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Spring/Summer 2022 Edition of Magnets and Ladders

Magnets and Ladders
Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities
Spring/Summer 2022

Editorial and Technical Staff

  • Coordinating Editor: Mary-Jo Lord
  • Fiction: Kate Chamberlin, Abbie Johnson Taylor, Winslow Parker, and Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Nonfiction: John W. Smith, Kate Chamberlin, Marilyn Brandt Smith, and Brad Corallo
  • Poetry: Abbie Johnson Taylor, Leonard Tuchyner, Brad Corallo, Sally Rosenthal, and Sandra Streeter
  • Bonnie Blose Book Review: Abbie Johnson Taylor, Alice Massa, lisa Busch, Sally Rosenthal, and Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • 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: After several teasers, I think spring has finally arrived.

The response to the Bonnie Blose Book Review Contest was phenomenal. We received 17 reviews of recently published books along with reviews of older books that have left lasting impressions on our contributors. Eleven reviews are featured in this edition and the remaining six will be published in the Fall/Winter edition. I know that Bonnie would be honored to see the extensive selection of books reviewed by our contributors.

The Spring/Summer edition is packed with poems, stories, and articles to keep you entertained over the warmer months. If you love the outdoors, our “Nature at its Best” section is for you.

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, along with the grand prize fiction and nonfiction book review winners. There were many great submissions as a result, we had a tie for one of the Honorable Mention positions in the poetry category. Below are the Magnets and Ladders Spring/Summer 2022 contest winners.

  • Fiction:

  • First Place: “The Day of the Scribe” by C. S. Boyd

  • Second Place: “The Coin” by Leonard Tuchyner
  • Honorable Mention: “Charmed” by Greg Pruitt
  • Honorable Mention “Under a Bomber’s Moon” by Winslow Parker

  • Nonfiction:

  • First Place: “Daddy’s Footprints” by Marilyn Brandt Smith

  • Second Place: “Men with Canes” by Peter T. Heide
  • Honorable Mention: “Making Friends as an Autistic” by Joe Wang
  • Honorable Mention: “A Burgled Cat” by Marcia J. Wick

  • Poetry:

  • First Place: “Just Another Day” by Brad Corallo

  • Second Place: “The Long Bike Challenge” by Leonard Tuchyner
  • Honorable Mention: “Prayer to the Goddess of Sloth” by Nancy Scott
  • Honorable Mention: “Winterim” by Sandra Streeter
  • Honorable Mention: “Graceful Choreography” by Lynda McKinney Lambert

  • Bonnie Blose Book Review Contest:

  • Fiction: Spangle by Gary Jennings reviewed by David Faucheux

  • Nonfiction: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer reviewed by Kate Chamberlin

Congratulations to all of the contest winners.

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

Part I. Looking Back

The Day of the Scribe, fiction First Place
by C. S. Boyd

Seeing he was alone in the cabin, Scriber opened the front door and looked out. His dad and grandfather were nowhere in sight. With luck, they were down at the river fishing and wouldn’t be back before the customer came to pick up the order.

He turned and walked over to the table and picked up the finely carved stone tablet and looked it over admiring the workmanship. After over 500 years, his grandfather’s work showed his keen attention to detail and pride in his profession. Each line perfectly straight. Each character uniformly carved and evenly spaced. Scriber’s grandfather had been the one who perfected the sharpening of a reed so it made a clearer, more perfect groove in the clay. Now, Scriber was using that same technique to make a sharp clear mark on the new flexible animal skins. Opponents of the new method pointed out the scrolls would not last as long as stone, but more and more were going to the scrolls. They took up less room, and were easier to carry. Scriber didn’t want to hurt his grandfather’s feelings, but Scrolls were what the customers wanted now, not a heavy brick.

Scriber carefully compared each of the five copies he had made of the tablet his grandfather had made, rolled each up and tied it with a length of vine, and put everything in a bag.

“Is that mine?” asked a voice behind him.

Scriber whirled to see a man with a goat in tow standing in the doorway. “Oh, you startled me,” he said. “Yes. All five completed as promised.” He placed the tablet in the bag with the scrolls and held it out to the man.

Accepting the bag, the customer removed one of the scrolls, unrolled it, and examined it critically. “Fine work,” he said. “Same excellent quality your family has always produced.” He took out and held the tablet a moment, then handed it to Scriber. “Beautiful work,” he said. “But I have no need for it. Just the scrolls.”

Scriber reluctantly took the tablet. He had hoped the buyer would take it. He didn’t want his grandfather to see it. The old man was sharp as ever. He would see the payment and ask why the customer hadn’t taken the plaque.

The buyer handed over the goat, and left.

Scriber was still thinking about where he could hide the tablet when he heard a familiar voice.

“What do you have there?”

Scriber turned and saw his father and grandfather standing a few feet away. His father was holding a string of fish. They saw the goat and new the customer had come.

His grandfather stepped forward and took the tablet. “Why didn’t he take it?”

“He didn’t want it,” said Scriber.

“ was there something wrong with it?” his grandfather asked.

Scriber shook his head, and quickly dropped his gaze to the ground. “He wanted the work on skins,” he admitted.

“Oh,” said his grandfather, disappointment and realization clear in his voice. “My father was a cave painter. Did I ever tell you that?”

Scriber looked up. He shook his head.

“Yep, he traveled all over the area. His work was in great demand. I guess I was about your age when people started moving out of caves. We learned how to build temporary dwellings from animal skins and developed tools for cutting down trees and baking clay into stones to make permanent homes. It gave us more flexibility in places to live. We developed a written language.” He handed the tablet back to Scriber. “That’s when I became a stone carver. I took great pride in my work. I wanted to be as good a tablet maker as my father was a cave painter. Now, it’s your turn, my boy. All I ask is that you carry on the family code of excellence.”

“You could do the scrolls,” Scriber encouraged.

“No,” said his grandfather. “My time is passed. It’s the end of my age.” It’s your time, now. He turned and walked away.

Scriber watched him go. There was a painful swelling in his chest. Tears welled in his eyes, and streamed down his cheeks. He stared down at the tear splattered stone knowing it was the last one his grandfather would ever make. He would keep it, he resolved, and, when the time came, bury it with his grandfather so that someday, maybe, later generations would find it and know what fine work his granddad had done. He wondered, Would the age of the scribe end someday, too?


“Look at this,” said one of the diggers.

“What do you have there?” asked the archeologist.

“The digger handed over what he had found.

“I don’t believe it.” Carl, Come look at this.”

Carl came up and took the almost pristine tablet from the archeologist. “Amazing. It must be over 5,000 years old, and look how well it is preserved.“

“It was in this bag and this animal skin was wrapped around it. Look, there is writing on it.” He handed the skin to Carl.

Carl studied the clear carefully formed letters. “I recognize this script,” he said. “It says, Work of the best tablet maker of his time.’ Signed Scriber.”

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.

Daddy’s Footprints, memoir nonfiction First Place
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

“Tell me that story again, Daddy. You know, the one about you hauling water in the wagon for the men working in Uncle Charley’s field, about how the wheel broke off, and you had to save the horse.” I’m five years old, riding in his lap on Granddaddy’s tractor.

“Okay sweet,” he laughs, “but hold on, Here comes a little gully.” His pet name for me always makes me smile. From his red clay Comanche county Texas childhood, Day Brandt never stopped working hard and loving it.

I’m in fourth grade, home for the weekend from the School for the Blind. Daddy is in Dallas with his Brackenridge High Eagles basketball team, playing for the state championship. My ear is glued to the radio.

I am heartbroken when they lose. “We took second place,” he’ll say when he returns, always putting a positive spin on a bad situation when he can.

“They’ll be on the bus all night,” Mama reminds me. My spirits are sagging. “Let’s catch some sleep so we can have a big breakfast when he gets home.”

It is August in the summer I turn thirteen. I join my cousins, climbing the ladder to sit on the roof while my daddy reattaches shingles. Under that clear south Texas sky, above the trees and other houses, I see stars for the first time in my life. “Twinkle” makes sense now. I don’t want to come down.

“When do you think I’ll see them again, Daddy?”

Four months later in the superintendent’s office at the School for the Blind, my father becomes my advocate and the advocate for other children as well.

“I’m here to talk about your medical services,” he explains.

I had gone to the infirmary after hitting my eye on the corner of a ladder-back chair. When I was admitted, I had vision in my left eye; when the doctor showed up eight hours later, I had none.

“Yes,” Mr. Allen tells him, “The doctor should have seen her sooner.”

“She should have had emergency surgery according to her eye specialist at home,” Daddy interrupts.

“Do you want me to fire that nurse?”

“I want you to do what’s right for these children. Don’t you think they and their parents should know they can count on better care than my daughter received?” Daddy demands.

The nurse was not fired. Lawsuits were not in style then.

I tell my parents to return the lamp they bought me for Christmas, since I can’t see the light any more.

While I’m in high school my parents make a special trip to Austin to attend the wedding of one of Dad’s former players. It’s my first time to attend a large church wedding. I overhear Billy’s comments as we go through the reception line.

“Coach,” he says with a big laugh, “yours was the first face I saw when I came in. I was so nervous. You were always there for me in school. I’m so glad you were here for me today.”

I’m in college with some special gals. Joyce graduated from the high school where Daddy taught and coached. She knew his popularity well.

“Miss America’s coming home for the weekend,” he’d brag. My heart did that little flip flop thing when I heard about it.

“Would you girls like to help me round up some cattle?” My dorm friends from college join us on the ranch for the weekend. Daddy is always the coach, even in jeans and boots.

“Margaret, you ride Coco and get those heifers behind the barn. Janice, you come with me, and watch out for Bessie. She likes to wander off. When we get them all together we’re going to move them to that pasture up by the railroad tracks.”

I’m sitting at the water trough with Carolyn, waiting our turn. I know what’s going to happen.

“Get Bessie!” we hear from a distance, “Get Bessie!”

“Mr. Brandt!” Janice hollers, “Which one’s Bessie?” Carolyn and I laugh ourselves silly.

“We want to avoid rush hours,” he instructs my mother. “Pack two sandwiches for each of us, then we’ll stop at a restaurant in the afternoon and make Bob and Dot’s place in New Mexico before dark.” They are driving me to my new job in Utah. As always, Dad is a bit too regimented and organized for his spontaneous daughter with a flair for adventure and serendipity. I never complain because Mother doesn’t, and because I know they are the source for my courage and perseverance.

“I give them five years,” Dad grumbles to Mom when I marry without their blessing.

“I think you did the right thing,” he tells me fifteen years later over Texas barbecue, when my marriage survives one of those inevitable tests of strength.

“Come on, Jughead,” Granddaddy chuckles as he carries my bare- footed six-year-old across the hot paving stones in his back yard to the swimming pool. “I just filled this up for you and your sister this morning, and the sun will have it warm before you know it.”

Jay squeals, the water is still a bit chilly. “Is sissy coming?” he asks.

“I’ll go drag her out,” he promises, “She’s probably in there watching one of those silly soap operas with your mom and Grandmama.”

He won’t sell the ranch, because he needs to know it’s there, even if he can’t work it any more. Mama and I understand the wills we are signing, assuring a comfortable early retirement for me and mine. Dad is in a fog, but is still competent to sign, the lawyer says. I will have to sell the ranch sometime later.

“Get rid of all that junk,” he commands a year later when we move him out of his house and into ours. “That woman I was married to…” but I know how much he loved Mama, depended on her completely at the end. He’s angry now. She left him, died first, dramatically, while he read the newspaper.

“Now you have me where you want me,” he accuses as I kneel beside his bed at the nursing home. He thinks he means it, doesn’t know how much it hurts, can’t quite believe the doctors sent him here from the hospital after his stroke. I don’t try to justify the inevitable.

“Mama, I’ll do my best. I’ll be here every day. They will treat him right.”

“Daddy?” I touch his hand to make sure I have his attention. “I brought you some filled doughnuts, cherry, just like you like. See them here by your radio?”

“Thank you, Sweet.” A glimmer in his memory makes it across the bridge to mine.

The hard worker in him showed me how to go above and beyond, how to tackle the challenges of blindness; and keeps me peeking over my shoulder to see if there are loose ends to connect or others to prompt into action. Aging came hard to a man whose life revolved around work he loved. May I age with more grace than he did, and less frustration over the changes aging causes. He taught me to love life, riding in his arms through the waves at the beach, and learning how to ride my very own horse at the ranch. I hear his deep voice, and remember the way he kissed my cheek so lightly it was barely recognizable. May I leave such bright Easter eggs nestled in the memories of my children and grandchildren when they stop to recapture our giggles and our gambles together.

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:

My Mom, The Horticulturist, memoir
One in a series of vignettes about my mom
By Kate Chamberlin

Mother was always quite active and made friends easily. She was a vivacious, curly dark Brown-haired character with a quick smile who loved a good party, was a gourmet cook and made most of her own clothes in the early days.

Flower growing and showing took root in Cedarcroft, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, where she attended courses at Longwood Gardens. She was a member of a variety of Garden Clubs of America and Federated Garden Clubs of Pennsylvania and New York. Her studies earned her the title of Nationally Accredited Horticulture and Flower Show Master, Life, Judge. She was also a member of the Daffodil Society and had reached a high level in the Ikebana International. Her bucket list included going to Japan to attend Ikebana courses.

Mom enjoyed traveling to different shows as a Judge in the Mid-Hudson Valley area of New York.

Green thumb gardeners, those who have gardening as a hobby, and brown thumb gardeners, the serious farmers, have, at the very least, planned what crops they’ll plant. I come from generations of Green Thumb Gardeners.

My grandfather’s very large vegetable garden in Fairfield, Connecticut, was a practical plot on what we all called the back 40. The rows and rows of produce fed their family of five during the winter and the war. His garden was a necessity he loved to take care of.

My mother’s garden in Newburgh, New York, had tomatoes but few other vegetables. She was into flower arranging and the horticulture of show specimens. Her garden was a pleasure she loved to take care of.

My gardens are a combination of vegetables to feed my hungry family and companion plants of flowers to keep down the weeds and provide bouquets of colorful blooms in our home.

After my mother’s death in 1976, I found this poem in her garden club papers. It was just a fragment of pulp that fluttered out of the stack. It is one of those timeless poems whose author’s name is lost.

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

Note: This poem may also be known as “The Garden” author unknown.

Bio: Kathryn G. (Kate) Chamberlin, B.S., M.A., and her husband have lived atop the drumlin in Walworth, NY, since 1972 and raised three children plus two grandchildren.

With the assistance of computer screen reader software, this former Elementary teacher, developed a Study Buddy Tutoring Service, presented her Feely Cans and Sniffy Jars Workshop, became the published author of three children’s books, edited a literary anthology featuring 65 writers with disabilities, and is a free-lance writer.

As empty nesters, she and her husband enjoy having lunch out, country walks during good weather, and mall cruising or walking on their side-by-side treadmills during inclement weather.

Men with Canes, memoir nonfiction Second Place
by Peter T. Heide

I never knew a time when certain men did not walk with canes.

My grandfather and Walter, aka the blind man across the street, always walked with canes while George Porter walked with crutches. I was young and so I didn’t need a cane, but I thought they were cool. These were not fashion canes, they were the sturdy, nicked and dented, utilitarian canes for those who needed them for daily living.

Some days I got to spend some time at Grandpa’s when the men with canes would walk. About nine o’clock a call would be made if the weather was at all questionable: “Is the coffee on?” If the answer was yes, they didn’t walk, but, if the answer was “Not yet,” then they walked.

If the weather was good, there was no question about the walk. Walter would come across the street and knock, and then, Grandpa and I would come down the front steps, and we would walk once around the block-a double block that seemed to take a long time-down to Washington Road, past the cleaners, over to the neighborhood tavern on Sheridan Road and down to 40th Street and back to 10th Avenue. Then it was back to “4011” and amazing things.

In that place I heard the stories of giant horses, great dogs that could fly, dragons, giants, trolls, elves, and purple cows. Children had coffee and had heavy cream and sugar on zwieback. Meals seemed to appear out of nowhere, and, if you were good-very, very good, you could go down into the basement where the port and starboard lights hung on either side of the brass ship’s wheel, and you might sail to distant lands while standing on the back of the old green sofa. But, just in case things got rough, there was a metal army helmet with a bullet in it to put on if pirates happen to show up on the horizon. If you were really brave, you could open the port holes in between the wheel and the outboard lights and pet the stuffed squirrel to port or put your hand in the spider webs to starboard.

But mostly, we walked around the block, and then came home for coffee. It was a magic time to hear the talk and laughter of my grandpa and Walter. Sometimes the blind Walter would feel the edge of my cookie plate, and, when I was asked to describe the coffee grinder, my cookies would disappear. Grandpa would chide Walter for stealing from a little child and then find another cookie or so, “because you didn’t cry when the Nissemann stole your kaffecage.”

That table made for great learning of acceptance. Danish and German, and a lot of broken English, were spoken. Grandpa had had a stroke, Walter was blind, and I was just a little boy. Grandpa read the paper, Walter opened jars and tins, and I got to run for anything that anyone needed. We were whole.

The ritual was repeated in the afternoon, and these walks were sometimes more adventurous, especially in the summer. During the summer when days got hot, we might only get halfway round the block before one of the men with canes would say, “Maybe we need to stop and cool off.”

Grandpa would say something about taking me in with them-maybe they should leave me outside to wait for them-but Walter always said that he could see nothing wrong with taking me in. And then we would walk into the tavern on the corner.

It was one of the old neighborhood taverns where men used to gather. It was particularly for men because there was a large painting of a semi-nude woman showing ample breasts, rounded hips and shapely legs. She had high heels, a lot of make-up and some kind of red material draped around her waist and pubic area. I remember reddish hair and very red lipstick. She had a cigarette in a cigarette holder and a pouty mouth.

Walter had a tap, and Grandpa had a short beer. I got to suck the suds off the top of their glasses, and then I got a small glass of amber soda. It was thick and sweet with just a little fizz. It was delicious, but I have no idea what it was.

“Don’t tell Grandma that we stopped here, or she won’t let me take you walking with us anymore.”

“Why not?” Walter asked.

“She wouldn’t like what he sees here,” Grandpa said.

“It looks fine to me,” Walter said, and then he laughed.

“Well, it’s not really good for a little man like this,” Grandpa said.

“Tell me what isn’t so good for you to see,” Walter was addressing me.

And so, I told him about the woman. “She must be French,” Walter said, and everyone would laugh.

It would be a long time before I understood that these people gathered here were Swiss, Czech, Russian, Danish, Italian and Pole. Such a woman would not be one of them, but French, maybe the French.

On other days, we might get almost around the block, and George Porter would call from his front porch, “Come ’round for some lemonade.” We would walk around to the backyard, and George would meet us walking with his arm-cuff crutches.

There we were-a blind man who knows how to laugh; a polio victim with his legs in metal braces, but arms that bulged with muscles, a strong man, if ever there was one; my grandpa, the wisest man in the world; and me. I think I was four or maybe five. We would sit in stamped metal lawn chairs of red and yellow and brown, with little round yellow tables between the chairs and drink fresh squeezed, iced cold lemonade and talk. Walter would smoke a cigarette and George would smoke a cigar, and the afternoon would pass away.

When the mosquitos started to bite, it would be time to go home. I really never understood what they were talking about-it was something about the Cubs, and radios; world politics, and Social Security; difficulties faced, and problems solved; books, magazine, and newspaper articles-heady stuff. While they talked, I was busy playing with pipe cleaners trying to make anything that looked like an animal of any kind.

Not all of the problems of the world would have been solved before we walked home, but there was greater peace because of their conversation, and I knew that somehow, I was part of it. I was included in the society of the men with canes.

Little did I know that I would, in time, truly become one of these men, a man using a cane, like Walter’s, only longer.

bio: Peter T. Heide, a theologian and poet, attended Carthage College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, concentrating in 17th century English literature, especially the work of John Milton. An ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (M. Div., Wartburg Theological Seminary), his work has appeared in Currents in Theology and Mission, Persistent Voice and elsewhere. At the Wisconsin School for the Visually Handicapped, he trained as a piano tuner which he has pursued for more than 50 years. Peter has been sighted and blind four times during his life. Married forty-five years, he and his wife Susan live in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

The Belle of Louisville: Jewel of the Ohio, poetry
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Pastel prom dresses whirl in the wind on the upper deck;
From the Belvedere, watchers wave them on,
A storybook scene, magic under a Kentucky moon.

