threw the covers off in anger, like it was my fault or something. I sat on the bed, wondering if I could get away with staying upstairs. I didn’t have to wonder long. The next thing I heard was, “Oh my God!”

“What is it?” I called down.

“A big, big **** bear.”

That got me back downstairs in a hurry.

“He’s pulled down the bird feeders and made off with the suet cage,” she said.

“Where is he now?”

“He’s on the second landing, waiting to come back up and get the feeders. He’s taller than I am. Chloe came to the door to protect me, and he backed off.”

Note: Diane is five feet, seven inches. Chloe is her dog, and Chloe will do anything to protect her, even if she has the sense not to challenge a black bear.

She took another look out the window. “He’s gone,” she said.

I grabbed my Samurai sword, which I keep handy in the living room, and went to the door.

“What are you doing?” she demanded.

“I’m going to make sure he stays away.”

“Are you fn crazy? He’ll kill you.”

“Don’t worry. I’m just going to make a lot of noise,” I said.

I went out on the porch, despite her protestations. Out on the edge of the stairway, I growled, shook and banged my weapon and said threatening words. If I didn’t scare the bare, I’m pretty sure that at least the neighbors were a little concerned. Then I returned to my side of the window.

We retrieved our bird feeders and took them in the house, and continued to do so for the next week.

Barney barked for the next four hours. In my darker thoughts, I considered letting him have a go at the bear. However, despite not getting back to sleep for the rest of the night, I would never do that. He might hurt the bear. Just kidding.

The next morning, the neighborhood woke up to destroyed bird feeders, pilfered garbage
cans and other signs of mayhem.

Mr. Bear seems to have departed our environs since then. I guess I really scared him. Now I can’t be sure, but I think some neighbors might be avoiding me.

Bio: Leonard Tuchyner has Stargardt’s disease, which was first noticed during his teenaged years. He is now seventy-nine. 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 rote a column for Dialogue Magazine. He recently published a poetry book through Cedar Creak Publishing. His hobbies include Tai chi, and gardening.

You Talking To Me? poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

Rabbit sits insolently silent,
staring up from the back yard garden,
locking eyes with a grizzled old dog
regarding Rabbit from high on his porch.

“Hey, you used-up mutt, you looking at me?”

“Hare, better be careful what you blather.”

“Why, what you gonna do to me?”

“I might just have you for my breakfast.
I used to eat rabbit regularly.”

“Yeah, used to is what I say, old schmo.
You’re so slow you couldn’t catch a cold.”

Old Dog grins at rabbit’s arrogance.

“How old are you, rabbit-flavored dog food?
Couldn’t be more than a season or two.
I’ll give you fast, but nothing for smart.
You’ll never make it past the fence.”

Rabbit smiles and skips a backwards flip.
“Dog breath, you got nothing. You can’t touch this.
You’re just a bunch of barks and farts.
Hey, hay. Now don’t go falling down those stairs.
You’re too smelly for me to get you up.
Uh oh!”

Like lightening, old dog rockets off the porch.
For a time fraction, rabbit freezes,
then scampers to his rent in the fence.

“I gotta admit, you had me scared.
Guess you still got a little juice left,
but I can see it leaking out.
You ain’t never gonna catch me, no way.”

Suddenly, Rabbit is lifted off the ground.
From behind, canine teeth have grabbed his scruff.
Fido says, “Timing was perfect, Old Dog.”

Old Dog says,
“We make a damn good team, neighbor,
but if it is all the same to you,
let’s let the whippersnapper go this time.
I admire his audacity.
He’ll be more of a challenge come winter.”

A Heartfelt Revenge, fiction Second Place
by Bonnie Blose

Exhausted after a long grueling day, I decided to forego my usual bedtime snack of a brownie and milk and go straight to bed. I couldn’t wait to nestle under the warmth of flannel sheets on this very cold January night.

For years, I have enjoyed living alone in this house I share with two cats that come to snuggle close during their nocturnal wandering.

I decided to listen to a chapter or two of a book before going to sleep. True to my expectation, I slept soundly until something I could not quite name or remember put an abrupt end to that.

One minute I was sound asleep, and then as wide awake as if it were morning and the day just beginning. My heart was pounding. I felt incredible fear. Like many who sleep fitfully, I barely remember dreams so came up with nothing as I tried to discover what had frightened me.

In the country, there is a quiet rarely interrupted by anything other than the rustle of a tree limb against a window or the cry of an animal involved in some territorial dispute. As I sat listening hoping to hear nothing, I knew something wasn’t right. On many nights, I forget or never take the time to lock my door. If someone wants to break in, this old house, with its flimsy locks, won’t stop them. Had I made an exception and locked the door last night? Should I leave the warmth of my bed and see if I had? I decided to listen a little longer, hoping to put to rest my fear and the accompanying feeling that something was terribly wrong. Maybe it was simply those pickles I had as part of my supper last night.

Many people become more fearful as they grow older, especially if they live alone, I assured myself. Maybe it’s time to give up some of those true crime shows and news podcasts with all their stories of horror. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow, but what about tonight!

Suddenly, I heard it. Terrified, I was afraid to make a sound that would bring attention to me. Was it a knife someone had dropped? What were they planning to cut?

If someone was entering the house, they would find little to justify their night’s work. Why was someone in my house? All the money I had was safe in a local bank. If they found me, they might hurt me just because I have nothing to give them. Criminals don’t decide to kill on the basis of what you have or don’t. If I want to see tomorrow, it might be better to stay where I was and not make a sound.

What had interrupted the quiet of this winter night? Had a storm blown a limb down upon the roof? Was it the cry of an animal fighting for its life or the brushing of a limb against a windowpane? Maybe it was just the rattling of the old windows themselves. Was it someone coming to hurt me? With the furnace running almost nonstop to warm the old farm house, it was hard to tell.

Amazingly, I remembered the phone on the stand beside my bed. Ever since I was a teenager, the phone had been my life line. Maybe it would be one now. Before reaching for it, I thought how revealing this simple act might be. What if someone had cut the wires turning my life line in to a nightmare?

Reaching for the receiver, I had to know. I had to do something. A coward in a bed in a house that is being broken into is the worst of cowards. I would never be able to face my friends or family with that as part of my story. It’s the kind of tale that would be told and retold for the rest of my days. It was not the way I wanted to be remembered. I picked up the phone. It was dead!

“You shouldn’t be allowed to live by yourself,” I grumbled. I knew I needed to take care of myself at a time like this, but why, oh why, had I left my IPhone downstairs? It was lying on the couch in plain sight and of no use to me now.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of water running. I heard the refrigerator close and the sound of footsteps in the kitchen. A few minutes later, I smelled sausage and eggs frying. Maybe it’s just a sleepwalker who got hungry I thought before telling myself how ridiculous that was. It’s a cold night and maybe someone just got hungry and found the door unlocked so decided to have a little breakfast before calling it a night. Why cut the wires though? Apart from calling the police, no one wants a delicious meal interrupted, especially one that includes farm fresh eggs.

I remembered breakfasts with boyfriends after long leisurely nights of love but doubted this was anything like that.

Without warning, my cat almost jumped on my chest. Startled, I quickly held back the scream of terror I was about to utter.

I hugged her close hoping I could reassure us both.

Then I heard them. The footsteps were coming closer. Soon the mystery would be revealed and the intruder a reality in my very own bedroom. Sanctuary and safety would no longer be mine and were in truth gone already.

A gentle knock upon my door required action. Would someone who knocked so softly really hurt me? Evil comes in many forms, I reminded myself. Maybe this is truly one of those times when it is best to go along to get along. I just hope this is not the last decision I will make.

Shaking with trepidation, I said, “Come in.”

The smell of breakfast filled the air. This is too unreal to be believed. Who eats breakfast at three in the morning?

“I don’t know whether you remember me,” a voice said. I knew that voice. I remembered Paul. I had gone out with him once about ten years before. It hadn’t worked. We didn’t like the same things. I found him critical and judgmental and decided this was not a guy I wanted to date. I chose to stop taking his phone calls.

“It’s taken me a long time to find you,” Paul said. “I had great hope for our relationship. I whined you and dined you and just stopped short of buying those speakers I knew you longed for. It’s been ten years and I have decided it’s time to forgive you. I want you to remember me. The best way for me to make sure you do that is with one night of terror. True, it is not the night of love I would prefer, but lovers must make sacrifices. I will never forget the humiliation of your refusing to go out with me again, but eat up. This is the last meal we will ever have together. There is Nothing like farm fresh eggs. Oh, I didn’t make coffee. You won’t need the energy I know caffeine gives you. After we eat, I suggest we take a nice long nap. I won’t touch you, but we will be close, so very close.”

Note: “A Heartfelt Revenge” was the First Place winner in the 2019 NFB Writers’ Division fiction category.

Bio: Bonnie Blose grew up in Slatedale, Pennsylvania with two fabulous storytellers. For 15 years, she cohosted Jordan Rich’s book show nights on WBz. From 2006 to 2013, she was the host of the show “Books and Beyond” on Her memoir, “The Art of Dying,” was a winner in the nonfiction category of the NFB Writers’ Division contest, eventually appearing in Magnets and Ladders. In 2019, she received First Place for her story “A Heartfelt Revenge” in the NFB’s Writers’ Division fiction category. She enjoys reading, listening to music, podcasts, and has lived in Ohio since 1982. She is proud of being owned by her cat Almost. Her son Kevin lives in a nearby town.

Carnival Fugue, poetry First Place
by Brad Corallo

Sauntering, shuffling, unhurried along a beach.
Step into an orange sunset.

A pattern of sparkling multicolored lights appears.
Artfully strung across the purplish, descending twilight.

Approaching more closely, carnival sounds swell
framed by the ever-changing rumbling of the surf.

You are drawn into the emerging scene,
as colors explode into kaleidoscopic ringlets.

Softly she calls your name.
Her cascading hair shimmers through a hundred different hues.

Somehow it is all familiar and comfortable.
You know that voice.

Magenta flashes between spokes of the turning Ferris wheel.
Firework stars gently dust the sky.
You feel the sounds of the calliope.
You are seduced by delicious smells.

You stand entranced as the world seems to tilt.
Spinning dizzily, images shatter.

Seconds later, the world seems to right itself.
You breathe deeply and open your eyes.

The sun has fallen below the horizon.
All that remains is a narrow band of twilight, darkening!

You wonder what just happened.
Was any of it real?

You ask you’re self.
Am I blessed or am I mad?

There is no answer.
All that remains is the ever-changing music of the sea.

And perhaps, far, far away
a voice, more sensed than heard-
softly calls your name.

Author’s note: Special thanks to the following artists: Donovan, Focus, and Love.

Bio: Brad Corallo, a writer in multiple genres, is a Long Island native. His work has been published in ten 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.

The Mound, fiction
by Greg Pruitt

John Martin depressed the clutch pedal on his lawn tractor, and as the wheels slowly came to rest, turned off the ignition. He was at the edge of the woods, near the rear of his 20-acre property, a hundred yards from the seldom-traveled dirt road directly behind his land. Smiling with pride, he looked over the freshly cut one acre and couldn’t see a single leaf on the ground. That wouldn’t last, since a few Oak leaves still clung stubbornly to their branches. He would have to deal with them in the spring, but for the moment, his yard look great.

He detached the bag containing the day’s harvest of grass and dried leaves from the tractor and walked a few steps into the woods. After dumping the debris on to the already substantial pile, he stared for a moment at the results of his work. Over the years, the compost pile had grown too large, now appearing to stand out from its surroundings, and that was a problem. Next year, he would need to begin another pile several yards from the first. John reattached the bag to the tractor, started it, and drove it to the storage shed.

The late October Saturday was mild and sunny, a perfect day for some college football. He still had enough time to make a sandwich and enjoy a cold beer or two before kickoff.

Once inside, he washed and dried his hands at the kitchen sink then placed a few dirty dishes and cups into the dishwasher. He tried to keep the place neat and clean, but it wasn’t one of his major concerns. For the most part, since he lived alone, he was the only one that would see the mess, so it really wasn’t a problem.

John removed two slices of bread from a plastic bag, placed the first slice on a plate, dealt a couple cuts of ham and cheese on the bottom slice, squeezed on a generous amount of brown, spicy mustard, and topped off the stack with the second slice. After grabbing a cold one from the refrigerator, he moved to the adjacent room and his favorite chair, an oversized recliner, giving him the best seat in front of the large screen television.

First setting the plate on a chair-side table, and then seizing the remote control, he turned on the set. He opened the can and tilted his head back eagerly anticipating the first taste of the cold, sweet brew.

But he choked on that first swallow, as he sat up suddenly, noticing movement out of the corner of his eye. Through the picture window facing the back of his yard, he saw her. Dressed in some form of a full length, black cloak and head covering, she was walking alone down the dusty road. She moved slowly, stopping from time to time to step into the brush and examine an area, before continuing her search. In another moment, she stood directly behind the house, and although at least two hundred yards away, she seemed to be staring first at that damn pile of leaves, then directly at him. He knew she couldn’t possibly see him, but still her gaze was unnerving.

They had never met, but he recognized her. She had been walking that road, as well as the one in front of his house for the past 10-years. As far as he knew, she walked all of the rural roads in the area, as well as the edges of parks, school grounds, and along the riverbanks. She had been searching for something all of that time, and apparently was willing to continue searching forever.

In a few minutes, the woman moved on, and John began to relax. His hand trembled only slightly as he raised the can to his lips. Just then, he needed something stronger than beer. Too bad he had finished the last of the whisky the night before. He would need to make a trip to the liquor store soon. Seeing her, no matter where, had always left him shaken.

John thought back to that long-ago evening when his nightmare had begun. It had been approximately a month following the death of his wife. The cold, rainy night had matched his mood, so he had thought that a few drinks at his favorite bar might improve how he felt, but they hadn’t. He had closed the place down, and undoubtedly should not have been driving, but he had made the early morning trip a thousand times in a similar condition without a problem. Besides his truck could probably find its way home by itself.

By then, the rain had stopped, and now the moon peeked out occasionally through a scattering of clouds. He had been traveling slowly down the dirty, muddy road, briefly nodding off when he had felt the wheels on the passenger side roll over something. He had figured it had to be some kind of animal, most likely a deer. He had driven another fifty yards, before reversing the truck and returning to take a closer look.

As he had stepped out of the truck and stared back, he could see the shape lying there, but he needed to move within a few feet from the object on the road before he realized it was the body of a young woman. From the amount of blood and her awkward position, she was obviously dead. Was she dead before he struck her, or had he killed her?

Later, he would wonder if he had panicked. The mix of alcohol and adrenaline certainly hadn’t helped his decision-making, but at the time, he thought he was thinking clearly, as he lifted and carried the body to the bed of the pickup. He then drove the remaining half a mile or so to his house, still wondering what to do once he arrived.

After sitting in his truck for what seem like an eternity, sobering up and considering his options, he finally decided that calling the police would be a mistake. He couldn’t take the chance that his drinking and a simple accident that wasn’t his fault might make him look responsible for the woman’s death. His going to prison wouldn’t bring her back. Why should two lives be destroyed?

With the truck’s lights off, he drove slowly to the tree line behind his house, stopping momentarily to grab a shovel from the shed. Praying to himself that no one would see him, he began the grim work. The moist earth had made digging easy. An hour later, the shallow grave was finished. He placed the body into the ground, covered the remains with dirt, tossed the shovel into the truck, and drove back to the house. He could conceal the newly disturbed, bare ground with yard waste in the morning, after a night’s sleep.

But he didn’t sleep that night. He spent a restless few hours before dawn expecting at any moment to hear a knock on the door. Amazingly, the police didn’t come that night, or the next day. In fact, they never came at all. A week passed before he saw any mention of the woman online, or in the newspaper.

Finally, there was an article stating that the police were looking into the disappearance of a local woman, along with a plea from the girl’s parents asking for the public’s assistance in finding their daughter. Subsequent articles said that the police had a person of interest, the girl’s boyfriend, a known drug dealer.

The couple had been seen together on the night she went missing. The man admitted that he and the woman had been together that evening, but said they had quarreled. As they were driving to his apartment, she had left his truck at a stop sign, slamming the door behind her. Angry, he had driven off, but had come back for her about fifteen minutes later, and had search for her unsuccessfully. Because in her haste she had left her phone and purse in his truck, he felt that she would be forced to contact him once she had time to cool off. The police had no physical evidence on which to hold the man, but he remained their only lead.

Over the next few weeks, with no witnesses, or additional information, the case stalled and eventually grew cold. While foul play was suspected, the woman had simply vanished.

John Martin realized that according to the boyfriend, the time and location of the last known sighting of the girl was over three miles from the place where he had found her. It was unlikely the young woman could have walked that far, in that limited amount of time, so either the boyfriend was lying, or someone else had given her a ride to the spot where he had found her. Whatever the truth, he figured his secret was safe.

His only concern was the periodic presence of that black-clad female. If she maintained her previous routine, her specterlike form would pass by the front of his house sometime in the next week. Although childless, he thought he could appreciate the mother’s loss of her daughter, but this endless searching was ridiculous. Perhaps she stopped and stared at each house she passed along the county roads, but he felt that she had somehow known and had singled him out for closer scrutiny.

