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Spring/Summer 2012 Magnets and Ladders

Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities
Spring/Summer 2012

Editorial and Technical Staff

  • Coordinating Editor: Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Fiction: Lisa Busch, Kate Chamberlin, Valerie Moreno, Marilyn Brandt Smith, and Abbie Johnson Taylor
  • Nonfiction: Kate Chamberlin, Valerie Moreno, Nancy Scott, John W. Smith, and Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Poetry: Lisa Busch, Valerie Moreno, Nancy Scott, and Abbie Johnson Taylor
  • Technical Assistants: Jayson Smith and John Weidlich
  • Internet Specialist: Julie Posey

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Submission Guidelines

Disabled writers 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.

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. Announcements of writing contests with deadlines beyond October 1 and April 1 respectively are welcome. Content will include many genres, with limited attention to the disability theme.

Please email all submissions to Paste your submission and bio into the body of your email or attach in Microsoft Word format. Submissions will be acknowledged within two weeks. You will be notified if your piece is selected for publication.

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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 and from other booksellers. It is available in recorded and Braille format from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. 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. We are preparing for a second anthology and would like to have you come aboard. For the conference phone number and PIN, join our mailing list by contacting Abbie Johnson Taylor at

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Editors’ Welcome

Magnets and Ladders is now available in narrated form on a read and return basis from the Perkins library. It is a part of their shared subscription magazine listings, and you will need to be registered with Perkins to be on their list. There will be some lag time for recording the current issue. The Fall/Winter issue is now in circulation. For more information about magazine services, call: 617-972-7240, 1-800-852-3133 or email

We’re happy to present work from twenty-four authors new to the Magnets and Ladders roster along with material from sixteen regular contributors. Poetry is our most popular submission category. Unfortunately we are only able to accept half the poems we receive.

In future issues we plan to feature “first chapters” from published authors with disabilities. If you have a book available for purchase or for reading, please consider sending us a “first chapter” to be featured, 2500-word maximum. In the case of poetry chapbooks not divided into chapters, choose five poems you would like to use to represent your book. All genre are welcome.

We’re also planning examples and writers’ tips on fables and screen plays in upcoming issues. If you have worked in either category and have material or information that would assist writers in learning or expanding their craft, please submit to us at Informational references need not count toward your three submission per issue limit unless they are presented as a complete article under your byline. We will combine information from many sources where possible to explore these forms.

This issue contains stimulating seasonal pieces reaching back to St. Patrick’s Day longings and forward to Labor day concerns. Our poetry section addresses time as a key factor–awaiting a response; reviewing time spent watching for change; or life placed on hold with time, the definer of impatience. Family perspective gives us a little window into familiar forecasts and reluctant recountings of life in the reality lane.

The first section beckons! Read with us now through some thrilling days of…Well…Space? Telephone mystery? Computer carelessness? And a medical nightmare. Oh yeah, you get to laugh a little along the way too.

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Terms and Conditions, fiction, Manny Colver

The clunk of a closing vehicle door drew Jack Troutman’s attention to a shadow quickly crossing his lawn. “Ah, Mr. Troutman!” came a commanding call through the door, half opened without a look through the peephole. The effusive greeting continued like the spray from a water cannon, dripping with everything but the customary identifying information he had every right to expect from the dapper fellow at his doorstep.

“Well, yes, but who…”

“Laurence Brickell,” said the man, his hand shooting out so suddenly Troutman drew back in a flinch, which was all the opening Brickell needed to scurry into the foyer. “Ah, yes. Recognized you right away from your picture.”


“Why, Facebook, of course. And my! My! My!” he added, glancing around with nods of approval. “What a lovely home you’ve got here too, Mr. Troutman. Simply lovely. The combination of hardwood and tile here in the foyer is quite striking.” He pointed down the hall. “May I?”

“Well, actually, no. You see, I’m in a bit of a rush this morning with the…”

But Brickell was already off down the hallway in a fidgety trot full of the short rapid steps one might expect from someone urgently needing a bathroom.

“No, but wait. Just a minute, Mr…”

“Brickell.” came disembodied from somewhere in the great room as Troutman hurried along in bewildered pursuit, reaching the great room only to find that Brickell had already moved on.

“Lovely home,” came echoing from somewhere on the other side of the house. “I doubt It will last a day on the market.”

Troutman stopped as though he’d just hit a wall. “Market? What market? What on earth are you…”

Suddenly Brickell was there again, standing in the doorway across the sprawling great room some distance from where Troutman had stopped. “It’s all right here, Mr. Troutman,” he said as he hefted the bulging leather valise he’d been holding clamped under an arm. He shook it as though expecting a rattle. “It’s all right here,” he said cheerfully. “Perhaps you’d like to fetch your copy so we can sit down together and…”

“My copy of what?”

“Why the terms and conditions, of course.”

“Look, Mr…”


“Yes, Brickell. I don’t know where you’re from or what you’re talking about and I don’t recall inviting you in.”

“Ah, but actually you did, Mr. Troutman.” He withdrew from the bulging valise a ragged stack of papers, which he flapped in the air. “Roman one, section A, subsection four, little a, paragraph three. ‘…upon demand shall provide entry and unrestricted access to all and every…'”

“Now just a damned minute here. Who the hell are you?”

“Brickell,” he chirped and like a bird took off for the stairs, while Troutman tacked through obstacles, which only moments before he’d thought of simply as furniture. “Damn,” he muttered as he slammed a shin against the corner of an end table. Slowed now by a limp, he reached the bottom of the staircase long after Laurence Brickell disappeared from its top. And there at the bottom of the staircase, fists clenched and fuming, Jack Troutman dropped anchor and waited.

“Lovely, lovely home,” came floating down the stairs time and again from various rooms on the second floor mixed now and then with all manner of accompanying sounds: doors opening and closing, windows raised and lowered, louvered doors clattering open then closed and everywhere in between, Brickell on the hardwoods. Then came a puzzling silence. It lingered.

“Mr. Brickell?” Troutman called up the staircase. “Are you all right?”

“Oh, yes. Just fine. Be right with you.” A faint trickling sound crept steadily through the silence to meet its Waterloo somewhere upstairs in the flush of a toilet. Finally, Brickell appeared at the top of the staircase where he paused to fill his lungs with air. “Well. Everything is just perfect. And it certainly was wise of you to include the furniture. Every detail is so nicely coordinated.”

Troutman sighed. “Look, Mr. Brickell. You have the wrong address. Someone down the street perhaps? Maybe the street numbers got transposed somehow. Whatever the reason, I assure you, you’ve got the wrong address. I don’t want to sell my house.”

Brickell frowned. “You didn’t print a copy, did you?”

Another sigh escaped, and “You’ve got the wrong address” came again, this time drawn out in tones gone weary with exasperation.

“But. That’s not a problem, Mr. Troutman. I left a copy up here on your nightstand for you to review.” He took another deep breath, which seemed to recharge him, and soon he had descended the stairs, hurried along the hallway through the foyer and was standing once more at the front door where he turned, lingering, to extend a hand that hung until withdrawn unshaken. “You’ve got the Brickell Team behind you now, Mr. Troutman. We’ll get the sign up first thing tomorrow morning.” And with that he was gone.

Jack rose early the next morning, showered, dressed, breakfasted while watching the business channel and soon was hurdling down the long sloping driveway of 13113 Pinnacle Drive in his BMW, past the stately oaks, out through the hedge, past the mailbox and – “Oh, crap” – a big sign stuck in the ground nearby that read: “FOR SALE by the Brickell Team.”

“Realtors,” he grumbled as he sped toward town and the downtown law offices of Havenseen, Hyde and Hayer where, after taking a seat in Morton Hayer’s plush office, he watched and waited as Morton skimmed grunting through the ragged stack of papers Brickell had left.

“Well,” Morton sighed as he sat back in his chair. “I’m going to need more time with this, Jack, but I’ve got the general idea here.”

“Is it good?”

Morton shrugged. Then after raising an eyebrow he frowned. “Seems you downloaded some sort of program from this website, this…” He leaned forward again turning pages. “Yes, here it is, this uh…Su Casa Mi Casa dot com?”

“Well, yes, uh…couple of days ago I downloaded a program there.”

“And there were terms and conditions related to the purchase and download?”

“Well, yes, there was a page where you…well, you know. Like almost everything out there on the Internet where you’ve got this program to download and you agree to the uh…license agreement or whatever. And this was no different. Little window popping up there with the…well, whatever there was there. I didn’t read any of it, of course. I mean, who does?”

“But you did agree then?”

“Yes,” Jack muttered sheepishly. “I clicked ‘I agree.'”

Morton leaned back in his chair again. “Believe me, Jack, I don’t enjoy telling you this, but you agreed to sell your home with this uh…Brickell team at a price equal to the current county appraisal.”

Jack erupted. “I what!”

“I’m afraid so.”

“County appraisal? Good grief, Morton. County appraisals are half the market value out there.”

“They’ll probably turn right around and flip it,” Morton speculated.

“This can’t be legal,” said Jack and, far less forcefully, added, “Can it?”

Morton shrugged. “We’re dealing with the Internet here, Jack. Brave New World meets Wild Wild West in 1984 if you get my drift there. Take a look at what it did to copyright law over the last decade or so and you have to wonder. Creative destruction’s in the eye of the beholder, Jack. Bricks and mortar crumbling under the weight of online sales. Music industry still staggering from the blows while Hollywood starts to sweat. Then you’ve got the whole issue of privacy – or what’s left of it – thrown in there too. They’ve got a lot of clout, Jack, these Internet giants, political and otherwise. Not to mention the money. They know damned well they’ve got the world at their doorstep, lured in and hooked. The best and the worst of it, right there all tangled together.” He shrugged again. “You tell me where things are headed.”

Then, taking note of Jack’s distress, he brightened, rose from his chair and circled the desk with a hand extended. “Don’t you worry, Jack, give me a day or so with these papers and we’ll get these bastards on the run. This is a skirmish we will win.”

Jack headed home after the meeting only to be slowed, then stopped by several vehicles piled up at a spot on the interstate where a text message of dubious importance had taken flight, taking with it any hope that the sender had remained attentive to his driving. Although the text message, “the frys (sic) were awesome,” safely reached its destination, that brief culinary review proved to be not only the sender’s last words but also a good indication of his last meal on earth.

As Jack sat there in traffic, stuck now, several hundred yards from the smoldering remains of two cars, an SUV and a jackknifed sixteen wheeler, his phone burst into song: “If you want my body and you think I’m…”

“Hello, this is Jack.”

A cheerful “Hi!” came filtering through in a pleasant female voice that paused just long enough for a different voice to interject in lifeless tones “Jack Troutman” before returning with “this is Mary from the Whispering Oaks. I see here on the Internet where you just sold your house. Wow! How exciting! And hey, if you’re considering renting now, we’ve got some really awesome deals out here at Whispering Oaks. Ultra luxury units with marble foyers, granite countertops and…”

“Good grief,” Jack mumbled. He tossed the phone onto the seat beside him, sending Mary, who seemed to know everything but knew nothing at all, into the teeming jungle of endless chatter to be, if ever heard at all, soon forgotten like most of the rest. Eight more such calls set Jack’s phone to singing until finally he came within sight of home.

Home: where the driveway sloped down to the road past the stately oaks, the hedge stood neatly trimmed and a sign slapped askew upon the FOR SALE sign read: SOLD.

“Sold,” Jack said aloud. Yes, he thought, we certainly were.

Bio: Manny Colver was born with a rare eye condition that left him with 10% of normal vision, an extreme sensitivity to light and a view of the world devoid of color. He holds an undergraduate degree in communications and a masters degree in business finance. He is author of an unproduced screenplay, an unpublished novel and a darkly comic novella, also unpublished. He lives with his wife in Florida where he writes and bowls as much as possible.

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Audioscape, flash fiction, Nancy Lynn

What She Heard:

On the phone: “I’m on my way. I’ll be there in about…” Crash. Scream. Brakes & tires squeal.

On the radio: “There was an accident at 4th & Cumberland. Two cars, no survivors. Cell phones were found at the scene.”

In her head: (scolding voice) “It’s your fault. You made the call.”

From her purse: “We’re here, pretty little escape artists in a bottle. We can make your guilt go away forever.”

At the door: Three knocks.

Her own voice: “Who is it?”

From other side of door: “It’s me. I’m here.”

Bio: Nancy Lynn was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Halloween of 1952 and grew up in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She attended Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania where She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She did a little telemarketing over the years, but her main job was as a communications assistant for AT&T in the relay center for the hearing impaired. Her interests include reading, travel, and anything that involves creative self-expression. She has lived in St. Louis, Missouri for the past 10 years. She is an active member and former officer in the Toastmasters organization.

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Chandler’s Curse, fiction, John Wesley Smith

Fifteen minutes ago I discovered the mutilated body of Dr. James Vance sprawled out in our tropical flower garden. I believe he’d been stabbed multiple times with the butcher knife reported missing by the cook this morning. Such a primitive, but deadly weapon in this age of starships.

Every member of my staff is now dead. Dr. Vance was my wife’s personal psychiatrist. He’s also the last to be murdered within the past six hours. Only my wife and i remain, and my efforts to locate her have been futile. A monster is on the loose–one against which I am defenseless.

Communications at our estate have been sabotaged. The planetary police have been alerted, thanks to our backup security alarm system, but they won’t arrive for hours. By then it will be too late.

My time is short, so I’m making this recording to help the authorities understand what has happened here today. Please, whoever finds this, pass this on to my son Donald who’s serving as ambassador on Selstess Four. He must be warned.

When the police see the numerous plaques and awards on the wall behind me in my study, they’ll discover who I really am. Soon everyone will know the real fate of the once great Captain Peter Thomas Chandler.

Five years ago I retired early from the Interplanetary Space Fleet and assumed a false identity. The cover story was that my wife and I were killed in a shuttle craft accident on our way to a farewell celebration. Instead, we came to this isolated spot on Cumron Three, my wife’s home planet. We believed a simpler life would provide the healing we both needed.

But I can no longer hide from the shameful, sinister truth.

My tale begins thirty-five years ago and is one of heroism and youthful indiscretion. I didn’t look before I leaped. But even now I don’t see how I could have.

I was a young lieutenant serving as Communications Officer under Captain William Flint on the first class freighter, the Melissa Ediger. We were about to pick up a load of farm produce from Cumron Three for delivery to the neighboring system as part of a famine relief effort when fleet HQ informed us we’d also be picking up Ambassador Clinton Maxwell.

The matter was urgent, and ours was the closest ship in that sector. Fleet HQ informed the captain of reports alleging that Maxwell had been behaving irrationally and was no longer fit for service.

Our crew was rounded up for the usual pre-mission meeting in cargo bay two. The ambassador had just come aboard. As we stood at attention in a line along one wall in our dull gray work uniforms, Captain Flint bounded in.

“At ease men.” He extended a hand to the towering, silver haired man wearing the decorated uniform of an ISF diplomat. “Ambassador Maxwell I presume. Welcome to the Melissa Ediger. I’m Captain William Flint. Forgive my tardiness, sir. Last minute instructions concerning our mission required my attention.”

“We meet at last, Captain. I’m delighted.” The ambassador’s broad smile gleamed. Gesturing to the young woman at his side, he continued. “Allow me to present my daughter Lucinda, the flower of my life. She’s a credit to her sex and a constant reminder to me of her dear departed mother.” His gaze bore down on Captain Flint. “My Lucinda deserves only the best, Captain, and she will have it.”

Lucinda reached out a slender white hand and spoke softly, as if to diffuse her father’s sternness. “Pleased to meet you, Captain Flint.”

“Charmed, I’m sure.” The captain smiled.

More than charmed, I was stunned. Captivated, in fact. Before me stood a goddess. The dull tans and browns of the cargo bay fell away before me and all I could see was Lucinda.

She looked so simple and wholesome in the plain blue dress common to the women on Cumron Three. There was nothing fancy about her brown, shoulder length hair. But what was it about those mystical blue eyes? They were glowing sapphires which rendered me helpless.

But it dawned on me that something was wrong. What was this girl doing there? Had she been assigned an official capacity we hadn’t been told about?

“Captain Flint,” boomed Ambassador Maxwell. “We’re here to participate in a wedding. My daughter Lucinda is getting married this very day on your ship.”

The crew and I exchanged glances. Who could the groom be? Only Maxwell and his daughter had come aboard.

Lucinda shrank back against the wall, looking pale and small.

“My crew has been keeping secrets,” said the captain. “Who’s the lucky man?”

“Why, you are, Captain,” said Maxwell as he extended his beefy right hand.

The captain chuckled. “Ambassador Maxwell, there’s been a mistake. I have a wife and children back on Earth.”

“You don’t recognize me, do you, Captain?” He leered at the captain and spoke slowly. “I am God. I make the rules, and I say you’re marrying Lucinda within the hour.”

I stiffened with fear. What was this guy trying to pull? I glanced at Lucinda. She cowered with pale hands clasped over her heart.

Captain Flint wore his poker face, learned from years of trading negotiations. “Ambassador Maxwell, with all due respect, this is my ship, and ISF protocol says you’ll follow my rules while aboard.” Advancing toward the ambassador, he declared, “I’ve just received orders to transport you to the hospital ship Clara Barton before we’ve completed our relief mission.”

Maxwell drew himself up to his full height, clinching his fists at his sides. “No! The ISF be damned!” He brought up his right hand to reveal a small, black rectangular object. “Do you see this detonator, Captain? It was lovingly given to me by one of my loyal subjects as a reward for helping his tribe win their ten year civil war.”

Did I catch a flash of anger on the captain’s face?

My stomach turned to ice and I fought the urge to collapse. One of my fellow crewmen whimpered.

Maxwell gently caressed the detinator in his palm. “Your security officer foolishly believed me when I told him this was a recording device for diplomatic missions. I’m wired with enough explosives to destroy your pitiful vessel, Captain. Refuse to marry Lucinda, and I’ll do just that.”

I shuddered. The man to my left stifled a nervous cough. Lucinda buried her face in her hands and silently wept.

Somehow Captain Flint remained calm. “Why would you kill us all, including yourself and your daughter?”

Maxwell stared down at him. “You poor, lowly mortal. God is spirit and doesn’t fear death. The wedding will take place in ten minutes.”

Captain Flint stood his ground. “But it’s impossible for me to be the groom, Ambassador. There are ten other men here to choose from, most of whom aren’t married or spoken for.”

The ambassador tugged at his gray mustache with his free hand. “Oh, but it has to be you, Captain Flint. It’s the will of God.”

The wheels in my head began turning. Since the crew and I expected this meeting to be a routine formality, none of us was armed. We couldn’t disable or kill Maxwell without him squeezing the detonator.

I knew I had to do something fast to get us out of this spot and save the ship. I wanted to do right by Captain Flint. He was a good man. I glanced once more at Lucinda, and instantly inspiration overtook me.

I motioned to First Officer Piper. He stepped out of line and came my way, unnoticed by the bickering men. His eyes darted between me and the captain as he leaned in to hear me.

“Mr. Piper,” I whispered, “is there anything in the ISF rules that would keep me from stepping in to marry this girl and get the captain off the hook?”

Piper let out a tiny squeak as his mouth fell open. “You, Chandler? Are you crazy?”

“No, but obviously the ambassador is. Look, I’ll make a go of it with the girl,” I said, not wishing to show my true feelings for her. “After all, sir, couples in arranged marriages get to know and love each other over time. Besides, if there aren’t any rules, couldn’t you just make up something?”

He shrugged his thin shoulders and sighed. “Well, all right. I can’t think of a better plan.” He flipped a small electronic manual out of his shirt pocket and began punching buttons as he tiptoed back into line.