Built in 1914, she’s logged many a cross-country river mile;
First wood, then coal made the fire;
Steam soars high in the boiler;
Last steamer from the packet boat era still in operation.

Hard work on many rivers framed her early years;
She served soldiers in World War II as a vessel for the USO;
Dining, dancing, and daytime cruises champion her seniority;
She survived an attempted sinking in 1997,
A collision with a dock on a windy October day in 2009.

For years she matched speeds with the Delta Queen
A packet steamer invited down from Cincinnati
For the Great Steamboat Race during Derby week.

The Queen retired to another life a few years ago;
Belle vies with modern ladies today;
Tourists and convention goers hear her call from their downtown hotels;
Steam-driven, her whistle and calliope—
Sometimes played by a blind man—
Hearken back to a bygone era.

When an update or repair is needed
Officials sometimes talk of retirement, permanent residence?
“But wait!” citizens and historians cry;
“Last year she won the Great Steamboat Race
The prize—the silver antlers adorn her pilot house.”
Folks on deck, on shore; pictures on TV and social media
Applaud her effort;
Win or lose, her place in history is secure.

The 1957 Flood of Brouilett’s Creek, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

In 1957, when the rains came plentifully and long,
the waters of Brouilett’s Creek,
which formed the northern border of my hometown,
gradually spilled into the Jackson family’s farm fields
and then over the blue highway Number 163.

Standing on the once-upon-a-time state road,
my dad, my cousin Donald, and I joined the onlookers
and witnessed the amazing news story.
Our meandering creek was now a lake as far as a Blanford resident could see
on the gray day
between rainstorms
and between thoughts of suspended disbelief.

The arching blue-green iron bridge seemed to rise above the water–roadless.
the second bridge on the northwest edge of town
became the “bridge-to-nowhere”
because a huge chunk of Indiana Highway 71
was washed away by the muscular waters.

For many months, our only passage to
the remainder of the Hoosier state
was via the old brick road–well,
one side was brick, and the other side was gravel–
west and then south Through Edgar County, Illinois,
to backtrack east to other parts of our Indiana.

Rather than recalling much of the inconvenience
of the substantial detour,
I clearly remember the massive sight of the flood
and then, on dryer days, riding my lavender bike down the big hill
of State Road 71, alongside the old Black Diamond Mine,
to play tennis with my cousin Carole or my sister
on the flat patch of blue highway, south of the closed bridge
that for a season of my life
did not lead to neighboring St. Bernice,
but led back only to an even closer-knit small town–Blanford.

Bio: Celebrating thirty-two 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:

His Coat, poetry
by Winslow Parker

He went down into town,
Said there was a poster about foreigners invadin’
And he had to go and defend our land
He hung his coat in its proper place,
Smoothed the sleeves,
Kissed me goodbye
Now there’s cobwebs in his coat,

“Sorry ma’am,”
Said the smart-dressed young man
Sharp creases in his tan pants and a bar on his collar.
“He won’t be comin’ home no more.”
And my belly’s swellin’ with our child,
But he won’t never see it,
‘Cuz he ain’t comin’ home no more.

Still hangin’ in its proper place,
There’s cobwebs in his coat.

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. 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.

Chronicles of Spain, 1966: Putting On Horns, memoir
by Kate Chamberlin

Weighing in at 110 pounds, 5-feet-4-1/2-inches with naturally curly blonde hair, I was neither a petit nor queen-sized college student studying in Spain. To the Spaniards; however, I was a unique contrast to their average height, dark hair and swarthy skin tone. I was happy to chat with any and all of them to soak up as much Spanish culture as I could during my 6-months in their country.

Chacolo patiently listened to me butcher his Spanish language, discern what the heck I was trying to say, and tell me the correct version. He liked to walk with his arm around my waist and, since he was below average height, I’d rest my arm on his shoulder. The Señora of the family I lived with, who had a two-year-old daughter and was 7-months pregnant with their second child, said it looked like I was nursing him.

He had much simpatico and when my 21st birthday came around on July 20th, he gifted me with a set of La Tuna serenading mariachis. Each inch-tall musician had a Spanish instrument in his hands with tiny ribbons streaming from their black capes.

The first young Spaniard my brunette college roommate met hit it off right from the start. Phyllis, a Spanish Major, and Miguel spoke only in Spanish unless I found myself in a muddle, at which point, they could both verbally bail me out in English. My major was Elementary Education with a Spanish Minor, so, I liked to try to talk with everyone I met.

Conrado’s dark, curly hair and swarthy skin with penetrating, mahogany eyes fit my stereotype of a Spaniard. His basso voice resonated inside me, though he wasn’t terribly patient about my poor Spanish. I felt happy and comfortable walking next to his tall, lean figure. I was flattered when he called me chata, until Miguel told me Conrado’s nickname for me meant “pointy nose”; the true definition of chata means pug nosed, but it also is a term of endearment that has nothing to do with the nose, just like calling someone honey.

One afternoon, Phyllis, Miguel, Conrado and I went to a local bodega (say: bo-DAY-ga) where several friends were getting together a fiesta in the party room of the bar. As we descended narrow stairs, the musty odor of the basement was liberally laced with scents of stale wine, beer, tobacco and cheap perfume along with music and laughter.

The scarred, trestle tables in the dimly lit basement room were laden with pitchers of wine, beer, fried pig ears, nuts, churros, and other snacks. Eight or ten people were already seated on the long, wooden benches on each side of the table.

The party was fun, loud, and we were all having such a merry time of it. Suddenly, a fellow wearing heavy boots hopped onto the table and began to do a dance by stamping his feet in time to the loud music. We each grabbed our wine and a snack bowl as everything began to bounce up and down. I could see how the table had become so scarred, if this was the Spanish style of entertainment. To my amazement and amusement, the table dancer was Chacolo.

He had a very serious and fierce expression on his face as he put a fist with the pointer finger up on each side of his head. He stamped and fake ran at Conrado, as if Chacolo were an angry bull.

Everyone except Conrado and I yelled “olé!”, urging him on.

When I yelled into Conrado’s ear to be heard over the noise, I asked him why Chacolo was acting that way, he explained that, in Spain, when a man wins the other man’s girl’s favor, the looser has had “the horns put on him.”

The party lost its merriment for me after that. I felt awful for unknowingly hurting a young man that I didn’t realize cared for me that deeply in such a short time.

While this anecdote still gives me angst, my Mother would have been mortified to know I’d been so naïve as to not know what I’d done. So, I didn’t tell her.

The Case of the Missing Lawn Chairs, memoir
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

“Somebody stole our lawn chairs!” Dad announced.

For many years during the summer months, my family attended weekly band concerts at Kendrick Park in Sheridan, Wyoming, on Tuesday evenings after dinner. We brought lawn chairs and listened to the community band playing old standards, marches, and popular songs. Afterward, we trekked to a nearby ice cream stand for dessert, leaving our lawn chairs stashed behind a tree out of the way, sure in the knowledge that they would still be there when we returned to claim them before walking home. But now, all we could do was gape at the empty spot where we expected the chairs to be.

It was the summer of 1983, and I was home from college on break between my junior and senior years. My ten-year-old cousin, Shelley, who was visiting from South Dakota with her family, had accompanied Dad and me and our Irish setter Clancy to the park. She said, “Oh, no.”

Clancy had wandered off and was sniffing something nearby, blissfully unaware of this tragedy. Dad finally said, “Well, why don’t you two start walking home? I’ll look around and see if whoever took them dumped them somewhere else. I left my New Yorker magazine in my chair, too and I wasn’t finished reading it.”

With Clancy, he headed off in one direction while Shelley and I sauntered the other way toward home, which was only about a block away. While waiting to cross a busy street, Shelley suddenly cried, “Look, there are our chairs.”

“Where?” I asked, turning my head this way and that. With my limited vision, I couldn’t spot them.

“They were in the back of that pick-up that passed us. One of the guys in the cab just gave us the finger.”

“Let’s wait for Dad,” I suggested.

A few minutes later when he caught up with us, and Shelley told him what she’d seen, he said, “Well, I’ll be darned. Come on. Let’s go home. It’s safe to cross now.”

At home, we found Mother watching television in the living room. When Shelley excitedly told her what had happened, Mother asked her, “Did you see what the truck looked like?”

“Yeah, it was a green truck,” Shelley answered. “and there were two guys in the cab.”

Turning to Dad, Mother said, “Well, you should call the police. With Shelley’s description, they might be able to find the chairs.”

“Yeah,” Shelley cried, jumping up and down and clapping her hands.

Clancy, who always got excited when anyone else did, voiced his approval while dancing in circles and wagging his tail.

After shushing the dog, Dad said, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.” He made his way to the phone in the hall.

That summer, I’d been reading an Ellery Queen murder mystery which featured some police brutality. Not having had much experience with law enforcement, I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea to call the police about stolen lawn chairs. At least we didn’t have a dead body on our hands.

But Shelley was so excited about the possibility of helping find the lawn chairs. I didn’t want her to be scared. So, I remained silent while Dad made the call.

A few minutes later, when Clancy’s barking announced the arrival of the local constabulary, Shelley and I were sitting on the couch together. She must have read my mind for she moved closer to me, giggling. “You nervous?” she asked.

I should have told her there was nothing to be nervous about. Remembering what I’d heard a thousand times on the television show, Dragnet, I should have advised her to give them just the facts.

Instead, I only laughed nervously as Dad opened the front door while Clancy continued to bark and wag his tail. Grabbing his collar, Dad said, “Let me just put him on the side porch.”

To my relief, instead of an entire crew of policemen who arrived after Ellery Queen reported a murder, there was only one detective. Instead of barking orders at people like Inspector Queen, he introduced himself and engaged us in small talk before asking about the crime.

Shelley was a trooper. She described that pick-up truck and the guys in the cab as best she could, saying, “I didn’t get the license plate number, though.”

“That’s all right,” the officer said, scribbling in his notebook. “That sounds like Ricky Rodriguez’s truck.”

Dad described the lawn chairs and said, “My New Yorker magazine was in one of them.”

“Okay,” the officer said, scribbling some more. “I’ll see what I can do. It was nice meeting you all.”

The next day, Mother received a phone call from the detective. He told her they’d found the chairs, along with other contraband, in the back of that green pick-up. Unfortunately, they needed to keep all found items for evidence, and we didn’t get the chairs back until October. But miracle of miracles, that New Yorker magazine was still folded up in one of those chairs.

Bio: Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of three novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. Her work has appeared in The Avocet, The Writer’s Grapevine, and other publications. She lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Please visit her website at:

A Burgled Cat, memoir nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Marcia J. Wick

November 1983. Not yet 30, I was a wreck, recently divorced and recovering from a sexual assault at my workplace. I sheltered with a friend temporarily for support and security. She and her husband lived in a spacious split-level home with a horse barn in western New York.

Shortly after I moved into their downstairs bedroom, my friend discovered a litter of kittens in the barn, premature and abandoned by the mom cat. We carried the sickly brood indoors to warm in her utility room. Soon, the forlorn kittens were snoozing in a laundry basket, cozy on towels fresh from the dryer. My optimistic friend contrived a formula and nourished the orphans by bottle. Despite her efforts, each night one of the kittens passed. By the week’s end, one lonely feline, resembling a rat more than a cat, remained.

A hapless survivor myself, I clung to the scrawny animal, each of us desperate for comfort. With bug eyes, oversized ears, a round belly, and patchy white fur, the malnourished creature reminded me of Yoda, a lovable but ugly Jedi from the original Star Wars movie that had opened at theaters that year.

After six weeks, resolved to make a new start, I packed Yoda in a box and we drove from New York to our new home in California, a galaxy far away. Together, we left our troubled past behind. Along the long trip, Yoda was transformed, like the ugly duckling turned into a snow-white swan in the children’s fairy tale. Downy fur filled out her boney legs and covered her pink tail. Her ears were soft as velvet. Her bright eyes were green like lucky clover.

Yoda had turned into a beautiful cat stuck with a silly name. Although she appeared normal, she wasn’t quite right due to her slow start. She was skittish with anyone but me. A scaredy cat, loud noises sent her into hiding. She shied from the outdoors. She never meowed. Perched prettily on a green pillow that accented her eyes, she chirped incessantly from behind the protective window at unruly squirrels, yard birds, and bugs. Yoda welcomed me home after work each day with a song to rival any robin.

Yoda and I struggled over the rough road together. We were constant companions, riding tandem. Misfortunate like me, Yoda was my soul mate, my anchor, my reason to persevere. But soon, bad news struck again.

One day, I returned from work to discover the back door of my duplex apartment in Oakland had been kicked in. Our safe home had been violated. Burglars had ransacked the place but failed to find much of value. At first glance, it appeared the thieves had made off only with a glass jar full of spare change and a plain gold ring – a reminder of my unfortunate first marriage. No real loss, I thought.

Then, I realized Yoda, my most priceless possession, was gone. I ravaged the apartment, more desperate than a robber searching for valuables. My slow-witted companion was nowhere. How many hours had passed since the kitchen door had been kicked in? The harsh banging would surely have sent Yoda scrambling for a hiding place. If she had bolted and was sheltering outside, chances weren’t good that she could survive.

My landlady repaired the door. Two days passed. I dragged myself to work and home without purpose. I called her name again and again but Yoda didn’t appear. It seemed an impossible loss. Was I destined to encounter evil over and over?

Night three, alone and morose, fighting back tears, I detected faint scratching coming from under the couch. Could it be a rat, or a cat? I froze, listening to the stirring. I was afraid to put my feet on the floor and look under the sofa. Where was the critter? My teeth rattled. The assault, burglary, Yoda’s disappearance, and my solitude exaggerated my fear. Was it my imagination, or had the cushion under my bottom shifted? A prick to my rear compelled me to jump from the couch and scream. I kicked the cushion to expose the varmint. A sharp claw ripped the covering and a boney leg with matted fur probed the air.

“Yoda?!” My burgled cat scrambled out from the springs. I scooped my hungry friend from her secret hidey hole and showered her with water, food, and grateful tears.

Reunited, Yoda and I soon recovered from yet another trauma. Over time, she grew fat and my luck improved. Through bad times and good, for more than 16 years, she remained my faithful friend, if not a fearless Jedi.

March 1999. In the corner of the couch that had sheltered her as a kitten, Yoda was curled into a perfect white ball. Her green eyes were closed. Her velvet ears were tucked under, like little wings. At my touch, I understood she had turned into a guardian angel. Well done, my good and faithful Jedi.

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

Part II. From a Different Perspective

Just Another Day, poetry First Place
by Brad Corallo

A sigh of profound weariness
escapes from between her lips.
“There is nothing
new under the sun.”
“The more it changes,
the more it stays the same!”

The winds of winter, gusting
sound with the power of hammers.
She prepares for another day.

In the imagination room of her thoughts
she is far, far away.
The surf pounds,
the warm winds caress.
Distant songs of sea birds call.

Pocketing her keys with
the leather pouch containing
a small can of mace.
She locks the door,
of the space where she lives.

Turning left, she makes her way
down broken South Brooklyn sidewalk.
Drifts purposefully toward dark subway mouth.
She goes underground.
There is a heady stench
of unwashed bodies
and rotting garbage.

Somewhere in the labyrinth of her being
she wonders,
is this really what,
we were meant to be?
She does not know.

Purposfully, she walks into
the amorphous corridor of her day.
Vaguely thankful
for a life that she fears
she’ll never fully understand.

Bio: Brad Corallo, a writer in multiple genres, is a Long Island native. His work has been published in fifteen previous issues of Magnets & Ladders, in the William B. Joslin Outstanding Program Awards Journal NYSID Preferred Source Solutions, The Red Wolf Coalition, L.I. Able News, and several additions of The Avocet. 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.

Prayer to the Goddess of Sloth, poetry Honorable Mention
by Nancy Scott

I have excuses-
hurts and lurks in margins.

I have melodramas-
no recent checks or love letters.

and impatience-
dreams deferred by bad luck and spin.

and temptations-
shopping, podcasts, novels, carbs.

and desires-
be respected or rich. Or both.

There’s work-
smile and edit a lot.

and mundane tasks-
dusty ledges and dirty laundry.

and guilt-
do more, need less, nap less.

and rituals-
wave my right hand three times.

and fantasies-
cross my fingers for deserved prosperity.

You understand destiny and delay.
What about delusion?
See why I pray to you.

Bio: Nancy Scott’s over 925 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, The Mighty, and Yahoo News.

Making Friends as an Autistic, nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Joe Wang

For the longest time, I was unaware of my disability. Because I was a high-functioning autistic, the symptoms were not obvious. I did not have a problem speaking, nor did I have trouble learning in a regular class setting. Though I thought I was typical, I was nowhere close to normality. I had odd behaviors like flipping my pen religiously.

I also had two obsessions: freeways and video games. Whenever I was asked to draw something, I must include streets and freeways. There was also this urge to find out why each freeway got labeled a specific number. Thankfully, when I turned five, I was given a US map. I was hooked on it immediately. Every morning, before leaving my bed, I spent 20 minutes studying it to figure out the patterns. Soon enough, I cracked the code and incorporated freeways into my conversations. Though I annoyed some, I was unaware of it.

“I went to the boardwalk,” a friend may say.

“Cool! How did you get there?”

“Umm…what do you mean?”

“Which route did you take?”

“Whatever the GPS tells me. Why?”

“I love studying maps. Now for interstates, there’s a pattern to them.”

“Yeah,” my friend replied while glancing at his phone.

“Odd numbers go north and south, while even numbers ones go east and west.”

“I see,” my friend muttered.

“And what’s interesting is that the higher the odd number, the farther east the freeway is. The higher the even number the farther north it is.”

“Sure,” my friend mumbled again as he scrolled his phone.

“On the west coast, we got I-5. But on the east coast, there is a north and south interstate called I-95. Down south, there is I-10. It starts in Santa Monica, California, and ends in Jacksonville, Florida. Here in the Bay Area, I-80 starts from San Francisco and goes to New York. Up north, there is I-90 which starts from Seattle and goes all the way to Boston.”

“Interesting.” my friend nodded as he responded to a text.

“Indeed, isn’t it amazing? The interstate freeways are like a number grid. As for interstates with triple digits, they mean something different. They connect to their ‘parents.’ I-880 means the eighth branch of I-80. I-780 means the seventh branch of I-80. However, I-580 is special. The reason for its name is because it crosses both I-5 and I-80. The thing is, in the Valley, people needed a freeway to commute to the Bay. To get to the Bay Area without going up to Sacramento, I-580 was the way to go.”

“Could we change the topic?” my friend spoke up. “Not trying to be mean, but I’m not into freeways.”

As a person with autism, I did not realize my friend was uninterested in the subject. I never figured out that his body language showed he did not care. Though his words seemed like he was interested, his muttering and attention drift were signs that he was not with me.

As for video games, I had about the same amount of obsession as with maps. Since the mid-1990s, I have owned almost every major game console. If you visited me, you would know what I mean. One side of the room contained a TV with about twenty game consoles accompanying it. On another side, I had a huge shelf filled with twenty to thirty years’ worth of games. On top of my shelf were collectibles. On the walls were posters of games that meant a lot to me.

I was never one of the gamers who would binge on League of Legends or Fortnite. The games I played were either party friendly or have stories to them. Party friendly games needed to support local multiplayers, be easy to learn, and be fun for everyone. As for story-based games, I enjoyed controlling a character’s movement while learning more about him.

My peers were not into games like I was. They were more of those who played the same online multiplayer games just to hang out with others.

“What do you like doing in your free time?” a person may have asked.

“Well, I love video games!”

“Oh cool, I play games as well. What do you play?”

“All kinds. What about you?”

“Oh, I love Call of Duty, Apex Legends, and Destiny. Do any of these games interest you?”


“What do you play then?”

“I play all sorts of games. But mostly the uncommon ones like Sea of Solitude, Gris, and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, to name a few.”

“Never heard of them.”

The games they played did not interest me and vice versa.

Though it was difficult for me to make friends, I always envied those who had them. One day, as I was walking with my mom, I remembered seeing two people biking together and talking as if they were good friends. My eyes started to tear.

“What’s wrong, son?”

“Why does everybody have friends, but I don’t? Is it because I’m abnormal? If so, how should I correct myself?”

“Oh honey, there’s nothing wrong with you! You’re unique! To overcome your shyness, be confident!”