Maybe he should confront her and tell her she wasn’t welcome on his property, or anywhere near him or his home. No, that would only draw more attention to him and possibly pique her curiosity. He should burn the pile of leaves, level the ground, and plant a tree over the grave. But that could only increase her suspicions, sharpening her focus on the spot that had once been the mound behind his house. She was driving him mad. Since she always seemed to be walking alone, maybe she, like her daughter, could also mysteriously disappear.

John realized that all of these wild thoughts were nonsense, and though her periodic reappearance was disconcerting, she could have only suspicions, and she really knew nothing. He could do what he had for the past decade, simply out last her. She couldn’t go on like this forever. He would only have to wait, and wait, and wait for the time when all of this would end.

Until then, he would pass the days with hard work and long nights with beer and the comfort of his occasional bottle, followed by a few hours of fitful sleep, hopefully with fewer of those troubling dreams.

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.

Refuge, fiction
by Ellen Fritz

“Welcome to Auschwitz,” a male voice called. Daina looked towards the nextdoor cottage where a young man had just ridden in on his motor cycle and was in the process of removing his helmet. “I’m Brad. I’m your neighbour,” he continued.

“Pleased to meet you, Brad. I am Daina Chandler,” she introduced herself.

“Now, now, Bradley, vot is zis about Auschwitz?” an elderly lady asked in a strong German accent. She was wagging a stern finger at Brad. “Zet is not somezing to make jokes about, young man, do you hear me? I voz zere, even zough I voz just a little girl zen, but I tell you, it is not somezing to make fun of.”

“Sorry, sister, no offence meant,” he said, blushing slightly. “Daina, ms Chandler, this is sister Maria Katharina. She used to be a nun.”

“I’ll have you know, young man, I am still a nun,” sister Katharina corrected. “Just because I don’t live in a convent doesn’t mean I’ve left my calling.”

“If there is anything you need help with, Daina, please feel free to ask,” Brad said.

Daina rubbed her aching back. The past few days had been chaotic and exhausting. She had moved from her big house in a well-to-do suburb to this semi-rural corner. The property, owned by a very kind, elderly German gentleman, was divided into small plots of land. In each small yard was either a cottage, like the one in which she would now be making her home for the foreseeable future, or trailers that were even more affordable than the cottages.

“I live in ze next row of cottages over,” the nun, who had approached said. “I look after several neglected cats. Oh und you of course,” she said to a brown hen who had come up to her. There seemed to be a huge flock of chickens on the property. Daina had already noticed an aggressive black rooster and numerous hens and younger roosters of indeterminate breeding.

“But I see mister Spiegelmeyer has several German Shepherd Dogs. Don’t they harass your cats?” Daina asked.

“Oh no, my cats know to stay in my little yard. Herr Spiegelmeyer doesn’t allow his dogs into the private yards. Franz is really such a dear old gentleman,” the nun mused.

Goodness, she calls the owner old when she herself must be well into her late seventies or early eighties, Daina thought. Her cell phone pinged with an incoming text. She looked at it and frowned.

“Please take your refuge outside on Frayday,” the text said. Daina blinked to make sure she was reading correctly. Sister Katharina noticed and laughed.

“Oh herr Franz’s weekly text,” she said. “Ze old boy is German, so ze English spelling isn’t always so good. Zet was supposed to be, take your refuse outside on Friday.”

“Refuse,” Brad laughed from his porch, “we just call it trash. And just a little thought, I’d make Fridays my day for shopping. That is if you’re not a working person, and if you are, I’d leave before sunrise on Fridays.”

“Why would I leave before sunrise on a Friday, and in winter?” Daina asked. Brad’s face closed up. He vanished into his cottage. Daina looked a question at sister Katharina.

“Well,” she started hesitantly, “ze young man is kind of right. Perheps you should make yourself scarce on Fridays, early, as early as you can. Oh und it would be better if you return after sunset. Zet is what we all do.”

When Daina went to bed she was still puzzling over the strange advice of her neighbours. Tomorrow was Friday. She was exhausted from the move and on Monday she had to be back at her job. There was no way she was hopping out of bed on a frosty February morning before sunrise, just because a dotty old nun and a crazy youngster had told her to do so.

Crowing roosters woke her well before sunrise. She heard several vehicles start up as the other tenants left for work. But it was still so early. Yet, she assumed that with this place being somewhat off the beaten track, people would leave early as it would take longer getting to the city in the morning rush hour traffic.

She rose, had a shower, made herself a cup of coffee and shivering in the chill, decided to get under the duvet for another hour. Today she would unpack and make this drab little cottage into a home. Perhaps, in time, she could get herself a dog or maybe one of sister Katharina’s cats.

Daina was just floating off in a dream of happier times, her ex-husband and herself on the beach, when a loud male voice and the barking of several large dogs brought her to full consciousness.

“Achtung! Achtung!” a man was shouting, “leave your houses and line up here!” She went to the window. Was it the police? Uniforms yes, a lot of uniformed men and women seemed to be marching to and fro. The military then, but the uniforms were certainly not United States military. Was she still dreaming?

“Miss Chandler,” sister Katharina called as she jogged past followed by an angry looking uniformed woman, “come out, zey will make it unpleasant…” Daina was horrified when the woman effectively shut sister Katharina up by shoving her hard from behind. The elderly nun dropped to her knees.

“Up!” the female officer barked. As Daina watched the poor old woman struggling to regain her feet, somebody banged on her door.

“Coming,” she said. When she had unlocked the door and before she could even grip the door handle to open it, it was thrust open violently.

“Du, come wiz me,” a tough looking blond woman said in a very thick German accent. Daina’s hesitation and ultimate outrage was met with disdain as the woman seized her by the arm and wrenched her through the door.

“Elsa, officer Metzger,” a male voice barked, “careful with zet one. No bruises, remember.”

“Schwein,” Elsa cursed under her breath.

“Hey,” Daina said, now truly outraged. “Who the hell gave you the right? This is a free country. I’m paying for my cottage, who the fuck? Where is Mr Spiegelmeyer?”

“Quiet!” a high ranking officer barked. Daina’s mouth fell open. It was the kindly Herr Franz Spiegelmeyer outfitted in a grey green uniform. Like in that movie she watched a week or so ago, she thought; World War II, the Germans? Daina knew then that she must be either dreaming or sick and very delirious.

“You should have listened to Brad,” sister Katharina said. “I voz a bit late this morning, so zey caught me.”

“But what is this?” Daina asked, now getting frightened. “Could this be the end of the world or did some foreign country invade America overnight? Or perhaps they are doing some re-enactment of history?”

“You see zose uniforms,” sister Katharina said, “schutzstaffel, ze ones wiz the gold shoulder boards. Ze green collars, zey are Nazi Wehrmacht.”

A history major, Daina’s memory filled in the rest, schutzstaffel uniform. Grey green, feltgrau with golden shoulder boards with 3 oakleaves and pips for rank. Then the soldiers, and again her hard earned degree came to the rescue, the dark-green collar and shoulder-straps with white Waffenfarbe, the Litzen collar insignia, and the Wehrmachtsadler above the right breast pocket.

“Oh, just my luck,” she grumbled, “I landed myself in some World War II nightmare.”

“No,” sister Katharina said, “it heppens here, only here, every Friday.” She shut her mouth when a soldier with a very aggressive looking German Shepherd walked past.

“But that is Mr Spiegelmeyer’s old dog. He is a sweet dog, so why does he look as though he wants to shred us now?”

“Zis is ze zauberei of zis place,” the nun explained. “Herr Franz is just a kind old gentleman all week. His dogs are beautiful pure bred German Shepherd dogs with impecable manners. Except on Fridays, und ze soldiers-“

“Halt’s maul!” the Metzger officer shouted and made as though to slap sister Katharina.

Daina dug in her pocket for her cell phone, but she didn’t have time to take it before she had been so rudely removed from her cottage. Somebody needed to call the cops. A few other tenants had now joined them and they were marched to the lawn in front of Mr Spiegelmeyer’s house.

“Strip!” Herr Franz ordered. The other tenants complied. Sister Katharina just looked scared to death.

“You must be bloody kidding, right,” Daina shouted. She eyed the fence to the next property. If she ran very fast she could reach it and get out. Her own sense of claustrophobia was kicking in now despite the open lawn around her. Panic was starting to constrict her throat and her vision swam. This would most likely bring on a migraine, she thought.

Then one of the soldiers lifted his gun and her self-control snapped. She took off like a frightened rabbit. In seconds she was at the fence, throwing herself against it, frantically gripping the wire mesh, feeling for footholds and climbing, climbing. She heard a gun discharging, but no searing pain ripped through her. Her hands reached the top and she hauled herself across, letting go and landing hard on the other side.

“Safe, safe, I’m safe,” she whispered as she lay in the field where she had fallen. She sat up, gingerly testing whether she hadn’t broken or sprained anything in her headlong fall from the fence. Slowly she got to her feet and stepped up to the fence. There were no German soldiers, SS officers, or captives lined up on the lawn. It was just another quiet day on a mostly deserted rural property with chickens scratching in the dirt and two German Shepherd dogs lying on the large veranda of Mr Spiegelmeyer’s house.

Was she going insane or what, she wondered. Slowly and with much trepidation, she climbed back over the fence. The moment she reached the top and wanted to start a more graceful descent than when she left, she noticed it. The lawn was teeming with Nazi soldiers, SS officers and frightened looking tenants. The dogs were being walked up and down the line of tenants, growling like rabid wolves and straining on their leashes.

The tenants, who had previously been told to strip off their clothes, were now shivering in the icy early morning wind. Sister Katharina was desperately trying to hide her nakedness behind an evergreen bush. Mr Spiegelmeyer signalled to the tenants to get dressed. Daina didn’t remain to see more of this completely insane tableau.

Almost tumbling off the fence again, Daina retreated to the other side. Now what, she wondered. She needed to unpack her belongings, or if this was the daily status quo, she needed to get the law onto this. She turned to walk across the field to find a neighbour whose phone she could use to call the authorities.

A few minutes later, however, when she caught sight of a farm house, she had forgotten why she needed to find help. Vaguely she remembered the officers, sister Katharina going down, the aggressive dogs, but that was the movie she had watched the other night, wasn’t it?

A very kind woman invited her in, gave her a warm cup of coffee and helped her dress the cuts and scrapes she had gotten from falling off the fence. Then the neighbour woman made her lie down in a guest bedroom and Daina fell into an exhausted sleep.

“You poor ducky,” the neighbour woman clucked later, “all worn out from your move, aren’t you. Have something to eat and then I’ll go drop you off at your cottage nextdoor.”

“I’m so sorry,” Daina apologized, “I shamelessly slept the whole day away.”

“No matter, no matter,” the neighbour crooned, “you needed the rest and you must have fallen down at some point, judging by those scrapes and bruises.”

The sun was just starting to set when Daina climbed out of the neighbour’s car and opened the gate to Mr Spiegelmeyer’s property. She walked up the drive, vaguely uneasy about something, but not sure what it was. Then she saw them: the soldiers, the SS officers and the dogs. The morning’s episode came rushing back, but as she turned to run, she saw the strangest ripple in the air. Suddenly the German men and women seemed to be shrinking, dissolving into an undulating haze. In a blink of an eye, just as the sun vanished behind the mountains, there were chickens where the soldiers had been. Herr Franz seemed disoriented and confused and the tenants seemed not to know why they were standing on the lawn in filthy clothing, with shovels and other gardening tools in their hands.

A car honked its horn behind her. It was Brad, in his car rather than on his bike today. He was grinning from ear to ear. “So you took my advice and got out for the day?” he said.

“No, I didn’t, not really. Nobody in the world will believe what happens here on a Friday, or is it a Frayday?” she laughed. “At least we now know why Mr Spiegelmeyer has such a lovely garden. Shapeshifting chickens however, very strange indeed.”

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

Bank Line, fiction Honorable Mention
by Nicole Massey

“Woo. Sah. Woo Sah.” Joni repeated the mantra she’d heard somewhere, trying to stay calm in the line at the bank. The old lady with the tiny purse was searching for something, but Joni couldn’t imagine how anything could get lost in that miniscule thing. The man between them was impatient, looking at his watch and glancing around, maybe checking if another line was moving faster.

Joni looked down at the card she held, a reminder of what she needed to say to the teller. “Give me all the money in the drawer and do nothing stupid or I’ll blow all of us up.”

She didn’t want to do this; sometimes there was no choice. She kept telling herself that she and Hank would dig out of the hole if they were given a few breaks and enough time. That was before Hank hurt himself at work three months ago; he was still in the hospital. The billing department was getting testy about her telling them they’d get paid after Workman’s Comp came in, but the letter that came in the mail yesterday said that Hank’s claim was denied. If she kept telling them that the payment was coming it would be a lie. The kids were short on food, she had no more quarters for the laundromat and no money to buy laundry soap anyways. When Mr. Dillingsworth came in the office as she was crying, he told her such emotional displays weren’t appropriate in the office environment and her services were no longer required. And no, she could pick up her check next Friday on the regular payday, just like everyone else.

After feeding Mark and Gina the last of the tuna noodle casserole and going without anything herself, she formulated this plan. A lot of thinking made her aware of one simple fact, she and Hank were punching bags of fate. None of her other friends or any of his buddies had luck like theirs. Hank’s poker group joked about it, saying they were the unluckiest couple in history. Well, damn it, Joni was sick of that. One of her dad’s favorite sayings was that you have to take the bull by the horns. Okay, it was time. She probed her mind for the best way to get the money she needed to keep her and the kids off the street and to get Hank out of that crappy run down hospital, and this was the only thing she could come up with. Oh, good, the little old lady was finishing up. No, she had something else she needed done, and she was talking nonstop to the teller. Lady, that poor girl doesn’t want to hear about your grandson’s soccer trophy, hurry up.

The man in front of her wasn’t getting any more patient. Joni hoped he didn’t take forever to do his banking. He looked like he was the type who came in, transacted his business, and got on with his day. Joni wished she could be as calm and collected as he was. She looked down at her card again to focus her mind. She read over it four or five times, focused enough that it caught her by surprise when she heard the old bat saying, “Thank you so much for your help. Have a wonderful day.”

Whew. Maybe this was a sign her luck was changing. One person in front of her, and he looked all business. And then she could get to the window, do what she had to do, and get back across the county in time to pick the kids up from their after-school program.

Joni moved forward as the man in the suit strode up to the window and said something. The teller said, “Excuse me sir, what did you say?”

Joni’s stomach dropped to her ankles as the man said, in clear crisp words, “Give me all the money in the drawer and do nothing stupid or I’ll blow all of us up.”

Bio: Nicole Massey is a writer, composer, and songwriter living in Dallas, Texas. She writes in multiple genres, including mainstream fiction, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and romance. She also writes for role-playing game fan magazines. She lost her sight in 2003 and if you find it, she’d like to have it back. She can be reached at nyyki at gypsyheir dot com.

Part III. Seasonal Sensations

Vintage Keeper, poetry
by Brad Corallo

As golden summer splendor fades to rich hues of autumn
clusters of grapes on trellised vines slowly ripen.
Vintners stand in their fields
contemplating acid/sugar balance and the crucial question:
when to pick?
The rich ripe berries are brought to the receptive hoppers
of crusher/stemmer machines and free run juice is collected.
Then, the long process of fermentation, racking and ageing can begin.

The vintner muses,
“Potentially Has all the marks of a great vintage.”
Deep inside feelings of wonder, hope, apprehension and
the unmistakable excitement grow.
Every year, this is the way of it!
She is humbled by her stewardship.
A high priestess, a dedicated intermediary
servant of nature and the fulfillment of her gifts.
If she does her job well:
the bounty of the land, the weather
and her gentle touch
will bring joy and a lightening of the heart
to friends and strangers alike.
She feels a part of something vast
an acolyte bearing the promise of an ancient covenant.

Autumn Tapestry, poetry
by Carrie Hooper

The air turns crisp and cool.
Leaves paint
Colorful portraits
Before they fall to the ground,
Dry up,
Crunch underfoot,
And fertilize the soil
For next year’s plants.

Birds fly south
To winter in warmer climates.
Perhaps they meet old friends,
And share stories
About the people
Whose backyards they inhabited,
Or they talk
About a narrow escape
From the jaws of a cat.

As nature’s scenery changes,
We bid farewell to summerAnd welcome the fall.

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.

Leaves Whisper, poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

Why do Autumn leaves whisper so
when their colors begin to show?
Do they dress for celebration —
a Mardi Gras before demise,
portending Persephone’s flight
to Pluto’s wintry Hades,
where the dead are known to dwell?

Do they seek a glorious death
chasing Spring to the underworld,
hoping to retrieve their goddess,
or serve her in her husband’s realm?

What do leaves whisper as I swish
through their sacrificial bodies?
Rustlings say, “She will come again.
She is nourished by our dry bones.
We’ll adorn her when she rises,
and flourish in her haloed warmth,
then follow when she falls again.”

Let It Snow, memoir
by Kate Chamberlin

“Oh, listen to how hard the rain is hitting the window,” I said to our four-year old as I carried an over-flowing load of clean laundry into the bedroom to be folded.

He ran over to the south-facing window-wall and exclaimed, “It’s snowing, Mimi. It’s snowing little balls!” He jumped up and down, clapping his hands and saying, “I was so sad this morning when there was no snow. Now, I’m so excited!”

Ah, yes. Only through the eyes of little ones can we truly appreciate the finer details of life.