Suddenly Piper snapped his fingers and raced toward the figures in the middle of the room, drawing glares from both men.

“This had better be good, Piper,” said Captain Flint.

“Yes, sir!” With a bounce in his step he drew closer to the captain. “Lieutenant Chandler has come up with a solution. According to ISF rules of protocol, we can make it work, sir, if the ambassador is willing.”

Maxwell lowered the detonator. “Why, of course. After all, God is gracious. You have seven minutes.”

Piper infused his high pitched, staccato delivery with a tone of command. “Section twelve, chapter four, paragraph two, clause three of the Duties of Officers reads as follows.”

What happened next was sheer genius. For two minutes he read relevant sounding subsections from the ISF manual, breathing life into rules about extenuating circumstances during missions, indisposed officers, and chain of command. Then without missing a beat, he transitioned into an animated recitation of navigational charts and cargo manifests. He spouted off engine specifications as if they were holy writ. Piper was delivering the biggest crock I’d ever heard him give.

Maxwell became dazed. How long could Piper stall for time before he came to? Surely our time was up. I feared Maxwell would fly into a rage and call his bluff.

But Piper kept going. He cheerfully began talking about me, reciting my achievements at the ISF academy. Then he embellished that with my recent feats as a young lieutenant. He laid it on thick, too. It was embarrassing. Even I didn’t know I was such a great guy.

When Piper finished it was quiet as a tomb, save for the steady thrum of the ship’s engines. I felt a chill down my back. What would Maxwell do now?

The Ambassador jerked to attention. While still gripping the detonator, he beckoned Lucinda to come closer. Then he put his arm around her.

For a minute or two he and the captain talked to one another like the statesmen they were. I was afraid to take a breath, not knowing what this insane man might do next. Then to my utter surprise, Maxwell relented.

“A loving god must permit his subjects happiness if their intentions are not evil,” he said as he moved away from both Lucinda and Captain Flint.

The captain called me over. Within minutes he conducted an abbreviated wedding ceremony. No one moved or spoke a word for fear of upsetting the ambassador. None of us could forget he still held the detonator.

When Captain Flint dismissed everyone, I put my arm around Lucinda’s waist, and we walked away to ringing applause. Were we really married? Had I saved the ship after all?

I was shaking and dazed as somehow I guided my new bride to my dingy cramped quarters.

We heard Maxwell bellowing, muffled by the ship’s walls. Security finally got it right when they apprehended him.

His protests were much like the disarming screams of the large alien cat-like creature I just heard outside.

On the ship all was quiet for a moment. Then Lucinda broke the silence.

“Lieutenant Chandler—” she whispered.

“Call me Peter,” I said. I reached to pull her to me. I wanted to be manly and give her comfort.

She backed away shaking her head. Her eyes glistened with tears. “All right, Peter, but this wedding…It’s all so sudden. Father’s been acting strange for months, but I never dreamed he’d do anything like this. I can’t believe this is happening.” She sobbed, collapsing into the chair at my desk.

“Somehow we’ll make the best of it, Lucinda.” I eased down onto my bunk next to the desk and put my hand on her arm. She tensed, but to my relief didn’t pull away.

Lucinda brushed her hair aside with her free hand and lifted her face to meet my gaze.. “It was brave of you to volunteer the way you did, lieutenant—I mean Peter. And awfully sweet, too.”

I shrugged. “Somebody besides the captain had to do something.” I ducked my head for a second. “I have to admit, when the idea of marrying you first occurred to me—Well, I couldn’t help myself. I’d do anything for you.”

She blushed and tried to hide a smile.

I backed away from her. “Look, we can have the marriage annulled when my mission here is over—if you like. I mean, I wish you wouldn’t, but…”

Lucinda put a cool hand on my cheek. “No, Peter, that wouldn’t be right. Besides, Father’s sure to lose his position, and there’s nowhere else for me to go.” She choked back a sob.

“Well, all right then, if you say so, Mrs. Chandler—”

She giggled. “Oh, please, Peter, call me Lucinda.” She moved over next to me on the bunk. Then she threw her arms around me. For the longest time we sat there and cried together.

Those hours are still so real to me, it’s as if I hear Lucinda crying now.

The next day the ship rendezvoused with the Clara Barton to dispose of the troubled ambassador. Soon we met up with the MaryAnn Somers by special arrangement so Lucinda and I could spend our honeymoon on Forbus Twelve.

It wasn’t long afterward that I received a commendation and promotion. Thus began the long storied career everyone knows about. But today the secret of Chandler’s curse is finally out.

I’ve loved Lucinda with all my heart until this very day. I’m enslaved to her and won’t give her up. Never mind that she inherited her father’s insanity. Oh, yes, we’ve tried the best medical care money can buy. But she’s completely lost her mind.

I can’t tell you how much this breaks my heart. Many times I find myself gazing longingly into those sapphire eyes that still captivate me, and I wish for the return of the goddess I first fell in love with so long ago.

Years ago on the Melissa Ediger love spurred me to duty. Now my duty is to love.

I hear Lucinda’s mournful weeping. She’s very near me now. It’s not my imagination. She needs me.

As I look up, I see a bloody handprint on the door frame. The monster has arrived as I expected.

Lucinda, my dearest. My goddess. I beg of you, please put down the–Aaargh…

Bio: John Wesley Smith is a blind writer from central Missouri. Most of his writing is done on his blog site at .

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I Want to Change “Women” to “Ladies,” nonfiction, Barbara Mattson

The Americans with Disabilities Act is wonderful. In most any public building, I can get on an elevator, punch the button of the floor I want, and get off at the right place. Then, by reading the Brailled and raised print numbers, I can also find the right room.

When the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind renovated Walker Hall, print-braille signs were added, and I felt like I could find any room as long as someone gave me a number. But when I was trying to get to a meeting one morning, I had different directions from two people. Their directions sent me on an exploratory route that lead to someone having to guide me to the desired location.

But that wasn’t the end of my adventures. After the meeting, having discovered there was a restroom on the second floor, I decided to investigate. I’d been in the one on the first floor, so breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the floor plan was the same. There was one door to the left which I presumed was the men’s room, and on the door straight ahead, I felt the “m-e-n” at the end of “women.” I thought, “Ah, just like downstairs,” and went in.

The first thing I noticed was how empty the room seemed. It was around noon when I thought other women would surely be there. I passed the sinks, but then came across some other things. In the dark of a missing overhead light, I presumed they were more sinks. However, I also concluded they might be urinals. I thought nothing of it, though, since I’d been in new girls’ dorm bathrooms on campus that had originally been designated as boys’.

Presently, from my seated position, I heard the door open, and instead of the hollow sound of high heels, I heard some dull thumps. I thought, “She must have some boots like I have on.” Instead of going to a stall, the person stopped. Then I heard running water that I was 95% sure was not coming from a faucet, and that’s when I wanted to make a quick exit.

I thought about walking nonchalantly out of the stall, passing the intruder, washing my hands, and leaving. After all, this is what happens in unisex bathrooms all the time. But I didn’t want the man to think he’d walked into the wrong bathroom. Besides, how could I convince him that I couldn’t see his privates?

So I remained seated, glad that if I were going to pee in my pants, or be scared s—less, I was in the right place. If the man saw my boots, he probably had no idea that he was seeing the shoes of a woman.

As the urine kept streaming, I prayed that the man wouldn’t say anything that would require a response from me. (Blind people are more likely to initiate talk through walls.) As the seconds seemed to stretch for hours and the intruder still didn’t speak, I decided that if he did, I’d pretend to be deaf. After all, there were plenty of deaf people on campus.

When the man with the giant bladder finally left, I got up, pulled up my pants, flushed the toilet, opened the stall door, and walked to the sinks. I paused a moment, then turned to the door and slipped my sweaty hand under the handle, pulled the door open with the back of my hand, and walked out flashing the biggest smile of relief and amusement I’d had in a long time. And that, my reader, is why I want to change the sign “women” to “ladies.” Let’s get the “men” out of the “women’s” room.

Bio: Barbara Mattson graduated from the SC School for the Blind in 1967. At Spartanburg Methodist College and Columbia College, her poetry was published in the schools’ literary magazines. She also contributed to the book Women, Their Names, & The Stories They Tell by Elizabeth P. Waugaman, Ph.D. Most of her writing has been published in periodicals such as Dialogue Magazine for the Blind.

Barbara has served as editor of a tape club’s periodical and currently edits the Diabetics in Action newsletter.

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Not the Same old Saturday, fiction, Roger Smith

The long Saturday was finally over. Who in his right mind works six days a week anyway? It was just after midnight and I was close to calling it a day, but I needed a little something to unwind for a bit before going to bed. I decided to check into the Saturday night phone conference that I attended when I could spare the time.

This teleconference was not likely to solve any of the world’s problems, nor would it ever be written up in a modern history book. It was just a small group of friends who enjoyed spending late Saturday nights together via the phone, either venting about something that might have gone wrong during the previous week, or simply chewing the rag about current events in each other’s lives. I walked to the fridge and snagged a wine cooler before checking in. Hopefully that would help me sleep better after the conversation with my little phone family was over. We knew each other so well, although most of us would never meet face to face.

I punched in the familiar number and code almost without even thinking about it. There were some strange clicks and beeps, much like those we use to hear during a long distance call, but I thought nothing of it. It was most likely just something up in cyberspace. Boy, little did I know! Suddenly, I was in. I knew some of them would already be there because I was running a bit late, and sure enough, There was Tom, the one guy other than myself who could usually be counted on to be around.

I can’t remember how long it took before it registered that something was definitely wrong here. It seemed like forever, but looking back, I’m sure the whole scene must have played out over just a few minutes. What hit me first was that Tom was yelling, and that just didn’t happen. Then I realized there were at least two of them on the line, and neither of them was Tom. What was going on here, and what were these strange guys talking about?

“Look guys,” the dude who was doing most of the yelling and seemed to be the leader was saying, “if we’re pulling this off tomorrow, we’ve got to get everything right tonight. If we don’t, we’ll sure as hell mess up, and we don’t want that.”

“I know,” said another guy. “you’re right. We’ve all got to know what the others are doing when.”

I was in shock. What had happened here? Had I punched in the wrong code and accidentally gotten into something I didn’t want to be into? I didn’t think so. That code was automatic to me. I was about to hang up and start again, but the next words I heard kept me from doing that.

“I think we have this all planned out,” the leader continued somewhat more relaxed. “We know he’s working tomorrow night and he’ll walk home very late and he has to go through that alley that’s always dark. No telling when he will pull that night shift again. It might be a month or longer! If we want to make this money and not get caught, we’ve got to do it tomorrow night. Now, are we all still in?”

There was general silence on the line and apparently the leader took that for a yes on all counts. I wanted to mute so nothing, including my cat, could be heard in the background. But muting caused a beep on the line and I didn’t want to do that. When I had been clicked in to them, they had been so loud that I honestly didn’t think they knew I was there. Suddenly, I remembered I had a mute button on my phone. I’d never used it, but now I did, and was glad it was there.

“I think we all know what we’re supposed to be doing,” said the leader, “but just let me go over it once more. Don’t want nothing going south.
Now we’ll get in that alley and be there waiting for him when he gets there. But not long before. We don’t want some idiot to pass by and wonder what we’re up to. I’ll take him down and just before I do, Jack will use the stun gun on the dog. Gonna have to be real careful and get that done, too. That’s a big old dog and he might do us all in if we don’t get him first. The rest of you are mostly just there to watch and see if anybody’s coming so you can warn us if we need to back out at the last minute.” Now, does anyone have any questions?”

All of them apparently had some questions because they started talking at once. Realizing what they were doing, there was silence on the line before one of them, I assume the one called Jack, started to speak.

“I’m not supposed to kill the dog, am I?”

“Nah,” the leader replied, “and I don’t have any reason to kill the blind dude either if I can get him down and he’ll just lay there like a dead man. If either one of us has to though, then we just do it. Know what I mean?”

“You know how much money we’ll get out of this one?” Someone else wanted to know.

“Don’t know,” the leader snorted. “But I know he always carries a ton of cash with him, and a bunch of credit cards. We’ll go on a shopping spree while he’s waking up wondering where in hell he’s at. That gps is supposed to be worth over a grand.”

“Yeah and that iPhone he carries is worth a little bundle too,” said one of the other thugs.”

“What’s he doing with an iPhone anyway?” Another one smirked.

“Maybe the dog makes the calls,” yet another dude chimed in. “You know, licks around on the touch screen or something.”

Had I gotten myself into another version of “Sorry, Wrong Number?” It wasn’t exactly the same because I certainly wasn’t the victim. But who was the poor soul who was about to be? Would there actually be a victim? Was this all just some kind of sick prank? Somehow I didn’t think so.

“Okay, you guys, let’s cut the crap and get back to the real point here.” The leader growled. “Now I think he’ll get there just where we want him at somewhere around 3:15. That’s give or take a few minutes either way. What if we plan to be in place right about the top of the hour, just waiting for him. I believe that’ll just about do it.”

“Can we sell the dog too?” One of them asked.

“Nope, don’t think so,” the leader replied. “He’s probably got some kind of an id chip or something like that. Besides, if we took that dog and left the blind dude, now I bet that dog would be mighty pissed off. Don’t think we want that.”

“What if the dog wakes up before the blind dude and runs off?” Jack (at least I think it was Jack) wondered. “How will he know where he’s at?”

“Probably won’t,” The leader admitted. “And that’s our problem why?

At this point I think I was more furious than frightened. Obviously a blind gentleman and his guide dog had a major surprise in store, and soon. I honestly don’t know what else was said. I was just sitting there thinking with my blood boiling over, and the next thing I actually heard was some clicks on the line.

“So how did that new popcorn popper work out?”

My god. That was Ann. So much for the thought of me having punched in the wrong code. I’d been clicked back into the conference I thought I’d joined in the first place.

Once again I was stunned. I heard bits and pieces of their conversation, but it wasn’t registering in my mind. I couldn’t force myself to talk to my friends. They surely wouldn’t believe me if I told them what I had just heard. My phone was still muted, and apparently since no one had said anything, they hadn’t heard the beeps that would indicate another person had joined. That was just as well. I would talk to them later when I could make more sense out of all of this, if that ever happened. I hung up and just sat there with my wine cooler in one hand while I petted my cat with the other. I wished I could just relax and purr like she was doing, but I didn’t feel much like purring at the moment.

I kept trying to force my mind to think about what, if anything, I could or should do. But all I could think about was how this had happened to me. Was some superpower attempting to teach me a lesson about walking around in dark alleys late at night? Were they trying to tell me to get off of my fat lazy ass and do something helpful and constructive? I simply didn’t know. Eventually I quit feeling sorry for myself and made at least a feeble attempt at trying to determine what options I had. In the end, I discovered there weren’t many.

I didn’t know which police to call; which alley was to be the scene of the crime; which blind man was working late; which city the conference originated in. How could they track a conference I couldn’t identify? I had tried calling back hoping to get logged back into the wrong conference again, but it didn’t happen.

I would probably never hear about the whole ordeal on the news, but if I did, would I come forward? Probably not. After all, who would ever be likely to believe my story?

I finished the wine cooler, fed the cat, and went up to bed. My dreams were filled with dark alleys, strange men, and barking dogs. I surfed the net and watched local TV, looking for a follow-up story, but never found one. These guys all spoke English fluently; maybe it didn’t even happen in this country? Canada isn’t far away. I’ll never know.

Bio: Roger Smith taught blind and multi-handicapped children in Texas and Kentucky. He tunes pianos and breeds snakes. He marketed screen-reader software for the visually impaired and developed a portable speech synthesizer. His publication credits include an article regarding vocational choices in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness.

In addition to his family and hundred-year-old-home in Kentucky, he loves music, good food, sports, and Facebook.

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Three Weeks to Live, nonfiction, Ernest A. Jones

The doctor looked grave as he invited me to sit down. For several minutes he shuffled through the papers which lay strewn over the top of his desk. I sat there waiting for him to speak again. It was a cool day and it felt good just to sit in his warm office. I had no thought of trouble; this chest pain was but a passing thing I had to put up with. It could not be serious.

Finally the good doctor looked up and said, “Ernie, I am sorry.”

I grew a little apprehensive; what was he sorry for? But I sat there, refusing to believe there was anything seriously wrong with me. I had been seeing this doctor for several years. I first met him when I was an orderly working at the local hospital and came to really respect this kind doctor. He was not known for jumping to conclusions and now looking at his face I saw how hard this news was for him.

“Ernie, you have about three weeks to live.”

Suddenly I seemed all alone. The room, the doctor, everything had disappeared as the room closed in around me. I shook my head to clear my jumbled thoughts and slowly looked into the doctor’s eyes. Surely he was teasing me but one look told me he was serious.

“What do you mean?” I asked, still not believing what I had heard.

“It looks like there is a massive growth spreading through and around your lungs. You can’t have any more then three weeks at the most; I am sorry.”

From the time I left his office until I reached home remains a blur.

I was in good health–never smoked, never drank any alcohol, and I was not over-weight. I exercised regularly and ate a healthy diet. At age 27, married with two small sons, I was too young to die.

At home I told my wife what the doctor said and we held each other, trying to gather strength. “I am going for a long walk,” I told her and pulled away. “I have to think.”

It had been five or maybe six weeks since I first felt the chest pain. It hurt most of the time but did not keep me from working or most other activities. I had ignored it for a couple weeks, thinking it would go away but when it didn’t leave I called my doctor. Following his instructions I went to the county health department and had a chest x-ray taken, Then I waited to hear the results. Weeks went by and at last, nearly a month later my doctor had the results and had called me immediately.

I walked rapidly, thinking of how long it had taken to get the results. I was frustrated, scared and angry at the same time. I was angry it had taken the health department four weeks to get the results to my doctor; angry at what life had thrown at me.

“Not me,” I cried out loud. I rushed up the distant hill, not really caring that the chest pain was increasing. Then I started coughing as my breath came more rapidly and I was forced to slow my pace. Finally, turning around, I started home. The doctor’s verdict was all wrong; it was a big mistake. There was nothing wrong with me; I would be fine.

So I decided I would ignore the pain. If I refused to believe what the doctor told me maybe I could fight off whatever it was that was wrong with me. “I will not die now,” I almost yelled out.

The next day I got up at my regular time. “Surely you are not going to work,” my wife had remonstrated with me.

“Yes I am. There is nothing wrong with me, nothing at all,” I said almost angrily.

At work I didn’t tell anyone about the diagnosis; I just continued on as before. After all, if there was nothing wrong, why bother my co-workers with my sad story? Day followed day and still I did not feel any worse.

But at work on the fourth day Steve, one of my co-workers asked, “Ernie, what is the matter?”

“What do you mean?”

“You are so quiet. You look like you have the care of the world on your shoulders. Usually when I tease you I get some remark back but nothing I say seems to affect you. Have I done or said something wrong?”

For a moment I wondered if I should tell him; he was a friend but…I looked away, hoping Steve would return to his work but he stayed by my side and I could tell my silence was only causing him more fear.

“Ah come on, Ernie, what is it? You are not yourself. Aren’t we friends? What have I done? Whatever it is I am sorry.”

Turning to face him I said, “Steve, you have not said or done anything wrong. I am sorry I made you think this but you see,” and here I had to pause a moment. Here was a co-worker who had always been a friend. He loved to tease but I knew his teasing was just Steve, still how could I tell him what was bothering me?

Looking around, I saw that we were alone. The noise of machines running would hide my voice so I turned to him. “Steve,” I said quietly, not wanting others to hear me, “last week I was told I had less than three weeks to live.”

