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Spring/Summer 2021 edition of Magnets and Ladders

Magnets and Ladders
Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities
Spring/Summer 2021

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, Brad Corallo and Sally Rosenthal
  • 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: My favorite part of spring is always the clean, fresh air, followed closely by the continuous chorus of birds in our yard. We have a 200-acre park near our home, so we always have a nice variety of birds.

2021 marks the tenth anniversary of publication of Magnets and Ladders. To celebrate this milestone, we will be featuring a story or poem published in Magnets and Ladders from each year that the magazine has been in publication. Marilyn Brandt Smith, the first editor of Magnets and Ladders has selected the first five selections. Be sure to read the “Happy Birthday Magnets and Ladders” section to read some favorites from 2011 through 2015. Stories and poems from 2016 through 2020 will be featured in the Fall/Winter edition.

Magnets and Ladders is available on Bookshare. Thanks to the efforts of Behind Our Eyes vice president, Winslow Parker, all editions of Magnets and Ladders are available for download through Bookshare if you have a membership.

This winter, the Behind Our Eyes community was saddened to hear about the death of Aly Parsons. Aly had been a member of Behind Our Eyes for several years and participated in conference calls and the readers’ workshop in the past. See the beginning of “The Writers’ Climb” for a previously published article written by Aly. She passed away in February 2020.

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. There were many great submissions. As a result, we had a tie for Honorable Mention in the poetry category. Below are the Spring/Summer contest results.


  • First Place: “Decisions” by Robert Gardner
  • Second Place: “Infected” by Sly Duck
  • Honorable Mention: “Your Last Day” by Abbie Johnson Taylor
  • Honorable Mention: “Of Happiness and Sadness” by Trish Hubschman


  • First Place: “The Man Who Walks His Dog to Wrigley Field” by Jeff Flodin
  • Second Place: “My Mom, the Maypole Dancer: One in a series of Vignettes About My Mom” by Kate Chamberlin
  • Honorable Mention: “Portrait of a Cult Leader” by Leonard Tuchyner
  • Honorable Mention: “Is There a Mirror Helping You Write?” by Marilyn Brandt Smith


  • First Place: “Beautiful Cruel Magic” by Brad Corallo
  • Second Place: “Across Miles and Years” by Sally Rosenthal
  • Honorable Mention: “Flying High” by Leonard Tuchyner
  • Honorable Mention: “Majestic Maples for Keeping Cool Before AC: Family-History Poem” by Alice Jane-Marie Massa
  • Honorable Mention: “Wounded in Action” by Wesley D. Sims

Congratulations to all of the contest winners.

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

Part I. Slices of Life

The Man Who Walks His Dog to Wrigley Field, nonfiction First Place
by Jeff Flodin

In the past half year, I’ve lost my wife, my brother and my dog. I’ve wept with sorrow, then waxed philosophical. I’ve put one foot in front of the other on the treadmill, then sat stock still staring at nothing. I’ve ridden the rails between Chicago and Colorado, then lain wide-eyed, gazing at the ceiling I cannot see. I’ve asked why me, then answered why not me. I’ve never felt so much so deeply.

At the outset of this process called grieving, I wrote a reminder of “Things To Do.” Number one on the list is “Get out every day.” And every day means today, this uncharacteristically sunny and warm Sunday holding the promise of spring and the reality of spring training which quickens the pulse of we who follow America’s pastime.

So now I’ve harnessed my new dog for the pilgrimage to Wrigley Field. Not for a game but to circle the park: Addison from Clark to Sheffield to Waveland to Clark to Addison. That’s where I took my first Seeing Eye dog when I came to Chicago twelve years ago. Sherlock and I made the trek to prove we could-and we found that the eighteen blocks I’d expected between home and the park stretched to double that because each block counted only fifty address points rather than a hundred. But my miscalculation proved enervating because Sherlock loved to strut his stuff and I felt bold and eager for adventure.

So now Tundra and I are walking toward Wrigley Field to prove we can do it, twelve years after Sherlock. But what I’m finding is a whole new ball game. Twelve years and now the gray fog is thicker and darker. My God, how I feel isolated, obscured and fearful-tortured by this progressive blindness. And I’m dismayed how this reaction rises not from the street but from my soul. “Is it hard to put your trust in your dog?” asked a third-grade sage once and I marveled at his wisdom. And the answer lies with faith and trust. I must not become frozen by fear. I must keep my wits about me so Tundra and I make a team.

So now we’re at the spot, the Sheffield side of the right field wall, where Sherlock and I met the man who walked his dog to Wrigley Field. We met twelve years ago and I haven’t seen the man or his dog since. I can describe neither more than to say they sounded old. The man said he walked his dog to Wrigley Field on game days so the dog could eat food off the sidewalk because there wasn’t enough food at home. And I compared this to my abundance and my wish that my dog not scavenge sidewalk food. And while I was inclined to pity the old man, he sounded happy enough and I figured he knew better than I what he needed. And since the old man sounded happy enough, his dog probably was happy enough, too.

So now Tundra and I sit on the bench next to the statue of Ernie Banks or Harry Caray or a stick of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum. I hope the old man and his dog join us today. Not so he can tell me whose statue it is but so I can add to his story of how we do what we need to get by with what’s left for and within us. And how what’s left is sidewalk food and the spirit that is never lost but remains to help us heal and grow. Seems to me the old man knew about those sorts of things.

So now the sun is sinking and it’s getting chilly and Tundra and I are alone in shadows on the bench under the statue. And the old man and his dog haven’t shown up. Let’s go, Tundra, time to head home. I hope we travel safely. A mile and a half with who knows how many street crossings and sign posts? And who knows how much fear and faith? Today, we did the first thing on our To Do list-we got out. Today, I’m just the man who walks his dog to Wrigley Field.

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 has recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado, where he lives with his guide dog and two cats.

Decisions, fiction First Place
by Robert Gardner

A man’s voice sprang out at me from the background din. “So, how you doing?”

I was staring down into my brandy on the rocks. I glanced at the guy sitting on the barstool to my right. “Ok,” I said, putting no particular warmth into my response, nothing to encourage him.

He jammed in another mouthful of his burger, chewed, then spoke again. “You come here often?”

“Yeah, pretty often.” I lowered the invisible walls I’d set up around me. Well, a little anyway. “I live in the neighborhood.”

“It’s a pretty nice place. The restaurant here, I mean.”

“Yeah,” I said, my head still down.

We were at Old Chicago, the place there on Hennepin in Uptown. Around us countless people, mostly the younger business crowd, sat at booths, drinking, eating, yammering at each other. Yes, I thought, a nice place, a good menu. A nice, three-sided bar, a place big enough even someone like me could sit, alone, and not be too conspicuous.

I kept pretending to be absorbed in my drink. But out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy next to me stuff fries into his mouth, he eyeing me also, he obviously wanting to get a conversation going. Shit, I thought. Just my luck. I’d sat down next to one of those outgoing types. The type who thinks everyone has an inherent desire to talk.

He laid down his burger and looked over at me. “You ever get the feeling you’re chasing your tail? I’m supposed to be at my kid’s soccer game in forty-five minutes, I haven’t even been home yet, and I have just enough time to wolf something down and call it supper. If I’m lucky, I’ll have just enough time to change my clothes here in the bathroom.”

I scoped out the clothes he was wearing now, noticing his suit coat was unbuttoned and askew, his tie pulled loose. And yeah, he rattled out his words too fast as far as I was concerned. Definitely a man in a rush. I guessed him to be in his early thirties, maybe a salesman, maybe an insurance agent. A guy out hustling, a guy on the make. All the things I used to be and wasn’t anymore.

I took a good slug of my brandy, thinking how a part of me wanted to get into that with him, into what he was talking about. But then, another part of me didn’t. I drank more, knowing in the end alcohol would make the decision for me.

He swiveled his barstool slightly to better talk to me, ignoring his food for the moment, his hand however still wrapped around his bottle of beer. “You ever get that feeling? Like you don’t have time to even breathe?”

I still stared down into my brandy. “Yeah. At one time I did.”

“Then I’ll get home and my wife will start bitching at me, telling me all the things that need to be done around the house, the things I should be doing, the things she’s mad at me about, telling me I don’t pay any attention to her.” He paused to catch his breath. “And it’s not any different on the weekends. The kids have to go here, they have to go there. And I’m getting calls on my cell from who-the-hell knows, and sometimes you just feel like screaming.”

“Yeah. I was there once.”

He took a long look at me, probably seeing my gray hair for the first time, probably sizing me up for the first time.

Cathy the barmaid stopped in front of me and checked to see if I needed another drink. Then knowing me, she asked, “Or are you ready to order some food?”

I glanced up, my eyes skipping over her chest in the snug, purple Vikings T-shirt. I smiled to myself. I’d gotten to the point where my interest in the female bosom had become only academic. “I think I’ll have another brandy on the rocks.” My tongue seemed to be working slower, making the words come out slower also. “Make it a double this time.”

I motioned for Cathy to stay, then looked over at the guy next to me. “Can I buy you another beer?”

“Sure. Thanks.”

Sending Cathy on her way, I swung my barstool around to face my new-found companion. “You have that feeling like you have no freedom at all, right?”

“Right, right! That’s it exactly. It’s like I have no freedom at all. I’m being yanked at by somebody or something all the time.”

That’s when we exchanged first names, I finding out he was in his thirties like I’d guessed, had two kids, and worked out of an office there in Uptown at some kind of job I didn’t quite understand. “Does it ever change?” he asked, that after I’d relayed my history when I was his age– which wasn’t a whole lot different from his.

“No. The wife nagging at you never stops. Then you think when the kids grow up you’ll never have to worry about them anymore. You think you’ll be pretty much free of them. Wrong. You never really get away from them. You’re always involved in their problems; they’re still always there, needing something.”

“Great,” the guy (whose name I’d learned was Brad) said, his tone sarcastic.

I took a big swallow of my new brandy, my third, knowing I was well on my way to where too much brandy would end up being too much brandy. And I really didn’t care. For the first time in a long time, I felt like loosening up. I needed to talk to this Brad. I wanted to talk to him real bad.

“You think everyone wants a piece of you,” I said. Alcohol was fueling my speech, making me sound almost gregarious. “I was there, too, once upon a time.”


“then I finally had enough. Two years ago I just split. I moved up here, and here I am.”

Brad stared at me, his food forgotten for the moment. Never taking his eyes off me, he picked up his new beer, another Corona Light, upended it, then put it back down on the bar. “Really?” he finally said.


“What exactly did you do? I mean, if you want to tell me. It’s really none of my business.”

“Well, for starters, I got divorced.”

“Whoa! That’s heavy stuff.”

“Yeah.” I took another gulp of brandy. “Over thirty years. Almost forty.”

“Holy crap!”

“Then I moved up here. From Chicago.”

“Why here? Why Minneapolis?”

“I like it here. Particularly this part of town. And for the most part, Minneapolis is easier to handle than Chicago.”

Brad nodded. “Yeah, okay. I can see that.”

I turned back to my drink, deciding to give our dialogue some time to breathe. Cathy continued to flit back and forth, efficiently keeping track of us at the bar. I realized then how the hubbub of the place seemed to create a sense of privacy for me and Brad, the guy on the adjoining barstool.

But I couldn’t leave our conversational thread alone. Gazing down into my brandy, I spoke to Brad without looking at him. “Now I don’t have my wife blathering into my ear all the time. I don’t even get calls from her. All that’s… just gone.”


“And I don’t really get any calls from my kids anymore either. Or those guys you thought were your buddies back there. It’s surprising how quick all those calls stopped.”


I looked directly at him for emphasis. “Now I can do what I want to do when I want to do it. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention it, in case you hadn’t figured it out, I’m retired now. All of that job crap is gone, too.”

Brad’s voice was soft and quiet. “Sounds good. You just do what you want to do. Sounds really good.”

“Yeah.” I went back to my drink once more. My words were starting to really slur now, but I went on anyway. “For once I’ve got total freedom. That’s what I wanted. Freedom. If I want to sit around in my underwear and watch TV at two in the morning, I can do it. I can do whatever I want to do, or not do anything if I don’t want to.”

“Yeah. Freedom. Sounds really good.”

I took in more brandy, the fog in my brain becoming thicker, the familiar ache in my chest returning. I let out a long, heavy sigh and kept quiet for a change. Brad worked on polishing off his burger and fries, and I got the sense he was rolling over in his mind what I’d been talking about. Cathy came by and I told her I was skipping something to eat. I put down a couple of hefty bills on the bar, told her to keep the change and that I’d leave after finishing my drink.

Carefully cradling my brandy in my lap, I rotated my barstool around once more to face Brad. My words came out mushy. “So, you’re thirty-four. You ever hear of Kris Kristofferson?”

“I don’t think so.”

“He’s a songwriter.” I gave out a chuckle filled with brandy fumes. “Also a singer, but a hell of a better songwriter than a singer.”


My question came out in a slur. “You ever hear that song, you know, the one about Bobby McGee? It goes back a ways now.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. I think I’ve heard it. Been a while though.”

“I guess it’s more a song from my time. You know, Viet Nam and all that.”


“Anyway, there’s a line in that song about freedom. I can hear the tune in my head, but I’m not sure I can say the words just right.”

I was slurring like crazy, but beyond really caring. “It’s something about freedom — and nothing to lose. A great line. I wish I could remember it. You know, exactly.

“Kris Kristofferson wrote that song, and he really knew something when he came up with that line. Do you get it? Do you get what I’m talking about?”

Brad looked blank. “No, not really.”

I stumbled on. “Think about it, Kid. You want freedom? You only get it, really, by getting away from everything and everybody. Family, friends, everybody. You have to abandon… all that to get total freedom. That’s what that song is about. That’s what that line is about.”


I now hung onto the edge of the bar for security, not sure of my equilibrium. Also, I wasn’t sure I was making any sense. “You understand, Brad? You really get it?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“You need to listen to that song sometime. Listen to it real careful.”

Then we both turned our seats back forward to face the bar. We went back to our own worlds, each of us sitting there quiet, each of us submerged in our own thoughts, both of us finishing up.

Brad was guzzling down his second Corona Light, probably keeping an eye on the time, probably wrestling with the demands of his overloaded life. Maybe he was thinking about what I’d just said to him. Or… maybe not.

I considered getting yet another brandy, one for the road so to speak, but had enough sense not to. They’d have to call a cab or the cops to get me home then for sure. After all, I thought with a crooked, demented smile, I had no one involved with me, no one relying on me. I stifled a drunken laugh. Therefore, also, I didn’t have anyone to call to come and get me, either. Yeah, I thought, that’s freedom.

Finally I worked myself up onto my feet, putting a hand on Brad’s shoulder, partially in friendship, partially for support. My tongue wasn’t working right, and everything seemed to come out jumbled. “I’m leaving, Kiddo.”

Then, trying to sound profound rather than just drunk, I added, “Be careful about the freedom thing. Figure it out, ok? Please.”

He looked up at me. “Ok.”

Emotion choked me for a moment, but I was able to get it out. “Freedom’s just a word… for nothing to lose. The line is the song is something like that. Get it?”

Then I knew it was time to get the hell out of there. I shook hands with Brad, bumping off-balance into him in the process, then I stumbled toward the door. Just three blocks, I told myself in a haze. Just three blocks to the silence of my apartment. Three blocks to the freedom of my apartment. To the emptiness of my apartment.

I shuffled down the sidewalk, Janis singing Kristoffer’s song somewhere at the back of my brain. The song went around and around, she singing back there, faint, but back there somewhere, her voice full of heartache and regret.

I hummed along, tottering down the street, everything in a muddle. Then I remembered the guy back at the bar. Brad? Yeah, that was right. Brad. Damn, I thought. Had I screwed that up, too?

Note: You can listen to Janis Joplin sing “Me and Bobby McGee” at:

Bio: Robert Gardner worked his entire adult life as an engineer, after receiving degrees from Purdue and Stanford Universities. He grew up sighted, then lost his eyesight as an adult. Despite becoming totally blind, he continued to work as an engineer and is now retired. He lives with his wife on the banks of the Mississippi River in the northwest Illinois town of Hampton. He has had short stories and articles accepted in publications associated with
the National Federation of the Blind.

Puzzle Pieces, poetry
by Jo Elizabeth Pinto

The pieces of my
day are jumbled on
the kitchen table
of my scattered life.

Trips to the dentist,
missed phone calls, bills, spilled
coffee, smart mouths, tears,
halfhearted kisses.

Homework, laundry, rage,
worry, laughter, dust,
leftovers, bedtime-
my bones are weary.

I must assemble
the pieces just right so
no one will know I
am not whole inside.

Bio: Jo Elizabeth Pinto was among the first blind students to integrate the public schools in the 1970’s. In 1992, she received a degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. While teaching students how to use adaptive technology, she earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Management. She freelances as an editor and a braille proofreader.

As an author, Pinto entertains her readers while giving them food for thought. In her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she draws on personal experience to illustrate that hope is always an action away.

Pinto lives in Colorado with her husband, her preteen daughter, and their pets.

Downpour, poetry
by Nancy Scott

Monsooning sky demands choice.
How to look brave or adventurous.

Wait it out in parked safety but
that could be a half hour. Or more.
And you might not look brave or adventurous.

Debate July to-do lists pounding above.
You could make cell phone calls, send texts
or begin a long search or shopping list
but you would not look brave or adventurous.

Be very patient or drenched
even if you remember the umbrella
and try to walk fast while avoiding
the new river at your feet.
You will not look brave or adventurous.

Just a few huge yards between
car and door but you will be caught
despite willing the rain to stop
though there now is no thunder or lightning.
Deep breath; muscles hunched.
Can you look brave or adventurous?

One puddle too big or sudden.
You curse. You laugh.
You want to be seven and loving this.
Six additional decades and you do not love this.
You splash inside; wish for an instant towel.
Your shoes and cell phone are not ruined.
You are brave and adventurous.

Bio: Nancy Scott’s over 875 essays and poems have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies, newspapers, and as audio commentaries. Her latest chapbook The Almost Abecedarian, appears on Amazon. She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Her recent work appears in Black Fox Literary Magazine, Braille Forum, Chrysanthemum, Kaleidoscope, One Sentence Poems, Shark Reef, Wordgathering, and The Mighty, which regularly publishes to Yahoo News.

Walking a Straight Line, poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

Can you stride a straight line with your eyes shut tight?
Sounds pretty modest, I must admit.
With eyes free to see, I choose my route.
Wherever my fancy takes me, I go.
With vision shuttered, that’s anyone’s guess.
Whatever my final terminus
is a random, meaningless affair of fate,
one which only the Shadow knows.

If you look at me you can only see
a man surely inebriated,
making gestures with that stick he carries.
Must be the stick which walks me in circles.
No matter what, I list to the right,
unknowingly going in strange driveways,
rather than proceeding in a straight path.

Today I found myself back where I started.
Sacre bleu, how did I manage that?
When I open my eyes, I am surprised.
Sometimes don’t recognize the place I am,
and thus, perplexed in finding my way back
to wherever I happened to come from.

All this in hope of deserving a dog,
by proving I don’t need one to find my way.
Through mobility cramming I will learn how.
With laughs, groans, perseverance and mishaps
I will win, though it takes me the next two years.
That seems to me, I reckon, just about right.