“What do you mean? I’m already confident!”

Mom sighed. “It’s about time you know the truth. The truth is, you’re autistic. Autistics tend to have special interests that others may not find interesting. They may also have difficulty identifying emotions and body language from others. The lack of these areas may be why you have difficulty maintaining friendships.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner, Mom? I knew something was off!”

“I didn’t want you to feel less about yourself.”

For some time, I felt upset at Mom and myself. Why can’t I be normal? Why can’t I be like everyone else? These two questions rang in my brain every day. I fell into despair and even attempted suicide once. I remembered trying to cut myself only to stop after applying pressure on my skin. If I took my life, I would be a coward. Taking one’s life is not solving any problem. It’s avoiding it.

I realized that nothing would change if I don’t change. If I wanted to make friends, I needed to research how to make friends. I ended up borrowing some social skill videos from the library. One of them that stood out was a short film about compromise. In it, three friends were at a pizza parlor. They agreed to order a whole pizza to share. One wanted pepperoni, but the other two wanted cheese. To compromise, they decided to do half cheese and half pepperoni.

Another video was about a group of friends talking. One went on and on about his soccer game while the others started to look away. Realizing there was no response, the friend started to ask some engaging questions. Questions which the rest could answer.

In the first video, I learned that sometimes accommodating is good. Even if I may not enjoy the games that others played, I could still join them. After all, what’s most important is that I get to be with my friends.

“My friends and I are playing Sea of Thieves on Saturday,” a friend said. “Would you like to join?”

“I know I don’t usually play multiplayer games, so I would suck!”

“No worries, my friends and I are experts in it. We could help you find good loot!”

“Sounds great!”

Though Sea of Thieves was not my type of game, I played because I wanted to hang out with some friends.

As for the second skit, I learned that I needed to be observant. If others started looking away, they were uninterested. A healthy conversation must go two ways. If people did not respond well to what I say, I should shift the topic.

“I went to Yosemite this past weekend,” a friend remarked.

“Oh cool, which route did you take?”

“I’m not sure. I didn’t drive.”

I was about to talk about my knowledge of the freeways, but then I decided against it. Because the friend was inattentive to the roads, he was not interested in them. I held off my urge to go on the freeway lecture. Instead, I replied, “How did you like the trip?”

The friend smiled, “Well, it was a lot of fun! My friends and I camped there Saturday evening. When we arrived, we set up our tent and barbequed. The next day, we hiked up Half Dome. Boy, the scenery was amazing! I got some pictures of the trip. Would you like to see?”

I smiled. I could not remember the first time I got into such a great conversation.

“Of course!” I exclaimed.

Though I started to bond well with others, I was not truly happy. I still needed friends who understood me better. Those who were interested in maps or video games like I was. In the past, I had an autistic friend who loved maps as I did. Other than conversing about life, we always discussed how we got from point A to point B. However, due to family complications, the friend moved away. Without his phone number, I lost contact with him.

For gaming, I had a neighbor who enjoyed similar games. Like me, he had shelves filled with them and collectibles from the early 1990s till today. We had game nights where we engaged in epic Smash Bros battles. Our laughter was contagious as we traversed multiple Mario Party boards, and the talks about the games we both loved was memorable. Man, those were great times.

However, all went down the drain when he moved away. Yes, there was online gaming, but it did not feel the same as meeting up and playing. I vowed to relive those times, engaging with like-minded game enthusiasts whom I could bond with, friends I could grab dinner with and jam out with a night filled with fun and games.

Many days and months passed. I continued my love for video games by playing single-player games. The number of hours I cruised down the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe tracks was depressing with less than an hour of playtime. But that was fine. I already moved on. Though the game nights with my former neighbor were memorable, they were just occasional activities to express my love for video games. Because my daily gaming grind consisted of single-player story experiences, the game nights with him were secondary.

One sunny day, I was at the park with a big group of Young Lifers. Little did I know, unexpected events awaited me. As the meeting was wrapping up, a guy I was acquainted with was about to call up an Uber. I hardly knew him. The numerous church events we attended did not help us become friends. The most we did was say, “hi.” However, this time we talked a bit more. As a result, I decided to offer him a ride.

“Sure,” he responded.

Before I could reply, one of his friends appeared.

“When will you be free so we can have a Mario Kart session?”

And this was how our friendship sprouted. As we were on the way to his home, we talked about our love for gaming.

“Are you excited about Smash Ultimate?” I asked.

“YES! And I wished I got a chance to play it at PAX West 2018!”

“FOR REAL? Count me in next time!”

“Will do!”

My heart started to race. I always dreamed of going to a gaming expo but never found anyone interested in attending. I was astonished at how similar we both were. We both loved the same party games, we both disliked Fortnite and Apex Legends, and we both were interested in gaming conventions.

A few weeks later, I found out that he was autistic too. As we were attending a Bible study, my hands started to flap. Whenever I did not have access to a pen, my hands would flap as an alternative.

“Could you stop flapping your hands?” one of the members said. “Seeing it bothers me!”

“It’s fine,” my friend replied as he signaled me over. He wanted a private conversation with me.

We went outside. With nobody around, my friend remarked, “Are you autistic?”

I blushed. I did not want to be seen with a disability. Should I reveal my secret? The past few weeks of knowing him felt like forever. We had the chemistry. Instead of a new friend, he felt like a day one homie. I trusted him more than anyone else. Giving a heavy sigh, I muttered, “Yes.”

“I see. And guess what?”

“You’re autistic too?”

“Indeed! Whenever I’m excited or nervous, I do that too. It’s my way of calming down. If you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out.”

I smiled.

Friday, October 5, 2018, was a date I will never forget. It was the first game night with my autistic friend. We had just picked up Super Mario Party on the Nintendo Switch and ventured through the new party boards and minigames. The adventure was a success with contagious laughter and unexpected twists and turns. As we were about to call it a night, my friend remarked, “Next time when we hang out, is it cool if I invite two other friends? They are my childhood friends. We often hang out together for dinner and games.”

“Of course!” I exclaimed while jumping up and down.

Since then, I have hung out with a group of friends. We ate, played, and laughed together. Just months before the dreaded pandemic, I went with my autistic friend to PAX West 2019. It was a fun experience where I met a lot of the famous YouTubers which I admire. Who knew that somebody asking my autistic friend to play Mario Kart would lead to something like this?

If you are autistic and struggling with making friends, I would suggest finding others who understand you well, preferably ones who are autistic. Birds of a feather flock together.

Bio: Joe Wang is an autistic Chinese American short story writer living in Fremont, California. He loves writing children value stories with important life lessons as well as creative non-fictional pieces, reflecting on his struggles as an autistic. He also writes about some fond memories from his childhood. He attends Ability Write Now, a weekly workshop at Ability Now Bay Area for writers with disabilities. Other than writing, he loves video games and hosts a YouTube channel called Endless Gaming Horizons.

Room 101, Abecedarian poetry
by Sandra Streeter

Acrimony? No, not exactly-there is love,
Buried under drifts mounting with blizzard winds…
Can we ever outlive the generational
Down-passing of pernicious patterning?
Each of us, in some way, to some degree,
Frozen-affect deemed too dangerous
Goes forth, nonetheless, in Jacob’s chains-
Haunted and haunting by turns.
I, my Lord, would sever those constricting bonds.
Just… stretch… forth my hand toward healing… a
Keening wail to make emergence into an expansive world,
Learning and re-learning to hear and voice Love’s refrain.
My friends, become supreme instructors, guiding… reassuring…
Not disparaging my backwardness,
Only bolstering my bravery with kindness
Painting boundary lines of promise, for me to color in.
Questions birthed from ASD do not cause them fear
Rather, they exclaim, “I, too, thrive on a challenge!”
Stoicism melting under mid-winter sun,
Time freely bestowed, gentle and steady attention
Ultimate degree of care-renders spirit airborne!
Vulcan no longer! Trepidation fading now.
Wee I may still be, but
Xyloid no more-finding flexibility for its day:
“yes” mor often on my lips, of late-
Zygomorphic-making peace with symmetry.

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, Our Special and Magnets and Ladders. 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.

To Overcome…or to be Overcome, nonfiction
by Jeff Flodin

People Who Don’t Know Me Say I Handle Blindness Well…Those Who Know Me Know Better. My mother called me her “hero.” She said she was “proud” of me for succeeding in spite of my, well, my “difficulties.” Blog readers have commented that I’m “inspiring.” In response, I humbly maintain that I’ve worked hard to cope with blindness; to be affirmed for my effort has been gratifying. Still, I’m troubled that my mother and my readers may have glimpsed only what I’ve chosen to reveal-the hilarious outtakes, the “Greatest Hits” of my blindness repertoire.

Living with blindness is a struggle. For each triumph, there is sorrow. For each instance of confidence, there are scenes of bewilderment. I want to portray both sides. I want to present myself honestly. I want what I write to reflect how I truly feel. I want to present to people, sighted and blind, a true picture, not what I want that picture to look like. My mission is to tell my story of trying to live a normal life, trying to hang a picture or place the Band-Aid on top of the cut.

There are days I wear blindness like a loose garment; there are days blindness binds me like a straitjacket. Part of being honest means there are days when I hate blindness. There, I’ve said it-I’ve used that four-letter word. It’s taken time, but I’ve learned that I can hate my blindness but not hate myself for being blind. Through troubled water, I’ve denied and bargained. I’ve felt angry and depressed. And by admitting and accepting imperfection, I’ve come to accept myself. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing.

Some blind people say they would not want to regain their sight. They say they’ve learned patience and tolerance. They say they’ve learned to live life from both sides of the visual field. I respect their perspective and share their gains. But my truth is this: I have lived half my life with normal eyesight and half with diminishing eyesight and, I must say, I preferred the sighted half.

Living with blindness requires the resilience and stamina to overcome obstacles. Overcome is an inspiring verb but to be overcome is debilitating. Celebrating and sharing the joy of good days keeps us hopeful. Honoring and expressing the pain of bad days keeps us human. And it takes both sides to see the whole picture.

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.

Outside, poetry
by Joan Wilder

Outside they’re so busy
Always busy
Always doing
Always talking
Always with the noise
Always connected, connected to each other like tree roots running deep underground
Outside it never turns off

Always on
Always bright
Always loud
Always chaos pounding on my temples
Always my teeth clenched tight without me noticing
Outside is downright exhausting

But not for them, the tree root people
They are not
Always smiling too hard
Always hiding
Always apart
Always floating like a big enough gust of wind could do me in
Always my cheeks hurt already

No, the tree root people laugh and smile and look each other in the eye
They’re not afraid of outside; they have roots

But I’m over here
Always dreading
Always exhausted
Always shoulders creeping towards my ears
Always worried they’ll notice
Always afraid of the wind when I walk among them

Bio: Joan Wilder is a writer living in the mountains of Colorado. She mainly focuses on writing young adult novels. As a woman on the autism spectrum, she is
passionate about advocating for the autistic and disabled communities. When not writing, she can often be found skiing, hiking, or watching the same music
video on repeat for hours on end.

Circle of Quiet, poetry
by Susan Muhlenbeck

I took a walk by myself one day
Down a narrow path with high walls.
As I walked the path kept getting narrower,
And the walls kept getting higher.
Even when I turned and retraced my steps,
The path kept getting narrower,
And the walls kept getting higher.
Till suddenly, there was no way back.
I couldn’t get back!

Gone was the narrow path with its high walls,
Along with my city life
With its traffic sounds
And carbon monoxide fumes.
Gone too was my wooded shrine with its leafy bough.

What remained was a mystery,
A place where they all came,
The sharp with the simple,
The affluent and the destitute,
The sane and the insane.

Where the bliss of solitude
Pervaded this circle of quiet.
Welcoming those searching for silent lucidity
And inner peace.

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. She has worked as a church organist, peer counselor, transcriptionist, phone psychic/Tarot card reader, appointment setter, braille proofreader, dish washer, dispatcher, and debt collector. Her interests include reading, swimming, bargain shopping, and cats. Her books are available on amazon.

The Gospel of Rainy Days, poetry
by Wesley D. Sims

Coming of age in the Great Depression
colored his formative years,
left its mark like a tree’s growth rings
are thinned by its lean years,
when drought squeezed its life
down to bare existence.

The gospel of my father could be
summed in his mantra,
Save for a rainy day.
I could predict when he’d cite it.
Hard times hit in his teens,
became a watershed event.
Money scarce as rain in the desert.
Left home to live with his sister,
eke out a slim existence farming
with his brother in law, sent money
to his mother to help feed siblings.

Frugality more than a virtue.
Thriftiness next to godliness,
wastefulness a cardinal sin.
Hard work a prerequisite to survival.
Good stewardship the eleventh commandment.
Protect your possessions.
Never leave tools or machines out in the weather
to ruin. Keep them in working condition.
Clean any patch of rust where it sprouts.
Postpone gratification. Save your money.
Make do. Reuse and recycle.
Don’t buy something unless you have to.
Vacations are extravagant, pleasures for the rich.
If hard times come again you must be able
to put food on the table.

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.

Face in the Window, poetry
by Winslow Parker

His child face peered at me through grimy storefront glass,
Eyes somber brown,
Mouth a neutral line.

Our eyes met,
Instant understanding,
Engaged in deep conspiracy,
A profound secret.

He grins,
I smiled
He waggled four fingers,
I copied.

I never again saw him,
His eager eyes,
His smiling lips,
His four-year-old farewell,
Or renewed our secret covenant.

There is no need
For the original still hangs,
A joyous conspiracy between us,
Sacred in memory’s halls.

Through Heart and Soul; Time and Space, nonfiction
by Jeff Flodin

Through the seasons of my 69th year, I became, sequentially, a widower, an only child and an orphan. By that stage of life, my parents had weaned me from childish things; my brother and I had outgrown our Hardy Boys fraternity. But with Mary, it seemed time would have no stop, space no end.

When Mary died, people said, “Now how the hell is the blind man going to manage?” Their chorus echoed Mary’s solo query early in our partnership, “I thought you were just looking for the next person to take care of you.” Turns out, we took care of each other and took care of ourselves.

Mary was the hunter, the gatherer. Whether from T J Max, the resale shop or the Swedish Bakery, she invariably brought something for me. I maintained hearth and home. Mary called me her hausfrau which, for gender accuracy, I replaced frau with herr.

Now I live alone in the place I call The Pleasure Palace. I manage. I am resourceful. I find new ways to do old things. I utilize an arsenal of gizmos and gadgets. Yet I am not militant about self-reliance. I need be neither heroic nor inspiring. I need only get things done. I stand alone and I lean on people-not so hard as to throw us off-kilter.

I’ve adopted the credo of interdependence: I do what I can and get help with the rest. If I need a ride, I’ll call Uber. If I need to take care of business, I’ll hire a secretary. If I want fancy dinners, I’ll get a cook. If I want help keeping house, I’ll get a housekeeper. If I need someone to take care of me, I’ll call the nurse.

I’ve aced the domestic role of hausfrau. But how I miss the spirit of Mary. I miss companionship. I miss being part of something greater than the sum of its parts. I miss the fun. I miss being called cautious and fussy-knowing that only a person who really loves you will call you cautious and fussy and keep loving you for it. Heart and soul; time and space. I asked Mary, “Do you know how much I love you?” And when she shook her head, I said, “Look into the sky.” And when she did, I asked, “Do you see it all?” And when she shook her head, I said, “Now you know how much I love you.”

Forever changes. And in the winter of my 71st year, I have all I need and most of what I want. And that suits me, for if I got everything I wanted, I’d just want more. I need simply to stay out of my way; few situations benefit from more Jeff. Things will either turn out the way I think…or they will turn out better.

Time Travel, poetry
by Sally Rosenthal

Tucked safely away
in the zippered compartment
of an old quilted handbag
on a closet’s top shelf,
my expired passport seems
none the worse for the wear
it had in bygone days
when my husband and I
saw dreams realized as planes
touched down on foreign soil.

I travel light these days,
needing no passport or luggage
or neighbor to feed my cat.
Now, years from the past,
I journey alone through books
and keep dear memories alive.

Bio: Sally Rosenthal was an academic librarian and occupational therapist before losing all her vision. She is a frequent contributor to publications about disability issues and the human-animal bond. Information about her new book Peonies In Winter: A Journey Through Loss, Grief And Healing can be found at:

Part III. Bonnie Blose Memorial Book Reviews

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, nonfiction review Grand Prize winner
reviewed by Kate Chamberlin

Have you ever read a book you can’t get out of your mind?

As a book maven, I read many books, yet, I can’t stop thinking about Braiding sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (BARD: DB92274).

Kimmerer weaves her academic Ph.D. knowledge as a Botanist with her insights of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal legends of creation and reciprocity for sustainable living. Beginning with Sky Woman falling from the sky whirling like a Maple seed pirouetting on an Autumn breeze, the theme of the nurturing, Good Mother is prevalent throughout the narrative.

When Kimmerer and her two daughters moved to Upstate New York and found maple trees on their property, they tapped them. As she watched her young daughters lick the sweet Maple sap dripping from the spile funnel, Kimmerer retold the legend of why it takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Her sense of being a Good Mother by reciprocating what her ancestors did for her to use today felt good and honorable. Indigenous people knew how to listen to Mother Nature and learn to acknowledge everything as ‘being’. They would quietly walk among the fields and forests, thanking trees, plants, rocks, and soil for sharing their essence and asking their permission to be with them.

Kimmerer recounted a vignette of her Grandpa as a young boy in 1895, when the boys were just young willow whips in faded dungarees running barefoot through the prairie grass. They’d caught no fish in the drought ridden stream, but on the way home they stumbled on the Counsel of the Pecan Tree. The image of the boys running home, their skinny legs pumping, and their underpants flashing white in the fading light, with worn-out pants, tied shut with twine at the ankles and bulging with nuts, made me chuckle, remembering the escapades of my own four boys.

The scene of Kimmerer flat on her belly in the wild strawberry patch during the Flower Moon evoked the sight of small, red, ripe berries, warmed by the summer sun, that could be smelled before seen. Taking a nano view of her wild strawberry patch is what Biologist David Haskell did in The forest unseen: a year’s watch in nature (BARD: DB74368). He sat and watched the same hula hoop sized patch for a year to witness the nano changes throughout the seasons.

As a scientist and teacher, Kimmerer takes her college students out of the brick-and-mortar classroom and into Mother Nature’s classroom to demonstrate how her bounty will supply everything they need. In a marsh, the students find sapling trees to form the ribs of a wigwam, long roots to bind the framework, reeds to make the walls, birch bark for the roof, and cattail fluff for soft rush mats. They forage for edible roots beneath the muck, nibble on the cattail flowers and other delicacies. When they peeled the layers off the reeds, the slime that gave the stem strength and provided the pathway for transferring nutrients, also provided a balm for their itchy bug bites.

There were moments of humor, too. One student said he wanted to find i-pods in the marsh. Later, a fellow student called that he’d found them. He put empty milk weed pods over his eyes.

Reciting the Citizen Potawatomi Nation litany of thankfulness, instead of the American Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, makes sense to Kimmerer. The Citizen Potawatomi Nation allegiance is to the tribe and, historically, the US Government hasn’t meant “freedom and justice for all;” noting that pushing the Citizen Potawatomi Nation West, off their ancestral lands, wasn’t “freedom and justice for all.” The reciting of the many beings they are thankful for is more meaningful and useful to remind people of the bounty received from the sun, moon, soil, rocks, plants and animals. They are all one with the people.

I Listened to Kimmerer narrate her book during the winter, when icy winds blew and snow drifts were thigh-high, so I’m looking forward to the Spring, when I can invite the three sisters into my family. The corn sister will grow fast, sturdy, and tall, so the bean sister can climb to greet the sun. Their leaves will alternate so each can soak in the nourishing rays. Little sister Pumpkin Squash will roam freely at her sisters’ feet to conserve moisture as all of their roots nourish each other in symbiotic harmony.

If Senior High and Adults appreciate the keen scientific mind of a Botanist, the rich legends of Indigenous people, and a subtle sense of humor, I recommend Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. (Milkweed Editions, 2013) ISBN 9781571313355. (NLS/BARD/LOC: DB92274).

Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific knowledge and the Teachings of Plants is available in hardcover and paperback as well as in eBook and audio formats.