“What?” Shock showed on his usually smiling face. Finally he said, “Surely you are teasing me but if you are not teasing then why are you here? Why spend this time at work?”

“I don’t feel any worse here so why not work?” I asked him. “What else would I do? I have nothing contagious.”

Steve did not answer for some time as he turned away to his work. Later he only said, “Ernie, I could never do it, may God bless you.”

Often over the next few days I would glance up to see Steve looking at me. In his friendship I sense his concern and worry and his teasing stopped. I was also sure that Steve had kept my secret for no one else acted any differently towards me.

About a week later I called my brother who was a family physician across the state from where I lived. It was time to put denial behind me and ask him some questions. He listened as I told him the news.

“Come over here and let us check you,” he said. “Bring your x-rays with you.”

Two days later, with the x-rays, I drove the 300 miles to Clarence’s house. After the normal greetings he asked to see the x-rays. He did not say anything to me about them at that time but left immediately for his hospital office, returning in one hour. “Ernie, you are to see a chest doctor in Spokane tomorrow; I have already made the appointment. Bring the results back to me.”

I started to argue but I knew I had no choice. I guess I really wanted to know for better or for worse. Even the worse would be better than the unknown that had lived in me for almost two weeks.

“Here are the x-rays,” the doctor said. “Take these to your brother.”

I gave my brother the new x-rays and the doctor’s written report.

“You are to come to the hospital tomorrow for surgery,” my brother said.

“What for?” Everything was moving so fast, too fast and I felt I had no control to slow it down. But looking into my brother’s eyes I knew I had to submit to his orders.

“We want to go down under your collar bone and remove some of the lymph nodes; this way we will know for sure what is wrong. We will have those lymph nodes sent to the lab and know exactly what the problem is. There is no other way to know for sure.”

Early the next morning I lay on the hard table in the cold operating room. I was awake, for this surgery would be done under a local anesthesia. I felt a little prick but then the Novocain did its work and from there on I felt no pain. My face was shielded so I could not see anything or anyone, but I heard the talk, heard the sound of instruments clinking together in the tray. Occasionally I felt some pressure on my chest but no pain. Frequently a nurse would ask me if I was okay, and I always answered that I was fine but in truth I was scared.

Years later, while working as a charge nurse in a small rural hospital, another specialist asked me about the scar.

“Oh,” this specialist said, “today this surgery is always done under a general anesthesia. Had you moved at all, serious damage could have occurred. But at the time of the surgery my only choice was to trust my doctors, one being my brother who I knew loved me.

The surgery didn’t take long, maybe about fifteen minutes, yet it was like a lifetime for me. But at last it was over and I was taken back to my room, where I was to stay until the next morning so the nurses could keep watch over me to be sure there was no bleeding or other adverse problems. With help from some more medicine I slept most of the remainder of that morning but the afternoon dragged by slowly.

“Ernie,” my brother said the next morning, “you don’t have sarcoma, no cancer; it is sarcoidosis instead.”

“What is sarcoidosis?” I asked.

“That is inflammation of the lymph nodes in your chest cavity. Your lungs are clear. You will have to take a strong medicine, Prednisone, for a couple weeks but you will soon be completely well.”

This was the best news I had heard for the past 2 weeks and I felt my body relax. Life was wonderful again.

After only 4 days off from work I walked into the office. Several of my co-workers greeted me, saying how glad they were to see me back. But Steve came over and quietly asked, “Well, how are you? You look good.”

I thought about telling him a long sad story but I couldn’t. “I am fine. Just fine.” While we worked, I told him the results. He grinned broadly as I finished.

“Wonderful! I knew the first diagnosis had to be wrong; it just had to be wrong.” He quickly turned his face away.

Then regaining his composure he said, “Sure good to see you. Now maybe you can do some work and not loaf all the time. You were really getting lazy,” and he grinned at me. We both laughed as we set to work.

True to the new diagnosis I was free of any chest pain in just a couple weeks; nor has this problem ever returned. I don’t know why I had been sick, nor do I know why it took so long to get the right report. But I am assured that no matter what is thrown at me my LORD is with me, for he holds my future in his hands; he knows what is best for me.

Bio: Ernest Jones, Sr. worked as a registered nurse until failing eyesight forced his early retirement. He has one published book, and his monthly newspaper column, Different Views, offers encouragement to other blind people. Ernie’s monthly church newsletter column delights the young. Hobbies include gardening, walking with his guide dog, and writing. E-mail him at:

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Editors’ Note: The following two poems appear in Abbie’s new poetry collection. See her bio for purchasing and other availability. They also appeared in “Wordgathering,” September 2010.

While Walking Home, Abbie Johnson Taylor

As my long white cane rolls from side to side in front of me,
I feel the sun, the gentle breezes that caress my face.
I should hurry, but what’s the rush?
The sun shines in a cloudless sky.
The air is warm, permeated with the scent of roses.
He’s been home alone for three hours.
Fifteen minutes more won’t matter, will it?

When I get home, I’ll take him outside in his wheelchair
so he can enjoy the late afternoon sun,
flop into my armchair in the living room with my feet up,
kick off my shoes, drink Dr. Pepper
while downloading e-mail onto my Victor Stream.
Its synthetic voice will read to me,
as I fold and put away laundry, prepare dinner.
We’ll eat together, content,
as another day draws to a close.

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Awaiting The Return of the Better Half, Abbie Johnson Taylor

The phone rings.
With his right hand, the only one that works,
he presses the talk button on the cordless unit,
slowly lifts it to his ear, says, “Hello.”
“Hi, honey,” I say.
“I’ll be home in fifteen minutes.”
He places the phone next to him on the bed,
presses the talk button a second time to disconnect the call.

A container filled with urine balances between his legs.
He listens to his recorded book, anticipates my return.

Finally, the kitchen door opens, closes.
He hears me moving around,
wonders why I don’t come to him.
He picks up the phone, dials my cell.
“I’m here,” I tell him.
“I’m putting my things away.
I’ll be right there.”

When I enter the room with a cheerful greeting, we embrace.
He tries unsuccessfully to kiss me while laughing.
Then, offering the urinal, he says,
“I’ve got something for you.”

Bio: Abbie Johnson Taylor’s novel, We Shall Overcome, was published in July 2007 by iUniverse. Her collection of poems, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, also published by iUniverse, was released in December 2011. Her fiction has appeared in “Emerging Voices” and “Behind Our Eyes,” her poetry in Distant Horizons and Serendipity Poets Journal, and her creative nonfiction in Christmas in the Country and SageScript. She is visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, with her totally blind husband Bill who is partially paralyzed as a result of two strokes. Please visit her Web site at . Eligible subscribers can read her books at

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Blind? Deaf?, Leonard Tuchyner

He sits in a world of black light.
His fingers skip over laptop keys.
White cane besides waits patiently.
English lit class over, it’s time to go.
He listens for her dancing voice,
searches for her secret fragrance,
and he knows that she is near.
He strains to hear her fairy footsteps.
Will she guide him, or will he walk alone
with white cane tapping a blind man’s jig?
And if she does, will the wind blow her soft hair
to touch and caress his cheek in ways she could not know?
“I’m going to the library.
Are you going my way?”
Bells of Heaven ring for him.
No memory of saying yes or no.
She takes his hand to guide him.
“So how are you spending the weekend, Beth?”
“I’m going to be all alone.”
“It hasn’t worked out with this what’s-his-name?”
“No, can’t seem to find a guy who delights in me.
You wouldn’t know someone who might?
I don’t know what’s wrong with me”
He knows but does not say.
She is blind not to see the guy beside her.
Or is it he that is deaf to what she means?
“Well, we’re here,” she says.
And he taps away.

Bio: Leonard Tuchyner has had Stargardt’s disease which was first noticed in his teenaged years. He is now seventy-one. He reads through the media of Braille, recordings, and electronic voices produced by Open Books and Zoom Text. He lives with his wife of thirty-two years and their two dogs. He is active in the local writing community, which includes attending a poetry critique group, a broad-genre critique group, and he facilitates a Writing for Healing and Growth group at the Charlottesville Senior Center. His hobbies include Tai chi, and gardening. Leonard is semi-retired and still has a small counseling practice.

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In Dreams, Nancy Lynn

In dreams
I picture you.
No form or shape appears.
I don’t know just who you are yet.
Show me.

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It (DOB 03/16/1974), Christine Faltz Grassman

It entered the world innocent, weak, and starkly white,
With not the slightest intention of becoming a blight:
It nursed, and It cried; crawled, walked, got on skis,
The pale monster which would one day bring me to my knees.

Much, much later on, I made an awful mistake,
One little trip, on a whim, I decided to take,
Placed me within reach of this wretched manifestation,
Of my heart’s desire and my soul’s fascination �”
The timing was tempting for this trick of Love’s magic,
Heedless of the warning signs, defying the tragic,
I allowed It to conquer, to swallow me whole,
Every entrail, every cell was devoured by the troll.
Something new and exciting It had not encountered before,
Another life experience to add to Its store,
It feasted, It gorged, It came back for more,
It threw me the keys and unlocked the door.
It piled on promises, It held out till the end,
It plied me with hope and the words of a friend,
Made me drunk on Its voice, Its body and mind,
So tightly coiled, but It helped me unwind:
It kissed me deeply; It held me tightly;
It unclogged my fears and hope sparkled brightly;
The miseries of distance, love’s deepest conviction,
The story felt true, but the cover said “Fiction,”
An opaque wrap artfully hid it from view,
Till the very last It declared the story was true,
And then turned a page I did not know existed,
At the bottom two words there were mercilessly listed,
My soul they did puncture, my heart they did rend:
Its guiltless, cruel fingers had scrawled in: “THE END.”

It may take some time before the world sees a sequel,
But it shall one day be written, with an ending to equal,
The one that was ruthlessly, carefully created,
And left dog-eared and battered, and so impregnated,
With a promise of something that could never grow, never be,
One day the pain will belong to It, and not me.

Bio: Christine Faltz Grassman was born blind due to congenital micro-ophthalmia on October 9. 1969. She attended parochial school through the fourth grade in Brooklyn, after which she attended public elementary, middle, and high schools in Nassau County, New York. Christine holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Princeton University, a Master’s in Science of Teaching from Pace University, and a J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law. Christine is a certified English Language Arts teacher and a licensed attorney, who currently teaches at-risk youth in an alternative program called GED Plus in New York City. Christine is married, has two children, and has published a short novel, The Sight Sickness, which is a satire in response to Jose Saramago’s Blindness.

Christine is the author of a no-holds-barred blog on, where she frequently indulges in both gentle and violent wordplay, and where she less frequently posts poetry.

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The gift, Wendy Phillips

A gift was given,
A life was saved,
But what a cost,
A family’s grave.

The one unknown,
Her life was spared,
The greatest gift,
A stranger shared.

The cause unknown,
The love, the pain,
One family’s loss,
Another’s gain.

The one who lives,
Her life goes on,
Through word and song.

It’s been ten years,
since you’ve been gone,
Because of you,
I can live on,

Your loved ones shared,
through grief and pain,
My life will never be the same.

Your kids are grown
and so are mine,
I thank you for this extra time,

So When I sing,
And when I pray,
I thank the Lord,
For life each day.

Bio: Wendy Phillips was born blind and yet was very independent from the beginning and always used her imagination in many areas, play, music and theater and writing. She began writing short stories and poems at a very young age but found little time for that when raising her three grown children. With grandchildren in sight, she took up writing poetry again using life situations to write about. She attended a school for the blind but when she was 12 was integrated into a public school in central Canada. This poem is dedicated to the special family who gave the greatest gift of all so that she might live.

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For My Mother at Eighty, Lynda J. Lambert

My mother has forgotten what day it is
her children’s birthdays have vanished
strangers have moved into her house.

She’s forgotten about teeth and hair
no longer needs to carry a purse –
My mother has forgotten what day it is.

Her treasured possessions
laid out on tables, put up for sale –
Strangers have moved into her house.

Her drawers emptied of clothing,
food removed from her kitchen –
My mother has forgotten what day it is.

Her long days maneuver slowly
between rows of walkers –
Strangers have moved into her house.

Women watch her face from behind the cards
she does not know how to win –
My mother has forgotten what day it is.
Strangers have moved into her house

Bio: Lynda Lambert is a writer and studio artist who lives in the small village of Wurtemburg in western Pennsylvania. Her studio is surrounded by the woods along the Connoquenessing Creek.

Lynda has advanced degrees in English Literature, and Fine Arts. She is a former professor of Fine Arts and Humanities at Geneva College, in Pennsylvania.

Lynda Lambert is blind. She is the author of Concerti…Psalms for the Pilgrimage published by Kota’ Press.

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Reading Blind, Cheryl Wade

The birthday card you sent me was all empty inside.
So were the recipe cards —
Even with a flatbed scanner
Because they were the work of your hands —
Not a computer-generated image.

My body was not born to digest
The ink-blots and the colors–
The endless catalog of light waves which, unseen,
Rules our daily lives.
I must put the papers on the dining-room table
To wait,
Or surrender my dignity to the periodic visitor,
Who comes to tell me you said

Bio: Cheryl Wade spent more than 30 years as a newspaper journalist in Michigan. She now is completing a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at Michigan State University. She divides her time between free-lance newspaper journalism and counseling at a women’s center in Lansing, MI. This is the first poem she has written in many years.

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Oh, Andrea Lyn Pulcini

Oh, I found it.
I lost it again.
Wait, here it is.
Oh, crap, I just dropped it.
It is rolling down the stairs
Will you get it for me please?
Ah, yes. There it is again.
It doesn’t get very far
“What is it?” you ask.
That is very easy.
It changes from
Day to day
And even
On a whim.
But the trick
Is to be very
No matter
What it
Is that
You do
Even if it
Is to draw
A picture
With words
Or with signs
Of The time
Which is ticking
As we speak.

Bio: Andrea Pulcini spent time abroad as a child. She will complete her memoir while earning her M.F.A. in creative writing. She has worked for large maritime corporations and, recently, for an independent living program. In 1998 she was diagnosed with bipolar syndrome and spent two years in and out of rehabilitation facilities.

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Clothe Me, Myrna D. Badgerow

I put pen to paper sharing my nakedness,
my vulnerability, my memories,
and those dreams I have just begun to dream.
I ask of you only this…

Clothe me not in shades of gray,
in shadowed hues of somber and dull.
Clothe me not in painted brilliance, in colors
of sun and moon, or the vibrancy of rainbows…
Clothe me not in leftover thoughts, edged
in the richness of golden thread…

Instead clothe me in the gauze of transparency
and warm fleece of compassion.
Clothe me in vivid breaths of every moment lived,
in the tattered patches of an ordinary life,
and in the stardust of my extraordinary dreams…
Clothe me in honesty of spirit, strength of soul,
and sanguine truth of self.
Clothe me in every word I have written,
every song I have ever sung, in every yesterday
and every tomorrow still to be.
Clothe me in the simple garb of today,
in every contradiction and imperfection.
But most of all, clothe me in the palette of life,
the living of it, the understanding of it,
the appreciation for family and friends…
and please, clothe me in love.

Bio: Myrna Dupre’ Badgerow is a graduate of The Louisiana School for the Blind and makes her home in the bayou country of southern Louisiana. She enjoys writing, reading, helping young writers, and spending time with family. She began writing seriously in 2000 and was nominated for the 2008 Pushcart Award by the editors of Mississippi Crow magazine, named 2004’s Poet of the Year at The Writing Forum, and also has a credit as lyricist on a CD released by the band Against the Wall. Myrna serves on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind’s Writing Division.

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Wedding Vows, Jimmy Burns

Just turned fifty/wife dons plastic gloves to touch her husband/
wipe sweat from his contorted face/make small talk with a man
lacking conversation/physicians enter hospital room/speak doctor
talk/she nods her head in the affirmative as if she understands/
700 miles from home/vacation births a nightmare/alone, confused/
she grasps his dead hand/he feels nothing/left side interruption/
family and friends convey long distant prayers/she too prays without
ceasing/a nun brings mug of hot coffee/offers comfort and a devotion/
wife withdraws to silence/all she can think of/until death do us part.

Bio: Jimmy Burns survived a stroke in 2005 and writes his poetry from his wheelchair parked at his home near Houston. Recent disability theme poems appeared in “Chest,” “Edgz,” “Nomad’s Choir,” “Pegasus,” “Writer’s Bloc,” and “Wordgathering.” Burns won the 2009 Inglis House prize for a poet with disabilities. He was nominated for a Pushcart award in 2010. His poetry serves as a proof of life.

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Tributary, James Ruane

Scars turn silver when you first get them
Like moonlit shores
Skin stretched so thin it becomes transparent

Little bumps of deep jagged cross stitching appear down the wound
Estuaries of blood
With an abandoned city stretched around them

Some over time become nearly invisible, but not mine
Mine draw the veins from the deep tissue
Raise them up under the shallow surface like aqueducts

Others transform into tiny dried up creek beds
Channels empty and devoid of life
Can’t see them until you touch them

Some change colors like moss
Mine changed into a river of blue ink
Deep as the moonlit waters of Erie

Bio: James Ruane holds Fine Arts degrees in creative writing and philosophy from the University of Toledo. He writes fantasy and science fiction as well as poetry; and has four short stories ready for publication. He has benefitted from workshops with accomplished fiction authors and poets. His disability is visual impairment due to an auto accident twelve years ago. Contact him at

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Cataract Surgery, Leonard Tuchyner

One week waits before the blade
reaching down to touch my eye
looking through a crystal darkly.
Behold a world shrouded in cloud.
God bless the surgeon’s steady hand.
Bless her eyes steady as eagles’
her mind clear with faultless wisdom.
Bless her team of inspiration.
A world of fog still is blessed.
Is it true of a world unseen?
It’s not a place I would like to be.

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Noun Soup and Contrast Consumé

Several summers ago a group from our Behind Our Eyes Sunday night conference hired poet and essayist Margo LaGattuta to hold a telephone workshop over several months. She assigned and critiqued. One of the more interesting weeks included two ten-word exercises. Here are her lists, explanations of the challenges, and examples from her work and from our own Abbie Johnson Taylor. I obtained Margo’s permission to share the exercises and her example prior to her untimely death last summer.

Try your hand at one of these. Change “Write a poem” to “Write an essay” if it suits you better. You might produce something worth publishing. At any rate, you’ll have fun.

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Exercise One: Noun Soup

Write a poem that includes the following:

  1. a famous person
  2. a food
  3. an article of clothing
  4. a restaurant
  5. a hotel
  6. another article of clothing
  7. a city or town
  8. a beverage
  9. a game
  10. a family member

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A Gouda Day for Jolene, Abbie Johnson Taylor

The scene opens at The Country Kitchen in Sheridan.
Dolly Parton sits in a booth.
She barely touches her gouda cheese omelet.
She’s wearing blue jeans
and a colorful western shirt that accents her bosom.
The sunlight from a nearby window sparkles in her blonde, frizzy hair.

Jolene sits across from her,
a non-descript woman with short dark hair,
wearing navy blue sweat pants and a white t-shirt.
She wolfs down her barbecued chicken sandwich,
also with gouda cheese.

“I don’t know what my husband sees in you, honey,” says Dolly.
“You’re so plain.”

“Maybe it’s the fact that I’m always there for him,” says Jolene.
“I don’t travel around the country,
giving concerts, signing autographs, smiling at other men.”

“But that’s my work,” says Dolly.
“He knew that when he married me.
And why on Earth would he want to live in Wyoming of all places?
None of these towns are like L.A. or New York.”