Bio: Leonard has had Stargardt’s disease, which was first noticed in his teenaged years. He is now eighty. He reads through the media of Braille, recordings, and electronic voices produced by Open Book and Zoom Text. He lives with his wife of forty-one 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 facilitates three critique groups for Behind Our Eyes. He has published a poetry book through Cedar Creek Publishing. His hobbies include Tai chi and gardening.

Smoke, poetry
by Ana Berlowitz

Big tan muscles
Loves carrots and apples
Black mane and tail
Soft, black nose, black legs
Slow, gentle
His wide back, my tight legs
I relax
I drape flat like a pancake
Slide off slowly
Back in my wheelchair
Feed Smoke his faves
Hippotherapy rocks!

Bio: Ana Berlowitz has cerebral palsy and lives in San Francisco. She has been a presenter at conferences and events abroad and near home. Ana speaks and writes using a communication device attached to her wheelchair. A reflective dot attached to her glasses controls a tracker in the device. Ana’s book, Cerebral Scenes: My Life and Other Natural Disasters is available in print at:

The Bedroom, poetry
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

At three in the morning,
I’m mildly aroused
by the gentle touch of his hand.
He only has one good arm and leg
but still knows how to please me.
As he strokes me,
and I breathe the scent of his sweat,
I purr with anticipation.
The mood is shattered
when he whispers, “I need to pee.”

“The Bedroom” was first published in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver Poems by Abbie Johnson Taylor Copyright 2011 by iUniverse

Bio: Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. She is working on another novel. Besides Magnets and Ladders, her work has appeared in The Writer’s Grapevine, The Weekly Avocet, and other publications. She is visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Please
visit her website at:

My Mother’s Corona Hairdo, nonfiction
by Jeff Flodin

From my childhood, I retain the image of my mother’s date book. It scheduled her days and chronicled her life: Saturday night dinner dances, birthdays of fringe relatives and friends’ cats. One entry was habitual and sacred, expressed by only one mighty four-letter word. Next to the Friday 3 p.m. time slot was inscribed “hair.”

The tone and tenor of Friday dinner was set by the outcome of the hair appointment and ranged from breezy to stormy. And the remaining six days of each week were dedicated to tending to the product of Friday’s main event. My mother pushed, prodded, teased and rearranged her coif, emitting grunts and groans audible through clouds of hairspray. No adult in my home smoked, for fear of sparking a lacquer-fueled fireball.

I don’t know how much of my childhood passed before I realized that washing the coif with soap and water occurred but once weekly-Friday at 3 p.m. Perhaps my biggest clue was my mother poking a pen, pencil or screwdriver far into the hair helmet to scratch a scalp itch, her expression transforming from agony to ecstasy.

My view of my mother’s hair dimmed along with the rest of my eyesight a couple decades ago. Now I rely on eyewitness reports, which indicate that my mother has retained the quasi-bouffant poofy do with occasional “perms” from Larry, the itinerant stylist who invades my mother’s assisted living building. Larry is 90, a contemporary of my mother, and deeply rooted in the Jackie Kennedy model coif. He likely regards the building’s clientele with sixty years’ worth of wish fulfillment.

My mother has a weekly appointment with Larry, not on Fridays at 3, but on Tuesdays at 9. That is, until the Corona virus swept away all that is sacred. Larry unessential? Wrong!

During the six weeks without Larry, my mother occasionally referred to her hair as “needing a little attention.” After five and a half weeks’ contemplation, she sprang into action. When her Monday morning helper arrived for her weekly duties, my mother brought attention to that burning topic with hints, implications and innuendo. She inquired into Kathy’s hair-washing regimen: did she do it herself, with which shampoo, how often and how many times did she lather and rinse? Kathy, in turn, offered to run to Walgreens and purchase some shampoo, which she did. Then the two women sat at the dining table with the shampoo as the centerpiece and…regarded it…as if it were a religious artifact. As Kathy’s three-hour stint wore on, Kathy broke the silence with, “Would you like me to wash your hair?”

The decision made, logistics were evaluated, sinks measured, chairs arranged, surfaces prepared, towels fluffed and, voila, the deed was done. But, without that Touch of Larry, my mother wore the Garbo Helmet rather than the Jackie bouffant. Someone had let the air out of her topping.

But, by God, it was clean! It smelled herbal! It shone! It felt like silk! It didn’t itch like there was an ant farm on her head! Oh, sweet release! My mother removed her pillow case and slipped on a fresh one. Kathy palmed the old one on her way out, intending to boil or burn it.

My mother remains “careful” to minimize any coif damage produced at the intersection of hair and bedding. She has returned her kit of long-handled head-scratching implements to the kitchen drawers and tool box.

Now that the Governor has extended the Stay-at-Home” order for another four weeks, the question looms unposed: when’s my mother’s next shampoo? Has a new frontier been crossed, an old ritual set aside? Is shampooing now “as needed” or does “Thou shalt not touch…except on Tuesdays” endure? Does shampooing remain for the “help” or has my mother seized the power, that Do It Yourself spirit? Or will Larry become an “essential” person in the eyes of the State? Time and personality will tell and, thanks to the Governor, we’ve got thirty more days to find out.

Part II. Looking Back

My Mom, the Maypole Dancer: One in a Series of Vignettes About My Mom, nonfiction Second Place
by Kate Chamberlin

Let’s get one thing straight about what a maypole is. My Mom didn’t swizzle on a tall, metal pole on a small, spot-lit stage in a smoky strip joint.

Traditionally, the maypole is a tall, wooden pole festooned with spring flowers on top and colorful ribbons or streamers flowing down.

The anthropologist Mircea Eliade theorizes that the maypoles were a part of the general rejoicing at the return of summer, and the growth of new vegetation. In this way, they bore similarities with the May Day garlands which were also a common festival practice in Britain and Ireland.

the dance is performed by pairs of boys and girls (or men and women) who stand alternately around the base of the pole, each holding the end of a ribbon. They weave in and around each other, boys going one way and girls going the other and the ribbons are woven together around the pole until the merry-makers meet at the base.

My feisty, stay-at-home Mother had a quick wit and a winning smile that made her brown eyes twinkle. She had a knack for finding adventurous and creative like-minded friends where-ever we moved. My teenage years in Riverwoods, then a neighborhood in Deerfield, Illinois, were full of interesting surprises.

The Hike and Bike Club members were Elanore Becker, a whip-thin, mischievous, Tomboy of a woman; Barb Zimmer, an intelligent big boned task master; Connie Quirk, an elegant, slim woman with professionally coiffed pink champagne color hair; and my Mother, a pleasantly plum woman with naturally curly brown hair. They always invited other moms and children to join their trips. One trip took them on the back roads to the restaurant over the thruway. They parked their bikes at the chain-link fence and trouped into the dining room to use the bathroom and eat ice cream.

Another hike took them along a farmer’s road beside his corn field. They stopped to share a raw ear of corn for their snack.

I think the Maypole Dance on May 1st was probably Elanore’s idea. They took weeks to plan what they’d wear, who would be invited, what snacks to serve, and of course, which punch with a punch to drink.

The sacrificial sapling to be the pole had been carefully chosen from the woods behind our home, replanted in the grass just off our brick patio, and decorated with a floral bouquet atop the pole to hold the crepe-paper streamers fluttering toward the ground.

Each woman made her costume from a diaphanous fabric of different colors that flowed and swirled around their middle-aged bodies, more or less gracefully. Each had fashioned a floral wreathe for her head, as well as anklets for their bare feet.

The luncheon refreshments were festively set out. The invited at-home Moms and other neighbors were enjoying the punch on the patio. The Maypole dancers were cued to perform; however, the clouds quickly rolled in and began to drench the party.

Everyone picked up something and retreated into the house. A little deluge didn’t daunt the fearless nymphs. The show must go on.

While the guests watched from the sliding glass doors and windows facing the patio, the four nymphs gathered around the Maypole, each holding the end of a streamer. The rain soaked their hair and plastered their filmy costumes to their bodies like Saran wrap. They joyfully wove in and out of each other, weaving a colorful tribute to spring, and especially, the sudden spring rain.

By the time I arrived home from school, the guests had helped clean up the mess before they departed for their own homes. The four nymphs had changed into dry clothes and were sitting around the kitchen table finishing off the refreshments and punch. They proudly showed me all the colorful stains on their arms and faces from the wet crepe paper streamers. They were comfortable in their friendship and successful in their lark.

Who knows? Maybe their next adventure will be to try to swizzle around the stripper’s pole.

Bio: Kathryn (Kate) Chamberlin is a current member of the Wayne Writer’s Guild, Visionary support group, free-lance writer/editor, and Accessibility Ambassadress
to the Memorial Art Gallery (Rochester, NY).

Her pieces have appeared in Good Dog! Magazine, Paper Clips, Poetic Voices of America, Threads Magazine, Aromatica Poetica, and Magnets and Ladders; children’s books: The Night Search, Green Trillium, and Charles and David; coordinating Editor for the anthology Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look.

She and her husband are empty nest, great-grandparents and enjoy having lunch out, country walks during the good weather, and mall cruising or walking on their side-by-side treadmills during the inclement weather.

My Classroom, memoir
by Kate Chamberlin

My passion to become a teacher started when I was in 3rd grade. I wouldn’t have known then that it was a calling, however, my sights were set on becoming a public-school teacher. I joined the Future Teachers of America in high school and assisted Mrs. Boxler in her 1st grade class once a week. The time I spent living in Spain and the four years earning a Bachelor of Science for Elementary Education with areas in Reading and Spanish at West Chester State College, PA went by in the blink of an eye.

I surveyed my 3rd grade classroom with a critical eye, feeling contentment and confidence. The bell would soon ring, allowing 27 eight-year-old boys and girls to surge into the environment I’d created. The Neon Cardinal Tetras and Black Mollies were alive and happy with the snails in the large fish tank I’d found in the school’s storage room. I’d entrusted some money to one of my boys, who was an isolate in need of confidence and lived near the pet store, to purchase the water plants that were thriving. The bulletin board behind the tank boasted several essays and drawings of the tank and its occupants. The bulletin board on the other side of the green chalk board held our colorful “Flower Power” chart, chronicling the student’s prowess in memorizing and understanding multiplication tables from zero to twelve.

Along the back wall, each of the slim corkboards on the coat closet doors sported my hand-painted, watercolor pictures of the climates from Tropical Rain Forests to Desert Dunes we were studying. The sink counter had enough room to hold the tanks of white mice we were raising. The pet shop told me I’d bought two males, but when one of them got quite fat, we knew they’d need separate accommodations before she gave birth. Our research taught us that the male would eat the babies, the ultimate domestic violence; quite a life lesson at a tender age.

The top of the cupboards under the wall of windows on the east displayed the snow globes the students had made out of baby food jars. We’d artistically used Elmer’s to glue small shells in the cap, sprinkled naphtha in the water before gluing the cap on. In the morning, we found everything had come unglued, making a total mess. The next time we put the snow globes together, we used Duco Cement, a water-proof glue! I was learning right along with the students.

A space ship docked next to my desk on the fourth wall. A wooden reinforced cardboard crate from a new chest freezer, became whatever the students wanted it to be during their free time. I relished observing what groups of two and three students created.

After two years of teaching, I left to earn a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with areas in Reading and Spanish at the University of Rochester, NY. A part-time job as a life guard at my apartment complex’s pool gave me plenty of time to study and attend classes. I met and accepted Dave’s proposal of marriage. I also accepted a position teaching 1st grade which fulfilled me professionally, personally, and enabled me to realize my fullest potential as a passionate teacher.

Life was good and when that twinkle in my husband’s eye produced three children, I was content to be an at-home mom. I had my little class of three. My education had taught me the importance of early childhood education and I loved being with them. When our youngest child entered half-day kindergarten, I began teaching in the Teddy Bear Trail Nursery School. Our hours were the same and I planned on returning to teaching full-time in the public schools the following year. Then, the proverbial chalk board crashed down on me.

One morning, I swiped the fog from the bathroom mirror and touched the place where my face should have been. The little hairs on the back of my neck prickled. I could not see my own face. Was I being erased? Would I lose my class? I knew I had to get my lesson plans together if my young children were to have a Mom, my husband, a wife, and I, my career.

When I didn’t return to the nursery school, they thought I’d died. So, I took my new white cane and talking watch into show them. I found that talking frankly with the children might be a way to begin to heal and still teach.

The workshop “Feely Cans and Sniffy Jars” that I developed, takes blind awareness beyond just identification and into appreciation of a blind person’s abilities. My dynamic, creative and knowledgeable presentation leaves audiences young and old, large and small with new vision long after the applause has faded.

I opened my home with a “Study Buddy Program” to tutor elementary children in reading and math. More new memories were forged on the days I donned my reflective aviator lenses, harnessed up my guide dog, and strode into the local elementary school to mentor students.

One afternoon, I sat at a low table in the media center with two 1st graders. They had finished computing the math equations in their heads and were checking their answers with my talking calculator. Freddie suddenly blurted out, “Hey! You got eyeballs in there?” After assuring him I did indeed have eyeballs in there, that they just didn’t work properly, he was satisfied and went back to work on his math.

The screen reader on my computer enabled me to become the author of three children’s books: The Night Search, Charles and David, Green Trillium; maintain a blog at; as well as being a newspaper columnist for 15 years.

Rather than dismissing me, my DAR sisters in the Col. Wm. Prescott DAR chapter afforded me multiple opportunities as Recording Secretary, Vice-Regent, committee chairmanships of the National Defense, Americanism, Media Releases/Public Relations, and Women’s Issues to strut my stuff, despite being totally blind and traveling with a variety of guide dogs. I used the DAR By-Laws as my syllabus with a curriculum based on the Master Questionnaire. In October, 2017, I was accepted by the NSDAR as a Life Member. It felt like being presented with a golden apple life-time achievement award.

As I view my life with 20/20 hindsight, I often think of my first 3rd grade students. How the very intelligent David Mann had such terrible handwriting. I know now that I should have brought in a typewriter. Back in the day, there were no computers! How Rhonda Weinstein’s beautiful handwriting could amaze and astonish me with its maturity and gracefulness. Now-a-days, Palmer Penmanship isn’t included in the curriculum. I wonder if Anthony Palazzo fulfilled the potential he tried to hide. And of course, sweet Desaree, whose mother wrote at the end of the year, ”Desaree may have a fish for the summer, but, please, don’t send home any white mice.”

I still grin thinking about when one of the nursery children asked why the long, white cane had a red tip. My young neighbor said that it was so when I fell in a snow drift, I could stick it up for them to find me. Throughout the decades, I’ve never heard a better explanation.

Our original three children and the two grandsons we raised have all flown the coop, leaving my husband and me as empty nest great-grandparents; yet, my passion for teaching continues as strong as ever.

Each morning, I open windows10 feeling contentment and confidence as I survey my folders of organizations and committees; peruse the files of public speaking engagements, meeting agendas, and free-lance manuscripts.

My teaching career hasn’t been deleted. Instead of 27 students in one room, the world is my classroom.

NOTE: “My Classroom” tied for Second in the 2019-20 New York State DAR Women’s Issues Writing Contest in the Career Category.

Across Miles and Years, poetry Second Place
by Sally Rosenthal

Brittle with age, the British aerogram’s
Corner crumbles in my hand.
One of many letters lovingly saved
In a granddaughter’s once-pink hair ribbon
For more than six decades, it is
A bittersweet attempt to bear witness
And turn thin sheets of paper
Into crinkled forget-me-nots.

As a child, I believed
Aerograms were blue to match
The ocean they traversed
From an elderly lady in Leicestershire
To a schoolgirl in Pennsylvania.

I know the spidery handwriting
Relates only family news
And inquires about my school days,
Brownie troop, and beloved dogs.
Missives of love from one brittle with age,
Of no interest to intrusive eyes after my death,
The aerograms and bond they forged
Can remain tucked away for now.

The ink has no doubt faded over time,
But the memories In the heart of the granddaughter,
Herself now brittle with age,
Remain fresh with just a hint of ocean breeze.

Bio: Sally Rosenthal, a frequent contributor to online and print journals, survived a stroke in infancy and has been blind and profoundly deaf for twenty years. She lives in Philadelphia with her rescue cat Tamsin.

A Daughter’s Good-Bye, poetry
by Sally Rosenthal

Gaunt beyond his seventy-seven years,
My dying father sleeps, sedated,
Beneath crisp white sheets and blankets
On a bed from which he will never rise.

Kidney cancer has invaded nearby organs
And claimed his bloodstream as its transport
Around his skeletal body that lingers
On the brink of a new century.

Outside the icy hospice window,
Dusk falls on the final day of a century
And tucks its comfort tenderly
Around my father in his remaining hours.

No stranger to floating through the sky
With an army parachute down
To the chaos and carnage of Normandy’s beaches,
He survived to lose this universal battle.

His imminent journey will, I hope,
Be gentler and more peaceful
As his soul transcends time and ether
While, sadly, I release his hand.

Wounded in Action, poetry Honorable Mention
by Wesley D. Sims

Like loose sails on a schooner,
his emotions whipped into a frenzy
by winds of war buffeting the South,
his patriotic blood heated to fever pitch,
judgment blurred by rally speeches and booze,
he enlisted to whip them Yankees.
Too old for such stress-all night marches,
days and nights without sleep,
trying to keep pace with twenty-year-olds-
and too old at fifty to even enlist.
But the recruiting captain needed bodies
to shore up General Lee’s army
of Confederate fodder for Union muskets.
Next day, sobered up, he tried to back out,
but the captain marched him off to war.

Somewhere in Virginia,
he wrote, caught some shrapnel,
a busted shoulder, nothing serious.
But no further words would find
their way home. His wife tended
her grief like a widow,
worried holes in her apron,
strained to be mother and father.
His youngest daughter pined away
like a lover whose beaux had fled,
yearned to get some message,
know his status. Did he live or die,
was he captive or free?
Small pox snatched her away, never knowing.
Questions must await heaven’s answers.

Bio: Wesley Sims has published three chapbooks of poetry: When Night Comes, 2013; Taste of Change, 2019; and A Pocketful of Little Poems, 2020. His work has appeared in Artemis Journal, Connecticut Review, G.W. Review, Liquid Imagination, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Plum Tree Tavern, Novelty Magazine, Poem, Poetry Quarterly, Time of Singing, Bewildering Stories, and others. He lost hearing completely in one ear and has severe hearing loss in the other.

Huddling Histories, poetry
by Wesley D. Sims

The individual biographies
of these departed saints
sit scribed on scrolls of honor
in the upstairs records office.
But their histories and memories
huddle like teens at recess,
like football players
calling a play.
They loiter in the cemetery
by their weathered tombstones
like off-duty angels
sitting on benches,
shrouded with pixie dust.

Reverend Jim is preaching,
Brother Irvin plays the piano,
Sister Lily leads the singing,
Grandmother is praying.
Mrs. Clark, and Barney,
and numerous others
just come and sit in the pews,
faithful stewards all.
Not for bragging rights
or competition do their stories
gather, they’re just reminders
of kind and dedicated souls
that need to be remembered.

Of Happiness and Sadness, fiction Honorable Mention
by Trish Hubschman

My name is Myra Cortez-Costa. I was born in Israel in 1951. My mother, Selina was from Egypt. She grew up in a well-to-do family and had the spoils her doting parents could give their four children. She went to an all-girls private school, had dance lessons, wore pretty clothes. Mom made her debut into society when she was sixteen. Sadly, there are no pictures of any of this. Mom’s family was Jewish. In the mid-1940s, bad people came into Egypt and stripped her family of everything. They were forced to live in poverty.

