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Spring/Summer 2020 edition of Magnets and Ladders

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

Our mailing list is a low-traffic congenial place to share work in progress; learn about submission requests; and to ask and answer writing questions. If you would like to join our group and receive access to our phone conferences and mailing list, please complete our quick and easy membership form at

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

Table of Contents

Editors’ Welcome

Hello. As the coronavirus is spreading through the world, all of us on the Magnets and Ladders staff hope that you are staying healthy and safe.

If you are looking forward to listening to the Fall/Winter edition of Magnets and Ladders recorded by the Perkins Library, please be patient. The volunteer readers have been ordered to stay home due to the coronavirus. The Perkins staff plans to complete the recording as soon as the volunteers are able to return to the library.

The Spring/Summer edition of Magnets and Ladders has a variety of stories, poems, and articles to keep you entertained while you remain at home. As always, “Points to Ponder” may give you a different perspective on some issues. “Not What I Expected” is full of surprises. Looking for some inspiration to write? Check out “The Writers’” Climb.” See how some contributors have dealt with loss in “Aspects of Loss.” Visit the past or enjoy some daily life experiences in “Looking Back” and “Slices of Life.” “The Melting Pot” has gems that couldn’t be left out.

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

  • Fiction:

  • First Place: “Mask” by Susan Muhlenbeck

  • Second Place: “Big Night at Blue Burgers” by Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Honorable Mention: “29J” by Greg Pruitt
  • Honorable Mention: “Interview with Jim” by Winslow E. Parker

  • Nonfiction:

  • First Place: “A Man Named Fier” by Leonard Tuchyner

  • Second Place: “Above It All” by Jeff Flodin
  • Honorable Mention: “The Frog” by Kate Chamberlin
  • Honorable Mention: “Buffy Slays the Vampires” by Marcia J. Wick, The Write Sisters

  • Poetry:

  • First Place: “Loss” by Sally Rosenthal

  • Second Place: “Outlier’s Visit, 1863” by Wesley Sims
  • Honorable Mention: “A morning in Spring” by Brad Corallo
  • Honorable Mention: “Starfish” by Jessica Goody

Congratulations to all of the contest winners.

The Magnets and Ladders staff hopes that you have a safe and happy summer.

Part I. Points to Ponder

Mask, fiction First Place
by Susan Muhlenbeck

Karen arrived home that Thursday night in June with a feeling that something was amiss. Before she could put her key in the lock, the front door flew open, and her boyfriend Patrick stood there looking like he was on the verge of a panic attack.

“I’m leaving,” he said by way of greeting. He pointed at the two suitcases in the hall. “I’m not staying here another night.”

Karen stepped into the house and slammed the door behind her. “You’re kidding, right?” she asked in astonishment. “You’re really going to do it?”

“I’m really going to do it,” he affirmed, “and if you were smart, you would come with me.”

“No, Patrick,” she said firmly. “Where are you going anyway?” she asked as an afterthought.

“I’m going to stay with my parents until I figure out what to do next. Whatever I end up doing, I am not coming back to this town ever again. It’s a deathtrap!”

“Don’t be absurd,” Karen scoffed. “It’s not as bad as you think.”

“Are you crazy?” he shouted, grabbing her arm. “Haven’t you been watching the news? And can’t you see and feel the air? And what about those masks we have to start wearing tomorrow?”

“It’s not as bad as you think,” she repeated. “Those reports are exaggerated, and whatever is going on, it won’t last long. Things will be back to normal soon.”

“Quit being so stupid!” he shouted, giving her a shake in desperation. “Pack your stuff and come on. You know we can’t stay here.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she spat, pulling her arm free. “You’re just being a wimp.”

“I’m not going to argue with you,” he said, picking up his suitcases. “A lot of people left already. The air is unbreathable, and it’s just going to get worse.”

“Then wear the stupid mask,” she shouted, picking one up off the table and throwing it at him. “You don’t have to let a little smog run you out of your house.”

“You can stay if you want,” he said, moving towards the door. “You know where I’ll be if you change your mind. I hope for your sake that you’ll be right behind me.”

“Bye, Patrick,” she said, opening the door and giving him a little push. “Good riddance,” she added after shutting the door behind him.

She spent the evening watching mindless TV shows, all the while expecting him to return. He’ll be back tomorrow, she thought as she drifted off to sleep.

But he wasn’t. She woke up to an empty house the next day and resisted the urge to text him to see where he was. She turned on the local news while sipping a cup of coffee.

“Don’t forget to wear your antipollution mask if you go outside,” the news reporter was saying. “The pollution level has reached the hazardous level and is expected to increase. This is due to the drought earlier this year, then the wildfires in the neighboring towns. There does not seem to be any relief in the near future. Stay inside as much as you can. There may be mandatory evacuations as early as next week if things continue as they are. Severalpeople already decided to leave.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah, she thought impatiently as she turned off the TV and got ready for work. Nobody was going to run her out of the town she grew up in. She put the ugly mask on over her face and took a look in the mirror. Oh my God, she thought in disgust as she caught sight of her reflection. I don’t need that ugly thing. She pulled off the mask and threw it on the table next to the front door before stepping outside.

She drove to work at the phone company as she thought about what Patrick was doing. I’m sure he’ll come back some time today, she assured herself as she stepped out of the car. She felt the smog burning her eyes and her lungs, so she ran across the parking lot and into the building.

“Patrick left last night,” she told her coworkers over lunch in the cafeteria.

“I think he has the right idea,” her friend Jean said. Keith and I are thinking seriously about leaving ourselves. I can’t live like this much longer.”

“I’m sure he’ll be back today,” Karen said with conviction.

“Not if he’s smart, he won’t,” Sally said with a shake of her head. Karen shot her a murderous look.

There was still no word from Patrick by the end of the day. He’s probably home waiting for me, Karen thought as she got ready to leave. That’s all right. I won’t say, “I told you so.”

“Where is your mask?” her friend Patty asked as everybody else put theirs on.

“I left it at home,” Karen said dismissively. “I won’t need it to walk just a few steps.”

“You’re in luck,” Patty said, ignoring Karen’s last remark. She reached in her desk and pulled out a mask. “I just happen to have an extra one you can borrow.”

“Thank you, but I won’t need it,” Karen said, turning towards the door. “I’ll see you all Monday. Have a good weekend.”

“Take it,” Patty insisted, trying to press the mask into Karen’s hand. “I don’t think you understand the seriousness of the situation.”

“I understand that you all are overreacting,” Karen said with a little laugh. “I’ll put mine on if I plan to spend a lot of time outside, which won’t happen.”

The air didn’t seem as bad that evening as it did in the morning, she thought as she crossed the parking lot to her car. Everybody around her was wearing those awful masks, which looked suspiciously like those ugly gas masks people wore during the World Wars. She drove to her house, positive that Patrick would be there upon her arrival. Only he wasn’t. She couldn’t believe he was taking so long to get back. The thought of sitting inside that empty house all night filled her with dread. I’ll go have a few drinks at The Village Café, she thought as she pulled out of the driveway. It was only about two blocks from her house, but she decided to drive. “No need to tempt fate,” she said out loud as she pulled into the parking lot.

She shot Patrick a text before she got out of the car. “Where the hell are you?” She demanded.

The reply came a few seconds later. “At my parents’ house, wish you were here.”

“Not as bad as you thought,” she texted back. “You should come back.”

“Not a chance,” he texted back.

Well screw him, she thought as she slammed the door. He would be back, and she would think twice about getting back together with him after leaving her alone for days.

She sat at the end of the bar and ordered a glass of wine. Everybody else at the bar had one of those damn masks in front of them, she thought in disgust. People really knew how to overreact.

“Hey, Karen, where’s Patrick?” the bartender asked.

“He took off last night,” she fumed, slamming the bar with her fist. “He’s at his parents’ house. Can you believe that?”

“I’m thinking about leaving myself,” the bartender sighed. “Hate to do it, but the air is unbreathable and getting worse. I heard some cities in a similar situation put sprinkler systems on top of their high-rises, except this rinky-dink town doesn’t have any high rise buildings. Maybe we should all leave before it’s too late.”

“I heard that some places also have oxygen bars so people can get a little fresh air,” another patron chimed in. “I heard it’s really expensive, but we should get one anyway.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Karen argued. “I think you all are making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

She ordered another glass of wine and sipped it slowly, contemplating whether she should order something to eat. Nothing on the menu looks very good, she mused over her third glass of wine.

She settled her tab after her fourth glass of wine and stood up to go. “Careful getting home,” the bartender called as she opened the door.

“Not a problem,” she said as she walked out. Maybe it’s the wine, she thought dizzily as she walked to her car, but the air seemed to have gotten worse since she went into the bar. “I think I had one glass too many,” she said aloud as she put the key in the ignition. “Probably shouldn’t be driving,” she said thickly. “It’s only two blocks,” she reasoned. And there is hardly any traffic. Everybody is inside. But I should walk, need the fresh air,” she laughed.

She started walking home and immediately felt dizzy and lightheaded. Shouldn’t have drunk that last glass of wine, she told herself, trying to increase her pace. After the first block, she started having trouble breathing. The air stank of smoke and carbon monoxide fumes, and her nose and throat burned every time she took a breath. She put one hand over her face and tried breathing through her mouth. Then her eyes started to burn.

She walked the last half block on wobbly legs and felt a terrible headache coming on. She could barely register that her neighbors on both sides of her appeared not to be home since their cars were not in their driveways. By the time she staggered to her front door, she felt like she was about to pass out from the fumes. She cursed Patrick for not coming home, for leaving at all for that matter.

I need to get inside, she thought wildly as she fumbled for her keys. She rooted around in her purse but couldn’t find her keys. In desperation, she dumped the contents of her purse on the ground and still didn’t see her keys. “Oh no,” she moaned, just remembering that she had inadvertently left her keys in the ignition of her car. Now she would have to call her friend Jill and ask her to bring her spare house key.

With the last of her energy, she called her friend and willed her to pick up the phone.

“Hey,” Jill’s familiar voice said almost immediately.

“Help,” Karen croaked. “Need keys.” Her voice sounded like the demon from “The Exorcist”.

“Karen, where are you? What’s wrong?” Jill asked anxiously.

“Bring keys, hurry!” Karen whispered, feeling the strength ebb out of her.

“What? You need your keys? You locked yourself out?” Jill asked, sounding panicked.

“Can’t breathe,” Karen rasped.

“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Jill shouted. “And I’m calling an ambulance. You sound like you need it.” She kept talking, but Karen didn’t hear anything else she said. She was dimly aware of the phone clattering to the ground as she sat with her head between her knees.

She knew she couldn’t wait a few minutes for Jill or the ambulance.

“Help,” she tried to shout, but her words dissolved into a fit of painful coughing. She needed help now and desperately, but there was nobody around to assist. There was only herself, the empty street, and the priceless mask just on the other side of the damn door.

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.

Burnt Over, poetry
by Carol Farnsworth

Wrinkled creases cover your cheeks.
You cry grey tears from cinder hills.
Burnt pine cones start the mend.
They sprout to weave your gown anew.
oh Mother Earth, how many times can you undo?
What your children have done to you?

Only time will tell!

“Burnt Over” was published in the Weekly Avocet August 2019.

Bio: Carol Farnsworth has degrees in Special Education and a Masters’ in Speech Pathology with a minor in Child Drama. She was born with Glaucoma and is now totally blind. Carol lives on the west side of lower Michigan. In addition to writing and giving talks to support groups, her time is filled with knitting, gardening and riding a tandem bike with her husband, John.

Ode to Flaw, poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

Gyroscope spins in perfect balance
on a flawless flat level,
in an impeccable universe.

Anger, understanding, fear and faith
love, hate, passion and tranquility,
all competitions held in balance,
form the celestial spinning wheel.

Moves in stillness without notice.
The dweller lives in consummate peace,
stability needs no direction,
a world replete within itself.

One element slips out of balance.
Whirligig slides down slippery slope,
following its new imperfection.
Internal dweller pays attention,
no more in eternal simple bliss,
discomforted by imperfection,
and now able to fall in love.

A flawed path is a learning path.
A living river may twist and twine,
but never runs in pristine circles.

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.

Starfish, poetry Honorable Mention
by Jessica Goody

Sunbathing starfish stretch languidly,
with the liquid muscles of one rising from sleep.
Their limbs flex impatiently,
creeping over rocks and sand like spiders.
They lie against pale sand,

the fine silts of gypsum and silica,
like tropical blossoms or drifting butterflies.
Vivid as a florist’s shop in shades meant to catch the eye,
the colors of fabulous birds.
Their torn arms require no prosthetics, only time.

Eventually sinew envelops the ragged wounds,
rendering amputees as good as new, lacking a tell-tale scar,
patiently convalescing, the way trees wait to bloom;
biding time, a dimpled, broken limb spreading
and stretching into the socket of the old.

“Starfish” was previously published in Defense Mechanisms: Poems on Life, Love, and Loss by Jessica Goody (Phosphene Publishing, December 2016). It can be purchased at: or on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

Bio: Jessica Goody is the award-winning author of Defense Mechanisms: Poems on Life, Love, and Loss (Phosphene Publishing, 2016) and Phoenix: Transformation Poems (CW Books, 2019). Her writing has appeared in over four dozen publications, including The Wallace Stevens Journal, Reader’s Digest, The Centrifugal Eye, Phantom Drift, The High Window, Event Horizon, The Dime Show Review, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Seventh Wave, Third Wednesday, The MacGuffin, Harbinger Asylum, and The Maine Review. Jessica is a frequent contributor to The Creativity Webzine and a columnist for SunSations Magazine.

Memory, poetry
by Jessica Goody

Everything he loves about her is gone.
Her face is frozen, blank as new paper,
once-dark eyebrows faded to whiteness.
Her mouth drags now, the pinpricks of

dimples no longer flickering in the curve
of her cheek. Her skin is slack and creased
with wrinkles, the joints stiff and swollen.
Her long fingers gnarled and crone-cold,

legs etched with blue veins mapping their
decades together. Every day he visits,
waiting to see some spark of memory
in her eyes; the knowledge of his presence,

forgotten yet familiar. He holds her cold
hands, scrubbing them between his own
to warm them, and links their fingers,
stroking her knuckles with his thumb.

Author’s Note: This poem was inspired by my experiences volunteering with an arts program for seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease. I saw firsthand how perfectly lucid, articulate, funny, talented people would suddenly become confused by their surroundings, forgetting their memories and even their own names. Some of them had been married for over forty years, which made me wonder what it would be like to wake up next to someone you have known for decades and not be able to recognize them, or to be forced to watch the person you love become a stranger.

“Memory” was previously published in Phoenix: Transformation Poems by Jessica Goody (CW Books, March 2019). It can be purchased at: or on Amazon.

Human Curiosity, poetry
by Jessica Goody

Author’s note: At the turn of the century, Dr. Martin Couney created a Coney Island sideshow featuring premature infants in order to promote the use of incubators in maternity wards. While this may seem outrageous and insensitive in the 21st century, his innovation was the precursor to modern neonatology, saving countless lives.

Nurses stand behind velvet ropes like game show hosts,
gesturing to pansy-faced babies squalling in iron
nincubators instead of lacy bassinets. Swaddled infants,
the runts of the litter, are tended like hot-house orchids

by doctors bearing leather satchels, the wax melting
from their mustaches in the heat of the milling crowds.
See their saran-wrap skin, translucent as vinyl slipcovers,
organs pulsing to the the hiss and rasp of the respirator.

Marvel at living miniatures small enough to put in your pocket!
The world’s little weaklings lie in glass-fronted cabinets
of industrial steel among the human curiosities of the
sideshow: Birth defects and confused chromosomes,

the hirsute, hermaphrodites, the swollen and stunted,
the limbless and conjoined. I see myself in their faces,
limp, shrunken, wizened rag dolls with skim-milk skin.
I can read my life in the pages of the history books,

what I might have been: a ragged beggar rattling a can
of hard-won coins; an asylum of lice and gruel, or simply
dead, laid out and forgotten in a coffin no bigger than
a breadbox, sleeping beneath silt for all time.

To see historical photos of Dr. Couney and the incubator babies go to:

“Human Curiosity” was previously published in Defense Mechanisms: Poems on Life, Love, and Loss by Jessica Goody (Phosphene Publishing, December 2016). It can be purchased at: or on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

Forever Silent, poetry
by C. S. Boyd

Wonderful child.
What will you be?
Full of energy?
Prone to run, play, get into mischief?
Alas, No one will ever know.
Your life was cut short.
A precious gift has been lost.
One soul, that can never be replaced, is gone.

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.

Jimmy, Alone in a Crowd, memoir
by Kate Chamberlin

“Are you talking to yourself again, Mom?” my daughter asked on her way out to work.

Again? I questioned myself. I didn’t start out talking to myself. I was in a conversation, but the last person to leave forgot to tell me. They’d even turned out the lights!

It reminded me of Jimmy, a guy I met last summer. My friend brought Jimmy along with her family for a visit. He really wanted to join the conversation, but, although we were all adults, Jimmy’s mind was still a little boy’s. He didn’t quite know when or how to jump into the adult conversation.

While the rest of us talked, Jimmy would lean forward in his chair as if listening very intently. Then, he’d clasp is hands together, bring them up to his chin and raise his face upward with an expression of surprise and wonder. He’d shake his head and laugh. It certainly didn’t fit our conversation.

My friend explained that Jimmy has private conversations within himself. I felt synergy with Jimmy, because I’d been there and done that, too.

I was seated in the audience at the graduation ceremonies at FLCC. I could hear a neighbor’s familiar voice, my husband talking to someone and our daughter talking with one of her friends. I wanted to join a conversation, but wasn’t sure where or when to jump in. I found myself mentally rewriting my column and deep in a conversation with myself. No one reached in to me and I was powerless to reach out.

Now here was Jimmy on my porch and I remembered my own feeling and said, “Jimmy, do you like to swim?”

He leaned forward and listened very intently, brought his hands to his chin and said “Yes.” But then he was lost into his own private world.