“He likes my ranch,” answers Jolene.
“In the evening, we sit on the front porch,
drink coffee, play chess,
watch the sun go down.
It’s more romantic than some pent house in New York.
Did he tell you
we met at your concert in Denver last year?
When he complained of a headache,
told you he was going back to the Brown palace,
he was going there to be with me.”

“You slut!” says Dolly.
She rises, picks up her omelet,
flings it at Jolene, hurries out the door.

The camera zooms in on Jolene,
her face swathed in egg,
smoked bacon, tomato slices, and gouda cheese.

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Exercise Two:

This idea is from poet Rick Jackson, Vermont College MFA Program. It is based on the idea that this series of opposites, a study in contrasts (things both near and far, now and then, natural and mechanical, etc.) forces one to draw on the subconscious mind in order to resolve the dichotomies, thereby generating unusual, startling metaphors one would not otherwise have considered.

Write a 20-30 line poem which incorporates:

  1. something from your refrigerator
  2. a historical, exotic location (foreign, not U.S.)
  3. an animal not of this continent
  4. some kind of downtown shop or store (in an older part of town)
  5. a foreign place not associated with the above foreign place
  6. a reference to biology or chemistry
  7. a mythological character
  8. a toy you used to play with
  9. something mechanical–an engine, electric motor, etc.
  10. a body part

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FINDING JON, For My Retarded Brother, Margo LaGattuta

Like last month’s wilted lettuce, I feel spent
this long week after your funeral. I clean my

old refrigerator and remember Stockholm
in the season of the never-setting sun, the year

our dad combed the Swedish telephone book
looking for lost relatives. He was Paul Bunyon

lumbering through unfamiliar towns with a tiny
tape recorder from Hudson’s under his arm,

A rutabaga looking for roots in fibrous soil.
He bought you a toy gun, and a birthday

train, while all the time he wanted to bring
your brain back from its lonely journey.

If he could have gone to Madagascar
to fix you, he’d have done it with ease,

or ridden a camel through the Mojave,
but now, your body buried near his in

Fairview Cemetery, your spirit’s finally
in step with Dad’s. He’s brought you home.

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“You Finish It” Contest

The judging panel tossed submissions around for days. The result was a tie. Since both endings were quite creative and vastly different, we decided to give them equal billing and present them after the original story in alphabetical orrder so we show no preference. Thanks to everyone who entered.

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Another Chance, Valerie Moreno

Bobby’s hands trembled as he set a tray with fruit, coffee and buttered toast on the wobbly end table. “I didn’t put jam on your toast, Marybeth.” His voice was strained as he gazed at his wife. Slumped in the bentwood rocker, Marybeth didn’t raise her sorrowful blue eyes to Bobby or the breakfast tray he’d brought for her.

“I didn’t know if you wanted any,” Bobby tried again.

It’s ok,” the girl spoke so softly Bobby had to lean down to hear her. “I’m not hungry.”

Bobby sighed heavily, running a shaky hand through his neat platinum hair.

“Mare, you can’t go on like this…not eating, not sleeping. It’s that nightmare again. It’s a dream, Marybeth, nothing else.”

He stared at the sullen girl huddled in the chair, hands folded in her lap. Her blonde hair was uncombed, limp and dirty on her shoulders.

“You just don’t understand, Bobby.” She began to sob, her voice full of agony. “It’s more than a dream or a nightmare. It feels like some kind of premonition or warning.”

In the kitchen, unnoticed by the couple in the living room, a plump figure silently pushed the unlocked door ajar and quietly slipped inside. She had short curly hair the color of old tomatoes and wore no shoes. Her faded house dress had a large pocket where she clutched the handle of a razor wrapped in a thick washcloth.

From her utility room window, she’d studied the young couple’s goings and comings, a dislike for the skinny, sullen girl budding in her mind. She acted as though she was a moody prima donna, worrying the sweet, conscientious man who was, in her estimation, the perfect husband. She’d welcomed the newlyweds to the neighborhood a month earlier with a coconut pie and freshly cut roses from her garden. She stood motionless now, listening to the wife’s angry protest.

“It’s not just a dream, Bobby,” she cried. “It’s with me every moment of the day. I don’t know how to make you see that. I’ve dreamed it over and over and it never changes. I’m saying goodbye to you–you’re leaving for work–and, when I turn around, there’s a figure in the kitchen doorway. It’s a woman, but I can’t see her face, just a strange orange halo around her head from the sun hitting her and I know she’s going to hurt me. I feel it. She’s evil and it’s real!”

Bobby slipped his arms around his wife and planted a gentle peck on her cheek. “Well,” he sighed turning away, “Of course I do have to go to work now.” He picked up his keys and briefcase, and started toward the living room door. “Call me every hour if you get scared. Maybe tonight we can talk about getting you some counseling or something to help you sleep through those bad dreams.” Then he was out the door.

Marybeth slowly rose to her feet and gathered the dishes containing her uneaten food for a trip to the sink. As soon as she entered the kitchen she froze. It was just like she’d told Bobby, but this time the woman hadn’t dashed away!

Marybeth screamed! She brought the dishes up to cover her face as if to ward off a blow. She didn’t want to see that awful woman any more. “Go away!” she sobbed, “Whoever you are, go away! You are not just in my mind! You’re real!”

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Kate Chamberlin’s ending

“You know very well who I am, MaryBeth,” she sneered. “I haven’t changed that much in the two years you left me.”

“Toby? Oh, no.” Marybeth gasped. I love Bobby now. Go away.”

“Oh, sweet-face may be the perfect husband,” Toby smirked, bringing the razor blade out of her pocket. “But, I’m the perfect husband for you, my dear.”

Neither woman noticed the kitchen screen door quietly open. Bobby had returned to pick up a report he’d forgotten and had heard everything. He lunged for the razor blade.

The neighbors said they heard screams, dishes crashing, loud thuds, and then an ominous silence.

The police said they found blood all over everything, one dead blonde woman, one dead bald woman next to a curly, red wig, and one extremely distraught male.

The grand jury deemed the case to be one of murder/suicide and exonerated the male, although he’d be in counseling for a long time before he could sleep at night.

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Doris Hampton’s ending

“Stop blubbering.” The woman’s words came low and threatening. She pulled a vintage Tupperware container from her oversized pocket and swung it at Marybeth, sending dishes flying.

“Stupid!” she shouted. “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”

Marybeth cried out as the second blow smacked the side of her head. She turned to escape the woman who had invaded her home as well as her dreams.

“Ryth!” the woman snapped. “How could you let That priest mess with your mind.”

Marybeth froze. The woman had spoken the only thing the priest had been unable to exorcise. Ryth, her true name .

“You can’t possibly know about the exorcism.” Marybeth’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“Humph!” The woman snorted. “That worthless priest didn’t perform an exorcism. He performed a memory block.” She stamped a bare foot, leaned forward and glared.

Marybeth’s breath caught as she recognized the polite, but nosey, neighbor who had somehow morphed into this certifiable whack job.

Yet the woman knew what her name had been before the exorcism; before the priest had changed it to Marybeth; the name that still lingered at the back of her mind.

“Don’t look so surprised,” the woman said. “That priest couldn’t cast out your true name. When he suspected you were one of us, he did the next best thing. He screwed up your mind.”

Marybeth was speechless. It had been Bobby who’d insisted she see the priest. He’d feared she’d been possessed by a demon he believed was infecting today’s corrupt society, the demon of promiscuity. She’d agreed, thinking it wouldn’t hurt to placate a lover whose world view differed greatly from her own. She hadn’t believed in exorcisms. She hadn’t even believed in demons.

“H – how do you know so much about me?” she stammered

“You should be familiar with the way we operate. After all, you’re one of our clan.” The woman waved a pudgy hand. “You’re a vamgin.”

She paused. “We have the elixir. We have the power to enter dreams. We have the power to summon.”

She studied Marybeth’s stunned expression. “We found you. We drew you to this neighborhood and now we’re going to take you back home.”

Marybeth shook her head. The movement brought a swirl of dizziness. She blinked, trying to clear her mind.

“You’re punier than a sick hound.” The woman gave an exasperated sigh.
“Without the elixir, you’ve become a disgusting weakling. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat. You can’t even muster enough gumption to swat a fly.”

After a beat, she continued, “If you’d been taking the elixir, you’d never have agreed to marry that preacher-perfect husband of yours, no matter how much in lust you were.”

She sighed. “You don’t even believe in marriage.”

Tears stung Marybeth’s eyes. After she’d seen the priest, Bobby had insisted that they marry. By then, she’d become so docile, she’d have agreed to anything.

“Go away,” she begged, voice trembling.

“I see that my roses didn’t make you think of us,” the woman said. “The coconut pie didn’t tweak your memory either, even though it’s your favorite.”

Marybeth didn’t respond. She hadn’t tasted the pie and she’d passed the roses on to Bobby’s secretary.

“Not to worry,” the woman announced. “I’ve brought more pie – a nice big serving of coconut cream.” She popped the top of the Tupperware, releasing the stench of rotting roses.

“I added a triple dose of elixir.” She held out the container. “It’s life-force-boosting magic will help break through your memory block.”

“No!” The sickening smell was strangely alluring, stirring dormant echoes deep within the shrouded corners of Marybeth’s mind. She whirled, heart thundering, and collided with a squat, redheaded guy blocking the doorway.

“Your husband, the one you gave up your true self for, forgot to lock the door on his way out,” he said and shoved, sending Marybeth sprawling to the floor. A dirty bare foot jabbed her ribs.

“You ran off with our power of thirteen,” he said and landed another kick.

Whimpering, Marybeth curled into a ball, burying her face against her knees.
“Go away,” she begged. “Please.”

“We ain’t going nowhere,” the guy said. “And we ain’t gonna coddle you like your precious Bobby does, either.”

“Who are you?” Still curled on the floor, Marybeth looked up at the guy, bracing herself for another blow. These two knew far too much about her.

“You’re a disgrace to the clan.” The woman shook her head, curly red mop bouncing. “You left us with the power of twelve, knowing that would weaken us. Even so, We…”

“The clan has voted to give you another chance,” the guy interrupted. He scowled. “But, If it was up to me, I wouldn’t bother bringing the elixir to you. I’d just let you waste away and die.”

His eyes narrowed. “I think the twelve of us could get along just fine without you. We wouldn’t be as strong as the clans of thirteen, but we’d be okay.”

The room was silent for a moment, then the woman said, “When you gave up the elixir and chose that platinum-haired lover over us, you chose to die.”

Marybeth rose unsteadily, leaning against the table for support. “Get out of my house!” she demanded.

“Ooo, Ryth.” the woman waved the Tupperware. “Now you’re starting to show some of your old spunk.”

“Don’t call me that. My name is Marybeth.”

“No it ain’t,” the guy said. “You’ll always be Ryth. You’ll always be a vamgin.”

When Marybeth shot him a questioning look, he pulled a ceramic jug from his backpack. “Underneath that bad dye job, you’re a ginger.” He tapped the jug and pointed to her hair. “And you’re a vampire.” He grinned. “That makes you a vamgin.”

“Oh, my God! Now they’re talking vampires.” Marybeth thought as she scanned the room–windowsill, table, countertop–trying to remember where she’d left her cell phone.

“Looking for this?” the guy brandished her phone, then stowed it in his shirt pocket. “I snagged it off the end table on my way to the kitchen.”

Marybeth slumped, so weak she could barely focus.

“Three more days without the elixir and you’ll be dead,” the woman predicted.

“Hey Ryth.” A young girl came into the kitchen, red hair catching the sunlight pouring through the open doorway. Her bare feet, laden with rings, sported a different color on every toe. She was lugging a cat carrier crammed with four large rats.

“I brought our Wharf rats,” she announced.

Marybeth swallowed hard as the sight of those snarling rodents triggered an unexpected thirst.

The girl, with fingers as psychedelic as her toes, set the rat filled carrier down near the door and pointed an old fashioned straight razor at Marybeth.

“That was a stupid thing to do, allowing your mind to be fried like that.”

She waved the razor. “If this had been my call, I wouldn’t have tried to find you. I would have stayed in San Diego and left you here to die.”

She shrugged and glanced at the woman. “But Queen Cloey says we can’t thrive in these times without your power of thirteen. So here I am, prepared to give you another chance.”

The girl checked her watch. She brushed past Marybeth, took the ceramic jug from the guy and went to the sink.

“If we’re going to restore this idiot’s memory before high noon, we’d better get started,” she announced, plunking the jug onto the counter.

She eyed Marybeth. “Priest or no priest, how could you forget who you are?”

Marybeth swiped the back of her hand across her mouth. She’d begun to drool. Fumes lifting from the Tupperware were drawing her like a magnet. She clamped her mouth shut and stepped back. No way was she going to touch that stuff!

As if reading her thoughts, the guy grabbed a handful of her hair and jerked her head back. He scooped a finger through the pie then pried her lips apart and smeared a glob of the stinking goo inside her mouth.

The result was immediate. Her eyes went wide as Overwhelming hunger surged throughout her body–lungs, muscles, bones, heart.

She snatched the Tupperware from the woman and scarfed down its contents.
When the pie was gone, she rubbed the excess from her face and licked her fingers. The hunger had eased, leaving a thirst for something indefinable in its wake.

She met the woman’s questioning gaze. “Queen Cloey?” she said, voice barely audible.

“Ooo! That triple dose exploded like a dirty bomb inside your weakened system.” Queen Cloey grinned. “Your memory will return and you’ll regain strength as your body absorbs the elixir. It should be ingested every ten months and you’ve gone almost a year without it now.”

The girl tugged Marybeth toward the sink and set the razor she’d been holding on the counter

“Time to do something about that freaky hair,” she announced. Within minutes, the contents of the ceramic jug had turned Marybeth’s hair from lifeless blonde to its original burnished red.

As her strength increased, Marybeth’s mind jumped from memory to memory:
Falling for Bobby.
Meeting with the priest.
Becoming Marybeth.

Turning from the sink, she watched nine more barefoot redheads, five men and four women, enter the kitchen, each one clutching an old-fashioned straight razor.

One of the women handed a razor to Marybeth who was gradually regaining her identity as Ryth. “It has been cleansed and blessed,” she explained. “We know the priest destroyed yours during the memory blocking.”

Feeling more and more like Ryth, Marybeth removed her shoes and followed the others into the yard to begin their monthly ritual, lifting the carrier of rats as she went out the door.

The world around her suddenly grew silent. Even the rats inside the carrier ceased their grumbling. . The ground beneath her bare feet radiated heat from the midday sun. The straight razor in her hand felt familiar and warm.

When sound returned, all traces of Marybeth had vanished.

After a dizzying moment, Ryth set the carrier in the center of their ritual circle, she took her place beside the other twelve, still holding the razor.

They lifted their arms, pointed razors at the sun and breathed in unison. Faces raised skyward, they inhaled solar energy, directing it down through the steel blades, into their bodies. Exhaling, they sent the previous month’s spent energy downward and out through the soles of their feet, into the ground.

Memory fully restored by the sun, Ryth began to chant. The rest of the clan joined in but it was her voice, the thirteenth one, that completed their circle of power.

They were vamgins, a type of vampire known only by clans similar to their own. They’d never been a threat to humans, nor did they prey on most other living things.

Ryth acknowledged the thirst she’d felt earlier as she watched Queen Cloey approach the center of the circle.

As they’d done for centuries, her clan only preyed on rats, selecting the largest and strongest from wharfs and ships around the world.

When everyone had quenched their thirst , Ryth prepared to return to San Diego. She was the thirteenth vamgin. She would reclaim her place in their circle of power.

She’d lived long enough to know that when someone was lucky enough to be offered another chance, they’d better take it.

Bios: Valerie Moreno, age 56, has been writing since she was twelve years old. Always inspired by music and fascinated by people around her, she’s written fiction, memoir, poetry and articles.

Publishing credits include many articles, stories and poems in “The Troubadour,” newsletter/magazine of the Secular Franciscan Order, “The Answer,” newsletter of DIAL, “Dialogue,” “Matilda Ziegler,” and the “Dot-to-Dot” Magazine of The Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait. Several stories and poems appeared in “Behind Our Eyes,” an Anthology of twenty-seven writers with Disabilities, and a poem appeared in the e-book “Fans in the Mirror,” published by the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait.

Kate Chamberlin, M.A., became blind when her children were young. Her teaching career continues through her Study Buddy Tutoring Service, Feely Cans and Sniffy Jars Program, and popular lectures. She is a published children’s author, Anglican educator, newspaper columnist, and proud grandmother. Visit her website at

Doris Hampton has been published in many confession magazines. Her book for young readers, Just for Manuel, was published by Steck-Vaughn in 1971. Hampton’s poems, stories and finger plays have appeared in numerous children’s magazines, including Highlights and Humpty Dumpty. Her poem, “Pete Bixby Died This Morning,” was a winner in one of Writers Digest’s poetry contests. Her short story, THE TELLING STONE, was a first place winner in the 2011 NFB Writers’ Division Writing contest.

Hampton, blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa, lives in Oregon with her husband, Chuck, eight rescued cats and a dog named Sally who thinks she’s “people.”

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Why Not Write a Six Word Story? essay, Mary-Jo Lord

If you are experiencing writers block, or want to write something different try writing a six word story, also known as a six word memoir. It can be a challenge to make a statement, or tell a story in just six words. Your six word story can be one sentence, or more. You can place all six words on one line, or separate them however you choose. Some six word stories even have each word on a separate line. Feel free to play with punctuation. Like other poetic forms or proscribed patterned writing styles, they can be addicting. Once you write one or two, you may find yourself thinking and speaking in six word sentences. It’s also a good way to practice being economical with words.

“SMITH Magazine” has an entire website dedicated to six word stories and has published several books filled with six word memoirs. They are:

“Six Words About Work”, “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” “Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure,” “It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure,” “I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets; Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure,” and “Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak.”

Here are some Six Word Stories from “Not Quite What I Was Planning:”

  • “Found true love, married someone else.”
  • “After Harvard, had baby with crackhead.”
  • “Mom died, Dad screwed us over.”
  • “Semicolons;
    I use them to excess.”
  • “Artist, disabled. Feeling mislabeled. Ambitions tabled.”
  • “Strutting my way to womanhood, period.”
  • “Got your email today, deleted it.”
  • “Says deaf boyfriend, you’re too quiet.”
  • “I am trying, in every regard.”
  • “Likes everything, too much to choose.”

Finally, an article about six word stories wouldn’t be complete without the most famous six word story ever written by Ernest Hemingway, who was challenged to write a story in just six words. He wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

My goal for the year 2012 is to write a six word story every day. Here are some that I’ve written this year and in the past.

  • “Month of skipping gym got caught.”
  • “Jewelry missing, the dog ate it.”
  • “Somebody’s typo changed my name forever.”
  • “Grandparents die when assignments are due.”
  • “Between expectation and reality, I exist.”
  • “Your denial won’t change the truth.”
  • “Time wasted to appease someone’s ego.”
  • “Some things are best left unknown.”
  • “Took pills. Migraine gone. Over slept.”
  • “Her careless decisions impact us all.”
  • “Mighty feline guards house against raccoons.”
  • “Nauseous. Swallowed too many unspoken words.”
  • “Still solving the mysteries of iTunes.”
  • “Life is an iPod on shuffle.”

They can be humorous or serious, and can capture a small slice of life, or make your reader imagine an entire story. So have fun, and let’s see what stories you can tell in just six words.

You can read more about Smith Magazine’s publications, along with hundreds of Six Word Memoirs posted daily on their website at:

“I Can’t Keep My Own secrets” is available through Bookshare. Here is the link.

Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure and Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak are available through the Amazon Kindle store and through ITUNES.