I used to love taking long Spring, Summer, and Fall walks with my “A-team”. We’d hike west to Ralph and Ruth Miller’s cow pasture; north along its eastern boundary to Dave and Diane Wilbert’s orchards; Turn right and walk along its southern border to the eastern edge of Joe and Marcia Englert’s acreage; Another turn right to head south into the valley opposite our home on the hill. The last leg of our journey was the most difficult, because we were tired and yet we had to trudge west, up the hill for a reward of a cool glass of lemonade.

As we walked, I would often stop to point out the tiny little wild flowers, busy ants, and small animal footprints in the mud. We’d stop and stand very still in the woods to hear the different birds in the treetops, look for them and identify who made that sound. Our noses could tell us when we’d crossed from the damp woods into the drier pasture, even before the warmth of the sun reached us.

Now, when I make forays into our yard with our “B-team”, they are the ones who stop me to describe what they see, shove something under my nose to smell, and thrust my unsuspecting hand into mush for identification.

“Mimi,“ my pre-schooler’s excited voice brought me back into the warm bedroom. “Fluffies are falling everywhere. The grass is all white!”

Oh, dear Gussie. What’s a mother to do? I put down the laundry and went to the closet to rummage around for the snow boots, puffy winter jacket, knitted beanie and water-proof mittens.

When the “B-Team” is older, we’ll get out the cross-country skis and snowshoes to once again traverse our neighborhood, but, for now, we went out to explore this wonderful world of cold, wet, white ‘fluffies’, so, let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow.

Bio: Kate’s pieces have been published in Behind Our Eyes publications; anthologies by the Wayne Writer’s Guild; NYS Federated Garden Clubs; Good Dog! Magazine; Threads Magazine; Organic Gardening Magazine; Paper Clips, a braille magazine; Matilda Ziegler Magazine; and other publications.

Kate is a current member of the Wayne Writer’s Guild, Visionary support group, free-lance writer/editor, Accessibility Ambassadress to the Memorial Art Gallery an former newspaper columnist, Clerk of her church Vestry, DAR Chapter Recording Secretary. She and her husband are now empty nest great-grandparents and enjoy having lunch out, country walks during the good weather, and mall cruising during the inclement weather.

A Taste of Winter, nonfiction Second Place
by Marcia J. Wick, the Write Sisters

Despite the biting cold, my guide dog and I hunger for a winter walk. I layer long johns under fuzzy fleece and pull a hat with ear flaps over my salt and pepper hair. I slip protective blueberry-colored booties on the precious paws of my yellow lab, then I wrap my furry partner in her reflective lemon jacket. Viviane flaps her soft caramel ears and pokes her anxious head through the harness. We venture into the chilly air, gulping in the yummy scene.

Most days, with my low vision, the world looks muddy and grey. But when fresh snow catches the sunlight, twinkling crystals light our way. Treetops and rooftops sparkle with glitter – a gingerbread wonderland awaits.

Trekkers stretched over my boots ensure sure footing as Vivi leads us onto the blanket of crispy meringue. Bare trees outlined in ribbons of white create a chocolate and vanilla marbled maze. Like Popsicle sticks, frozen fence rails line our way. My guide halts at the curb to survey a slushy street crossing; she gingerly picks our path through the soft gelatin. Parked cars and evergreen hedges are topped with dollops of marshmallow cream. Yards are dotted like cookies with sprinkles. Pine needles shimmer in glaze.

As we work our way along the dessert buffet, my dog swipes her tongue at a branch like a snow cone. Wind whips puffs of powdered sugar off the roof tops, and smoke floats from chimneys, like candles on a birthday cake blown out by a child. A cloudless blue sky frosts the frozen treat. As we chew our way through sunshine and shadows, a branch weighed down with mounds of coconut icing slaps me in the face like a pie. I blink and lick my lips, savoring the sweet taste of winter!

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. She is 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

The Magic and Wonder of the First Weekend of December: From Christmas Dances to Decorations, From the Land of Oz to Santa Claus Land, memoir
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

The first weekend of December brings back memories of many special times, including the celebrations of my parents’ wedding anniversary; they were married on December 4, 1942, while my dad was in the Army. In 1997, on December 1, my dad passed away three days before the celebration of their 55th wedding anniversary.

On the first weekend of December, in the 1950s and the early 1960s, a Christmas dance at Perona’s Hall was part of kicking off the holiday season in our hometown of Blanford, Indiana. Not only did the adults of our small, rural town attend, but also some of the children. Perona’s Hall was above the grocery store—one of the two competitors of the grocery stores of my maternal grandmother and my Uncle Pete. Nevertheless, my parents and I enjoyed going to these dances. One thing which I did not enjoy was the extremely high, narrow, and steep flight of stairs to the dance hall. After ascending those many stairs, one entered the hall with an alcove on the right, where food and drinks were served. I recall that the Royal Neighbors of America, an organization to which my mother belonged for many years, sponsored a number of these dances. To the left of the entry was a small stage with an upright piano and its wooden stool. Theatre seats and tall windows were around the other three sides of the dance hall. For these community dances, a five-piece band played big band tunes that still echo in my head. I especially hear Deno Libei’s saxophone filling the dance hall with “Stardust” and can picture so clearly in my mind’s eye my parents, dancing so smoothly over the wooden floor of Perona’s Hall. In this memory, I see my mother in a royal blue dress and my dad in a charcoal and gray suit with white shirt and narrow tie. What a handsome couple they were! My father was known as a very good dancer, and my mother well followed his lead around the dance floor. Those December dances to begin the celebration of the holiday season were good times.

Too frequently, the television re-broadcasting of the spectacularly magical movie The Wizard of Oz coincided with the December dance. A fan of the movie and its musical score, I did not want to miss watching this famous 1939 movie—which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. When the Wicked Witch or the flying monkeys appeared on screen, I hid behind a portion of the wall that arched between our living room and dining room. Then, I just peeked periodically at the frightening parts of the classic movie. Once, I estimated that I had seen The Wizard of Oz at least fourteen times—but certainly more by now and still counting.

The first weekend of December was also the time when we decorated our house and trimmed the Christmas tree. Eventually, live evergreens gave way to an artificial six-foot tree.

For many years, my dad decorated our large front porch with strands of multi-colored lights. Additionally, bedecking our front porch were a choir girl and boy dressed in white and red robes and made of plastic. Between the two choir members was a plastic street lamppost, topped with a little snow. These figurines were illuminated by a bulb within each piece. When I was in college in Terre Haute, Indiana and enjoyed shopping on Wabash Avenue, I purchased a plastic reindeer at the Smith-Alsop Store to add to the holiday display on our porch. For a few years, my dad affixed a speaker outdoors so that Christmas music accompanied our outdoor Christmas display.

For a number of years before we created our own outdoor holiday decorations, my family and I drove to the home of the Harris family who lived about four miles north of Blanford, a little past the town of St. Bernice, in the flat and rich farmland of our Vermillion County. This family who owned the Harris Food Store in Clinton, Indiana, had quite a mesmerizing Christmas display, with holiday music. I most remember my dad’s driving so very slowly by Santa in a sleigh, with all the reindeer. Even though I have never been a fan of blue for Christmas decor, I marveled each year at the large, indoor tree lighted with only blue Christmas lights—the larger type, not the fairy lights or LED lights as used today. Besides other outdoor figurines of the season around the property, a huge star shone brightly from atop the television aerial and over a manger scene. Viewing this home’s holiday outdoor display a few times each year was a special treat.

When I was even younger, my parents, my older sister, and I went to Santa Clause, Indiana, during the first weekend of December. For several years, we went to Santa Claus Land (renamed Holiday World in more recent decades) because my mother was a member of the Indiana Branch of the National League of Postmasters, who selected this festive location for their December meeting. While she attended her meeting, Dad, Mary, and I did those more important things like visiting Santa and shopping at the unique store from where I still have a very small tea set on which is painted Santa and the words “Santa Claus Land.” While my sister and I recognized the Santas at Roots’ Department Store in Terre Haute and other such Santas, we knew that the real Santa was at Santa Claus, Indiana. Consequently, going to Santa Claus Land was extremely important.

On one of our trips to this small city in Southern Indiana, the snow was flying to set the holiday mood. In the early 1950s, children’s rubber boots with one button at the top of each were quite popular; my sister had a white pair, and I had a red pair. Also, children’s house slippers at that time were not the fuzzy and fluffy type, but made more like leather slippers with a wide and heavy-duty elastic band on either side. In my haste and excitement to see the real Santa Claus, I forgot to change into my patent leather shoes. I stuck my house-slippered, little feet right into my red boots. Somewhere along a snow-covered road en route to Santa Claus, Indiana, I came to a terrible realization—no pretty patent leather shoes were on my feet. In a burgeoning panic, I told my dad that he had to go back home for my dress shoes because I could not possibly visit Santa while I was wearing my house slippers! My dad tried to explain to me that he could not return home, that the roads were slippery, that we had to arrive in time for Mother’s meeting, and that Santa Claus would not mind my wearing boots within which were house slippers. I was not swayed a bit by his logic. This time was one of the extremely rare occasions when my wonderful dad did not grant my wish. I cried real tears. Nevertheless, that first weekend in December, I did wear my red house slippers, covered by my big red boots, to see the real Santa Claus. Thankfully, all worked out well. I do not think Santa had a clue about my footwear; he still brought me the nice gifts I had shyly requested as I sat upon his knee.

Note: “The Magic and Wonder of the First Weekend of December” was published in Alice’s book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, available from The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled and Audible, as well as in print from Amazon.

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, Audible, etc.), 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.

Winter Conspiracy, poetry Honorable Mention
by Wesley D. Sims

The days grow lean, shriveled
like trees that lost their leaves,
shivered in winds that stripped
away our bouquets of autumn.

While we pause for holiday
celebration, December gathers strength
to shove us toward the eager arms
of winter, who draws her breath
and waits, bony fingers extended,
to flash her fury in our face.
Contrives to snare us, bait us
with blanket of soft, white snow,
catch us unaware,
trap our tender flesh,
stand us out among the dead
grass, gray skies and skeletons
of trees.

This team conspires to test our mettle,
judge if we can ride the tempest
thrashing all the way to the vernal equinox,
or like a pilot slammed with trouble
and forced to scrap his mission,
we bail out and drift down
on the merciless currents of time.

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.

Angel Light, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

In my house today
surrounded by seasons lights
I am lifted up.

The angel on my tree with white halo shines.
Her companion glows bluely from the end table.
On my bookcase, an angelic host lend their colors,
green, cardinal, and gold; they shine out strongly.
With the lesser lights they claim this place
for color against the leaden season,
an oasis of multicolored brightness
on this grinding gray day.

Once in deep and misty time,
when history and legend intertwined,
shepherds saw strange lights in the sky
a great angelic host, a star brighter than others.
The choir proclaimed a light beyond nature,
that would break through the leaden world,
with color that would be our salvation
from the grinding grayness of our lives.

And through the ages color has broken through,
great hymns and master works of art,
writers with gifts of wonder and imagination,
and prophets calling us to change the world,
so that it would be a citadel of light and beauty
against the leaden spirits that assail us,
with the grinding grayness of their beings.
Against such, we need the salvation of light and life.

One day I look to see in awe and wonder
a great anticipated time of endless beauty.
We will delight in light and life forever
and cherish rainbow glories for all time.
This symphony of blessings will not perish,
for leaden spirit’s malice will be banished
and grinding grey oppression will depart us.
We will bless angel light for evermore.

Lights of the season
are an arrow pointing us
to a greater light.

Bio: Shawn Jacobson was born totally blind (a gift from the Asian Flu) and obtained partial sight following several eye opporations. He received his MS in Statistics from Iowa State University and has since worked for the Federal Government; it has now been 35 years. He lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC with his wife Cheryl, son Stephen, and an ever-changing cast of dogs. His daughter Zebe lives up the road in Baltimore.

Winter Through the Senses, poetry
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

In the silent snowfall,
see flakes swirl.
Amid white-covered streets, sidewalks,
feel snow crunch beneath your boots.
Hear the rumble of a distant snow blower.

Indoors, feel the warmth of slippers on your feet.
Breathe the aroma of steaming cocoa.
Savor the flavor of its frothy, chocolaty goodness,
safe, warm while snow keeps falling.

Bio: Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. Along with Magnets and Ladders, her work has appeared in weekly and quarterly editions of The Avocet and both Behind Our Eyes anthologies. 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 partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, she was a registered music therapist and worked for fifteen years in nursing homes and other facilities serving senior citizens. Please visit her website at

My First Taste of Snow, memoir
by Marcia J. Wick, the Write Sisters

A late spring blizzard isn’t that unusual where we live 6,000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. Last winter was moderate with sunshine and light snowfall until March when spring roared in like a lion. Doppler radar watchers warned that a “cyclone bomb” was headed our way from the west coast where it had caused dangerous flooding. The night before the anticipated weather event, schools, government offices, and employers announced closures even though skies were clear and temperatures were in the 50s.

Forecasting the weather in Colorado is no simple feat. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes and it will change,” locals are fond of saying. Early prediction of the unusual cyclone bomb, however, proved accurate. The next morning, we were slammed with high winds, freezing rain, drifting snow, and white-out conditions.

When weather prognosticators warned of another late spring blizzard in April, the city again hunkered down. Cancellations were called early in the morning although the sun was still shining, temperatures were in the 60s, and the roads were clear and dry. I hurried to my father’s house, throwing a change of clothes at the last minute into my backpack, worried I might get stranded and be forced to spend the night once there.

Halfway through the day, the ominous storm still waited in the wings as the audience grew restless for its appearance. Settling opposite my dad at the table, me with my lunch and him with his breakfast, He flipped the pages of the newspaper, his favorite preoccupation, and happens upon the blizzard warning.

“Rain and snow, temperatures dropping into the 20s,” he glanced out the window, perplexed at the sunny scene.

At 2:00, still under sunny skies, Dad’s caregiver departed early to “beat the storm.” I thought perhaps this time the weather gurus might have gotten it wrong. Settling Dad into his easy chair around 4:00 for some late afternoon television, I glanced out the living room window as the clouds burst. Fat raindrops changed into fluffy snowflakes mid-flight, spinning the springtime scene into an avalanche of winter.

“Look at that! What is that?” my Dad asked.

“It’s snowing after all,” I said, amazed myself at the sudden turn in seasons.

Dad gaped at the falling flakes, as if seeing snow for the first time in his 94-year-long life. No stranger to snow, my father skied the powder slopes of Colorado for six decades, climbed more than 30 mountains above 14,000 feet where snow remains year-round, camped in winter snow caves, and climbed Pikes Peak in a blizzard on New Year’s Eve to shoot off fireworks from the summit. Yet, my slow-moving father jumped out of his chair like a four-year-old boy experiencing snow for the first time.

“Look at it, look at it! It’s everywhere, all around,” he twisted his bald head back and forth as I fought to catch his flailing arms into his coat sleeves. Coatless myself, I chased Dad out the door onto the deck where he continued to stare in wonder at the scene. As if the clouds were having a pillow fight, the sky was flooded with white balls of cotton. Giggling like a four-year-old girl, I stuck out my tongue as if tasting snow for the first time.

Part IV. Points to Ponder

The Mountain I Can’t Climb, poetry Second Place
by Shawn Jacobson

Clutching at rocks as I scramble along,
I seek to hold myself in upright stance,
as I traverse this trail of mud and ice
that twists through lava at the mountain’s base.

The mountain spirits call me to ascend
to great Capulin’s summit in the sky
to view the brown volcano studded plains,
and marvel at the wonders of the west.

I must refuse the spirit’s call to climb,
my lot to scramble seeking footing sure.
Though pride goes bravely forth before the fall;
time teaches me the humble ways to stand.

When I was young, I would obey the call
mount up the slope to seek the glories high
found on the summit’s magnificent peak
and seek the secrets held within the cone.

But time has taught me humble traveling skills:
to scramble, clamber, scuttle like a crab
over a land of muck, uncertain stones
until I reach the welcome end of trail.

And at trails end I sit upon this bench
my shoes caked with the mire of the trail.
I contemplate the lessons of the day,
wonder, humility, the power of time.

A Veteran’s Day Reflection: nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Brad Corallo

My dad was drafted into the army in 1942 and fought in the Second World War. He advanced to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He was stationed in the Pacific Theater and landed on God forsaken islands in order to build temporary air strips and to set up communication systems. He was a wiz at field telephone installation and communication. He faced combat on a regular basis and almost died several times from terrible jungle diseases.

When people tried to tell him after his return that he was a true American hero, he replied: “I am no hero; I was just a scared kid from a poor Italian family who did my best and survived by believing that I would never make it home.”

My dad never liked to speak about the war. Three decades after his return, partially due to our discussions, he morphed into an anti-war, pro labor, pro minority true believer. I was so proud of him then and am even more so now. He was a man who grew up poor, saw terrible things in war, and worked hard to support his family every day. He initially held the conservative beliefs of most of his generation but evolved into a wiser, kinder man. He came to hate war, poverty, and any injustice that prevented every citizen from getting a fair shake and an equal shot at the American Dream.

Among countless other things, my dad taught me that people can change and grow during their lives. In my work as a mental health therapist, sometimes the hardest job is assisting people to realize that they can change, grow, and shed untrue and destructive things that they were taught as children. It is wonderful to see such folks realize this possibility and then begin to gain confidence and greater ability to handle their lives more effectively.