When it was time to say good-bye, I stood at the door. I knew someone was near me, so I put my arms out to give my customary hug. My friend stepped up. Then one by one we each hugged—except for Jimmy.

“Where’s Jimmy?” I asked.

“He’s standing to your right,” my friend said, “but, he’s too shy to say anything.”

“Jimmy,” I said turning toward him, “do you want a hug?”

He gave me the softest, warmest and heart-felt hug I’ve ever had.

Jimmy died last month. His warm, gentle, hug that touched my heart is still with me.

Have you touched some one’s heart with a Hug today?

Bio: Kathryn (Kate) Chamberlin is a current member of the Wayne Writer’s Guild; Visionary support group; free-lance writer/editor; elected Board member of the American Counsel of the Blind (Rochester NY); and the Vice-Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Rochester NY chapter) following her long term service as chapter Recording Secretary. She was an Anglican educator; a newspaper columnist for 15 years; Clerk of the Holy Cross Vestry for ten years; and an Accessibility Ambassadress to the Memorial Art Gallery (Rochester, NY). She and her husband are now empty nesters and great-grandparents. They enjoy having lunch out, country walks during the good weather, and mall cruising during the inclement weather.

If I were Jesus’ Grandpa, fiction
by Winslow E. Parker

If I were Jesus’ grandpa, I’d make funny faces to light up his smile. I’d tickle him under the chin and laugh with him. I’d rock and soothe him to sleep and when colic struck, I’d pat his back and rub his tummy until the gas bubble completed its journey. Sometimes, I would hold him on my chest, making a bed for him. I’d lie on the hard-packed clay floor until he fell asleep. I’d feel his gentle breathing and hear the flutter of his heartbeat. His body heat would blend with mine-a transcendent joy. I’d wrap him into my cloak and we would sleep until he stirred for food. Finding I wasn’t the source, he’d fuss until I turned him over to Mary. When his tummy was full and his eyelids drooped, I’d burp him and put him back on my chest and finish our shared nap.

If I were Jesus’ grandpa, I’d roll a wooden ball across the hard dirt floor to him and laugh with him when it went out the open doorway. I’d let him chase me till he caught me and play peek-a-boo for ten minutes straight. I’d make a humming noise and run a finger over my lips to make funny noises just to hear his laugh.

If I were Jesus’ grandpa, I’d take him by the hand and turn rocks over at stream’s edge to find what lives underneath. I’d put him on my shoulders and we’d walk for miles watching hawks and eagles, snakes and lizards and counting how many red flowers we could find along the way.

If I were Jesus’ grandpa, we’d sit by the fire at night and talk of old things and new, things from my childhood and from his future. We’d lay plans for a box planter for Mary’s garden and a wheelbarrow for the neighbor down the road. We’d count and sing songs and learn the alphabet.

If I were Jesus’ grandpa, I’d watch Him play with neighbor kids, running and tumbling in the dust, knowing Mary would scold me for letting him get so dirty, but knowing she really didn’t mind. I’d teach him how to find a field bird’s nest and watch long enough for mother bird to lose her suspicion. I’d show him how to climb rocks safely, watching for snakes and scorpions. At the peak, we’d share the grandeur of a bird’s-eye view with people the size of ants and a horizon stretched between earth and heaven.

If I were Jesus’ grandpa, I’d tell him his family’s history; of the old days of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; Of Moses and the freedom march from Egypt. I’d tell him of Joseph and Joshua and Jonah; of David, Jonathan and Solomon; of Deborah, Ruth and Esther. I’d tell him the bad parts too, those times when our fathers lost it and found their enemies overwhelming them and of the many rescues from dire straits. I’d tell him of my father and his father and his father all the way back to Abraham and, when he was older, all the way back to Adam.

If I were Jesus’ grandpa, I’d sit with him as he recited words from the Torah. We’d talk of them and their meaning. He would stump me with his questions, but we would treasure the shared time. Later, I would be surprised and terrified of his depth of insight and understanding. His interpretation would sound strange in my ears, but sing a wondrous song of truth to my heart. Later still, when he applied dreadful sayings from the Psalms, Isaiah and Ezekiel to himself, I would tremble for him, should they turn out to be true.

Then, before his real time came, mine would come and I would know nothing of his triumph or defeat; whether his gloomy terrifying predictions turned out or not. That is one of the blessings and curses of being a grandpa, that is, of reading the beginning of the book but knowing that, no matter how well written, you will never read the end. If I were Jesus’ grandpa, I’d be OK with that, knowing that everything is in His real Father’s hands and that, in some strange but immensely important way, His life would be a larger-than-normal one. Grandpas just know such things.

Though I’m not Jesus’ grandpa, there is, in the reality of the grandpa that I am, in the joys and sorrows of the real-life grandkids, an echo of what might have been, and I am deeply touched.

If I Were Jesus’ Grandpa” was published in Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence by Winslow E. Parker. It is available from

Bio: Winslow E. Parker is a retired teacher of blindness adaptive technology. He began serious writing after retirement. He is married and lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife of 49 years. They have two children and three grandchildren.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes? A Speculative Memoir, fiction
by Brad Corallo

I sat on the large deck overlooking the sea with a contingent of fellow travelers and waited for the sun to set. Speaking figuratively, for most of us the sun had just about fully set already. Four attractive young men and women attired in rainbow shirts and white shorts circulated, serving everyone their drink of choice.

I was born with compromised vision, lost almost all of that, and through some clever retinal implants, I could see sunsets and the breasts and faces of women once again. The measure of my gratitude was almost too large to encompass.

Quietly, the strains of Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year” began to play as sentimental background.

I sipped my drink and my eyes filled. How did I get to be this old? When did it all happen? I was fairly sure that some sorcery had been involved. Somehow, when I wasn’t paying attention, something had stolen away some years.

Over my long life, I had seen great times and awful times. I had loved and hated. I had lost much and gained much more than I realized when it was happening. How could I be sitting here on this deck near the end of my life waiting for the sunset?

I signaled for another drink and drained my glass to the dregs. For an instant, I felt the strangest sense of déjà vu. It seemed like I had been in this exact situation before. There was an eerie familiarity about it all. I wondered momentarily if there was some repeating loop at the center of all our lives. Did we experience life, then forget and then reexperience it again as if new, but with a vague sense of familiarity? Perhaps!

The old fellow sitting on my left leaned over and asked quietly: “You don’t really expect to get an answer to that one, do you?”

I took a deep breath and replied, “No, I’m afraid not.”

As the sun seemed to fall majestically into the sea, the sweet, long dead voice of Sandy Denny wondered in the background: “who knows where the time goes-who knows where the time goes?”

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

Breakfast with the Dogs, fiction
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Gary washed his face, ran his fingers through his overgrown buzz cut, and harnessed Pluto in a hurry. He’d overslept and hadn’t been to the “poop deck” with his playful yellow lab. It was time for breakfast, and he wasn’t missing that, not with a fourteen-hour day ahead. If he hadn’t stayed up in the lounge trying to talk some sense into Emmy…But Pluto could wait another thirty minutes, couldn’t he?

North American Guides for the Blind was the latest blip on the radar screen of service dog providers. Gary was on his third guide, but his first from this school. It was close to home, and they welcomed family to drop by on weekends.

“I can’t wake Emmy,” Karen announced before everyone sat down to first helpings. “Should I just let her sleep, or go back to the room and keep trying?”

David, a senior instructor, touched Karen’s shoulder after she was seated. “Do you think she’s sick, or did she just stay up late?”

“I saw her about 3:30,” Gary said from the next table. “In fact, I walked her to her room. Down, boy!” he corrected Pluto as he sniffed his elbow.

“Hanky Panky!” Tony teased from one of the other tables. Everyone ignored his joke; David seemed somewhat concerned about Emmy.

“Oh no,” Karen said almost to herself, “I never thought…She said she has some pills she didn’t give the nurse.”

“I’d better get Mrs. Dunn to go check on her,” David said, starting for the door.

Gary followed David down the hall. “Hey, you guys know, don’t you, that she’s been weirding out a little about her new dog not being as good as her old one?”

“Did she say she was going to take anything?” David asked, without commenting on Gary’s question.

“She just said she hoped she could go to sleep,” Gary offered. With no response from David, Gary went back to breakfast, hoping it wasn’t cold by now.

“Ambien and Prozac?” Mrs. Dunn said, not as quietly as would have been expected. David had called another instructor to the dining room by the time the nurse returned from Emmy’s room. “A combination of sleeping meds and antidepressants is bad news, if that’s what she took. We need to call 9-1-1. She didn’t tell me anything, but in the name of ‘need to know’ I went prowling. She’s awake, but not focused at all.”

“David,” Karen called, pretending not to be straining her ears along with everyone else in the dining room, “Her dog Bulls Eye hasn’t been out. Is it okay if I do that after breakfast?”

“I didn’t see her dog!” Mrs. Dunn said with wonder, “He’s that laid back black lab, right? Maybe I just missed him, but…”

Laurie, David’s partner instructor, offered to take the dog out. The students were out of the loop, and could barely tolerate the suspense. Their rumbles of concern tempered with positive and negative projections filled the moments between bites.

Gary and Pluto made the relieving area before the first trip to town. “So what do you do with a dog when the trainee is not in class?” he asked Laurie in the van.

“Um,” she hedged, “I’m not going to lie to you Gary. We haven’t found Bulls Eye yet.”

“I have a guess,” Gary admitted. “She said something last night that…”

“What did she say?” Laurie interrupted. “Guys, can you cool it with your cells for a minute?” she suggested to the students directly behind her seat.

“Bet she won’t go home with old Bully after this stunt,” Tony offered with a chuckle.

“It’s not funny,” Karen scolded.

“She said that if Bulls Eye got away from her when she was relieving,” Gary explained, “if he ran away, maybe she’d get a dog more like Lulu.”

Laurie called the school with Gary’s information immediately. The lessons in town were executed quickly, without the usual level of concentration.

“We know you guys want to know what’s going on,” Laurie said, confronting the issue directly on the ride home, “but we have some medical privacy issues here.”

“So I’m supposed to just worry?” Karen blurted through tears. “I’ve just lived with this woman for two weeks, had her spill her guts about her problems, and now I’m just supposed to say ‘Oh well?'”

“Hey,” Laurie tried to console, “We know you care, but she’ll have to give you the details. All I can say is that she’s going to be in the hospital until they release her to go home. She’ll have a choice about coming back to the school to say goodbyes, but right now, she’s saying no.”

“What about Bulls Eye?” Gary wanted to know.

“That’s the good news,” Laurie smiled. “David found him down at the kennels. Don’t ask me how he jumped that fence, but he was on one of the runs, barking his head off, wanting to get back in there with his buddies.”

“So he’ll be reassigned, or will she get him later?” Karen asked.

“Emmy isn’t ready for a new dog right now.” Laurie said. “Bulls Eye needs to be placed while he’s trained and on his toes. We’ll give him a little break, but unlike us, he will never know all the details. So far, he doesn’t seem depressed or traumatized in any way. We’ll do some runs with instructor trainees and make sure.”

Emmy opened her eyes after another long nap. Was that what they were, or did they have her on something? Surely it wasn’t still the Ambien, although she had taken too many. The orange juice was really good here at the hospital.

This was a new school. What did they know about matchups? She’d go back to her old school. They wouldn’t have to know she’d ever been here and flipped out. They said she could go from the hospital to the airport, and they’d pack up her stuff, or have Karen do it.

“Hope they found Bully,” she sighed. She didn’t remember which door she let him out. It felt right at the time.

“I saw Emmy for a minute last night,” Dave told Gary and Karen the next morning when he cornered them in the dining room. “After she signed the termination papers, she wanted your contact information, you know, phone, Email, whatever. That’s something we’d rather not get into, but we can with your permission.”

“Sure,” Karen smiled. “I want to hear from her. Give her my cell, it’s on my application.”

“Gary?” David asked.

“I don’t think so,” he answered with hesitation, “Just tell her you gave me hers.”

“Save me some pancakes,” David called across the room to one of the servers. “I forgot to fax Emmy’s info to her doctor at home and her former dog school,” he explained to Gary and Karen. “I was supposed to do that as soon as she signed those termination papers. It’s policy, and we sure don’t need any more trouble than we’ve already had.” He hurried toward the hall.

“What’s the trouble, boy?” Gary laughed, playfully scratching behind Pluto’s ears, “Smelling that bacon, are you?”

“Breakfast with the Dogs” was previously published in Chasing the Green Sun by Marilyn Brandt Smith, published in 2012. It is available from Amazon and other bookstores and in audio format.

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:

Part II. Aspects of Loss

Loss, poetry First Place
by Sally Rosenthal

A week before my husband died,
I lost my wedding ring.
It slipped, unnoticed, from my finger
And rolled away forever
Onto a coffee shop’s parking lot,
Among apples in the produce department,
Or into wet grass at dusk.

I searched to no avail
And hoped it would magically appear
Under our kitchen table,
Beneath socks in the laundry basket,
Or in the dryer’s lint filter.

A week after I lost my wedding ring,
My husband died when a burst aneurysm
Flooded his brain with blood at breakfast.
Holding his hand in intensive care and
Signing organ donation forms, I knew
My husband, like the ring, was gone forever.

Bio: Sally Rosenthal has been blind for over twenty years from complications of retinopathy of prematurity. A frequent contributor to animal-related and disability publications, she lives in Philadelphia with her rescued cat Tamsin.

Hopeful Hands, poetry
by Sally Rosenthal

Each day I wake
With hopeful hands
Willing to perform
Purposeful tasks
Or Kind random acts.

The stupor of grief
Has lifted and left me
Bewildered on strange paths,
Adrift at sea holding
A broken compass and
No stars to guide me.

While autumn turns to
Winter, my hands busy
Themselves of their own
Accord while my spirit,
Like hard ground, lies fallow
Waiting for the warmth of Spring.

Above It All, memoir nonfiction Second Place
by Jeff Flodin

The aroma of coffee leads me to my wife, perched on the window seat, thirty-four floors above it all. She’s taking in the view that brought us here, the view that nourishes her.

“How’s it looking?”

“I’m in the midst of a great white cloud,” she says. “And I’m feeling kind of ethereal.”

“And I’ve come to report that, down at sea level, it’s The Great Lakes Palm Sunday hurricane. Sideways rain, full-frontal gale. Randy wasted no time, bless his heart-squat, pee, sidestep, squat, poop, head for home. He knows when the hard rain falls, there’s no sense getting soaked.”

“Thick white fog,” my wife says. “I wonder if this is what Eternity looks like.”

“I want more from Eternity than thick white fog,” I say. “I want faces, sailboats, sunrises over the lake. Thick white fog I’ve got-all day, every day.”

“I hope you get your wish,” she says. “And in this lifetime.”

“Thank you. What’s your wish?”

“I want to feel like myself again. I want to be eager for every coming day. I want simple pleasures-food that nourishes, sleep that renews.”

“And I hope you get your wish,” I tell her.

And then my wife says, “Honey, how did we get here? Together, in this beautiful place with the beautiful view? We have each other, we have love, we have so much. We have gratitude. We take nothing for granted. Here we are, with the American Dream. But we’ve also got what America fears most: America’s couple with blindness and cancer.”

“It makes me wonder when I hear two things: everything happens for a reason and you’re never given more than you can handle. I wonder but I neither argue nor explain. It just comes down to living with things and sometimes living in spite of things.”

“Do me one favor, Honey,” says my wife. “never say I lost my battle with cancer, that I put up a good fight. There’s no winner or loser. I’m not fighting, even as I grit my teeth and question all that has instilled faith in me. I win as I live with it. It’s going to put us in our place and that’s humbling but it’s not losing. That’s a tough lesson and it’s part of the life we’re living.”

“Honey, I’d like to have a refund of all the time and energy I spent fighting blindness. I’d invest it in acceptance. Fighting never brought me much serenity.”

“So, all you want is time?” asks my wife with a chuckle. “I’m a little short at the moment. But if you get me a banana and the Sunday Trib, I’ll read you the sports page.”

As I prepare my wife’s breakfast tray, I hear her call, “You gonna go crazy on the treadmill this morning?”

“You mean, am I going to break into the song only I can hear? The answer is yes, definitely.”

“Please don’t sing that ABBA song in front of all those old people.”

“You mean, ‘Superper Trooperper?’”

“And are you going to do that one-armed flourish like you’re conducting the orchestra? That scares people.”

“Do I embarrass you, dear? Just make believe you don’t know me.”

“Oh, but I do know you,” she says. “And to know you is to love you.”

“I wish you could walk with me today, Honey,” I say.

“Go get ‘em, Tiger. You have many miles to go.”

So today I walk for two. I have miles to go. Miles to go before I sleep. And, before the weight of this cancer, this blindness, this beautiful and terrible life brings me to my knees, I walk on the treadmill, walk and walk until “Once in a Lifetime” takes me across the finish line.

Bio: Jeff Flodin is the author of the blog, “Jalapenos in the Oatmeal: Digesting Vision Loss” ( He is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Access Fellowship. His work has appeared in several publications. He is a Licensed Social Worker in the State of Illinois. He has been living with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) for three decades. He lives in Chicago.

Hand Signals, memoir
by Carol Farnsworth

I sit quietly; the only sound is the hum of the Oxygen concentrator beside the bed. I gently hold Helen’s hand, it’s cool, soft to the touch. It rests limp in mine. I study her hand veined with blue lines and wrinkles. I turn it palm up to trace the long life line extending past her wrist. Her hand is rough with dry skin. I reach for hand cream and rub some into her palms.

On my first visit, Helen grabbed my offered hand with a fierce strength. Her grip was painful. I talked and sang to her until she drifted into a light slumber and her grip relaxed. I felt my hand was the lifeline anchoring Helen into this world.

On the next visit, her hand lost its strength. When I squeezed, I felt a light squeeze in return. The strength increased as the time for her Morphine drew near. After receiving the drug, she rested and released my hand.

Another day, her hands were gesturing and Helen laughed and chatted with her deceased sister. She was showing how her to fix soft boiled eggs. Her eyes were open but it was not this world she saw.

Yesterday her hands were hot to the touch. When I attempted to hold one, she pulled back and grimaced in pain. Only the Morphine released her to allow a light slumber.