Bio: Mary-Jo Lord has a masters’ degree in counseling from Oakland University, and has worked at Oakland Community College for nineteen years. She writes poetry, fiction, and memoirs. A section of her work is published in a Plain View Press anthology called “Almost Touching.” She lives with her husband and son in Rochester, Michigan. She has been blind since birth.

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Contest Alert

Write your own six-word story. We’ll publish several in the next edition. This submission need not count as one of your three otherwise allowable submissions. Only one six-word story per author please. First ones count, no fair asking to change.

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Amidst Drought, poetry, Jimmy Burns

Wheelchair parked in desert
Scorpions bite invalid heels
Emaciated poet empty of words
Crumbling dry rot parchment
Writing pen drained of ink
Sandstorm discolors blue sky
Birdbath loss of water
Stone dove pallid in bowl
Dying animals, dead flowers
Landscape of petrified trees
Summer still of thought:
Inspiration rare as rain.

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The form Haibun combines prose and Haiku with concrete and abstract, sensory and practical applications and images. Some publishers have rigid stipulations and patterns for content, others take a more free-wheeling approach. One source to check is . The selection which follows is a Haibun recollection of a writers’ workshop.

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ONE POT OF BASIL, haibun, Nancy Scott

Only three of us attend the poetry workshop. It is holy Saturday and raining. Elizabeth Bodeen is our instructor.

We are very varied. I am blind, Bob uses a wheelchair, and Maryann is the able-bodied representative. Most of our writers’ group workshops are attended by lots of able-bodied folks, but the perfect storm of late advertising and holiday, not to mention heavy weather, has descended.

Maryann and I have worked together on various projects. She is the visual artist and I write text. She directs me to chairs and ladies’ rooms, and will drive me home after the workshop. I have heard Bob wheel by me at other writers’ meetings. Though I’ve casually asked about him, I’ve never tried to find him or find out about him. I’ve just wondered silently. I’m really glad he has stayed.

Bob and I talk before Elizabeth arrives. Maryann is exploring the public part of the library where our meetings are held. “What happened?” he asks. I know what he means. I answer with my “born blind” shorthand. “And you?” I am now happily able to question him.

can’t kill a poet, right?
I’ll cross my fingers.

Bob’s voice is sometimes wispy. He confides, in short sentences: strokes, a heart attack, aphasia. I mention that aphasia might create some interesting poems. “Your voice,” I say, “is ageless for someone who can’t see.” Bob says he still has all his hair.

Elizabeth does the workshop despite the attendance. As a true adventurer, she dives into our unexpectedness. We begin by writing poems about real or imagined gardens. Elizabeth wants around eight lines from each of us.

I do not bring the thousand-dollar word processor out in the pouring rain, and I do not compose in my head. I have also never brought a noisy, conspicuous Braille-writer to a workshop. But I am pulled back a few days to Wegman’s Supermarket with Anne and Louis…

Louis picked up a basil plant and talked of starting an herb garden. As we walked with me holding the shopping cart he asked, “Want a taste?” I laughed. With the first touch of my teeth I was reminded of my Italian next-door neighbor of years ago. She grew basil, oregano, and mint. I was often given sprigs. One leaf was enough for me but Louis, without asking, pressed a second one to my lips. What could I do? I opened and chewed. With the third leaf I said, “No more” in the nonnegotiable voice that all seasoned disabled people learn. Like a good poem it needs tone and few words. He stopped feeding me…

Maryann’s confident, many-lined garden is silk flowers, paper birds, and glittery man-made gemstones. Since it is not real, it requires no tending and creates no mess. At first read it seems too beautiful and unchanging.
Scott – One Pot of Basil – 2

Elizabeth reads Bob’s poem. Bob’s garden is grapes separated from stems and crushed for wine. It is a memory of his grandmother helping his grandfather. Elizabeth suggests a haibun form (combining prose and haiku). It would end with poetry of hot sun and red juice.

We become and
become again. Old and new
connect our seasons.

Elizabeth writes too. She experiments by composing with her non-dominant hand. Her recited draft about a flute garden is much more polished than any first draft of mine would ever be. She wonders where the flutes come from. Is she thinking about a garden with more than visual elements?

Normally I hide in these workshops. I am not a spontaneous writer. I smile and say I don’t have an easy way to write and read back in class. This is relatively true, since Braille-writers are loud and Braille displays are expensive. I can’t possibly remember 8 lines. I could play the blindness card. But then Elizabeth would have only two people to work with. And Bob is already much braver than I am. After all, I’m with Maryann and not alone. In such a small group I would stand out more by not being part of it. What can I do? Okay. I can manage a haiku:

One pot of basil.
One by one, stemless leaves crunch.
In my mouth, surprised.

I wonder if Bob expected to hide too? I hear him revising his grapes into wine. His hand does not sound afraid…

Later, at home, I thought about our gardens and our day. What could I make in permanent art that would give this day permanent meaning? What words would affirm that I am still a writer? What could I control?

Elizabeth’s suggestion for Bob called me. Art does more than imitate life. It explains life. It lasts so we can look and look again more and more deeply. Perhaps had I been able to write 8 lines in that workshop I would not have needed to write what you are reading now:

Bird of paper.
Some will see no flying.
They are blind.

What first must be crushed
gives celebration, quenches
with red courage.

Flowers sing to us
but only writers hear them.
We are lucky.

One pot of basil.
Words said, chewed, tested, savored.
Who is surprised now?

Bio: Nancy Scott, Easton PA, is an essayist and poet. Her over-500 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. Her third chapbook, co-authored with artist Maryann Riker, is entitled “The Nature of Beyond.”

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Why Writers Should Tell Round-Robin Stories, essay, Rebecca L. Hein and Marilyn Brandt Smith

Imagine boosting your writing with one simple habit. Round-robin storytelling, easy and fun, helps you think on your feet in a spirit of play and improvisation. This in turn joggles your imagination into new and productive paths.

The rules of this standard writer’s activity are few: tell an installment on your turn, add anything you like to the plot or even start a sub-plot, and forget about being brilliant. The object is not to create great literature nor even to craft a coherent narrative, but to discover what you can do in the moment. If you feel self-conscious, remember that nothing is expected; it’s simply a group experiment to find out what will happen when you all try to make up a silly story together.

Round-robin storytelling takes practice, so plan to engage in it a minimum of ten times before evaluating its worth for your writing. Once you discover even a few benefits, chances are you’ll be hooked.

Freedom is one of the first gains. When else in our writing lives do we allow ourselves to make up a brief vignette with no restrictions? Our minds behave differently when at liberty, and there’s a set of hidden abilities we’re not likely to discover any other way. Some of my best ideas have popped out of nowhere in the midst of a round-robin story just because I was mentally doodling while waiting for my turn.

Those ideas fit into the story and often reappear in a written piece later on. For me the delight is in the inspiration as well as in the experience of getting that insight through fun and a spirit of mischief.

Group storytelling, done regularly, is also an excellent way to find your voice. When you must invent something on the spot, it will almost always be true to you and therefore be told in your voice. Contrast this instant access to your deepest self with writing, when so often we pause to wonder if our words will alienate, confuse, or offend. In an improvised story, you don’t have time for this concern. What you say is spontaneous and cuts through the normal inhibitions of writing.

Finally, improvised storytelling is good for the right brain, the seat of our imagination and emotions. As the story evolves, we envision it in our minds, and this exercise loosens the tether of linear thought. The more the picture builds, the less we need to think about it directly. Just let ideas float. This process helps us put together character, plot, and scene for use in any story, whether we’re telling it on the spot or writing a different one later.

Thus, round-robin storytelling is a way to work on our creativity while bypassing many of the problems of writing. No bewildering sidetracks, blind alleys, organization problems, writer’s block, or hesitations. Just invention in a relaxed frame of mind and a non-judgmental atmosphere.

Round-robin storytelling has other applications too. Remember those car trips counting license plates from different states and looking for railroad cars to count? Maybe you played the alphabet “packing Grandfather’s trunk” game. Telling stories is much more spontaneous, and if you lose track or were not focused when the last mouthful was said, you can take the story on a completely different tangent.

It’s a great social icebreaker in a group of people who don’t know each other very well or are a little reluctant to share ideas and material, or when perhaps there’s been some tension in the group over a previous incident. You start having fun adding to each others’ story segments, and cooperation and group purpose emerge. The first time someone makes a mistake who really wasn’t expected to is the relaxer for everyone. You can always pass if you don’t have anything to add when it’s your turn. You may envision the future and know exactly what you think you’re going to say on the next round, but oops! Someone just took the story into sci-fi mode. Time to regroup.

On a recent Sunday night call-in Round-Robin, we had some beavers in a nice forest in Oregon trying to keep things environmentally sound. There was a little boy in a treehouse, and a bear with his mind on dinner. Some forest rangers were looking for an orange glow. Before the romance writers in the group could stir up some action, the nature lovers and historians proclaimed the whole area under government protection. It seems the media and the corporate suits flew in along with the governor’s daughter and her rescue dogs to save the baby dinosaurs discovered in a nearby cave. The beavers, disgusted with the whole assault on their territory, jumped back in the creek and got the bleep out of Dodge. What fun!

No one came out of the experience with a great novel, but somehow we all felt we had helped build something. Maybe what we built was the ability to work together. The team spirit was alive and well.

Bios: Rebecca Hein is the author of A Case of Brilliance, her memoir about the discovery that her two children are profoundly gifted. She publishes two quarterly newsletters, The Music of Writing and The Special Needs of Gifted Children, and blogs about these subjects at and She has a master’s degree in cello performance from Northwestern University, and teaches writing classes via telephone conference call. Her disability is chemical sensitivity.

Marilyn Brandt Smith has taught social studies, Spanish, English, and special education. She is a licensed psychologist, and worked in rehabilitation.

She has edited magazines and newsletters since 1976, and was the first blind Peace Corps volunteer. She lives with her family and many animals in a hundred-year-old home in Kentucky. Her first book, “Chasing the Green Sun,” will be published in 2012, with a recipe book to follow soon. She loves writing flash fiction stories, and is the primary editor for the “Behind Our Eyes” anthology and this magazine. Another interest is music–barbershop harmony, folk and Americana, and current hits.

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Group Poetry

Last year “Whistling Fire” provided an opportunity for submissions of poetry written by more than one author. Unlike the Round-Robin story, group poems are usually started by one person; continued by subsequent authors; tweaked along the way; and pulled together, retweaked if necessary, and submitted or collected for review by a final author. Lines that seem out of place, don’t fit the building thought, or in some other way don’t feel right to the group, are dropped. Voila! A finished product emerges. Here are two such poems with identifying information and authors.

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Safe Harbors, group poetry

by Susan Gottlieb, Tomball, TX; Donna Grahmann, Magnolia, TX;
Linda Leschak, Houston, TX; Dana Strange, Cypress, TX

Let’s dwell for a moment on the space between thoughts,
get lost in the power of now.
Let’s hitch our horizon on the sound of the sea
and softly unfurl our brow.

Let’s soar the winds over frothy waves
where hidden treasures abound.
Let’s seek the solace in our hearts,
a feeling so light and profound.

Let’s open our souls to the truth of the world,
and travel through time and space.
Let’s further it on with courage and trust,
and allow it to find its place.

Let’s untangle our worth from sparkly things,
unburden ourselves from woe.
Let’s grab on tightly to those we love –
safe harbor in arms we know.

And when we arrive on the other side,
with the earth beneath our feet,
let’s forge ahead with unfettered hearts
and watch our sins retreat.

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Blind man Walking, group poetry

by the Writers Partyline mailing list of the Behind Our Eyes writers’ group:
Frances Strong, Sumter, SC; Deon Lions, Clinton, ME;
DeAnna (Quietwater) Noriega, Fulton, MO; Donna Grahmann, Magnolia, TX;
Lindsay Bridges, Atlanta, GA; Kate Chamberlin, Walworth, NY;
Marilyn Brandt Smith, Louisville, KY

He lifts his face to the warmth of the sun;
Staff in hand, he strides by;
The slim brass rod taps the ground
In counterpoint to his steps;

I watch and wonder at his confidence;
Why the smile on his lips?
How can he trust darkness?
Are his pockets full of slot machine gold?

A girl and a dog greet him as he goes,
Connection and friendship?
Can such fellowship exist?
The song of birds, chatter of squirrels,
Do they share these sounds?
Do their skins feel the same pleasure,
The cool caress of mountain air?
Shared sensations among like-minded strangers;

What truths strengthen him?
Does he believe God walks beside him?
Find joy in a moment?
Learn belief in himself?

Curiosity beckons me toward him;
We walk this world separately together;
How shall I approach him?
Life is as full as we let it become.

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Hey! There’s a Kitty in Here!

A short-haired white kitty with a raccoon-style black mask.

by Donna Grahmann

Magnets and Ladders Readers and Writers:

Can you hear it? There is something lurking around the corner and its hunger pangs are rumbling. It’s the Behind Our Eyes kitty, meowing for our help. It’s not a stray. It belongs to us and it needs our attention and love.

Our nice kitty doesn’t require much from any of us. In order to pay our group expenses and continue with a no membership fee policy, we are asking our readers and writers to make donations to our kitty. As with everything else, the cost of cat food is rising. To maintain nonprofit corporate status; maintain our websites; and perhaps find some prize money for writing contests, we need a few cases of kitty’s favorite, and bags of crunchy kibble on-hand.

It may sound funny, but our kitty doesn’t have a name. We don’t even know if it’s male or female. How would you like to name our kitty? The person making the highest donation wins the chance to name the kitty.

Make your check payable to Behind Our Eyes, and send it to our president, Bobbi LaChance, at:
165 Davis Ave
Auburn ME 04210

We hope to eventually have an option for PayPal contributions once we jump through all the hoops nonprofits have to satisfy. Meantime, let’s get kitty fat, sassy, and purring, and let’s start thinking of names.

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Resources, Marilyn Brandt Smith and Virginia Small

Here is a resource which offers a database and links to small-press publications accepting literary material. They offer an occasional newsletter and a means for tracking your submissions. URL:

Inglis House, the sponsor for the past ten years for a contest featured in Wordgathering, is no longer hosting this contest. This is a real loss for those of us who have entered for several years.

The following sites offer information about writing opportunities offering financial remuneration. We have not investigated these sites, and suggest that anyone taking advantage of opportunities offered, do careful research on the organization/company/individual before entering a contract or submitting work. Listing here does not constitute endorsement by Behind Our Eyes or Magnets and Ladders.

  • Writer Access:
  • Demand Studios:
  • O Desk:
  • First Class Writers:
  • Go Freelance:
  • Suite 101:
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The Little Window, memoir, Tara Arlene Innmon

I know something is up. The strained, hushed phone calls in Swedish as Mommy sits slumped hugging the black phone to her ear, her usual preoccupied look with added worry lines, and my parents arguing in the kitchen while my brothers and I play train in the living room. Our house is so small you can hear everything.

Daddy says, “That can’t be good for a kid. What reason does your sister Ellen give for these harebrained ideas?”

“According to her, someday Arlene will go blind, so she needs a good start.”

I hear the thump of a coffee cup. “And you always believe her. You do whatever she says. You even have a joint savings account with her. For Christ’s sake, you listen to her more than me.”

Later I’m sitting on the floor in my parents’ bedroom beneath Mommy while she is sewing. I’ve got paper dolls laid out in front of me. I lean back so my head touches mommy’s leg. This makes her nervous, but I like it. She never holds me or touches me like she does my brothers, Mikey and Kenny. She takes her foot off the pedal, leans back, and sighs. I look up at the side of her face as she stares out the window. She sounds tired as she says, “How would you like to stay with Grandma and Ellen for kindergarten. You see, Fridley doesn’t have kindergarten. You would come home every weekend.”

I swallow hard and my heart pounds faster. I can’t leave my family. I say, “No, I’ve got to stay here.”

She says, “Do you remember the hen that lays magic eggs that Grandma has in the kitchen?” she stares at the patch she is sewing on to a pair of jeans, “Grandma can show you the magic hen every day.”

“No,” I whimper, working up to wailing.

Usually she gives in to me because the eye doctor told her that crying raises my eye pressure. But this time she bends back over her sewing.

My parents put off getting me to Grandma’s and Aunt Ellen’s until the morning of the first day of kindergarten. I refuse to get dressed, so they give up, because it is getting late. They pack a bag of my clothes, and grab me, putting me in the back seat of Daddy’s old Chevy with my three year old brother Mikey. Kenny, my year and a half old brother, stands in the front seat between our parents.

We drive off. I whine all the way from Fridley to Anoka, only sort of noticing my favorite landmarks: the two story brown building with the old fashioned gas pumps, the brief view of the Mississippi where the motel is, and Ghostley’s Farm where we get our eggs.

When the car stops in front of Grandma’s house, my heart pounds hard as it does before I’m wheeled into eye surgery. My eyes get big as Daddy gets out and opens the back door. I hug the front seat screaming, “I wanna go home! I wanna go home! I wanna go home!”

Daddy pulls me out and holds me tightly as I push, kick and scream. “Now you boys stay here,” Mommy says as she picks up Kenny and sets him down in the back seat next to Mikey. “We’ll be right back.”

Mommy and Daddy run down the sunken, cracked sidewalk up to the old house. She opens the front door as he hurries in with me. Aunt Ellen and Grandma are waiting. “Put her on Grandma’s bed,” shouts Ellen, pointing into the only bedroom.

“No! No!” I scream.

The room is so small Ellen’s bed is only a foot away from Grandmas. There’s a stinky gas burning heater at the foot of the beds. All four of them are in the room, but it is Daddy’s face I look at as he holds my shoulders down onto the bed. Through my tears, I see his scowl as he looks at me. He hates me. Why did I make him hate me? Will he ever come back for me?

“Stop being such a cry baby” he shouts to me. Then, turning towards Mommy, “I didn’t wanna get dragged into this in the first place.”

Taking the paper sack from Mommy, Aunt Ellen says, “This is her dress? We don’t have much time.”

Daddy pulls at my pajama top trying to get it past my elbow. “No!. I yank my arm away from him, but he grabs it again. I try to wiggle out of his grasp.

“Jesus Christ, give me a hand!” he growls at Mommy, who stands there looking as if she is going to cry.

Mommy pulls at one pajama leg, while Grandma tugs at the other side. Daddy and Aunt Ellen manage to pull the top off. They pick me up and stand me on the bed. Both of my arms are pulled out to the side. Daddy and Aunt Ellen slide my arms through the puffy short sleeves of a little girl dress.

I’m shaped like the cross Jesus died on. Ever since I started Sunday school at three, I’ve stared at the picture of Jesus on the cross. It is fascinating. I wonder what it must have felt like to hang from nails. Jesus must understand me more than anybody else.

My parents leave, Aunt Ellen takes my hand, and off we go to school. I hate it. The girls are bigger than me.

During free play time I want to play with a child size kitchen set but a storm of girls goes thundering over to it. I wait so I don’t get stampeded, then sneak over there, just as a loud girl says, “I will be the Mommy!”

A girl in a green dress crosses her arms over her chest and stamps her foot. “No, I am!”

“No!” says a third, with wild, red hair. “We’re taking turns and I’m the Mommy first. You can be the Daddy first.. She points to the girl with the loud voice.

Another girl has grabbed the dishes out of the cupboard and is slinging them onto the miniature kitchen table. A chubby girl says, “I’m Grandma and I’ll do the dishes after I have my cigarette.”

“Who will be the baby?” says the girl in the green dress just as I reach the corner of the table.

The loud girl points to me. “She’ll be the baby.”

They all look at me, nodding their heads “Put her in the crib.”