My dad also taught me that war is not a glorious adventure where the forces of good ultimately vanquish the legions of evil. It is a wasteful and destructive activity that squanders the promise and talent of our most important resource, America’s sons and daughters. Toward the end of his life, my dad had nightmares about the war and would speak of atrocities he observed with anguish and horror. There was no diagnosis of or treatment for PTSD for that amazing generation. They talked of something called battle fatigue, but that term was used to describe soldiers who became seriously depressed and in some cases, catatonic. So on this Veteran’s Day I raise a glass to U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Charles J. Corallo: “dad, I honor and cherish your memory and am glad you are at piece now!”

Life Waters, poetry
by Valerie Moreno

Heart song,
completely serene in the
womb cushion
where life is sweetly new.

Once in life light,
unfamiliar world brings
mysteries and discoveries
as the tiny heart song plays.

Innocence and awe bring
challenges, joys uninhibited
as the song grows free.

feared monsters creep
beyond the boundary,
crushing the song under
unfathomable evil.

Silently, the shatters like glass
carousels tumbling from a broken shelf.

The heart song struggles,
on slowest bleed,
recreating itself in pain so
deep it cannot be undone.

Tears fall
outside a heart broken,
mending itself to sing
even through scars of disillusion.

Many breaks, scars and tears
beset the song, yet, it still plays
despite harm, indifference, false love.
The black hovers,
but the heart is brighter,
wiser for it, resilient
in its melodic time
won by many silent battles of care.

Heart song,
still comes alive
like Spring blooms
in patches of color
now spreading toward sky
and stars that welcome.

Bio: Valerie Moreno has been writing fiction and poems since age 12. Her inspiration is music, life experience and prayer. Her work has appeared in anthologies, magazines and fan fiction. She is totally blind.

Grandma’s Metaphor, nonfiction
by Bonnie Rennie

My Grandma was a wise lady.

One day, I complained to her. “I’m not happy! In fact, I’m bored! The neighbor kids just got new clothes, and I don’t have any. Mom says we can’t afford to go shopping right now. Some of the kids have gone to summer camp, and I’m left alone back here! I hurt my toe this morning, and now, I can’t run around and play outside.”

Grandma stopped what she was doing, and paused to think for a minute. Then she smiled and said, “I’ll tell you what. Let’s bake some cookies.”

Grandma always had a well-stocked kitchen. She assembled many cookie-baking ingredients. I pulled a chair up to the counter, eager to help. Before starting, she commanded my full attention, looked me in the eye, and said this.

“This time, as we put the batter together, you’re going to be the taste tester. Here, I’ll show you.

“First, try a tiny bit of this flour. How do you like it?”

“blah! Tests like dust!”

“Now, the vanilla.” Grandma said. “Doesn’t it smell good?”

“Oh, iek! It doesn’t taste anything like it smells! Why is that?”

“Just the nature of ordinary vanilla, I suppose,” Grandma quipped.

“Now, the sugar, of course. You like that, don’t you? Fine, but don’t eat too much. Too much of a good thing, you know. And here, what about this yummy baking chocolate?”

“Oh, Grandma!” I made a face. “Why are you using bad chocolate? That tastes terrible! Bitter! Not at all like chocolate.”

“Oh, that’s because it’s baker’s chocolate. It’s supposed to taste strong like that. The end result, however, the cookies, are always good, right? And I almost forgot. A tiny pinch of salt. Remember just a little salt helps bring out the good flavor of a food. But, too much of it, and the dish turns bad.”

We finally mixed the dough, put the cookies on the sheets, and baked them. And oh, the aroma was wonderful, filling the house with sweet delight! After they had sufficiently cooled, Grandma gave me a couple of the most delicious chocolate chip cookies, with milk.

“Now.” Grandma kindly said. “Aren’t these cookies good? Well, they’re just like life. You don’t get it, huh? I’ll explain.”

She looked me right in the eye again. “Just like these cookies, our life has many parts to it. And some of those parts don’t taste so good, by themselves, or while we sample them. But what would the finished cookie be without, say, those bitter chocolate chips? And even though it doesn’t seem to make sense at the time, that tiny bit of salt helps add to the whole cookie. If we want to get and enjoy those yummy cookies, just like a good life, we need all of the ingredients, in their proper measure. No shortcuts. No skipping the parts that don’t taste so nice. Great cookies and a great life both require mixing in all of the necessary ingredients, and having faith that in the end, everything will turn out right. Not always perfect, but tasting the way they’re supposed to.”

Yes, now I realize. grandma was a very wise lady.

Bio: Bonnie remembers her first writing attempt. At age twelve, she wrote A song parody, expressing her eagerness/angst about heading to junior high. During her clinical social work career in medical and mental health settings, she created client/consumer family education materials. Retirement finally allows her to pursue the writing of poems, articles, and essays. She writes on a variety of topics: Christian/spiritual, music, thriving while blind, blossoming in retirement, life’s charms, challenges, choices, and quirks. Bonnie and her husband Bob live in Southern California. She is totally blind, from Retinopathy of Prematurity.

Spirit Freedom, fiction Honorable Mention
by Lorice McCloud

The evening that Thora called me to ask if I would go with her on a trip, I was putting braille labels on a few groceries so I wouldn’t have to keep reading them with my cell phone. I hate interruptions when I’m doing stuff like that but when the talking caller i.d. said Thora’s number, I picked it up.

“Whatchya doin?” she asked in an exaggeratedly prying tone of voice.

“Do what?” I said stupidly

“What’s wrong with you?” she demanded peevishly. We were satirizing.

“Where would you like me to start?” I asked pleasantly as if I were offering to read her a menu. “Actually tonight I think it’s just the smell,” I amended. I was playing tidly winks with sewer covers until I was so rudely interrupted.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” she erupted frantically. “You put those man-hole covers back where they belong! No tellin’ what might come crawling out of there!” That’s when I started laughing and I think we laughed for 5 minutes straight. When we stopped, the tears were rolling down my cheeks and I had to hold one of my prosthetic eyes in with my finger to prevent it from hitting the floor.

“I’ve decided that I’m going to pay a visit to Spirit Freedom,” she announced resolutely. “And I want to know if you’d like to go with me.”

“I just might,” I said evenly. “Let’s talk about it.” I had known ever since the night we heard about Spirit Freedom on a late-night radio talk show that covered some edgy topics, that it wouldn’t be long before Thora made a reservation. We’d been talking to each other during commercial breaks for the entire 3 hours that the guest was on. “How soon?” I inquired.

“Oh, as soon as I can get a reservation. I just want you to help me make sure I haven’t overlooked anything.

“Trust me, you haven’t,” I said bluntly. “We’d better make reservations while we can still take advantage of this. I suppose now that it’s so public, somebody might try to shut it down.”

“Okay!” she said excitedly. “I’ll call and get all the info, find out how much it costs and everything.”

“Make a reservation for me too unless they prefer that each person make their own.”

“Okay,” she said blithely and hung up. That surprised me a little but after all, we’d discussed this subject hundreds of times over the years. I sat down on the floor right where I was and thought about what needed to be done next if I was going to Spirit Freedom with Thora.

When she called me back the next evening, she sounded as excited as somebody might if they were going to Disney Land. “I talked to this real decent lady. She gave me all the info and took reservations for both of us. She does want you to call her though, just to confirm. Ask for Amaris. She said she was planning to take the journey herself before too long.”

“How much is this going to cost?” When Thora gave me the price, I was pleasantly surprised. A nice chunk of change, but not exorbitant. I could handle it.

“They pro-rate it according to your income,” explained Thora. “Amaris said they didn’t want money to be a barrier to poor people who often desire the experience most. We can’t get in for 2 weeks. They’re pretty busy after the exposure they got on the radio.”

“That’s okay. It’ll give me time to throw a going away party. You could come too and then we could just leave from here together.”

“Good idea!”

We laughed and talked into the night. We hung up after agreeing to do Shamanic journeys for each other to discern if everything was a go.

Among the things I did in preparation was to unsubscribe from my email lists. I also wrote a note to my family which I saved in my pending folder to send out just before I left. A lot of the rest of it would be done when we arrived at Spirit Freedom.

I never throw parties. I hardly ever even attend them so I had to put a lot of thought into my going away party. I went to the grocery store various times and ordered a few things from Amazon. I made some playlists of Thora’s and my favorite music. Some of the people I invited were surprised about my plans and others not at all, but most of them did accept my invitation. Thora showed up the day before the party.

“This is a good time to go,” I observed. “We don’t have guide dogs.”

“It’s so lonely around my place,” she lamented. “I don’t even have doves anymore.”

We roasted marshmallows over a candle flame, drank tea, and reminisced all night. Time seemed to stop, or maybe not to exist at all. The tranquility we felt was beyond expression. I knew Thora felt the same way I did by the sound of her sigh.

We slept for most of the following day. We woke up early enough to make the final preparations for the party. I got the music going and set some of the munchies out on the table. It wasn’t long before my guests started to arrive. Thora greeted each one at the door with a smoldering smudge stick in her hand. The pungent fragrance permeated the apartment. Some of our guests were in a somber mood. Others seemed festive and celebratory. Anna said that she had made a reservation with Spirit Freedom because of our example and she had never felt freer in all her life. We munched and talked in little clusters. I had my rainsticks and chimeballs setting out and I was happy when Robin and Jesse asked if they could have them. Jimmy observed that Thora and I were both glowing with joy and that we looked way different than he’d ever seen us before. We certainly felt different.

The party lasted longer than I had expected, probably because we were all enjoying the meaningful dialogue and the Aire of celebration. We had travel plans for the following day, but not early.

We slept during the morning hours and had yogurt and fruit when we awakened. The fridge was bare after that which was part of the plan. I shot that email off to my family and unplugged the computer. Thora took our travel bags out to our scheduled ride to the train station. We had a 2-day trip ahead of us. The train trip was just another part of our exciting plans. We’d paid for a berth so we didn’t have to put up with squalling kids and iPads blaring movies that always seem to accompany them. We flopped down on our beds as the train pulled out and felt the gentle sway and heard the rhythmic clickity-clack of the wheels.

“This is so much better than a plane!” Thora exclaimed gleefully. We sang in 2 part harmony as the hours went by

In the dining car most of our fellow passengers were friendly and just chatted about the trip, but if they got too nosey, we told them stories. At dinner one night we said that we were both email order brides going to meet our husbands. We hadn’t told them we were blind. They might’ve been able to guess by our pictures but it hadn’t really come up. Another time we said we were going to visit our brother. He had sent us train tickets after our mother died and this was the first time we had ever been away from home. The reaction to these ghastly tales was highly entertaining.

“I’m trying to think of another time in my life when I felt like this,” Thora sighed as we lay on our beds holding hands, “but I can’t.”

“I know what you mean,” I murmured thoughtfully. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt this free, this light, this joyous before either, not in this lifetime anyway.”

“Usually when somebody thinks you should be grateful, you’re not even if you feel guilty about it. But now I feel so much gratitude I can’t contain it.”

Amaris met us at the platform. We chatted about the trip as she drove, but it didn’t really get interesting until we got there. The first order of business was our responsibility forms. She took us into a quiet comfortable office to fill them out. Thora went first.

No living parents. No husband or significant other. No children. Two sisters but they had their own lives. No job. Only SSI for an income and it wasn’t enough to pay the bills let alone enough for recreation or transportation. Terrible health. Sleep deprivation that wrecked her immune system and left her with not enough energy to do much of anything. Life stretched interminably before her with no end in sight.

I was like a fainter echo of Thora. No living parents. No husband or significant other. No children. A brother and a sister whose lives I wasn’t much involved in. No job. A mound of credit card debt. I could sleep if I could do it when my body wanted to. I had never found the way to do anything fulfilling. If I knew how to change my life, I would’ve by now. I wasn’t interested in playing society’s games. I was tired of being here.

Next Amaris asked us to choose our evening meal for tomorrow. She explained that it would contain the elixir that would gently separate our spirits from our bodies. “You’ll probably want to lie down about a half hour or so after eating. You’ll begin to feel drowsy and dreamy. It won’t hurt. You won’t have stomach cramps or a headache or anything. The whole process takes a couple of hours, but you’ll want to go with it so lying down is the best way.” We each gave her a couple of names and addresses to send notices to and we both chose cremation for our bodies. Neither of us wanted our ashes to be kept in an urn somewhere so we asked that they be buried in the sand on a beach or spread under a tree.

After that, Amaris showed us our quarters and a little bit about what else was around us. It was like a spa with a swimming pool, hot tub and golf course.

“You can change your mind up to 4 o’clock tomorrow,” she told us. “Some people just want a few more days. Some people decide to work here for a while before they complete the process like I did and some people just take a much needed vacation and go back to their lives.”

“I don’t think so,” Thora said to me cheerfully as we were settling in. “I’m going all the way.”

“Me too,” I concurred quietly.

We didn’t sleep till the wee hours. We sat on our balcony, breathing in the sweet night and letting the crickets serenade us. We listened to the music we loved and talked about the feelings it stirred in us. I read to her from our favorite C.S. Lewis book. You may wonder who would want to listen to a blind person read aloud. Happily for me, Thora would as much and as long as I would do it. We thought we might not sleep at all, but we did toward morning.

Upon awakening sometime in the early afternoon, we had fresh pineapple and tea on our balcony.

“I think I’ll go for a dip in the pool,” I said when we’d finished eating. “Want to come?”

“Sure, if nobody else is in there for us to bump into.” We had to call Amaris to come and escort us there. The pool was empty until we got into it so we had ourselves a nice little splash and then I took a soak in the hot tub. Thora went back to our room and showered. It was after 4:00 by the time I came back to the room.

“Are you scared?” Thora asked me as I stepped out of the shower.

“Well, not yet. Maybe a little nervous, maybe a little bit excited, but not scared.”

“Me neither.” she declared.

I read some more from the C.S. Lewis book until 6:00 when Amaris brought us our evening meal.

“You guys are so much fun. I really wish you weren’t going quite so soon, but I can see how happy you are about it.” She set our feast before us. The smell was ravishing. “The portions aren’t that big,” she explained as she put our desserts off to the side. “But you need to eat it all.” We nodded, understanding.

We lit the candle in the middle of the table, just because we like them. We talked about the good times we’d had in our lives and we hooted and laughed. I suppose we were pretty loud. I hope we didn’t disturb anybody who was in a more reflective mood, but we didn’t feel like we were dying, just going to another place where we could live less encumbered more vibrant lives. We ate our meal slowly and savored every mouthful. We had our after supper tea and then we decided to go down to the courtyard and get into one of the huge hammocks. We tumbled and tangled like children, both of us trying to get in at the same time. And then, when we’d finally managed it, we spontaneously started to sing. We carried on for about a half hour and then quieted down as the cicadas started to buzz. We heard thank you’s from some of the other guests who were also in the courtyard.

After that I picked up my laptop to write about this and now Thora is nudging my arm.

“Aren’t you starting to feel drifty?” Sure enough when I pause, I do. There’s a gentle breeze blowing, a faint scent of pine in the air, cicadas buzzing and I feel like I’m melting into joy. I can hear those friendly voices off in the distance calling: “Hello! Hello!”

“Come on,” she urges. “I want you to be right with me.” I really do need to put this thing down and go.

“Ok. I’m coming.” I grab her hand. “Here goes! We’re out of here.”

Bio: Lorice McCloud has been totally blind since birth. She resides in Fort Worth Texas. Her interests include hiking or walking, swimming and reading and conversing about psychology and metaphysics. She is a singer/song writer as well as an author. Her youtube channel is:

Shut Up Mike, fiction
by Nicole Massey

I didn’t want to answer the phone. It was my freakin’ birthday, and nobody calls at 5am to wish you a happy birthday, so it was some sort of bad news. And after working a double the day before I wasn’t up for bad news. But a sense of duty made me reach for the phone and answer it. “Hello.”

“Hey, it’s Mike. Vera’s a bitch and called off, so I need you to come in today.”

I almost told him to shut up and turn my phone off, but I needed the money. My hormone prescription was up next Monday and they didn’t come cheap, and I was saving for surgery, so I couldn’t lose my job no matter how much of a jerk Mike was. I was glad I’d showered the night before. “Okay, give me thirty to get ready and get there.”

“Yeah, don’t waste time with makeup, just throw on some slacks and a shirt and get here. I don’t have time for you to get all dolled up like a girl today.”

“Shut up, Mike, I’ll be there in thirty. Goodbye.” I hung the phone up and turned it off.

I got up, washed my face and brushed my teeth, put on my face along with two pairs of pantyhose and a pair of the short shorts Mike requires for female employees, tied the shirt under my bra, and grabbed my purse on the way out the door.

Mike had the door locked, and a dozen customers stood waiting. I got several morning, Cindy’s, from regulars and let them inside.

I called out, “Hey, Mike, thanks for making coffee,” as I put my keys back in my purse and shoved the bag under the register.

Mike called back, “I don’t make coffee, that’s women’s work.”

The clunk of the time clock was drowned out by my call back of, “Shut up, Mike.” Then it was a morning of rushing around getting orders, making both coffee and tea on a half-functional coffee burner system, getting orders to customers, scrounging up a clean apron because Mike or Vera hadn’t washed anything, running the register, and doing it all with a pretty smile on my damned birthday. And then there were the inappropriate comments from Mike.