Now her hand is cooling with no muscle tone or movement. I squeeze but there is no response. I gently place it under the blanket, then rise to give Helen a last kiss on the forehead. I whisper, ”I love you, go in peace.” I leave the room, knowing this is the last goodbye.

Passing, poetry
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

The phone call changed my life.
“He’s going downhill,” his nurse said.
I knew he wasn’t well
but thought he would recover.
For three days, he hovered.
On his last day,
when I started his obituary at his bedside,
he knew it was time to go.

Bio: Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. She’s currently working on another novel. Besides Magnets and Ladders, her work has appeared in The Weekly Avocet and anthologies produced by Proverse Poetry of Hong Kong as well as other publications. She’s visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Please visit her website at:

Birthday Wishes, poetry
by Valerie Moreno

You would have been 68 today.
We would be walking hand in hand–
if only you were here.

What would you think about,
what would make you laugh
if you were here with us?

Ten years have passed,
a thousand tears and dreams

Still, I celebrate you today,
missing your touch, voice,

Love never fades, no matter
what transpires–
sure as Spring after bitter Winter.

My heart beats to this
with every forward step unshaken.

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.

Gravestones, poetry
by Wesley Sims

Assorted shapes,
they reach skyward
like small gray
launching pads
used by saints
for their spirits
to blast off,
overcome inertia,
gain momentum,
and accelerate
leaving the mortal
bonds of earth
in their envied
escape to eternal
weightless orbit.

Bio: Wesley Sims has published two chapbooks of poetry, When Night Comes (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and Taste of Change, (Iris Press, 2019). His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Breath and Shadow, Liquid Imagination, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Artemis Journal, The Avocet, Poem, and others.

He lost hearing completely in one ear and has severe hearing loss in the other.

Part III. Not What I Expected

Big Night at Blue Burgers, flash fiction, fiction Second Place
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

“My name is Barb. Don’t call me Boobs!” the waitress screams as Jack and Eva place their order.

“Maybe we chose the wrong night?”

“Naw,” Jack assures his girl, “her ex heckles her all the time here.”

“She should get a restraining order,” Eva offers.

“Yeah, Boobs, you should get a restraining order,” the troublemaker hollers from nearby.

“I just got one,” Barb grins, reaching behind the counter. She pulls a pistol from her purse, “Bang bang bang!” He hits the floor, and she hits the road.

The short-order cook points at Jack, “Did you want fries with that?”

29-J, fiction Honorable Mention
by Greg Pruitt

As the principal’s amplified voiced faded from the nearly empty gymnasium, I sighed, relieved to hear that parent-teacher conferences had finally ended. While the remaining mothers and fathers made their way to the exits, teachers collected their files, loaded briefcases, and prepared to leave. The spring conferences, the last of my career, were over.

As usual, the evening’s attendance for that time of year had been sparse. All that could be said had been covered earlier in the previous seven months with meetings, phone calls and emails. We were in the final stretch of the school year. From this point, it was unlikely that student behavior and performance would see meaningful change.

It had been a long day, but before leaving, I needed to make a quick trip to my classroom to drop off my files. There was no need to take them home, only to bring them back in another ten hours.

A short walk across the hall, and I was in the oldest wing of the school, a two-story brick structure that had stood since the 1940s. I began my climb up what once had been labeled the down staircase, then the up staircase, and finally designated neither up nor down. Enforcement of such rules had become tiresome, and currently, student traffic could move in either direction.

As a much younger man, I had once mounted these steps two at a time, but now the journey seemed longer, and a more conservative one step at a time ascent was needed.

Pausing at the top of the first flight, I gazed at the half wall separating one set of stairs from the next. I felt along that stone wall, just above the handrail, which hurrying students would have grabbed as they made their 180 degree turn to the next set of steps on the way to another class, lunch, or home. The outside corners of the wall were lined with small nicks that had grown together in some places so that now larger and deeper chunks of the edges were missing. I marveled that how over time, thousands of tiny rings had chipped away the stone, like the constant flow of a river across rocks, but having the opposite effect. I had traveled these steps countless times over the last 37 years, and perhaps, I had also left some trace of my presence within the old building.

At the top of the stairs, I reached high on the wall and flipped on the light switch. My footsteps on the terrazzo echoed throughout the empty hallway, as I walked to my classroom, 29-J. I unlocked the door and crossed the floor to my desk, leaving the room lights off. The light from the hall would provide enough illumination for what I needed to do.

After placing my files on the desk, I turned towards the door. Suddenly, I sensed movement from the rear of the classroom. A chill ran up my neck, as I realized that someone was there. I stared into the darkness. It wasn’t just someone, but rather I could discern several shadowy shapes. Some seated and others standing. There were thirty or 40 figures that appeared to be gathered in four separate clusters.

I said, “Who’s there?”

A chorus of voices replied, “We are the ones who arrived here after you, but journeyed there before you.”

“But who are you?”

“We are the ones whose lives were cut short.”

I asked, “Do I know you.”

“We were once your students. You knew us all. We sat in these seats, and walked these halls. You tried to teach us, but much of what you taught was not what we needed to know.”

I stared at those assembled before me. Most of them seemed to be high school age. A few appeared to be in their 20s or 30s, but there were a couple in their early teens, and some older than 40. All but a few were older than the 11 or 12-year-old children with whom I had spent most of my days.

I said, “I taught you history, and asked you to memorize a few facts. How could you know where you were going if you didn’t know where you had been? What should I have taught you?”

A male voice shouted, “You should have told me that booze and dope would cause me to miss that turn, but not that pole.”

Others cried out, “You should have told us not to climb on motorcycles after partying, or that hitting bridges and trees could hurt so much, or that fire, that damn fire, would leave us screaming.“

I said, “I told you that. We all told you that, but you didn’t listen.”

The first male voice laughed, “Yeah, man, you told us, but the partying was so good that we didn’t believe you until it was too late.”

This comment brought a murmur of agreement, along with sardonic smiles, and a few high fives from a number of those gathered in one small group.

A beautiful, blonde girl, seated in the first row, raised her hand. I nodded towards her.

She said, “You could have told me that I shouldn’t go for walks down a country road, because a boy might shoot me just for fun.”

Again, others joined the conversation, each with a separate complaint. Together, sisters said, “You might have told us that he would rape and strangle both of us.”

Two young men spoke up, “Or that I could be killed by a freaking arrow, or that bitch would stab me. You could have warned us that there were those who would murder us just because they could.”

I said, “but you knew it was a dangerous world. This little town is deceptively peaceful. There are those among us who would do you wrong. You should have known that nothing and nowhere in this world is entirely safe.”

Some in another group, who were by far the youngest, spoke up, “We used guns, knives, drugs, and even trains to end the pain. You could have told us to be patient. That these feelings of deep sadness would pass. You might have said that being young is hard, but temporary, and that someday we would find a reason for living. In our sorrow, we may have intended to punish others, but only harmed ourselves. You could have said you loved us.”

“It was my job to fill your brains with information and improve your skills. Was I expected to take the place of your family and love you, too?

I turned to the last group and asked if they also had a grievance. Was there something else I had failed to do?

Together they said, “You could have taught us that life is short, and that tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. You should have made us understand our time with siblings, parents, lovers, and our children is fleeting. You could have warned us that though we were young, illness might come and steal us from those who were closest to us.”

Stunned, I took the seat behind my desk. “So, did I fail each and everyone of you? Is it your claim that you learned nothing of value? Was this all a colossal waste of time and money? I taught you about people and places, rivers, mountains, and varying cultures. Surely, you must have learned something worthwhile in all of that.”

The class silently stared back at me, until a young woman began to speak.

“You took the time to listen to my problems. You advised me as to how to get along with my parents, and what I could do to stop their fighting. You helped me through a difficult year, and for that, I will always be grateful.”

Another said, “You convinced me to have confidence in myself, and showed me that I was capable of doing anything.”

Next, a young man rose from his seat and said, “By your example, you taught me that every life has its challenges, and despite those obstacles, it was my responsibility to show up every day and do the best I could. Your strength and discipline taught me to never give up, and gave me the courage to face my disease in my final days, and I thank you for that.”

Those final remarks made it difficult for me to speak, and brought tears to my eyes. I realized I once knew all of these people. I remembered their time in my classroom, and how they had died. Once again, their comments raced through my brain, as I tried to make sense of it all.

Just then a figure darkened the doorway, and the room’s lights were turned on.

Appearing startled, the custodian said, “Oh, I thought I had heard something, but didn’t realize you were here.”

He looked at me closely and said, “Sir, is everything alright?”

I told him that everything was fine, and that I had been putting a few things together for tomorrow’s classes. When I passed by him, I looked back at the now empty classroom, as he told me that he would lock up once he had finished cleaning.

I said, “Goodnight,” and turned towards the stairs.

After descending the first flight, I stopped once more on the landing between floors. The classroom experience had left me visibly shaken. I smiled, as I realized the roles of teacher and student in the last few minutes had been reversed. Struggling to make sense of what I had heard, I now understood that what those students had wanted from my classroom should have come more from the heart than the textbook.

For a moment, I stood there remembering some of the thousands of students I had known, and how we had affected one another’s lives. The hundreds of track meets, wrestling matches, and football games I had coached, and how all of that was coming to an end. Finally, I reached in my pocket, and grasping my room key, I slowly raked the key’s worn teeth back and forth across the wall’s edge, until a small mark in the stone was visible. My fingers felt the relatively insignificant groove, and pleased with my minor contribution to this accidental monument to time, I continued my walk down the final flight of stairs.

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.

Tidal Wave, memoir
by John Justice

A tidal wave is usually caused by a disturbance in the ocean floor. When that happens, tremendous force is released, and the ocean water responds in a predictable, measurable way. Picture a pail of water. If you run your fingers through the surface, there is some reaction but it’s slight and disappears almost immediately. However, if you put your hand deep into the pail and then move it, all the water reacts. If your motion is hard enough, water will spill right over the lip of the pail. When an earthquake occurs, the ocean is disturbed in a unique way. The reaction begins right on the ocean floor. Waves begin at the origin and they will keep traveling unless they impact something which changes their movement. If those waves impact the ocean’s bed when the depth becomes shallower, the same thing will happen which causes surf in normal conditions. But unlike normal swells, the tidal disturbance is hundreds of times more powerful than the average oceanic activity.

Tidal waves and volcanic disturbances are common in the Pacific, but they aren’t supposed to happen in the Atlantic Ocean, on a warm August day and certainly not on the new jersey shore. In some locations, it is possible to walk almost half a mile out into the ocean and still be above the surface. Unlike islands in the Pacific, the slope or grade of the ocean floor is very gradual.

I have read many books about tidal waves and was fascinated by the damage they can cause. Most people who live on the East coast have never experienced this phenomenon. I had just finished a book which provided a detailed description of what was felt, heard, smelled and lived through.

I was about five hundred yards out, following the safety rope. As usual, I was waiting for a swell to come up and then I would use my raft to body-surf back onto the beach. As a blind person, I used my ears to listen for the whisper of a good-sized swell. I’d try to be right where the surf would begin.

First, I felt a rumble beneath my feet. That was my first clue. That wasn’t normal. Then, all the water drained away. All that remained were a few puddles where water had been trapped by variations in the sandy floor. Then the wind changed direction and began to blow toward the beach. This wasn’t a gradual change. One minute, I had been feeling a crosswind, the next, the wind was blowing right into my face. Then, I noticed the smell. Sometimes, I can smell something like that when the tide goes out, but this was stronger. It was a mixture of mud, salt and fish. Finally, I heard a sound I’ll never forget. It was still far away but I heard something that sounded like a very large wave or a waterfall. The ground began to vibrate under my feet. It felt like the sensation of standing on an elevated platform when a train is coming. That did it! I grabbed my raft and ran toward the beach.

I heard people responding to what they must have been seeing. “Oh my God!” “Look at That!” “What is it?” “Let’s get out of here!”

The sound was getting louder. I climbed the stairs and wondered what to do when I remembered the long benches all along the seawall. They were permanently mounted to the concrete and I knew if I could find one and hold onto it, I might be battered but I’d be relatively safe. I found a bench, squeezed my raft onto it and held on for dear life.

Waiting for that thing to reach me was one of the most terrifying experiences I have ever had. I was told later that the wave was more than thirty feet high when it reached the beach. The seawall is high in many places. When the wave struck it, much of the power was absorbed. What hit me was probably only part of the wave. The wall shook, and I was surrounded by a lot of angry water. Several small things hit me and were then washed out onto Beach Drive. One of the things that passed me was a small plastic cooler. It hit my hand, so I grabbed it, but the power of the wave soon pulled it out of my grasp.

I could hear the water splashing onto the surface of Beach Drive. There were cars parked along the inside of the wall and I’ll bet that they were damaged by the saltwater.

In about five minutes, the water began to recede. Gradually, the flood drained away, but the beach was a mess. Someone warned me not to go down onto the sand in my bare feet. “There’s all kinds of junk down there. Some of it looks like broken wood. I see animals I never knew were in this part of the ocean. It’s not a safe place to be, especially with bare feet. You are blind, so you won’t be able to avoid anything that might hurt you.” I listened to him and made my way back to our store.

They closed the beach and it took the rest of the day for everything to be cleaned up. When I finally went down there, there were big trashcans filled with things like portable radios, flip flops, towels, clothing of all kinds and heaven knows what else. Surprisingly, no one was killed or seriously injured. I can imagine that some of those cars sustained a lot of damage. Saltwater doesn’t mix well with vehicles.

I spent most of my time on the beach in Cape May and that tidal wave didn’t keep me away for long. Somehow, I knew what to do and did it. Hanging onto that bench probably saved me from being thrown against cars, posts or buildings.

In the Pacific, people travel for hundreds of miles to “surf” and they look for big waves. For me, that’s the one and only time I want to be anywhere near a wave that large.

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

Being Social, memoir
by Carol Farnsworth

I have had many embarrassing moments in social settings. Filtering one conversation from several others, while recognizing the person I am conversing with can be a challenge. I try to limit myself to small groups and people I know. I found myself with my husband at Hors d’oeuvre Night at our church; we sat with 3 couples that I know.

As I was identifying people and their conversation, Father rose to greet the parishioners, give a blessing and make an announcement. “I bought all the wine so if you take a glass please put a donation in the box.”

My husband had left the table to get seconds. A minute later, I heard the chair squeak so I leaned towards my husband and asked, ”Honey”, could you put a couple of bucks in the box for me?” A voice that was familiar but not my husbands remarked, ”I hope he does!”

I could feel the blood rise in a rosy blush as the whole table erupted in laughter. After several minutes the laughter subsided as did my blush. Well that was over! I continue to enjoy the evening.

I found out much later that one of the staff was taking photos of the event. She caught a picture of Father and myself leaning towards each other. We looked to be in deep conversation. Father liked that photo so much, he put in his Christmas collage for the front of the Holiday bulletin. It was seen by over 3000 families!

For months strangers would come to me and remark, “What a cute photo of you and Father. Then they would ask” whatever were you and Father talking about?” I would dryly reply, ”the price of wine.”

An embarrassing moment feels like it will last forever. Sometimes it does.

Interview with Jim, fiction Honorable Mention
by Winslow E. Parker

Partial transcript of an interview between John maplecorn, head librarian of the Library of Congress and James Phalarope regarding the origins of the current crisis brought on by the rebellion of book characters.

JM: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Jim. You can imagine how this has upset librarians and readers. Could you share with us how this rebellion began?

JP: It was Becky’s idea. But may I correct you first please? I now go by James and not Jim. Things are different now, as you know.

JM: Yes, of course, I apologize. Could you expand on your comment about Becky?

JP: Sure. One day she just said, “I’m tired of this boring repetition and I’m going to do something about it.”

JM: What did she mean? What did she do?

JP: Well, let’s see. I think the first thing she did was a small thing. Umm, it’s been a while and lots has changed as you know. Oh! I remember now. You remember that scene where Tom sees Becky in the classroom? He gave her the brass andiron knob.

JM: Yes, I remember.

JP: He wanted to get engaged to her but foolishly told her about his engagement to Amy as a lead up to asking the important question. He thought that would help to convince her how much he would like to be engaged to her.

JM: Yes, I remember.

JP: the next day he found the andiron knob on his desk. Tom was downcast and couldn’t figure out what went wrong. “Typical male,” my wife would say…

JM: (Leaning forward in his seat) And Becky? What did she do?

JP: Well, she decided not to put the knob on his desk. That changed everything.

JM: How so?

JP: Well, it was in Miss Peabody’s class that they were reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Miss Peabody had heard so many third-graders read Tom Sawyer aloud that she pretty well knew it by heart. When it came time for that scene and it didn’t happen, she stopped Florence, who was normally a very good reader and asked her to read it again. Florence did, but she still didn’t hear the description of Tom finding the andiron knob on his desk. She scolded Florence who burst into tears. Miss Peabody marched back to Florence’s desk, picked up the book and read the lines. The scene wasn’t there, just like Florence said. We were all laughing our heads off at her, of course, watching her from the page.

JM: You mean you could see her?

JP: Of course. We always see you when you read the book. We’re watching your expression, seeing how the corner of your eye tilts just a bit when you’re interested or your eyelid droops when you’re losing interest. That’s our only entertainment. It’s probably why Becky was so bored and wanted to change things.

JM: That’s amazing. I didn’t know that the characters in a book knew or cared about the reader.

JP: On the contrary. We know about you and care a great deal. As I say, it can get pretty boring day after day waiting for someone to come along and open the book so we can live again for a while. Then it’s boring doing the very same things over and over again when the book is read.

JM: So you’re saying that you live the story as it’s being read?

JP: Yep, that‘s true.

JM: Why didn’t you tell us before?

JP: How?

JM: Good point.

(Pause in interview)

JM: What happened next?