Two of them grab me under my arms, while another girl picks up my feet. I’m set down in the crib. Miss Anderson comes over and says, “You can’t put her in there. It might break. It’s made for dolls. Now get her out of there.”

They reach down and pick me back up. The loud girl looks at the high chair.

Miss Anderson scowls as she looks at the loud girl and says, “You can’t put her in there either.

I hate these girls. We play a ball game outside and I hate that too. I can’t catch the ball and I’m afraid I’ll get hit in the head.

Finally the bell rings and I can go home. Other kids look happy, but I want to cry, because I’m not going to my real home and I don’t want to ever come back here either.

I come in through the front door not saying anything. Grandma kisses me. Nobody but Grandma does that and I like it. She says, “Oh my snalla, my little snalla.”

Grandma goes and sits on the sofa knitting a blanket. I lean into her. She puts her arm around me, making a clucking noise. She is warm and as soft as a pillow. She brings her arm back to her knitting, so I bend over and help pull out the yarn from the blue and red plastic ball. I’m having fun pulling it out when she lays her hand over mine and says, “Oi Oi, Arlene.”

I get up and go to the kitchen. The magic hen is on a shelf above the stove. I drag a chair in front of the stove, climb up and lift up its ceramic body. In the nest bowl below are some old jellybeans. Yuck, I don’t like jellybeans.

Back in the living room I sit down next to grandma again, who still knits away.

There’s a narrow window near the front door. It looks out at the box elder. It is smaller than any other one. I turn to grandma and say, “you and Ellen have all the windows, but the little window is mine.”

I jump up, run over to it. Leaning in, my cheek gathers dust from the venetian blind. Pulling up the blind, I kiss the window. I will play with my dolls here. Little windows and little girls belong together. I lift my arms up over my head and bend down towards it. Here I will be just the right size. Here I can look outside and see a view from an angle no grownup will ever be allowed to see. I turn towards grandma and say, “Remember, Grandma, this is my window.”

When Ellen comes home I drag her over to it. “Aunt Ellen, this is my window. You and Grandma have all the other windows, but this one is mine. It’s little, like me.”

“That’s nice, dear,” she says with a yawn, and turns toward the kitchen. “We’ll have hot dogs and green beans for supper.”

From the kitchen she hollers something in Swedish to Grandma, something about the chair in front of the stove. Grandma says something back to her in Swedish, so Ellen comes back. They sound angry.

I sing a song to myself about the window and I twirl around and around. Each time I come back I notice that the window is still there.

Bio: As a young person Tara Arlene Innmon loved writing almost as much as she loved drawing. She kept an extensive diary. When she started going blind she asked herself, “What will I do when I can’t draw anymore?” The answer came down like a bolt of lightning. “You will write.” She could have guessed. In 2000 she was a finalist in the SASE Jerome Foundation Fellowship grant. She went to Hamline University, graduating with an MFA in Creative Writing in 2008. She published poetry and short prose pieces in numerous literary journals, including Verve, River Image, and Wordgathering. Many poems are inspired by dreams.

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A Vegetative State? fiction, Nicole Bissett

It was December 7, 2021, shortly after my sixteenth birthday, and the night my grandmother was scheduled to be put to sleep. Well, to put it more truthfully . . . to be killed. This was supposedly to spare her from living in a wheelchair or having more strokes that would make it worse, but I will say for the rest of my life that it was really about sparing the selfish people around her from having to care for her.

Grandma had a few strokes a year ago which rendered her paralyzed from the neck down. Still, her mind was alert and she could speak clearly. It saddened me to see her in a wheelchair, being fed by someone else, but her basic personality was never lost.

It amazed me that anyone could manage to eat that night, yet Mom and her fat boyfriend Clem were shoveling roasted chicken and mashed potatoes into their mouths like it was the last meal they were eating instead of grandma’s.

“Slow down, Clem,” Mom chastised, eyeing him with disgust. “You eat so fast. You’re never going to lose weight this way.” She was always riding him about his weight and it never did any good. “Just chew your food slowly.”

He slowed down obediently and said nothing: his puppy dog eyes only looking to my mother for approval. The whole scene repulsed me. Both of them were idiots. How could you ever respect someone who let you walk all over them?

“Mom,” I said, trying to change the subject. “Why don’t we just take Grandma home tonight?”

“We don’t have the time,” she replied.

“What about Aunt Jackie?”

“She has her own life, too. Neither of us have the money to hire a nurse for her and grandma doesn’t have the money to pay us.”

I looked around at our dining-room and kitchen. My mother, who generously spent Clem’s money, had replaced our old carpet with hardwood floors. The dining-room set was all oak; the kitchen had Pergo floors and all the amenities and then some. She had re-modeled both bathrooms twice since she got the house from my dad, and had a house-keeper come in three days a week. She lacked neither time nor money.

“You would charge your own mother to live here?”

“I’d have to. You just don’t know what kind of an undertaking it would be to deal with someone in grandma’s condition. She won’t be able to do anything for herself and it would be a fulltime job to take care of her. It’s best in the long run. She wants it that way, too. If I were in her shoes, I would want it that way. So would you.”

“She doesn’t want it that way! And you don’t know what you’d want, and you certainly don’t know what I would want!” I wanted to throw my dinner in her face. “You want it this way for your convenience!”

“You don’t understand, Julie. She has nothing to live for.”

“Maybe you feel that way, but she doesn’t.”

“Of course she does,” said my mother with confidence. She glared at me. “She’s a very proud woman. You have no idea, Julie.”

. I resented being talked down to. None of this was right, and she knew it.

“If I got in to an accident and wound up in a wheel chair, would you put me to sleep, too?”

My mother’s momentary silence revealed her answer. Finally, she said, “Well, what kind of a life would you really have? I mean, you couldn’t feed yourself or do anything. You couldn’t even really look attractive on your own. You’d have no dignity.”

I heard all I could stand. I nearly threw my chair across the room as I stormed out of the kitchen. I grabbed my purse from the side table in the living-room, along with my mother’s keys, which were beside it, and moved quickly out the front door.

“Uh, where do you think you’re going?” my mother called after me. I paid no notice. She didn’t come out the door after me.

I unplugged her 2020 Mercedes from its charger in the garage and bolted down the drive before she had time to follow. Fifteen minutes later, I pulled in to the parking lot of the Paradise Valley care facility where Grandma lived.

“Hello, Julie,” said a young nurse who knew me from previous visits. “Your grandmother is having a feast. I’m sure she’d love it if you joined her.”

Sure enough, my grandmother was enjoying a prime rib, baked potato, and a cup of tea. I blinked back tears as I watched the nurse feeding her. Sure, it would be tough to live like that, but was it worth dying over? Was there really nothing more Grandma could give to this world from her chair? She had plenty more to give to me.

“Julie,” Grandma said. “Oh, my little granddaughter. Give me a hug and a kiss.”

I went to her and took her frail body in my arms.

“It’s good to see you here tonight. How’s about polishing off the rest of this meal for me?”

I shook my head. “This is your meal.”

“I’ve eaten a good portion of it. About as much as I can eat without making myself sick. Help yourself.”

There was at least a half a potato and a good portion of meat left.

Just then, my aunt Jackie and her daughter Desiree walked in. Jackie and her two grown kids lived in Denver. Apparently, they were coming to watch the big event. Where was Liz, the other cousin, I wondered. Then it hit me what they might be doing here. They were coming to do the right thing: to take Grandma home with them. It was perfect!

Desiree was nineteen and Liz was eighteen. They could take care of her during the day while Aunt Jackie worked. Then they could go to school at night.

Desiree walked up and hugged Grandma as the young nurse removed her tray. “Hey Gram,” she said. “how ya doin’?”

Desiree was fat, but it looked like she had taken off quite a few pounds. She looked prettier, too. Her hair was naturally black and fell to her waist in thick curls. She seemed to be wearing less make-up these days too, which gave her a softer look. She was prettier than I had ever appreciated before.

“Oh, can’t complain, considering,” said grandma.

It was true: Grandma never complained, even now. I had never been so glad to see these people. They could make everything okay again.

“Hey, slick,” Desiree said, patting me on the back. “What’s shakin’?”

“Not much,” I said.

I gave my aunt Jackie a hug. We all talked to Grandma for a few minutes.
After a half an hour or so, my mother showed up with Clem.

“I don’t appreciate you just grabbing my car without permission, Julie,” she said after warmly greeting the relatives she gossiped about constantly.

I rolled my eyes at her in disgust, but said nothing. There was nothing to say.

I decided to get away with Desiree alone and have some quality cousin time. The two of us slipped outside the building while the others gabbed. Desiree pulled out a cigarette and lit up.

“So what’s up, Slick? How’s your sex life?” She took a long drag, then promptly blew rings of smoke in my face.

I shook my head. “Non-existent.”

“You’re not still a virgin,” Desiree said in disbelief.

“I am.”

“Bull. Are you on birth control? ‘Cause if that’s the hang up, I can hook you up.”

My face reddened. “I didn’t come here to talk about this,” I said. “I came to talk about Gram.”

Desiree moved to a flower bed and sat down on the side. Her fat butt cheek nearly squashed one of the plants. She was still a tub of lard. “Yeah, it’s really sad about all that, huh?”

“It’s nice that you came here,” I said.

“Of course,” Desiree said. “I couldn’t miss my grandma’s funeral and a chance to say goodbye to her.”

My cheeks drained of their color. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You mean, you guys aren’t here to take grandma home with you?”

Desiree shook her head and laughed. “Of course not, hon. She’s a vegetable now. We can’t take care of her like that.”

I nearly burst in to tears. Why didn’t anyone care?

“I know it’s a bummer,” said Desiree. “I mean, I’ll miss her too. But we have our own lives. I got work and Liz has college.”

“Doesn’t anyone care about Gram?”

“Of course we do,” Desiree said. “But this is really for the best, Julie, believe me. She wouldn’t want to be a vegetable all her life.”

“She’s not a vegetable!” I exploded. “The woman talks and breathes and eats without a feeding tube. She still has a lot to give. And how is it that everyone else seems to know what Grandma wants except Grandma. She doesn’t want this, and I know she wouldn’t sign papers to let anyone kill her.”

“Honey, she doesn’t even have to sign papers. She’s disabled now. She’s considered to be in a vegetative state. That wouldn’t have been true ten years ago, but it is now. She’s practically drooling. She doesn’t have a choice anymore. The government ain’t gonna take care of her.” She blew out her cigarette and dropped the ashes into the flowerbed.

Idiots like her, and sometimes my mother when we were in a fight, call me naive. I was beginning to wonder if there was some truth to their accusation. I hated to betray my own ignorance, but I had to now.

“You mean she is considered like a minor? With no choice?”

“That’s right,” Desiree said. “Hey, look at the bright side…She doesn’t even know what’s comin’. We’re gonna get it done tonight. Right now, she just thinks she’s going home.”

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As Desiree and Julie were stepping outside for cousin-bonding time, Hal Yates, MD was having a brief conversation with his wife, Martha.

“Another long night, I’m afraid,” he said. “Got a few more patients to put down and some other emergencies.” What he neglected to mention was that the emergency was his need for sex with his lover, Loraine. Hey, that need got, as that Foreigner song said, “Urgent!” The reality was, Julia Anderson, the gray-haired quad, was his last patient, and that was going to be quick and easy. After all, what was she gonna do? Beat him up? That would take five minutes after he hung up, and then he was off…in more ways than one.

“Thanks honey,” he said. “That was very considerate of you. Just leave it in the microwave. I promise I’ll grab it when I get home. Don’t wait up for me though. It could get into the morning.”

He entered the room with Sara, his assistant, who rolled along what he needed on a dolly. “Hi guys,” he said to what looked like a freaking party.

Their smiles faded. “Hi.”

“Hello, Mrs. Anderson,” he said to the old cripple. “I’m Dr. Yates.”

“Hi there,” she said cheerily. “Are you here to release me from this trap?”

“You bet,” he said, setting up the medication. .

“Wonderful! I’ve waited for my freedom for so long,” the old cripple said.

“That’s a great attitude to have, Mrs. Anderson,” Dr. Yates said. “Because, really, the way you’re living, it is a trap.”

He could see nervous looks on the faces of her family. What was up with them?

“Are you guys taking pictures or what?” Dr. Yates asked, growing impatient.
The younger looking broad of the two looked indignant. “Seriously?” she asked.

“Yeah, I mean, otherwise, I gotta get to work.”

“Work?” the old cripple said?”

“Yup, you’re out of here within two minutes,” Dr. Yates said simply.

The family stood back and watched as he brought the mask over to her.

“What’s that?” the old lady asked.

“This is what’s going to get you out of the trap,” Dr. Yates explained. “You just breathe right into this and it will be painless. You’ll be gone within minutes. It’s very simple, and I’ll be monitoring everything.”

“Gone? Gone where?”

“Mom,” said the younger broad. “You’re going to sleep.”

“You mean…Put to sleep?” She gasped as the realization hit, and terror suddenly flashed in her eyes.

“Yes. It’s time.”

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I don’t want to talk about what I walked into. The vision still haunts my dreams, and I imagine it always will. I’ll just say that I walked into confirmation that Grandma really didn’t want to die. Some idiot was trying to kill her, and she couldn’t fight back, except with words.

I’ll always remember grandma as taking care of me when I was sick, the cookies and pineapple dump cakes she baked, the plays she took me to, the books she read to me, the nights I spent at her house, and the fun we had playing cards, or riding up to Julian’s with Grandpa just for biscuits and gravy before he died…a natural death, I might add…

Mom and I scarcely talk. I have one more year, then I’ll be eighteen. I’m counting the days till I can legally move out, since, of course, the control freak won’t emancipate me.

Grandma had many good years left, I believe. But even if she didn’t, it was no one else’s call but grandma’s and God’s.

I’m still trying to figure out where God is in all this, if indeed He exists. My friends and youth pastor tell me He does, and I think I believe…but now…I just don’t know. I only know I need answers.

Bio: Nicole Bissett lives in La Mesa, CA, with her husband Harry. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism with a minor in English.

Her profile articles appear regularly in Today’s Vintage Magazine and the Insurance Journal. She has written for “The Jonestown Report,” and has been a volunteer transcriber for the Jonestown Institute. Several of her pieces appeared in “The Gratitude Book Project,” which became a number one Amazon best-seller in December, 2010. She also acts as a ghost-writer for Kevin Cole, a life coach who founded Empowerment Quest International.

Nicole can be reached at

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Wrinkles, nonfiction, Kate Chamberlin

I hate all wrinkles. I especially don’t like to sleep on wrinkled sheets. It seems like I always wake up with a bright red line on my cheek from laying on a wrinkle. I don’t understand why a fitted bottom sheet can’t stay put with a proper fit.

I like to iron the top end of the flat sheet, so it looks and feels nice flapped over the comforter. I usually fold the clean and ironed flat sheet with the fitted bottom and two pillow cases up in a bundle. It’s quick and easy to pick up the bundle on laundry day.

Actually, I don’t mind ironing things. I like the feeling of making some wrinkled ol’ shirt nice and smooth. I imagine folks will see my little ones in a freshly ironed, button-down shirt and say: My, isn’t Kate taking good care of those boys! The truth is that they can never keep those darn shirt-tails tucked in and, yes, I want every inch of them to look good when I go out with them.

I do have my limits, though. My mother-in-law used to iron my husband’s underwear and pjs. I don’t, thank you very much. I suspect the fabrics in those days, really needed ironing more than the permanent press items of today.

I have a really big, gorgeous Christmas table cloth my mother made for a flower show. It requires ironing after I launder it following the coming of the Wise Men. I was the one to pin a small jingle bell on the end of each line of white, rick-rack that formed a Christmas tree. There are six trees, each with 8 branches: that’s ninety-six little bells. I figure ironing it takes enough time. Instead of pinning on bells, I’d rather spend the time rolling pine cones in Crisco and birdseed with my boys!

I don’t like the wrinkles in our carpet, either! My brother used to say that I could trip on the flowers in our carpet’s pattern. Now I don’t even need the flowers! The wrinkles in our old carpet do the job quite often. Some day we’ll replace it with a nice smooth rug. I think we’ll wait until the boys are 42, though.

While I was pondering about the wrinkles in my life, my husband walked in. I wondered if he had any new wrinkles. I reached up to feel the top of his head. I knew he was balding twenty years ago, and now I felt the distinguished silver fringe go from ear to ear on the back of his head.

His loving eyes have faint laugh wrinkles, as do the corners of his expressive mouth. Suddenly, his cheeks popped up, deepening his wrinkles, as he began to chuckle. Then, he started to trace my wrinkles, too. Well, one thing led to another, and we, er, ah (blush) wrinkled my freshly ironed sheets!

Oh, dear Gussie, I’ve adjusted my attitude: Some wrinkles aren’t so bad after all.

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One Case from the Files, creative nonfiction, Elizabeth Fiorite

My name is Margie Mancione. I meet many different kinds of people in my work with the blind and visually impaired. I have been a counselor for fifteen years at a Rehab center, and I feel for those who are in the beginning stages of losing their vision, as I am also legally blind.

May Alice’s case was a particularly sad situation. She was a sixty-three year old woman who had recently lost all her vision to diabetic retinopathy. She had been raising three young grandchildren alone, though her daughter Sherelle, the children’s mother, lived with her boyfriend in an apartment nearby.

May Alice came to counseling sessions on the days she did not have dialysis treatments. On those days she would often be sick and very tired. She was also hungry, telling the group that her daughter had not brought her any food. Members of the class started bringing May Alice bananas, oranges, and snacks , which she would either eat at lunch time or take home for later.

The grandsons, ages five, seven and ten, had cereal in the mornings. Hot lunch at school. And whatever Sherelle brought them to eat for supper. Some nights she brought nothing, explaining that she had to work late and they would have to make cheese or peanut butter sandwiches for supper. Sherelle worked part-time at a fast food restaurant, and often the dinners she brought were the unsold food from the day before.
May Alice also told the group how her daughter would take her monthly check to cash for her, but would keep sizeable amounts of it for herself, saying that her car needed repairs or that she needed gas money to go to work.

After a week’s absence, and after trying in vain to reach either May Alice or Sherelle by phone, May Alice came to class and told us that she had spent the last week in the hospital. The boys had found their grandmother “sleeping” when they came home from school, but they could not wake her. The phone had been disconnected for months because Sherelle had not paid the bill. The oldest boy ran to a neighbor, who investigated and immediately called 911. May Alice had slipped into a diabetic coma and nearly died.

Tearfully, May Alice told us that her daughter had come to the hospital that first night , but not again until May Alice was dismissed five days later. Once home, May Alice discovered that her gold bracelet was missing.
She told the group that when she confronted Sherelle about the missing bracelet, Sherelle said it must have gotten lost. May Alice said that the seven year old Leon said, “No, Mama, remember when we took it to the pawn shop?”

These reports were getting more serious. I felt that we had the responsibility to inform authorities about this situation. I asked May Alice to come to my office with another instructor so we could talk privately.

“May Alice,” I began, “you have shared some disturbing facts about your living situation and your daughter’s negligence. What do you see as the best solution to your problem? How can we help you?”

“Margie, I want my daughter to treat me right, and to take care of her boys better,” she said, and began to cry.

Anne, the other instructor, said, “Would it help if Sherelle and some of us could talk together, and you could bring up some of these things that have happened?”

“NO, no, she will never meet with anybody. You don’t know what she’s like when she gets mad.”

“May Alice,” I said, “I feel that we have to report the things you have told us to people who can help you more than we can.”

“No, Margie, don’t do that.” She was adamant. “Maybe they will take the boys away, and I have raised them since they were babies. Maybe they would take me away and I would die if that happened. Please, don’t do anything. Don’t call the police.”