“Shake that gay butt of yours.” “When you bend over a table like that I almost think you’re a girl.” “Tits come in yet, little girl?” That kind of stuff, always followed with a response from me telling Mike to shut up.

The pace slowed down around 9:30 after the breakfast crowd cleared out, so i had a chance to find out what happened. Mike said, “You know, maybe I should hire more girly faggots if they’ll work as hard as you.”

“Shut up, Mike. So, what’s the deal with Vera?”

“Stupid bitch quit again.”

“Damn it Mike, what did you do this time?”

“Why is it always that I did something? Can I help it if she doesn’t like that she has a hot body? She’ll cool down and come crawling back soon enough. She can’t stay away from me.”

“Shut up, Mike. When’s Lupe coming in?”

“Oh, forgot to mention it. Her kid’s sick, so she’s not coming in today. You’re working a double.”

That was too much. I grabbed some napkins and my purse, locked myself in the ladies’ room, and had a good cry. My birthday was blown to hell. I was going to have to call Sarah and Blair and Mackenzie and tell them we’d have to postpone, and I’d get home with my feet killing me, bone tired after two double shift days in a row and my skin and hair smelling like coffee and grease. It was tempting to tell Mike to stuff it like Vera had and struggle until I found something else, but small towns don’t have many job opportunities for girls like me. I stopped crying, dried my eyes, blew my nose, and fixed my makeup.

When I came back out Mike said, “Table, Muffin.” I didn’t say anything, I got the order, put it up without telling him what it was, and went back to making coffee. I was polite to the couple, but I ignored Mike’s rude comments until they left.

After the door closed, I turned to the order window. “Mike! Vera quit and Lupe isn’t going to come in today. Unless you want to run this place by yourself, you better lay off me for the rest of the day.”

“Or what, Princess?”

“Or maybe I’ll come back there and make myself a couple of pork chops out of your piggish hide. Today is not the day to push me too far.”

“What, finally getting your period, Princess?”

I turned to head to the door to the back, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a huge tour bus pull up. The door opened and a row of African Americans started out, all of them dressed like they came from church.

Mike said, “Looks like it’s going to get a lot darker in here.”

“Shut up, Mike.”

They started coming in, filling the place to capacity. I grabbed every menu we had, passed them out as they filed in, and told them to sit wherever they liked. The first table I got to had four women at it ranging in age from around sixteen to a white-haired woman who looked to be in her 80s. The middle aged woman of the group glanced at my name tag and said, “Good morning, Cindy. Hope you’re having a blessed day.” She picked up on something. “What’s wrong, child? You’re too young to look that sad. How old are you?”

“Twenty-four. As of today.”

She looked at the other women at her table, who all nodded back. In amazing four-part harmony they sang my name. Save for the sound of Mike in the kitchen getting ready for a lot of orders all other sounds stopped in the diner. Then everyone followed her lead as she started in on the Happy Birthday Song. By the second syllable of happy they were all singing, and it was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard. They were some kind of gospel choir, and I wanted to cry again at the majesty and joy of it all. They finished to silence. Even Mike wasn’t making a sound.

“Thank you. Thank you all so much.”

“You’re welcome, child. Now, we’d all like iced tea, sweet if you have it.”

I headed off to get their tea. I felt a lot better, and though mike was a jerk unlike any that came before him, I thought I was going to be able to deal with the day after all. I ran around getting drinks and orders from the tables and counter, both of us too busy for any bigoted banter and less than snappy rebuttal. We managed to get them served, rung up, and out the door before lunchtime at the factory swamped us at noon. I finished wiping down the tables and turned to see Mike looking at me. I said, “Shut up, Mike.”

He held his hands up. “Hey, Cindy, I didn’t say nothin.”

I smiled. “Good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make some phone calls to cancel my plans for tonight that you ruined.” Mike met my eyes. I said, “What now?” He mumbled something I couldn’t hear. “Speak up, Mike, and if it’s something rude or unforgivable I swear I’ll walk out.”

“Hey, I’m trying to be nice here. I said that before you cancel your plans, I’ll call Vera and apologize so she can work tonight and give you your birthday night off.”

“Thank you. Better hurry, lunch is about to start.”

Mike couldn’t help himself. “I guess it’s the hormones that make all you broads ball-busting bitches.”

“Shut up, Mike.”

Part V. The Writers’ Climb

Roads We’ve Traveled, Roads Ahead, nonfiction
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

When analyzing career paths, most people can mark their progress by salary increases, duty changes, and/or reviews by a supervisor. Writing, for many, is an avocation which gives us some level of professional respect, but rarely keeps New York strip dinners out available on a daily basis. As Abbie Johnson Taylor—our Behind Our Eyes president—said in a recent conference, writing—for many of us in the field today—needs to be undertaken for the joy of sharing and self-satisfaction, not for the expectation of financial reward.

Abbie and I—along with a few others in our organization—were interviewed as much as twelve years ago by a budding author interviewer and book maven, Bonnie Blose, who is also a member of Behind Our Eyes. Bonnie hosted “Books and Beyond,” a seven-year series of broadcasts and phone conferences through ACB Radio and Accessible World. In preparation for her recent interview with Abbie regarding Abbie’s new book, The Red Dress, Bonnie revisited their shared hour together when Abbie’s first book, We Shall Overcome, was published. Bonnie plans to do the same revisit tying together my first venture as an editor in 2007 with my current plans for my second published book.

Shining a light on twelve years of progress sounds—and sometimes feels—like a moment of praise and comfort. There are other probes worth making. Technology changes, and we must adapt to stay in the loop, on top of the possibility dreams.

Bonnie’s “Never leave a stone unturned” mindset brings forth thought-provoking questions. “Are there genres or places you will go with your writing now that you would not have explored when you first found yourself in the world of published material? Maybe you were put off by a topic or scenario twelve years ago that you will approach today.”

My answer is a resounding “Yes!” I’m not afraid to dig into news headlines for plots. I’m willing to make them personal if experiences apply, or to place fictitious neighbors in an awkward situation I.E. human trafficking, domestic violence, corporate greed, etc. Twelve years ago my primary focus was being published and recognized for knowing good work when I read it. I was comfortable with writing that didn’t put me in a position to defend anything. I didn’t mind being critiqued for writing faux paws, but I shied away from controversial subject matter in my writing.

I’ve grown a lot since then. Writers don’t have to be mind-changers. We need not use a situation or character to champion our own agenda, but it helps to be open-minded and flexible. This is especially true when critiquing or editing the work of others. For me, the measure of growth comes through seeing where I am now compared to where I was in the past. If looking back is worth doing, it shouldn’t be centered on number of books published and articles accepted. Sharing, learning, and earning self-confidence as well as a readership following lets you know if you’ve met your own expectations.

Trying something new requires a little courage. Not staying on the lower tier, looking for the opportunity to reach, keeps your growth on track. It is valuable to hear the awareness in comments from your writing peers that you have turned a corner, shoveled new ground on your writing path. It’s also a gift to your fans. Yes, you have fans. Maybe they started as family, coworkers, or friends. Maybe they are critique partners or people who visited your website or blog because they bought your book or read your article. We don’t keep reading our favorite authors when their work becomes predictable and too comfortable to be stimulating. We need to offer our fans some surprises; keep them alert for our bylines, blogs, and announcements.

The “take-home, go get’um” plea here often comes through that little voice you hear when you’re unable to get to sleep; stuck on a scene where one of your characters just won’t behave; or asking yourself, “What would Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Linwood Barclay, or Lee Child do here?” “I could be doing what?” is the unspoken thought that takes us to new places and ponderings. It’s okay to take a break from that troubling block, which is usually comfortable. Does the new direction ring true? Does this sound like you, bring you the fervor of a new discovery? Even if it doesn’t, that voice is telling you there’s a new direction with your name on it. Let the new possibility that tempts you find its pace. You may have just found a new road that was hidden while you traveled familiar choices. Now you can’t wait to see where it will take you, can you?

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:

A Shift of Weather, nonfiction
by Nancy Scott

In my current building, there is a new maintenance man who whistles recognizable tunes. I think that’s what made me revisit this piece. Sometimes it is good to relearn the magic of seasons. After all, times change but magic doesn’t.

Today, without preamble, it is fall. Suddenly, I want to be awake at six to listen to crickets who sing farther and farther into the day. They know their time is growing short. Anything can happen today. I must pay attention. Magic is helped by paying attention.

I’m sure that this shift to fall is my favorite. I’ll be sure ‘til the shift to winter and the first real snow, where the cat tracks footprints and I am compelled to clean out clutter from drawers. Then I’ll know winter shift is best. And so it will go through spring and summer, each with their flowers and iced drinks and slow novels to read.

I want hot coffee instead of the Diet Pepsi summer rush. I listen to Oldies rather than the usual classical music morning. Magic is helped by breaks in routine.

I hear the Four Seasons and the great falsetto of “See you in September.” I think of my young self going back to school and wonder what new thing I could learn. Magic is helped by learning.

The coffee is so good, I have a second cup. I add cinnamon, suddenly remembering that this is my favorite way to drink coffee. I could dust off the tenor recorder I can’t quite play. I could take lessons. I could investigate medication or take up tap dancing. (I’ve always wanted to tap dance.) Magic is helped by dreaming.

I am lucky enough to work at home, but days like this are tough on freelance writers. They call us away from our work, saying, “Come outside. How many wonderful days will there be?” I sit at the computer knowing this is a morning for new projects and great intuition. But those crickets and the thought of playing music out open windows… and one molasses cookie which will surely make me more creative. I should sign up for a writing class that forces me to have deadlines. Don’t I have a course catalog? Is magic helped by distraction?

After four article beginnings that don’t work, I give up. I sit at the piano playing cool Jazz cords to finally settle for songs of my youth with a good beat. Magic is helped by music and moving fingers.

After disturbing the air, I call a friend and suggest a walk. I try television headline news and some channel surfing. I am caught by QVC’s newest and smallest paper shredder. I could use that. Magic may or may not be helped by technology.

It’s finally 10:30 p.m. I catch the bus downtown. The corner where I wait has the best wind chimes. Five notes play in brass, random order. The breeze that makes me wear slacks and long sleeves floats clear variety with a familiar melody blown in every so often. I show up five minutes early just to listen. Magic is helped by bells and by being early.

The bus windows are open. Everyone is more cheerful and more awake. We talk about loving sunshine. Someone asks how winter will be. Magic is helped by going out in the sunshine.

The rhythm of the walk relaxes me and I never break a sweat. Walking opens my mind to things I can’t say but will write later. There is a small of caramel corn and the produce market that finally has local turnips. You offer to cook turnips for both of us, since I never learned to cook them. Magic is helped by rhythm and growing things.

I mail letters to friends, bills and one group of poems for a hopeful byline. We talk about how lucky we are to be here in this day. The sweet shop has pepper pot soup-a perfect choice for lunch. Magic is helped by food.

We walk up the hill to your apartment after lunch. The hill makes me breathless. I think about exercise class. I like watching you cook. You narrate to me a catalog that sells small greenhouse kits. I think about Christmas. Magic is helped by hills and by giving.

I sit in your old rocker listening to water boil. Then I hear “Mona Lisa” whistled clearly from six stories below. I am sure it is a man whistling. The melody is on pitch with plenty of pitch and phrasing. I am sure it is not just something he hears on the radio. He has a woman in mind. He wants love in his life. Maybe he just saw her or hasn’t even met her yet. Maybe he has loved her for years. I do not mention the whistling man out loud. Magic is helped by romance and mystery.

The unknown whistler says with me through my ride home. I carry him and still-warm turnips down the hill and uptown to the rest of my open window day. I hum his song quietly since I can’t whistle. I answer phone calls, sort mail, and ignore the normal depression of a rejected manuscript. I call a friend with a flute to ask about recorder lessons. I even call for information on a writing class. Magic is helped by planning ahead. I take the happy man whistling love to the backyard swing. Sunset geese call almost equinox. I will write about magic.

Bio: Nancy Scott’s over 800 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. Recent work appears in Disabilities Studies Quarterly, Kaleidoscope, One Sentence Poems, Philadelphia Stories, and Wordgathering.

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, book excerpt
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

Note: My book is a collection of 27 non-fiction stories and 15 poems.
The book has 12 Parts. Each part is a month of the year – from January through December.
It is like a journey through the year. Each part opens with a poem for that month, followed by several essays, reflections, and memoirs.

List of 3 excerpts from this book:

February Essay: “Lynda’s Story: Vision and Revision”
October Essay: “The Dreaming Prayer”
March Poem: “March Arrived Like a Capricious Cat”


Lynda’s Story: Vision and Revision

To view work as a pilgrimage is to put our heart’s desires to hazard because merely by setting out, we have told ourselves that there is something bigger and better, or even smaller and better-above all something more life giving—that awaits us in our work, and we are going to seek it. We look around to see what we have for the journey and find at bottom that we possess only intuitions and imagination….
-From Crossing the Unknown Sea, by David Whyte

We know from the beginnings of our life, before we have words, that we are creators. I cannot remember a moment in my life when I was unaware of my creative instincts, abilities, and intuition. I’ve always had an active inner life that guides me.

When working in my studio, I concentrate on creating a body of work. This method of production keeps me focused because I am always creating a collection that will have a unified appearance when viewed in a gallery exhibition. But arriving at the place where an artist can create a unified body of work may take many years. It is a benchmark that can be seen; it separates a hobbyist from a professional.

Insight into my own work developed over a long period of time as I pursued two degrees in painting and one in English literature. Those years of higher education gave me a professional mindset; it required that I ask the difficult questions during the process. With the passage of time, I discovered who I am and what my intentions are in my work.

Some questions always come up in any conversation with people who are not artists. “How does the creative work begin? Where do your ideas come from? How do you know when it is finished? Where can I learn to make art?”

I recognize some clear steps in the development of my artwork and my writing. There is no separation between the two, in my experience. I believe the same about artificial separations between sacred and secular. There are none!

First, I often spend time in contemplation, where I focus my thoughts on a particular word, phrase, theme, or image. Something keeps recurring to me, often subconsciously. Awake or asleep, I experience this something moving around inside my mind. My thoughts keep going back to that little bit of insight I am feeling. I see it in visions when awake, in dreams when asleep. At first, it can be elusive as I begin to dwell on it. This first step may take months or even years. Initially, though, I am just aware of something that I cannot put into words.

Everything, for me, comes from fragments. An artwork, a story, a poem-all made by grasping onto a fragment. Eventually, these pieces and musings lead to the beginning of a new work. Before I ever begin the actual work of creating the art or the story, I feel like I have encountered a labyrinth. At the entrance of this maze, I am a willing participant, although I never know where I will be taken. I step into the labyrinth. The pilgrimage begins now!

The second step is the preparation of the physical space. At this point, I have a keen sense that I am about to depart on a private, solitary journey. Now I begin to organize and clean the studio interior. If I am writing, my office has to be put in order first. I cannot tolerate any kind of disorder when I begin the work. When the entire studio is arranged, I begin the new body of work. When there is a sense that I have controlled the chaos and I am now ready to begin something new, I can proceed.

Third, I assemble the materials for the new projects. At this time, I make decisions about the type of materials I’ll use. Beads, fabrics, found objects, and natural gemstones are gathered. I do the same when writing. I gather words, images, ideas, themes that I might want to use while writing. I often feel like a florist selecting the flowers and plants for her next bouquet. This is one of the most exciting parts of my process!

Fourth, I am now ready to depart on the journey. The work feels like a dance, and I seldom know in advance just where this tango will eventually lead. What I do know is that I’m embarking on another new path. I am energized and ready to go. Despite these conscious steps of preparation, the process I use is intuitive; there are no rules. I am completely free and anxious to begin. I think, Is there any other profession in life where there are no rules? No wrong way to do anything? No mistakes and no accidents? Where else in our lives can we be free and have no expectations placed on us by anyone?

A handwritten sign on my office wall reminds me:
“Trust Inner Feelings.


The Dreaming Prayer

Are you at a place in your life where you are thinking, Now what?

Do you often feel like you have reached a dead end?

Maybe it seems like nothing really works out for you.

Or you just have no idea that life can be different than what your life is at this moment.

Feeling hopeless or unloved?

It does not feel good, does it? It is not where you wanted to be right now. I understand that so well.

Please be patient, my friend.

Learning to walk with our Creator is a lifelong journey. I am still learning every day, even after giving my life to Jesus Christ over forty years ago. Sometimes I think I am a very slow learner.

There are some questions to ask yourself that will help you get a better idea of what you really think. They are known as “worldview” questions.

Where are you going?

Where have you come from?

What will you get?

The best news is that you can make changes now to make your life different than what it is today. I have done this. I promise you that your circumstances and possibilities in life will change forever and for the best.

You can ask God to guide you and give you the insight you need, day by day.

What do you long for—what do you want more than anything else in your life?

Put your desire into words! The desires you have are uniquely your own. They will fit your personality and your talents. You do have a calling from God for your life, and you can find it once you begin to think about it seriously.

Are you facing a mountain that seems like it is too high to scale?

Are you in a treacherous place where you would not choose to be standing?

Have you experienced loss or failure?

Maybe it is time to make some adjustments in your life.