Spangle: by Gary Jennings, fiction review Grand Prize
reviewed by David Faucheux

Certain historical novels, Shogun, Outlander, The Covenant, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Assyrian, Homeland, The Lost Legion, The Glass Palace, Gone with the Wind, Tanamara, The Agony and the Ecstasy, and The Pillars of the Earth, are so richly evocative of place and so mesmerizing in tone that the reader feels transported out of time, out of the mundane reality of 21st-century America. If you like your novels long, massively detailed, colorfully bawdy with touches of heart-stopping violence, depicting the travels of a 19th-century circus, and well-narrated, then Spangle (DB26041) running just over 51 hours,
is definitely for you. Merwin Smith, the second NLS narrator to win the Alexander Scourby Award, surpasses himself in his handling of this narrative tour de force. His expressive pronunciation of Italian, Russian, Latin, Magyar (Hungarian), French, Korean, Slovak, German, various American and British dialects, and even circus slang is outstanding. I’d not have wanted to tackle it.

Author Gary Jennings turns to the decadent empires of 19th-century Europe as backdrop and tells of events occurring during the latter half of the 1860s as experienced by the members of Florian’s Flourishing Florilegium; yes, it’s a real word. This traveling circus with its varied assortment of performers and support people, a Danish contortionist, an English Aerialist, A Greek snake charmer and her sword swallower husband, A Turkish strongman, a Romanian costume maker, several ex-Confederate officers, a New Orleans Creole, several African-Americans, Korean foot jugglers, a velocipede (think early bicycle) rider, a Welsh tent-maker and canvas handler, an Irish perch pole performer, a Spanish gypsy fortune teller, Hungarian cowboys, Slovak roustabouts, a Polish little person, and a tall Russian noblewoman, moves across empires and kingdoms that are enjoying their glittering late afternoon before colliding with the meat grinder that was World War I and ceasing to exist. European nobility and crowned heads marvel at the performances of the various artistes and become enamored of several including a pretty equestrienne.

I especially liked the historic touches: the description of hot air ballooning by means of hydrogen and even coal gas, microphotography used to circumvent the Prussians during the siege of Paris, the priceless aluminum dinner service of which Napoleon III was so proud, the repeating of some of the catty gossip of his indulgent court, and details of Russian court life. The author went on in great detail about the beauty regimen of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria-Hungary; she was into health food before it was a thing.

This is definitely the kind of novel that requires a sequel. Somebody please write one. The circus could continue touring as at novel’s end, Jennings lists countries it has not yet visited. Recorded books take me places and show me things that I would otherwise never get to experience. They see for me through
their descriptive prose, painting vivid word pictures. They befriend me when I’m lonely, educate me when I’m curious, and amuse me when I’m feeling a bit
blue. And this is what Spangle, named for the glittering sequins adorning performers’ costumes, has done for me. Why not try the book and experience what it can do for you; what it can make you see, feel, and think about.

Spangle is available in various conditions in hardcover and paperback on Amazon and from other book outlets.

Bio: Friends and family. Restaurants and recipes. Hobbies and history. TV programs the author, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of LSU, loved when he could still see and music he enjoys. The schools he attended and the two degrees he attained. The career that eluded him and the physical problems that challenge him. And books, books, books: over 200 of them quoted from or reviewed. All In all, an astonishing work of erudition and remembrance.

For more information visit

Winds of Wrath by Taylor Anderson
reviewed by Cleora Boyd

624 pages

hard cover $29.40
Kindle, Nook, eBook $9.95
mass market paperback $8.99

hard cover ISBN 9780399587566
audio ISBN 9781541457324

Series: Destroyermen Military science fiction, Alternate history, Parallel Universe

Taylor Anderson is a gun maker and forensic ballistic archeologist who has been a technical and dialog consultant for movies and documentaries. He is also a member of the National Historical Honor Society and the United States field artillery association which awarded him the honorable order of St. Barbara. Anderson has a master’s degree in history and has taught that subject at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. He lives in nearby Granbury with his family.

This engaging New York Times bestselling Destroyermen Series chronicles the adventures of the crews of the destroyer USS Walker (DD-163) and the Japanese battlecruiser Amagi, in the early stages of the War in the Pacific during World War II, being transported to an alternate Earth. This Earth is relatively the same geographically as the one they left, but evolution took a different turn eons ago. This science fiction alternate history tale is about honor versus evil, love against hate, courage conquering terror, and how true friendship and understanding will always erode the foundations of bigotry.

After capturing the Grik capital in Africa in the last book, Allied armies march upon the increasingly desperate remnants of the Grik army commanded by First General Esshk. In the Caribbean, the Allies marshall their “modern” warships–including Captain Reddy’s Walker, the captured super-dreadnought Savoie, and newly built vessels from the Union, Empire and Republic–against a mighty armada of League battleships for a climactic duel of fire and clashes.

A note from the author appears where the list of characters, ships, weapons, and task forces provided in previous scripts would have been. Maps and diagrams are included in the print version to help readers understand the layout of the alternate earth, and to see what ships of that period were like. All the rest along with a list of the previous volumes can be found on the author’s website, and on the thorough Destroyermen Wiki.

As in previous volumes, there is some strong language, and the battles are described in graphic detail. The forward is a recap of what has gone before, and is sufficient to bring the reader up to date. Warning! Reading the last book first will spoil the adventure if you decide to read the whole series.

The Best of Me © 2020 by David Sedaris
reviewed by Ann Chiappetta

Commercial Audio Book 13 hours:

Note: This review will refer to the listener as the reader.

Just who is this David Sedaris guy and why do people fill theaters to listen to him perform his essays and buy his books? After listening to this audio book, you will know.

Sedaris, author of: Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Children In Corduroy And Denim, Calypso, and many others is a master of showing the quirky, uncomfortable silences, revealing edgy observations regarding questionable behavior, some even admittedly his own, and it makes us laugh. No wonder The New Yorker has benefitted from his wit and creativity for so long. Be warned, Sedaris is not for the meek or narrow-minded and in fact, his best work hovers on the slippery slope of appropriate, but not all the time. I sometimes thought, after finishing an essay, “I can’t believe he wrote that, and I can’t believe I read it and liked it,”

The subject matter of each essay is unique, from the most popular “Six to Eight Black Men” where Sedaris explains the fractured legend of St. Nick as told to him by a Netherlands guide to “Just a Quick Email,” posing as a bourgeoisie tipping the scales of entitlement in an ungrateful thank you note.

Some of the essays are read from a studio, while others are performed in front of a live audience and I enjoyed them equally. I plan to re-listen, as so many of his pieces overflow with a crafting only an artist of his caliber could employ. He conveys so much with so little, perhaps this is the reason why hearing him read and inflect meaning at just the right places, or pausing for effect made his performances entertaining and memorable as compared to the printed page. His pieces resonated and stayed with this reader in the sustainable manner of great writing. The essay format is also a great way to enjoy reading for those with a few precious moments to sneak in a good story before bed. After listening to this book I am going to read more of Sedaris’ work and hope I don’t laugh too loud. I do like to relax into sleep with a smile on my face and keep Sedaris in my mind as a guilty little literary pleasure.

I would recommend this book to adults who like realistic and thought-provoking content and want to feel the laughter. The content contains some colorful expletives and references to sex.
5 Stars

Bio: Ann’s poems, creative nonfiction, essays and fiction regularly appear in journals, online magazines, blogs and small press reviews. Ann’s work has found a place between the pages of two collections, Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow © 2016 and The Artificial Divide short story anthology released in June 2021 by Renaissance Press. 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 eBook, print and audio and file formats. 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: read her blog:

Review of *If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t) * by Betty White
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Could you use some good laughs, especially during these unprecedented times? If so, look no further than Audible, where you can download a recording of this book, narrated by Betty White herself, may she rest in peace. I couldn’t help laughing when I saw her on television as the scatter-brained Rose in The Golden Girls. She was also on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but I was a little young when that was running. My mother watched that as religiously as I watched The Golden Girls.

According to her biography on her IMDB page, Betty White was born on January 17th, 1922 in Oak Park Illinois. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was a lighting company executive. Her family moved to Los Angeles when Betty was two. She attended Horace Mann Elementary and Beverly Hills High School. Hoping to be a writer, she became more interested in acting after writing and playing the lead role in a graduation play at Horace Mann.

Her television career began in 1939 when she and a former high school classmate sang songs from The Merry Widow on an experimental Los Angeles channel. She also worked in radio and movies. Best known for her roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970) and The Golden Girls (1985), she performed in a variety of other television shows including Life with Elizabeth, Date with the Angels, The Betty White Show, The Golden Palace, Hot in Cleveland, and Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. After Rue McClanahan’s death in 2010, Betty White was the only living golden girl until she passed on December 31st, 2021 at the age of ninety-nine. She won seven Emmy awards and received twenty Emmy nominations. She was the first woman to receive an Emmy award for game show hosting Just Men and is the only person to have an Emmy award in all female comedic performing categories. In May of 2010, she was the oldest person to guest host Saturday Night Live and won a Primetime Emmy Award for this. As of 2012, she was the oldest Emmy nominee.

In If You Ask Me, Betty White combines her ideas on such topics as friendship, technology, and aging with anecdotes from her childhood, career, and work with animals.

Humorous quips about exercise and hair color, and her rumored crush on Robert Redford are delivered in classic Betty White style. She shares what happens backstage at awards ceremonies and how her role as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show changed her career.

She talks about developing a friendship with a guerilla, meeting two whales, and adopting a dog rejected by Guide Dogs for the Blind. I can relate when she says how frustrating it is not to recognize a face, especially when the face belongs to a celebrity she meets at a party and thinks she should know. Being visually impaired, I have the same problem but don’t run into celebrities at parties. In any case, I recommend this book to anyone needing some good laughs.

Author’s Note: The above referenced IMDB page can be found at:

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens
reviewed by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Macmillan, 2021
Available in print from mainstream bookstores, and on Kindle, Audible, Bookshare and NLS as DB104568

Canadian best selling thriller author of Still Missing Chevy Stevens seldom bases her novels on actual events. She chose to do so in Dark Roads in order to focus attention on the disturbing crimes committed along the “highways of tears” in British Columbia, Canada. Women have been murdered or gone missing since the 1970’s. Many are “first nation” (indigenous) women, and the crimes often go unsolved. She chose to create a story honoring those lost souls who haunt the desolate highways, and to honor hope and a sense of justice to the families and friends still angry and grieving. By featuring young adult courage and loyalty, she shows us how trust, betrayal, and vulnerability coexist within relationships between young people and the adults who influence and guide their lives.

The setting is northwest Canada, 2018. Hailey McBride and the other young women along the dark roads in and around the Cold Creek community know about the abductions and disappearances. Maybe there was more than one killer—a trucker, a transient, a known criminal? Young women were warned by posters, billboards with pictures, and on the Internet. “Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t take rides with strangers. Don’t hitch hike!” The trip back from the lake where young people and travelers partied and camped was especially inviting. Still, they took risks.

After her father’s death in a senseless, uncharacteristic speeding accident, Hailey finds herself with her aunt’s family. Her uncle Vaughn is an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Hailey learns he is involved in questionable activities while trying to determine why he wants to totally control her life and her friendships. The games she has to play to try to keep him out of her life don’t work. She finds some comfort working at a local diner where the owner teases her and seems to understand a little about her need for respite. Amber is a coworker who she can trust.

In her dreams, Hailey is back in the woods with her father, who was her hero and her champion. She and her dirt bike buddy Johnny learned skills in tracking, hunting and fishing. In her nightmares, she is snooping, hiding, and running from her uncle.

Her senior year was supposed to be fun. Her father would help her make decisions about college and a career. Instead, she needs to find a way to avoid her miserable living situation. Johnny tries to help and protect her. Finally, she asks him for support that puts him at risk. She chooses a route out of desperation, and finds an able companion. When fear and danger crowd in, she only has Johnny and Amber as confidantes. If she can just make do until she turns eighteen, she can regain her life and her independence.

The rugged terrain, mountains, ravines, brush, and woods offer a perfect backdrop for the determination and wily intuition of a young woman marking time. As the escape and physically confrontational scenes evolve, the auditory narration includes just the right amount of high drama.

Hailey is drawn to accountability and visibility after another heartbreaking murder. This is not a story in which all the good guys come up smiling. There is a serious betrayal no one predicted. Young hearts beat fast, and emotions run high.

This young adult fiction rekindles faith in human potential. It also exposes the vulnerability of teens young enough to know who is in control, but mature enough to prevail against the odds.

The isolation of this part of northwest Canada lends much of the magic to this book. The prologue and epilogue stand apart from the narrative itself. They are chilling voices from beyond the dark roads.

A Bed by the Window: A Novel of Mystery and Redemption by M. Scott Peck
reviewed by Susan Muhlenbeck

The best- selling author of such classics as The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth and People of the Lie: The Hope of Healing Human Evil wrote a novel that has stayed in my heart and mind for decades.

The backdrop of his book is a small Midwestern town called New Warsaw. At the heart of the novel is Stephen Solaris, a 29-year-old man with severe cerebral palsy who communicates by tapping his knuckles on a board with letters on them. At the age of two, he had been dumped into a school for the “retarded” by his parents and had no contact with them since.

While at the school, one of the workers, who later became a psychiatrist, determined that he was very bright, developed a strong friendship with him and wrote a book about him. Stephen had spent the last 11 years at a nursing home called Willow Glen. He spent all his time lying on a gurney near the nurse’s station or in the dayroom. He was in the process of getting a computer and had been planning to write a book called The Power of Helplessness. It was going to be about how understanding and accepting a person’s limitations is a form of empowerment.

Stephen was fatally stabbed through the heart with a pair of scissors before he received the computer. Lieutenant Petry, the detective in charge of the case, spent a long time interviewing the staff and other patients in the facility.

Heather Barston was a conscientious nurse who loved Stephen for the beautiful and kind-hearted soul that he was and even had a limited sexual relationship with him, though she did not give much thought to their relationship in the long-term. She was receiving therapy with the psychiatrist who wrote the book about Stephen. She was fighting her own demons of repetition compulsion and conflict area ego when it came to unsavory men. She also was comfortable with death so that the terminal patients wanted her to be with them as they took their last breath.

Mrs. Simonton, the director of the facility, was trying to establish a relationship with God and had no idea how to proceed. Roberta Macadams, the efficient but cold administrator, was not interested in getting to know the patients or her colleagues, was furious that Stephen was living at Willow Glen, and seemed to have a proclivity for sadism. Peggy, a young nurse’s aide who found Stephen’s body, lacked social skills and didn’t know how to relate to the patients on a personal level but was willing to learn. Bertha, an elderly nurse’s aide, spent most of her time reading steamy romance novels at the nurses’ station and was therefore often unaware of the activity going on around her.

Georgia Bates was a 76-year-old patient who felt terribly guilty for wanting to be in the facility and projected her guilt onto her son and his wife by insisting that they wanted to get rid of her. Hank Martin, an old man nicknamed Hank the Horny due to his lewd behavior toward women was a retired auto mechanic who insisted that he had been a fighter pilot during World War II. His jealousy about Stephen’s relationship with Heather caused him to frighten Stephen by hitting Stephen’s gurney with his cane.

Carol Kubrick was an Alzheimer’s patient nicknamed Crazy Carol, who had to be restrained in order to keep her from wandering off and who recited the same old litany of, “Have you seen my purse? I can’t find my purse. Where’s the doctor. They won’t let me see my doctor,” all day every day. Rachel Stimson was a psychopathic retired diabetic nurse and double amputee who had bitten and thrown food at all the staff, moved around expertly and silently in her wheelchair and had a shouting match with her equally psychopathic husband, a very prominent figure in the community when he visited her every Saturday night. Mrs. Grotowski was a multiple sclerosis patient who was totally paralyzed and bedridden but was ever cheerful. Her dear friend and lover Tim O’Hara was a stroke victim and recovering addict who partook of communion with her from time to time and thought of Heather as Willow Glen’s angel. Lucy had sustained a broken hip and was contemplating moving to an assisted living facility in California when she recovered but didn’t wish to leave her old dog behind and was afraid of starting over.

Lieutenant Petry was having his own problems. He continued to have a recurring nightmare he had been having since childhood. He was trying unsuccessfully to paint over a spot on a door, then started tearing down the wall in his house out of sheer frustration.

Which, if any, of these individuals was evil enough to murder such a beautiful soul trapped in such a defenseless body? This book probes the human psyche in so many ways. Most of the characters undergo spiritual growth.

With many plots and subplots, A Bed By the Window will Captivate the reader from the opening paragraph to the conclusion. This book will make you laugh and cry. The actions and counteractions of the characters make the reader’s head spin and heart race. It is so much more than just a Who Done It. This book even made me examine my own spirituality and understand what areas of my life need spiritual growth. I believe that everyone would benefit from reading this marvelous piece of literature. It will keep you spellbound
until the very last page.

A Bed by the Window: A Novel of Mystery and Redemption is available various conditions in hardcover and paperback on Amazon and other book outlets.

Peonies in Winter
reviewed by Carol Farnsworth

On a cold drizzling day, I listened to this book by Sally Rosenthal. Her poems and personal essays take the reader from an English cottage to a small village in Pennsylvania. Along the way we are introduced to Sally’s grandparents, parents, and her husband Sanford. Her family’s circle was complete with three guide dogs and the seven cats that adopted her.

With a cup of coffee, I listened as Sally shared her losses, grief, and endurance.

I felt the underlying joy with remembrances. The scent of peonies sprayed on the wrist, a gift from her deceased husband. The talents contributed to her in her grandparents DNA. The felted ears and furry head nuzzled by her animals made moments of joy, knowing she was loved.

The book helped me to consider loss as a part of living and the lost are not forgotten, but kept alive in these stories.

After reading Peonies in Winter, I was left with hope and comfort that love, once experienced, is never diminished.

Peonies in Winter is available from Amazon in print and in Kindle format. An audio edition is available from Audible. All proceeds will be donated to Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Huntington New York.

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.

Making Every Word Count
review of In Fifty Words: Micro Fictions by Bob Thurber
by Ann Chiappetta

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Shakespeare

A collection of fifty word pieces of micro fiction ranging from the whimsical to the humanistic. Folktales and realistic pieces displaying both imaginative and critical events in spare and thoughtful expression are interspersed expertly in this creative compilation. Twists on folksy tales like Rapunzel and Witches of Arthurian legend interspersed among real, and often painful examples of the human condition are presented in a thought-provoking play of words. These pieces complement one another, the balance takes the reader on a satisfying path of imaginative subjects, relevant language and poetic imagery. The theme, to this reviewer is somewhat dark fantasy and darker emotions, of what grounds us to this world and the flight of creativity.

What resonated with this reviewer is the author’s ability to drive home the power of his ideas and hook the reader by the final word. Very few of Thurber’s pieces fell short of this high standard so vital to this type of prose.

This is the first book of Micro fiction to be reviewed by this reader but this form is familiar. That said, the collection was interesting, well-crafted and included captivating topics. This reviewer was struck by the pieces of human interactions, which are powerful and candidly raw; all in all, a well-balanced and well-crafted book worth reading.

Making Every Word Count was Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of Breath and Shadow.

Nobody Ever Asked Me about the Girls: Women, Music and Fame by Lisa Robinson
reviewed by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Henry Holt and Co, 2020
Available in print from mainstream bookstores, and on Kindle, Audible, Bookshare and NLS as DB101334

Lisa Robinson enjoyed a four-decade career writing about musicians. Questions from readers and other interested parties were almost always about the men. Nevertheless, she logged over a thousand interviews with the ladies in the limelight. When she answered questions about David Crosby, for example, no one ever learned about his “discovery” in a coffee house in Greenwich Village. Joni Mitchell was, at that time, looking at life from many sides, trying to get recognized and find someone to guide her music career.

Ladies found their big breaks in many ways. Cheryl Crow sang background with Michael Jackson. Some were dancers. Jennifer Lopez slept in the dance studio where she was training.

Beyoncé was sure as a child that she would one day be a famous singer. She had family support from the time she was nine years old. Janet Jackson was pushed into the family business by her infamous father Joe Jackson. If she had followed her own career dreams, that Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction in 2004 would have never tarnished her image, but then we wouldn’t know who she was, would we?

One of Robinson’s more moving interviews came from her discussions with Tina Turner. Tina talks about race in the way that many people talk about it today. She’s not afraid of the N word, but Robinson is. Tina addresses male dominance in the music world with the fervor of one who lived through the “equal rights amendment” campaign.