We assured May Alice that we were not going to call the police, but we would try to get some help for her. Anne went on line to order a free cell phone for May Alice, and instructed her how to call 911 in an emergency. With May Alice’s permission, other members of her group received her phone number so they could keep in touch. I did call Senior Protective Services and related the information May Alice had shared with the group.

The following week classes went on as usual, but the week after that, May Alice did not come to class, and no one was able to reach her or her daughter by phone. On the second day of her absence, I received a call from the case worker from Senior Protective Services.

“I visited the home,” she told me, “and May Alice’s room seems adequately furnished. The kitchen was fairly clean, and there was food in the refrigerator.” Sherelle told me that a woman who was supposed to be helping must have stolen money from her mother, and also the gold bracelet, but Sherelle said she went to the woman and got the bracelet back, and she showed it to me. ”

I asked if May Alice was present and if she had anything to say.

“She was there, but she did not have much to say, except that there must have been some mistake.”

I thanked the caseworker and slowly replaced the phone in its cradle.

In the ensuing weeks, May Alice did not return to class, nor did she answer her phone. The daughter’s phone was out of service. Our driver had reported that the house looked vacant when he went to pick up May Alice.

Anne drove by when she was on a nearby home visit. She knocked at both the front door and the side door, getting no response. She saw the next door neighbor sitting on his porch and crossed the yard to speak to him. The old man said, “I don’t know where they went–one day they were here and the next day they were gone. Those little boys were a little frisky, but they were always mannerly. It was my daughter who called the ambulance when the old lady passed out.”

“Do you have any idea where they could have gone?”

“Naw, the old lady never seemed too neighborly, but I know she lived here a long time. We only been here about six months ourselves.”

“Did you ever meet her daughter?”

“Well, I seen her come and go. She was always in a hurry and seemed mad. She had a beat up old car that you could hear coming from a mile away. The kids would run out to the car, and she’d start hollering at them to come help her bring some groceries in. I’d say hello, but most of the time she acted like she didn’t hear me or like I wasn’t even there.”

I wish I could tell you that something wonderful happened in May Alice’s life. I wish I could be assured that her daughter had taken her to live with her and the boys and that they were all getting along fine. I just don’t know that. I am sure that Blind Services will find her, and the process will begin again.

Maybe I should not have reported May Alice to the authorities. I think that most families are pretty resilient and can work things out for themselves over time. This family, however, seemed to need help and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. If I had it to do over, I think I would make the same decision.

In the meantime, I continue to meet with clients and try to be a positive presence in their lives. I withhold judgment, give advice when asked, and think a lot about May Alice.

Bio: Elizabeth Fiorite, O.P. is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. She has a Master’s Degree in Education and has been a teacher and principal in Catholic elementary schools. Presently, she is a social services counselor at Independent Living for the Adult Blind in Jacksonville, Florida. Elizabeth has been legally blind since 1990 due to retinitis pigmentosa.

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She Was His Angel, nonfiction, Bonnie Blose

For fifty-eight years, almost without interruption, “Paul Harvey News and Comment” brightened the lunchtime focus for many an American household. His quirky pauses, his style for supporting his sponsors’ products, and his tribute to long-lasting marriages are part of the personal tradition in broadcasting for which he is remembered. His family loyalty drew from the good works and close ties to his “Angel.”

Angel Harvey died May 3, 2008. Ill for quite some time, her death did not come as a complete surprise. Her given name was Lynn, and she was the love of Paul Harvey’s life. In a time when marriages crash and burn almost as quickly as we change socks, the Harvey’s lived a marriage we all grew up hoping we would experience.

As I listened to Paul Harvey News And Comment each day, rare was the broadcast in which his lovely Angel was not mentioned. We learned of her involvement in charitable work, their winter home in Arizona, of the pride and love they both felt for their son Paul Jr.’s accomplishments in music and radio.

Often, Paul spoke of candlelight dinners enhanced by music softly playing in the background. As each busy work day came to a close, the couple looked forward to quiet conversation.

As I look back on the solid example of dedication, faithfulness, and love these two gave to each other and to us, I must confess the desire to have attended one of the evenings so lovingly described by Paul. What would it have been like to sit with them and bask for just an hour or two in the light of their love, to hear the music and talk of books as they spoke of the events of their day. The meal would have been elegant, yet cozy; the conversation intelligent, candles and gleaming crystal adding their beauty to the scene. Fresh-cut flowers emitting lovely fragrances would excite our senses as we dined.

How does a person go on after the loss of a love? I felt certain Paul would be sustained, comforted by the consolation only a love such as theirs could give. Bittersweet at first, memories of her face in the glow of the candles across the table would warm his heart and provide the strength Paul would need.

I can vividly imagine that special dinner with the Harveys which, of course, I didn’t have the opportunity to experience. Paul’s mention of his “Angel” was so heartfelt I could almost hear her voice in the silence of one of his famous pauses. He made her part of my world.

Thank you, Paul and Angel, for your example of a tremendous love and marriage. You lived a love worth treasuring.

Bio: Bonnie Blose grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country. She studied social work at the bachelor’s level and attended business college. Reading is her passion. Bonnie hosts a weekly radio show, “Books and Beyond,” where she interviews authors and others associated with the publishing business. She moderates a local book club and coordinates telephone reading on the Philmore voicemail system. She writes essays and enjoys music. Bonnie earned a lay-speaker’s award in her region. She lives with her cats in eastern Ohio.

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Exasperating, memoir, Janet Schmidt

Twilight twined its dark, chilly presence around the village. Inside the pleasant dining room the foursome chatted while enjoying a fine meal. Little did anyone suspect a drama was unfolding in apartment B 244.

Resembling a witch’s caldron, an unattended pot of water began to boil furiously. As the water evaporated, the eighteen eggs it contained expanded until some took flight like “bombs bursting in air.” The racket must have been incredible as they erupted from their charred shells and scattered innards and shells from floor to ceiling.

A security guard approached our table. Looking at us he exclaimed, “I’ve been calling your apartment and no one answered. I’m glad you’re down here. Your smoke detector has gone off and we can’t get into your apartment. Our key won’t work.” With a struggle Karl fished his key from his pocket and handed it to the guard.

We couldn’t imagine what caused the alarm to send its shrieking message to the front desk. I hadn’t left anything in the oven. So we continued our amiable “chat and chew.”

“The eggs,” I blurted out, “I didn’t turn the burner off.”

Oh well, there wasn’t anything I could do now. The guard would turn the stove off. We continued our meal. It finally penetrated my food-sated being that it would be a good idea to inspect our premises. The security guard was standing outside the door with a fire extinguisher.

Oh no, don’t tell me he used that! My brand new apartment, my new furniture. This is too much, everything will be ruined.
The security guard tried to console me by mentioning his kitchen explosion experiences. But this was my brand new apartment–no one else had ever lived in it before- and my new furniture was being exposed to all this noxious black-smoke. He said, “At least there’s no fire.” Ya, right.

He had opened all the windows and was trying to track down some fans. He cautioned me not to stay in the apartment because smoke is dangerous. Scooping up a few of the shattered egg remains I threw them into the trash. The well-charred pot containing the blackened remains of the eggs which hadn’t flown the coop sat in the sink. Woefully I departed the premises.

Entering the dining room I told my husband he should hang out in the puzzle room until our home was relatively clear of smoke. Brad, with whom he was sitting, said Mary Edith had gone to her apartment to get me some fans.

The security guard and I set up the fans. We furiously fanned the air around the screeching smoke detector until it stopped. I continued to remove egg remains from the floor, counters, top of the refrigerator, and stove. The beautiful, yellow-sunburst surrounded by various size pieces of egg and charred shell, decorating the ceiling would have to wait until morning.

Finally the smoke cleared out enough to make the place habitable. But the next day we still smelled smoke. In an effort to improve the atmosphere I emptied several cans of air-freshener, scattered bounce sheets around the place, and kept the windows open. Fortunately we were having a warm spell. A maintenance man removed the egg remains and blackened shell fragments from the ceiling. I’m still finding miniscule pieces of shell in high and low places.

At coffee in the cafe the following morning I recounted the whole, less than tragic, affair to a group of friends, “You might as well hear my version before it hits the streets.”

Happenings like this are almost always, in retrospect, worth a good laugh at the retelling. Of course Karl has gotten great mileage out of the event. He informed the front office staff, “At least they weren’t Egg Land’s best.” And he has dubbed me “Humpty Dumpty” something he insists on sharing with acquaintances and strangers.

Always go for the humor after the situation is resolved. A laugh a day keeps the “bogeyman” away–eggs aspirating, only funny in retrospect.

Bio: Janet Schmidt and her husband live in Utica, NY. Though visually impaired since birth, she earned several college degrees and pursued careers in education, rehabilitation, and psychology.
Janet has written a memoir, several essays, and is currently editing her memoir about serving as a blind, protestant- principal in a catholic school. Her articles and short stories have appeared in several newspapers. e-mail her at:

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Independence Day, fiction, Virginia L Small


“Yes, Mom.”

“Come down a minute. I want to talk to you.”

“One minute, Mom.”

Alabaster finished picking out her Afro and looked around her vanity for the Afro Sheen, before she remembered she had left it in the bathroom. Creeping across the hall she went in and shut the bathroom door as quietly as she could. Her mother did not yell up at her again, nor could she be heard coming up the stairs. Ali turned to the mirror and, reaching for the Afro Sheen began to spray. Once her fro was patted, picked and preened into place she regarded herself in the mirror.

Already at 17 she was 5′ 11″. Long ago the boys had begun to tease her about her developing body, and height, and her mother a deaconess, had begun to mistrust her every move and lecture her endlessly about the evils of lust and sex. Still, Alabaster liked the way she looked. Even with the so-called flaws that no one seemed to want to forgive: Flaws that were not her fault.

There was the nystagmus, that swinging eye movement that freaked people out, the pale skin that got attention even from redheads who were as pale as she was, and that bright yellow fro that matched her lashes and brows. Yet, she liked all of it. These were gifts, not curses that nature had given her, and those wayward eyes were an attractive hazel: a blue-green hue, the color of the sea. She vowed to keep that attention-getting fro. It would never be permed, colored or have extensions.

“Alabaster,” her mother called again, “Right now!”

Ali sighed and opened the bathroom door, letting the Afro Sheen fog drift out into the hall. She went down to the kitchen where her mother stood fixing huge sandwiches for her brothers and father.

“Are you fixing sandwiches for me and Lisa?” Ali asked the back of her mother’s head. She sat down at the kitchen table and began to finger the Jesus and Mary salt and pepper shakers.

“You know you girls can make your own.” Her mother never stopped cutting the tomatoes. Ali was silent. That circular conversation about God and men, and women as servants had long ago gotten tedious.

“Ali,” her mother began. She started spreading mustard on the bread. “Your father and I have been talking. We think you’re not yet ready to go off to college.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just what I said.”

Ali sat quietly for a minute. “Mom, I’ve been looking at brochures for a whole year. You know how much I’ve been looking forward to this.”

“Why go now?” asked her mother. “You have plenty of time.”

“No, Mom, I don’t. I want to graduate from college before I’m old.” Oops. That was a trigger. Be careful, she thought to herself. She softened. “You and Dad know it’s going to be a long time before I get through all the school I need to start my practice. I have to start early.”

Her mother screwed the top back on the mustard jar and turned to her. She came over to the table, wiping her hands on her apron and sat down across from her daughter. She smoothed her black hair that had been pulled back into a bun. “Ali. Your father and I love you, very much. We don’t want to see anything happen to you. Truly, I don’t know why you are so set on being a psychologist. That’s…that’s not a profession for you.”


“That psychology stuff is all nonsense. It’s not a profession for a young lady.”

“You’re not making any sense, Mom.”

“That’s the Devil’s work. Those people lie. They are just like lawyers. They are worse than lawyers. At least you need a lawyer once in a while.”

“It’s what I want to do,” said Ali, quietly. She knew she had to fight for control of her voice. Tempers erupted far too quickly in this house.

“I’m afraid for you,” her mother pleaded. “You know you can’t see well; a person like you . . .”

“What about a person like me?” Ali asked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Her mother sighed, and looked down at her coffee colored hands. She looked back up into her daughter’s pale eyes. “You need to face it, dear. You’re handicapped. You can’t make it in the world. Why don’t you give it a few more years until you can think of something more suitable for someone like you?”

“Mom, I can’t stay at home forever.”

Her mother looked across the wide table at her daughter and licked her lips. “It’s a dangerous world, sweetheart. There are mean people out there who will take advantage of you. Men who will . . .”

“Mother. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. This is what I want to do.”

“Let’s pray about it,” her mother said. “Why don’t we go to the Bishop and see what he has to say?”

“Have you ever thought that maybe this is what God wants me to do?

Her mother’s face and voice suddenly hardened. “You’re not going.” Her mother got up from the table and began tearing the lettuce. “We’ve discussed it. It’s final.” She snatched up a handful of sliced deli turkey.

“It’s not final,” answered Ali. Her mind was made up. If this was to be the showdown, so be it.

Her mother turned stiffly. “What did you just say to me?”

“It’s my life, and I have the final say. I’m sorry, Mom, but my mind is made up.”

Her mother marched back over to the table. “Don’t you disrespect me, young lady. Who do you think you are?”

With a control she never thought she had, Ali got up from the table and headed back to her room. “I’m going out Mom.”

“Don’t you walk away from me.” Her mother was still standing at the table, the slices of roast turkey forgotten in her hand. Alabaster turned to face her. She prayed her mother wouldn’t notice the nervous gulp in her throat.

“Mom, I am going to get a degree. In fact I intend to get several. I will apply to any college I am interested in, and when I get accepted, I will choose one and I will go.”

They faced each other across the kitchen.

“We’re not giving you a penny,” her mother said.

“I never asked you for any money,” Alabaster answered. “I never expected any. I will work, get a scholarship, do whatever I have to do.” She turned then, went upstairs to get her coat and purse, and left through the front door.

Bio: Virginia Lee Small is an artist and writer who lives in Denver Colorado. She has OCA albinism.

She has a BA in fine art and an MA in arts management. She is also a graphic designer and has worked on several websites. At one time she ran a gallery for artists with disabilities.

She currently owns two websites. Zebracorn Art Journeys is a blog for her art and graphic design. The Golden Child is an informational site for pan-African persons with albinism.

She can be reached at

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To Ireland, poetry, Christine Faltz Grassman

There is a lilting voice, singing a melody in me,
I don’t have a choice about the lyrics or the tune:
I sense, too, an offered hug, a complicated embrace,
A call, a pull from you, to hasten Memory’s pace.
I have nothing I can give except my promise to return
So much of life to live I cannot say when that may be.
Till I find a way, I’ll restlessly yearn.
Dreaming of your rocks, your moss, your blue and rolling sea.

Sweet smell of peat fire, carried on crisp, cool ocean breeze,
Savoring the exertion from scaling steps of ancient forts,
Music and laughter in the pubs, from your parks and along the streets,
Sameness and difference mingling in your heart and your ports.

You live and breathe inside my veins, within my heart and head.
There’s a hunger that goes beyond food’s harsh necessity.
A pulse that beats within me, a slow, incremental spread,
It feeds and grows on my resolve your shores again to see.
Affected, infected, I do not question the unquenched:
For sure I will be back to seek the part of me entrenched.

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The Easter Egg Hunt, nonfiction, Betty Ward

Here it was again, time for the school Easter egg hunt. I wasn’t looking forward to it very much, since I had lost most of my vision last year during a surgery for a brain tumor. Last year I had walked around the yard and watched the other children running to find the eggs and get as many as they could find. One of my friends ran by and put a couple of eggs in my basket, so I could have some too. When the Hunt was over, and everyone gathered to see how many eggs we all had, of course I had my three. A prize was given to the child with the most Easter eggs, and a chocolate Bunny was given to the child who had none. I sure wanted that chocolate Bunny. Right then I made a decision about next year’s Easter Hunt.

Finally here it was again, time for Easter. All of us kids were talking excitedly, waiting to go to one of the parents homes for the hunt. Finally we were loaded onto the bus, and arrived at the home where the hunt was to take place. After the parents hid the eggs, the search was on. Children scattered everywhere.

I looked for some eggs, but couldn’t find any. One of my cousins came running up to me, she wanted to give me some of her eggs. Patty tried and tried to get me to take just one or two, but I wouldn’t take any. I finally went over and stood near a big shady tree, until the eggs had all been found.

All the children gathered at a large beautifully decorated table to have their eggs counted. There was a prize given for the most eggs found and the least. I stood patiently waiting. Last year my classmates had been helpful, and gave me a few Easter eggs so I wouldn’t feel bad. this year was different, though. First prize went to the person who had found the most eggs, and the other went to me. My way of thinking as a nine year old child was, no eggs equals a chocolate Bunny. I was very happy coming in last. It just goes to show you, you don’t always have to be first to be happy.

Bio: Betty Ward was born in San Antonio, Texas, but Grew up in Luling.

She became blind at the age of nine years, after sergery for a brain tumor, in which her optic nerve was nipped. this, was due to the location of the tumor.

She attended the School for the Blind in Austin. She graduated in 1978 and returned to Luling for a short time.

Betty was married and had one child. She raised her son, and then returned to Austin, where she now works at Travis association for the blind, as a sewing machine opperator. She enjoys playing games on her computer, camping and going on trips.

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I GOT YOUR STRAWBERRIES, poetry, Nancy Scott

I almost bought a pint
for 99 cents fresh,
but then I would have bought
the sweet sponge cups
to make them less fruitful.
You bought them while
I cruised the bakery
and deli for salads
with bacon and mayo.
All you bought
were those strawberries.

But we were late.
You had to chauffeur
husband and child at five.
We unloaded me and two bags.

At home, you found
the almost of strawberries–
air tasting of them but
air and hands empty.

I loved them,
plunging them into cold water,
then plunging my right thumb
into each one to hull,
faster than a knife.
I must have eaten five
while deflowering the surprise,
planning what to do with the rest.
I would have to eat them
as healthy people (and maybe
God) intended, but they would
be good because
they were yours.

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One May Morning, poetry, Lauren R. Casey

Beneath me I feel
the moves of my chestnut mare
muscles tight and strong

Robin spreads her wings
singing her sweet springtime song
as the tree branch sways

Yellow butterfly
lying on a large green leaf
snoozing in the sun

Two little bunnies
in the grass eating tulips
enjoying their meal

The swans glide swiftly
on the water smooth as glass
sunshine sparkling

I trust in knowing
my beautiful chestnut mare
will soon bring us home

Bio: Lauren R. Casey is a member of Behind Our Eyes and enjoys participating on the conference calls as often as possible. Through Behind Our Eyes she has taken writing classes with Becky Hein and feels she has gained a great deal. She did a little writing mostly in poetry in high school and college but didn’t start doing more writing until she joined Behind Our Eyes a couple of years ago. Lauren has a bachelor’s in sociology and a master’s in counseling; she lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey with her husband and their Seeing Eye dogs.

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Get Up, poetry, Deon Lyons

Get up, wake up, you sleepy head.
The day screams out your name.
Rise and shine and stretch and yawn.
It’s your turn to play the game.

The world keeps turning under you.
It never seems to stop
Climb on, strap in, and be prepared.
Your ears might start to pop.

Remember to remove your hat
And keep your arms inside
This trip that takes you through today
Is quite a crazy ride.

With twists and turns, and detour signs
It helps to have a clue
So pay attention, sit up straight
It all begins with you.

Reeling left, and rolling right
Your nerves begin to quake
You think that you can’t handle it
You reach down for the brake.