Do you need some divine help and guidance from God?

Let me recommend something that changed my own life many years ago. I’d like to share with you what I found one day, and it changed the entire course of my life.

The Dreaming Prayer.

This unusual prayer was first introduced by Catherine Marshall in her 1961 book Beyond Ourselves. Specifically, look in the book and read Chapter 11, “Dreams Come True.”

Catherine’s mother taught her about the Dreaming Prayer. You see, we are really on a pilgrimage all through our lives. But we don’t know that. Someone has to help us understand it, sometimes. Catherine helped me to learn The Dreaming Prayer one day in the 1970s as I read her book.

We have a divine purpose in our lives. We have an inner voice that speaks to us, but we have to be quiet enough to begin to listen for it. That still, small voice is the voice of your Creator. He is speaking through the Holy Spirit, directly to you. But you have to be quiet and begin to listen to hear it.

The Dreaming Prayer is a prayer of helplessness. We are asking God to help us and to set our feet on the best path of His plan for us. But, best of all, the prayer will open the windows of Heaven for us, and it is nothing but the best possible life we can imagine.

Ask God to guide you in your prayer.

You and I need help! We need to regroup.

The Dreaming Prayer will do that for you!

You will soon discover that this prayer is really all about you! What is it that is deep inside your spirit that is longing to have a presence in your life? Speak it out loud to God right now as it comes to your mind.

You may ask, “What if this prayer is not right for me?”

Test the prayer!

Does it fit with the scriptures in the Bible? God would never ask us to do anything that is not affirmed by His word! Seek His guidance through His word. Spend time reading the scriptures and listen for God’s voice to guide you as you are meditating on His word. He will do that for you. He will speak directly to your heart, and you will know His presence in your life at those moments.

Does it benefit or edify other Christians? God will never ask you to do anything that would harm the body of Christ (other believers). Does it lift up others as well as you? Your life purpose will be a benefit to yourself as well as to those who are around you.

Expect to have some closed doors. This is often God’s way of directing you to His higher purpose for your life. Please remember this: Do not kick down doors! That door has been closed as a providential circumstance in your life. Use your common sense and not your emotions. Stay calm when you come upon a closed door. Do not panic! It will be for the good that you would not have been able to encounter if you had walked through an open door that was not right for you.

Be sure what you are asking for is not for God to take anything from another person to give to you! Never covet what another person has and never ask God to take away something from another person to fulfil your prayer. What God has for you will be just for you-a new thing that He has planned for your life that is yours alone.

Go ahead, find out for yourself. Go beyond yourself. You will be so glad you took the plunge and prayed The Dreaming Prayer.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Our truest life is when we are in our dreams, awake.”


March Arrived Like a Capricious Cat 2015

Glass wind chimes
shrouded in new snow

March arrived like a capricious cat
hunkered down, bent over
spring-loaded, squat
Early this morning
I stepped cautiously through deep snow
March is the time to follow new dreams
that arrived in the flurry
of late winter snowstorms and blizzards
yet surging
inside, beneath layers of trees
my awakened
awareness heard songs
crows called
across the grey sky
Sharp, staccato
red-breasted robins sang duets
somewhere beyond, out of sight
March arrived like a lion today
swept away my doubts.

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems was published by DLD Books in 2017. It is available from the following:

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.

You can visit Lynda’s 2 Blogs at:


We will be holding contests in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for the Spring/Summer 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.

Please note: Funds for contest prizes are provided by Behind Our Eyes. Checks for prize winning entries not cashed within 6 months of the issue date are void and considered a donation back to Behind Our Eyes. No additional payments will be made to replace the uncashed check. If you intend your prize winnings to be a donation, please let us know upon winning so we can send you a donation receipt letter.

Remember, the deadline for submissions is February 15, so be sure to get your entries in on time.

The Non-Apologizing Apology, nonfiction
by Mary-Jo Lord

Sometimes, creative inspiration arrives from unlikely sources and at unlikely times. On a Saturday in July, I was cleaning the house while listening to a podcast of This American Life. It was a replay from 2008. The title of the episode is “Mistakes Were Made” and the subject is the non-apologizing apology. The second act features the famous poem by William Carlos Williams, “This Is Just To Say.” You may be scratching your head, wondering, what poem? If I had said the William Carlos Williams poem about plums, you might remember the poem, written in the form of a note to his wife about plums left in the icebox. Williams states that he ate the plums and asks for forgiveness. He goes on to describe his enjoyment of the plums. This poem is an example of a non-apologizing apology. It is also, according to This American Life Producer Sean Cole, probably the most spoofed poem around. This American Life staff members shared some published spoofs of “This Is Just To Say.” They also shared some of their own amazing poems.

There are several websites that feature spoofs on Williams’s famous poem or alternate versions of a non-apologizing apology poem. See the end of this article for links to “This Is Just To Say,” by William Carlos Williams, the above-mentioned segment of This American Life, and some websites where you can read some non-apologizing apology poems.

Here are two of my spoofs of Williams’s famous poem.


This Is Just To Say

I placed my items ahead of yours
on the counter at Meijer.
Forgive me.
The cashier was free and you
left your place in line,
and were probably planning to return.
The words that rolled off my tongue
in response to your excuses and insults felt hot,
and came out cold.


This Is Just To Say

I kept the $20
that I found at the bottom of the washer.
Forgive me.
You probably planned to use it
for a car wash, coffee, or lunch.
I spent it on
peanut butter filled chocolate,
creamy and rich.

What would you like to say in the form of a non-apologizing apology poem? Or, if you aren’t a poet and have a nonfiction piece or a story on this theme, we’d like you to submit it for the Spring/summer edition of Magnets and Ladders.

William Carlos Williams “This is Just to Say”

This American Life “mistakes Were Made” Act Two

Spoofing the poem “This is Just to Say”

“This is Just to Say” Somewhere In The Suburbs

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.

Perfume, Diamante poetry
by Susan Muhlenbeck

Feminine, flirtatious,
Spraying, sniffing, sighing.
A one of a kind olfactory intoxicant.
Imagining, Dreaming, fantasizing.
Passionate, powerful,

Dreams, a Revised Edition, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

After our time together in the early’ 70s
and then annual letters
tucked inside artistically unique Christmas cards,
our lives intertwine again
as our books cross in the mail–
mine sent from frozen land beside a Midwestern lake
during the Christmas rush,
yours sent from a southern state beside the Atlantic
during a re-awakening spring.

My book, six-by-nine, soft cover;
yours, an ample and impressive
twelve-by-twelve tome, hard cover with glossy jacket,
beautifully thick pages.

Mine is memoir and holiday poems;
yours is the biography and art history of a painter
from Orvieto, Italy–
someone you had come to know and admire.

For the release of my book,
I made the announcement
on my low-traffic blog;
your book release was a gala affair
at a performing arts center on your university campus.

I am never surprised by your success:
I smile at it,
am immensely proud of you.
While I can be so competitive,
I never had a desire to compete with you.
Although we both grew up in rural areas of Indiana,
I always knew that you,
my dear friend,
were playing on a higher artistic plane.

Your world was of the visual arts;
my visual world was…
melting, melting.

So, you settled in the South;
I traveled to the North.
Then, after all of these years,
because of these two diverse books,
our lives intersect again.

Now, we both are on that retirement stage–
where dreams are reconsidered and revised.
You say you will not write another book;
you will spend part of your time–
not returning to Umbria–
but on your once-upon-a-time Hoosier farm.

“Did I tell you
my dream is
that David Hartley-Margolin
will narrate the audio version of my next book?”

Creative Cabin in the Concrete Wood, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Company-imposed hiatus
from my writing world–
from my creative cabin in the Concrete Wood.

Dreamless days drift by
as the staycation continues
in the creativeless morass.

First commandment of writers:
Thou shall not blame company
for lack of creativity
nor for absence of creative activity.

Company leaves!
Complaints–be gone!
Compliances and compromises–no more.
Come, Muses, come to my
Come, come–welcome
components of creativity.

Roll up that red carpet!
Roll up that rolltop desk.

Roll out the creativity dough;
form into a pliable ball.
Then, knead, knead, knead.
Brush the dough with olive oil,
and let rise, gloriously rise.

Rise by the hearth
of my creative cabin in the Concrete Wood.
Rise, and fill the cabin
with that magical and unforgettable fragrance
of creative growth.

A-a-ah, I am back home;
I peacefully sip
the slender, fluted glass of solitude.
My plume dips
into the inkwell of “all-is-well” once more.
In the wicker rocker beside the hearth,
I take the risen dough from the bowl
and resume my gifted work
as I now nestle
into my creative cabin in the Concrete Wood,
with gratefully only a Black Labrador at my artistic side.

Part VI. Looking Back

Big Sister and Little Brother, poetry Honorable Mention
by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

Author’s note: My vision took a sudden decrease when I was six. My four-year-old brother fell from the top of a pile of truck tires in a neighbor’s yard, hitting his head on a picket fence. He damaged his speech center. It took him a year to recover.

When we were small, your hair stood up in back,
And mine hung down in two long braids.
In winter we played indoors together,
We had but one pair of snow boots.
When my world began to dim and grow dark,
You took my hand to guide my steps.
When you stumbled over words I spoke up,
And used my voice to tell your thoughts.
We were two children walking hand in hand.
Through childhood, we acted as one.
You saw the way and I spoke the words.
Together we met the challenge.
We grew up and went on our separate ways.
But the bond has always been there.
You are my brother with a loving heart.
I am your sister who understands.
Know that though your troubles go unspoken,
I will always hear what you mean.

Bio: DeAnna Quietwater Noriega is half Apache and a quarter Chippewa, living in Columbia, Missouri with extended family nearby. She has been a writer and story teller since childhood. She has had work published in six anthologies. Her writing has also appeared in Magnets and Ladders, Generations, Dialogue Magazine, The Braille Forum, and Angels On Earth. She is currently at work on an auto-biography to mark her fifty years of sharing her life with guide dogs. She is teamed with her ninth guide dog a male German shepherd, named Enzo.

The Brooch, poetry
by Carol Farnsworth

It was grey porcelain ,about the size of a quarter.
With a white maiden’s head in relief.
Given by Walter as a promise of marriage.
He said the grey was the color of her eyes
and the maiden would be the way he always saw her,
young and beautiful.

She wore it to her wedding and each Sabbath afterward.
It was always pinned to her collar for each important moment.
She wore it when she placed him in the grave.
Then she took the old brooch and put it away in her memory box.
For there was no one to see the young maiden within the withered woman.
There it remained, hidden but not forgotten.
Until her Great Grandchildren visited.

”Grandma, can we get a photo with you?”
She protested saying, “I need my brooch”!
She started to look for it.
Finally she settled in a chair surrounded by her clan with the brooch on her collar.
Now she is captured in the photo surrounded by children,
She wears the brooch which glows with love again.

Bio: Carol Farnsworth was borne with glaucoma. She has worn many different hats in her life. Therapist, Teacher, dancer, artist and writer. She writes articles about the humor in living blind. She lives with her husband John of 27 years. They have tandem biked for over 20 years logging over thirty thousand miles. They are using their fourth bike, having worn out the first three.

Whisper, poetry
by Ria Mead

Despite its silence, I whisper to the dark
where I’m left living.

Hello Mom, have some news.
Won first prize in a poetry contest today; a poem dedicated to you.
Wrote a revised view of our relationship, forgiving.

No angry words, regrets, blame.
I have wasted time worrying grievances.
You deserve a better legacy.

Dad, sensed you next to me on the bench this morning
while I fed birds and squirrels.
Notice the toast I tossed had butter?
You conceived that the creatures savored the fat,
joked that toast served only as butter’s transport.
How often my thoughts retreat to early mornings with you;
drinking blistering coffee and sending remains of buttered toast
out to our waiting friends.

Talk to family, friends,
the five precious guide dogs I’ve lost.
Sift wisdoms from their mist.

Rusty, what do you think of Tess?
Am told there’s a resemblance: smaller, though same rust-gold coloring,
your toughness and courage. She’s worked almost as long,
Rus, none of my six matched your service.

No answers offered in words. The energy I feel humming is enough.
Know something exists; believe my feeling of its presence.

Darkness expands my perimeters.

Experience invisible connections through its opacity.
Memories, thoughts, questions, events in a day-in our lives-
all worth their weight.

Whispers are tangible and welcomed in this darkness
where I’m left living.

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.

Endings, poetry
by Ria Mead

Dear Tess,

An end to our passage nears.

We both sense the rhythm of our dance has changed.
To record this truth in ink brings it closer, brings the pain.
Kept my anxiety deep within,

wherever the unthinkable, the inevitable waits.
Cannot prepare myself for the “foreverness”.

You came to me-a light from within the darkness,
guided me to find a light within myself.

Combined we were an ancient power, our hearts one.
Now sadness walks with us.
Neither is angry nor resentful, do not face illness or death.

Our paths must diverge.
Each direction promises rebirth, challenges, adventures, a new family.

I choose this path for you, ask a final time your trust.
We kept faith in what we did together, Tess,

loss is not the ending to our story.
How we live going forward must include our loss.

I need to accept what this means.
You lean against me, quiet, head bowed,
as I sit, finally catching up to what you’ve known,
been trying to tell me with that special body language
my time in harness is done.
Until today, I couldn’t hear.

With a soft lean-in, head on lap, eyes tired, my heart cracks.
On your way then, Tessy.
What is important now, my four-legged old friend,

is that your life be healthy, free to jump, catch the ball,
sniff anything, run untethered with fellow four-legged friends.
You will always be your best-dog self- I am proof to that.

Love, Ria.

PS. This is for me, the human:
Eight years traveling with you gave me a richness of wisdom
necessary in making this choice.
I’m stronger because you tested me,
gave unconditional love.
The love is for keeps. And so we go on.

The Leviathan’s Gift, fiction
by Kate Chamberlin

I stood in the attic window of my great-grandmother’s weather-beaten saltbox home over-looking Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. The calm ferry ride through the Puget Sound from Anacortes, WA, USA bode well for my visit. During the short voyage, I marveled at how graceful the pod of Harbor Porpoise was, playfully gliding alongside with the confidence of creatures who knew they were blessed and cherished, secure in the lineage dating back Millenia. Even a curious little otter popped his head up to watch us pass.

From this third-story window, I could look out to the dull grey-green ocean with frothy lace ebbing and flowing, teasing the sand and pebble strewn beach. When I put my eye to the large free-standing telescope, that had kept vigil from this window for possibly, decades of decades, and turned the knurled knob, I spied a lone whale spouting farther out from shore. How magnificent the leviathan appeared. I recalled a variety of the tales handed down by generations of whalers in my family and could feel the emotion they must have felt as I watched in awe as the whale slid below the surface. Its huge fluke seemed to wave to me; hasta luego, Chica.

Bookshelves flanked the small alcove that housed the “widow’s window” and telescope. I perused a few of the many titles that helped my ancestors while away the long hours waiting for the whalers to return. There was a mixture of old and not so old tomes. I noted A New Voyage Around the World by William Dampier (1697); “A Romance of Perfume Lands or the Search for Capt. Jacob Cole”, F. S. Clifford(1881); and stacks of magazines about oceans, fishing, and whaling.

Perhaps, some of the family tales were blends of facts and fiction. I would have a lot of time to parse the stories as I rehabilitate this old family home.

For more than three weeks, from the dusty attic to the dank stone foundation, I sorted through old cobweb ensnarled wooden boxes, spidery new cardboard boxes, cleaned a plethora of fly specked relics and artifacts collected throughout the generations, and sunk deeper and deeper into despair. It would take more time and resources than I have to renovate this old house.

I wanted to establish a Whale Museum where the mission is to promote stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea ecosystem through education and research.

That night, the wind freshened. A fierce storm tossed a 4200 ton, 300-feet long ferry boat around like a child’s plastic toy boat. I felt like that ferry boat, tossed around, battered, and at the mercy of the elements.

To distract myself, I passed the night ensconced in one of the comfy, over-stuffed lounge chairs in front of the bookshelves. I immersed myself in Melville’s Moby Dick (1851). One passage recounted how Stubb, one of the mates of the Pequod, fools the captain of the French whaler Rosebud into abandoning the corpse of a sperm whale found floating in the sea. His plan was to recover the corpse himself in hopes that it contains ambergris. His hope proves well founded, and the Pequod’s crew recovers a valuable quantity of the liquid gold that was essential in making expensive perfumes.

I had to chuckle when I read how ironic it was that “fine ladies and gentlemen should regale themselves with an essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale.

The next afternoon I took a break and wandered down to the beach to cool my tired feet in the saltwater and wiggle my toes into the cool, grainy sand. The high winds had strewn flotsam and jetsam onto the normally pristine beach. Two dogs along the debris line caught my attention. They were very interested in something left by the receding tide. Among the odd flit-flop, plastic six-pack rings, algae, and foam, I saw several solid, waxy, blobs of dull grey. I wondered if these were the amber gist I’d read about in Moby Dick, that would have been produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. It had a marine, fecal odor, but, if this was what I thought it might be, it would acquire a sweet, earthy scent as it aged.

I gathered all the blobs up, knowing the price I’d get for them would more than finance my dream of a Whale Museum.

Later, looking through the telescope in the attic, I spied a leviathan breach, spout a taller than usual plume of water, and slip beneath the surface. I have no doubt its fluke waved to me; Buena Suerte, Chica!