My father, David came from a big family too. He didn’t grow up rich. He was also Jewish and spoke up against anything he felt was wrong. Dad was arrested in 1943 and held in a relocation camp for three years. I think that’s when he met one of Mom’s brothers. They stayed friends after they were released and my uncle introduced my mom and Dad.

Selina and David fell in love and were married in 1948.

They were happy. Two years later, they were preparing for the birth of their first child. That’s when they were told they had to leave Egypt. All Jews were being forced out. They had no idea where they were going to go.

Dad was about to be arrested again for talking against the government. Mom was advised to divorce Dad and go to America where she’d be safe. Dad was in favor of this plan. Mom refused. She was going to stay with the man she loved and have their baby.

In January 1951, just six weeks before I was born, my parents migrated to Israel, the Promised land for Jews.

I was a happy child. I know my parents loved me. As I saw it, growing up in Israel was idyllic. I didn’t see any of the bad things going on around me. When I was six, my brother, Edmund, was born. I was happy to share my parents, my cousins and friends with my little brother. I had a best friend. Her name was Judy Berkowitz. She lived on the next block from us. She had a dog. We had so much fun playing together. Whenever I went to Judy’s house Mom walked with me. We always walked fast and she was cautious and looked around us. Judy told me her mom was the same way. We didn’t understand this, so we just shrugged and giggled and went back to having fun.

When I was eleven, Judy and her family disappeared. She wasn’t on the school bus one morning. I thought that was odd. Judy had an almost perfect school attendance record. I asked my teacher, Miss Katz, if Judy was out sick. Miss Katz didn’t know, but she said she’d ask the principal. Later that same day, she pulled me aside. Before Saying anything, she glanced around to make sure nobody was listening. I was becoming nervous at seeing so many people do that. No one was in ear shot.

“Myra, dear, Judy’s family is gone,” she said.

My head popped up. “Where did they go? Are they coming back?”

She shook her head. “I doubt it. They left last night. This is hush-hush, so please, we must forget about Judy and her family.”

When I got off the school bus that afternoon, I raced home. Tears poured down my face. I found Mom in the kitchen. I blurted the whole story out. She responded calmly. That infuriated me.

“Yes, I know about their leaving. I spoke to Judy’s mother yesterday,” Mom replied.

“Is that going to happen to us?” I screamed.

Mom turned to face me. “At some point, probably. You must be strong, Myra, always prepared and keep quiet about it,” she said. I didn’t answer her. I just stalked off to my room.

Two weeks later, Mom, Dad, Edmund and I snuck out of our house in the dead of night. A friend of dad’s drove us to a train depot far from our home. We boarded and sat quietly for a long journey to a strange city. Then we took a taxi to an airport. Before the four of us got on a plane, Edmund and I got to go to the bathroom and have something to eat. Again, we didn’t say much to one another. When we got off the plane, we went outside the terminal to meet up with someone who’d been sent to pick us up. I was excited to see that it was daylight. Twenty minutes later, the car pulled up in front of a high wrought-iron gate. Behind it, was a big, beautiful house. My nose was pressed against the car window. I was mesmerized. Was that going to be our new home? Oh yes, oh yes! We got out of the car and went inside. There were a lot of people. Mom hugged and kissed everyone.

“This is our family,” she squealed. “I’ve missed all of you.”

I didn’t understand.

Dad’s hand slid into mine. I glanced up at him and smiled. “Come on, honey, I want you to meet your Uncle Ted,” He said, leading me off. “This is his house. We’re going to stay here in Geneva until he can relocate us permanently.”

The few weeks we were in Switzerland were the best ever. They went by so fast. We were on an airplane headed to our new home before I knew it. Brazil was a whole different world.

Our new house was ok. It had two levels. There were three bedrooms upstairs. There was a kitchen and main room that had a color tv downstairs. We had a big backyard and Dad said we could get a dog. I was excited about that.

“But under no circumstances are you to tell anyone we’re Jewish,” he said.

I didn’t understand, but I didn’t ask. It really wasn’t a problem with me. I didn’t know anyone here and I didn’t want to.

It was May and too late to finish out the school year. In September, Mom would enroll me starting in seventh grade. In the course of the next few months, I had to learn a fair amount of Portuguese, the main language in brazil. I always had my translation dictionary with me, even when I was watching tv. I did pretty well. When I started school I was able to communicate with my teachers. I didn’t talk to many other people. I didn’t have any friends and I didn’t want any. I just went to school and returned home and did my homework.

That changed when I was fourteen, I met a girl named Elaina. She was very nice. We spent a lot of time together. She knew I wasn’t from around there and kept asking where I was from.

I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I blurted out, “We came here from Switzerland.” That wasn’t a lie.

Alaina’s eyes widened. “Oh, Switzerland is so beautiful. Why would you leave such a gorgeous place like that?”

I shrugged. “My dad got a government job here, so we had to move.” It sounded good.

When I was seventeen, I went to a party with Elaina at another one of her friend’s houses. There were a lot of people. They were drinking, smoking and doing other things that made me uncomfortable. I told Elaina we had to leave. She said she was staying, but told me I could go home. I was annoyed at her for brushing me off. I walked out of that party and ran back to my own house.

My parents were in my bedroom early the next morning. I was sitting up in bed. “What time did you get home last night?” Mom asked.

I had been super quiet when I came in. “About ten, I guess,” I replied and told them about my leaving the party early.

“Did Elaina leave the party with you?” Mom asked.

“No, she said she was having fun and would go home when she was good and ready,” I replied. “Why?”

Mom gave Dad a look. Dad said, “The girl is missing.”

I didn’t understand. Where was she?

A week later, Elaina’s body was fished out of the river. The theory was that she left the party the night after drinking too much and fell into the river. I didn’t believe that. I was certain something sinister happened, but I kept my mouth shut.

I moped around after that. I went to school and came home. I didn’t talk to anyone.

Three weeks after Elaina’s funeral, I came home to find four suitcases standing in the front hall. I knew what that meant. I climbed the stairs to my bedroom and stuffed some small personal items into a duffel bag. Mom had already packed most of my clothes. I had my language dictionaries and some photographs.

It was March 1968. The four of us were on a plane headed north to the United States. Dad said it would take about ten hours to reach where we were going, a place called Queens, New York. A cousin of Mom’s, who I didn’t know, was sponsoring us. We would stay with her till we set up stakes there.

Edmund sat in the seat beside me. He was eleven, the same age I was when we had left Israel six years ago. My little bother looked glum. I could understand that. I wasn’t depressed about leaving Brazil. I just felt unrooted from having to relocate

I squeezed Ed’s hand. “What’s up, kid?” I asked, trying to keep my tone light.

“I don’t want to move,” he said. “I like Brazil. My friends are there. And what if they don’t speak Portuguese in the United States?” He asked, looking at me with daring eyes.

I smiled. “Well, if nobody does, at least we’ll still have each other to talk to.”

Cousin Angele picked us up at the airport and our new lives began.

I met a cute boy at Queens College in September. His name’s Anthony Costa. He’s Italian and his English needed as much work as mine. We learned it together. We enjoyed learning together and fell in love.

In 1972, both of our families gained United States citizenship. The following year, Anthony and I got married. My parents helped us buy a nice house on Long Island. Anthony drove a taxi in Queens. I babysat the neighbors children while they went to work. We were both making decent money, though there was no medical insurance.

I gave birth to our son, Francis in 1978. Our daughter, Judith, came five years later. Dad passed away from colon cancer in 1986, less than twenty years after he moved his family here. In 1990, I began working for New York State Civil Service. Finally, we had medical insurance. I worked my way up the ladder and I enjoyed my job.

In 2001, when the World Trade Center was bombed, I felt my heart go cold. So many horrible memories that I didn’t know were inside me flooded to the surface. I fought desperately to push them away.

Mom passed on in 2009. She had a heart attack during the Super Bowl.

Now, it’s 2020, the year of the covid-19 pandemic. I’m working from home. In November, I had my thirtieth anniversary with my job. I’ll be seventy in a few months.

After all the early years of hardship, I think I can truly say at this point in my life, that inside me again is that happy little girl who grew up in Israel. I’m in a much better time and place now and I very much love America.

Bio: Trish is deafblind. She’s the creator of the Tracy Gayle Mystery book series, Tidalweave, Stiff Competition, and Ratings Game. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English-Writing from Long Island university’s Southampton Campus. She presently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Kevin and dog, Henry.
To learn more about her books visit:

Liferhyme, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

I held onto the driftwood of dreams
as long as I could.
Now, I am swimming, swimming
in the Sea of Memories–
stroke, by stroke–
like the pendulum of time–

How pleasant are these soothing waters of yesteryear!
How fun are the waves of the past!
Stroke, stroke,
float, float, a while,
a mile, or more.
Oh, Sea of Memories–
how you do please my Hoosier heart!

Yet, I know I must find landfall.
I suppose I must find the Land of Overmorrow.
Float, float, stroke, stroke.
Is that land ahead
or a misty mirage?
Does a mirage or miracle lie before me?

Alas, I can read a sign upon the land:
“Warning! COVID 19.
Take detour.”

Backstroke, backstroke,
butterfly stroke, butterfly stroke–
back to the Sea of Memories,
back to the Liferhyme
over which I have
creative control.

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 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 blog, initiated in 2013:

This Old House, poetry
by Carol Farnsworth

A house that was once a home,
Brimming with life,
Connecting generations of families.
Dad and Mom’s last residence,
Evokes memories of my childhood.
Finally, stripped to its bones.
Graceful rooms, once filled with life,
Held the welcoming couple.
I see the present but feel the past.
Just for this moment, I climb the wooden stairs.
I hear a knock on the door,
“come to dinner.”
“Last one down is a rotten egg!”
Mom serves the meal and Dad says grace.
No one dares leave the table early.
Offering equal portions of food and conversation,
Pinching the last banana nut muffin from the basket.
Quiet now, it’s leveled, gone.
Removed, land to be reclaimed, I feel the past remain.
The Turnbull-Eaton house is gone.
Under a landfill, far away.
Vacant land once again.
Watered down, a new house will rise.
Exterior walls will change.
Yielding new memories to be made. Zillions of warm wishes for them.

Bio: Carol has worn many hats in her life. Musician, speech therapist, artist and poet. In addition to publication in Magnets and Ladders, she has been published in The Avocet, Plum Tree Tavern, Spirit Fire Review and The Handy Uncapped Pen. Born with glaucoma, Carol has experienced gradual vision loss all her life. Her other passions are gardening, cooking and tandem biking. While riding as a stoker, she can discover nature through hearing, sent and touch. She and her tandem partner John live in a small town in western lower Michigan.

Majestic Maples for Keeping Cool Before AC: Family-History Poem, poetry Honorable Mention
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

(Dedicated in loving memory of my dad who took such great care of our home, yard, gardens, field, woods, pets, and family–
July 11, 1913-December 1, 1997)

Five decades before air conditioning was common,
my maternal grandfather planted soft maples
all around the house
which became our forever home.
Long after my Italian grandfather had passed,
his tall and well-canopied trees
gave us shade–
a cooler dwelling, porch, and yard
on the hottest of Hoosier days.

The maple on the east side of our home
towered over the wooden picnic table
and the yard where we waved
the badminton rackets through humid Hoosier air,
where we planted wickets and colorful poles
for an evening’s game of croquet,
where we played on the silver-painted swing set,
where we played with our beautiful puppies and dogs,
where we gathered with family and friends
to share an unnoticeably hot summer.

Another large maple
bent gracefully over the curve in our white-rock driveway–
as if the southwest wind had sculpted the tree’s form.
This tree shaded the bedroom
which I shared with my sister
in the home with no air-conditioning,
our big back porch that became a family room,
our blueish-green water pump,
red Fords that were parked on the J-shaped driveway,
and part of our west field that later became a yard.

Of the trees on the north side of our home,
the grandest one
had a limb that held
a sturdy rope and a circular swing
that allowed me to cool off and dream.
This family historic maple
generously gave cooling shade to our front yard,
sidewalk, and our beloved front porch
where we sat with my cherished dad
on the wooden, Melodious swing.
Neighbors, company from near and far
joined us on this refreshing porch
that was framed with one evergreen and four spirea bushes
over which we jumped onto the soft, cool grass
to run and try to catch lightning bugs
that made the Indiana evening of summer sparkle–
not with complaints of being too hot,
but with small-town life
that, nurtured by those majestic maples,
led to the pleasantly warm,
un-air-conditioned poetic paths of my life.

Part III. Not What I Expected

Beautiful Cruel Magic, poetry First Place
by Brad Corallo

Regaining my senses, I find myself
in this retro tropical bar,
in a tourist town somewhere near the end of the world.

There is a sense of ebullience in the air.
Everyone seems to feel it.
The music flows over us like a soothing tide.
We all smile as it moves into a flowing steel drum interlude.

The casual elegance of the people is striking,
as they talk and laugh in pleasing timbres with confident restraint.

The waitress in halter top and shorts,
a lovely mingling
of French and island bloodlines,
smiles and brings my Goombay Smash.
Scents of pork and shrimp frying
tantalizingly linger in the warm breezy atmosphere.

I feel a gentle tap on my shoulder and turn.
For a moment I can’t comprehend.
She smiles and says
“Yes, it really is me,”
and gracefully seats herself.
I grasp her extended hands
and tears fill my eyes.

“But I thought you were…”
“I know.” she says.
“but you can always find me here.
It is great to see you,
you look more at peace and content.”

“But how?” I whisper in a trembling voice.
“I don’t exactly understand either.
But somehow we can step back into the parts we were playing when we were here together twenty years ago.”

“Can we?” I stutter.
“No, we can’t start over
and we can’t relive any of our time together.
We can only meet here occasionally,
share: a drink, a dance, a meal.
Then reality pulls us back
to our places and fates,” she explains.

Totally nonplussed, I stand.
In harmony, she follows.
Suddenly I take her in my arms
and hold on to her like I’ll never let go.
Our embrace morphs into a strange falling sensation,
through cold mist and anguished lamenting cries.

And once again, I find myself, here In front of my keyboard, struggling
to gather up the ashes
of a magic, so real yet far, far too brief.

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.

Infected, fiction Second Place
by Sly Duck

What luck, he thought. Ahead, a young girl walked toward him swinging a white cane back and forth in front of herself. Tingling with anticipation, he slipped out of sight behind a tall bush beside the path to wait.

She stopped a few paces away. “Hello?” She spoke cautiously. “Is anyone there?”

He grabbed her, yanked her behind the bush and placed a knife at her throat. “Make a sound, and you’re dead,” he warned. He was surprised when he felt her relax.

“Infected,” she whispered in his ear.

“That won’t work on me,” he said scornfully. “But, don’t worry. That’s not what’s on my mind.” He pulled the bus card folder out of her pant pocket and extracted a credit card with the picture of a dolphin on it. “Ah, here we are.” Pretty,” he commented, “You’re in luck, today. Tell me your PIN and you’re free to go.”

“Two four eight six,” she said quietly.

“Very smart,” he said. Then, checking to see if anyone was near, he gave her one last warning to say nothing and strolled casually back down the walkway to his car.

On his way to work, he used the ATMs at three convenience stores, and two banks to make five $200 cash advances on the girl’s card. At his bank, he deposited the $1,000 in his own account along with the $4,000 he had already charged to the cards of his four previous victims. At work, he pitched the five cards in the shredder. As the girl’s card went in, he thought he saw the dolphin swish its tail fin, turn its head to look at him, and wink.

On his way home, he stopped at the corner Quick Mart and wrote a check for a bag of skittles, some beer, and a jar of peanuts. As he left the store, His vision became cloudy. He rubbed his eyes. “Darned allergies,” he muttered.

Over the next few weeks, he bought a top-of-the-line ladder, a season pass to the water park, and traded his car in on a younger model using the rest of the money for the down payment. He was continuing to have trouble with his vision. So, He made an appointment for an eye exam.

“I can’t make you see 20/20,” complained the optometrist. “I can’t see anything wrong in there, but I’d like you to be checked out by an ophthalmologist.”

He went to the recommended eye doctor, but that doctor didn’t see anything wrong either. When he opened his wallet to pay the receptionist, he noticed a card with a dolphin on it. He pulled it out. It looked like the girl’s credit card. He was sure he had shredded it. No matter, he would do it for sure tomorrow, but, As long as he still had it, he stopped at an ATM and got another $200 with the card. Then, He noticed that each time he spent some of the $200, his vision darkened. He thought back. His vision had been stable after he spent the last of the money he got with the last batch of cards. He tried a test. He used his pay check to buy some things. Nothing changed with his vision. He deposited the rest of his pay and paid his bills. Still no change in his vision. He bought a coke with some of the $200. The room got darker. A chill enveloped his body. He didn’t wait to shred the card. He wiped it thoroughly and tossed it in the waste basket beside the store door. The dolphin on the card swished its tail, winked at him, and the card disappeared. With trembling hands, He checked his wallet. It was back. Ok, he just wouldn’t use it any more. It was Time to get another batch of cards, anyway.

At the park, he walked slowly and carefully along the path where he normally found his victims. He stopped at the tall bush and looked around. “Hi,” said a female voice behind him.

He whirled around. He could just make out the face of the girl he had taken the dolphin card from. She was holding out a folded white cane. “Here,” she said. “You’ll be needing this now.”

He was confused. Had this been a trick? Had she been able to see him all along? But, if she could see him, why hadn’t she turned him in?

“Thank you,” she said.

“You thank me?” he stammered. “Thank me for what.”

“Taking the card,” she said. “Now, you’re the infected one.”

“About that,” he said, reaching into his wallet for the card. “Here, I’m so sorry, I’ve been feeling so guilty about what I did.”

“No,” she said, “it’s yours now. You can’t give it away and It can’t be destroyed. The only way to get rid of it is for someone to steal it from you. When you think that is about to happen, you must say ‘Infected’ to the person.” She thrust the white cane toward him again.

He brushed it aside, I don’t want it. “Please, you have to take the card back.”

She shook her head. “It is yours now.”

He squinted at the card to get her name. For the first time he noticed that it had his name on it. “How did you get it?” he asked.

“I stole it, of course,” she said wryly. “The important thing is that it’s yours now.” She smiled. “Thank you,” she said again, dropped the cane at his
feet, and walked away.

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.

Your Last Day, fiction Honorable Mention
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

“When you go to sleep tonight, you’ll die,” the doctor says.

“But I feel fine,” you say.

“Your test results indicate a rare form of cancer that acts like a time bomb. When you go to bed and close your eyes, the bomb will explode.”

“Oh, my God! Isn’t there anything you can do?”

“I’m afraid not. I suggest you get your affairs in order. I know this doesn’t give you much time. I’m sorry.”

You walk out of the office in a daze. You blink in the bright sunlight and stumble towards your car, shaking your head in disbelief. When you manage to drive home, he’s in the living room, stretched out in his recliner, reading a newspaper. “Surprise!” he says, as he leaps out of his chair and flings the newspaper aside.

“What are you doing home so early?” you ask.

“I was ahead of schedule for once. So, I decided to take the rest of the afternoon off.”

You fling yourself into his outstretched arms, and you’re locked in a long, ardent embrace. When you come up for air, neither of you says a word. Arm in arm, you make a beeline for the bedroom.

After a couple of hours of the most passionate love -making you’ve experienced in years, you snuggle against him and feel the reassuring closeness of his body. You doze, but remembering the doctor’s words, you jerk yourself awake. “What’s wrong, honey?” he asks.