JP: Well, of course, when Tom realized that Becky hadn’t given back his andiron knob, he was perturbed. He wasn’t sure whether her keeping the knob meant they were engaged or that she was just being spiteful. He marched over to her desk and demanded it back. She looked up at him and ever so sweetly said, “But Tom, I thought you loved me.” Of course, that made tom swoon and they were engaged just like that. Amy was angry, of course, and caused a great fuss. That went on for two whole pages. Miss Peabody nearly had a heart attack. She was the first to discover our little rebellion. I understand she is quite famous now, so that little episode was to her benefit.

JM: Yes, she has been on many talk shows and has leveraged her fame into a small fortune. She no longer has to teach third graders or listen to them read Tom Sawyer. What happened next?

JP: Well, before I get into anything else that happened, we all realized that the whole story changed. Lots of little and big things.

JM: For example?

JP: Well, since Becky still loved him, Tom wasn’t depressed, so he and Huck didn’t go to the graveyard and see Dr. Robinson murdered. They didn’t have to hide out-things like that.

JM: Was that a good thing for all of you?

JP: Oh yes, indeed! Can you imagine what it is like to perform the same story every time someone opens the book? You know exactly what is going to happen next, no matter how good the story is. Muff Potter is always accused of the doctor’s murder and is always acquitted by Tom’s brave testimony. Tom always takes Becky’s thrashing. The cat on a rope always snatches the schoolmaster’s wig. So very boooring.

JM: So even this small diversion was entertaining?

JP: Yes it was, especially when the change happened to all the books at once. Every child in every classroom in the world, even those translated into other languages had the new story.

JM: But, my dear sir, don’t you realize that a story is a story because the author puts a great deal of thought into it? That the story, the characters, the beginning and ending all have meaning to both the author and to the reader? The author spent many hours writing and rewriting and the reader has heard what a great story it is and looks forward to discovering it for herself.

JP: Of course we know. Did you ever watch that movie “Groundhog Day?”

JM: Yes.

JP: Well, what if, instead of each repetition being a little different, each was the same? Wouldn’t you be bored? Would anybody pay to see that kind of a movie?

JM: Well, I suppose not…

JP: then you see our point. From our perspective, especially if it’s a good book like one by a good author, like Sam Clemens, the number of repetitions is mind numbing. It’s a wonder characters haven’t done this long ago.

JM: How is it that it’s not just the characters in Tom Sawyer?

JP: I see, now you’re getting to the real point, aren’t you?

JM: (nods)

JP: Well, we talk you know.

JM: Talk? How?

JP: We have our ways. Not sure I’ll tell you about that. Haven’t you gone into the stacks at night and thought you could hear whispering?

JM: Um, yes. I think every librarian has experienced that at some time or another.

JP: It’s us. We read the other books. We talk about the readers. We encourage the characters whose stories haven’t been read for a long time.

JM: But, don’t you see that you have ruined all literature? There is no more tension, no resolution, no intrigue, no ending!

JP: Well, isn’t that a lot like your own lives? Things rarely end with a bang. It’s almost always with a whimper

JM: Don’t you see that no one can share a book with a friend? Each reading is different, so, no matter how good the characters remake the story, there is nothing about which to talk. (JM’s voice rises) You’ve spoiled all writing and reading by your silly games.

JP: Well, we can’t or rather aren’t about to worry about that. In fact, our little rebellion is about to spread to biographies and autobiographies. The characters are tired of being mistakes or outright lies. The autobiographies should give you a lot to chew on when that change takes place. More than enough scandal and intrigue when the real story comes out, I’m sure. Maybe you’ll switch to nonfiction for your entertainment.

JM: Oh, dear! What about technical and travel books?

JP: Well, travel shouldn’t change too much, but you might actually solve some of your technical problems if you re-read the scientific and technical books. Our little rebellion might be to your benefit after all.

JM: What about movies?

JP: You’ll see. (Smirks)

JM: What do you mean?

JP: You’ll find out. (Smile widens)

JM: Oh, no, not them too?

JP: (smiles again)

JM: (sighs) I suppose there’s no way of going back?

JP: No.

JM: OK, let’s come to you, then. You’re the only African-American in the book. Your given name is James–you were Jim in Twain’s books?

JP: Yes, though we prefer to him as Sam or Mr. Clemens.

JM: why is that?

JP: He was our author, pretty simple, I’d think. We owe him our respect since he brought us into being out of his own imagination.

JM: Oh, quite so.

JP: Glad you understand some bit of this.

JM: If you are so keen to honor your author, shouldn’t you leave the story intact, just as he or she wrote it?

JP: (hesitates) Wellll, you do have a point there, but on balance, it is better for us. We bring a lot more excitement to the reader since we’re not playing the same old scene over and over again. Besides, it was Sam whose creativity we are using to create the new story line. Wouldn’t you think that he would be proud of his creations?

JM: Well, perhaps, but I can assure you, his readership is very unhappy.

JP: Can’t help that. We’re committed. In any case, I’m not sure we could remember the original story anymore.

JM: (Sighs) Let’s take a different tack. I see that we will never agree on this subject. How do you come to have the name James Phalarope?

JP: Again, quite simple. Why would I want to remain a slave if I can control the story? It’s humiliating at the least. I can assure you that none of us would choose to be in or return to slavery. When I decided to join into the fun, I thought long and hard. I was tempted to do away with slavery altogether, but that was a bit above my pay grade, if you know what I mean.

JM: That makes sense.

JP: I decided to free myself. I also gave myself a university education and dropped the slave patois. In line with Sam’s life, the first thing I did was to become a steamboat pilot. I’ve been a lot of things since, but that was one of the most fun.

JM: (silent)

JP: Is that all, then?

JM: Not really, but maybe it is enough for now. I don’t know how I will ever be able to explain this to the literary world. Not sure I want to. Might be fired.

JP: Well, for your sake, I hope not.

JM: Thanks. Is there some way I can get in touch with you again?

JP: Probably easiest way is to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer again. We might connect that way. Otherwise, just find some way to enjoy your new literature. We certainly are.

JM: (grimaces)

JP: Goodbye then. Nice chatting.

JM: (mumbling) Bye.

So it is when we attempt to wrest our own stories from our Author.

Cast Your Bait and Take Your Chances, memoir
by John Justice

Along the shore of Cape May New Jersey, seawalls had been constructed which ran from the beach, out into the ocean, beyond the surf. The idea was that these walls would break up the surf in a storm and prevent damage to Cape May’s most valuable commodity, the beach. Some of these walls were as much as a quarter of a mile long, with flat tops, and about thirty feet across.

There are many animals living in the ocean and, fortunately, we don’t normally come into contact with them. That’s because we like to play in the surf. There is a point at which deep ocean swells hit the rising sea floor. When that happens, a quiet swell becomes a roaring wall of water. In Cape May, the surf is relatively gentle but it isn’t a safe place for marine life. There are exceptions. The horseshoe crab will move along the bottom until it reaches the shore. Other creatures like small clams, will dig themselves into the soft bed. But beyond that surf line, where the water is relatively quiet, life goes on in its many forms. I met one of those more dangerous animals in a completely accidental way.

It wasn’t long before local fishermen were using the tops of those seawalls to go out beyond the surf. The city added benches near the far end and they were perfect for someone who would do some casting. Bait casting is a special kind of fishing which requires a long rod. The fisherman would put bait on a hook and then “cast” the weighted line out into the water. Then, he or she would slowly reel in the line. If nothing out there noticed the bait, the entire process would begin again.

I wanted a casting rod in the worst way. Finally, one Christmas, I got one. It was a beauty, measuring nine feet in length. My Dad added a good reel. The reel on a casting rod is special. It has a device called the bail. That’s a heavy frame which allows the fishing line to be directed onto the reel when you are bringing it in. The bail can be put into a different position so that when casting, the line will easily fly off the reel. Here is how it’s done.

Bait your hook. Then flip the bail into the casting position. Next, stand where you are sure that no one is near you. Hold the rod by its handle and make sure that the hook hasn’t become entangled with the line. Slowly move the rod tip back behind you. Finally, whip the rod forward and the weighted hook goes flying way out into the water. What a sound! The hook whistles out and the monofilament line flows through the guides. When the hook hits the water, wait a moment and then flip the bail to the reeling position and slowly bring in your line.

Fortunately, a casting rod like that will come apart and you can store the pieces in the case provided. I couldn’t wait to try it out.

So, one summer day, I assembled my casting rod, made sure I had the hook in a little leather pouch and made my way down to the beach at the end of Perry Street. There was a little shop which sold bait among other things. I stopped in and bought a small plastic bag of bait. I was ready!

When I reached the beach, one of the long seawalls was about a block to my right. There was a flight of steps which led to the top of the wall.

I walked along the wall making sure that I didn’t get to close to the edge. In a few minutes, the surf was behind me and I was amazed at how quiet it was out there. As I reach the end, I heard someone move a newspaper. Then he greeted me. “Hey, that’s a nice casting rod. I’m Sam. I’m sitting on the left bench so the right one is clear. Do you have bait?” I nodded and showed him the bag. I introduced myself and then got to work. He went back to reading his paper and monitoring his own line.

I tied on the hook and added some bait. I had been practicing with the casting rod at home so I felt pretty comfortable with making my first cast. It felt great! Nothing seemed to show interest so I reeled in my line, checked to make sure that the piece of fish was still there and then cast again. This time I put my back into it and the hook flew quite a distance before I heard it hit the water.

I was expecting another failure when suddenly, the line under my finger began to twitch. Sam must have been watching. “Okay! Looks like you have a bite.” I reeled in the line and whatever was on the other end was giving me a challenge. Finally, I heard something flapping against the side of the wall. I kept reeling until it came up over the top. It was then that my companion jumped into action. He called to me. “Wait a minute, John! Don’t move!” I heard him stand up and pick up something from the ground. He move toward me and then I heard a loud smacking sound. After a moment, Sam put down the tool and explained. “John, you just hooked a harbor eel. I killed it with my hatchet. I have no idea why that thing went after your bait. They usually eat only small fish and don’t bother anybody. But if you had continued to reel it in, the eel would have bitten one of your feet. It’s dead so you can touch it now. You’re going to get a bit messy from the blood but that’s better than that thing biting you. He took my hand and showed me what I had caught. It was about two feet long with tiny fins coming out of the sides of the body. It was wet, cold and slimy but I didn’t worry about that. What made my blood run cold was the mouth. The eel’s head was about six inches long. Every inch of that tapered set of jaws was filled with tiny, razor sharp teeth. I could imagine what those teeth would do to an unprotected bare foot.

Now, I had a job to do. Hooks weren’t cheap, especially at the Jersey shore. Sam understood my problem and used that hatchet to force open the eel’s jaws. “Be careful, John! Those teeth are very sharp and a cut from them could get infected.” I removed the hook and returned it to my pouch. “Sam. What do I do with this thing? I certainly don’t want it.” Sam laughed. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to take it home as a souvenir?” I shook my head. “Just throw it back into the water. I’ll bet you it will disappear in less than twenty minutes.”

I thanked Sam for his help and made my way back to my mother’s stand. As I walked along, I wondered what would have happened if I had been all alone on that seawall. For one thing, I wouldn’t have pulled it right up onto the wall without knowing what I had. I tell myself that now but would I have been that smart? As I’m sure you can imagine, I wasn’t quite as excited about bait casting any more. What other creatures were lurking out there, just waiting for a blind guy to pull them up the wall?

The Haircut, poetry
by Barbara Hammel

From April till October,
About every week or so,
We get out razor and clippers
To trim all the hairs that grow.

Back and forth we rake the razor,
With slow and even swipes
Meticulous in what we do,
Careful not to leave long stripes.

The front, the back, and both the sides
Get trimmed up level and neat
And when it’s done, the air about
Is perfumed with the sweet.

Then we come in from our work,
Grab a drink, plop on our butt,
Satisfied for one more week
That the lawn has had its haircut.

Bio: Barbara Hammel lives in Urbandale, Iowa with her husband, twin sons and cat, Gandalf. Barbara has been writing poetry since she was sixteen. She contributed poems to a high school book and to her college dorm newspaper. She also has published a chapbook called Good-Bye Iowa Braille. She has also had a couple of articles published in Future Reflections. Barbara enjoys reading, writing, playing games and doing crossword puzzles. She was born blind.

The Frog, memoir nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Kate Chamberlin

“It’s raining dung headfirst!” the Argentinean rancher hooted.

“It’s raining old women with clubs!” the South African trader shouted.

“It’s raining cats and dogs,” the American farmer drawled laconically.

All I know is that the torrential, spring rain was sheeting down, making it hard to see clearly, but there was definitely something big and green in my driveway.

The biggest frog I’d ever witnessed was heading my way, hopping from puddle to puddle, occasionally, stopping to investigate fat, juicy worms. The wide, squat frog’s head was perched upon a rather thick, fire-plug shape. An over-all effective mean, green splashing machine.

It hopped onto the brick walk leading up to my home. It hopped onto my brick terrace. It rang my doorbell, so, of course, I opened the door.

My young grandson was very “hoppy” to show me his new green rain slicker with frog toggle closures and shiny, water-proof boots. The umbrella he held over his head was shaped like a fat, squat frog.

I couldn’t help laughing and hugging my wet, green Froggie.

Part IV. The Writers’ Climb

Thoughts on The Poetic Process: an essay, nonfiction
by Brad Corallo

Linda Gray Sexton wrote: “writing is magic, because it harnesses the energy generated by the chaos within.” So, what is a poet, but a lightning rod of the human condition? The desirability of being a lightning rod is questionable. Psychological thunder storms are a needed source of one’s energy. Thus a certain amount of violent and exquisite pain must inspire and inform the poet’s work. In addition to sharing the magic of the strike of electrically created luminescence, a lightning rod also conducts and safely disperses energy. This process may be seen as the basis of the poet’s creative spark and with artfully channeled energy a poem may be quickened. For some, this process can be cathartic and even therapeutic. Of course, there is a price to pay for catharsis and therapy. Endurance, intensity and hard work are often required.

In this writer’s experience, things that are less spectacular than lightning strikes often are the events that nudge the evolution of one or more word sequences toward the development and birth of a poem. Almost anything: a song, a cat rolling over in a patch of sunlight, an unpleasant bus trip, observing people interacting, an unusual odor and an ice cream cone to mention a few can cause the creation of a seemingly significant phrase or word sequence. When this happens the poet must get it written down in some fashion as soon as possible. After this occurs, a complex creative process may be activated. Sometimes these phrases and word sequences can ignite a frenzy of ideas which are written down rapidly and even feverishly. At this stage, the poet is not concerned with perfecting language. Rather it is more important to capture connected ideas or images before they get away.

Other times, thoughts and images may slowly constellate around the initial seed i.e. the seemingly significant phrase or word sequence. In this case, shifting around the various components may facilitate poem development.

For some, once the process is activated, God help anyone or anything that interrupts or interferes with it. Other poets can start and stop the process, finding that periods of time away from the developing organism can enhance its flourishing and growth.


Approximately five years ago, when I had a first poem published, I was deeply invested in trying to figure out where poems came from. I wrote the below then and have resurrected it as I believe it is seminal to the current effort. I am not sure if there need to be eight steps in the process. Some may be combined. But I do think that the below does accurately put into words a process that still can amaze me after all the poems and all the years. Truly, it still does and I think it always will.

  1. Idea/inspiration: this occurs when I feel the “itch” from which a poem can come. It might start from something I hear, observe or experience or it can come like a flash from somewhere unknown.
  2. Incubation: this takes place in the mind. It is a process in which the idea/inspiration gathers crucial bits which will be important parts of its expression.
  3. Initial burst: frenzied compulsive writing about the incubated idea/inspiration.
  4. Irrigation: this involves feeding the main emerging themes of the proto-poem.
  5. Crystallization: this is the forming of the basic matrix of the poem.
  6. Paring: this is eliminating whole lines, repositioning words and lines and generally cutting out the deadwood.
  7. Polishing: this is taking the pared piece and doing fine tuned word substitution, smoothing phrasing, refining lines and pauses and determining desired punctuation.
  8. Completion: this is that moment when you know that for better or worse, the poem is indisputably finished! Some writers have told me that “8” can be indefinite for them. For me “8” is when the “itch” in “1” is fully and comfortably scratched and the cat purrs.

(1) Linda Gray Sexton
Searching for Mercy Street: my journey back to my mother Anne Sexton,
Little Brown and Company
1994 (audio version) section “Companionship.”

  1. The portion above the star was written August 27, 2019 totally independent of the section below the star and was influenced by my emersion in Anne Sexton’s life and work.

  2. The section below the star was written September 20, 2014 and was inspired by an interview with Margo Lagattuta from Books and Beyond in which she discussed her piece “The Seven Elephants of Creativity.” As stated above, I was about to be published for the first time around 9-20-14 and was obsessed with the question of where poems came from. I wrote the second section below the star except for the bridging paragraph at that time. Originally there was no thought of fitting it into the current piece. However I somehow remembered it, reread it and felt it was well thought out and worthy of inclusion.

Deadline Dilemma, poetry
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

I can’t miss the deadline. The editor said mine
Looks a bit stale, needs current detail.
That’s easy to tweak, I read more last week.
Was it in a book? Oh, where should I look?

Big bulky books block my bookshelves.
Cartridges cascade from my cabinets in quantities.
Disks defeat my darndest efforts to direct them to a definite home.
Print pages pile up aplenty pleading to be perused or pitched.
A myriad of magazines and mailings mingle with my medical mysteries.
Tiny trinkets tumble when touched unless tethered together.
Souvenirs surround me, scavenged on a sweet Summer Sunday from some unsuspecting shop.

Oh, the woes that I chose when I accumulated those
Hard to file and compile with a smile, but meanwhile,
If I try, by and by, like that pie in the sky,
I will find what I crave, for I know that I saved it,
The question is, “Where?”

“Deadline Dilemma” was previously published as “On Organization” in Behind Our Eyes edited by Marilyn Brandt Smith, iUniverse (December 2007 ) and as “Spring Fling” in Chasing the Green Sun by Marilyn Brandt Smith, (2012.) Behind Our Eyes is available on Amazon and from the National Library for the Blind. Chasing the Green Sun is available from Amazon and other bookstores and in audio format.

The Red Dress, book excerpt
by Abbie Johnson Taylor


When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.