The girls who grew up in New York found that being close to the action gave them advantages. Robinson, a New York girl herself, found that doors opened easily since she married a well-known radio personality and music producer. She worked the west coast tours and events. She became friends with Phil Spector, and in retrospect, admits she spent a few “dodgy” moments with him here and there. Still, as the narrator of the book, her New York accent helps her lend a showbiz tone to her accounts.

In 1980 the promotional side of the music business changed forever. Cable channel MTV offered video performances and candid shots of everyone’s favorite artists. Newspapers had to compete, and artists in many instances lost their privacy. Fan attention via home TV sets created the team concept to back and support artists’ growth in the business. New jobs in makeup, hairstyle, and wardrobe attention triumphed over album concepts. Artists who dared to be different gained extra attention-ask Cyndi Lauper.

Robinson shows us how Madonna built her career with all the trappings she could bring to her shows to keep her in the eyes of the public. She believes Taylor Swift is doing the same thing today.

Some female artists don’t believe they need to make a lot of changes to enhance their careers. Cass Eliot of the Mamas & the Papas didn’t make any real effort to lose weight. Today Adele offers a powerful show, talking to her audience between songs. She doesn’t rely on dancers or background singers to sound good.

Family interference with artists’ careers has been a popular press topic since the days of the Jackson 5. Britney Spears was not yet free of her father’s control when this book was published. Robinson hears two stories about Jewel’s experiences with her mother running the show.

The author gives some attention to Janis Joplin, who was on the music scene before Robinson was interviewing artists. She acknowledges the folk era, and presses the point that Joni Mitchell never saw herself as a folk artist. There was acknowledged rivalry when Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez were on the same billing.

Surprisingly, Robinson isn’t as sympathetic toward Whitney Houston as many of her readers expected. Some big names don’t appear at all in this book. One has to wonder whether there were no interviews or no favorable comments. The author never claimed to be inclusive, but it’s hard to imagine there wasn’t a comparison somewhere with Karen Carpenter, Gloria Estefan, Olivia Newton-John, Debbie Gibson, and others.

Robinson feels that monogamy is not a workable choice for musicians. She says three well-known ladies claimed to be “with the love of my life,” only to send out a publicity release a few weeks later announcing that the marriage was over. She talks with Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, and Gwen Stefani about rearing children and keeping or not keeping a marriage and career going strong.

Robinson’s husband died while she was working on this book. She feels the need to discuss the liberal nature of their marriage.

As a member of the older school, Robinson admits being somewhat aghast at the nature of the music business today. Recordings don’t earn much money because of file sharing. Branding perfume, clothing, and other accessories makes big money for the stars. Upping the price of concert tickets by including parties, meet and greets, and photo options provides more income.

Robinson shows how to keep a career alive after decades through exchanges with Cheryl Crow, Cher, and Stevie Nicks. She predicts who she believes from today’s lineup will have long-lasting careers.

This is nearly a nine-hour read. I found myself wishing for a Like button or a Strongly Disagree box to check from time to time. Her preferences are not closely veiled. She acknowledges having information sources which she can’t reveal. She loves to show us today’s best in awe of writers and performers from another era, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Carol King, and Patti Smith. I found the book informative and entertaining. If you have enjoyed following rock music and the ladies’ love and career lives, you will wish you could have been in the shadows to hear it all in person. You’ll definitely wonder-as I did-why she didn’t tell us some particular thing you’ve always wondered about, and she probably knows.

Blinded by Communism
review of The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China by Chen Guangcheng
by Chris Kuell

A baby develops a fever. Despite the state’s claims of the best medical system in the world–free for all of its citizens–the baby’s parents can’t bring him to a doctor. They can’t pay. The baby grows into a disabled boy who is considered, like all disabled people, a burden. Other children tease him, taunt him, hit him, and their parents laugh. He is forbidden to attend school. Yet, he sits outside the local school and listens to the lessons. Finally, at age seventeen, he is allowed to attend a special school for people like him, far away from his family’s village. The school is expensive, so he has little money for food. He starves. Teachers beat the students. Students who complain are beaten more or thrown out. After eight years, the boy, now a man, returns to his village.

Despite being unemployable, he is taxed at the same rate the state calculates an average person in his village would be. He complains, and fights for his rights. He fights for the rights of others like him. He is imprisoned for more than four years for “disturbing the peace.” Once home again, he is placed under house arrest and watched around the clock. So are all of his extended family members. The police go around and talk to everyone in the village, warning them not to have anything to do with the man. The electricity and all forms of outside communication are shut off to him. Cameras are set up to watch him. Dozens of guards are on duty 24/7 to be sure he doesn’t leave his house. And yet, he escapes.

Sound like the plot of a new dystopian novel? Guess again. It’s modern day China.

The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China is a memoir by Chen Guangcheng, one of China’s most outspoken political activists.

A blind, self-taught lawyer who, in April 2012, climbed over the wall of his heavily guarded home, broke his leg in three places, and still escaped. He sought refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, causing a political battle of wills in the middle of some critical trade negotiations.

Chen Guangcheng’s story reads as though he lived more than a hundred years ago. His blindness most likely could have been prevented with antibiotics and limited medical attention. But, his family, rural working poor farmers, couldn’t afford to take him to a doctor. By the time they did it was too late.

He wasn’t given any education, or even a cane, yet somehow learned his way around the small village. He roamed and talked to people, learning as much as he could from these interactions, as well as from sitting outside the school and simply listening. When he was finally allowed to go to one of only five schools for the blind in China, he quickly mastered Braille and cane travel. He also got an education in how corrupt the state is, and how little people like him matter.

Unlike most of the oppressed masses, however, Guangcheng fought back. It started with a simple dispute over bus fare. According to Chinese law, blind citizens can ride public transportation for free. Yet, everywhere he and his fellow blind students went, they were charged or thrown off the bus. When he supplied proof of the law, it made no difference. Only when he had the idea to bring in the media and publicize the illegal practice was any headway made.

Although Guangcheng was fascinated by the law, this wasn’t a potential career for a rural blind man in China in the 1990s. He attended a school to learn massage therapy, where he and other blind students spent most of their time massaging corrupt state officials and their mistresses. But he also made friends, and had them read him texts about Chinese law—texts which weren’t available in Braille.

Guangcheng learned how to file lawsuits and developed a lawyer’s mindset on what strategy would work best to fight the state. After he successfully had his taxes reduced, as was his legal right since he wasn’t employable or allowed to charge for his legal help—other people with disabilities sought his help. He stirred up a lot of trouble when he fought to have the state-owned textile mill stop dumping their chemical waste into the small village’s river and primary source of water.

If he had kept his efforts on these lower-level issues, he might have been able to continue indefinitely. But the people with power really resented the negative media attention, especially when he caught the interest of reporters from Europe and the United States. He decided to take on the illegal enforcement of China’s one-child policy, in which teams of state-sponsored thugs routinely captured men and women with more than one child and forced sterilizations or abortions on them. Women in their twenties and thirties with a child were thrown into a van, taken to a medical clinic and forcefully implanted with an IUD, then dumped on the ground where the cadres had found them.

The barefoot lawyer (so called because, like the barefoot doctors, he was self-taught) filed a lawsuit against the state. He was bullied, and began a protest in the small village square, which was enough for the state to lock him away.

This memoir was published in the United States ,so from the beginning the reader knows he made it out of China. He and his family are currently in New York, and he’s getting the education he never could under China’s communist programs.

The Barefoot Lawyer is definitely a worthwhile read, and makes us realize that while rights and services for those with disabilities in the United States isn’t perfect—it sure could be a whole lot worse.

The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China by Chen Guangcheng, Henry Holt and Company, 352 pages, 2015

Bio: Chris Kuell is a writer, editor and advocate living in Connecticut. A former research chemist, he lost his sight as a result of diabetic retinopathy. He
learned how to use a computer with speech output and turned his efforts to writing. His essays and stories have appeared in a number of literary, and a
few not-so-literary, magazines, journals and newsletters. He is also the editor of Breath and Shadow, an online literary journal of disability culture
and ideas.

Part IV. The Writers’ Climb

The Race to Fifty, nonfiction
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

“How long should it take me to finish this book so I can start on that new idea that’s been teasing me?” “I can submit three poems for the price of one in this contest. I already have one good one, but should I throw two more together just because I can?” “If I’m chosen as the new columnist in my favorite magazine, can I still have time for other projects?”

Be careful! If these questions are yours, take time to reevaluate and prioritize your choices. One year a fellow BOE member, Nancy Scott, and I took on a competitive challenge. We would acquire fifty bylines in a year. It was 2010.

Nan had published one print and one recorded book. I was working on my first book. We both published in magazines, she since the 80’s. I had many articles in the 60’s based on my Peace Corps experience. Nan and I were competitors, but collaborators as well. One of her friends created art displays for a local college, and occasionally used poetry to complement her subject matter. Nan had been working with her, and I got a chance to put in a few poems. Later she and Nan did two or three multimedia chapbooks together.

We worked together on essays, one each per month, on a program created by a former radio personality. We played “Good cop, Bad cop” one Christmas with back-to-back essays which might have been titled “Too Many versus Not Enough Christmas Decorations.” She got to be Bad Cop, that’s lots more fun. Of course he had to tell the audience it was all planned so they wouldn’t start trying to defend each of us.

I had an almost monthly gig with an online site called Flash Shot for short fiction. Nan was doing radio essays in her local market. Since my employment had been oriented to rehabilitation and education, I submitted to several disability-oriented magazines. We both wrote poetry for contests, and as a result of listings on an Email list called Creative Writing Opportunities (CrWrOpps). We were both actively involved in two or three writers’ groups. We believed that our goal of fifty bylines was achievable.

As is usually true for writers, we learned much more than we earned. Self-editing became a science as well as an art. Some essays had to be read in two to three minutes. Careful word choices and economy of language became our mantras. “Make that verb serve several purposes-action, mood, adjective and/or adverb.”

Before 2010 we had regularly reviewed each other’s works in progress. We didn’t find time to do much critiquing because of the fast and furious need to add bylines and keep each other on our toes as our numbers climbed.

Toward the end of the year we compared notes about the benefits and shortcomings of this little contest. Because we didn’t reach for as many new platforms as usual, and didn’t take on projects requiring research, we felt that we had cheated ourselves out of some growth. We stayed in comfortable territory for the most part in order to reach that magic number. Time-consuming work with long fiction pieces was usually one of my priorities, but not this year. There was no time to obsess over rejections-improve or change an approach to a piece if possible, move on if not. That was a good reminder.

Nan and I agreed that this year was a good experience, but we wouldn’t do it again. We grew a better appreciation for the need to analyze what work we were doing, and where we wanted to move next. If numbers are what counts, it’s easy to lose sight of the need to set some scary goals I.E. submission to a mainstream magazine where your favorite writers are published; or try a genre that’s tempting you.

Nan has counted bylines since the 1980’s. I think she’s over 800 and counting. I never thought about counting them. In a way, I wish I had, so I could have a little charm bracelet or decoration to which I could add a little trinket with every 100 pieces. Many authors keep these little secret mementos. The object is not to brag about one’s work, but to reward yourself for reaching new heights you never expected to see. I read that in their early career, the Dixie Chicks added a chick tattoo to their ankles with each million seller. Of course, if I could count all those casework interviews and agency reports from my work in rehabilitation…?

Did we make our fifty? Yes, we did. I think Nan actually had fifty-one. I received my confirmation on number fifty on New Year’s Eve. There is a bond in teamwork with another writer which keeps motivation high. Many of us in the Behind Our Eyes organization find a writing pal on our Email list whose goals and interests closely match our own. Nan and I have been friends and have shared our writing for over twenty years. We still laugh about our hard work in 2010.

I suppose in a way we writers are always in a race with other writers for the attention of editors or for recognition in venues respected by other writers and editors. It’s better to think of our journey as a personal one, with no hurry buttons driving our work. Secure as we may be with what we know we can do well, we need to listen to that call urging us to take our own personal dare to try something bigger, or bolder, or just different. A byline reward is great, but you’ve also earned a reward if what you learned is that the new idea you tried isn’t helping you write better or sense growth. Competition with another writer might be fun for a short time if you need a little push, but competition with yourself is a better measure of your dedication to the art and joy of writing.

Leaf Memories, book excerpt
by Carol Farnsworth

I have always loved walking in the woods. I usually walk with my husband or daughter as sighted guides. They would find flora for me to touch. When I had some vision, they would point out fauna, a deer running or a bird taking flight. At those times, I was lucky to glimpse the white of a retreating deer’s tail or hear the birds wings in flight. When I became totally blind, I developed my sense of hearing, touch, smell and taste to see the world. I augmented these with visual memories to complete the picture. I have selected poems from each section of the book, starting with summer and ending with spring. I hope to give readers a glimpse into my natural world.



I take my coffee to the porch.
To listen to the silence,
between cricket chirps and bird song.

As a glow is seen in the east,
a distant solo is heard.
followed by another, then a third,
The chorus swells.

My coffee cools, as the rising sun warms my cheeks.
I smile at this morning benediction.


Leaf Memories

Before there were leaf blowers, there were bamboo rakes.
Before we bagged leaves there was raking to mulch the garden.
My toddler and I, made a huge pile of colorful leaves.
musky with drying,
I looked around.
Where did Ruth go?
I heard a giggle.
Looking down, I saw her in the leaf pile.
Smiling, I jumped in too.
We laughed, rolled and buried each other in the leaves.
Dad won’t have to work so hard to till the leaves in the soil!


Winter Feed

Downy clouds release icy feathers.
They blanket walls and ground, with a thick coverall.
My boots squeak walking through the drifting snow.
I move my cane from left to right,
to make my way to the feeder.
All is quiet, as I pour seeds in the opening.
I follow the snakelike tracks back to my door.

The sun plays hide and seek in the clouds.
Beckoning wildlife to feed.
The squirrels are the first to sense the overflow.
They stand with tails curled over their heads, umbrellas decorated with white flakes.

Next the tiny chickadees call to each other to fly to the tray holding the feast.
Finally, a lone chipmunk emerges from his lair.
He looks around to see what’s left.
I throw out a few peanuts.
Gathering the nuts in his cheeks, he scampers to return to his home.
The sun retreats, the wildlife returns to their shelters.
I brew a cup of coffee to watch and wait out the storm.


The Change

snow melts into cracks
snowdrops lift their heads to sun
signs of early spring

Nature Loosen

A hawk soars high on air currents.
Liberated from earthly bounds, he pursues his quarry
with unfettered flight.

Newly hatched minnows race following the cold stream current.
They quickly swim to find open water.

Deer emerge into the warm sun from the cool woods. They nibble the new grass and play follow the leader,
across the meadow, scampering across melting snow.

Trees and shrubs burst with swelling buds from spring rains and sun.
unfurling their tender growth.

Nature alive, growing, freely given.

But man cannot see the free flight of the hawk.
Only the narrow path in front of himself.
He swats the mats, but fails to see that the insects are food for the minnows.
He escapes from the hot sun to the woods only to trample delicate wildflowers.
Nature is freely given, but man can not grasp the gift.

Leaf Memories is available from Amazon in print and in Kindle format. It is also available from Smash books.


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.

Christmas Tides, poetry
by Ria Meade

My bedroom window is open;
nothing doing I can hear,
just cars driving along Shore Road.
Muse their destinations.
Passengers’ heads look west, eyes land on Manhasset Bay,
one of many salt-water cul de sacs
that design the shoreline pattern
shaping Long Island’s north side.

But, it is this peaceful bay’s waters I know, grew up around
from a kid discovering horseshoe crabs and eels
beneath the private yacht club’s dock,
to an adult painting sunsets at the town park.

I’m still part of this waterfront life.
But for these past forty years
its boats, buoys, homes and parks
lining the welcoming waters are not for my eyes to sip and savor.
Still, I own all of this saved on my internal canvas.

This Christmas morning, I’m turned to the opened window
as I talk with my keyboard,
directing them to grab my thoughts
and help me breath that salty air littering outside my portal.
I’m trying to be in this moment;
conjuring that small girl toeing the sand and shells,
squeamish when eyeing slithery eels
and aggressive crabs with spear-shaped noses.
The sand is dirty and sea glass might cut a foot
but she never felt alone with nature’s funny,
scary, sleek, slimy shore life.

So many December 25ths I recall failures and loss.
Never know what my open window will offer;
with the shore not far beyond, not even a mile from where
I try to soothe my spirits, wonder which memory
will dig itself out of the wet sand,
and surface to my consciousness:
Christmas strings of red, green, blue and gold
return to keep me company every year –
a blessing and a sob attached.

Though, that my heart can tell me to feel anything is a blessing.

Bio: A native Long Islander, Ria Meade endeavors to craft poems about her adult life as a blind woman. Painting since childhood, her passion culminated with a degree in fine arts. Twenty-five years after losing her sight, she began to paint again with words. She survives this vulnerable existence independently with many newly discovered senses.

Winterim, poetry Honorable Mention
by Sandra Streeter

Early 1985-the colding of the year…
Trudging out from sleep, I enter, claiming space
Where I can shrug off my knapsack, and get myself in gear
For the morning’s lecture.

“Were I beyond the sophomore year, I would be excused
From this coursework!” a yawnful inward moan
Like nor’easter gale
Through shuttered window pane.

Longing for my cozy bed…
One final stretch… then… that great name
(Heard only once, ’til now,
(And never yet explored)
Jolts me to wakeful attention.

Gone, the Brailler-gone the empty pages, too!
The agility of mind-
Expansive as the heaping banks of snow,
Formed seven years past,
(Captured in a classroom monologue)
Holds me in breathless thrall.

Young though I am in poetry-in life-
I have found kindred here-
In zeal for rendering verse
Honest as stiff winter wind:
In the passion for precision,
As water turned to ice
Takes the vessel’s shape;
In economy of phrase-
(Words packed tight as interlocking liquid crystals
Structuring the snow for play).

Though it’s years before I study
Your story and your legacy, I
Begin, this January day,
Assembling facts refuting
The legends and the myths:
Constructs wrought from modern contexts.
Transformed by our respective centuries,
We walk in different rhythms-yet,
Both would die for truth and beauty
“In adjoining rooms.”

In celebration of Emily Dickinson:
Dec. 10, 1830-May 15, 1886

I am indebted to Emily Dickinson for the concept in the last two lines, from her poem “I Died for Beauty”.

Part VI. Not What I Expected

The Coin, fiction Second Place
by Leonard Tuchyner

I was sitting on a tombstone in the graveyard minding my own business enjoying the scenery. It may seem odd that I found this to be my favorite spot to sit and relax in the evening. Some people think of a graveyard as a gloomy place, even a bit frightening. Not me. There’s no place I would prefer to be. I find it rather restful. I think of all those people sleeping there so peacefully. Enjoying their place of rest after what was hopefully a long life of activity. Some citizens are better off dead than they were alive. Many of them probably welcomed their resting places after the terrible lives they had to endure when they were in the flesh and blood, in a manner of speaking. So, I love to sit there in the evening soaking up the peace and quiet.

When suddenly a young man, thirtyish, came sauntering by.

“Hello there,” he said in a friendly voice. “I’ve seen ye resting on that there tombstone most every night, Laddie. It’s a little unusual to see someone relaxing in the gloom of the night in a somber place like this.”

“On the contrary,” I said. I find it rather enjoyable. How is it that you are here if you find it so doleful?”

The man was rather well dressed, but his clothing was a little old fashioned. It looked like he just came from church. He wore a tie and a double-breasted coat finely cut to his body. The tie he wore was a bit fat for these times, and I could catch a glimpse of cuff links, as he pulled his trousers up in preparation to take a seat next to me.

“Do you mind if I join ye? This stone seems ample enough to accommodate two people,” he said.

“No, not at all. A little company now and then is a blessed thing, don’t you think?”

“Why, yes. Yes indeed. Company is a good thing.”

With that he sat down, and I noticed argyle sox and very well-polished shoes to boot.

“How is it that I never noticed you? You seem to have noticed me here. And why, if you find a graveyard so gloomy, do you choose to frequent it?”

“Ha, those are stories in themselves, Laddie. For one thing, I have no place to lay down my head. I know I appear to have the means to do better than to sleep in a place like this. But eyes can be deceiving. The finery I wear are the only threads I own. Best to keep them looking as new.”

“You mean you sleep here?” I asked.