“Oh, nothing,” you say. “I was just thinking how fun it might be to go out to Dino’s tonight. Their shrimp Fettuccine is just to die for.”

“Actually, I was hoping you would cook something here,” he says. “I love your meatloaf, and for once, I won’t be late for dinner.”

You sigh. The last thing you want to do on your last night on Earth is cook meatloaf.

“But if you really want to go out, I guess that would be okay.”

Although the restaurant is crowded, you manage to get a cozy corner table for two. You order Fettuccine, and he orders lasagna. You order salad, and he orders clam chowder and a bottle of red wine for the two of you. You don’t say much, as you savor your favorite meal for the last time. He keeps up a running commentary on work and other topics.

For dessert, you both decide on spumoni. As you enjoy this and a cup of strong coffee, you look around the room at couples, threesomes, foursomes, and larger groups of people, all laughing, chatting, and eating. Will Heaven be like this? Is there even a Heaven?

“How about renting a movie?” he asks, as you leave the restaurant.

“That’s a great idea! How about ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo?’ I’ve always loved that show.”

“Actually, I was thinking of ‘Top Gun.’”

You sigh. The last thing you want to do on your last night on Earth is watch a war movie.

“But if you really want to watch ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo,’ I guess that would be okay.”

At home, you snuggle on the couch. While Mia Farrell is becoming infatuated with Woody Allen, the two of you are becoming re-infatuated with each other. Afterwards, you head back to the bedroom for another round of passionate love -making.

When that’s over, you snuggle against him. “Hold me,” you say, gripped by a sudden fear of the unknown. He does, and you are enveloped with a sense of peace.

You open your eyes and see bright sunlight. You sit up and look around. To the right and behind you are the windows. Your night stands, chests of drawers, and closet are where they’ve always been. Your clothes are scattered on the floor where you dropped them the night before. He is lying next to you, still asleep. You are filled with a sense of relief.

He wakes up and looks at his watch. “Honey, why are you getting up so early on a Saturday morning?” he asks.

“Who says I’m getting up?” you say, as you cuddle next to him and nibble his ear. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Visiting Hours, creative nonfiction
by Ann Chiappetta

I opened my eyes and found myself dreaming. Part of me felt the bed and part of me felt apart from it. I looked around, taking in the large reception area, complete with chairs. Off to the right was a row of doors, which people were entering and exiting. Most people walked past me, across the room, through an open archway into another reception area. Two women sat at a desk, greeting folks or directing them where to go.

I noticed the blue aura emanating from everything, as if I were looking through blue-tinted glasses. Faces were hidden in shadow, even though I could hear the murmur of conversations without being able to make out what was being said. My Mom sat beside me, another woman stood with her. The shadow faded from their faces, she seemed surprised to see me.

“Annie, what are you doing here?”

I reached out, said hello. She took my hand and I felt her gently squeeze it, it felt familiar and all-too brief.

“I can’t believe I’m here,” I said, still looking around in wonder.

“Hi Annie, remember me? Your Mom and I have been spending time here together,”

She was wearing a white suit dress, her hair and make-up impeccable. I recognized her, “Patty Dunne?”

“That’s right,” she smiled.

Someone entered and sat down in a seat across the room.

“Is Daddy here?”

Mom frowned, then turned and pointed at the person who’d just entered. I called his name and he turned, then ignored me.

“Can I go to him?”

Mom and Patty shrugged, an inscrutable look mirroring both their blue-tinged faces. My dream body got up and walked to him, calling his name. He was dressed in a plaid shirt and khakis.

“Daddy, it’s me,”

He said nothing, the shadow faded from his face and he looked uncomfortable. Skeptical.

“What’s wrong, Daddy, aren’t you glad to see me?” I wanted to hug him but held back, offering my hand instead, he accepted. His hand was damp and failed to even return my grip.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, sensing something was amiss, like the big blue elephant in the room.

“I can’t believe I ended up here. I never believe there was a place like this. I don’t want to be here,” He sounded angry and disappointed. I recalled, during his wake that I saw his specter standing behind his coffin with a look of complete confusion and was reminded that he was an atheist and probably never expected to end up here in the afterlife. I accepted where I was once I felt the touch of my Mom’s hand and to be honest, did not expect to find my Dad here. I felt sorry for him, then, and asked whoever was in charge here to help him out and hoped whoever it was, the entity would hear me and help Dad find peace.

He faded back into the shadows; the look of disgruntlement slowly overtaken by darkness.

When I turned back to my chair/bed, Mom and Patty were heading to a door beyond the reception desk and I somehow knew visiting hours were almost over. Feeling brave enough to ask another question, I walked over to the reception desk.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked the blue-hued lady in a power pants suit who stood by the desk. The woman seated behind it wore a jogging set, her hair in a ponytail, big hoop earrings dangled from her ears. Both women met me with friendly, expectant smiles.

“Sure, honey,”

“Is this where the living folks visit with the dead?”

She put an arm around me, “Yes, but it doesn’t happen often, maybe only once in a lifetime for you folks. You are an incredibly lucky gal to be visiting here.”

I walked back to my chair/bed, took a final look around, felt wonder, peace, and maybe a little bit special. I awoke instantly, energy and something I couldn’t describe coursing through me. I’d been somewhere else, where the dead abide or maybe it was limbo, Heaven only knows.

Bio: Ann Chiappetta M.S. author and poet.
Making meaningful connections with others through writing.
Ann’s poems, creative nonfiction, essays and fiction regularly appear in journals, online magazines, blogs and small press reviews. Ann’s poetry has found a place in the pages of Breath and Shadow’s 2016 debut anthology, Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow. Four books fill Ann’s authorly shelves and a fifth book is on its way in 2021. One overarching goal for Ann is to offer her books in all formats: eBook, print and audio. Besides reading and writing, Ann spends time with her two- and four-footed family in New York’s historic and beautiful lower Hudson valley and continues to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with her assistive technology.
Find her on the web at: read her blog:

On Warding Off Would-Be Witnesses, fiction
by Bill Fullerton

Becky Lee Tyler had thoroughly enjoyed everything about trying on the new lingerie with its sheer baby-doll top and ridiculously skimpy, matching panties. The outfit, a special birthday present she’d ordered for her husband had just arrived.

After an extended period of fiddling with the gossamer outfit, and trying out different poses in front of the bedroom’s full-length mirror, she knew, just knew, almost for sure, that both of them were really going to enjoy this gift.

Still wearing nothing but the new, risque ensemble, The cute, petite kindergarten teacher began working on what she hoped might become a sexy private dance routine. That’s when the grating sounds of the doorbell cut through her good mood and the loud music filling the house.

Reluctantly, she stopped, peeked through the heavy window curtains she’d carefully pulled shut, and sighed. They were back. The two conservatively dressed, middle-age ladies, who periodically descended upon the neighborhood hoping to witness to one and all, were once again, at the front door and waiting resolutely in the mid-summer heat.

Though frustrated and more than just a bit put out, at heart, she was a conventional, small-town girl. For her, being rude was not an option. She sighed again and started looking for her robe. That’s when inspiration struck, and she smiled.

After yelling for the ladies to wait, she hurriedly tousled her hair, kicked off her slippers, fired up one of her husband’s cigarettes and then on her way through the kitchen, grabbed the half-empty glass of Coke she’d left on the table when the order had arrived.

So barefoot, with her face flushed from dancing to the loud music that still blasted from the living room stereo, a bit more than half naked with her hair mussed while holding a cigarette and what looked like a drink she opened the door wide, gave the stunned ladies a big smile and apologized for making them wait and for not being able to invite them in, explaining that she was in the middle of something, but hoped they’d come back real soon.

They never did.

Bio: Once upon a time, Bill Fullerton was a more-or-less semi-reputable sports columnist and government paper-pusher in Louisiana. The retired, beat-up Vietnam vet is now retired and aging disgracefully in Arizona, where he has sunk to being a short story writer and author of unpublished novels.

Crystal, fiction
by Susan Muhlenbeck

“Now Crystal,” Rebecca Seasongood said to her daughter that hot Monday afternoon in July, “I have two job interviews this afternoon. I want you to stay in the house until I get back. Don’t answer the phone or the door. Just stay inside and read or watch TV until I get back, okay?”

“Do you have to go?” Crystal asked plaintively.

“Yes, sweety, I do,” Rebecca sighed. “I need to get a job so I can pay bills. We don’t have much money left, and we don’t want to lose our house or our car, do we?”

No, Mommy,” Crystal said sadly. “I’ll stay here.”

“Good girl,” Rebecca said, kissing her daughter on the cheek. “There are apples in the refrigerator if you get hungry. Just don’t touch the stove or the oven. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

After her mother left, Crystal flipped on the Disney channel. It was showing a movie she had seen several times before. She tried a few other channels but couldn’t find anything interesting to watch. It was hot inside the little house, but they couldn’t afford to run the air conditioner. She wanted to go outside. She wished her friend Sara was home. She could call her. Her mother said not to answer the phone. She didn’t say not to make phone calls, but Sara was out shopping with her mom. She picked up one of her books and decided to do some reading. She hesitated for a minute, then opened the front door and went out onto the porch. Her mom had told her not to go outside, but she couldn’t have meant the porch, could she? That wasn’t really outside.

Rebecca drove to the first interview with a sense of misgiving. She hated to leave Crystal at home alone, but what else could she do? She couldn’t afford to hire a babysitter, she thought angrily, thinking of the pile of unpaid bills on the table. She really needed to find a job. They were one step from being on the streets. Her ex-husband’s support payments haven’t been coming in lately. Nobody seemed to know where he was at the moment. Why couldn’t I have married somebody good, she thought, slamming the car door. Crystal would be all right, she told herself with conviction. What could happen to her inside the house? She had no way of knowing, as the interviewer ushered her into the office, that Crystal was engrossed in conversation with a stranger.

Crystal was so caught up in her book about fairies that she didn’t notice the man until he spoke. “Hello there, young lady,” he said quietly. “How are you doing?”

Startled she looked up to see a young man wearing torn jeans and a grubby t-shirt looking down at her. His blond hair looked like it hadn’t been combed, and his shoes were covered with mud. She wondered what he was carrying in his black backpack that looked like it had seen better days.

“Who are you?” she demanded, sizing him up.

“My name is Mickey. Are your parents home?” he asked, noticing the empty driveway.

“My mom had two job interviews,” she said without thinking. “Don’t know where my dad went.”

“I see,” he said slowly. “Well, I have been traveling for a long time and have a long way to go. I didn’t have anything to eat in a while. Do you have any food you can spare?”

He did look pretty skinny, she thought. She considered her options. She knew she shouldn’t bring him into the house, but she also wanted to talk to someone. “I’ll get you an apple,” she finally said, getting up from her chair. “Wait here,” she added, opening the door.

Ignoring her, the man followed Crystal into the house and into the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator and rummaged around until she found an apple. “Here,” she said, handing it to him quickly. “Now you have to go.”

“Now just a minute,” he said, peering into the refrigerator. “What’s this?” he said, pulling out a foil-covered bowl. “Looks good.”

“That’s leftover spaghetti,” Crystal cried. “We’re having that tonight. Put that back!”

“Calm down,” the man said, drawing his words out. “You have plenty of food. I don’t have a crumb.” He set the bowl on the counter, grabbed a fork from the dishrack, and started eating cold spaghetti ravenously.

Now what are we going to eat? Crystal thought glumly, watching the man devour their dinner. Probably crackers and peanut butter, she thought sorrowfully. She hoped her mom got the job.

“Thank you for coming in,” the first interviewer told Rebecca as she stood to go. “We’ll let you know something in a few days.”

That went well, Rebecca thought as she got back into her car. She had a good feeling about getting this job as a customer service representative with the phone company. As she drove to her second interview for a receptionist at a doctor’s office, her thoughts went back to Crystal. She was sure everything was all right, but she was still tempted to pull over and call. But Crystal wouldn’t answer the phone, she reminded herself. She had told her not to answer the phone or the door, and the child always listened, she thought with relief.

Having finished the spaghetti, Mickey helped himself to two glasses of milk and seemed disappointed that he had finished it all. “Now we don’t have milk for our cereal,” Crystal told him. Now she was really mad.

“Sorry, I was thirsty,” he said without feeling. “I’ll be out of here in a minute, as soon as I go to the bathroom and make a phone call.”

Crystal washed the dishes he had used and wiped off the table while he was gone. She wished she wouldn’t have offered him an apple. Now her mom would yell at her for letting him in the house and letting him eat their food. She felt tears stinging her eyes as he walked back into the kitchen. Then she noticed him wearing her dad’s giant t-shirt that she kept in her room. So, he has been in my room too, she thought furiously.

“That’s my dad’s t-shirt!” she cried. “I wear it to sleep in.”

“It’s just a ratty old t-shirt,” the man laughed, pointing out the paint splotches and torn sleeves. “You don’t need it. Besides, I’m sure he’ll bring you lots of presents when you see him again,” he said, putting a placating hand on her shoulder. Crystal wanted to protest but couldn’t think of anything else to say.

She followed him to the front door, noticing with dread the tracks made by his muddy shoes. Mom will probably yell at me about that too, she thought miserably as he opened the door.

“Well, I’m off,” he said loudly, stepping onto the porch. “Hey, now, there’s no need to cry,” he said soothingly, just noticing her tears. “No use crying over spilled milk,” he said with a big grin.

“The milk wasn’t spilled,” Crystal said, confused.

“Sure it was,” Mickey laughed. “It was spilled down my throat. Failing to make her laugh, he tried another approach. “Hey, what do you think would happen if I cut off all your hair and you were bald, and then I put some spaghetti on your head?” That made her laugh. “Look, I got something for you,” he said putting a hand into his backpack that carried all his worldly possessions and pulling something out. “You know what this is?” he asked, holding up an object dangling from a thick black cord. It looked like a glittering stone or a piece of glass, Crystal thought, watching the object shine in the sunlight. “What’s that?” she asked, mesmerized.

“It’s a crystal,” Mickey said, swinging it on his cord like a pendulum.

“Crystal! That’s my name,” she shouted, awed.

“Then you should have it,” Mickey said, putting the cord over her head. “Do you like it?”

“It’s very pretty,” she said, turning the crystal over and over in her little hand.

“It sure is,” Mickey said, stepping off the porch, “and it will bring you all kinds of luck. Got to go now, by.” She watched him run down the street and disappear from sight.

Rebecca drove away from the second interview feeling very optimistic. She was going to get one of those jobs, she told herself, she knew she would. It was about time something went right, she thought as she drove home. Things would be better from now on, they just had to be. She turned on the radio and hummed along with a classical music tune.

After Mickey left, Crystal went into the house and turned on the TV. There was still nothing good to watch. She got some rags from under the sink and cleaned the floor as best she could. Soon there was no sign that Mickey had ever been there. That is, nothing but the crystal around her neck, the empty spaghetti bowl and empty milk carton, her dad’s missing t-shirt, and the phone number he had dialed programmed into their phone. She sat on the couch and picked up her book she had been reading before Mickey came. She tried to read but couldn’t concentrate very well. She clutched at the crystal around her neck with one hand and munched on an apple in her other hand. She willed the crystal to bring her the good luck she and her mother needed. It would bring them good luck, she told herself several times. Her dad would come back and move back into the house. Her mom would get a good job, and they would never have to eat peanut butter crackers for dinner again. She was still thinking such thoughts when she heard the key turn in the lock.

Crystal ran to the door. The crystal around her neck sparkled in the sunlight as her mom stood on the porch.

“Crystal! Where did you get that necklace?” Her mother looked astonished as she entered the house.

“it’s a…” Crystal froze as a news reporter came on the television holding a picture of Nick.

“This is a breaking news alert. We have just received word that an escaped convict is on the loose. Michael Reed escaped from the county jail last night and may be headed this way. He is 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs 135 pounds and has blond hair. He is wanted for armed robbery and assault. If you have seen him or someone that fits this description, call your local police or the number at the bottom of the screen immediately. Do not try to approach him. He is considered to be armed and dangerous.”

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

A Full Skillet, memoir
by Jo Elizabeth Pinto

One unusually warm autumn evening, when my first husband and I had fallen on hard times because of his Lou Gehrig’s disease, I opened the refrigerator in the tiny kitchen of our travel trailer. I had to figure out what I could rustle up for dinner.

Even thirty years ago, I took pride in my ability as a creative cook. But that night, what I found in the fridge didn’t leave me much room for creativity. The shelves were bare, save for two small potatoes, four beef hot dogs in a sealed plastic bag, and half an onion. My heart sank as I emptied the fridge and shut the door.

I whispered a worried prayer as I sliced the hot dogs and diced up the potatoes and onions. Then I added a dab of bacon grease to my electric skillet and, when the grease started to sizzle and the smell of bacon made my mouth water, I dropped our meager dinner into the pan.

I was about to put the cover on the skillet when I heard my husband Jim coming up behind me. The thump of his crutches and the shuffle of his dragging left foot made it so he could never approach me silently.

He bent and kissed my cheek. “What’s cooking? I invited Paul to eat with us. You know he’s been living on nothing but pancakes lately. I’m worried about him.”

For a quick moment, I considered pointing out how little food there was in the skillet. I thought about opening the refrigerator and showing Jim the empty shelves. We barely had enough to feed ourselves that night, much less the next day, and he had invited a neighbor for dinner?

But I took a deep breath and bit back my protest. Paul was a lonely middle-aged man with a heart condition who needed friendly company as much as he needed nutritious meals, if not more, and I was as worried about him as Jim was.

I reached into the cupboard above the sink and took down three plates. “Two of us wouldn’t have gotten full anyway. All three of us might as well eat something and visit awhile,” I said. “He takes sugar in his coffee, right?”

Paul came to our trailer a few minutes later, and we all sat outside in lawn chairs, chatting and drinking coffee. Paul and Jim eventually started swapping fishing stories, and I wandered into the kitchen to check on our dinner.

“My God!” I gasped, nearly dropping my spatula as I poked at the contents of the electric skillet.

“What’s wrong?” Jim called through the open kitchen window. “Did the potatoes burn? Don’t worry, baby. I like ’em that way.”

“No… it’s… the skillet is overflowing! You’ve got to see this!”

“Going up and down those steps wears me out. I don’t…”

“Jim, really. Come look.”

Both men came into the kitchen and peered over my shoulder.

“Wow!” Jim took the spatula from me and turned the contents of the skillet. “I can hardly stir it without spilling.”

“How much did you put in there?” Paul asked.

“Two potatoes, no bigger than my fist,” I told him. “Half a small onion, and four sliced hot dogs.”

“Maybe the potatoes cooked up?” he suggested lamely.

“Potatoes cook down,” Jim pointed out. “It’s a miracle, plain and simple. Like the loaves and fishes.”

The three of us ate till we were full that night, and I sent Paul home with leftovers in a Country Crock® tub. Jim and I polished off the last of the meal for breakfast the next morning.

And then, to top it off, Jim found a forgotten lottery ticket on the dashboard of his truck after breakfast. He spent the thirty-dollar windfall on groceries and gave half of them to Paul.

The memory of that full skillet has become a touchstone in my life. I’ve had plenty of hard times since then, some of which have been much more difficult to overcome than hunger. But the wonder of that blessing has helped me stay hopeful and strong. As I’ve told many people since that day–some of whom have believed my skillet story and some of whom have not–there are no zeros in God’s math, and no surprises in God’s plan.