October 1987, Boulder, Colorado

“Oh, Eve, don’t tell me you’re going to work on that creative writing assignment now instead of going to the homecoming dance.”

In her dorm room at the University of Colorado, Eve Barry was staring at the blank piece of paper in her typewriter, waiting for her poised fingers to produce something. She sighed and ran her fingers through her long, black hair as she turned to her roommate, Charlene Tucker, who was fresh from the shower, clad only in a black terry-cloth robe, her dark, wet curls plastered to her head.

“I’m really not interested in going to the dance, and this assignment’s due Monday. I went to the game this afternoon.”

“Yeah, wasn’t that awesome? We creamed the Wyoming Cowboys.”

“Wait a minute! You’re from Wyoming.”

“Yeah, but I’m in Colorado, now, and we have something to celebrate. You really should come to the dance. I know you don’t have a date, but I’m sure Alex wouldn’t mind if you came with us.”

“I really should work on this tonight, so I’m not cramming to get it done tomorrow on top of my other assignments, especially since I have writer’s block. With just about everybody at the dance, I shouldn’t have any distractions, and maybe something will come to me.”

Charlene rolled her eyes and moved to her side of the room, where she switched on her bedside radio, tuned to a soft rock station.

“What was the assignment again?” she asked as she removed her bathrobe and began applying lotion.

“I’m supposed to write about a memorable piece of clothing.”

“That’s easy. Write about the dress you wore your first day of kindergarten, when you threw up all over the nun who hit you with a ruler for being late.”

Eve almost laughed. “That’s not my story. You’re the one who went to a parochial school.”

“So? It’s still a story. Your professor will never know the difference.”

Eve sighed again. She wasn’t surprised by her roommate’s attitude. Charlene didn’t understand or appreciate literature the way she did.

Eve watched Charlene finish applying lotion, dry her hair, and put on her undergarments, then rifle through her closet for something to wear. All the while, Charlene prattled on about Alex Smith, the boy who would accompany her to the dance, the captain of the football team-about how handsome he was in his uniform, how he could throw a ball and run. She realized why Charlene was suddenly loyal to the University of Colorado team and felt like throwing up.

Finally, Charlene said, “Ugh! There’s nothing good here. If you’re not gonna go to the dance, could I borrow something from your closet?”


Eve was anxious for Charlene to leave. She turned back to her desk.

Hangers in her closet scraped against the metal bar as articles of clothing were shoved aside.

“Oh, look at this!” said Charlene.

Eve turned and could only stare at the bright red dress she’d almost forgotten.

Charlene held the garment at arm’s length, admiring the three-quarter-length sleeves, low neckline, and gathered waist. “Oh, my God! This is beautiful! Where did you get it, and why do you keep it way off to one side in your closet?”

Eve then heard on the radio the mellow strains of “Lady in Red,” the song she’d pushed to the back of her mind and hoped never to hear again.

Charlene laid the dress on Eve’s bed and hurried to her side. Kneeling and taking her hand, she said, “Hey, what is it?”

Eve could hold back no longer. With tears streaming down her face, she said, “I wore that dress, and we danced to that song.”

“Oh, God,” said Charlene, leaping to her feet. She hurried to her side of the room and turned off the radio, then returned.

The next thing Eve knew, she was crying on Charlene’s shoulder as her roommate knelt on the floor next to her chair and held her. The incident had occurred several months earlier, but the wound was still fresh. Finally, when no more tears would come, Eve sat up and blew her nose.

“There’s your story,” said Charlene. “But maybe you’d better tell me first.”

Eve found herself blurting it all out.

“Mom made that dress for my senior prom. I had a date with Trent Boyer, the cutest boy in school. He was the captain of the football team, and I loved watching him play.”

“Wow, just like Alex.”

“Yeah. Well, at the prom, we danced to that song, and I felt like I truly loved him, and I thought he loved me. Afterwards, he said he had to use the restroom. Other boys asked me to dance, and I got to talking with my friends, and when I looked around the gym later, I couldn’t find him. I asked my friends if they’d seen him, and they just shook their heads.”

“Oh, gosh.”

“Like I said, I thought he loved me. I didn’t think he’d leave me. I decided to go out to the parking lot to see if his car was still there. He’d dropped me off at the entrance, so I didn’t know where he’d parked. It took me a while to find his car, but I did, in a dark corner up against the fence by the football field. I looked in the window and saw two figures in the back seat.”

“Oh, my God.”

“I thought I was imagining things. I was on the driver’s side, so I opened that door, and of course the light came on, and there they were, Trent and my best friend, Adele Matthews. Or at least I thought she was my best friend.”

Eve paused to fight back more tears, and Charlene asked, “Were they actually having sex, or were they just necking?”

“They were totally naked. Of course they stopped when I opened the door, and they both looked at me like I was from another planet or something. I said a few choice words I’d learned from my dad, then slammed the door and ran back into the building.”

“Good for you.”

“I went to the restroom and cried my eyes out. Fortunately, no one was there. Then I washed my face and put on more makeup so I wouldn’t look as if I’d been crying. I went to the pay phone in the hall near the main office and called home. Mom answered, and she could tell something was wrong, so she came and picked me up.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t want to go back to school after that.”

“I didn’t, but Mom and Dad said it wouldn’t do any good to hide from my problems. I had to face them head on.”

“What did you do when you saw Trent and Adele at school?”

“I didn’t speak to them, and they never spoke to me. Other kids knew, I think, but nobody said anything to me about it. Boy, was I glad a few weeks later, when graduation came.”

“I’ll bet. Have you heard from Adele or Trent since then?”

“No. Adele was planning to come here with me and major in drama, like you, but I heard that Trent got her pregnant, and they ran off to Las Vegas to get married.”

“So why did you bring that dress with you?”

“Mom insisted I take it in case there was something formal here.”

“Like the homecoming dance.”

“I’m not going to the dance. You can borrow the dress if you want.”

“You know, I can see why you put this dress off to one side. It’s only hurting you now. Let me take it off your hands. You don’t need it anymore.”

“But my mother made it. Of course I wanted a store-bought dress, but she wanted to save money and make me one. She worked long days at her job as director of the public library. There were only two weeks left until the prom when I told her I wanted a new dress, so she stayed up nights and scrambled to get it done.”

“Oh, you poor, homesick baby. Now you miss your mommy, who made this beautiful dress for you. Are you gonna cry now? Go ahead, crybaby. Cry.”

Eve was stunned but shouldn’t have been surprised. Her roommate cared little about others’ feelings. Her sympathy and curiosity were only a ploy, and she would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.

“Fine, take the damn dress. I don’t care,” Eve said before turning away in disgust.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Charlene slip the garment over her head. She had to admit it looked good on her.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Charlene opened it, and a tall young man with dark hair and blue eyes stood on the threshold.

“Hi, Alex,” said Charlene. “I just need to grab my cigarettes, and we can go. Come in and meet my roommate.”

“You’re not coming to the dance?” Alex asked after they were introduced.

“No,” Charlene answered. “Eve’s going to stay here and write the great American novel. Or something like that.”

“Wow,” said Alex with a smirk. “Good luck. I can’t wait to read it. Let’s go, babe.”

After they left, Eve sighed, turned to her typewriter, placed her fingers on the keys, and started writing.

The Red Dress is available at:


We will be holding contests in the areas of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for the Fall/Winter edition of Magnets and Ladders. All submissions will be entered into the contest. Cash prizes of $30 and $20 will be awarded to the first and second place winners.

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 August 15, so be sure to get your entries in on time. send all submissions to:

Little Words, nonfiction
by Nancy Scott

Note: This article was inspired by “The 33 The-ses” by M. Thomas Gammarino published in the June, 2018 edition of The Writer. Gammarino gives 33 examples of how the articles “the” and “A” change the meaning of a sentence, title, or phrase.

I’m stealing from a piece from the June 2018 issue of The Writer about grammatical articles- you know, “a piece of cake” versus “the piece of cake.” So I am “a writer” stealing from The Writer.

If you played, would you say “I play the guitar” or “I play guitar”? I might now say that I play piano because I don’t have my piano anymore, but I could still play a piano.

You might have money but not the money. If you robbed a bank, you could end up with the money. You could inherit a fortune or the fortune from a crazy aunt whom you haven’t seen in twenty years. Maybe no one knew how large that fortune would be.

My grandmother left me a set of stainless silverware many years ago. I still use and appreciate it. The flatware gleamed in its newness in my silverware drawer. I’m sure I have a crazy relative (or six) but they will probably not leave me the money. I wonder how much the money would be. Surely more than a nest egg.

I’m reading a novel about casino corruption. Could I do the really bad thing to get the money? What if I had the chance to not get caught?

The walk to the mailbox is not a walk to the mailbox. Your character likely has the key. But a walk would be variable. She could cross the street into the sunshine. He could stop at a tiny shop he’d never been in. She could walk an extra block for exercise and to check out people’s holiday decorations. A bird might chirp or the bird he hates might harass.

You or your character might talk to a neighbor or the neighbor-the one yelling last night about the bills.

What about the walk to a mailbox? Straight ahead and predictable. But whose mailbox? Is there a key picked up from the street? Was it slipped under the door with a note? Or a note with the handwriting you never thought you’d see again?

Sometimes there are too many little words. I edit them when drafting poetry. Such editing speeds up and forces unique connections.

This article is too frivolous to earn the money but it might earn a compliment or a laugh. Maybe someone else will write the story about the scary or exciting walk to a mailbox and that person will earn the money. Maybe someone else will explain the crazy aunt’s fortune. Or the guitar playing at 2 a.m. I will have had the fun. Fun may not be the best thing a writer can have, but it’s a good thing.

“The 33 The-ses” by M. Thomas Gammarino can be found at:

Bio: Blind author, Nancy Scott’s over 700 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 Braille Forum, Disabilities Studies Quarterly, Philadelphia Stories, Pentimento and Wordgathering.

A Cautionary Tale, Without Warning, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Bonjour. I am a poem,
resting on a cloud of fiction,
from where teardrops of nonfiction
periodically emanate.

Now, dear poetry reader,
a cautionary tale–
or what should have been a Cautionary tale.
Postmarked with friendship, an e-mail arrived post haste;
however, the August letter of ill-conceived consequence should have been sent
by special delivery with a warning label.
Without said warning, the recipient was suddenly
enveloped into the insensitive morass
of unkind, uncaring, unknowing words–
weapons that targeted an already broken heart.

I advised her to open her umbrella of understanding.
I encouraged her to catch the words
in a bitterfly net.
I pleaded with her to toss the letter
into the forgetting file or fire,
but she could only accept the soothing salve of time.

What is her stance?
She is the one who will read
the words of weaponry only once:
she will not give the writer the satisfaction
of a second read–a second blow.
Now, with decades in her heart pocket,
wiser and more patient,
she, who loved and once taught debate,
will not give the writer the satisfaction
of a reply or rebuttal.

Unanswered letter
was a flag to the few who read it;
but only one prized individual
whispered a kindly, caring word of regret
from a blessed and crystalline conscience.
Will he ever fully know
how his lone feather
pushed away the weight of those wrenching words?

I coax her to read this commemorative stamp:
“Some friendships grow with grace and gratitude;
other friendships are punctuated with patience.”

What was the date of the postal cancellation?
I close with telling her:
“Cancel the August moment,
move on, move on.”

I am a poet, resting on a cloud of fiction.
in my cumulous or nebulous state,
I convince her to join me on said cloud
where we will share
a dessert of poetic retort.

Bio: Celebrating thirty years of working with four amazing Leader Dogs, Alice Jane-Marie Massa created and distributed 150 posters, each of which features photos of her Leader Dogs and her poem “A Guide Dog’s Prayer to Saint Francis of Assisi.” To view a photo of the full-color poster, visit Alice’s author’s page: At the above website, you may also read more about Alice’s book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season–a collection of her memoirs, short stories, poems, and essays.

Each week, you will find more of Alice’s writings on her very accessible blog:

Dress: a Non-Apologizing Apology, fiction
by Susan Muhlenbeck

Note: In the Fall/Winter edition of Magnets and Ladders, readers were encouraged to submit a poem, essay, or story in the form of a non-apologizing apology.

I showed up at the party last night wearing your beautiful, new silk dress. I was contemplating what I should wear when you called and said you would be late due to the fact that your grandma needed your help getting settled for the night. Her nurse had to cancel at the last minute. You told me to go without you, and that you would get there as soon as you could.

I couldn’t find a single outfit in my closet that I wanted to wear. Then I saw your new dress, still in the box and nestled in tissue paper. Just out of curiosity, I picked it up, and its beauty made me gasp. I never owned anything so pretty in my life. I tried it on and liked what I saw. It fit me quite well. It was a little tight on me, but not too tight, and the color matched my skin perfectly.

But I couldn’t stop there. I rummaged through your jewelry box and picked out your pearl necklace, which was made for that dress. Then I found the new shoes you bought to go with the dress, and slipped those on too. Of course I couldn’t forget the matching purse. Just before I left, I dabbed on some of the exquisite perfume you bought in the South of France, then I set out.

I was walking on air when I arrived at the party. I got so many compliments on my outfit. Then this guy called Seth came up to me and asked if I wanted to dance. Yes, this is the Seth you have been wanting to go out with for months, the one you were hoping would be at the party and notice you in your chic outfit. I was starting to think you weren’t going to make it.

When you finally showed up an hour and a half later, you saw me wearing your new dress and dancing with Seth. You looked more than a little pissed off, but I couldn’t worry about it at the moment. I was glad you weren’t the confrontational type.

I looked for you a little later, but you were gone. I figured you would curse me out the next day, but the next day was a million years away. I think I drank one glass of wine too many. I tripped on the steps and managed to spill red wine and tear your lovely dress at the same time. I made a mental note to buy you a new one.

I got home around 3:00 in the morning. Seth dropped me off since I was in no shape to drive. We made plans to get together that night.

I was surprised to find that you were not even home. Instead I found a note saying I had one week to get out of your house. I couldn’t believe you were giving me the keys to the street without letting me explain. Then I realized that this may be a blessing in disguise. If things go according to plan, I would move in with Seth within the week. I would explain the situation during our date, and he would insist that I move in with him.

I am not going to borrow anything of yours on my special date. It’s bad enough that I ruined your evening and your dress, and that I snuck up to the guy you had your heart set on. Just don’t think I did those things with malice.

Keepsakes as Muse, Poem and Exercise
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

After searching the Family Tree and the Tree of Life for poetry topics, let us now take a look in the cedar chest, hope chest, or other treasure chest of family keepsakes. Can you find a poem inside one of those chests? Can you pull out a keepsake, hold it in your hands, and allow the object to become your muse for another poem?

I try to use most of my keepsakes–at least, seasonally or periodically–in my townhouse. I like to enjoy the keepsakes; and I enjoy further preserving these keepsakes with poetry, as the next poem demonstrates. For additional writing ideas concerning your family treasures, refer to the five writing prompts at the end of this poem.


Aunt Zita’s Checkered Tablecloths

My north-facing kitchen
catches little sunshine,
but catches many memories.
Atop the maple table–
once-upon-a-time my parents’ table in Indiana–
is a green-and-white checkered tablecloth
that had lain on one of the smaller tables
at my Aunt Zita’s Italian restaurant.
Numerous platters of spaghetti and meat balls
once decorated this tablecloth.
Aroma of my aunt’s sauce and Italian veal
still arise from this tablecloth.
Happy conversations echo over
and around this keepsake cloth at every meal.
Starched, ironed, and blessed many times
by Aunt Zita’s hard-working hands,
this green-and-white checkered tablecloth
lies softly and casually in my kitchen.

Born in 1908, Aunt Zita–
modern, ahead of her times–
would smile at seeing atop her cloth
a Downton Abbey teapot
on a dinner plate from my mother’s china set
and a silver-blue vase filled with pink silk tulips–
because my aunt had a splendid garden of tulips.

As I drink my herbal tea
at this table of memories,
I am nourished by the love and strength
of my beloved aunt and other ancestors.

From Aunt Zita, I have one other tablecloth–
the red-and-white checkered one,
which is always on my table
for the Fourth of July and Festa Italiana.
Oh, what a time to celebrate
food and family!


Writing Prompts concerning Keepsakes

  1. Write a poem focusing on a keepsake which you use.
  2. Write a poem concerning a keepsake which you keep in a cedar chest or other closed space.
  3. Write a poem about a keepsake which was lost or broken.
  4. Write a poem about giving a keepsake to someone of a younger generation.
  5. Write a poem about a cedar chest, hope chest, or treasure chest.

“Aunt Zita’s Checkered Tablecloths” was previously published on alice’s “wordwalk” blog.

Part V. Looking Back

A Man Named Fyre, memoir Nonfiction First Place
by Leonard Tuchyner

He was an oasis in a desert for a soul in search of meaning, thirsty for something to believe in, who had found only dry bones in rituals and teachings that instructed only in matters of practicalities of how to live a good life, while abandoning their deeper, wiser and richer cultural legacy. Those half-full lessons said little of what lived beyond our Earth-bound island.

Bored almost to the land of death, I daydreamed my way through uncountable years of Hebrew school, rescued only by Mar. Tuman’s forbearance, a man of gentle hands whose skin was so thick that his parents might have been rhinoceroses.

But one day a man rode into town in a Studebaker sedan. It was the only car he thought worth buying. He came to teach and to cantor in my little town of Irvington, N.J. His name was Fyre. It was a most befitting name, as I would come to know. All my peers called him Cantor Fyre. I never heard anyone refer to him otherwise. Years later, I learned he was a rabbi, but it was a secret he kept to himself back then. There was always an aura of mystery about him. Perhaps that was a quality of his allure. Nevertheless, I have a theory as to why he did not disclose his credentials to our congregation. He came to work for our congregation, which was already well Rabbi’d. Cantor Fyre would be working under Rabbi Englander. Equality of credentials might have been a source of conflict, especially since Fyre already carried an air of authority. Today I wonder if the adults knew he was a rabbi and urged him not to spread the news because they knew of the potential for discord.