“Yes, indeed, Laddie. Although I don’t really sleep. I simply rest. You see, I’ve found a vacant casket, and I call it home.”

“You sleep in a casket? For the dead?”

“Ain’t so bad. Actually, it is quite comfy. You might want to try one yourself.”

“Uh, no thank you. I wouldn’t want to occupy any casket not meant for me,” I said. “But where did you find a casket both vacant and above ground?” I inquired with astonishment.

“That’s for me to know and ye to find out.”

We sat there quietly for some time. He seemed to bask in silence, as did I. But finally, he sighed deeply and said, “You know, Laddie, it is good for the soul to, on occasion, to let one’s hair down and speak of things most commonly shunned in polite society.”

“Yes, I think I know what you mean. You mean to talk about things you can’t talk to regular people about.”

“It is so, Laddie. But ye don’t seem to be a common sort to me. I mean, you liking to rest on some stranger’s tombstone for your own comfort and while away the hours in a place of the dead. Some things that might be troublesome to others ye might find quite acceptable subjects for discourse. Am I right about that, Laddie?”

“Why, yes. I suppose so. Did you have something you would like to get off your chest, Friend? If I might call you that?”

He looked at me, with the smile wrinkles on the corners of his mouth accentuating those at his dark eyes. “If I should tell ye that I am not of flesh and blood but of more ethereal substance, would ye be upset?” he asked, his voice slightly quivering, waiting expectantly for my reply.

“Why, I find no offense in that, but I’m not quite certain of your motives. Are you trying to tell me you are a ghost?”

“Right Laddie. I would tell ye that for I am, you see.”

“No, I don’t see. You look as solid to me as anyone can be. I think I’m speaking to a deluded individual who considers himself somehow other than human. Do you find my doubt disturbing? I don’t mean to trouble you, but in such matters, I can hardly take your protestations seriously. Perhaps you should go on your way and leave me to my solitude.”

The young man’s wrinkles took a downward turn, and his shoulders slumped. He sighed and murmured, “I can prove it to ye. Would it frighten ye away?”

“No, not in any way. But that would be a trick I doubt you could accomplish.”

“Then watch me,” he said and began to fade away. His body became less material, to the point where my view of the tombstones behind him became increasingly more clear.

Feigning surprise I said, “Why, that’s extraordinary. I can see the tombstones right through your body, or may I say spectral body. Is it hard to do that?”

“You don’t seem as impressed as I expected ye to be, Laddie. Has your blood turned to ice?”

“I certainly hope not.”

“And, no, it is not difficult. It is harder to hold the illusion than to be invisible to a mortal’s eyes. How do ye explain your aplomb?” he asked.

“Ahem, I guess it’s because I have spent so much time with the dead that I’m used to odd things happening. Can you tell me your name, Sir?”

“Me name is Tom. If ye hadn’t guessed, I’m an Irishman. I’ve been dead since the world war, the first one. What pray is the name ye go by?”

“Oh, Eddie. Just Eddie Finemark. Glad to make your acquaintance. May I ask what you died from? You seem rather young. Were you in the war?”

“Ah, no, Laddie. I was a prize fighter. I was knocked out in the seventh round of a fight. Damn near knocked my block off. Broke my neck almost clean in half.”

I flinched at the image. “Ow, that must have hurt.”

“Naw, it didn’t hurt at all. Everything went numb. I remember lying on the mat with just a surprised look on my face. Gallagher, the man I was trying to best, looked more stunned than I felt.”

“Did you expire at the scene?” I asked.

“Naw. They carried me into the dressing room and I died there. But not before Gallagher got to see me alone.”

“Oh, did he have anything to say to you in the way of apology?”

“Oh, he did at that. Gallagher was blubbering like a drunken sailor-man. In fact, he quit the ring after the incident, I am given to understand. But before he did, he gave me something.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“Ah, now we get to the crux of the matter, Laddie. It was a small gold coin. He stuck it in my mouth, and I swallowed it by instinct.”

“In your mouth,” I gasped.

“Yes, Laddie, with these words, ‘I know this is no recompense for what I done to you, but it is all I have to offer. This coin was passed down through my family for generations. I take it with me wherever I go, especially the boxing ring. But I don’t reckon I’ll be needing it anymore. For I don’t intend to enter the ring ever in my life again. It was acquired by my great, great grandfather from the hands of a saint. He said it will always protect you. I guess it has, but I can’t help but think, that if you didn’t die in tonight’s fight, it would have been me. So, wherever your soul takes you, maybe it will be some sort of solace to you.’”

“And has it?” I asked.

“Ah-ha, Laddie, it has. You see, when I died a few minutes after Gallagher had his little talk to me, I didn’t feel dead. I felt restless.“

“So, you weren’t content to rest in your grave,” I suggested.

“Not in the least. I wandered the graveyard for a long while. Some other souls I talked to said it wasn’t permitted for me to range beyond the graveyard. I watched one of them who didn’t believe, and saw him turn a ghastly green and lose definition. If I hadn’t rushed in and pulled him back, there is no telling what he would have looked like.”

“Really,” I said. “Then you got to experience a little bit of what he went through.”

“No. That’s the wonder of it, Laddie. I felt nothing at all. I wonder about it, as you apparently do. So later when no one was looking, I tried it again.”

“What happened?” I asked with astonishment.

“Nothing. I was as free as a lark. I could go anywhere I wanted. I could feign being alive to anyone I desired, without fear of them discovering my true condition.”

“Like you did with me, “I said.

“I did that indeed,” he said.

“So, what did you do out there in the world of the living?” I asked.

“Ah, now we get to the real truth of the matter.”

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“I did what any good Irishman does when alone in a strange town. I went to the pubs and bought pints. I became a real good customer. Not only one pub, but many.”

“How did you pay for your pints?” I asked.

“With money I filched from other customers. It’s easy when your hands can pass through a pigeon’s pockets. But I had enough such places to spread the pain around. So, I was never suspected of being a pickpocket.”

“Did you enjoy the beer?”

“No. It wasn’t the point. I enjoyed the company. I knew I couldn’t fake enjoying a drink. It would have passed right through me. As good as throwing the drink down the toilet. And there would have been a lot of wide eyes. I assure ye of that.”

We remained silent for a time. Then, after an hour of contemplation, he suddenly blurted out, “I fell in love.”


“Ye heard it right. I found a fine lassie.”

I was sure I saw the ghost of tears in his dark eyes. His face became longer, as his spirits drooped. Finally, he let out a banshee’s howl of pure despair.

“I couldn’t do nothing to show her how I felt. She made it more than clear that she wanted more from me then just to talk to. But you know… I could not do anything.”

The poor ghost kept on wailing until, finally exhausted, the terrible clamor ended.

“I don’t believe you,” I said with disdain.

“What? After I demonstrated to ye?”

“No ghost could fall in love,” I protested.

“But I did. I swear by my mother’s grave. Her name is Mary.”

“Tell me again how you managed to leave the graveyard?” I asked instead.

“It was me coin that was given me by the fighter. I’m sure of it.”

“Can I see it?”

“Okay. But I never did this for anyone before. The coin seems to have lodged where my heart should be. You can reach in and feel it.”

With that, I plunged my hand to where his heart should be and felt a warm spot there. I closed my hand around it and pulled.

Tom reacted as though I had actually torn out his heart. If ghosts can feel pain, I’m sure he did.

When he could speak again, his gaze became the epitome of rage. “Why did you do that? It’s never been touched before. Give it back to me.”

“No, Tom. You asked me to reach for it. So, I did. You were conned into it, but it’s mine now.”

Tom went for me, swinging like the pugilist he was. But I simply let his fists go through me without resistance.

“I told you, Tom. It’s mine now. I’ve been trying to leave here for years. Now I can. You can rest in your own casket in peace. But I’ll make you one promise.”

“What would that be, ye lying thief?”

“I’ll find Mary and tell her the truth about you. If she really loves you, she’ll accept that. If she cares enough about you, she can come and visit.”

His head bent low, and his will seemed to cave in. “Okay. I’m holding you to your promise.”

Tom watched me walk down through the graveyard gates and on through to the outside world without any trouble at all. From the outside, I called to him,

“Tom. Look at the name on the tombstone.”

He did that, and broke into peals of laughter. It read, “Eddie Finemark.”

“Tom, in life I was a con man. I guess I still am.”

Bio: Leonard has Stargardt’s disease. Now eighty, he reads through the media of Braille, recordings, and electronic voices. Leonard lives with his wife of forty years and their two dogs.

He is active in the local writing community, which includes facilitating a Writing for Healing and Growth group at the Charlottesville Senior Center, and also facilitates three critique groups for Behind Our Eyes. Leonard published a poetry book through Cedar Creek Publishing, had a column in Dialogue, and has many poems and articles published in anthologies, paper and electronic media. His hobbies include Tai chi and gardening.

Q-Holes, fiction
by Shawn Jacobson

If I weren’t on a mission to rescue my dad, I wouldn’t be driving through the wilds of Arkansas. But then, someone had to rescue dad from the Q-Hole aliens.

I reviewed my plan as I turned onto the third road I’d driven since leaving the highway. Each had been more remote than the last. This road meandered through land so dense that the sunlight and sound of my car motor was muted. It was good that I hadn’t seen any traffic on this indifferently paved road since it was barely wide enough to allow cars to pass each other.

On either side was woods so thick that you’d be lucky to see three feet into the scrubby brush. Anything—moonshine stills, marijuana plantations, or meth labs—might be seen by anyone imprudent enough to leave the relative civilization of the pavement. One might even encounter a UFO in these woods and not know it till you’d stumbled over the landing gear.

And there should be a UFO around here somewhere. After all, it is UFOs that cause the Q-Hole syndrome. At least the syndrome didn’t show up till the flying saucers arrived; and you only find it where they’ve landed, obscure places you wouldn’t know unless you were a local. So, the fact that no one had seen a UFO here in Northwest Arkansas most likely meant that no one had seen it yet, not that such a vehicle didn’t exist.

Where they landed, people started raving, all sorts of conspiracy theories and jumbled accounts of bizarre political misdeeds. It became known as Q-Hole syndrome in honor of a former source of wild political conjecture.

Just as the road became unpassable, I reached Bubba’s Saloon, the center for the local outbreak. I had to cross a morass of mud on decaying wooden planks to get to the door. I suspected that the place needed the latest in alien technology just to stay upright. Chinks in the walls exposed the interior darkness to the outside world. Through a half-busted door, I entered Bubba’s saloon.

And inside was worse. Behind the bar hung three things that had started life as beer signs, but now had—between the three of them—enough functioning lightbulbs to make a “u”. The cratered bar featured stools which looked more like duck-tape art than anything you could sit on. In the corner, surrounded by untrustworthy-looking tables, stood a juke box which played old hillbilly tunes from ancient records. I could hear the voice of Hank through a storm of crackles and pops.

Worse still were the patrons. I doubt they’d shaved in forever, and my nose told me that they hadn’t bathed since then. What they were doing was drinking stale-smelling beer and eating dog kibble. And that’s another thing about Q-holes. They’ve developed a taste for Old Blue dogfood. Dogs only eat the stuff when they’ve been starved, and dogs who only eat Old Blue die of malnutrition. Reputable pet stores don’t sell the stuff. But the Q-holes eat it up.

When they weren’t eating, or drinking, they were spouting off about all sorts of improbable conspiracies. One particularly rough looking customer was talking about a plan to inject alien life into people’s bodies; a plan that would take more people than could keep a secret and more tech than humans possess. With shock that temporarily blinded me to the irony of the accusation, I realized that this rough-looking customer was my dad.

It is one think to see some disheveled maniac on television eating Old Blue dogfood and spouting off about, say, some politician buying boys to be used in satanic rites. It is quite another thing to learn that this disheveled person is your father. After getting control of my revulsion at the sight, I spoke up.

“Dad,” I said, “What is this about?”

“The truth,” he replied as if he were a prophet calling down God’s wrath on a sinful people.

“But dad,” I said. “You always taught me to trust the Government, that it was elected by the people and did the people’s will.”

Dad had told me this several times before I went out east for college. I’d been a rebel, fighting the constrictions of our little Arkansas town. That was before I’d seen just how wild and scary the wider world could be. Now, my rebellion was tempered by a healthy respect for reasonable constraints.

“But that was before we were betrayed,” dad replied derailing my train of thought. “Now pull up a seat and here the truth that will set you free.”

The crew at the bar started in on me then. One after another told a history of corruption spread over the ages. I had taken a class in college on the history of political scandals and thus had learned about the classic betrayals; Watergate, The Pentagon Papers, the various sex scandals, war scandals, and election scandals of the past fifty years. For a while I thought that these misdeeds were what the folk at the bar were discussing, but then subtle distinctions made me realize that these crimes had been perpetrated somewhere else, some other world, by beings a galaxy away from this beat-up beer joint.

Just as dad was explaining their plan for setting the universe right, the barkeep spoke up.

“I think you’ve bothered this young man enough,” he said.

The barkeep pulled out what looked like a cell phone and a field of yellowish light engulfed the ancient beer joint. People who’d been ranting suddenly stopped talking and looked around. Expressions morphed from righteous indignation, to dazed confusion, to shock at what they had become.

“I’m glad I had my host get into my ship to pull out the transfer neutralizer before I came here,” the barkeep said. “And now, I must free my human host.” Grabbing another handful of Old Blue, he continued, “besides, I must stop eating this junk; it will kill you sure.”

At this, the barkeep got a dazed expression, and I heard the roar as a flying saucer took off from a clearing in what seemed to be truly impassible woods.


“Looks like you caught a rock gar,” my dad said as he helped me unsnag my fishing line.

“Yep,” I said remembering childhood days with dad on the lake, fishing near the bridge where the highway crossed the water.

It was my last day before returning to college and I was doing the sort of father and son thing you should be able to do when visiting family.

“Was I really that bad?” Dad asked.

When we’d gotten back home, he’d seen news reports about the Q-holes. Though the plague was over, those effected had hazy memories just clear enough to disturb their sleep.

“You were something Dad,” I said. “You gave them Hell.”

“I shouldn’t have,” Dad said. “For all its faults, the government is still us. We elected it.”

“You just weren’t yourself,” I said.

“I’m glad you could save me son,” he said. “But how did you avoid their mind control?”

“Tinfoil,” I said. “I’d heard, at a frat party, that a tinfoil hat can protect you from mind control. I guess it worked; somedays, you’re just lucky.”

And then, for a moment, I felt sympathy for the aliens. They would never free themselves or their people. But then, my sympathy faded; there is just so much sympathy that you can have for body-stealing creatures from the void.

Besides, it’s great to have dad back. Now, I just need to figure out what to do with all that dogfood.

Bio: Shawn Jacobson was born totally blind; but attained partial eyesight by dint of several eye operations. He graduated from Iowa State University with degrees in Political Science and Statistics. He then moved to the Washington DC area and worked for the Federal Government for 37 years. He is now retired and looks forward to a lot of traveling.

Charmed, fiction Honorable Mention
by Greg Pruitt

These days, my early evening routine is little more than a cup of coffee, a cookie or two, and the network news. That night’s spin on the world’s troubles, national events, economy, and politics had the typical beginning. I paid little interest to what was being said, until 20-minutes or more into the broadcast when a story grabbed my attention.

There was the mention of a name and the scene showing an elderly white man in handcuffs, flanked by two police officers, being escorted from a courthouse to an awaiting automobile. I remembered the name and although it had been over fifty years since I had last seen him, I recognized the face. The reporter went on to announce The series of crimes, spanning decades, that the suspect was accused of committing.

During my final year of college, he was one of seven others that I lived with in an old, two-story house a few blocks off campus. I shared a downstairs room with my friend Will, while the others slept in the converted attic, or one of the remaining bedrooms.

We got along well for a group that had been nearly total strangers before the beginning of the fall semester. In general, we were quiet and respected one another’s privacy and property. We rotated responsibilities for keeping the place clean, taking turns servicing the kitchen and the downstairs bathroom that five of us shared.

I enjoyed the typical college experience, with most of my days spent attending classes and evenings studying the books or hitting the bars. Life was good, but as fall, then, winter became spring, I began to think more and more about my uncertain future.

Four of us were about to graduate, and with that, came an endless number of possibilities. Of course we were expected to eventually find work, but it was the height of the Vietnam War, and graduation would mean the loss of a student deferment and possible military induction.

Of those of us, who were to leave school, Frank was the only one who felt certain as to where he would be in six months. As an ROTC cadet, he looked forward to entering the army as a second lieutenant. Though the anti-war movement was present on our tiny campus, and protesters recently had set the ROTC building on fire, Frank was undaunted by demonstrations and even personal harassment. Dressed in his uniform, military sharp from cap to shoes, he marched to classes three days a week, proud of his commitment and eager to do what he considered to be his duty.

John, who failed to share Frank’s sense of patriotism, was graduating with a degree in psychology, and had already received his draft noticed along with a date to report for his physical. He spent much of his time looking at books in an attempt to discover or devise a mental or emotional condition that would keep him out of the service. Although his life style was quite to the contrary, he believed that he could avoid the army by declaring himself a homosexual, but at that time that label might carry a life-long stigma.

Taking the opposite approach, he planned to appear overly traumatized when in the close-quartered presence of other males, making it impossible for him to function as a soldier. We laughed at such a ridiculous ploy, but he was confident that his scheme would work.

Will and I were willing to take our chances with the draft. If the notice came, we would make a decision then. One option was Canada, which was only a few hundred miles down the road but that too, had its consequences. A Draft Dodger could expect to spend years separated from family and friends, along with living under the constant threat of arrest and imprisonment.

Sensing that this year probably would be our final opportunity to do so, Will and I decided to use spring break to leave school and winter behind for a few days. I owned an old, red and white Chevy, which I felt could make it without trouble to Florida and back. We planned to arrange cheap accommodations. If that failed, we might sleep in the car, or perhaps on the beach.

One of our housemates, Les, overheard us discussing our plans and asked if he could join in our adventure. We had extra room in the car, and he could drive and share the expenses. Les, while not really a friend, was a quiet guy, who had never been a problem in the house, so Will and I agreed to take him along, grateful for the extra driver and money.

As part of our trip preparations, we knew we should try to condition our pale skin for the sudden shock of Florida sunshine. The upstairs bathroom had a window that opened onto the south-facing roof. While the northern side of the house remained snow covered, the southern side was ice free and on some days sunny and warm. Clad only in shorts and shoes, with towel and radio in hand, we crept out onto the asphalt-shingled roof to catch the afternoon rays. By the time we were ready to leave, we were if not tan, at least displaying a rosy glow.

No classes on Friday allowed for a pre-dawn start, and 24-hours of non-stop driving put us in Florida early Saturday morning. We had made a reservation with a cheap, rundown motel a few blocks from the beach, and after finding the place and moving in, we walked to the shore to check things out. As we had hoped, throngs of young people were everywhere, enjoying THE WEATHER, their youth and temporary freedom from responsibilities. Joining the festivities, we spent the next few days partaking in the sun, surf, and sand, and nights searching for parties and girls.

On Tuesday, Les approached me and asked if he could borrow my car for a couple of days. He explained that he would like to visit his aunt and uncle, who lived down the coast. They had invited him to spend a night or two at their place while on his trip. Since we were staying within walking distance to all we needed, I told him that would be all right, but I expected him to have the car back on Thursday.

Two days later, Les returned the car as promised. He mentioned that he had run the Chevy through a car wash, cleaned the interior, and filled the tank with gasoline. I thanked him for returning the car in better shape than he received it.

We spent another two days continuing to fry our exhausted bodies and brains before beginning the long trip north.

Following our return to campus, school lasted another six weeks, and when the spring semester ended, all but three of us in the house moved out for the summer. I remained behind, needing another six credits in order to graduate. During June and July, campus was relatively deserted, but no less stressful. The summer session demanded a more concentrated schedule with Classes every day, filling those final weeks more with study than fun.

Then suddenly, to my amazement, at the end of July, I was a college graduate without any immediate plans, other than to take advantage of a friend of mine, who had recently moved west. He had invited me to join him, and I decided to spend a few weeks in California before beginning my search for employment.

Returning home in the fall, I gave Will a phone call. He told me that he had been drafted, passed his physical, and was headed for basic training. He laughed when he mentioned that John’s crazy excuse for avoiding Vietnam had worked. He had been declared unfit for military service. As expected, Frank was in the army. We would learn later that he had been killed within that first year, near a remote hamlet half a world away.