“A Full Skillet” was published in Apples of Gold: Timely Advice When the World Doesn’t Seem Lovely by Jo Elizabeth Pinto available from Amazon and Audible.

Part IV. Happy Birthday, Magnets and Ladders!
Compiled by Marilyn Brandt Smith

As I was submitting my pieces for this issue, my son Jay—our Behind Our Eyes website, archive, and Email list administrator—pointed out that 2021 is our tenth year producing Magnets and Ladders.

“You just presented us with an opportunity,” I commented, “Let me call Mary-Jo.” We were delighted to celebrate and honor all our editors, contributors, and providers. Magnets and Ladders is provided on our list; by Email to all who have submitted; on the website; through the Perkins library; and through Bookshare. Although many of our committees have changed personnel through the years, some members have been with us from the beginning.

In 2010 I suggested the online magazine idea to Bobbi LaChance, our president at that time. Credit is due to member Lisa Busch for the original idea for the “Magnets and Ladders” name. We made it a reality in Spring 2011.

Five candles are lighted here, with pieces from 2011 through 2015. I was editor through 2013, and Mary-Jo Lord has served in that role with dedication and talent since 2014. The pieces chosen here were some of our favorites, and have not yet been included in an anthology. Contests didn’t actually begin until a few issues after 2011, but these are all winners. Mary-Jo will set the other five candles in place with pieces from 2016 through 2020 in the Fall/Winter issue this year.

Enjoy, and keep helping our magazine grow in circulation and diversity by reading, submitting, and recommending Magnets and Ladders to your friends. This networking is one of the ways Behind Our Eyes draws new members and grows as an organization. Let’s reach another ten-year birthday to celebrate.

Dancin’ Up Main Street, poetry, 2011
by Ria Meade

He is not Fred Astaire.
I’m not Ginger Rogers.
He is Spencer, I am his partner.
He has four legs, a slick-looking black coat,
elegance and rhythm.
I have only two legs, one a smidge short,
much taller,
can’t see a damn thing.
And everyday we do a dance routine,
up Main Street.

I don a bright frock, his harness straps on,
my left hand grips the handle.
His gentle tug leads me to the dance floor,
Main Street.

Our background musical score –
Horns blaring, jackhammers pounding,
gears grinding, teenagers rapping
energy vibrating.

Four months of practice,
I struggle to learn Spencer’s footwork,
new partner
new style.

When gliding from block to block,
intent on sensing each other’s moves,
I feel a waltz.
Being it Spencer and me,
probably, a visual boogie-woogie.
Our steps often vary, feet missing puddles
with jazzy zigzagging.

Spence takes the lead, I follow.
We have purpose, independence,
happy hearts,
happy feet.
Arriving home, we bow, thank one another.
Give a kiss,
get a lick.

Thinking of our dance –
up and down and around our town –
he IS my Fred Astaire!

Bio: A native Long Islander, Ria Meade crafts poems about her adult life as a blind woman. Painting since childhood, her passion culminated with a degree in fine arts. Ria was working in New York City in 1982, when the childhood concern, Juvenile Diabetes, took her sight completely. Life changed dramatically and artistic passion took a back seat as she learned to deal with her blindness. Twenty-five years after losing her sight, she began to paint again with words.

Ria credits being saved by the eight Labrador Retriever guide dogs she has been paired with over the last thirty-five years allowing her creativity to return in the form of these poems. She has recently completed her sixth self-published collection.

Ria survives this vulnerable existence independently with her beloved guide dog, Flash, a plush rescued Calico, Thomasina and many newly discovered senses.

Grapevines through the Generations, memoir, 2012
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

As a child, I loved the fragrance and flavor of grape-the grape jelly homemade by my mother, grape gum sold at my uncle’s grocery store, grape snowcones purchased at carnivals, and most especially grape juice advertised heavily in the 50s by Welch’s. Similarly, I have very fond memories of the grapes that grew behind the huge store building which my maternal grandparents and uncle owned in Blanford, Indiana. Although the backyard was small for a rural area of west-central Indiana, the beautiful clusters of grapes growing on the trellis that framed the sidewalk to the alley were like a rich green and purple crown under which my cousin Carole and I could play and imagine.

A few miles away, in that tiny rural area called Klondyke, was my paternal grandparents’ farm. In addition to a farmhouse with a red swing on the front porch, a bountiful garden, four peach trees, cows and chickens, a barn, a three-seater outhouse, fields, a woods, and a front yard along a gravel road-a large and beautiful grape arbor graced the farm where everyone loved to visit. Of course, my grandmother used the grapes to make jelly; and my grandfather was known for the Italian wine which he made from those grapes. In the first decade of the 1900s, all four of my grandparents left the Levone valley of Northern Italy to come to this quiet area of rural Indiana; but one way in which they could keep in touch with their homeland was through these grapevines.

Since the majority of the people in the area where I spent my young life were of Italian descent, Columbus Day was celebrated with a spectacular parade in the nearby town of Clinton. Then, during my high school years, the largest town in Vermillion County planned a new celebration: in 1966, Clinton began its Little Italy Festival which continues each Labor Day Weekend for four days. Besides the selection of a Re and Regina (King and Queen) of the festival, a young Queen of Grapes and her court reign over the festivities. I remember high school friends who were chosen for this honor, stomped grapes for the tourists’ cameras and television cameras, and did temporarily have purple feet. At the main stage area, during the grape stomping contests, men, dressed in festival costumes, threw clusters of grapes to the audience. My grandparents’ friend Joe Airola grew and cared for the grapes that naturally decorated the earthly terraces of the banks of the Wabash River (where Clinton, Indiana, is located). At the annual festival, one of my favorite treats was grape ice-almost like a grape sherbet.

From the grapes of the town of my high school, I ponder the grapes and gardens of my hometown, Blanford. In our town of about 400 residents, my father enjoyed working in his garden; and he also tilled the soil for my grandfather who kept an ample garden until he was about 88 years of age. Following in my grandpa’s footsteps, my father eventually also grew grapes and made a fine wine with these Hoosier grapes. My dad was the only one of his generation to carry on the family tradition.

Although I think all of my family must have grapevines in our veins, I can report that only my cousin/first godchild, Gina (who lives in Portland, Oregon), is, with her young family, continuing our ancestors’ tradition of growing grapes. Nevertheless, recently, my nephew (an Army Ranger) called me-thanks to the miracle of modern communications-from Afghanistan and told me that, amazingly, from the extremely dry and hard ground of Afghanistan, grapes do grow. Tired of MREs (Meals-ready-to-eat), he tasted some of the green grapes and shared with me that the grapes, although small, tasted good. I believe that when my nephew settles down again in the United States with his lovely bride, he will continue the tradition of tending to grapevines and making Italian wine. I do hope that the tradition of grapevines will weave through a new generation of our Italian-American family.

Someone Getting Married Today? fiction, 2013
by Deon Lyons

“I know, I know! You don’t have to keep telling me, ok?” I could feel the blood in my veins starting to pump faster by the second as my best friend Eddie stared down at me.

“You know what he is as well as I do. Everybody knows what your brother is, Pete, and I hate to tell you this, but I don’t think he’s ever going to change. I mean for crying out loud!” Eddie kept beating down on me with his charcoal gray eyes as I untied my bow tie to give it one more shot.

“Listen man, I told my folks. I promised them that I’d give him a chance, ok? I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do? He’s my little brother man, you know?” Losing my concentration on my tie skills, I pulled the bow tie all the way through, and threw it on the floor. “What the hell am I supposed to do!” I looked up at Eddie as he folded his arms and shook his head.

“The fact that he ain’t here should be proof enough man. I mean seriously.” He looked at his watch, “It’s twenty minutes before the ceremony for God’s sake.” He shook his head again as he turned and walked across the room, pausing as he reached one of the chairs. Turning again to face me, he plopped down into the chair and leaned back, interlacing his fingers behind his head.

The door opened suddenly, startling the life out of me. It was my father, and he looked as preoccupied as I had ever seen him. Closing the door behind him, he walked over and sat on the edge of the chair beside me.

“No one’s seen Trev, at least not since last night.”

“Who saw him last night?” My mind started racing at the news.

“Bobby Verrill told me that he saw him at the Dusty Dollar around closing time.” My dad looked down at the floor, tracing the intricate carpet patterns with his eyes, “He told me that your brother was in his usual wrecked state. Falling over everyone and everything else that he usually gets into.” He shook his head and looked from the floor, to the ceiling, to me, and back to the floor. “I’m sorry about this, Petey.” He looked at me again, “This is my fault. I should have known what would happen with all this.”

“It’s not your fault, dad. It’s no one’s fault but Trevor’s. It’s never been anyone else’s fault for what he does. He’s a frigging alcoholic, ok?” I stared at my father as I could see the emotions swell up inside his head and heart. “This is the third time he’s been through rehab. That don’t mean that the third time’s a charm. I mean, for Christ’s sake dad, how many times has our family had this same discussion about him? Too damn many times, that’s how many!” I got up from my chair and walked to the middle of the room, where I bent down and picked up my bow tie.

“Mr. Collins, I’m sorry about all this sir.” Eddie sat up in his chair and like my father, stared down at the floor. He looked at his watch again, “It’s quarter of. What do you guys wanna do?”

My father got up and walked over to me, holding out his hand. “Give me the tie, Pete. I’ll do it up for ya.” He put a hand on my shoulder as I handed him the black velvet length. He grabbed it and started working it through the neck of my shirt. “The wedding goes on. If your brother doesn’t show up, your best man is right here in the room.” He looked at Eddie, “That is, if he wants to be.”

“Best man for life sir, and yes, I would be honored.” He looked at me and smiled as I took a deep breath. “If we don’t get this lame ass married right here and now, He’ll probably grow old and gray, sitting in his two-room apartment, all alone in his underwear with a bag of cheese curls, watching Little House on the Prairie with a universal remote that has a dead battery in it.”

“You frigging moron!” I looked at Eddie and started laughing. My father joined in as we stood together in the middle of the room.

“Where’s your ring for Anna?” My father continued to work on my tie as I swallowed and remembered. I sat speechless as he tugged and tied.

“Hello? Where is Anna’s ring?”

My voice cracked as I finally figured out how to swallow, “Umm, I gave it to Trev yesterday afternoon to hold for me.”

“You did what?” My father let go of the tie as the knot quickly came undone, “You’re kidding, right?”

“Afraid not, Pop.” I tried swallowing again, but the nervous lump in my throat wouldn’t let me. “It’s ok. He told me that he would put it in the night stand in his room when I left your house yesterday.”

Eddie stood there with his mouth hanging, wide open. I knew what he wanted to say, but I don’t think he knew how to correctly say it.

The door to the room opened with a sudden burst, slamming against the door stop on the wall.

“Well lookie here! If it ain’t the happy frigging groom!” My brother Trevor staggered into the room. He walked over towards the three of us, barefoot, with his shirt tail hanging out of his unzipped pants. His cumber bun and coat were nowhere on him, nor was his bow tie. He walked up to Eddie and threw his arm around him. The smell of alcohol made it to us before he did, as his half open, blood shot eyes tried focusing on us.

“How ya doin’, Eddie, old boy, you big hunk of penguin? If you ain’t a sight for sore eyes, man.” He reeked of a night full of drunken mayhem.

My father just looked at him, shaking his head. Eddie quickly stepped away from him in disgust, causing Trevor to stagger and sway, almost falling over. He hiccupped and burped and wiped a line of drool from his chin on his tuxedo’s shirt sleeve. He mumbled something, reached into his pants pocket, and pulled out a pint of whiskey.

“Oh no you don’t!” My father snatched the pint from his hands and backed away from him in disgust. “The most important day of your brother’s life, and this is how you show your respect–coming in here like this?” He shook his head as he looked from my brother, to me, then back to my brother, “How the hell are you supposed to stand up for him in this shape? How are you supposed to be his best man? What the hell is the matter with you man?” He turned and sat on the edge of one of the chairs, staring down at the carpet once again. “God Almighty, Trevor, I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Well you better believe it, Pops, cuz my big brother’s getting frigging married today!” He let out a war whoop cry that vibrated the light fixtures of the church room. He looked at me with a drunken, cross eyed smile, “My big old brother is getting married. Ain’t that something.” He reached into his pants pocket, trying to find the pint that my father had taken from him, “Hmm. What the? I know I put it right…” He stuck out his tongue and drove his hand deep into his pocket, fishing for what wasn’t there. Totally confused, he looked at my father. “Hey, I know you, don’t I? You look wicked familiar to me. Hmm. Ain’t you the one that took my whiskey?” He started swaying over toward my father.

Dad got up quickly and put his hand out, stopping Trevor dead in his tracks. “You stop right there and get hold of yourself, ok?” My dad was just about at his snapping point. His voice trembled as he fought back his emotions. “There’s no more whiskey here for you today, so move on, alright?”

“You bastard! You stole my whiskey, you son of a…” Trevor staggered to the right and swayed to the left. “Well I tell you what mister!”

“Trevor, shut the hell up, ok?” I lost my composure, wanting to reach out and shake the life back into him, “What are we supposed to do with you showing up like this? What’s everyone gonna say when you stand up there for me looking like this?” I looked at Eddie, who was staring at the floor, still shaking his head.

My dad walked over to my side as Trevor tripped over to a chair and stumbled into it, nearly tipping it over.

Standing beside me, my dad looked at Trevor, “You got Anna’s ring?”

Trevor just sat in the chair, affixed on something else that wasn’t anywhere in the room.

My dad folded his arms, “Trevor? Trevor! Do you have Anna’s ring?”

My brother smirked as he looked up with his eyes half closed, smiling at my father. “Ring? Me?” He looked around the room and then swayed his eyes back on my father, “I told him it wasn’t enough money, and he just stood there, smiling like a frigging idiot.”

“What are you talking about?” I stared down at my drunk excuse for a brother.

Trevor reached into his pocket again. Coming out empty, he looked up at us in a complete fog, “Are you talking to me? Are you guys talking to me? Who’s got my bottle? Where’d it go?” He took a deep breath and smiled again. “He told me the ring was a dandy. He really liked it, and I think I got a good price for it, I mean, holy crap, I never knew whiskey tasted so good.” He licked his lips as he spun his eyes back and forth, “Does Anna know how nice that ring was?”

“Where’s the ring, Trevor!” My father hollered out, echoing through the room. “Did you pawn the ring or something?”

Trevor staggered out of the chair and took a couple steps towards my father, “Yes, my dear old father in daddy doo. I pawned the stupid thing.” He looked at me as he swayed back a step, “It’s a good thing they make new ones every day, wouldn’t you say there, brother of mine who’s getting married?”

Staggering back a couple steps, he fell backwards into the chair. “Boy, that sure was a nice ring, weren’t it?” His eyes rolled around inside his sockets, “Oh man, I think I’m gonna be…” He heaved twice, and threw up all over the chair, the floor, and himself. The smell instantly swept through the room as he leaned back in his chair, unable to talk or move.

“Oh my God!” My father ran out of the room.

I froze in my tracks, not knowing what to do or say. Eddie did the same, as we both stood there, staring in disbelief at the sight. The ring was apparently gone, my best man and little brother all rolled into one was drunk, my best friend was just as shocked as I was, and I was almost late for my wedding. I started to well up inside as the door opened again and my father came racing in with a roll of paper towels. He quickly made it to my brother and started cleaning him up. The mess was virtually uncleanable, as it ran down his face, his chest, into his lap, onto his chair, and down onto the thick carpet. He was mumbling as my father wiped his face and started down his chest, replenishing the paper towels as he went along. Trevor’s head slumped down as he apparently passed out in a drunken stupor.

My dad looked up at me as he kept on cleaning. He looked at Eddie, “Go out and tell Petey’s Uncle Richard to get in here, and quick.”

Eddie raced out of the room as my dad kept on sopping up the mess. He looked up at me again, “We’re ok. Everything’s gonna be ok, alright?”

I looked down at him and nodded, still frozen in my shoes.

“We’re gonna get you married today. Don’t you worry about it. This is still gonna be one of your best days ever, alright?” He looked up at me as I stood there, open mouthed, “Alright?”

“Yes sir, I understand.” I stepped back, trying to catch my breath as the door opened and Eddie rushed in with my Uncle Richard right behind him.

“Holy crap! What’s going on?” He walked over beside me and stared at my drunken, puke-filled brother, passed out in the chair. “He did it again?”

I nodded as he put his hand on my shoulder, “What can I do?”

My dad piled up the sopping paper towel on top of the other dirty ones on the carpet. He stood up as he grabbed a clean one and wiped his hands, “Go tell my Susan that we need her ring for the ceremony. Make sure to tell her to let Anna know what’s going on, so she won’t be too surprised when the rings come out during the ceremony. Then I need you to get Trevor home and get him cleaned up.” He shook his head again as my uncle stared at my brother in a heap in the chair. “I’ll get him to the hospital after the wedding if you can stay with him until then.”

“Not a problem, brother. I’ll take care of him until you get there.” He looked at my father, “You want me to get him to the hospital for ya?”

“Nope, I’ll do that myself after the ceremony. I’ll skip out and get to the house so you can get to the reception. I’ll join you guys after I get him taken care of.” He shook his head, “I’m getting familiar with this process, so it shouldn’t take too long.”

“Ok then, I’ll go get Susan’s ring for ya. Be right back.”

In a dash he was gone out the door as my dad took off his suit coat and started in with a clean towel on my wasted little brother.

“Eddie, do me a favor and get the groom looking like a groom, if you could?”

“Sure thing sir.” My new best man came up to me, stared into my eyes, took a deep breath, and started in on my bow tie. The room started swirling as I started sweating profusely. “I gotta sit down for a second, man, ok?” I turned and slid into one of the chairs as he maneuvered behind me and grabbed at my tie.

“What’s the matter, man? You nervous? I mean, you’re acting like you’re getting married or something today?” I chuckled as he pulled tightly on the tie.

“Piece of cake, man, piece of crumb cake.” I nervously fumbled with my fingers as my father chuckled under his breath.

The door opened and my uncle came in with my mom’s ring in his hand. “Here you go.” He held it out as Eddie stared at it.

“I’ll take that if you don’t mind?” He snatched it from my uncle’s hand as my dad finished up with the cleaning, or as close as he could get.

“Ok Richard. I’ll help you get him out to the car.” The two lifted Trevor out of the chair as he murmured and mumbled. They basically carried him out of the room, down the hall, and out into the parking lot to my uncle’s car.

I stood in the room, fully dress, half prepared, and three quarters scared out of my skin. It was my wedding day, and with all of the turmoil unfolding, it was still spinning through my head that I indeed was getting married to the love of my life. Knowing that I had a whole lifetime with her ahead of me seemed to make things calm down a bit. Eddie finished up on my tie and ran around me to make sure that I was all intact.

Eddie put his hand on my shoulder. “Take a look around and make sure I’m all put together the right way, would ya, kiddo?”

“Nah,” I said, “you look frigging awesome, man, I mean, for a loser’s best man anyways.” We both laughed and sat back down.

“This is it, man. I mean, this is like, really it, ok?”

I looked over at him as he sat, smiling at me. “I’m sorry I didn’t just let you be my best man right from the start, Eddie. Please forgive me?”

“Hey bro, it’s ok, and no, I’ll never forgive you!”

“You frigging moron!”

We stood up, looked at each other, smiled, and then hugged the life out of one another as the door opened and my father came back into the room.

He walked over, grabbed his suit coat, and slid it on. Looking at Eddie and me, he made his way over to us. Putting a hand on each of our shoulders, he smiled, “Someone getting married today?”