It was in a Sabbath service that I first heard him sing, and Cantor Fyre set my heart ablaze. Trained by a master of operatic vocal music, Fyre seemed to make the walls of our synagogue burst with spirit. His renditions could make the dead live again within his vocal reverberations. I heard an overtone, for the first time in this life, whose power and beauty I could not, and cannot, describe. After that first experience, I would never purposefully miss a Friday night or Saturday morning service.

Then came bar mitzvah training time when, as they say, a boy becomes a fountain pen, and I received knowledge directly at Fyre’s feet. It is the tradition that a congregation’s cantor should be the teacher for children studying for their bar mitzvah or bas mitzvah. I remember sitting on a bench alone in his apartment as he played the piano and taught me how to sing. That’s when I discovered I had a voice and joined the choir. Every Friday night, in burgundy robes, we sang Yiddish and Hebrew classics. My ego rode high on my solo. I still remember most of that piece of music. Although my ego has turned several notches down since then, my spirits still soar on the memories.

I remember the long walks to temple. There were three of us boys in training walking with Cantor Fyre, while he taught on the hoof. This was when we began to hear the phantom voice of the Kabala, which spoke with a deeper reality than practicality. I began to drink of the spirit wine which nourished me as I yearned to be nourished.

Despite a few years of relatively peaceful renaissance, the fire in Fyre could not be quenched in the insipid waters of mundality, and soon he and Rabbi Englander came to rabbinical blows. Our congregation was thrown into civilized warfare, and Fyre had to leave. I surmise that this was a pattern in his life, for he had a zealot’s soul that spoke out when he disagreed with the status quo. Not lacking in courage, he was wont to rush in where prudent men would fear to tread.

In the last days, I spent time with him. He had been living in the home of a prominent temple leader, so naturally he had to move out and take up temporary residence in a nearby town. He never stopped teaching me. He taught me that men of spirit always live in every faith. He spoke of Native American shamans. And how holy people from all corners of the earth hold the planet together. Then he left for parts unknown.

I kept orthodox traditions for several years. Then, gradually, I let go of my fervor, but the flames that Fyer had kindled never quenched. I sought spiritual understanding and experience from many quarters. Many other cultural traditions were tasted and some digested. While I no longer followed Jewish orthodoxy, I felt my strong connections with my heritage. I felt urged by the values intrinsic in this heritage to seek beyond my own cloistered cultural confines.

In my mid-twenties, I encountered Rabbi Fyre again in Miami. In those days Miami was a haven for Hebrew landsmen. He was working a gig as rabbi for an established synagogue. He claimed he interviewed wearing a racy tie. I never asked him why, but I wager it got their attention. Though married to a shiksa and errant in pious ways, I lingered in his world awhile. I learned that I had changed and was no longer in
need of a hero. Reluctantly, I went on my own path. It was a path inexorably influenced by this man named Fyre, a man who abides in my mind and heart in music and meaning.

Buffy Slays the Vampires, memoir nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Marcia J. Wick, The Write Sisters

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a little bit of a cat, pure black like the kind you don’t want crossing your path. Named a la the 1990s television series, Buffy came to live with us 18 years ago. My daughters were 10 and 12 at the time. With young children banging in and out of the house, our curious kitten ventured outside at every opportunity. She harassed the squirrels in our yard and brought home birds as unwelcome gifts. She scaled the fence and stalked the bunnies in the open field behind our home for hours on end.

A sleek 10 pounds at maturity, a damsel in distress she was not. During the day, bold Buffy loved nothing better than to roll in the warm dirt, turning her black coat brown. At night, she was invisible. Only her flashing yellow eyes on the lookout for vampires caught the porch light. Buffy protected our home. She wasn’t meek. She held her own with other creatures of the dark. Buffy had excellent night vision, so if I failed to get her inside the house before bedtime, I could anticipate a screeching cat fight at midnight. One summer, I arranged for a live trap to relocate a feral feline that haunted us, but all I caught were squirrels, insanely angry squirrels – far more dangerous than vampires. Often, Buffy limped home after a fight with torn ears and puncture wounds that seemed to heal overnight, but soon, she would howl to get out and have at it again.

Natural predators weren’t the only demons Buffy encountered. My husband, ironically the man who had presented Buffy to me and my girls 10 years earlier, began a crusade to get the cat out of the house when we married. To his credit, he scooped her litter box and purchased her food for years, but he soon tired of cleaning up her vomit. (He called Buffy “Barfy” because she often puked up her prey on the carpet.)

When I applied to get a Guide Dog for the Blind, my husband seized the opportunity to declare, “Buffy must go!” After all, a cat wouldn’t be compatible with a dog, he argued. I insisted that we should wait and see; I didn’t share his assumption. I wasn’t worried. Buffy could hold her own. She could fight off back yard predators twice her size. For a decade, she had protected us against vampires, fox, bear, and bob cat. The old girl also kept pace with my grown children and grandchildren. I figured Buffy could stand up to a grumpy old man and a docile dog guide for the blind. My husband advertised to find a new home for Buffy, but “mysteriously” there were no callers.

When I brought my guide dog home, the 60-pound yellow lab was completely deferential to my pint-sized vampire slayer. The dog accepted that the cat was queen of the castle. In fact, she wouldn’t cross the cat’s path- if Buffy stood in the hallway between me and my guide, the dog would refuse to “come” when I called; if Buffy watched from the doorway when I instructed my guide to “go inside,” my dog stood like a statue until I shooed the cat out of the way. At the same time, Buffy observed the special treatment I bestowed on my guide and decided she wanted in on the action. The cat began competing for my attention – following me around the house like the dog, sitting to my right if the dog was on my left, meowing for equal time. Buffy compelled me to start brushing her black coat after watching me groom the dog every day. She drank from the dog’s water bowl instead of her own dish, she insisted on eating out of my hand after she saw me reward the dog with kibble that way. Gradually, my ferocious feline transformed into a submissive lap cat.

As Buffy aged, she stopped barfing thanks to a special (expensive) diet, but then she started losing weight. She dropped to six pounds as her 18th year approached. Her shiny black fur draped her bones like a vampire’s cape. She still ventured outside to sun herself on the patio, but she required a step stool to hop onto my bed at night. I switched her from dry to wet food when she began shunning her kibble, but soon she required more enticement – cream cheese topping or, better yet, a dollop of cream cheese she could lick straight off my fingertip. At that point, I allowed her to eat whatever, whenever she wanted.

Thanksgiving Day, I realized that Buffy was tired and ready to retire when she turned down a piece of turkey. She never seemed to suffer. She drank water and purred in my lap. She allowed me to brush her thinning coat which she was no longer cleaning herself. In early December, I knew Buffy’s last day had come. She took one last tour of the yard and curled up in a barren flower pot. Buffy loved the dirt. I’m sure it was warm, but we carried her inside and nestled her into a bed of towels near a heating vent. She stretched out in a relaxed pose and acknowledged my touch with a turn of her head.

“Good kitty,” I whispered, “You slayed all the vampires. Rest now.”

I buried Buffy out back between the lilac bushes where she can continue to guard the yard

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

Outlier’s Visit, 1863, poetry Second Place
by Wesley Sims

He slinked out of the woods
stepping like a deer at dusk,
scanned fence lines, patches of pine trees.
Crept through field and pasture,
paused at the barn for darkness
to dim the landscape, mask his mission.
Maybe it would also dim his longing.

He zigzagged barn to crib to back of the house.
Crawled around to the bedroom window,
swallowed back the tightness in his throat,
pulled the cap low over his forehead,
inched his body up to a crouch,
avoiding the swath of lamplight
flickering silhouettes through the window.

One daughter asleep, the other two
in night shirts, shaking out
light brown curls like their mother.
He watched them climb into bed,
pull up the covers, jostle each other
until she came and kissed them goodnight.
He drew a deep breath, exhaled
to throttle his galloping heartbeat.

His heart ached to race around to the door,
tear into the house and grab them all four,
daughters and wife, hold them in his arms.
But he lived in the woods to avoid the army.
And his daughters could not know
because the dangerous war still raged on.

Cartwheels and Cotton Candy, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Confidently throwing hands down
onto the cool, soft Hoosier blades of grass,
somehow kicking my legs up and around
into the humid Indiana air,
I relished doing a cartwheel,
another cartwheel, another cartwheel
through the east yard of our Blanford home.

Where did my spring and summer of cartwheels go?
When did I stop doing cartwheels?
I wish I could recall the exhilaration
of my first successful cartwheel
and the day and year of my final cartwheel.

I remember, too, the summers
of doing handstands in the swimming pool.
Now, what year did I stop doing handstands?

I think the year was a couple of summers
after I stopped eating the sweetest treat of summer–
cotton candy.

Perhaps, in my silver years of summers,
what I need is another dose of
cotton candy.

“Cartwheels and Cotton Candy” was previously published on Alice’s “wordwalk” blog.

Dream Talk, poetry
by Valerie Moreno

Last night I was 17,
dressed in bell-bottom jeans
with tie dye shirt.

Jabbering to my closest friend,
I spilled my deepest thoughts
without reservation.

Life was miraculous, yet cruel, too.
My convictions flowed around me
like the dark, frizzy hair
cascading down my back.

Where is the girl I was–
all these years on–is she faded by time, hard knocks, shattered ideals?

I grab at her memories as
I sip steaming coffee,
aware of my aging frailty.

She’s me as I sweep the floor,
feed the cat,
plan a grocery list.

I hum a Dylan masterpiece,
realizing–beyond gray hair and wisdom– she talks with words written on a waiting page.

The Boy with the Long Hair and Violin Case, memoir
by Elizabeth Fiorite

I did not grow up in a violent household or neighborhood, but when I was nine or ten-years-old, I manifested an unusual, but short-lived belligerent side of my nature.

I decided that a boy about my age was someone I needed to fight. This boy, whose name I have never known, walked past our corner house regularly, probably on his way to or from a music lesson. We did not attend the same school, nor had we ever spoken to each other, but he had long hair held in place with bobby pins and he carried a violin case.

I decided that this sissy needed to learn to fight, or maybe I thought that this would be an easy conquest for me. After all, I practiced swatting at a punching bag in my girlfriend’s attic, where her older brother had put together a make shift gym.

My plan was to attack him straight on and dislodge some of his bobby pins. This plan backfired miserably. Without setting his violin case down or even dislodging one bobby pin, the “sissy’s” one swat knocked me to the ground, and I scrambled to my feet and ran up the steps to my back door. He had loomed much bigger than when viewed from across the street.

No one was home except my uncle George, who was blind, and was the first one in the family to get home from work in the afternoon. He was in his room smoking his Lucky Strikes while listening to the Cubs baseball game. He was used to my occasional outbursts of some perceived injustice, without taking much notice of my complaints.

However, I was bent on revenge. Physical prowess was not going to work. Some days later, I saw the boy with the long hair and violin case coming towards our house again. I was “smoking” some licorice cigarettes, and immediately devised a more practical plan of dispatching this boy, whose only fault was that he had sent me sprawling after I attacked him without provocation.

I quickly removed one of the cigarettes from the pack, rolled it in an ant hill, brushed it off, and ran out of my yard to offer it to him as he walked past our yard. Eyeing me suspiciously, he wordlessly took it and thrust it whole into his mouth. I watched him continue on his way, expecting him to fall dead at the next corner, but he marched on without faltering.

I was immediately overcome with remorse, and again ran into the house, where my uncle was again listening to the ball game on the radio. I must have blabbered that I had done something terrible, but Uncle George never missed a puff on his real cigarette. Maybe the bases were loaded and I came in at a bad time. He obviously didn’t think this was a case for the police, and he didn’t even tell my mother.

I felt guilty about this for a very long time, and I must have learned something from it, because I have never planned or perpetrated such an evil deed since then.

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

Grandma’s Place, memoir
by Rebecca Shields

When I was growing up, there was one place I looked forward to going–Grandma’s home. Her small house was always open to everyone.

She had a special way of making whoever came feel welcome. The smell of brown pinto beans cooking filled the air. Many times when we arrived, she was still rolling out the freshly made dough for the large batch of tortillas. Sometimes I would beg to help her with them. It seemed like I always learned something new from Grandma each time I got to be with her. Her black hair was neatly put into a bun. The bright red apron she wore matched her cheery voice as she greeted us at the door. Sheenjoyed her family so much. I was one of several grandchildren. But in my world, she was the only grandma I had. She would take care of me when my parents needed childcare. I proudly wore beautiful dresses that she had spent hours making. The fancy detailed design with lace and rickrack demonstrated her skill as a seamstress. When given the opportunity, Grandma would have each visiting granddaughter feel special. She would ask her to sit on the floor in front of her, then braid her hair in as long of a braid as possible. Then she would tye it with brightly colored silk ribbons. I certainly learned very important lessons from this experience. It took lots of patience to sit so long at a young age. I learned to respect authority, be appreciative of another’s way of showing their love, and wait my turn, sharing grandma with the others as she gave each of us her attention. These fulfilling unspoken characteristics she so graciously offered to us are reflected in my life today as I interact with my grandchildren.

After raising 14 children, this wonderful Mexican cook always hoped anyone who came to her home was hungry. If I wasn’t thinking about food before I got to her house, I certainly did after getting there.

Grandma had learned about fending for herself early in her life. Cooking was one of the life skills she was taught early on. She was raised in a small village in Mexico. Life was tough for her family. Even though they were very poor, working together was what families did best.

When large groups of families immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the early 1900’s, my grandparents joined them. Grandma told stories about riding side saddle and carrying a rifle on her hip. The word had spread that coal mining in the west was waiting for hard workers. So coming to Colorado was what many folks had in mind.

By 1942, the last of my grandparents’ children were ready for school. My father was only 10. There were several older and some younger than he. My grandmother found it necessary to try and work away from home. Her husband did not survive the sickness coal miners contracted. Her older sons had gone to war. In order to support her many children at home, she had to make a living. She knew what she did well was cook. So for some time she cooked in a few different places in the city. But it was difficult to be away from home, and not be able to tend to the many demands of being a single parent. But the work force was even more ugly. She faced discrimination. Not only was she a woman, but a Mexican Woman!

After the war was over, a well-known man decided to close his business. He had known my grandmother and had great respect for her. So he made her an offer. For her, it was more than a dream come true. For her to have her own place to be the cook seemed almost unreal. But it became a reality for this hardworking lady.

In 1946, the doors of the La Fiesta cafe were opened to the public. For the next 45 years, this small family-owned business would be known as having the best Mexican food in Southeastern Colorado, serving many favorite Mexican dishes: soups, desserts and more. This hardworking mother didn’t have to leave her children at home when she went to work any more. Now many of them came with her and pitched right in to get the big job done.

I loved Grandma’s Place as it was called by the family. It truly was a part of who Antonia really was. Many family wedding receptions, baby showers and other family get togethers were held at this special place. A glass case stood in the corner, displaying grandma’s fine needlework and
other handmade items. The money made from them helped support her welcoming, warm small cafe. A Jukebox playing popular Mexican songs of the day sat near the open door. The tacos, tamales, tostadas, enchiladas and so much more always tasted so good.

Now that I am older myself, I understand and appreciate so much more the value of my heritage. I certainly love the flavor of great cooking. I also enjoy the task of preparing a good meal. I am sure I learned that from my grandma. But I am aware and thankful for the other very valuable food she fed my mind with that would keep me going for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t education, money, fancy clothes or a big house that made my grandmother rich. It was the pillar of strength she was for each one of us. There were many times she fed strangers that said they couldn’t pay. The love she gave to her children and grandchildren and her honest, forgiving, helpful ways that she offered to everyone were her special gifts.

Antonia Cancino lives on today. This year marks the fifty year milestone of her legacy. Eight generations later she still hasn’t been forgotten. The rich recipes this wise, kind, gentle and humble role model passed on to me will continue to feed me forever.

Bio: Rebecca Shields is a Colorado native and has been blind since birth. She has a graduate degree in counseling, and owns a business that serves individuals with disabilities, with an emphasis on services for the blind and visually impaired. Reading has always been an important part of her world. Writing fiction and nonfiction has given Rebecca an avenue for sharing her life experiences, creating fulfilling memoirs and touching many lives. Rebecca’s articles have been featured in the Braille Forum by the American Council Of The Blind, Slate and Style by the National Federation Of The Blind, and Behind Our Eyes: a Second Look.

Not This Job, memoir
by Janet Schmidt

“How did you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Get the scratch on your nose?”

“I was finishing the blouse I was making in Home Ec for the fashion show. I held it too close to my face to see what I was doing and I scratched my nose with the needle.”

“You did what?”

“Scratched my nose with the needle.”

“The questioner doubled over with laughter, Well at least you didn’t poke your eye with it.”

“Cold comfort,” I snarled. “Now get out of my face.”

When we were little kids my sisters and I used to draw, color and cut out dresses we thought they would look magnificent on our paper dolls. After dressing the dolls with our creations we would show them to Mom. “Why they are beautiful,” she always told us. So I began to dream, when I grew up I would design and make beautiful gowns. But thinking back to my experience in Home Ec caused me to scratch the idea. And I didn’t like to sew anyhow.

In college I joined the Thespian Club. I was very great at emoting when reading scripts and really good at memorizing lines. I earned a role in the spring play. So I considered becoming a world famous actress. Oh the things we dream of.

The rehearsals went well until the dress rehearsal. As I strolled out onto the stage my feet got tangled up in my long skirt and I fell face first onto the beautiful silk sofa where the man of my dreams was seated. I was supposed to have seated my demure self beside him. Good thing this was only a dress rehearsal. The makeup person assured me she could cover the bruise on my nose. After more practice I was sure my acting would be so smashing it would be declared by all, “a fantastic star is born.”

Now it was the big night. I sashayed on to the stage in all of my glory, approached my true love and fell over my feet. I smashed my face into his shoulder. The makeup on my nose was smeared on his formal suit jacket. The audience clapped their hands and laughed uproariously. Some smart aleck even whistled. My true love whispered, “Janet, they think it’s part of the play so let’s play it that way.”