I whispered my thanks and vowed that the first floor of my museum would have a souvenir shop, an educational movie loop about whales, and many hands-on bones and relics for visitors to touch. The second floor would have the intact, ancient skeleton of a whale suspended from the ceiling, ancient mariners’ journals, sailor’s genealogy trees, maps, and explanations galore.

Visitors would be invited to the third-floor library to do research, listen to audible loops of whale songs, and stand at the widow’s window to view the ocean through the telescope. If they were lucky, they’d catch a glimpse of my venerable benefactor, the leviathan.

Author’s note: Definition of Salish: 1 . a group of American Indian peoples of British Columbia and the northwestern U.S. 2 . the family of languages spoken by the Salish peoples.

I have taken the liberty of embellishing the Whale Museum that is already located at Friday Harbor.

Winter, 1864, poetry
by Wesley D. Sims

One for the record books, days and dark
nights on end of severe temperatures.
Winter turned deadly as a Yankee soldier.
Silas chopped ice from the creek for water.
Tried to cut enough wood in daytime
to last 24 hours. Supplies, patience drained

by years of war. A man living three years
in Alabama woods had to ratchet up resolve.
Wind made one wool blanket and two quilts
feel like paper. He moved up biweekly
trip home to survive. Began trudging
the ten mile trek. Halfway home

a thirsty deer pawed a frozen stream.
Silas forced numb fingers to trip the trigger,
trading life for life. Coaxed cold hands
to slit open the thick, furry hide,
dumped its entrails on the frosty ground.

He crawled inside the steaming carcass
to prod his own sluggish blood to flow
fast enough to finish the hilly, slippery
journey with fresh food, back to the warmth
of a heated cabin, of family and home.

For Thirteen Years, Acrostic poetry Honorable Mention
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Close to my ear,
A rhythm, a rumble;
Tail around my neck.

Perched on my shoulder,
Us, together for hours,
Reading about strangers and dangers,
Remembering old songs, sharing ding dongs.
I catch the phone,
Nudge you to the other shoulder;
Grey goblin, you are such joy!

P.S. Her name was Squishy.

My First Love, memoir
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

His name was Brett Claytor. He was in third grade while I was in fourth. We were both students at the Arizona State School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson in the 1960’s. He played the piano, and I played the ukulele.

We decided to perform together in the school talent show. One of our favorite Three Dog Night songs was “Joy to the World.” After school while waiting for our parents to pick us up, we practiced in the second grade classroom which had a piano. I had a hard time playing this song on the ukulele. So, I finally gave up and stood next to the piano and sang while he played and sang with me.

On the night of the talent show, I wore a long red dress Mother bought for me while he wore slacks and a shirt. I was partially sighted while he had no vision. So, I let him feel my dress, and he said, “Wow!” Our performance was flawless, and we got rave reviews from parents and classmates.

Our relationship continued after that. He liked rockets, so I dreamed about us blasting off to a faraway planet to start a new life. We often went to each other’s houses where we listened to music.

Once I showed him one of my dolls and said it was our baby. He said, “That’s a doll.” I should have realized he wasn’t as serious about our relationship as I was.

A year later, he and his family moved to Oregon, and although we agreed to write, we lost touch until 1976 when I was a freshman in high school.

By this time, my family was living in Sheridan, Wyoming. One night at the dinner table, Dad said, “Honey, what ever happened to that boy you knew in Arizona?”

“You mean Brett?”

“Yeah, Brett, did you ever hear from him?”

“No,” I answered, and to my surprise, I found myself wishing I knew where he was.

“You wanted to marry him, didn’t you?” asked Mother.

“Yeah, and I still do,” I said, without thinking.

“Well, maybe we can find him,” said Dad. “I’ll bet he went to the school for the blind in Oregon. Let me make some calls.”

Apparently, Dad was concerned that I didn’t have a boyfriend when other girls my age did. He wasn’t the old-fashioned parent who wouldn’t let his daughter date until she was thirty.

A couple of weeks later, again while we were eating dinner, the phone rang. Dad answered and after a moment said, “Abbie, it’s for you.”

“Who is it?” I asked. I didn’t get many calls.

“You’ll just have to find out,” said Dad, handing me the phone.

“Hi Abbie, it’s Brett Claytor,” said a male adolescent voice when I said, “hello.”

Speechless, I turned to Dad, who was already sitting at the dining room table with Mother and my younger brother. They were all quiet.

I don’t remember much about our conversation except that we exchanged addresses and promised to send each other tapes of our music. Since our parting in Arizona years ago, I’d become proficient at accompanying myself on the piano, like him.

A few weeks later, his tape arrived. I listened, enthralled, as he talked about his life and played a lot of songs, some on piano, others on electronic keyboard. He even played a drum solo.

He didn’t sing, though, perhaps because his voice was changing, and he didn’t think it was any good. It didn’t matter. I still found his talent amazing.

I made him a tape with some songs I enjoyed singing, accompanying myself on the piano. At one point, I told him I still loved him and hoped he felt the same way about me.

Weeks went by, and I didn’t hear from him. Dad said, “Maybe he’s waiting until he can learn more songs to play for you.”

After another month or so, it was clear I’d scared him off. Maybe he had another girlfriend. I was embarrassed. If only I’d kept my feelings to myself, we could have still been friends.

10K, memoir nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Susan Muhlenbeck

I attended a convention in February of 1995 called Ski for Light. I read about it in the Matilda Ziegler magazine for the Blind and signed up for it without thinking it through carefully. It promised a week of cross country skiing in Colorado. Before attending the convention, I had never even seen a pair of skis and was not in the best shape due to little exercise. I was looking forward to taking a much needed break from my job as an appointment setter.

As I stepped off the plane in Colorado, I was full of nervous anticipation. I knew people that had been skiing before, and they all claimed it was a lot of fun. Of course these people went downhill skiing with a lift and didn’t know anything about cross country skiing.

When we got to the hotel, I met my roommate. She was a spry lady in her eighties who had never been skiing before either. We attended the reception the first night. I sat at a table that had a bowl of tangerines and a bowl of blueberry muffins on it and chatted with several other visually-impaired skiers. Most of them were experienced skiers and had attended the convention before. That night each skier was paired up with an experienced sighted guide. My guide’s name was Mary, and she was a special needs teacher from Minnesota. We also found out that, for five days in a row, we would be skiing from 9:00 till about 4:00 with an hour for lunch. We were advised to dress in layers, as we would probably want to start peeling clothes off as the day progressed. We were also advised to get some sunscreen to put on our faces.

The next morning I started drinking a cup of coffee with breakfast. I never touched the stuff before then. After breakfast, we were fitted with skis and boots. I was surprised to see how long the skis were. The skis, when held up, were taller than my 5 feet, 6 inch frame. They were also the waxless type, which was helpful to those of us who didn’t know the first thing about waxing skis.

My guide explained that volunteers went out every morning to put fresh tracks in the snow for us to ski in. She said there were a few simple commands such as “Tracks left”, which meant to move your whole left ski to the left to get in the snow track, “Tips right”, which meant to move just your right ski tip to the right to fit in the track, and “Sit!”, which meant to immediately sit down in the snow to avoid colliding with another skier.

It took a little while for me to get the hang of things, but after the first hour or so, it became easier. By the end of the first day, I had peeled off my coat, sweater, and scarf. I couldn’t believe how hot it was from skiing when it was only ten degrees outside.

When we finished skiing, I got into my swimsuit and soaked in the Jacuzzi that was near my hotel room. I had brought my swim suit hoping that the hotel would have a
Pool. The pool was closed, which was probably just as well. I don’t think I would have been able to swim a single lap after all that skiing. After dinner each day, there was a different activity planned. That first night we walked around and looked at different exhibits that venders had set up. I found some pretty jewelry, including a silver charm shaped like skis and poles to put on my charm bracelet.

My roommate said she was not going to ski all day, but she skied for about an hour and a half each day, bless her heart.

When I woke up the second day, I almost didn’t get out of bed. Every muscle in my body ached like never before. Besides my arms and legs, I had sore muscles in my neck, stomach, and back. I had soreness in muscles I didn’t even know I owned. I dragged myself out of bed, determined to do this thing.

After the second day of skiing, my guide said I was getting better and was moving faster. As fun as skiing was, my favorite part of the day was the half hour I spent in the Jacuzzi. That night we went on a sleigh ride to a little cabin near the hotel. An older couple who owned the cabin gave us hot chocolate while we warmed ourselves by the fire. I usually have trouble falling asleep at night, but I didn’t have any problem sleeping that week.

When I woke up the third day, my muscles were still sore and stiff, but I no longer cared and had gotten accustomed to it. That night there was a country music concert, which took my mind off my muscle pain.

The fourth day of skiing was great. My muscle pain seemed to have magically disappeared overnight. That night we watched a play by the Norwegian playwright Henrich Ibsen. Some of the guides who put on the play were from Norway. They also brought a bunch of scrumptious Norwegian chocolate for sale.

After five rigorous days of skiing, I thought I had enough. Friday night we went pan sliding. We sat on plastic disks with handles on them and slid down the snow-covered hills. I thought that would have been a neat way to wind up the week, but there was one more challenge on Saturday.

There was a 10K race with a prize for the winner. There was also a 5K rally with a prize for the person who could guess the closest time they would finish the rally. I signed up for the 10K race. I knew I wouldn’t win the prize, but I was determined to finish the race.

I finished the race in just under two hours. I was beat! As I crossed the finish line, one of the guides put a Ski for Light medal around my neck. Then he picked me up, threw me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and deposited me in front of my hotel room door. The Jacuzzi never felt so good.

That night there was a banquet and a dance. The winner of the 10K race finished it in 53 minutes. I thought that was unbelievable, but she had been skiing for years. My roommate completed the 5K rally. I thought that was the most amazing part of the whole convention. If I make it into my eighties, I certainly will not be cross country skiing.

I have not been skiing since the convention. I think it’s fantastic that there are so many visually-impaired people interested in skiing, and that there are a lot of guides willing to participate. I’ll never forget pushing myself along on those skis and digging those poles into the ground, determined to finish the race. I’ll also never forget all my aches and pains the first couple days. Most of all, I’ll never forget my spry roommate, who thought it was never too late to try something new. I was glad that decades of nervous energy were unleashed at last, but despite the fact that skiing is invigorating, revitalizing, and exhilarating, after that’s all said and done, I think I’ll stick to swimming.

Part VII. Slices of Life

In the Closet, fiction Honorable Mention
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Sally answered his page fifteen times a day. What could that old buzzard want now?

“We’re cutting back,” Mr. Goldman said, “It’s too bad, but labor and materials keep going up, and we’re losing money. You’ll get two weeks severance, Emily will be splitting your office work with an intern from the university.” He riffled through a folder, didn’t give her a chance to talk. “I want you to leave unfinished work on Emily’s desk, collect your things, and…well…you’ve been a good employee.”

“I have to get my reference books from the library, and my coffeemaker and stuff from the storeroom. You know I left them after the board meeting last year and just never…”

“Yes, yes, that’s fine,” he interrupted.

“What about healthcare and retirement benefits?”

“Talk to accounting, I’ll have personnel send them a letter of recommendation which you can use, and of course, we wish you Godspeed in finding a comparable position.”

She was dismissed. The jingle of his phone assured her there would be no further communication. Apparently going the extra mile wasn’t worth much.

Now there were all those Christmas bills on credit cards to pay. She’d counted on her salary…Lessons might have to go. As a single mom with unpredictable child support contributions, she’d had to scrape the edges of the barrel even with her good salary to pay for tennis and violin lessons for Mark and Mary Jo.

She stopped in the hall to gulp some water from the fountain. “I guess I’d better go do my desk,” she mumbled to herself.

Coworkers acted all afternoon as if they knew the bomb had dropped. No one could look her in the eye; no one asked her what she was going to do now. They were probably all afraid they were next. She didn’t want to leave publicly, so she let the other girls clear out before she went back to the storeroom to retrieve her coffeemaker and the Christmas decorations she’d contributed to the office party.

The closet was a mess, the coffeemaker was bagged up in the lounge, but the decorations were hiding in the closet behind a stack of boxes. She froze in her tracks when she heard her boss, (X-boss), clear his throat from the lounge. Was he trying to make sure she wasn’t stealing?

No, he was here in secret, she realized as his words penetrated the silence.

“She’s gone Emmy,” he said into the phone. Emily was out of town, she couldn’t be in there with him. The closet door was ajar, but she was well hidden; she decided to stay that way. This could be interesting.

“She was getting too close, I had to. You’ll have more work until I can find someone… Yes, we have to be more careful in the future of course. When federal money’s involved we could be charged, but that’s not going to happen. We’ve worked too long and too hard to lose this opportunity. I had no idea she’d go digging through the receipts from last year’s seminar with accounting. I think we’re safe right now.”

Sally waited through incriminating details. There was something wrong with the books, and he thought she was catching on. When he closed the door to the lounge and she heard the elevator arrive, she peeked out of the closet and watched out the window until his Mercedes drove away.

Everyone else was gone. It was 5:30, and she’d have to call the kids. She was going to be late because she had some homework to do. Mary Jo could get supper together. Fortunately, she still had the master key to all the offices and file cabinets. He was in such a hurry to get rid of her, he never thought of asking her for it. She hoped the passwords for the accounting software and invoicing service hadn’t changed since she helped out in accounting when Jessica was on maternity leave.

The passwords hadn’t changed. The methodology for the book-cooking scheme amazed her when she put the right documents together. Fortunately the cranky old copier worked quite well. Maybe it knew right from wrong after all.


“Good morning Emily, good morning Mr. G,” Sally called as she glided through the administrative offices at 9:00 on Monday morning. “Thank you so much for my salary increase,” she smiled, “and thank you for dinner on Saturday, Mr. G. I’m going to enjoy my new assignment.”

She passed the old copier on the way to her office, and stopped to make a pact. “Remind me to watch my back,” she whispered, “don’t let me sign anything without hand-carrying a copy to accounting. Keep me honest, and not as greedy as they are; and when I have enough, and know who I can trust, help me blow the whistle loud and clear.” She patted the copier as she refilled the paper tray.

“Something wrong with the copier again?” Emily called from her office down the hall, noting Sally’s pause.

“No,” Sally answered, “just refilling the paper, I think it’s working fine today.”

She’d been given new duties after her little conversation with the boss over dinner, her invitation. Was it blackmail? What he was doing was worse than that. As she expected, he pretended total ignorance and swore to get to the bottom of her suspicions.

Sally made copies of the master keys before turning hers in. She’d told him the truth when she said she was just looking out for the best interest of the company. He couldn’t argue with that. She’d found that letter of recommendation he wrote so hurriedly on Friday afternoon, and that should help her find a similar position with a more reputable firm.

She could forget all the grant seeking and marketing websites now, she was in charge of client services. That would get her out of the office for a big portion of the day, and that suited her just fine. They thought, of course, it would take her eyes off the bookkeeping. The sooner she could walk, the better. She’d be watching, all right, and she’d make a great witness for the prosecution.

The Boss, poetry
by Divya Sharma

The corporate world is no longer about pure work and deadlines,
The working arenas are sketched with salty moods.
In majority of the cases,
Employees witness lack of cordiality on the part of bosses.
How can a boss have so much vanity?
He might own the business,
But is it right that he always shows his superiority by distressing his employees?
Though employees are dedicated,
And show professionalism and effectiveness in their work,
The boss has to boast about his title,
And hence always tries to pin them down even if they ask for a leave months in advance.
Satisfaction is a word,
That perhaps isn’t in the dictionary of the boss.
Aren’t most of the Bosses getting so ‘Bossy’?

Bio: Divya Sharma is a 26-year-old visually challenged woman. She has 75 percent vision impairment due to Glaucoma. Divya does all of her reading by listening to her Screen Readers. She is a Senior Content Writer in a Web Development and SEO Private Sector Company. She is a disability activist, blogger, contributor to magazines and newspapers, motivational speaker, and has a Blue Belt in Karate. Divya is also an RJ and Content Manager of an online Radio Station “Radio Udaan” run by visually challenged people and heard in more than 115 countries. She has love and passion for writing.
Email Id:

Silence, poetry
by Robert D. Sollars

Is all I hear.
Is all I see.
I fear no matter what
I do or say, it’ll be
Therefore, creating an
Insurmountable distance
And the inevitable sound of

Bio: Robert has been blind since 2003. He has a passion for helping other writers get published. He founded an online group for blind writers called Writing in the Dark. A new person in his life encouraged him to begin writing poetry again. He has been writing since 1978: fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Most of his writing has been focused on security & customer service. He lives in Tempe, AZ with his wife Eileen, best friend Angela, and a dutiful guardian kitty Major General Jasmine, Chief of CatFleet Security.

The Twins, poetry
by Molly Kate Toombs

The Twins-
Can be kitten playmates or
Who’d casually like a little blood
On their paws
Before breakfast has even started

I’d try to tell which they’ll be
But that requires me
To crawl
Inside their cave and take each
One by their hair backs
Tip the head so they do not
Then open an eyelid and search
For telltale spark of kitten’s
Or the dark and grog
That so often proceeds

If I could do this then Mother
And I
Would plan the day accordingly
With balls of yarn or
Wild game for these creatures
In whose blood
I’ve a share

Author’s note:
“The Twins” is part of my Family Series, which includes a different poem for every family member. The poem relates the experience of having two mischievous twin sisters that constantly bicker.