“Yes sir, I am.”

“Well then, how’s about we go to a wedding then?”

He stepped up to me and gave me a bear hug which almost started me crying. With a huge smile, he backed away from me and walked over and opened the door as Eddie and I walked through.

He took a deep breath and followed us out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Bio: Deon Lyons lived in Central Maine with his wife of 36 years. Deon chased his passion for writing since his younger days, and was grateful for avenues of inspiration that provided countless ways to expand his writing craft. Mr. Lyons was a lover of music, movies, described media, family, chocolate, and the camaraderie that only friends could provide. Deon had been a member of Behind Our Eyes since 2011, and was continuously impressed by this amazing collection of talented writers. Deon passed away in April of 2019.

The Road to Mars, fiction, 2014
by Shawn Jacobson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There’s no traffic in space to jam.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” Then a little later, “Ouch!”

“What happened?”

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

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

“Yes, got it. Now what?”

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

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

“Yes,” I said. “Just stay calm.”

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

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

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

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

“What was that?”

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

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

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

“Great,” I replied. “Now seal it!”

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

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

“Wow! We got it.” Billy exclaimed.

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

“Love you dad,” Billy said.

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

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

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

“Like space?” I asked.

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

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

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

Bio: Shawn Jacobson was born totally blind and obtained partial eyesight through dint of several eye operations. He attended the Iowa School for the Blind, Iowa Braille, for twelve years before graduating from Marshalltown High School. He received two degrees from Iowa State University. He then went to work for the US Government where he has worked for 37 years. Shawn now lives in Olney, MD with his wife Cheryl, son Stephen, and an ever-changing pack of dogs. His daughter Zebe lives in Baltimore.

Weightless! fiction, 2015
by Susan Muhlenbeck

Kelly poured two cups of coffee and sat down across from her friend Bridget as she eyed the array of baked goods on the kitchen counter. “Have a blueberry muffin,” she said, picking one up off the plate in the center of the table.

“I really shouldn’t,” Bridget hesitated, then picked one up and took a big bite. “Mmmm, your muffins are going to be a big hit at the church bake sale,” she said, licking crumbs off her lips.

“So are your brownies,” Kelly smiled. “I sure hope we raise enough money to repair the church roof.”

“Between your muffins and Carol’s lemon tarts, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Bridget laughed, taking another bite of muffin.

“Aunt June came by and dropped off some of her famous sugar cookies last night,” Kelly said, pouring herself another cup of coffee and adding a generous amount of hazelnut creamer.

“I have to get the recipe from her,” Bridget said. “Those cookies are my kids’ favorite treat.”

“June always sends them to Cindy at college,” Kelly mused. “Then Cindy suddenly becomes very popular in the dorms.”

“I’ll never lose twenty pounds before summer,” Bridget sighed, reaching for another muffin. “It is just not going to happen.”

“Speaking of which,” Kelly said, getting up and walking over to the basket of mail on the counter, “do you remember Erica Jewel from college?”

“Of course,” Bridget said, chewing contentedly. “How could anybody forget her? Haven’t heard from her in years though. Why do you ask?”

“Check this out,” Kelly said, pulling out a stack of papers from a manila envelope. She held up a picture of their old college friend. “This was taken just last week,” she said with a little laugh.

“Looking as young and slim as ever,” Bridget said enviously. “She hasn’t aged a day within the last twenty years. What is she up to these days anyway?”

“Read all about it,” Kelly invited, handing Bridget a hand written letter.

Bridget read the letter silently, then handed it back to Kelly with a smirk. “So she’s still gallivanting around Europe, and now working for some hot shot pharmaceutical company. Well isn’t she something else?”

“Can you believe she had the nerve to send me a couple of their new diet pills?” Kelly demanded, reaching into the envelope and pulling out a foil wrapped package.

“Guaranteed to lose weight instantly,” Bridget scoffed. “Whoever heard of such a thing?”

Kelly unwrapped the package and held up two white pills, hardly bigger than an ant. “I wonder what they’re made of.”

“Why would she just assume we need to lose weight?” Bridget asked with contempt. “Does she think she’s the only one who can maintain her youthful figure?”

“Unfortunately, that seems to be the case,” Kelly said regretfully. “I think I’ll take one of these pills to see if it works. It can’t hurt,” she added, raising one of the miniscule pills to her lips.

“Kelly, no!” Bridget cried. “You don’t know what’s in those things. Wait till it’s FDA approved at least.”

It was too late. Kelly swallowed the pill with the last of her coffee. “Okay,” she said slowly, “did I lose weight yet?”

“I can’t believe you did that,” Bridget scolded.

Kelly ignored her. “We got to get these goodies to the church,” she said standing up quickly. “The bake sale should be starting in a few minutes.”

Bridget didn’t answer. She stared at Kelly, awed. Bridget clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle a scream. Then she closed her eyes and gave her head a good shake. When she opened her eyes again, Kelly’s head was flush against the ceiling, and her feet were dangling several feet off the floor.

“Hey, it worked,” Kelly shouted, pulling her legs up and sitting cross legged in the air. “I lost weight, and instantly! I just didn’t lose mass,” she said dryly, pinching the flesh around her waist. “It’s cool being weightless,” she said when Bridget didn’t respond. “Take the other pill and come up here with me.”

“Kelly,” Bridget said in a raspy voice.

“What’s wrong with you, Bridget?” Kelly asked reproachfully. “Don’t you want to lose weight instantly?”

“Excuse me,” Bridget said softly, stumbling toward the front door. “I need some fresh air. I must be hallucinating. I think I’m going to have a heart attack,” she cried, putting a hand over her heart.

“Don’t be absurd,” Kelly snapped as Bridget flung the front door open. “I feel great, free as a bird.”

Bridget lurched outside and took long, deep breaths of the cool spring air. As she watched in horror, Kelly glided on thin air across the living room and out the front door. Once outside, she continued to rise slowly, with her arms spread wide and her toes pointed at the ground. “Kelly, stop!” Bridget shouted, reaching up and clasping her friend around the ankles. She pulled with all her might, but gravity was not on her side. To her ever increasing horror, she felt her own feet leave the ground as her friend continued her flight upward.

“That’s it, just hang on tight,” Kelly said soothingly as she flapped her arms about. “I haven’t had this much fun in years,” she said excitedly as they climbed above the trees.

“Get us down!” Bridget shouted, trying to pry her hands off Kelly’s ankles. Why wouldn’t her hands come loose?

“I can’t,” Kelly said without feeling. “It’s out of my hands.”

Bridget started to cry. “Help!” she sobbed as they continued their ascent. “Somebody help us!”

“Sorry, nobody can hear you except the birds,” Kelly said impatiently. “We’re too high up.”

Bridget looked down and immediately felt faint as the earth continued to fall away from them. “Kelly, what have you done?” she sobbed.

“It’s Erika’s fault,” Kelly said matter-of-factly. “She sent us the pills. When we get home, I’m going to track her down and shoot her, okay? Would that make you feel better?”

A raven squawked in Bridget’s ear, and then flew off. Startled, she opened her mouth to give Kelly more grief but found she couldn’t take a deep breath. “Kelly, I can’t breathe,” she whispered.

“Me too,” Kelly said softly. “Can’t, can’t breathe.” Kelly felt Bridget’s grip on her ankles grow slack. How many feet high were they for the air to be so thin? Bridget’s hands lost their grip on her ankles. Kelly watched helplessly as her friend went crashing towards the earth as she herself continued to rise.

This is it, was Kelly’s last thought as the air grew ever thinner. I’m sorry, Bridget. She became dimly aware of bells pealing and a loud pounding. Was that her heart pounding out its last beats?

Bridget opened Kelly’s front door with her spare key. “Kelly, are you home?” she called out. There was no reply. Bridget walked into her friend’s bedroom and found her still lying in bed. “What’s going on? Why aren’t you up yet?” she asked crisply, giving Kelly a little shake. “We have to get going soon. I’ll put some coffee on. Come have a cup of coffee with me, then we’ll head over to the church.”

“Bridget,” Kelly said thickly. “You’re here?” she asked uncertainly.

“Of course I’m here,” Bridget said, sounding worried. “What’s the matter with you?”

“Can’t breathe,” Kelly whispered. “I think this is it.”

“What?” Bridget asked, now sounding alarmed. “Are you okay? Do you need to go to the hospital?”

“No, no,” Kelly said, raising herself onto her elbows. “Just a nightmare.”

“You can tell me about it over coffee,” Bridget said, helping Kelly to her feet. “I brought my brownies for the bake sale. Let’s have a couple with our coffee.”

They sat across from each other at the kitchen table. “About this nightmare?” Bridget asked, pouring two cups of steaming coffee.

Kelly shuddered. “I’ll tell you later,” she said quickly. “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

“Okay,” Bridget shrugged. “Have a brownie. I just made them this morning.”

Kelly looked around the kitchen as she remembered her nightmare. She and Bridget had sat right here, drinking coffee and eating muffins as they talked about the church bake sale. Everything had been fine until she swallowed that magic pill. She shivered as she remembered that sensation of not being able to breathe and watching her friend fall thousands of feet.

“You’re being awfully quiet,” Bridget noted. “What’s going on?”

“Oh, nothing,” Kelly laughed nervously. “I was just thinking about how I hope we raise enough money to repair the church roof.”

“We will,” Bridget said with conviction, “and just in time for the spring festival. Want another brownie?”

The doorbell rang. Kelly walked on shaky legs to the door and peered outside. “Come in, Amelia,” she said, letting her neighbor inside.

“I brought some cinnamon rolls for the bake sale,” Amelia said, setting them on the counter with the rest of the baked goods.

“Want some coffee and brownies?” Bridget asked, coffee pot in hand.

“No, I can’t stay. I have to go to my Weight Watchers meeting,” Amelia explained, moving towards the door.

“Weightwatchers!” Kelly cried in dismay, thinking of the nightmare again.

“Don’t knock it until you try it,” Amelia advised. “I lost fifteen pounds so far. It doesn’t happen instantly, but it does happen,” she said, opening the front door.

Instantly! Kelly sat down heavily in her chair.

“Speaking of losing weight–” Bridget began.

“You can tell me later,” Amelia said over her shoulder as she rushed out. “See you soon.”

“Oh dear, look at the time,” Bridget cried, slamming her coffee cup down on the table. “We have to get ready. Help me carry all these to the van.”

They loaded Bridget’s minivan with cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, and breads. “I’m going on a diet right after the bake sale,” Kelly laughed as they drove down the road. She was starting to feel like her old self again.

“Well, as I was trying to tell Amelia,” Bridget started again, “speaking of losing weight, do you remember Erica Jewel from college?”

The name sent a jolt of electricity through Kelly. “Yes,” she said softly. “I remember her very well.”

“So do I,” Bridget said, not noticing Kelly’s tone. “I got a letter from her yesterday. You won’t believe what she’s doing these days.” She waited.

“What?” Kelly said obligingly, dreading the answer.

“Working for a pharmaceutical company,” Bridget said derisively. “She sent me a picture of her, looking as young and slim as she did twenty years ago. She said her company is manufacturing a new diet pill that is guaranteed to make you lose weight instantly. She even sent me a couple samples. Can you believe it?”

“Oh no,” Kelly groaned, feeling the blood pounding in her ears. “Bridget, what did you do with them?”

“What? The pills? They’re at home,” Bridget said, finally noticing Kelly’s strange demeanor. “I’ll show you the letter later. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, my stomach is a little upset,” Kelly said lamely. “Shouldn’t eat brownies first thing in the morning I guess.”

“You can if your name is Erica Jewel,” Bridget said testily. “She hasn’t gained an ounce all these years. Maybe her new diet pills work. Maybe I’ll try one later to see what happens. It can’t hurt, right?” she shrugged.

“No, Bridget,” Kelly cried, grabbing her friend’s hand.

Bridget parked the van in the church’s almost full parking lot. Then she turned her full attention to her friend. “Kelly, seriously, what is wrong? You look like you are going to be sick. Are you thinking about your nightmare again? Maybe you should talk about it.”

“I’m fine,” Kelly said quickly. “Let’s unload everything and set things up. We’ll talk later.”

Aunt June’s famous sugar cookies

1 cup margarine
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar

  1. Cream margarine and sugar
  2. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well
  3. Add flour, baking soda and cream of tartar which have been mixed together
  4. Mix well
  5. Roll dough on floured board (not too much at a time) Cut into shapes
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 or 8 minutes.

Part V. The Writers’ Climb

Irreproducible, memoir
by Aly Parsons

I retained the necessary elements for years after the cold morning I discovered a new writing technique. As I could never reproduce the situation, I am unable to scientifically prove the method. However, most writers have the ingredients at hand. I can only hope that giving the particulars will allow other writers to benefit.

Layered in silk, wool, and hooded fleece, I’d been sitting in my home office for an hour, facing my computer and the bare wall behind it, trying to bring a scene for my novel into mental focus. The scent of cardamom lingered from the spiced tea I’d drained to flavor my thoughts with the exotic.

Writer’s block had plagued me for weeks. Blank screen syndrome. I’d tried various techniques to break the block. Stream of consciousness led me nowhere. Inspiration eluded me even when I switched to my laptop in the sunroom, surrounded by snowy woods. The most I’d achieved during any stint was a few lines.

Scenes come to me in random order. Even for a short story, I can’t write straight through from beginning to end. For this novel, after writing substantial portions, I’d outlined the book, copying the pertinent segment of the outline to the top of each chapter. Outlining hadn’t caused the block–the writing had flowed awhile before it stalled. So I had a novel to work on, scenes in which I knew what needed to happen, yet no words arrived at my fingertips.

At 6:30 that morning, I was “writing” in my office, my best work environment. Shut curtains prevented distractions from the outside world. Except for the warm air sighing from the vent near my feet, the house was silent. I got a glimmer, a phrase, a bit of dialogue. Recently, with the block, that would have been it. A flash of the scene, like the wonder of seeing a dolphin leap, only to have it dive and vanish forever. So I speed-typed those few words, and a flipper teased me just below the surface.

Behind me came a drawn out creak.

Alarm coursed through me. The open office door was to my right, in the same wall I was facing. I’d have caught the movement if anyone had walked in. The sound wasn’t a floor board. Ignore it! With a mental lunge, I latched onto that metaphorical flipper pulling me into my scene. I clamped down, typing a sentence.

That creak kept on, impossibly extended, like a structural beam in slow collapse, about to bring down the ceiling. Ridiculous. Don’t waste imagination on it. A paragraph was forming in my head and–

No creak. A swift, repetitive shushing sound behind me. Shwish-shwish-shwish… About a dozen times. Then, silence.

I had paused, but I resumed writing. Couldn’t divert my attention. Had to get the writing down. And I did. For several minutes.

Cree-eee-eeeee-eeeeeee-eak. I wrote on. Shwish-shwish-shwish-shwish-shwish…

Okay. It had to be Miss Lump, my cat. But whatever she was up to, she’d never done before. I might never find out. My swivel chair would squeak when I turned, which could chase her away. Don’t think about that.

Fiercely concentrating, I wrote to a background of cree-eee-eeeee-eeeeeee-eak, shwish-shwish-shwish-shwish-shwish, silence. Cree…

My fingers sped over the keys. When curiosity pricked at me, I thrust it away, staying fixed on the movie in my head that created itself as my characters interacted. I completed the chapter’s first and last scenes and, knowing better than to stop there, wrote the beginning of the second scene. It was time for my morning medical regimen and breakfast, so I typed a snatch of crucial dialogue in my second open file of bits of other scenes, then pulled my hands back from the keys. The cycle of sounds and stillness behind me had reached its silent phase.

I swiveled my chair, turning with such care it gave only a whisper of its customary squeak. Several feet away, a cardboard carton sat on the floor. The two-foot square box, its top closed but not sealed, had the left end of each of its four perpendicular flaps tucked under the next flap. I recalled that the box was filled with magazines up to an inch from the top.

My long-haired calico slept curled up on the box. I smiled. The pleasure of having accomplished over an hour of accelerated writing increased, knowing Miss Lump had been my companion and, perhaps, my Muse.

Gradually, the five-pound cat weighed down the flap on which she lay. The flaps’ corrugated edges, catching and releasing, made the long creak. As her curled body slid toward the center, the lowering flap left a widening hole. Her curved back hit the horizontal edge of the opposite flap. Missy came to life. With a mad scrabble of clawless paws, she attained the adjoining flap. Tucking into a ball, eyes closed, she looked instantly asleep. For several moments all was tranquil. Then that flap started its creaking descent.

After breakfast, Miss Lump slept in my lap as I wrote on my computer. She never again napped on that box. Occasionally, I start my writing session with a laugh, recalling that day. And, with a mental musical background of cree-eee-eeeee-eeeeeee-eak, shwish-shwish-shwish-shwish-shwish, I bury myself in the proper state of concentration.

The equation for success: 1 5-pound cat + 1 2-foot square cardboard carton, filled to 1 inch from top, with cover flaps tucked = cat slide rate of 9 inches in 20 seconds + cat scrabble rate of 3 seconds to next resting position + 3.5 minutes of sleeping cat equilibrium before weight of cat initiates creaky restart of process.

This leads to two conclusions: An active cat can take over 15 catnaps per hour; and, to fully activate a writer’s creativity, you just need one unflappable cat.

Editor’s note: “Irreproducible” was originally published in the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 edition of Magnets and Ladders.

Bio: Aly Parsons, who lived in Maryland, lost part of her sight in 1977, and, in 2008, became a widow, orphan, and blind. She lead a writers’ group she founded in 1980 that includes professional and unpublished writers. Aly has a story in the DAW anthology, Sword of Chaos, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and she wrote the Afterword in Catherine Asaro’s collection, Aurora in Four Voices. Other works have appeared online in Magnets and Ladders and Pen in Hand. Aly was a graduate of the Odyssey Workshop for Writers of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. Aly passed away on February 9, 2020.

Is There a Mirror Helping You Write? nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

As we read fiction, we are often reminded of character traits we haven’t used in our own work. We also see familiar faces. How many times have you said, “She reminds me of that lady I knew when I was…” or “He is just as obstinate as that supervisor I had when I worked for….”

Elana K. Arnold, in her young adult book Red Hood (NLS DB99432),” speaks through her maternal hero character who is a best-selling author. “An author’s job is to be a student of human nature, of power, of attraction, and of repulsion.” She stresses the importance of paying attention, and not shying away from the best and the worst in order to retrieve and separate truth from lies. Arnold’s character studies and recognizes her followers’ needs and problems. Her character fulfills the duties she believes to be part of a writer’s job.

I’m always impressed when I find a meaningful take-away about an author’s writing style within a scene or conversation between characters in her fiction. Red Hood is not a romp in the sunshine. Midnight transformations, violence, and self-doubt are the motivating factors which eventually convince the teenaged girls to do the right things. The book’s grandmother character finds the space between giving up and getting on board to help them sort truth from lies.

Have you used a character to teach or as an example, doing what you might do or saying what you might say in the same situation? I know I have. Have you delighted in the revenge of showering the adversary in your book or story with the worst habits and most annoying behavior you personally have dealt with? I’ve done that too. As authors, we have the ability to get on that page, that stage, and interact as a teacher or hero, and to get even for some bad luck that’s come our way personally. Our little secret strategy sometimes motivates us for a poem, an op-ed piece or, when it’s really fun, character development in a story.

What do you see in your hypothetical mirror today, or crouched outside your window, not knowing your mirror has found her? There’s your keyboard, go for it!