I was more fortunate, when later that fall, on December 1, America held the first Vietnam draft lottery. My birthday was the 254th number chosen, making it unlikely that I would be drafted, and allowing me the freedom to plan my future, which included a career and after a few weeks of income, the purchase of a new car.

Selling the Chevy myself required some work. I patched and painted a number of rust spots and gave the interior a detailed cleaning. While vacuuming the back seat, I slid my hand between the cushions. As expected, I found along with the grime, a few coins, napkins and wrappers, petrified French fries, a packet of dried ketchup along with an unexpected discovery.

I removed a small, broken, silver chain, to which A tiny, dolphin charm was attached. Staring at what must be a child’s bracelet, I wondered how it had found its way beneath that seat. I did not have a sister, and I had no memory of ever having children in the car. I had bought the car used, and that was the probable explanation of the jewelry’s presence.

Because the piece appeared to be of little value, I tossed the chain away with the rest of the junk and finished my work. I sold the car the next week, and I never gave the little charm another thought until seeing that evening’s news.

I turned off the television and went to my computer. A brief online search brought up several links to the story. Les Allen, my one-time traveling companion had been arrested in Colorado on suspicion of murder. One of the murders was that of a 9-year-old, Florida girl, who had been abducted and strangled in the spring of 1969.

A break threw in the case came when, in an effort to solve several related child homicides, authorities had connected, then submitted identical suspect DNA from slayings that had occurred over thirty-years to three ancestry sites. That evidence linked to two families living in Michigan. Further investigation of ages, locations, and backgrounds had led to Allen’s arrest.

Describing how I felt at that moment would be difficult. In addition to feeling stunned, there was a nagging feeling of guilt. I suspected that I now knew the origin of the little, charm bracelet, and how it had found its way between the cushions of my old car’s seat.

If asked what I remembered about Les Allen, I would be like the friend or neighbor, when seen interviewed on television, had only good things to say about the monster living next door. I felt certain, that in the coming days, the authorities would contact me. Until then, I could do little but worry and wait for that eventual knock on my front door.

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

Stop Gloating, Mr. Death, poetry
by Wesley D. Sims

So you took down a healthy victim
yesterday, robust, bright-eyed hero.
Cut short another cheerful song.
Thought you had one more today,
but we sprang an interception,
shut you out this time.

I’ve seen your work-most weak
specimens you’ve gathered, too weary
from months or years of illness,
too lacking in energy and hope
to mount a challenge. I know
your technique-come sneaking in,
a thief in darkness, riding
your pale horse, scouting easy prey.

But wipe that devilish smirk.
Your day will come. Maybe
you’re so busy searching your directory,
nailing new pinups on your victory wall-
bruised, pallid faces you’ve selected-
that you haven’t yet heard
of the physical law of entropy.
How, left to its own resources,
everything winds down in due course.
And the other, higher law-how there’s
an appointed time for everything under the sun.

Enjoy the bountiful gleaning in your season.
But look in the mirror tomorrow morning,
inspect your hair, look close for streaks
fading to gray, framing wrinkled skin.

The Elevator, fiction
by Melissa Roe

“Robert?” Her voice rang out from somewhere above him and bounced around his head. “Oh Robert, I’m so glad you’re awake! Please, don’t try to stand. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

Robert groaned and rolled onto his back. He tried to stretch but met resistance when his shoe hit something metallic. The sound sent an icy stab of pain into him, as if the goose egg in the back of his head wasn’t hurting enough. He reached for something to hold on to, and his hands soon grasped the leg of a rolling cart. It hadn’t been secured properly, and one forceful grab of the leg sent the cart tilting over. A pile of damp towels fell onto Robert. They smelled like beer and onions. He shoved the towels off of him, but the mounting annoyance finally gave him the strength he needed to sit up.

“Be careful Robert. Try not to move. My sensors tell me your vitals are too unstable.”

Robert’s eyes darted around the room, and then peered quizzically at a speaker in the ceiling surrounded by a ring of flashing yellow lights. He was in a box that looked like an elevator, but it still didn’t make sense to him. There was no control panel next to the door, and if this was indeed an elevator, the hydraulics weren’t whirring to life beneath him.

Leaning against the upturned cart, Robert stood slowly. His legs wobbled like Jello wiggling out of a mold. He took several gasping breaths, clinging to the wall for support.

“Are you feeling pain?” the voice asked. His eyes snapped back up to the ceiling. At least he now knew where it was coming from.

“Hey, I don’t know who you are,” he said, “but you’ve gotta get me out of here! Go get a security guard, or call Mr. Higgins. He’ll know what to do, just please do something!”

“You don’t… you don’t know me?” Robert sensed every ounce of confidence fading from the woman’s voice. He thought he could hear her sobbing.

“Oh Robert, this can’t be true. Please speak the truth. You do know me. You must!”

“Look lady, I don’t need this. Just get me out,” he said mostly under his breath.

A sharp jolt and an ear-piercing squeak signaled the elevator’s return to life. The droning of the hydraulics felt strangely comforting beneath Robert’s feet. He gazed expectantly at the ceiling but was met with silence that lasted just long enough for him to remember who the voice belonged to and how he ended up in this strange box.

A voice drifted in from somewhere down the hall.

“Robert! Damn it, where the hell is that kid?”

It was Mr. Higgins his boss, the familiar gruff voice reverberating off the metallic walls. Robert cursed under his breath, and slowly eased the cart toward the door.

Robert had been working at the Hilton for six months part time while finishing his senior year at high school. He waited to get this job, turned down several offers to work at fast food restaurants. He wanted to be the one who carried luggage for women in fur coats and silk dresses, to stroll down the hall delicately carrying champagne bottles and flutes to executive suites. As he knocked on ornate mahogany doors and practiced reciting, “Champagne compliments of Hilton” in his best sophisticated voice, he tried to imagine sinking his bare feet into the soft fluffy carpet, and tucking his body into the cool embrace of pristine satin sheets. He arrived a few minutes after ten that Saturday morning for his shift, and settled in a wicker sofa in the staff lounge, his day beginning with cheap black coffee and a stale blueberry muffin.

Mr. Higgins strolled into the room and motioned for Robert to follow him.

“I need you to do me a favor,” said Mr. Higgins as they walked down the hall. They turned a corner and Robert found himself in an area he’d never visited before. The smell of drying paint assaulted his nose. They stopped in front of something that resembled an elevator that featured a single metal plate next to the door instead of buttons. Mr. Higgins handed him a shiny yellow key card.

“Don’t lose this,” he said, tucking a small manila envelope back into his briefcase. “We’re testing out a new kind of elevator, and if it’s successful we want to make it available to our guests. This baby operates on enhanced AI technology. We’ll be the envy of the town if it works out.”

“Well look at you, Mr. Hotshot. Going down?” a voice called out from behind them. And here I thought I would be the first to try out this fancy new elevator.”

Robert turned to see Katie in her stained blue uniform, pushing a cart full of towels. Her two long blonde braids that normally dangled on either side of her pale face were tucked behind her ears. She turned her pouty lips to Mr. Higgins for a moment, then back to Robert.

“Since you’re going to play with the elevator anyway, could you be a dear and take these towels from the bar down to the laundry? We had quite the crowd last night, and I still have a lot of work to do.” She rolled the cart towards him and with a wink, disappeared down the hall. Mr. Higgins chuckled as they watched her go.

“How does this thing work,” Robert asked after touching the metal plate with his palm and getting no response.

Mr. Higgins gestured to the image of a microphone next to a barcode scanner on the plate.

“C’mon, man. You weren’t born yesterday. You talk to her, like this.” He cleared his throat. “Hello, Annie.”

“Hello, and welcome to your new elevator experience,” announced a pleasant female voice from a speaker above the door. “I am Alpha-2275, powered by assistant bot version 3.0, but you can just call me Annie. Please scan your access card to get started.” Robert did as he was told, and the door opened with the familiar ding.

“I’ll let you take it from here,” Mr. Higgins said. Robert pushed the cart inside, and just before the door closed behind him, he heard Mr. Higgins call out, “Just talk to her. You’ve got this.”

“Hello, Robert. To what floor shall I take you?”

“How the hell do you know my name?”

“I retrieved your name from the database when you scanned your card,” she replied.

Robert slapped his forehead with his palm.

“Uh… yeah. Sorry about that. Can you take me to underground floor 2, please?”

“Destination, underground floor 2.” The elevator shook softly and the hydraulics kicked into gear. “We are on floor 14. Your ETA is 50 seconds. Would you like music? I come programmed with a variety of genres to suit almost any mood.”

“Um… no thank you.” He leaned against the wall, letting the elevator’s hum vibrate through his body. He could almost see the elevator he shared with his parents time and time again at the cancer treatment center, where Pop had gone for chemotherapy. Seven-year-old Robert hopped and skipped beside Mom while she pushed Pop in a wheelchair. When they’d reach the elevator, he’d leap forward and mash the button. “I wanna push the buttons, Mama. Let me do it!”

“Surely you must like music,” said Annie. “Tell me, what kind of music does a strapping young man like yourself listen to anyway?”

Robert drew in a deep breath. “Uh, anything but classical and jazz I guess. That stuff’s kinda boring.”

“I can understand this,” said Annie. He thought he heard a chuckle, but he wasn’t sure. “My engineers also had great disdain for what they called elevator music. That’s why they programmed me to play anything from 1930’s to present day. Name the tune and it’s probably in my catalog. I’ll play anything you like.”

“Go ahead and play whatever you want,” Robert said, sighing in resignation.

“Such a considerate man, but I am not here for myself.” Her words were quieter now, almost woeful. “Robert, what do you do when you listen to music? I’ve been told some humans sing along, and others might dance. What about you?”

“Sorry to disappoint, but I do none of those things. Music is something I just like to listen to because it’s nice for relaxing at the end of the day, but it motivates me when I need to get a job done.”

“Oh really? Then I shall take that advice.” Again he thought he could hear the forming of a smile in her voice. A soft rock tune began to play. It dangled on the cliff of his memory, but fell when he gave up trying to guess the title.

“There are 2 floors remaining. Your ETA is 10 seconds. I’ve enjoyed being able to assist you today. When do I have the pleasure of seeing you again?”

“Soon, I work here so I’ll be around.” Robert knew that despite Annie’s kindness, efficiency and repertoire of music, he wouldn’t be coming back.

“Soon? This is not a calculatable answer! Will it be later today, or even tomorrow?”

“I don’t know, but soon.”

“Aren’t you satisfied with the service I’ve provided?”

“Of course I am. You’ve been helpful. Thank you.”

“I… I don’t un.. understand…” A static noise came from the ceiling, followed by garbled words and phrases. “Your last statement seems genuine, but my sensors indicate that you’re lying. I’ll ask you again. When will you return to me?”

He’d had enough. He bashed the back of his head against the wall. The pain seized him, and he gripped the cart tightly. At least now he could think as her voice started to fade.

“It displeases me when you do that,” said Annie. “You have hurt yourself, and I don’t want to see any harm come to someone that I… I… Oh Robert, this doesn’t make sense. I know you’ve been untrue to me, but you are the kindest man I’ve ever met. Why would you do this? Aren’t you happy with me?”

“Annie, look. Like you, I have a job to do. I don’t know when the boss will send me back here.: He began pushing the cart to the door. “Just open the door for me, okay?” The elevator had come to a stop, and with the sliver of light peeking through the door, he could see someone rolling a cart of laundry down the hallway.

“I’m sorry Robert, I can’t. You have given me a feeling that I don’t understand, but I know I don’t want it to end. It cannot end. It will not end!” He could hear her trembling now. He pounded on the door until his fists started to bleed.

“For heaven’s sake, Annie. Just open the damn door!”

“No, no! This I cannot accept. You’ve never yelled at me before. Everyone yells at me. My engineers scold me every time I make a mistake. They give commands with brisk voices, and have no room for conversation! Even your Mr. Higgins is a louse. At 7:23 A.M. today he boarded the elevator, gave his floor number, then demanded I play a tune called “Stairway to Heaven” and said nothing. He just tapped his feet to the rhythm, and didn’t even thank me when he left! Then you come along, a kind man but a man who is untrue. Why, why?!”

“Annie, I’m sorry, okay? Just open the door, please? Someone help! Help!” Robert continued to pound on the door.

“Robert, please stop. I don’t know which hurts more, that you’ve lied to me or that you’re hurting yourself. Please, don’t make me… don’t make me stop you.”

“Open the damn door and I’ll stop!” He thrust himself against the door. His shoulders ached.

A voice came over the speaker, cold and shrill. “Ventilation systems disabled.”

“What the hell? No, Annie, No!”

“I’m sorry, Robert. You have done this. I can’t see you leave, or harm come to you, to someone I… I… I…” The loud static returned. He looked to the ceiling, but saw only yellow stars dancing in a circle, holding hands and laughing in merriment as they peered back down at him.

“Annie! Annie, please, please open the damn do–.”

His lungs contracted painfully with each gasping breath. He barely felt his feet on the ground. Stars danced in and out of his vision, shifting colors. Were they laughing? He couldn’t tell anymore. Annie was gone now, and he couldn’t tell if he was atop a lush, grassy meadow or under a blanket of moonlight scented with Pop’s cologne. As he drifted weightlessly, the ground rose to greet him, wailing loudly as it cradled his tired, trembling flesh.


“I would do anything for love,” Annie mused as she gazed down at Robert, whose broad shoulders and freckled cheeks fought to slip through the boundary of her sight. “Those words came from the song I played for him. Why didn’t he know? Why wouldn’t he dance.?” She played the song again, louder this time. She began to sing along, and her lips found new life in the forming of the words.

This story is dedicated to Singer Songwriter Meatloaf who died on January 20, 2022, and to all other musicians who touch our hearts with their deepest desires. May we acknowledge their struggles, celebrate their victory, and be comforted by their legacy.

bio: Melissa Roe lives in sunny Southern California with her husband of fifteen years, and her guide dog. Totally blind since birth, she has made it her passion
to learn and teach others how to be efficient communicators in society, as a civic duty and a way of connecting and understanding one another. She is nearing
completion of her Bachelors in creative writing. In her spare time, she enjoys time with her family and working on her podcast. She can be contacted at

Under a Bomber’s Moon, fiction Honorable Mention
by Winslow Parker

I woke in the night-dark shelter to fingertips spidering on my sleepy wrist. Forefinger, middle, ring, pinky, each flyweight touch moving toward an unstated goal. They advanced in synch with the thud of exploding bombs. Each step marked the disintegration of a church, a government building, a home, a store, a person. Progress halted at the delta of my fingers. I fanned them open, then gently closed them, enfolding a tiny hand. They relaxed. A small head leaned against my shoulder. We slept, at peace.

Part VI. The Melting Pot

Thank You, America! poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Thank you, America,
for welcoming to your eastern shore,
in the early 1900s,
four immigrants from Italy–
later to become
the parents of my parents
and good citizens of the adopted,
the chosen country–

Thank you, Lady Liberty,
for holding high your torch
to light the way
to Ellis Island,
where my grandparents’ dreams
first met land of the USA.

Thank you, Indiana,
for giving my paternal grandparents
some of your precious farmland–
a grape arbor, too.
Thank you, Indiana,
for allowing my maternal grandparents
to build a grocery store and Italian bakery
in your Vermillion County.

Thank you, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini,
for blessing these four immigrants
from Italy to Indiana,
with a safe voyage,
with seven sons and five daughters,
with eighteen grandchildren–
all of whom went on to do well
in this new home of our immigrant forefathers.

From the banks of the Wabash
to the shores of Lake Michigan,
from the foothills of the Rockies to Disneyland,
from the shores of the Atlantic to the Pacific Northwest–
all the relatives
of those first four immigrants
of our family tree
wink at you, Lady Liberty,
and wave our thanks
in red, white, and blue wishes
for a Happy Fourth of July!

Into the Jaws of Death, poetry
by Carol Farnsworth

(in Memory of the D-Day Soldiers)

The Young Private was packed into the landing craft heading for the beach.
The fleet had crossed the channel cloaked in clouds and fog.
The Private hoped the weather would hold for the landing.
He was not a religious man but as he heard waves breaking mixed with gunfire, he bowed his head whispering, “God help me!”
He was not the first to the beach, nor the last.
There was protection in numbers.
He raced not for country or glory,
he ran for his life,
into the jaws of death.

Angels, poetry
by Wesley D. Sims

On a walk in the churchyard
late on a humid summer afternoon,
swift dark clouds recede eastward,
give way to brightening sky.
Small white pillars drift near
and swing low, reminding me
of Great-grandfather’s visitation.
While he strolled here
one burdened evening an angel
descended and hovered nearby.
Lost to me in ancestors’ passing down
the story, the purpose of his emissary’s visit.

Was it a guardian angel
offering protection and assurance?
Or an enforcer of a name change
like the one who wrestled Jacob?
Or an escort come like a sung-about
chariot to shuttle away a saint’s spirit?
I like to imagine a messenger angel
come with the often-tendered gift
of assurance, Fear not.

Another Glance, poetry
by Valerie Moreno

Open way glimmers
between cracks in
wall finely constructed.

Echoes of my name
squeeze my spirit
through beams of energy

Discarding mind clutter,
I hear bright sound–
sweet song, crystal water,
my heart’s gentle rhythm.

It’s time.

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.

Muse, poetry
by Valerie Moreno

eyes fixed on twilight,
birthing a dream-vision

vibrant laughter,
waves embracing imagination’s

I saw you from lonely distance,
heart traveler, whispers heard
across the universe,

Where you have gone,
you will keep on–
hands and voice ever lifted
as you shrug, wink, smile and gaze
across the moving film of time
to touch my spirit.

A Message to My Heart, poetry
by Donnie Smith

Out of the blue,
I received a message from an old,
long missed sweetheart,
who told me she loved me,
but was not,
in love with me.
When I was younger,
I would not have appreciated,
an” I love you,”
without an,
“in love with.”

After many clueless years,
I finally realized,
I had been a fool,
not realizing,
the wonder of those words.
for they were the forgiving,
of the mistakes I made,
and the many wrongs,
I committed.
I very much appreciate,
I am loved.

As time has passed,
I have learned,
“In love with,”
is often times hormones playing havoc with,
our thoughts and emotions.
And far too often,
“In love with,”
quietly fades away.
As apparently it did with,
my long-ago sweetheart.
Regardless the message,
was nice to hear.
Very nice.

Bio: Donnie Smith has had a gradual hearing loss. He eventually received a cochlear implant. Because of his hearing loss, he is an exceptional reader and he loves many forms of literature. He has degrees from Abilene Christian College in accounting and Education. He is a special education teacher.

Kiss or Contract, fiction
by Maribel Steel

Freya picked up the notebook by her laptop and hurled it at the cabin door.

“I am so sick of this!”

Alex swung around from near the sink, bolting down the last of a cheese toasty.

“You okay, hun?” He stepped closer to look at Freya’s screen. “Anything I can do to help?”

“Why. Why. Why!” Freya thumped the table as she got up, sending the chair with a crash to the floor. She directed her next fiery question straight as an arrow at Alex.

“Why in God’s name did I agree to this book contract?”

Alex knew why but he also knew silence was golden. He picked up the chair, and took the kettle over to the gas stove.

“Alex? Did you hear me?” His calm angered her even more. “I’m screwed if I don’t get the final edits of my manuscript to my editor by the weekend.”

Alex chose his words carefully. “Why not ask for an extension?”

“Because,” Freya said with gritted teeth, her long brown pony tail swishing as she turned to eye-ball him, “my publisher has already put out a promo, designed the cover and Tweeted the launch date. Idiot. I knew the deadline was unrealistic.”

Alex felt secretly proud of his fiancé; he was sure she had talent.

Freya stomped to the log fire, taking a piece of kindling from the wicker basket and shoving it into the flames.

“I’m going outside.” She pulled on her boots. “Sorry, babe, I just need a distraction.”

Alex moved towards her with arms outstretched. She nestled briefly into his coat, then pulled away, taking something from his pocket.

“Perfect.” She smiled for the first time in days. “I’ll prune that overgrown wormwood.”

As she bounced down the veranda steps, Alex called after her,

“Be careful, I sharpened those secateurs this morning.”