Bio: Molly Kate Toombs is a young writer currently attending college in Whittier, California. She is deeply passionate about both writing and music, attending Brevard Music Center as a piano performance major in both 2013 and 2014, and Sewanee Young Writer’s Conference in 2015. She has attended Allstate Chorus twice, sung in the Mercer University Women’s Chorus, and received recognition from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. In 2015, Molly was chosen as a winner of the Kennedy Center’s VSA Playwright Discovery Competition. As a Lyme Disease sufferer, Molly views her writing as an important outlet in her life.

Father, poetry
by Molly Kate Toombs

Your happiness is my
Fear’s first priority
And the smile on your
Face is a bullet
Dodged while a
Straight lined lip
I watch
As a teeter-totter that
Could tip
In my being favored
Or cast off
Before reeled in again
By the backs of my

Working in Public, fiction
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The thin man with graying hair and huge glasses in the seat next to me on the airplane was squinting over his laptop. The screen was bright and had large text. He didn’t seem to be aware that I could see what was on the screen. For half an hour, I watched, fascinated, as he read his email and worked on documents.

I learned his name was Roger Newton, that he was the President of the Chase Bank branch in Casper, Wyoming, where I lived. his wife, confined to a wheelchair, worked at a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities. The couple had no children or pets and were trying to sell their house so they could move to a condo. Then, I saw something that made my blood run cold.

An instant message appeared from someone named Dirk G. “Hey, Roger, I’m all set for tonight around eleven o’clock. You sure your wife will be in bed by then?”

“Oh, yeah,” Roger answered. “She’ll be in bed by ten. The key is underneath the mat outside the kitchen door. I disabled the alarm this morning before I left. She doesn’t know this. Try not to make too much noise. I don’t want the neighbors to hear anything, okay?”

“No problem. My pistol has a silencer. You sure your wife won’t hear me coming in the kitchen door?”

“Naw, once Carla’s out, she’s out. A train could come through the house, and she wouldn’t know it.”

“Okay, I’ll sneak in the back door, through the kitchen and living room, and right into the bedroom. I’ll have to use a flashlight so I can see what I’m doing, but if I can aim for her head, she won’t know what hit her, and she won’t feel any pain.”

“Good deal.”

“Okay, so, what about the money?”

“Carla’s jewelry case is on the bureau in front of the bed. She doesn’t keep it locked. Inside are some really expensive necklaces and bracelets I bought her over the years. You can take and sell those, and that’ll be your deposit. Once the life insurance claim settles, I should be able to write you a check for the rest.”

“Sounds great! Let me be sure I have the right address. That’s 1531 Apple Tree Lane, right?”


I was a realtor in Casper. That address sounded vaguely familiar. I stood and made my way to a nearby lavatory, where I sat on the toilet and opened my phone. Sure enough, 1531 Apple Tree Lane was a house I’d shown the previous week. The woman interested in buying it needed a place that was handicap accessible because her husband had just suffered a paralyzing stroke. The house was listed with a different realty company, and she hadn’t made an offer.

Right then and there, I wanted to call my husband, Rick, a police detective, but I didn’t want to make my seat mate suspicious if he even noticed my absence. So, I stood, flushed the toilet for good measure, washed my hands, and returned to my seat. I leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

The plane couldn’t have landed in Denver, Colorado soon enough. After retrieving my baggage and rental car, all the while making sure Roger Newton wasn’t anywhere near me, I locked the car doors, and, with trembling fingers, punched in Rick’s cell number. It was only seven thirty, so he wouldn’t be at the station yet. When he answered, my voice was shaking when I said, “Oh, honey, you’re not gonna believe this.”

“Lucy, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

After I explained the situation, Rick gave a low whistle. “Jesus! Are you sure he didn’t see you watching him?”

“I’m pretty sure. He was hunched over that monitor the whole time, squinting. It’s a wonder he doesn’t have a headache.”

“He probably does. I sure hope he isn’t driving. I think I told you that only last week, my buddy Tyler, who works at Magic City Computers, spoke to a group of Chase Bank employees about protecting themselves while working in coffee shops airplanes, etc.”

“I remember that.”

“Well, he said Roger Newton, the President, wasn’t there. Go figure. Well, when I get the cuffs on him, I’ll tell him if he’d come to Tyler’s presentation, he wouldn’t be in this mess.”

I laughed, in spite of myself. “Seriously, I don’t know if there’s anything he could have done. He looked like he was really having trouble seeing.”

“And he’s plotting to murder his wife so he can cash in on her life insurance policy. Don’t that beat all? Well, I’ll get on this right away. You stay safe. Call me when you get to the hotel, okay?”

“I will.”

I started the car and looked at my watch. The real estate convention I planned to attend wasn’t scheduled to start until nine. The Holiday Inn, where I would stay and where the convention would be held, was only about a fifteen-minute drive away. I figured I’d have plenty of time to get settled and grab a bite to eat before the first session started.

When I walked into the hotel lobby, I stopped short. Roger Newton stood at the registration counter, rubbing his temple as he spoke to the clerk. My heart pounded. His back was to me, so I didn’t think he saw me, but I wasn’t about to take any chances. I turned and marched out the way I’d come. With trembling hands, I unlocked my car, got in, and locked all doors. I drove away from the loading zone and found a secluded spot at the back end of the building, constantly checking my rear view mirror to be sure he wasn’t running after me.

After I parked, I called Rick again. When he answered, he said, “Babe, I was just about to call you. I just got off the phone with Chase Bank. Mr. Newton is in Denver at a bankers’ conference at the Holiday Inn where you’re staying.”

“I know. I just saw him in the lobby. I’m back in my car now, and I don’t think he saw me.”

“Good, look, I think you’d better skip this realtors’ convention and come home as soon as possible. This guy may not see very well but still…”

Normally, I rebelled against Rick’s protectiveness, but this time, he was right. What if Roger Newton did see me and was involved with some sort of mob? It wasn’t worth the information and insight I would gain at the convention. “Okay, I’ll see if I can get a flight out today.”

My heart sank when I discovered that there were no seats on any of the flights returning to Casper from Denver International Airport that day. I booked a seat on a flight that left early the next morning.

When I called Rick with this information, he said, “That’ll have to do. Now find another hotel, preferably with room service. You shouldn’t be going out once you get settled.”

“You’re right. I’ll see what I can do.”

The Marriott wasn’t too far, and they had a cancelation. It was more expensive than I would have liked, but it had room service, free wireless Internet, and other amenities I could use while hiding out.

Once I was settled, I called Rick to tell him where I was. “Great!” he said. “I’M heading out now to Mountain View, where Carla Newton works. Try to get some rest. I’ll be in touch.”

Despite my anxiety, I slept for a couple of hours, then spent the rest of the day working, watching television, and ordering delicious meals from room service. Every time someone knocked on the door, I looked through the peep hole and didn’t open the door until I was sure it wasn’t Roger Newton or a possible henchman.

Rick called every so often with updates. Carla Newton would spend the night at the rehab facility where she worked, since she needed specialized equipment to help with her personal care. Rick and another officer would steak out the property so they could arrest Dirk G. when he arrived. There wasn’t evidence of Roger Newton’s involvement in any criminal activity other than the plot to murder his wife.

I was still anxious when I turned in that night, but the bed was so comfortable, and I was tired. The door to my room was locked and chained, so there was no way anyone could come in without me knowing it.

When I woke the next morning, I found a text from Rick. “We nabbed him. Call me when you get to the airport. I’ll be up.”

I did just that while waiting for my flight in the terminal. “How did it go?” I asked.

“Great! This Dirk G. character was a real amateur. Right away, he told me who hired him and where he was. The Denver police have Roger Newton now.”

“That’s a relief.”

“Okay, I’ll meet you at the airport when you get into Casper.”

“You don’t have to do that. My car is there.”

“Then I’ll follow you home. Will see you then.” For once, I didn’t argue.

When my plane landed in Casper, I found Rick in the baggage claim area talking to a woman in a wheelchair. Could it be Carla Newton, I wondered. If so, what was she doing here?

Rick saw me, and we rushed into each other’s arms. After a quick embrace, he turned to the woman in the wheelchair and said, “Mrs. Newton wanted to come and thank you personally for being such a nosey seat mate to her husband.”

I smiled, bent, and extended my hand to her. “I’m glad I could help, but I’m so sorry about all this.”

She took my hand and smiled in return, then shrugged. “I should have known something was up. I recently discovered him having an affair with a woman with two good legs. When I confronted him, he told me she meant nothing to him and the relationship was over. He then insisted I buy this life insurance policy and was so happy when I agreed. I thought a move to a new place would give us a fresh start, but I guess I was wrong. It’s a good thing we hadn’t yet signed the lease on the place we found.”

“Did you have an offer on your house?” I asked.

“Nope,” she answered. “and I called the realtor yesterday and told him to take it off the market. I’ve got enough to deal with right now, and the last thing I need to worry about is moving. However, your husband tells me you’re a darn good realtor, so if I ever decide to sell, I’ll call you.”

“Thank you,” I said. I retrieved a business card from my purse and handed it to her. “If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know, and again, I’m so sorry.”

“Hey, I’m alive, thanks to you, so don’t be sorry. By the way, Roger called me this morning from the Denver police station. He said somebody set him up. I told him that if he’d only taken my advice and learned braille, he could have gotten one of those braille tablets, and nobody would have been the wiser.”

Fragile, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

As the little stream rushes
tumbling over rocks along its way,
and Stark trees stand in winter bareness,
I think of finances, lost money,
and interrupted paychecks.
I would contemplate nature’s peace,
but now I dwell, frustrated, on being fragile.

I check the latest job fair,
the jobs that require sight,
credentials I do not have,
logistics for getting to new places.
The humble arts of unemployment,
lead me to despair of my worth,
to contemplate how I’ve become fragile.

At noon I rest with all the laundry done,
the empty afternoon before me,
the time I fill with walks, with dogs,
with snacks, attempted rest, with reading.
I worry, wonder, worry, and worry more,
now that I am fragile.

I sit alone my family asleep
and ponder the purpose that I had,
the satisfaction of a job well done
when I had a reason to awaken.
My life was rock, a fortress strong
until it crumbled leaving me fragile.

How then shall I pray tonight?
Shall I pray for a wall? For border safety?
Some pray for national greatness,
a return to glory, respect for our leaders.
I pray for my life before this shutdown,
to not be fragile.

Part VIII. The Melting Pot

Precious Hero, poetry
by Valerie Moreno

You touched my life like gentle snow,
falling in soft, cool flakes like kisses.
Sweeter than bright summer morning,
my heart opened to your wit and smile.

A delicate, exquisite soul,
your music was pure, clean as time in moment.
Your laughter, wisdom and warm heart
made you kind, honest and empathic.

I took in your love and strength
like sparkling water after too long lost in the desert.

You gave light, humor and mastership
with music, words and actions
that helped and healed.

How to thank you and goodbye…
precious hero, I will see you in my heart and dreams.

In memory of Peter Tork, RIP 1942-2019

Author’s note:
Peter Halsten Thorkelson (Peter Tork) was a folk musician in Greenwich Village and Los Angeles before landing the part of lovable, bubblehead on The Monkees sitcom in 1965

His sweet smile, gentle character and mop of golden hair encouraged a fan following that exists still. His musical talent included Base, Keyboards, French Horn and five-string Banjo.

In the mid-80s, when The Monkees returned after 20 years, Peter shared openly about his ongoing recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and encouraged folks to seek help for themselves. His candid talks about what alcoholism is and the cycle of addiction helped me forgive my father after his bout with alcohol and his death.

In 1987, a true stroke of blessing, I met Peter after a concert. His genuine caring, humor and perception read through the stammering words and glistening eyes. He slowly pulled me in to a hug, his head on my shoulder as we both cried.

Peter spent the ’90s and 2000s recording and touring with his folk-blues band, Shoe Suede Blues. After a ten-year battle with cancer, Peter died peacefully in February, 2019.

Down By The Station, fiction
by Kate Chamberlin

“All Aboard!” I announced as the morning dawned, walking across the broad, originally rough-hewn planks, now grey and worn smooth by a myriad of travelers. When I reached the red caboose, I held the side grab-bar with my right hand and raised the lit lantern in my left hand, a signal to the engineer that all was copacetic to go.

The old-fashioned little steam engine, named the Miss Udall, wasn’t sleek as an eel like her modern diesel cousins, but, her dependability couldn’t be denied. For many decades, she hauled interesting people, fresh produce, hooved and clawed critters, and goods around the 7,350 square mile lake.

The black coal car was the first of five behind Miss Udall. The anthracite coal fueled the boiler to make the steam that ran her powerful engines. When the engineer saw my lantern raise, he pushed the throttle forward and Miss Udall’s joints whooshed streams of steam, as the steel wheels squealed and slipped until they grabbed a purchase on the steel rails to head East.

The car in front of my caboose accommodated the passengers who’d boarded at the station. As a repurposed caboose, it had many amenities for the few passengers traveling to and from the stations Miss Udall serviced.

Miles and miles of verdant green forests slipped by as Miss Udall chugged up hill and down. The logging camp located near the first cut forest was ready for us. While two loggers de-boarded, others ran the machinery to load logs onto the dark brown logging car with its verticals to hold the huge logs on the bed. Miss Udall would transport these to the lumbermill to supply pine, oak, and ash for the city folks’ fine tables, chairs, and etageres.

“All aboard!” I called and raised my lantern.

At a co-op dairy on the northside of the lake, we left empty milk cans and loaded on full cans. The big silver cans clunked against each other as they slid along the slick floor of the white, insulated milk car. Fresh workers de-boarded to start their shifts, as tired workers in rumpled white work coveralls boarded, ending their shifts.

“All aboard!” I announced again, lifting my lantern.

Miss Udall’s powerful engines puffed and chuffed. The engineer tooted her air horn for joy as she hauled her five cars passed small farms dotting the lush meadows with a plethora of placid cows and wooly sheep. She went up the gently rolling hills with scores of tiny wildflowers on each side of the tracks, through the tunnel that amplified her tooting horn, and over the trestle bridge.

She delivered the logs to the lumber mill; the milk to the milk distribution plant; and rolled to a stop at the train’s depot as the western sky blazed with hues of the setting sun one could only imagine. A day’s work well done for Miss Udall and this conductor.

As my grandchildren cheered, I stood tall and proud as a statue on a plinth in the center of my HO Train’s little community.

Yellow Eyes, poetry
by Sly Duck

I see the human,
with Her bag of food.
I come running.
I eat from her hand.

I look up,
I see the wolf’s yellow eyes.
They frighten me.

Another handful of food comes down.
I eat hungrily.
I see the yellow eyes,
They frighten me.

My hunger abated,
Though there is more food,
I do not stay,
The yellow eyes,
They frighten me.

I don’t see the wolf today.
She has made it go away.
I am glad.
The yellow eyes,
they frightened me.

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.

Embracing Truth, poetry
by Laura Minning

I embrace the light within,
and allow it to consume me.

Darkness retreats in fear,
and I use my inner strength
to keep it away.

My life is my gift,
and my love for it
gives me joy.

Thus, the purity of serenity
can’t be far behind.

“Embracing Truth” was previously published in sunburst, published by xlibris. may 2005

Bio: Laura Minning is an award winning published poet and author. She’s had one hundred and nine
poems, six articles, two books and a one-act play published in hard copy and online. Her work has been featured in publications like: Literature Today, Amulet Magazine and Slate & Style. Laura’s artistic accomplishments are equally impressive. She’s had eighty-five original pieces exhibited and eleven published. In February 2016, an exhibit at Barcode featured thirty-six pieces of Laura’s artwork. She donates proceeds from her sales to the National Federation of the Blind and the VCU Massey Cancer Center. Additional information about Her work can be found at:

The Rose, poetry
by Robert D. Sollars

The rose shoots skyward
Undaunted by the barren land
searching for true love
Until surrounded by weeds That feed on its beauty
They strangle it
Being selfish for their own ends
One caresses the rose only out of love
But is rejected for the strangling weeds
It falls away to wither and die
The rose realizes it’s gone
It sheds two petals knowing
That true love is lost
Its chance to find it
Gone forever

Fairies, poetry
by Carol Farnsworth

Silent flight brushes my hand.
Gossamer wings tickle my upturned palm.
Tiny feet search for sweet juice still on my fingers.
Then the fairy lifts in flight.
Butterflies like fairies, have no time to waste.

Break of Day, poetry
by Ria Mead

Awake, I rise to meet you. The rain is up too.

We meet her, coming down upon us;
wets new green shoots under feet-
four for Buckwheat, two for me.

Air is saturated with spring’s cool,
a refreshing slap to winter-bleak skin.
Awake, this April dawning, we rise and meet
under the brightening line of mist.
Though this light can’t meet my eyes, I see so much.

Feeling a simple baptism this quiet hour.
Another morning given,
another chance to breathe in the marigolds,
to walk over young grass.

I listen to my Labrador as she circles my still figure;
mindful what her quivering nose
may report of earths’ fresh scents.
We do not steal from each other’s moment.

We are separate creatures, considering
which of your powerful elements
we might compliment.
Plainly, we are in awe to rise and meet you again,

this break of day.

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