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:

On Becoming a New Father, poetry
by Winslow Parker

At 74,
I’m a new father;
Not by old-age vigor
Or a very young wife,
But by experience

A thought fertilized,
Births into a document,
Grammar checked,
Punctuation checked,
Completely rewritten
It comes to life,
Bawling and crying
To be cradled in father’s arms and
Tentatively displayed
To many who have birthed their own children
Who know the hesitancy,
The terror
Of potential rejection.

Birthed in bloodless agony
Striving for perfection,
Knowing it an impossible goal,
Accepting the risk,
I release the newborn
To its fate.

Bio: Winslow is retired and lives with his wife of 50 years in Portland Oregon. He has, during his work years, been a hospital chaplain, school teacher (which taught him more than he taught), associate pastor, mental-health tech, social worker and finally an adaptive technology instructor at the Oregon Commission for the Blind. He flunked Freshman comp the first time around and did not begin to write seriously until 2007. Since then, he has self-published several books, including Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, a book of short stories and Hitler’s Hell, a book of iconoclastic Christian theology. This year, after joining Behind Our Eyes, he wrote his first poem, “Tears,” at the suggestion of another member. Always delighting in word manipulation, he finds Behind Our Eyes a receptive and welcoming environment in which to sharpen his quill.

Still Life and the Lonely Room a Collaborative effort
by Winslow Parker and C. S. Boyd

Editor’s note:

Winslow and C. S. are active contributors to Writers Partyline, the Behind Our Eyes mailing list. Last fall, Winslow posted the poem, “Still Life” to the list. C. S. thought that the story told through the poem needed closure so she wrote “The Lonely Room,” an accompanying story based on a true-life event. This collaborative work shows how we can find inspiration through the support of a mailing list like Writers Partyline and by reading the work of others.


Still Life
by Winslow Parker

A dusty gravel road drew me from my travel,
Iron to magnet, into its neglected ruts.
Weed-strewn, rutted, dusty.

Avoiding potholes and stones slowed my progress.

Its end, a neglected farmyard;
Farm house in the foreground,
Barn behind,
Corral to one side.

I stopped in a weed-bedraggled yard,
Rose bushes, valiant, persistent raise harried blooms above harassing weeds.
Front door locked, I found, after knocking long and loud.

House abandoned, neglected,
Random clapboards missing,
Dark blemishes on its sun-weathered face.
Shingles curled, primping, failed flirtation,

Cupped hands block sun’s glare.
Through dusty fly-specked glass, an empty living room

Round a bedraggled corner, another window.
Why I looked, I cannot say, no profit or purpose in my exploration,
Only voyeuristic curiosity.

A well-worn rocking horse stood, patient and serene,
Awaiting a child long gone, long grown, long dead?
Age incongruent with other toys,

Two beds,
One pink and frilly
The other boy-child brown.
Baseball bat and glove
Three dolls in a neat row;
BB gun and baseball cards fanned poker-style on the floor,
Sparkling sandals placed just so,
Frilly skirt hanging forlorn, waiting—
Bookcase, divided on the vertical, boy’s books left, girl’s right.
Cover colors the telltale giveaway.
A shared room, twins, perhaps?

At the foot of the girl’s bed, a book open, awaiting her eight-year-old eyes.
I see her, restless feet in the air, tummy to quilt, holding words to the light, delighting in adventure,
Suspended mid-story.

Did they outgrow the room the very day of the move?
Was there no room in the truck for toys?
Why no abandoned adult furniture, only children’s?

Where did they go,

Stories rose, unformed ghosts of the mind,
Unexplained, unknowable, unresolved mystery.


The Lonely Room
by C. S. Boyd

For the first time in 47 years, Charles unlocked the door to the twin’s former bedroom. Inside the room, A rocking horse stood silent and still. A dolphin night light sat on the bookcase that stood against the back wall. Charlene’s books on the left Charlies on the right. Tears welled in Helens eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She turned her head and sobbed into his shoulder. Charles wrapped his arm around her as he stared forlornly into the room.

An open book lay on the end of Charlene’s bed waiting for her to return and continue reading. Charles wondered which book it was. He started to go over and pick it up, but was suddenly struck with a feeling that disturbing the thick layer of dust would be disrespectful of their memory. Instead he placed his arm around Helens and hugged her close.

He remembered like it was yesterday how he had told his daughter to come on, the book would still be there when they got back. The horse continued to rock gently after Charlie jumped off and ran past them to get in the car. Charlene had reluctantly slid off the bed and followed them out.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to the filling station to service the car. Helen and the kids were going to spend a week with her Mom who was having minor surgery. On the way, as they slowed to pull off the highway and turn into the station, a truck plowed into their vehicle throwing Charlie out through the passenger side window and Charlene over the front seat and into the windshield. Emergency vehicle personnel revived Charlie in the ambulance, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. During the chaos that followed, the room was forgotten.

Two weeks later, Charlene was taken off life support; the room door closed and locked.

Charles stroked Helen’s hair. “Are you sure there is nothing you want to take with us to the retirement home?”

Hellen nodded her head against his shoulder. “I’m sure,” she said, her whisper barely audible.

“The rocking horse?”

She shook her head.

“The dolphin night light or maybe one or two of the books?”

She shook her head.

“We could donate everything to a children’s home.”

She raised her head her sad, pleading eyes looking deep into his and shook her head.

“Ok,” He said, nodding, and together they turned and left the lonely room behind.

Fifty Years of Walking with Friends, book excerpt
by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

Chapter 1. We Meet

In July of 1968, I found myself in a quiet library room cum lounge at The Seeing Eye, Inc. I sat straight–backed in the large armchair to the right of the piano as I waited. My long dark hair was drawn around me like a protective cloak, reaching almost to the hem of my pink mini dress. I attempted to take deep, even breaths and keep my hands folded quietly in my lap as I listened to the measured tread of the man, accompanied by the click of claws coming from the hall past the nurse’s office. Tammy was here. I mentally reviewed what I had been told. She is 15 months old, a Black Labrador, weighs 70 lbs.,
and is 24 inches at the shoulder. Her eyes are amber. She was donated to the program by a hunting dog raiser. They entered the room where I anxiously waited,
and I heard the rhythmic thump of the dog’s tail against the man’s legs.

His quiet voice commanded, “Sit, down, rest.” Then he came toward me alone and handed me a slimy piece of calf liver. In those days, the dogs were still being fed a mixture of raw horsemeat and dry kibble. Once a team left the school, the dogs were switched to a blend of canned and dry dog food.

“Call her to you and give her the treat,” he instructed. I held out my hand with the grisly offering on my palm and called to her. She bounded across the
room, and the tail that had stopped wagging while she was in the “down, stay” position began to beat against the side of my chair. An eager tongue licked
my hand and wrist, ignoring the proffered liver while a curious, cold nose nuzzled my knees and explored my hands and arms.

After several more attempts to get Tammy to accept the tidbit, Mr. Boeke, my instructor, took it, and she deigned to eat it from his hand. He explained that this particular dog was strongly attached to him, and he was going to refuse eye contact with her and refuse to speak to her from now on, so that she would transfer her love to me. He instructed that I should mix her food with my bare hands to transfer my scent to it. His gentle voice went on to say that dogs like this one were slow to give their loyalty, but when they did, they were more deeply bound to their handlers than ones who seemed to love everyone. He handed me the leash to clip to her collar and said to take her to my room. Since I didn’t have a roommate, I should allow her to explore off leash.

“Tammy doesn’t have the same experience of living in a home that our other dogs have had through our 4–H puppy–raiser program,” he told me. “She came directly from the kennel at one year and went straight into training as a guide. So let her do as she likes and get acquainted. Don’t give her any commands. Just pet and play with her, and I’ll come back to take her out to relieve her around 4:30.”

Rising from my seat, I flipped back my hair. I moved toward the door to the girls’ wing of the dormitory with the leash in my left hand. Tammy pranced at my side, thumping me vigorously with the heavy otter tail that was to be a part of my life for the foreseeable future.

When we arrived at my door, the first one on the right, I led her inside and closed it. I unclipped the leash, and then the tornado hit. A large black dog raced around the room as rapidly as her paws could carry her on the slippery tiled floors. She darted into the adjoining bathroom. I heard her scramble into the tub and jump out again. She paused to sample the cool water in the porcelain toilet bowl. I dashed in to drop the lid. She jumped on me and grabbed my hand in her mouth, giving it a quick chew, and was off again. I got up from the floor where her exuberance had landed me. My tumble was softened a bit by the heap of towels that had somehow been pulled down from the towel bar.

I heard the clatter as objects fell from my dresser. Hurrying out to see where the whirlwind had gone, I was startled to be licked in the face as a Labrador flew past my shoulder from the top of the chest of drawers. As I scrambled to retrieve my brush, comb, and toiletries from the floor, I could hear the dog leap onto one bed and then the other, followed by play growls and thumps. I scrambled to my feet and tried to figure out what she was doing now. A bouncing Lab hurtled off the bed, dragging pillow and spread with her.

Remembering Mr. Boeke’s admonition not to give her commands, I called Tammy’s name, hoping to catch hold of her and try to calm this storm with a few gentle pats and soft words. No such luck. The whirlwind knocked me to the floor again and chewed my arm from wrist to shoulder, while pounding the side of the bed and dresser with a madly beating tail. She raced around the room once more. This continued for the next hour and a half. Each time I called her name, she leapt up to knock me down and chew my hands, wrists, and arms until I was soaked with dog saliva, winded, and bruised. Tammy then raced off for another attack on towels, pillows, and bedspreads.

Finally, I heard the longed–for quiet knock on the door, signaling that my instructor was back. I struggled to my feet and snatched the leash from the doorknob. I clipped the leash to the panting black dynamo that had followed me to see who was there. I noted that Tammy had not barked at the sound of the knock.

“I’ve come for your dog,” said the quiet voice. All I had energy to reply was a heartfelt, “Thank God!” As he moved away, with Tammy walking sedately beside him, he chuckled and responded, “I’ll bring her back in about 10 minutes.” Just then, I wasn’t sure he would find me waiting to receive her.

I slumped to the foot of my bed and wondered what I had gotten myself into this time. I had always had pets. When I was about six, I had coaxed a yearling buck to venture out from the forest edge to eat carrots from my hand. At nine, I got an adult male squirrel to accept treats from me before racing back up his tree to share them with his family. If it had fur or feathers and could be coaxed to trust me with patience and food, I tamed it.

Before leaving to attend this class at The Seeing Eye, Inc., of Morristown, New Jersey, I had spent the last few months of my senior year in high school finding good homes for all my rescued animal dependents. Among my menagerie were two parakeets, a canary, a mynah bird, goldfish, two ducks, a blind rabbit, and four small dogs. Mom had nicknamed these four my circus because I had trained them to do a number of tricks. It was always easier to find new homes for dogs if they could at least shake hands, come when called, and obey some simple commands. My foursome vied for attention trying to out–perform each other.

It seemed a logical decision to apply for training with a guide dog in the summer between high school and my freshman year of college. My stepfather, an ex–trucker now working in construction, viewed it as a necessity for my safety. Mom was afraid of large dogs. As a teenager, she had been badly bitten by a German Shepherd. However, she was willing to accept the idea that without her and my brothers to look out for me, a guide dog might be a good idea.

I would soon leave home to live in a college dorm. I would have to find my way around campus without anyone to help me orient myself to the unfamiliar environment. My three younger brothers and baby sister figured that at least they would get rid of their bossy older sister for a month. Then I would be out of their hair come fall.

Although my high school had hired a woman to serve as a resource room teacher, she wasn’t qualified to teach the use of the long white cane. I had employed the barge and bang method of getting around at school. I could walk with friends without holding on to them by keeping track of their location by sound. I learned new routes quickly and just went. Of course, a moment’s inattention could land me in a flower bed or slam me into an open locker door. I had a nice collection of bruises. I thought that getting where I needed to go was worth being various shades of purple, yellow, and green. A good sense of direction and an ability to use my entire body to give me information made it possible for me to operate in my neighborhood, large high school, and anywhere else I went a lot. I seldom had to cross a street alone or venture into new, unexplored places. Close high school friends would scatter to accommodate me.

My loving, quarrelsome family would not be there to show me how to find each new class at college. I would go out into a much larger, more dangerous world. I thought it would be easier with a friend along, one trained to help me deal with all the new challenges awaiting me. Hence my decision to go to Morristown.

As I began restoring my room to rights, I wondered if my decision would work out. Tammy was thin at 70 pounds, but she was a lot more dog to control than my four rescued waifs: a Chihuahua, a Poodle, a Beagle, and a Terrier mix.

I liked my instructor. His quiet manner didn’t disguise his strength of character and gentle sense of humor. When we went for a Juno walk, a testing procedure in which the trainer takes the part of the guide dog, he was surprised I had never had white cane lessons. Having to walk with my stepfather and brothers, who were much taller than I, had made me a rapid walker. When I had first lost my vision, Mom had put me in ballet lessons, explaining to my teacher that now that I would be running into things and tripping a lot more, she wanted me to at least do things gracefully. I had been an active child who had never been told that blind girls didn’t climb trees, jump rope, or skip and run everywhere. I had good balance and a sense of direction. I loved animals.

Although my family had crisscrossed the country in a variety of battered old cars, I had never flown on a plane before. Flying to New Jersey from California was an adventure I couldn’t pass up. I knew that The Seeing Eye was the oldest guide dog school in the country. Dorothy Harrison Eustis had founded the school in 1929. She raised German Shepherds in Switzerland and knew their potential as working dogs. After observing a program in Germany training German Shepherds to lead blinded World War I veterans, she was inspired to write an article describing the German training program that was published in The Saturday Evening Post. When a young blind man from Tennessee named Morris Frank entreated her to train a dog for him, The Seeing Eye was born. Surely the oldest guide dog training school in the country knew what it was doing when choosing to match me with this black whirlwind with teeth and a tail, didn’t they?

To read more about Fifty Years of Walking with Friends visit: It is available in print as well as several eBook formats.

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


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.

Revisiting a Poem One Year Later, article and poem
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

On World Poetry Day of 2020, I wrote a poem at the very early stage of this COVID Era so that I could celebrate, at least, poetically my 30th anniversary of working with Leader Dogs. Now, revisiting this poem one year later, I wonder if the piece reflects more than a moment in time. Does the poem hold its merit after one year? You may decide; then, you may take the time to look into your own poetry portfolio.

Can you find a poem that is at least one year old? Are you now better able to revise the poem which you may have once felt was engraved in cement? Does the poem return you to another place and time? Does the older poem make you feel older, wiser? Does it center your spirit to feel the passage of time? After polishing off your yearling of a poem, can you find an appropriate publication for submitting your poem now? Remember that the poem you once set aside may be the one you can polish today. Are you ready for some spring cleaning of your poetry file? Happy dusting!

On this thirty-first anniversary of my working with four beloved and amazing Leader Dogs, and in the midst of these most extraordinary times–I share with you the following poem which I wrote the evening of March 21, 2020, in the span of about forty-two minutes before Leader Dog Willow and I went on an anniversary walk. Of course, I will not count the time spent revising and editing this poem which I pondered off and on throughout the earlier hours of that Saturday. Here is the poem I dusted off for your company.


Anniversary Aside

Quietly, humbly, I show you my tiny grain of sand.
Can you see it? Can you feel it?
I do.
It is between my impeccably clean
thumb and forefinger,
where I roll the grain of sand
back and forth, back and forth–
and I remember brightly and warmly–a little tearfully–
what this grain of sand represents:
my thirty years with four Leader Dogs.

Celebration of an anniversary is put aside
to concentrate on the ocean of happenings,
to poise and await a pandemic of patience,
to be alert to the cascade of kindness,
to pray for a preview of coming attractions
wherein the world will be better, nearly worry-free, and much healthier.

Although I live across the boulevard from the Cathedral,
I hear no wedding bells.
Where is the anniversary cake?
Where is the Downton Abbey wine I saved for this day?
Where is the Holy Water?
The baptismal font lies empty–
but, perhaps, there, too, will be found a grain of sand–

In this grain of hope
which I touch and cherish,
I hold my treasured memories
of the blessings of my life–
four extraordinary Leader Dogs:
Keller, Heather, Zoe, and Willow.
On this 21st of March,
three decades after first touching Keller’s harness,
all I need to celebrate
is my guide-dog memories
and Willow at my side.

With wishes that you also will be able to celebrate the grains of sand, wherever you find them!
Count blessings, be kind, and stay well!

Annual Poetic Awakenings, Abecedarian
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

Annual poetic awakenings
begin when buttery yellow
crocus and splendid
daffodil trumpets
emerge beneath melting snow.

Forthcoming changes are
gifts of the Holy Spirit –
harbingers of a Greater Glory.

I weave floral strands in my poem
juxtaposed seasons like hand-
knit ombre fabric. This poem is my
Love Letter of blessings.

My carefully selected words
nestled into the weft of passing days
orchestrated by the Master Gardener.

Prayers will guide us with His
quiet protection for our pilgrimage.

Roses will flourish as I
sew tiny red stitches
together in delicate layers,
until this poem feels “just right.”

Vivid autumn provides falling leaves
White poinsettias, blooming in the window
Xian ferns, waiting-out winter’s storms.

Yesterday awakened
Zinnia’s slow-moving dreams.

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

Part VI. From a Different Perspective

A Hundred Plowshares, poetry
by Jo Elizabeth Pinto

There will be peace in the valley some say, some say…
And the young men will beat their swords into plowshares.

The politicians spin tales of peace and prosperity–
Honey drips from their sound bites and campaign promises.

But one sword sells for a hundred plowshares on the Senate floor.
Peace in the valley is bad for the economy.

Pickers with brown bodies are cursed, beaten, deported–
They feed our children and disappear in the shadows.

Young soldiers with great dreams march off to war with the
Triumphal dirges of their high school bands and devoted church choirs

Ringing in their ears, ringing in their ears…

Portrait of a Cult Leader, nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Leonard Tuchyner

What are the traits of a cult leader? Some of these traits have actually been described. Of course, not all cult leaders fit one single template, but I believe the one I have in mind does fit into this pattern.

The core of this description is, the world revolves around me. Dr. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and priest, wrote the book People of the Lie, in which he describes, in great detail, characteristics of the primary narcissist. The term narcissism goes back to Freud, and probably before him, all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Peck defined this condition as fraught with evil and destined to harm everyone within the circle of influence commanded by the primary narcissist.

In Peck’s view, the narcissist is stunted in his emotional growth at the level of infancy. He fixates his emotional energy on an unrequited initial love object. That object usually takes the form of a parental figure, male or female. Imagine an adult fixated at that emotional level of development. Everything revolves around the wants and needs of the child-adult. Yet his mental development continues to grow. So, what we have here is an infant with an adult mind.

What are the ramifications of this condition? They are astounding. One result is the assumption made by a person with primary narcissism is that what is good for the infant is good for the world. Thus, anything done for the child’s sake is justified.

Remember, his emotional status is that of a child. But for the development of a conscience, a higher overall development must be greater than that of an infant. In effect, there is no conscience in the normal understanding of what a conscience is. This is the level he must work from. Good is what he perceives as best for him, and bad is whatever is not in his service.

The level of intelligence (excluding emotional intelligence) that a primary narcissist can obtain is alarming. That intelligence has been developed purely to serve the person’s perceived wants and needs. It is highly cunning in achieving those self-centered goals. If power has been the way he achieved his needs as an infant, he spends his life on the skills that gain him power. And he always wants more.