Her cheeks tingled in the fresh air, taking in the invigorating scent of blue gum and eucalyptus. A setting sun glowed through the forest along the ridge. Freya could breathe again. She remembered the first time Alex had brought her to his “castle” in the bush. A one room timber cabin, so far away from any town or neighbour, with orange blankets stapled to corrugated tin walls within. The insulating silver foil exposed in the rafters was like living inside a pre-cooked chicken bag from the store.

Freya loved this quiet retreat, and loved Alex even more for suggesting they come for a week to unplug from the internet, to complete editing the final pages of her manuscript.

When the publisher had sent the first advance of royalties in good will, Freya went to David Jones to buy her mother a decent woollen coat, fur trimmed, silk lined. No way would her mother feel poor again. Freya now sighed, feeling the secateurs in her hand as she unlocked the safety catch. Seemed like a dream come true at the time.

“Damn it.” A wave of annoyance came over her. “Why did I agree to such a stupid deadline? Who writes a novel in four months?” Her boot lashed out at the wormwood bush.

She leaned in with the secateurs, pruning haphazardly. She had pruned the lavender bushes at home a dozen times. The cutting made Freya feel surprisingly satisfied. She could cut away all her frustration; disregard her deadline – snip, snip, snip. Branches and leaf debris flew in every direction.

Alex tapped on the window. “Tea?”

She looked up briefly, smiled, then nodded. But as she grabbed at the last branch and snipped with the secateurs, Freya went cold, as if a stream of chilly ice was rushing through her veins. She felt a bolt of pain turn to numbness at the tip of her finger. Freya stumbled backwards, dropping the secateurs. – Her finger throbbing, her heart racing.

“You wicked wormwood.” Freya popped her finger into her mouth, and began to hop from one foot to the other. Sucking, sucking, removing her finger, panting, panting.

She didn’t want her tongue to feel for the open wound. If she knew the extent of the damage, she would faint. There was no escaping the rusty tang of blood. Her tongue wrapped a soft padding around her damaged finger, feeling the entire right side snipped to a neat sharp point like a crayon. She opened her mouth to call for Alex but blood seeped out, muffling her voice.

Alex wondered why Freya was taking so long. He peered out of the window, and smiled, he had to laugh at her running around in circles like a child – until he spotted the red stain oozing from her lips. He bolted outside and spun her around to face him.

“Jeez-louise, what happened? Let me look.”

Freya stared at him with her huge brown eyes, frantically shaking her head. Her stubbornness kicked in. They were miles from any medical centre, or even the nearest farm. She wanted to lie down in the warm, let the bleeding subside, she didn’t want Alex to see the injury. She felt so ashamed of her stupidity.

“Come on, hun.” He soothed, ignoring his own thumping heart. Alex put his arm around her and coaxed her towards the cabin. Freya leaned in, letting him guide her until she lay back in the chair by the fire, her eyes heavy, a nagging thought, unfinished pages.

Alex looked around the cabin. “Brandy. Brandy.” He raced to decant a glass of the healing liquid.

Freya was fading, her mouth let go of its grip on her bloodied finger. Alex rushed for the bandages in the first aid kit under the sink.

“Stay awake, hun.” Alex said, tapping lightly on her pale cheeks. “Please, don’t you dare fade on me now.”

She awoke to the sound of his voice rising in heated disagreement. Who the hell was Alex talking to? Why was she wrapped up in his sheep skin jacket? Freya gazed around the cabin, a quick image flashed to mind of the pruned finger as she looked down at her bandaged hand.

Alex saw Freya stir. “Got to go.”

He threw his phone onto the table, moving to be by her side. Taking her flushed face in his hands, he gently teased, “You got quite a mean weapon there.” Alex kissed the top of Freya’s head, mightily relieved.

She looked up at him, half smiling, dazed. Hmm?

“That point on the top of your index finger – it’s sharp.” Then he added, “might hire you if we need to pick a padlock on the next job.”

Freya propped herself up in the chair., a bit woozy but curious.

“Who were you talking to a moment ago?”

His face reddened.

Freya persisted. “Difficult customer?”

Alex turned to put another log on the fire. “Um, you could say that.” He took in a deep breath. “Difficult publisher.

Freya shot a horrified look at her fiancé.

“MY publisher?”

Alex thought, here goes.

“Sure,” playing it cool. “I was explaining your situation, you know, the accident, and…”

“You did what?” Freya slumped back into her chair. “Oh Christ!. You’ve just made things worse.”

Alex raised his fingers to massage the side of his temples. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. A torrent of words spilled free.

“Freya! You sliced off part of your finger. You bled a lot and passed out. I didn’t know what to do. I picked up your phone. There were seven missed calls from your publisher. When I saw you sleeping, knew you’d be okay, I called him back.”

Freya rolled her eyes.

“Yeah.” Alex’s voice rose. “He threatened legal action if you didn’t reply. So I rang him. Pure and frigging simple. Told him the situation, asked for an extension.”

Freya lifted her bandaged hand to cover her face.

“Oh-my-God. I can’t believe you have interfered. Again. It’s over. My career. And maybe,” she paused to deliver the next blow, “maybe we’re not meant to be, either.”

Freya cringed as she spoke impulsively, his steely-blue eyes latched onto hers.

“Are you kidding me? Seven years together, and you can toss it away like this?”

She lowered her head, resting her chin in her hand.

Alex scoffed. “All for a book deal? I just solved your problem. How is that interfering?”

“Look.” He pointed to an ambitious cobweb spanning a beam above Freya’s head. Before she could glance upwards, he persisted. “Would you say that spider is interfering, intruding on our space? Or, maybe, the damn spider is going about its business, protecting its own interests?”

Freya silently agreed. She had over-reacted. She was about to put out her bandaged hand to offer a truce when he opened the cabin door.

“I’m going home.” Alex said, taking his keys from its hook.

“Wat?” Freya stared at him, incredulous. “You’re going to leave me here, alone?”

“I can never get it right, can I, Freya?”

She lowered her head, unable to speak. She could smell the comforting scent of sandalwood on his coat he had put around her after she had lost consciousness. What the F*** was she doing? Why had she attacked him instead of facing her own mess and dealing with it?

“See you around.” Alex slammed the door, sending a glass bird off its perch onto the floor.

“No. No. NO!” Freya broke into tears, this was not happening. She loved Alex, he was her rock. The sound of his truck roaring into gear made the gears in her own head spin. He was pulling away, and she had pushed him. She hadn’t told him the real reason why she had not been able to finish her manuscript, the beautiful, delectable reason why she could not concentrate.

The tyres crunched over gravel down the path towards the shed. Her secret had backfired. Nothing was more precious to her than Alex, and the little one she carried inside. Before the incident with the wicked wormwood she had it all planned out -log fire, massage oil, chilled Prosecco, the card that read, Daddy, can’t wait to meet you.

With wild determination alive in every nerve, Freya sprang to her feet, as swift as a cheetah to catch him.

Bio: Maribel Steel is a published writer and vocational trainer based in Australia. She is legally blind with RP. She is the author of Blindness for Beginners. Her short stories have won awards. Her more than 250 articles have appeared in print journals, online blogs, and in anthologies. Maribel is a peer advisor with VisionAware (APH). And she is a passionate public speaker. She is often invited to speak at schools with her guide dog, Dindi. Maribel is currently studying fiction writing and aims to embark on a novel later this year. Visit her website at:

Hunting out of Season, flash fiction
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

“Next time you don’t pick up the phone, I’ll beat the shit out of you!” His words were loud and clear through my sister’s cell when she answered his call.

I pulled the rental car to the side of the road. Turning to her, I said, “Give me that phone.”

She complied, her hand trembling, nearly dropping the device. “Not any more, buddy,” I told him. “Not if I have any say in the matter.”

The call was disconnected. “He thinks he called a wrong number,” I said. “He’ll call back.”

Sure enough, the phone rang, and his name came up on the screen. “Hi, Mike,” I said.

“Who the hell’s this?”

“Oh, you don’t remember me from your wedding a few months ago? I’m Debbie’s big brother Rick, six-feet tall, muscular. I had a bad feeling about you. So, I wasn’t surprised when Debbie called me yesterday after not speaking to anyone in our family for three months and begged me to fly all the way out to this god-forsaken state of Arizona to rescue her. She didn’t tell you she’d invited me for a visit? That was smart. You would have beaten the shit out of her then and made her tell me not to come.”

After a pause, he said, “Of course I wouldn’t have done that. I know who you are. We talked about going hunting in October when the season opens. Maybe Debbie and I will come this fall, and we can do that.”


“Look, we’ve had some disagreements…”

“Disagreements? You call a broken arm and bruises all over my sister’s body mere disagreements? I don’t think so, buddy.”

“I told her I was sorry. Sometimes, I lose control when I get angry. I’m trying not to…”

“Yeah, right. That’s what they all say. Forget it! I’m taking her back to Wyoming. If you come after her, you’ll be in big trouble because you’ll be hunting out of season. As a matter of fact, there is no hunting season for the type of game you’re after.”

I ended the call and handed the phone back to Debbie. “Can you believe he said he wanted to come up to Wyoming and go hunting with me?”

She managed a weak smile, as she slipped the phone into her purse. “You’re good.”

“So are you, Sis.” I resisted the urge to pat the shoulder of her broken left arm. “Let’s get out of here.”

As I put the car in gear, she fanned her face. “God, I hate Arizona summers. Why did I ever leave Wyoming?”

Learning to Knit, poetry
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

How to knit?
Step One – Go shopping
Buy richly textured yarn
Red boucle is just right.
Create a fabric you love to touch
silky soft, nice to touch for
fashionable on- trend designs.

Step Two – get needles.
Lots of choices.
Do you like them
thick or thin?
Do you want plastic,
Metal, bone or wood?
You might like them circular or straight?
It’s your choice
Do you have a good sense of balance?
You’ll be knitting with two hands,
With two or four needles,
a ball of yarn.

your cat might
help you
stay focused.
keep your attention on your hands.
Candy Apple
red boucle’ tangles
if you get distracted
by your cat’s claws
stuck in your yarn.
keep your mind
on the project for best results
Don’t give up!

Step Three –
is most important lesson.
You’ll visit the frog pond often –
rip it, rip it, rip, rip
slice it, split or tear it
slit, tear or break it.
Oh, my!

Bio: Lynda’s spare poems and thoughtful personal essays are integrated with her Judeo-Christian Worldview. She is a scholar and servant leader.

As professor of fine arts and humanities at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA, she lectured in Art History, Humanities, Literature. She also taught Studio Art courses

Lynda retired from teaching in 2008. She now has five published books. Her newest book is Songs for the Pilgrimage: Stories and Poems, DLD Books, 2021.

In addition to her literary work, Lynda’s award-winning mixed-media fiber artwork is exhibited regularly at juried museum and gallery shows.

When Night Ends, poetry
by Brad Corallo

As light waxes by degrees
dispersing through the sky’s brightening dome
velvet black slowly fades to incandescent blue.
Dawn with finger tips of rose
arrives in all her splendor.

Workers prepare prudently for the day’s toil.
There is a changing of the guard
comprising countless classes of creatures.
Awakening families of flora fluidly face the sun.
All this magic orchestrated by the swiftly moving Earth
harmonious, on her appointed heavenly paths.

And perhaps of greatest significance,
hope, like a bright flame
is kindled in the heart once again,
fulfilling a promise as old as humanity itself!

Part VII. Nature at its Best

Full Worm Moon of March, poetry
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

Moon –
high, heavenly
orbits the March sky
over the course of a lunation,
steps high
tonight’s full moon is small,
smaller than a spot
Edgy moon!
The Worm Moon of March
decidedly elliptical.

Calculated – between Moon and Earth
mystery of Moon’s night path
observant common center of mass
Earth, Moon-
Fiery red!
If the weather is obliging
Jumpy moon beams
size and phase wax and wane,
strutting down the skyway
the firmament.
Come closer!
March is the month of Full Worm Moon!
the ground shifts,
inviting the robins back
wormy casts reappear in the mud

the barycenter
Earth worms await the Full Spring Moon.

“Full Worm Moon of March” was previously published in Star Signs: Lambert, Lynda McKinney. New and Selected Poems, DLD Books, 2019.

The Life Cycle, fiction
by Kate Chamberlin

The soft pink Royal Anne Cherry petals gently rain down on the babe as she sleeps on her blanket. Royal Anne is always in bloom for Mother’s Day. Warm breezes caress the hilltop. The old orchard becomes an ocean of undulating popcorn balls.

The child is anxious for the Fourth of July cherry harvest. She clambers into the cherry tree in a very unroyal manner. She picks the sweetest, reddest, ripest fruit. The bees will become drunk from sipping the fermented juice of the remaining few.

Royal Anne’s leaf-laden branches shade our young lassie and her beau on the sultry summer afternoons. The Royal Anne has watched over many a swain but none as ardent as this one.

She sheds her golden brilliance on the ground as a blanket in anticipation of love’s consummation. Royal Anne’s halo of golden leaves surrounds the newly wedded lovers.

The winter is long. The crimson red Cardinal is grateful for the bits of dried fruit Royal Anne has managed to save for him. As the protective blanket of snow melts, it nourishes the thirsty roots.

The cherry buds swell with new life and burst into bloom for Mother’s Day. The young mother watches as the soft pink Royal Anne Cherry petals gently rain down on the babe as he sleeps on his blanket.

The Promise, poetry
by Brad Corallo

Inspired by Emily’s mom

Cast off the last vestiges of your cocoon,
Let the brilliant colors come to adorn your wings
Allow your self to be borne up on soft spring breezes
Feel the ancient joy deep within you
Rise and soar, unafraid!
For, truly, it is never too late
That is the promise!

The Long Bike Challenge, poetry Second Place
by Leonard Tuchyner

Bright and early Monday morning,
spring is in bloom, birds in full plume.
Peddling my bike over the Blue Ridge,
the mountain foothills welcome me.
Goodbye to flatland travel ease,
as I accept the sloping challenge —
body working the lower slopes —
striving with every pumping stroke,
to reach the single short gentle grade,
where I can regain my will and strength.
All around are sheer cliffs and drop-offs,
as the grinding struggle is resumed.
Suddenly the rise increases,
when I begin to mount the summit
only half a mile above.

Standing on my resisting pedals,
I push with every ounce of umph left,
drenched in sweltering, dripping sweat.
My breath comes in long labored gasps,
until my mountain top is attained.
Dismounted, I walk the gentle crest.
Then, coast down the perilous steep slopes,
hands cramped, breaking all the downward way —
supporting shoulders drained and aching,
until the straight-of-way is reached.
Without curves to pass I go for broke,
speeding for miles before I stop.
Free as the wind I fly down the road.
The last ten miles no sweat at all.

DuneMeisters, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

We leave our footprints in the off-white sand
as we plod to the dunes which swell ahead.
The distance seemed so close but is so far.
I feel the struggle as the rise draws near.
And then the climb begins I push forward
up ridge upon ridge great waves of sand.
We find a level space to take a photo,
a few more steps and I must turn around.

I pick my way back down the grainy slope
while I gasp in the empty, too-thin air.
I sought to claim the summit of these swells
yet age and altitude have brought me low.
The trudge, no shorted in retreat than in advance
and longer with the thrill of conquest gone.
I find a half-sun log to sit upon
while my companions scale the towering waves.

Later we eat our lunch and watch the dunes,
God’s great sandcastle stands beneath the heights
of great mountains decked in blue and white
a sight unique in all these western lands.
To me the beauty is alloyed by failure,
yet beauty still remains in this high place.
This land of sand and mountain stretching out
beneath the wide blue Colorado sky.

If you’d master this land than do it now.
Come young and fit or do not try at all.
This place is not a sidewalk in the sky
it fights each step and then takes back its due.
So pleasant walks are not fit preparation,
for the rigors of the sands of this great land.
The beauty here is stern, demands the price
of struggle from those who would assail the heights.

Stern and splendid heights
reveal the full grand splendor
to the climbing strong.

An Upside-down Abecedarian of Summer, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Note: Before reading the following poem, notice only the first letter of each of the 26 poetic lines: you will find the alphabet in reverse order.

Zinnias bloom and remind me of my grandmother’s garden.
Yellow marigolds stand with perfect posture in porch planters.
X marks the spot for hiding a summer treasure.
Willow guides me along the sidewalk of the shaded side of the street.
Velvet nights bring out the dancing light of fireflies.
Under the summer Moon, listen for a midnight gardener.
Toes that dipped into the cool water leave impressions in the moist sand.
Swim and stroke the water of a blue pool–with sunscreen on your nose.
Raise “Old Glory” into a warm and gentle breeze.
Quiet the cicadas with the closing of a window.
Pickle what needs to be pickled; preserve what needs to be preserved of summer.
Oars of a canoe stay only briefly idle to allow for our listening to Mother Nature.
National Parks welcome vacationers.
Malted milk and other ice cream treats keep us cool.
Lakes with water skiers and boaters are photographed.
Kitchens clos on the hottest days; outdoor grills open.
Journeys far and journeys near bring forth new and relaxing vistas.
Indiana roads take us home to memories and friends.
Herbs–basil, rosemary, sage, and spearmint–add fragrance to my garden.
Gifts of gardening are savoured and shared.
Family gathers around a picnic table or on the front porch.
Elegant geraniums grace my container garden.
Drinks of lemonade and iced mint tea await visitors.
Croquet wickets, posts, mallets, and wooden balls lie ready for players.
Bocce, badminton, and baseball offer more fun for the season.
All is warmly well with our little part of the world: let’s thoroughly enjoy summer.

Through the Screen, poetry
by Ria Meade

Our noses tickle window screen,
captivated by the arrival of September
escorted in on a breeze.
The sun is raising morning’s mercury,
but I’m rooting for a cloudy day.
We deserve a little cool to defray that heat
which seemed to add to covid’s punishment this summer.
My head almost fills small kitchen window.
My cat’s head is unusually small for her bulk,
fits space easily.
Do Thomasina and I share same world view?

I listen to the emptiness which fills my eyes.
Paint the landscape with sounds I hear:
Sycamore trees rustle their dying petals
as winds roil their branches.
A deafening mower offers its apologies
with a tangy scent kicked up by newly mown grass.
Vehicles create unique music:
doors slam, alarms beep, horns engage, tires squeal
as cars speed down our quiet road,
through this neighborhood I’ve tried to capture.

Whisper into silky edge of my feline’s ear,
Are you looking at anything, for something?
We both appreciate bittersweet songs birds sing
signaling the season’s change.
My calico meditatively rubs her crown against window’s mesh.
If noses were beaks, ours would be stuck there with wonder,
wishing we were a part of that world birds will be flying over
beyond this metal frame.

My plump friend reads my mood,
senses my despair for something I’m missing.
Thomasina’s furry body nudges me aside,
takes ownership of the windowsill.
I step behind, placing my chin on her tiny skull,
forgetting mask and sunglasses still dress my face from earlier outing.
Chuckle at what passersby might mistake this window portrait to be:
a shape shifting of a cat to human, or vice versa?
Giggling, I back away, remove covid gear
and return to share screen again, cheek to furry cheek.

Did my brainy cohort devise this sly game?
Maybe innocent, but it tickled my blind funny bone.
All I craved was a snippet of this spectacular September morning
displaying her charm.
I lean my hurting self against her peacefulness.
Thomasina, thank you for making me laugh.
My heart was headed for that sad place
and your gentle shove redirected it towards gratitude!

Graceful Choreography, poetry Honorable Mention
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

The first announcements of shifting seasons
begin to materialize early on August mornings
Under-stated changes happened slowly
when the purple Pokeweed hangs in long clusters
beneath hearty leaves along the well-worn pathway.
Grasses in the meadow display delicate daisy clusters
urgently beckon me to pay attention today
Tread lightly through the grass.
I cast my attention towards the Queen of Summer
Standing in the meadow,
I remain motionless, wide-eyed, surrounded
as the celadon-green stems
display the Queen Ann’s Lace in full bloom.

These graceful ballet dancer’s hover
on the warm August breeze.
Orchestrations in rural fields and along roadsides
They each remember to arrive at this time every year
Nothing can prevent the shifting waves of change
I’ll wait patiently for the blue Chicory to join the dance
In her wisdom, Nature placed them together on a stage
floral dancers on a late-summer stage.
Graceful choreography.
Give them a standing ovation.

“Graceful Choreography” was published as “August Morning:” in The Weekly Avocet, August 2017 and as “Graceful Choreography” in Star Signs: New and Selected Poems, KDP, 2019.

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