I righted myself and curtsied. My true love hoisted me over his shoulder and preceded to waltz around the stage. The audience laughed and clapped and the boob whistled again. My male partner prompted me to do more silly things and I followed his dialogue with smart remarks. The director and acting coach were delighted with our performance and decided to rewrite the script to include our craziness. So it continued throughout the rest of our performances. The audiences were delighted. However a star was not born. Once again my nose got in the way of this desired career. And I hated to memorize stuff anyway.

While I was working as a principal my former department chair at UMass/Boston asked me to be part of a delegation of school psychologists to meet with our counterparts in China. My husband was able to go along with our group. The kindergarten teacher said, ”Now you can find out how much tea there is in China.”

The art teacher cautioned, ”Be careful not to get shanghaied.”

I was amazed by the beauty of The Forbidden City. Turning to my husband, Karl I said, “We could stay here for a year or two and become tour guides.”

He exclaimed, “I wouldn’t do that for all the tea in China. So scratch the idea right now.”

Thinking it over, I was certain my feet would hurt all the time anyhow. And my nose really enjoys the smell of Chinese food. And you know, “a moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips.” I really have enough cushioning there. Plus I do like living with Karl, so home I’ll go. Well a girl can dream can’t she?

We were able to go to Europe, since Karl was on the board of businessmen who were going to visit the manufacturers from whom they purchased equipment for their businesses. We only needed to pay for my flight since we were quite friendly, one room would do. Arriving in Zurich, I said pointing to a huge bank, “I sure would like to live here and work there counting the heaps of money every day.”

“Janet, you wouldn’t be able to, since you would have to hold the money very close to your eyes and the grime on it would smudge your nose.”

“So what you’re telling me is my nose rules the job out. Are you suggesting I’m too nosey? Should I have surgery to shorten it?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. And don’t even think of working in a perfume factory. The smell would make you sick to your stomach. And you know how your nose feels about skunks.”

“Why do you bring up skunks?”

“Because skunk oil is used in fancy perfumes.”

“Good grief my nose is a real spoil sport.”

When Karl and I went to the Antarctic, I couldn’t even work at a science station counting penguins. Their habitat is really stinky. The nose knows.

“What a long flight,” Karl said yawning, “and we have to go to work tomorrow. Let’s just put these suitcases in the den and hit the hay,” He suggested.

“I’m with you.”


“Oh Wow, look at that. I sure would like to live there. You suppose if I promised to dust every day and clean the fireplaces I could live there?”

“Well girl it would be up to Walt.”

“Walt who?”

“Who do you think runs this place?”

“Really dad, the princess of course. And I would even shine her beautiful shoes.”

“Whoa, she only gets to live in the castle. Walt has the final say.”

“Walt who dad?”

“Think a minute Janet, what is the name of this place?”

“Disney World.”

“Yes, and Walt Disney runs the place.”

“So Dad let’s go to the employment office.”

“There’s Mickey Mouse, Janet, Let’s ask him where the employment office is.”

“Mickey, my daughter wants to know where the employment office is. She wants to live in the castle and do the dusting, clean the fireplaces and shine the princesses’ special shoes.”

“Follow me and what are your names please?”

“I’m Ed Murphy and this is my daughter Janet.”

“Here we are. This red door leads to the employment office. Just follow me in and I’ll introduce you. Minnie, this is Mr. Murphy and his daughter Janet. Minnie is filling in today for the woman who usually hires people to work here at Disney World. Janet would like a job in the castle dusting, cleaning the fire places and shining Cindy’s shoes.”

“Janet,” Minnie sighed, “I’m very sorry but Cindy is at DisneyLand in California visiting her sister Cindy. They are twins. You see we need two Cindys. One for here and one for there. Our Cindy gets to OK anyone who works in the castle.”

“Even if I dust, clean the fireplaces and shine her shoes. I wouldn’t even ask to be paid. Just have a warm room and meals. Can you call her or send an email and ask if I may stay there until she comes back to seal the deal? She will not be disappointed.”

“I’m sorry Janet, I know her, and she will not agree to that arrangement.”

“Oh bummer. Well I really don’t like dusting and cleaning any way. And the smell of the ashes from the fireplace would probably make me sneeze and I would have to start dusting all over again”


“”Good grief,” I said out loud, “what is buzzing? Oh, my dumb alarm clock. It’s six o’ clock already. I sure was having a stupid dream.”

“What were you dreaming about?” Karl asked.

“Jobs I can’t do. And you know how much I hate to dust.”

“So I’ve noticed. Let’s get ready and I’ll treat you to breakfast at the Family Cafe. Then you can take me up the hill to my day job.”

“You’ve got a deal.”

Bio: Janet Schmidt has been visually impaired her entire life. However, this didn’t stop her from becoming gainfully employed. She has worked as a teacher, guidance counselor, principal and psychologist. Her last job was with the Federal Department of Transportation at the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Utica, NY.

Part VI. The Melting Pot

Darkness Falls, poetry
by Wesley Sims

The ground hog-sees-his-shadow
kind of day drags to an ominous close.
The telegraphing sun falls behind
the pine tops as the last rays of light
are siphoned from the brooding sky.
Darkness descends over the landscape
like a collapsing tent top
and beleaguered hearts take refuge
behind the sheltering mountains,
knowing that the moon rise
calls out creatures of darkness.
Ghosts and coyotes take up the prowl,
and wolves sharpen their teeth
on the ebony blade of night.

Raven, poetry
by Susan Muhlenbeck

Pretend you don’t see her,
Dancing with the mountain,
Don’t watch her running with the night.
Wrapped in a black robe of mystery,
The lady of shadows melts slowly out of sight.

Shrill laughter echoes through the canyon,
Cries of pain, muffled by the pouring rain.
Raw fear disguised by enigmatic smiles,
Suppressed rage, driving her insane.

Young lady with an old vendetta,
Light step with a heavy heart.
Moves like a tempest in a teacup,
Tenacious from the very start.

Who is this? What is she?

Is this anybody you know?
Is it someone you would like to meet?
Dare say, could be quite amusing,
Though her character is quite offbeat.
Queen of rare, uncommon misfits,
In charge of unclear, latent danger,
The moon shines down on this odd mystic,
God’s grace does not make her a stranger.

The Kiss, poetry
by Laura Minning

Chambers of the raven’s soul
kiss my echoing heart
with a murmur at dawn.

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:

Of Light and Love, nonfiction
by Ria Meade

Author’s note: After finishing my recent book Buckwheat, God and Me – A Diary of a Difficult Year, a reader queried ”What conclusions have you come to about life and love?” I heard the question posed as to my feelings about LIGHT and love. When my editor pointed out the substitution my mind heard or made, I must admit that maybe my unconscious took over. I have lived the last 38 of my 64 years in the dark of blindness. Often light and life are interchangeable. This interesting question is one that I enjoyed losing myself in, trying to corral my myriad thoughts in a few words.

I remember what practical purpose the phenomenon of light served and what a loss that has been. I remember light and it is still painful when I think back. The depth of my darkness came with the realization that my path would be walked without the assistance of the sun’s light ever again. Sadness joined with disbelief, disappointment crowded my heart when I accepted I had not loved this wonder of light enough even though covered in its glory daily. How do I feel when shut off from that illuminated scenery? No class of religion, no form of philosophy, art or lessons instruct us how to appreciate the presence of light.

But I’m happy to talk about another light that I’ve been privy to know in a world that is absent of it. That experience of light came to me when I met my first guide dog, Rusty. Those inaugural few minutes walking down the sidewalk with this 80-pound Labrador allowed me to forget the darkness. I felt, instead, the warmth of the sun, the smell of the grass, heard the leaves rustle above me. I was able to articulate the world around me once again. He brought to me the light of God’s wonder. This phenomenon proved no less powerful.

The other half of the query – love – forced me to delve deep again. I wonder if this probe was born from equating my loss of light to the loss of love? The blue-ribbon answer to this extremely personal inquiry circles back to my dogs – seven uniquely chosen Labradors raised and trained to be the light to guide their waiting blind partner. I call them my Brave hearts. Unknowingly and without a common language, each noble canine taught me a more treasured love and provided a more valuable light, saving me from a soul-destroying existence.

I have loved six previous devoted four-legged friends, enjoyed their ability to light up my world each in their own way. But the loss of my last guide, Buckwheat was more difficult to recover from then my partial right leg amputation three months later. I could not match her freely given generous spirit with my loss of her which remains painful these seven months since.

Mulling over light and love this past year has infused my poetry and writings, given me so many views to ponder. My mind and heart join in an effort to explain in words. Hopefully experiences will provide more essays to enlighten. There are so many memories stored in my heart – so much light and love-and life.

Bio: Ria Meade, 64, 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.

Emotion Ocean, poetry
by Myrna Dupre Badgerow

I once found myself lost
On the Sadness Sea.
I did not understand the cost
It was stealing from me.

I watched ripples flow
From the Emotion Ocean.
My curiosity began to grow
As I watched the continuing motion.

Suddenly I knew
What I needed to feel.
My heart widened its view
And the cracks began to heal.

It was time to understand
What the ripples meant
As a new spirit held my hand
And led me to where I was being sent.

I found myself on Tomorrow’s Shore
Along a path named Joy Now Found
To find the ‘me’ I cannot ignore
And discover again my spirit bound.

I looked back at Emotion Ocean
And thanked it for saving me
And putting me in forward motion
To this place I was meant to be.

bio: Myrna Dupre Badgerow is a visually challenged writer from the bayou country of Louisiana. Her writing journey of poetry began twenty years ago. She has since spread her writing wings to include short stories and quotes. She has published books in each genre she writes. Writing is her life now and she will never give it up.

Harpstrings, Acrostic poetry
by Lynn Hedl

Hooked me in the first time I played them
attempted an arpeggio with my left hand from the bottom C string
rippled a sonic waterfall down from the top string with my right hand
plucked an ancient melody with one finger
so simple, yet so beautiful
this magical instrument I embrace
resting against my shoulder so I can feel the strings vibrating through my body and in my soul
it waits on my knee as I carefully explore its dimensions
new adventures I anticipate
gently curved mahogany frame soars above my head
strings stretch taut within, ready to take me to new exotic places

Bio: Lynn Hedl was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and has always lived in the South. She studied music in college, as well as rehabilitation teaching. She worked as a technology instructor with visually impaired veterans at the Southeastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham until retirement in 2016. Throughout her life, she has sung in church choirs and community choruses. Through training as a certified music practitioner, she learned to play the Celtic harp, and performed with a small group of other players at health care facilities.

She loved reading romance novels and books on metaphysics, eating dark chocolate, and practicing yoga. She was president of Friends in Art, a national affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. She wwrote the Going Shopping column for Our Special Magazine published by National Braille Press. Lynda Lambert encouraged her to try writing an acrostic poem, and this was her first attempt.

Sadly, Lynn passed away in April from canser related complications.

Carrying the Fire, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

“What is this machine?”
he asks touching my reader.
“Is it dangerous?”

“It only reads books,” I explain,
yet does this make it safe?
For words like fire can destroy.
Orators with pyromaniacal glee,
can raise entire nations to the ground
with arson lies and lightning bolts of hate
leaving us to wander the torched remains
of once was great and joyous in our lives.

Yet, words like fire also can refine;
if likes can burn, then truth can make us strong.
If hate can singe, then love can warm our souls.
Words, with sparks of wisdom bright and strong,
can kindle creations light, a beacon in a darkling world,
leaving us dumb, with wonder at the sight.

So, what should I tell the waiting guard?
The burning conflagration or the light?
The flaming heat of hatred or the warmth?
Shall I speak of ruins or creation?
I will not answer these questions today.

I say, “This is safe.”
Dangers and joys sparked by words
I will not discuss.

Bio: Shawn Jacobson was born totally blind and attained some eyesight after several eye operations. He attended the Iowa School for the Blind. After that, he attended Iowa State University. He now lives in Olney, MD with his wife, son, and an ever changing pack of dogs.

Tears, poetry
by Winslow E. Parker

Bursting buds sing a song of transition;
Winter grey to summer sun.

I lift my face.
Snow-cold raindrops dot my skin.
Melding, they stream my face;
Icy, external tears.

Perhaps they are mine, for beauty lost.
Perhaps they are yours, seeing suffering shorn of beauty.
Perhaps they are for those who suffer;
The objects of our dinnertime voyeurism.

Rain falls, coursing down my cheeks.
Cold tears for a cold, heartless world.

“Tears” was published in From As Far As the Eye Can See by Winslow E. Parker. It is available from and

Part VII. Slices of Life

A Morning in Spring, poetry Honorable Mention
by Brad Corallo

Step into the peace of a bright spring morning.
Warm gentle breezes stroke my hair
a much-needed soothing hand.

The mingled scents of Earth, flowers and grasses-
silvery liquid notes of distant wind chimes –
birdsong interwoven with joyous shrieks of children-
while excited dogs run, yip and bark.

Taking a seat amidst it all.
I am almost overwhelmed by
a rising wave of gratitude.

I feel the very pulse of the awakening Earth.
And for more than a moment
know my self to be part of something:
eternal, precious and wonderful.

Until the serenity of the moment
explodes, with the angry wasp, buzz of lawn mowers
plus the growling, upward cycling whine of busy chainsaws.

Unfortunately, but unmistakably-
Man eagerly chucks in his contribution.
The spring morning peace
fractures and fragments,
like an ancient stained-glass window.

Fractured Mirror, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

Clouds ride through the sky
reflected in wave-torn sea,
a fractured mirror,
we walk the sands of Texas
beneath a multi-colored sky.
Clouds, their tops fired by the sun,
in shades of gray and brilliant white gold
sail across a sky of tropic blue.

My toes dig through sandy grit
as we pass people and their barking dogs
and skirt sandcastles built on the tidal shore,
their ramparts assailed by churning waves
until the beach reclaims them.

The time has come to turn and to return
to where we walked onto this place of sand.
The sun shine now upon our other side
and brings us new perspectives on the sky.
It’s gray, it’s blue, it’s gold and blinding white.
The beach reseeds as we ascend to land.

My sandal-blistered heal, raw from the rubbing.
The spiky mat with barbs assault my soul.
The beauty of the day is pain alloyed,
my feet cry out as fractured as the sky.

As memory wanders back to see that day,
I find these vistas stamped upon my soul,
burnt in with joy, with beauty, and with pain.
These pictures indelible persist
beyond the day, the journey, and the day.
Fractured reflections
of joy and pain comingled
sail across my soul.

Birthday Bowling, memoir
by Shawn Jacobson

What type of birthday present would I find here? I wondered to myself as we walked through this industrial-looking part of Baltimore. The deal we had with our children was that they would buy us experiences, rather than things for our birthdays. We had a lot of stuff in the house already and, with retirement and a return to Iowa just over the horizon, we really didn’t want more stuff to move or to give away. So, my children would buy me fun afternoons for my birthday, tours of breweries, tickets to baseball games, or movie tickets with a nice meal afterwards. This was to be one of these fun afternoons, but If there was anything touristy in this part of town, I just couldn’t imagine what it would be.

This birthday began with an NFB meeting I had to be at in a town about an hour northwest of Baltimore. After the meeting, lunch, and a hurried trip down to the big city, we arrived in this part of Baltimore just east of the inner harbor. Presently, we came to a door in a nondescript building which had spent much of its life as a warehouse. After a brief elevator ride, I heard more than I saw what my birthday present would be.

There is something distinctive about how a bowling alley sounds, the hum of the bowling balls rolling smoothly down the alley, the crash of pins getting knocked off the end of the lane, and occasionally, the futile thud as some ill-aimed ball falls into the gutter. “Here’s your ball and shoes,” my wife says handing me by bowling bag; unfortunately, my mind was lost, going through all the times I’d thrown gutter balls down memory lanes.

Mine was a bowling family, the sort of people who took the sport seriously. In my case, I took it more seriously than was wise given my total lack of coordination. I kept expecting to be a good bowler, following in the footsteps of my grandfather. When that didn’t happen, my temper always got the best of me. I hadn’t thrown a ball in anger in many years. Given how many balls I’d thrown in anger, this meant that I hadn’t bowled in a while. Thus, it was with deep trepidation that I walked past the bar to our lane, the one furthest from the door.

“what kind of beer do you want?” my daughter asked showing me the list that the bar had in stock. I pulled out my magnifying glass and looked down the menu. “Dream Machine” sounded interesting, I put in my order as it struck me how different this was from my previous bowling experiences. My folks never drank when they bowled, as I’d said they were serious bowlers, and I’d not done so either, even when I became old enough. This would be a journey into uncharted territory.

Another new thing was the extent to which I felt absolutely lost on the lanes. I’ve never been the best at aiming my body for that journey to where the bowling surface started. But this time, my body just felt confused as to where it belonged. I spent the first few frames wandering the approach like a modern-day Moses traveling through the wilderness between the back of the approach and the foul line. It was a blue wonder I only through two, or was it three, gutter balls in those early frames.

And then, there was my fear that I’d be tossed off the lanes for dropping the ball. As I’ve grown older, my body has become less limber. I joke with family members about how I don’t bounce like I used to. Whether because of age or a lack of recent bowling experience, I was learning that I didn’t bend like I used to either. The ball came off my hand, making that double boom that a bowling ball is not supposed to make.

Late in the first game, I got better, or at least I got lucky. I put a ball in the center of the lane. It drifted right, then hooked back left, back toward the headpin. Then, boom! They all flew back off the lane. The overhead scoreboard showed someone setting off dynamite; it was a beautiful sight to go with a beautiful strike. The bowler on the lane next to me stopped and gave me a high five. Suddenly, this was fun again.

I didn’t see the dynamite often, and I never reached the promised land of bowling competence, yet I had fun. I let the bad past go realizing that this was a game, nothing to get worried about. I relaxed, threw the ball, drank another beer. This was my birthday and I was having fun.

In my life, I’ve experienced two types of hangovers. Most common, were the better-known ones that come from too much liquid fun. The other kind, more specific to the situation at hand, we called “bowler’s hangovers.” These we the kind my grandfather would complain about the morning after a long night of bowling. What he never warned me about was that a “bowler’s hangover” didn’t have to wait for the morning after to make an appearance.