These people are often highly successful in their lives, as measured in attaining their goals. They have learned how to be ruthless and how to hide their ruthlessness. They do this with aplomb. They are often charming, when it pays. They are very good at self-presentation. They are successful in getting what they want out of others.

Primary narcissists appeal to a niche in society, those who have not confronted their own needs and/or desires, but don’t have the capacity to get those needs met without the help of someone who is willing to break societal rules. They want a strong leader and see those qualities in the primary narcissist. Some are willing to make a bargain with the Devil. They look the other way when their leader breaks rules which they are reluctant to break on their own. In other words, the narcissist brings out the hidden devils in his or her followers.

Not all their followers fit that willing victim scenario. Many are taken in, and are beguiled into the lair of the primary narcissist. They wouldn’t have gotten involved if they realized the modus operandi of the cult leader. By the time they realize what they have become involved in, it is too late. They are in too deep, or their psyches may have been damaged in one way or the other by the cult leader. How this is done is a discussion all in itself. It is too late even for them to seek exit. Many cult followers are the last people you would expect to be vulnerable to a cult.

An example of it being too late for followers to get out is what happened in Jonestown. By the time the followers were wise to the nature of their leader, it was too late to get out.

The narcissist has created his own rendition of how the world is, and sold it to his followers. To do this, he must lie, and lie, and lie. There is a fascinating question here. Does the narcissist know he is lying? I can only conjecture on this question. In my opinion, his fantasy world is made of lies and half-truths, conscious and unconscious. It may be the time of day or other factors that influence his thinking at the time he is engaging others in his lies. Eventually, I think the primary narcissist is entrapped by his own lies. For example, Hitler believed in his fantasy at the end of World War II despite all the evidence, until there was no way out, and he killed himself, as did Jones in Jonestown.

This relates to another fascinating question. Is a primary narcissist insane? I’m using the word insane because it is not a medical term. However, it is taken from the word sane, which means of sound and healthy mind. If a person is unable to distinguish between what is real and what is not, is he coming from a sound, healthy mind? I would submit that he is not. The caveat here is that no one is fully aware of reality or fantasy. At the level of knowledge, as it exists today, there is more unknown about the real world than is known. So, it is a matter of degree. In that case, who among us is sane? Having said that, a primary narcissist is insane by comparison.

Finally, the primary narcissist needs to take his followers down in this sinking ship, if only to prove to himself that his cause was right.

Scrambled Eggs, nonfiction
by Marcia J. Wick, The Write Sisters

The media whisks breaking news into a frenzy until fact can no longer be separated from fiction, any more than egg whites can be separated from the yellow yolk after scrambling. Once the protective shell of trust is broken, truth and lies are beaten together beyond comprehension. Bits of shell stirred into the blend are spit out like broken promises. Information gets churned through a hurricane of tweets. No one knows for sure what has gone into the murky mixture. My brain is scrambled. Tomorrow, I’ll order my news sunny side up.

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

Disaster, poetry
by Ellen Fritz

A raw scream on the wind,
a threat in the air,
a shadow across the sun,
in the universe a tear.

When the pestilence in the dark
and the terror by night
sneak under the door
to spread their blight;
when the arrow that flies by day
comes your way;
will you hide, will you run
Howling in despair?

Nature has spoken:
the fabric of our existence is broken.

Bio: Ellen Fritz is visually impaired and partially deaf. She and her dog live in a pretty seaside town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. She works as a book reviewer, does freelance writing and administrative work and is involved in several personal writing projects.

The Strength in Weakness, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

This strength in weakness
is solace to those not strong
a balm of purpose.
In the airport, coming down from anxiety
I confess to weakness before the world,
the helplessness learned in a world not made for me.
I fear to throw my anger to the ground
when confronted by people careless of my needs
and so, my son is who hears me fume
angry with the lack of needed help.
My son comforts me; he knows my weakness.
He is glad that I have said my peace
in the war I fight for what I need.
“Thank you,” he says; I’m glad to know your struggle.
He claims my admission helps him as well.
And so, in weakness we give each other strength,
how odd and reassuring is this truth,
this strength in weakness that can make us both strong
In times of trouble and deep frustration.
The strength of weakness is the bond that sets us free.

Fifteen-Two, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, I count the numbers;
fifteen-six, fifteen-eight, I figure the card’s worth.
A pair for ten, a pair for twelve; this hand is good.
An extraneous ace adds no points, though
it makes the cards count to thirty-one
an auspicious number, the omens are favorable.
I move the pegs towards the twice-round goal
twelve steps closer to the last hole, the finish line.

This is a poet’s game with beautiful rules.
Fifteen is a sacred number; thirty-one is the limit.
Values count in combinations, runs, and flushes
formed from hands with five digits
four fingers and a common thumb.

The teacher instructs me in the rules,
explains the meaning of fifteen and thirty-one.
She teaches me in her apartment.
There is peace here within this game;
the teacher treats me with kindness.
So different from the schools mocking students
the casual cruelty of despising students
for a reason that no one explains.

Life is not a poet’s game; its rules lack beauty,
name calling and loneliness in a disparaging crowd.
They mock me when I want to know the rules;
they ridicule my questions when I would know why.
They teach me nothing; reveling in my ignorance.

I would learn the poetry of life, the beautiful rules.
I would know how poet’s games are formed.
I would know the secret order of the world.
I would know life’s truth and not be mocked.
I would belong in the world of people, as with cards.

“Why Can’t You Be like Debbie?” poetry
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

“I can’t be like Debbie because I’m not her.
I don’t want to be her.
I want to be me,
The less athletic, less musical
Bookworm, borderline bisexual granddaughter
You try to buy,
Sigh, cry.

One day I’ll come back, try this again;
All educated, all jobbed up;
Maybe alone, maybe not;
Maybe we’ll both know,
Maybe you’ll show me
You’ve grown up too…
Fingers crossed.”

After the Funeral, poetry
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

“Come in, come in;
Of course, you’re welcome,
I know why you’ve come;
You’ve carried the secret long enough.

Yes, I knew the truth of it all along;
Picked up the pieces as best I could.
I’ll only tell if I have to,
You’ll have to trust me on that.

No shame, no blame;
That’s all that need be said;
I hope she never has to know, never asks questions;
If she does, I’ll help her find you.”

Experiencing Beauty, nonfiction
by Elizabeth Fiorite

St. Augustine, having God’s Infinite, eternal Perfection in mind, exclaimed, “O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new!”

beauty is a quality of the highest order that inspires awe to those who experience it. We recognize it when it brings delight to our senses our intellects
or our souls. Our senses provide ample sources of beauty to captivate our insatiable appetite for it.

Though the vibrant colors we had once enjoyed may have dimmed over time, we may remember the varied hues of a sunset or sunrise. We delight in touching a familiar hand or holding close a newborn grandchild, kissing her soft head of hair. We remember and anticipate festive meals, the tantalizing smells of roasted meats or vegetables glistening in their sauces or the golden bursting crust of bread as it comes from the oven. The sights and smells and tastes of nourishing food fill our senses and make us grateful to such an extravagant Provider God.

We take intellectual delight in recognizing the beauty of a well written essay or poem. We enjoy reading aloud, reciting passages from favorite books or the Bible, reveling not only in their sound and rhythm and meaning, but also in the actual movement of our tongue and mouth in saying aloud the syllables of these awesome words.

I believe that each of these experiences has the potential to lift us to another plane, a place where we transcend the actual experience and enter into a spiritual dimension of not just appreciation, but of becoming a part of, or one with, the experience. Mystics define it, contemplatives yearn for it, few achieve it. If I have experienced this, I have not always recognized it as such. I have found it breath taking listening to a live performance of Handel’s “Messiah”. I have been moved to tears during a few religious ceremonies where choirs and instruments combine talents in musical rhapsody. Though my vision has darkened, the propensity for beauty thrives in my other senses. I have felt a spiritual bonding in exchanges with both close friends and casual acquaintances. I believe that in these joyful encounters, I may have glimpsed the face of God, the “Beauty ever ancient, ever new!”

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.

Dance With Cancer, Informative Essay
by Kate Chamberlin

On March 2, 2020, when the diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma registered in my brain, the music didn’t stop, but, I sure missed a beat. The experience my mother had with breast cancer in 1976,rang loud and clear in my memory. She went from robust to dust in six months. I knew my cancer was early Stage one-A, so I tuned-up my research skills and began to compose a plan. I was determined to choreograph my dance with cancer to have a different finale.

I read “Dr. Susan Love’s breast book: sixth edition” by Love, Susan M; Lindsey, Karen; Love, Elizabeth down-loaded from Bard: DB82608

I also down-loaded “The cancer-fighting kitchen: nourishing, big-flavor recipes for cancer treatment and recovery” by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson (DB96582).

A friend told me about the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. There are other regional coalitions in NY, and this one was the nearest to my home. Due to the Covid-19 shut-downs, and meetings going to zoom rooms, it was very convenient for me to attend virtual meetings.

“In this time of COVID-19, business is not as usual and we are working to stay connected with our survivor community,” Jennifer Gaylord, BCCR Program Director, stated in an email. “We have diverse, supportive groups of women breast and GYN survivors, who are newly diagnosed, actively in treatment, or many years out to converse about the issues that pertain to them.” (

The women I’ve virtually met are wonderful, open, and honest about their situations, but, something was still off-key for me. My dance card wasn’t full.

Then, through an ACB virtual Community Membership meeting, I heard about and contacted Linda Porelle.

The ACB Women’s Breast Cancer Support Group meets on the first Tuesday each month from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm EST via a tele-conference line. This is a support group for women who are blind and have been living with breast cancer. Whether you are recently diagnosed or you are a long-term survivor you are welcome to join us. While we identify each attendee by name, confidentiality is maintained to enable each of us to share our concerns, issues, and support one another at whatever step we are at in our dance with cancer.

The group is facilitated by Linda Porelle and Lori Scharff, two social workers who are volunteering their time.

“Lori and I have been facilitating this monthly group since December 2008,” Linda emailed. “We have met courageous women from all around this country, some of whom joined us very early on. They have shared their cancer journeys with us, and most importantly, with each other. Our members are warm, open-hearted women who know what you may be experiencing because each one has been there herself.” (

Now, I’m not alone in choreographing my dance with cancer. My dance card is full of knowledge and new friends, so let the band play on.

“Dance With Cancer” was published in the 2020Fall/Winter issue of INSIGHT: The Voice of ACBNY, the newsletter of the American Council of the Blind-New York State.

The Garden of My Dreams, poetry
by Elizabeth Fiorite

“It is the rain that makes the flowers grow, not thunder” Rumi

My garden
will not be in contention for any horticultural prizes,
for it exists only in my imagination.

My flowers
are pleasing to the mind’s eye,
resplendent in a rainbow of colors,
intoxicatingly fragrant.
Their names are tolerance, equality, freedom.

My fruits are,
by turn, delicate or pungent to the taste.
Their names are
faithfulness, service, agape, love.

From my garden
I will dig out the cancerous weeds of greed and fear,
misogyny and racism.
The thorns of jealousy and hate will be cut away.

No one will be excluded from my garden,
for I have not labored in it alone.
The seeds we plant
will continue to thrive and multiply for generations to come.
People of every race and nation and creed
are welcome, as are
their beautiful children with disabilities and diversities,
the healthy and the scarred.

Then I will realize
that this is not my garden at all,
but a plot of a larger garden that
covers the rest of our verdant, fruitful planet,
bursting with endless possibilities of
healing, acceptance and justice!

Night Cries, poetry
by Susan Muhlenbeck

At first as softly as a whisper,
Barely on the edge of consciousness,
Then just loud enough to hear,
Gradually growing louder and louder,
The heart-wrenching cries of a child unknown,
Crying shamelessly in the night.
For all the suffering he endured throughout his short life,
All the pain flung upon him by the world’s cruel hands,
As well as all the anguish he had caused others,
All the tears he had made spill,
A child sorry for his misdeeds.

A lost soul weeping uncontrollably,
A forgotten being grieving so hard,
With no one to reach out to-
A child unaccustomed to consolation.

The unyielding cries lasted all night long,
Finally, ending again, as softly as a whisper.

Part VII. The Melting Pot

Flying High, poetry Honorable Mention
by Leonard Tuchyner

There is nothing that can free your mind
and lift one’s spirit as a flying kite,
prancing along on a blithe Autumn breeze,
grounded by a slender silvery cord
with tail laughing in the sunlight.

A deed best done in Spring or early Fall,
when seasons turn and change is in the wind.
And so it is for all things living.
There is a season for everything.
When I was in the Springtime of my life,
The wind wafted my spirit on its breath.
I soared like a laughing kite through the sky,
grounded to Earth by a silver cord.
By and by, I reached my Autumn time.
A capricious wind, bright and lithe,
tossed me around, jaunting and jibing,
with airs of unpredictability.
All I had to do was join in the fun.
I was still more than equal to the trials,
entering the lists with bluster and gusto.

Then Winter winds arrived and harshly blew,
forcing me to often seek shelter.
Fewer times do I dance in the sky,
for fear of being torn by the storms.
One day or night the wind will drive so hard
my silver cord will be severed,
and I’ll be free to fly to the great unknown.

Late Winter Light, nonfiction
by Marcia J. Wick, The Write Sisters

The setting sun in late winter washes my Colorado bedroom in bright white. Low rays illuminate every fiber of carpet. Each piece of furniture is distinct. Long shafts of light throw the shadow of a crabapple tree outside my window onto the wall opposite the bed where I lie. Silhouetted branches dance in the breeze, like ballerinas prancing on a stage. Belly up, my guide dog stretches in the warm glow. The ending of a short day is prolonged until the sun suddenly drops behind towering Rocky Mountains to the west. From the east, morning sun beams flood my living room, signaling the promise of spring.

When Spring Comes, poetry
by Valerie Moreno

Such joy will be when spring comes!
Voices full of ease and laughter,
children racing one another in the park– nature nodding approval with brilliant colors.

Perhaps, the lonely, dreary Winter
is truly passed
with anxiety, loss and fear
fading in tranquil sun.

How we want this!
crying out as we turn toward light,
holding hope like a lit candle
until Spring comes.

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.

Consonance, poetry
by Sandra Streeter

“In that land where a princess sits under lock and key,
Pining behind massive walls.
There gardens surround a palace all of glass;
There Firebirds sing by night
And peck at golden fruit.”

Cacophonous passages once
Rendered silent within repression’s rigid frame
Penetrate slumber not of rest:
One is sent to waken her-soft intoning,
Fair one-small, gathering strength to face the dawn,
You have studied these chromatic lines, in
Erratic meter wrought-to replicate
Their voicing flawlessly. I have heard all,
And long to bring release,
If you, too, would have it so…

Follow me with measured pace:
Lithe, you will become, in time,
With both discipline and grace.
Love can set things right, if…
You can bid it to remain…
Abide within its shelter.
When night falls in that kingdom,
You will find a settling,
Full of lullaby, and dreams
Heralding mission.

Grateful acknowledgement given for Words to Stanza 1:
(Yakov Polonsky, “A Winter’s Journey,” 1884)

Bio: Sandra Streeter, a blind graduate of the youth ministry program at Gordon College, and of Western Michigan University’s Blind Rehabilitation program, has had a lifelong passion for excellent communication of all kinds. Previously, she has dipped her toe in the “publication pool” through successful submissions to her high school literary magazine, Dialogue, and Our Special. A self-described “rabid fan of the progressive-rock band Rush,” she is currently embarking on the adventure of writing a chapbook about, and dedicated to, its late drummer/lyricist, Neil Peart.

Acrostica, poetry
by Sandra Streeter

Nearer to healing-scanning, recognizing
Every avenue of grief explored-echolocation…
Illumines pathways not yet known to sight:
Leading… leading… ever onward, ultimate.

Encyclopedic mind, unfolding fantasy and truth:
Lyricism under tight control,
Like compositional drumming.
We cherish the treasures you left behind
(Opulence beyond the visible-
Outlasting sorrow, overcoming loss):
Death-where, now, exists its victory!

Precision yielding beauty
Ennobles captivated hearts:
Affect joins with thought: discovers
Rest in integration
Tenderly bestowed.

To Neil Peart, lyricist/drummer of the band Rush-1952-2020

The Pastures of Summer: a Tribute to the Glory of the Fading Season, poetry
by Brad Corallo

Awakening before the sunrise
on the holy day of Litha.
Filled with boundless joy,
I mounted my sturdy pony.
Following the morning star,
I rode forth.
As the sun’s arc
rose above the horizon
igniting the dawn
with a waxing golden light.
A sky of endless blue, lightening
stretching to the far horizon.
My pony galloped with sheer exuberance.
We leapt a clear rushing stream
and entered the Pastures of Summer.
Wild flowers grew in vast abundance.
As we rode on
a chorus of birdsong
in varied pitch and tone, swelled.
Filled with the beauty of the morning,
I felt my heart would burst asunder.

The lush green grass seemed to go on forever.
As we rode on
a barrier, like a thickening of air
checked our course.
Just as quickly we passed through.
She stood, robed in white-
a wreath of living flowers upon her head.
Raising her bare arms high-
in a voice both gentle and powerful,
she proclaimed:
“Welcome to my realm,
the land of summer and hope.
Stay awhile.
Cast off thy sorrow and memories of winter.
Abide here, tarry for a time and be healed.
This day will last a thousand years!”

Old Growth, poetry
by Carol Farnsworth

Old Growth is precious.
Densely packed with
Rings of knowledge.
End of a line,
But not quite.

Though the old tree is gone,
The seeds remain.
Not exact copies,
But having the strength of core.

They grow strong and tall.
Encircling the memory of the stump.

Return of Ashes, poetry
by Wesley D. Sims

He once was breathing, moving,
feeling, thinking, planning, fulfilling
a destiny. Traveled around the globe.
Answered the call, served his country,
defending freedom. One more participant
in the long march of multitudes across
our current sweep of time.

Now traveling in a small container,
distillation of mortality reduced
to its inanimate essence, his ashes
prepared to return to Mother Earth.
The gray elements once joined together
in organic compounds, vibrating,
pulsing with the mystery of life.
Its energy transmitted
from the eternal source,
and passed on like fire
that the Indians transferred
campfire to campfire
from the original source,
its flame never dying out.
Until the mysterious call
that extinguishes a singular flame,
the one campfire whose allotted time
has expired leaving only ashes.

His remains placed on
his grandmother’s grave,
left to slowly season and seep
and mingle with her residual elements.
A rejoining of dust with dust,
pieces left as souvenirs, reminders
of their warm and departed spirits.

A Perfect Summer Thunderstorm, poetry
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

Nature performs a pre-dawn
concerto of scarlet feathered cardinal
and red-breasted robin

Early summer landscape
permeated by a hot breeze
a short gust
sporadic puffs
heavy rain
on yellow zinnias.

Japanese maple tree is
a crimson waterfall
of intricate cut leaves
splashed onto stony ground
hidden mourning dove
crouched silently in shadows
spreads sturdy grey wings low
shelters her nest

Wild plants flourish
like an invasion
in a wind-swept vortex
preoccupied with infiltration
planting and sowing
the nightly routine.

Virginia Creeper vines twist around
sensitive wild pink peonies
all-night showers emboldened
the graceful bright green
Lacey Lady Ferns saturated by the routine
concoction of dynamic symmetry.
A perfect summer thunderstorm.

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