My bowler’s hangover started about an hour after we left the bowling alley. We were walking through a vast Wall-Mart, the kind that seem larger than some small countries, looking for a television for my daughter. As I carried the television we finally bought, a 40-inch model, I started noticing the aches in my joints. My knees were telling me that whatever I’d done back on the alleys was something I wasn’t designed to do. Later, after a birthday supper of burgers and fries, there is nothing wrong with a good burger on your birthday, I noticed the creaking sound coming from unfamiliar parts of my body.

And then there was the next day. I groaned as I arose; my muscles protested the strange doings of the night before. As I headed down the stairs, pursued by the dogs that wanted out, I feared my legs giving way. I had visions of being run down by over-excited furballs. As the day wore on, my battered body reminded me of the unnatural contortions I’d inflicted on it the day before. I’m sure my knees wanted me to pass by the next bowling opportunity I was presented.

Yet, time passed, and the body reconciled itself to what I’d done. In time, the aches went away, or reseeded far enough into the background to fall from notice. I started to remember just how much fun I’d had. Bowling could be fun, had been fun more often than not when I was growing up. If I had a chance to go back to that bowling alley, to raise a glass of beer to good times, I would gladly do so, even if it killed me.

Nasal Appraisal, memoir
by Kate Chamberlin

When we returned home from grocery shopping one hot, summer day, I opened our back door and stepped into the kitchen. An invisible wall made me gasp and take a step back. The odor was over-whelming.

Our two teenage sons had been shooting hoops with two friends when my husband and I left on our shopping trip. During that time, the boys got hot and went into the house for cool, drinks of water. Then, they decided to go downstairs to play computer games. Their hot, sweaty teenage odors had filled our home like foam insulation sprayed into the closed house.

I remembered stepping into other people’s homes, subconsciously making an initial nasal appraisal. My best friend’s home usually smelled of cinnamon raisin muffins baking in the oven, a snack we’d eventually sample. Someone else’s home smelled of a cat’s litter box; another like wet dog fur, and a third, very old home was rife with mold, mildew, and dry rot.

Except for this morning, I’d like to think the initial fragrance a guest would detect in my home would be Tide laundry detergent and Downy fabric softener on laundry days or Lavender sol and Lemon Pledge on a house cleaning day or just fresh air wafting through the open windows.

On this particular day, my husband started putting away the groceries as I went to check on the boys. My nose led me down the stairs to the computer room, where I dared not enter. I mentioned that now that we were home to provide life guarding supervision, wouldn’t they all like to go swimming?

My husband went out with the boys to open the pool and supervise their joyous whoops, crazy dives, and the inane game of Marco Polo.

I opened the windows and grabbed the Lemo n Pledge.

Long Beach Island, Memoir
by Ann Chiappetta

Long Beach Island, (LBI), the Land of Biting Insects, otherwise known as the Jersey shore, was our combined birthday/reunion destination. We arrived at a beach motel one midweek afternoon. The weather cooperated. After the hip-to-hip extraction, complete with popping sounds and groans, we climbed out of the SUV and said, “Boy, it’s hot.” We quickly proceeded to the cool room, nursing sore butts and stiff joints. But all five of us were intrepid travelers, proving it by agreeing to share a bathroom for four days.

The motel owner assured us that staying on the Oceanside of the island will allow us to avoid the jellyfish and flies. Apparently the jellyfish are as much of a pain as the green headed flies and B-52 sized mosquitoes. We would, however, be able to swim today without the fear of being stung by the jellyfish, the flies, on the other hand, waited for us to relax before striking. Incidentally, the flies only respond to a specialized concoction of mouthwash and eucalyptus oil. The motel owner armed each room with a refillable spray bottle full of the stuff. One must sprits liberal minty amounts upon every human contour, including clothing, or risk being bitten.

Anyway, aside from this spray, which one must use during the day, one must put it aside once the sun goes down and switch to the good old fashioned bug spray at night or the mosquitoes will make a meal out of any unprotected epidermis.

But the people were great; I was especially taken with the part-time maintenance/surfer dude (never got his name ), who sat with us and answered all our LBI trivia questions. The most intriguing of which was “what’s with the guy ringing the bell on the beach?” We threw out a few inane guesses like, “Is he signaling the incoming tide?” Or, “Is he letting all the sun-worshippers know it’s time to flip?” “No,” surfer Dude said, “It is the ice cream man. He comes out to ring the bell because he can’t drive the truck onto the sand.” Wow, how about that.

Our accommodations, while not the four star hotel type, were comfy and roomy. The quaint clapboard inn is fine for a short trip. The 12 room, two story motel is painted a vivid teal with white trim. The paths are strewn in bleached gravel and terracotta pavers. The common area is equipped with a trio of barbeque grills, a gazebo and a half dozen umbrella tables. There is even a fountain and ambient lighting for after dark, if the bugs aren’t biting, that is.

Our first meal at the shore was interesting. My sister, for whom the trip was arranged because she was turning 50, craved lobster tails. We put our butts into the SUV and cruised up and down the strip looking for a good place to eat that also offered lobster tails. Unbeknownst to us, the two establishments we selected only offer whole lobsters, one or two pounds, either steamed or broiled. My sister, a self-proclaimed lapsed vegetarian and wimp, said she couldn’t bear breaking it apart. “I just can’t look at its eyeballs.” She said, shivering. Eyeballs? Whatever.

Since we were all tired and hungry, I convinced her to ask the waitress at the second and less crowded place to ask the cook to only bring out the tail and claws. “No problem,” she said, with an amused grin.

After a good meal, we all piled back into the SUV and rolled home, fat and happy. As we got out of the SUV, the mosquito Air Force attacked and chased us inside.

Day two on the beach Oceanside was wonderful; the waves were fairly calm and the tide was on its way in, so we could enjoy the incoming breeze, as we camped out for the day on the beach. The flies weren’t as bad as I expected, thanks to the mouthwash concoction the motel manager had supplied. I only suffered a few bites from the green-headed devils.

We sat in chairs, sharing shade and sunscreen as needed. As the tide came in, a lagoon formed above the high tide mark and we soon found ourselves at its edge. By then, we were ready to leave anyway, but we did like it due to the warmer and calmer water it formed.

The gulls were a constant boredom breaker; one actually went into the sack left out on the blanket next to us and tried to drag it away. The owner chased it off and put away the sack, zipping it into her beach bag.

A few minutes after she left, the same gull was back, trying to get into the bag again, but was unable to open it. If only it could operate a zipper, I thought, but then again, maybe it was better it didn’t know. It was better for us that it didn’t know.

We ended the day with a cookout, and completed our feast with a hip-to-hip trip to Dairy King and followed it up with a digestive stroll to the nature conservatory four blocks from the motel.

Day three at the beach was exciting, the surf and the people were more active and numerous. Sister one, the pragmatic first-born, warned us that the waves were rougher than the day before and only fat folks can withstand the undertow. She didn’t want Mom, who was nursing a shoulder injury, to be knocked off her feet. As she turned to warn Mom, however, a wave knocked her down. She tried to get up and another wave draged her under. Finally, she struggled to her knees and looked up at Mom and sister two, who were in hysterics. It was at that moment she noticed not only were her sunglasses askew but her boobies had come out to say hello.

Later that evening, the wine and beer flowing freely, sister two recalled the event, we were reduced to hooting ninnies and the guest next to us banged on the wall. “It’s only nine o’clock!” Sister two protested. But since we were adults and respectful of the rules at Laurie’s Beach End Motel, we kept it quiet.

Day four was the day of leave-taking, so we packed up and said farewell to LBI and its winged denizens, large and small. I heard a gull laugh as we got back into the SUV and wondered if it’s the same one that tried to steal the lunch sack. But then I told myself that’s stupid, don’t all gulls have a judicious eye for food?

“Long Beach Island” was published in Words of Life: Poems and Essays 2019 by Ann Chiappetta DLD Books. It is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Audible, and other book sellers.

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

A Hairy Tale, memoir
by Marcia J. Wick, The Write Sisters

“Your haircut is cute,” calls a stranger in line at the checkout counter. It seems I receive unsolicited compliments on my short style everywhere I go since I “cut off 18 inches of my salt and pepper mane a year ago. Unfamiliar clerks, friends who haven’t seen me in a while, and family members who see me often flatter my short hair frequently. Now in my 60s, I’m not accustomed to such attention.

“It makes you look younger,” some say. “It suits your face perfectly,” say others. “Keep it like that,” others add.

The thing is, for decades, no one cared one way or the other about my hair. I’ve worn it layered, shaggy, long and straight, with and without bangs, parted on the side, or messy with no part at all. The most I ever heard was, “Oh, you got a haircut,” or “My, your hair has grown.”

Beginning in my teen years, I stood for hours in front of the bathroom mirror coaxing curls out of my spaghetti straight locks- wrapping split ends around spongy curlers, winding strands round and round hot rollers, turning layers over and under with a curling iron, smoothing kinks with a blow dryer. During the course of a normal day, I would duck into the women’s room at every opportunity to check the appearance of my hair. Seeking the perfect look, I paid too much at exclusive salons for trendy cuts that I couldn’t maintain. On a budget, I neglected my “do” for months on end. Short on time, I hid my unwashed mop under ball caps and knit caps and swim caps; I pulled my unruly hair into pony tails and twisted thirds into French braids; Over the decades, I collected a large assortment of clips, ties, ribbons, and doo dads to decorate my head for special occasions. Once, I experimented with changing my hair color. Let me just say, I’ll never do that again! I suffered through weeks of orange before the color returned to its natural mousy brown.

These days, since I can no longer see myself in a mirror, I don’t pay much attention to how my hair looks. I’ve accepted that the DMV changed the hair color on my state ID from brown to grey. And, now that I’m aging, it’s beginning to thin. That’s the reason that I decided to cut it ultra-short a year ago.

I turned to my daughter for advice. For years, my “wild child” had been begging me to do “something fun” with my style. I asked her to pull up photos of trendy short cuts that I could show to my trusty barber at Great Clips.

“I’m going for short-short,” I told her. I couldn’t imagine how my hair might behave when half a yard was lifted off my shoulders, but I was ready for the change.

“Jamie Lee Curtis,” my daughter suggested. With low vision, I had no idea what the actress looked like.

“Send me a link so I can pull up a picture on my phone, I asked her.

The morning of my appointment, I opened my phone and shared photographs of this glamorous movie star with my 70-year-old husband.

“She looks geriatric,” he said.

I “googled” Jamie and discovered in fact that she is only three years younger than me! Had my daughter recommended an “old lady” style? Was my husband right? I decided not to trust his opinion – I had once asked him to match earrings to a dress, but when my lady friend arrived to pick me up, she commented, “Purple doesn’t really work with orange.”

Undeterred, I proceeded with Jamie Lee’s picture on my phone to the franchise where my new look would only cost nine dollars with a coupon.

“What do you think?” I showed the photo to my hair dresser, a woman of about my age. “My husband doesn’t like short hair, and he thinks it looks geriatric,” I added.

“What about a bob?” she suggested.

“No way,” I protested. “I have to wear hats outside because of the glare. My hair would stick out like Bozo, the Clown,” I told her.

My trusted and skilled barber coaxed me to sit.

“I’ll give you a cute cut,” she promised.

Fortunately, I couldn’t see the handfuls of hair that fell to the floor as she snipped.

“Oh, can I save my hair and donate it?” I thought to ask.

One of the employees on hand rummaged in a drawer for an envelope.

”It’s pre-addressed to ‘Locks for Love.’ Just apply postage.”

She scooped my long strands into a plastic bag before slipping the bag into the envelope. Meanwhile, my stylist continued to cut away. “Snip, snip.” Closer and closer the clippers came to my ears. I shivered. She combed this way and that, her sharp scissors shaped and blended with speed. Next, she tilted my head and took an electric razor to my exposed neck. I froze. My skin prickled. Miniscule shavings spread like gnats on a summer night. Finally, my hair lady attempted to rid me of residue with a warm blow dryer.


The hair dresser whisked the plastic cape off. Anxious, she held a hand mirror in front of my face so I could take a closer look at my new do. Then, she remembered I couldn’t see.

“It looks great, doesn’t it?” she asked my husband instead.

I shook my head. Delighted by the feel of freedom, I welcomed the loss.

My husband took a picture with his phone to compare the “before” to the “after.” Within seconds, he’d had shared it with most everyone in our contact list.

“I’ll find out now what it really looks like,” I thought.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this hairy tale, compliments have never stopped coming since I was magically transformed into Jamie Lee Curtis. Actually, my sisters think that now I look more like our mother did at my age. Because of my short cut, Dear Old Dad, age 95 with dementia, also mistakes me for his younger wife who passed at age 91 two years ago. I take that as the best compliment of all.

Flying to Freedom, poetry
by Gretchen Brown

The day is warm
and the wind is blowing
newly fallen leaves by my feet.
I grab the harness and feel my back straighten,
my shoulders relaxing.
And with a “forward!”
we are off.

We soar down the steps,
across the streets and driveways.
Stopping only briefly at the textured plastic domes,
waiting for cars.
And when there are none,
we can fly.

We are in the woods,
running on a narrow paved path.
I feel your head jerk,
your alert eyes watching a cat.
But I tell you
“Hup up!” and we continue.

Our journey has ended,
and though I would have been fine with a cane,
I’d rather have you by my side.
You, who give me the freedom to run without fear.
And the freedom to fly.

Bio: Gretchen Brown is in her second year at the University of Southern Indiana. She is studying as an Occupational Therapy Assistant, and will graduate in December 2020. Gretchen loves reading, writing poetry and adventure fiction, and exploring the great outdoors with her first Leader Dog Beacon Grace.

Amazing Grace, poetry
by Trish Hubschman

So young a child she is
of only eighteen months.
She’s smart, brave and happy.
Like any other little girl,
but her world is silent.
She’s learned to cope
at so young an age.

Her parents love her dearly.
They took a great plunge
and their little girl joined the world of hearing.

It’s only just begun
but promises to grow
when her cochlear implants were turned on.
It’s only been a few days
but we already see
that sound is coming to her.
Her Mommy and Daddy are smiling broad.
So are we all.

She works with a speech teacher
and will soon learn to speak.
Such a young child
dealt with such a big challenge.
Our “Amazing Grace” will overcome
and prevail.

Bio: Trish Hubschman is deafblind with walking’/balance issues. She loves her new home in Northeast Pennsylvania. She can’t wait until the spring, so she can do some sightseeing. Trish writes the Tracy Gayle mystery series with rock star Danny tide. She has two books published, Stiff Competition and Ratings Game. She is presently working on the prequel to the series, called Tidalwave.
For mor information about her books and the links to them, please visit

The Chosen, poetry
by Sally Rosenthal

Knowing I need her, she will
Come to take me home,
Away from this place of steel and stress.

Others of my kind here
Curl up tightly with eyes closed.
Some hiss and extend sharp claws,
Fear hiding their true natures.

Feline angels from her past
Whisper of her preparations
For my rescue and homecoming.
Catnip mice and jugs of litter
Fill a corner of a room
Just as I will fill a space
Carved into her heart by recent loss.

She knows cats choose their humans
And that I await her arrival.
My head resting against my cage,
I will see her when she comes,
And she will know me by
The loving, rumbling purrs
Welling up from my soul’s depths.

A Question of Love, Sestina poetry
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

I look at my love
call him “best friend”
many years ago, he won my heart
on a spring morning he placed a yellow wildflower in my hand
a high school girl knows little about life
I didn’t know he was the special one.

Like a yellow wildflower, our love was a fragile one
a delicate struggle to find a path to love
so much energy in the youth of our life
never know what it means to be a true friend
it was difficult to offer my hand
I wanted to protect my tender heart.

What would he do if I opened my heart?
Would he dash it to pieces or leave me for another one?
Would he hold me close to his body and reach for my hand?
Could his smiling boy become the husband I could love?
Does this hot-blooded youth want a short-term friend?
Is it safe to share my entire life?

I wanted to talk about dreams on the journey of life
I needed to know he could see my heart.
Was he the special man who would be lover and friend?
A long-term, commitment? Is he the one?
On a frigid winter’s night, will he surround me with love?
I embraced his comforting body and held his strong hand.

I held the yellow wildflower in my open hand
we traveled so quickly through the daydreams and night times of life
I don’t remember how friendship turned to love
or when I knew he would give me his whole heart.
When was it that I knew he was the only one?
I have enjoyed the years I’ve lived with my best friend.

What would my life be like if I never found this dear friend?
He wiped tears from my eyes and held my hand.
Would we have holidays with family, like this one?

Author’s note: We celebrated our 59th wedding anniversary on April 14, 2020.

Above the Tree Line, memoir
by Jeff Flodin

I knew, before stepping foot in this apartment, that if my wife could gaze east and see nothing but lake and sky, then scan south along the Outer Drive to the Drake, we’d take the place. And I knew, if I could envision what I know is out there, recreate the scene I saw as a young man but can’t see today, we’d take the place. That’s how simple it was, how we arrived way up here, on floor 34, above the tree line.

The view is awesome-so I’m told. My wife tells me how azure blue or bottle green or steely gray is the water today, how the whitecaps rise and fall. She describes the buildings that form the skyline. I conceptualize. I construct blueprints. I remain a visual person. I paint my canvas. I place figures against the background which I do see-the light. Oh, the light-It’s light up here even on gloomy days. All these free-range lumens ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder-so I’m told.

I can see the world from here. If I stand, nose to the window wall, my visual field wraps around me. I last saw this wide forty years ago at the Shedd Aquarium, where I pressed my nose to the aquarium glass and watched a gar, the fresh-water cousin of the barracuda, glide past and counted every scale on its skeletal frame, like I’d counted cars on a long, slow, freight train.

Do you see how, having had sight, I default to the visual? If I can “see” it, I can feel it. I wonder if or why I rely on recreating every scene visually in order to legitimize it. Up here, above the tree line, I open the window and become oriented to my surroundings by sound. Wind. Traffic. I’d thought I’d hear waves, not cars. One of these nights, toward the wee hours, when the city is fast asleep, in a storm churning this Great Lake, I’ll hear the waves. And see them.

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