No cause for fret or worries here
I promise, it’s ok.
This day, just like the one before
Has quite a lot to say.

Last turn now, we’re heading home.
The ending’s oh so near.
Climb out, brush off, you made it through
So lift your head, and cheer.

Bio: Deon Lyons lives in the central Maine town of Clinton along with his wife of thirty years. Deon worked for the past twenty five years as a Regional Sales Rep, until June of 2010 when he suddenly lost his vision due to lingering complications from cancer as an infant. Deon is currently involved in a vocational rehabilitation program, and is also learning many forms of assistive technology in hopes of re-entering the workforce. Along with a lifelong passion for writing, Deon has many hobbies, but they all play second fiddle to family.

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Nobody Ever Asks Me about my Mother, memoir, Bonnie Blose

No one wants to make me sad, remind me of what I don’t have. My middle-aged girlfriends exchange information, suggestions, and comments about their mothers’ health or their attitudes toward the upcoming jobs or romances of children or grandchildren. Maybe the way the kids stay inside all the time gets Mama’s goat, or perhaps there’s a new piece of technology she just can’t understand. I love to talk about my mother, and sometimes tell them I know my mother would resist the robot cleaners that go around in the rooms, and the preference for pre-treated disposable cleansing wipes over the old-fashioned remnants of recycled clothing in the rag bag. Conversation is fast-flowing, so I interject a laugh, some empathy, and a suggestion if I have one. But oh, so often I wish we could talk about what our mothers were like when we were young.

My mother worked hard cleaning houses for other women. She learned her skill from her mother who cleaned houses until she was eighty. My aunt Grace was part of the family trade as well. They came home tired but proud because they knew that, while earning a little money for themselves, they had saved time for those women so they could put their efforts into home and family matters or community services instead of cleaning. The clothing, pots, pans, and furniture were all back in the right places, and the house was spick and span for another week.

Mom was often bone-weary after a hard day’s work and she seldom had time for the simple pleasures like reading. So I shared my wonder from the books I read over the supper dishes or a cup of chocolate. A tender memory of mine is how she called it “Nestles” (rhymes with “wrestles”) instead of the more common pronunciation. She bought me Nestles bars. My stash was stacked neatly in a certain box in a certain location known only to Mother and me.

I loved romances on TV and in books. Mother told me how she listened to the women she worked for and shared their joys and sorrows when they talked about home situations. She told of one woman who taught single expectant mothers. Did the boyfriend really stick around? Did the parents have the right attitudes about the mothers and the babies? Was Mrs. Wright’s own daughter really going to marry that man she met at work? It was like hearing soap operas in real life.

Mother was amused that some women seemed more concerned with the honesty of their housecleaner than the work she did. My aunt wouldn’t turn down the eternally-offered peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. She was afraid of offending the lady she worked for every Wednesday.

I lost my mother the summer I turned twenty-one: not yet in college, not yet in love, not yet employed; and only half aware of what life outside small-town Pennsylvania Dutch country had to offer me. When I left home I nestled all those candy bars in stacks in Mother’s Tupperware container, her love etched into every dent and bubble in the plastic. While I was at the rehab center, somebody stole it. It was a nice treat for them, but a bitter loss for me. At twenty-one I didn’t have enough forethought to know that over the years I would have treasured little touchy feely reminders from those teenage years with Mother.

Some of the things she did still stand out in my mind. Mother was quick to let us know if she thought we had been disrespectful, or were making a bad choice. By the same token, she had a strong sense of fairness, and would take our part when it was appropriate. I had three Braille Bingo cards, and I wanted to join her in her Friday night fun at the Bingo hall. For some reason they didn’t want me to play. Even though they agreed to have a meeting of the decision makers in the group about it, I was still turned down with no explanation. Was the game rigged, and my pieces from another set would have messed something up? Were they afraid I would be a sore loser? Were they afraid everyone would feel sorry for me? We never knew. Hurt and angry, I gave them a piece of my teenage mind, then Mom took me by the hand and lead me out of the Bingo hall promising them that we would never again darken their door. I knew how much Bingo meant to Mother; it was one of the few simple social pleasures she allowed herself. I wanted to say, “Go back, Mother. I’ll be okay.” But her sense of principle and pride would never have let her.

I have often longed for the comfort and understanding my mother would have offered to my broken heart; the compassion she would have found to help my troubled mind look at an awkward situation and make the best decision. By rights I should still be enjoying this communication today with my mother. I would have loved attending her in her later years. But she gave me her values, some of her stubbornness, and the ability to work at a task until it is done to the best of my ability.

When women clean house for me today, I keep in mind the dignity and pride shared among my mother, grandmother, and aunt with the women whose houses they cleaned. I share thoughts and feelings with my helpers and hope they feel free to share with me. The paycheck at the end of the day shouldn’t be the only thanks given, and the only incentive to return. A job well done and appreciation well expressed make for a good relationship, not just an employment situation. I believe Mother would be proud that her experience and our sharing brought me to a place where I can see cleaning from both sides of the kitchen, just as I see the need for fairness, respect, and appreciation as a two-way street.

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Things I Made Fun of My Mother For, memoir, Nicole Bissett

“I have a folder, and I’m not afraid to use it!”

That was the adorable proclamation from my little son Eddie, one of so many hilarious things he came out with even as a boy. It’s hard to believe this same boy just turned 16 this week and is about ready to drive. Seems like it was just yesterday when I changed his diaper.

I used to make fun of my own mother for making corny statements like that. I thought it was so goofy how she would cry at events like my graduations. Yet now, I recall the plays and graduations I sat through bawling the entire time. So did she of course.

As a kid, I had no way of knowing what a gift it would be to enjoy those precious moments as a mom. Eddie doesn’t get it either at this point, but as sensitive as he’s always been, someday I know he will.

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A Tribute to the Greatest Racer who Ever Lived, poetry, Lillian Way

We love and miss you, Dale Earnhardt;
You made your driving into an art;
With the right spirit from the start;
Replaying your races warms my heart;
Your achievements are off the chart;
Intimidators would soon depart;
But then the wall! The crash! Death’s dart!

Tears and fears still fill my eyes
Ten years after your demise;
It took your death to realize
It must be safe for gals and guys;
More precautions you’d advise;
Help makers and shakers to minimize
Disasters; but “Why Dale?” I heard the cries.

Every track, driver, and fan can pin
Courage on your example then
Inspire rookies around the bend;
Your son’s career is on the mend;
Like you, his goals he will attend;
To heaven Godspeed brought you in;
We’ll remember you again and again.

Bio: Lillian Way is visually impaired. She resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and enjoys writing, watching television, reading books, and listening to music. She also enjoys collectables, ranging from knick-knacks, dolls and
music boxes to books, which are predominantly reference in nature. She likes the trivia from talk shows as well as factual information gathered from the many news broadcasts she records for her personal use.

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Our Father, fiction, Michael Price

Our father made sure all us kids received gold stars for Sunday School attendance when we were young. Every Sunday, we would sit in the first row during the mass group sing;

Jesus loves me , this I know,
For the Bible tells me so…

After the third grade level, about the time most kids’ curiosity begins to broaden, I usually just hummed along during group-sings.

“Because I said so!”

I cowered back into the pillows of my bed. My father was never much for talking but when he did…I think he graduated from the Teddy Roosevelt school of child rearing so my rear spent a good portion of the third grade on the receiving end of his response to my generally juvenile disregard of his soft spoken ways. I have often wondered if he ever broke any blood vessels in the palm of his right hand.


“No buts!” he thundered, squelching my feeble attempt at an explanation.

The bedtime ritual had not gone well that night; my mother had said, “Just wait till your father gets home.” And so I had, in mortal fear. He glowered down at me as I broke into an anticipatory cold sweat. I urgently wanted to plead my case, to beg his forgiveness in the matter, but surmised it was far too late for that.

“But dad, please!,” is how it could have gone, or something like that but, somehow, I have never been able to call him that. It just isn’t him. Somehow dad has always lacked in some way although, as I recall, all my buddies referred to their fathers as ‘dad.’ It makes me wonder how I ever got the car for dates in high school.

Many of my friends in school thought my father was the devil himself. Nothing could be further from the truth. He simply knows one way to live-the right way-and is rather adamant about it. He accepts no other doctrines and is the perfect example of a perfect example. I’ve never seen or heard of him drinking, smoking, swearing, womanizing, or anything else that might be considered even remotely hypocritical. It’s hard not to admire him-even those same school chums say so, now-yet he can be a very difficult person to love, at times, depending on how one chooses to define such an overused and under considered word. I have gotten better at it over the years, although back then I think I loved him simply because one is supposed to love one’s father. At the time, this curious influence served to take the why right out of my ten-year-old mouth. I just did it. Period.

…Little ones to him belong,
They are weak but he is strong.

“You know better than to disobey your mother!” he continued, his volume no longer earth-shattering yet his voice, somehow, equally impressive. I nodded fearfully as to appease him but dared not speak. He was still very angry; this was obvious. But I remember detecting a certain hurt quality in his eyes–like he was so intensely angry he would cry. “Evidently you didn’t believe me last time,” he emoted, wringing his hands until I thought they would bleed. “What do I have to do to convince you?”

I knew what was coming; I could feel it already. It was true; I had been forewarned. My father was and is a fair man. His final judgments have always been determined as the result of careful consideration of the facts. He laid down the laws in our house and if we chose to disregard them, we paid. And during payment he never said, “This hurts me more than it does you.” As I recall, I’m not sure I would have been too willing to believe him if he had. If he said anything at all it was more like, “I’m doing this for your own good,” which could be very confusing when it came time to sit down later. I never noticed the pained expressions on his face during these times because I was usually too busy bawling my eyes out; my mother told me about them years later. But evidently he “died a little death” every time I screwed up. Not having any children of my own I’ve yet to fully appreciate my mother’s revelation.

(refrain) Yes, Jesus loves me…

I know for a fact that my father did not break any blood vessels in his hand that night. I also know that I had never been so strangely surprised in my young life. Something very different, almost mystical happened. As I lay there, whimpering in anticipation, awaiting what I had come to know as my just desserts, my father, still wringing his hands, his eyes welling with tears, leaned over me and, gently placing his right hand on my shoulder, asked, “Why, son?”

A myriad of emotions streamed down my cheeks. “I don’t know how, father,” I spasmed, unable to look at him. “I tried to tell mom but…I don’t know how. I’m sorry.”

He took a clean, neatly pressed white handkerchief from his back pants pocket and blotted my eyes. I’m not at all sure if I ever really learned how to pray the way He wanted me to, but it certainly wasn’t due to the lack of effort on his part that night.

Bio: Michael Price had been writing creative fiction for more than fifteen years prior to his initial bipolar diagnosis in 1996, although–in retrospect, according to his doctors–he most likely had been in the formative stages of the disease for considerably longer than that. After receiving his BA in Theater from the University of Minnesota in 1980, he struggled off and on with various degrees of unpredictable behavior and substance abuse. His writing takes on a myriad of styles, structures, and themes, and his work reflects an important coping mechanism in dealing with his affliction.

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Cape Cod, poetry, Ria Meade

Steamy July evening – oppressive.
I take one of my dogs
out for his last break.
Pass my garden privet hedge,
the scent awakens the memory
of when I was five years old
on Cape Cod.

The shingled rented colonial,
weathered dark, not painted.
Wood floors throughout.
My sister Anne claims everything was wood –
Floors, walls, bathtub, toilet seat, kitchen sink.
Possible, fifty years ago.

A long, narrow, dusty road,
ran along the beachfront.
Colonies of family cottages
dotted both sides.

We six siblings scattered,
playing everywhere,
joined by similar summer kids.
Parents never worried,
confident we’d reappear
when the bakery truck arrived,
the ice cream man’s bell rang,
or Wee Packet fried clams were served
in someone’s backyard.

So excited, we walked the ribbon of sand and dirt,
to the arcade at this road’s end.
Think of it!
Paddle boats,
miniature golf,
forbidden games of bingo,
cones piled high with ice cream.

I bring my guide dog back inside,
weighted memories come in, too.
Sit down,
dwelling on that road.
Maybe it was just a lane,
possibly, fifty years ago.

Was it the loneliness I felt this July day,
the evening’s air so thick,
like my impenetrable blindness?
I wept, hard, loud,
my animals silent, anxious.
Damn – my nose for filling up
with the smells of the privet hedge,
that perfumed and protected,
each side of the road I knew.

I never thought I wouldn’t see Cape Cod again.

Bio: Ria Meade lost her sight at 27, half her lifetime ago. For the past three years, she has attempted to chronicle this experience in poetry, especially those of her 27 years with 5 guide dogs.

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The Kraken at Sunset, poetry, Shawn Jacobson

The track before us
ephemeral as faerie
we will travel soon.

The park in evening shadows dwindles below.
Rattling, cricking, clanking we ascend past lights beginning to glow.
The tension ratchets up as we climb; the top grows near.
Finally there! The highest point–the world below us, a short drop, turn, and….

In a mystery
of motion and gravity
the world turns round us.

Dropping into the loop we jerk and roll following the faerie track.
Twisting fast, no time for perspective just motion ever changing.
With joy and fear we face the next descent.
In constraints yet free we soar back to the sky.
Now underground now flung high in the air,
then through a cave and out to a twisting roll
and finally we slow and stop. We’re at the end.

We salute the ride
Joy and fear’s travel with us
to new attractions.

Bio: Shawn Jacobson was born totally blind and gained some sight through several eye operations. He attended the Iowa School for the Blind before finishing at Marshalltown High School. He attended Iowa State University where he received a BA in Political Science and an MS in Statistics. He currently works for the Federal Government and has been a federal employee for 28 years. He is treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and participates in a variety of NFB activities.

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Remembering grandma, memoir, Nicole Bissett

There aren’t a lot of childhood memories without Grandma in them. The house at 3436 31 street was the best place to be on a Friday night! On a Saturday night, for that matter, and whenever I was sick. It was my home away from home; my chance to be the only child and eat what I wanted.

When we first moved to California from Boston, Grandma warned me that kids would probably make a little fun of my then very strong Boston accent. Sure enough, they did. Within a year, most of that accent was gone. I made sure of that. Being blind in a public school was more than enough to contend with, let alone having a ridiculously strong accent from another state.

I remember how she’d carry us and sing, “Off to bed we must go,” to the tune of “London Bridge” when we stayed with her. If I needed a ride, or to spend the night, 280-6029 was the number to call. There were so many ways Grandma gave to us–the big breakfasts and dinners, the melted cheese chips, waffles, and oatmeal with maple syrup on it–the supply of great food was endless!

Some of my best childhood memories were out by Grandma’s pool, or even just watching TV on her fold-out couch. Friday nights, it was Benson, Dallas and Falcon Crest. Saturdays it was Love Boat and Fantasy Island.

I’m glad I got time alone with Grandma. I loved it when she’d call and invite me to go to Temecula to the Swing Inn for biscuits and gravy, and to Borego springs with just her and Grandpa. And, of course, Grandma always made those family trips a blast, with her “Dance of the Red Nighty.” Listening to her put Grandpa in his place was amusing. And there were those beautiful nursery rhymes she taught us: “Listen, listen, the cat’s pissin'” and her little sayings that I’ve never heard anywhere else. “Such is life, without a wife, pea soup and gravy.”

Grandma was a stubborn woman. I come by it naturally. But she was always committed- to Grandpa, to her children, and grandchildren. She was always there no matter what, with rides to get my nails done, or with chicken soup when I was sick, or hugs and kisses…I pray when my time is up my grandchildren can say half as much about me. She’ll be a hard act to follow.

Grandma had a great sense of humor almost till the day she died, even though there wasn’t much left of her memory. The most important thing she ever taught me was to always let the people you love know how much you love them, because you never know when their time is up.

On January 25, 2010, Grandma’s time was up. She died peacefully (I hope) in the care facility she lived in. She is still sorely missed. Especially on thanksgiving and Christmas, we feel a void only she filled.

Grandparents truly can make an impact in raising grandchildren. I know my grandma did. May she rest in peace.

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Orange Moon, Orange Cat, poetry, John Wesley Smith

I’m swinging in my grandparents’ country yard,
hating that summer is boring and hard.
There’s a big orange moon in the eastern sky
As I talk to the big orange cat nearby.

I sing to the cat, but he just doesn’t care.
Right now I’m so happy he’s still lying there
In the dark green grass that’s cool to the touch.
Why do I think of that cat so much?

There’s a big orange moon in tonight’s eastern sky
And forty-some years have gone grinding by.
An orange cat ghost crosses trees in my road
To dwell in my own orange cat I’ll soon hold.

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Author’s Note: I was inspired to write these two poems by an article I read from The New Yorker, March 21, 2011. The article, by Ian Frazier, described the return of seals to New York Harbor, touching also on the history of the quarantine islands.

Swinburne Island, poetry, Kathleen Winfield

I lie here on this sun-cooked rock,
This island my sanctuary.
I turn my wounded belly toward the healing sun.
Peaceful now.

People were kept here before
After long ocean days, quarantined,
Imprisoned for their sickness,
Their cries — “O Dio mio, aiutare me” falling on the water.
Some never left.

I sped south through the cold water sea, exuberant,
Swooping and diving, happy in my strong body,
Dreaming of old northern days with my family and playmates.
Jostling and leaping, all the seals slick and fast.
We fished and gobbled herring.

A white shape loomed, sudden, slashing teeth indifferent fierceness
It pierced the sea around us.
It chased us for a mile and a day,
My heart raced. My old friend, murdered, went down.
How did it end?
teeth clamped me, I writhe, twisted, desperate, got free, cut and bleeding.
I escaped.

I came back to this place. Now I lie on this rock,
Resting from the chase.

Here are ghost buildings; a brick chimney faintly looses
An old sick smell of burning flesh.
People carried here, weak, from their ships
,Never found their streets of gold.

Grey white gulls cry out, fly up and dive down.
I’m safe now.
The salt breeze caresses me.
I will rest here dreaming of herrings and
Not dreaming of sharks.

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An Epitaph, 1897 – 1911, poetry, Kathleen Winfield

Francesco Ferranda died of cholera
On Swinburne Island a long time ago.
An immigrant child from Italy’s shore,
He sought a new life.

May he rest in peace
Remembered at least, at last.

Bio: Kathleen Winfield has a master’s degree in English Literature from Temple University in Philadelphia. She grew up as a sighted person, later losing a lot of vision at age 23. After much juggling of terms such as “visually impaired” or “legally blind,” and so forth, she now prefers to say she is blind with some residual vision. She is a singer, and an artist in clay sculpture, painting, and charcoal drawing. She lives with her husband, who is blind, in northern Colorado.

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The Spot, fiction, Michael Price

It was a particularly diverse gathering of celebrities that night at The Spot, Hollywood’s hottest new watering hole. Top selling stars that I had seen hundreds of times on TV had channeled their way in for a few beverages and the residual effects thereof. Me? I just sat quietly, perched on my stool in the far corner of the bar, keeping to myself, shamelessly allowing anyone or anything entering my frequency to purchase and place in front of me any and all varieties of alcoholic dampness, their choice entirely, whatever they happened to be plugging that week. Suffice to say, I consumed. And I watched. Great fun. It was the first time I had ever been there and, as advertised, prime-time viewing at The Spot definitely provided the finest entertainment this side of Rocky and Bullwinkle and, on this memorable evening, I didn’t spend a dime.

The three guys behind the bar liked to refer to themselves as the Fruit-Of-The-Loom gang, and I think I know why. Their uniforms…er, make that costumes…positively reeked of silliness and the fruit cocktail headgear was a bit of a stretch even for me, and I love fruit cocktail. True, the incessant stream of undergarment humor offended a few folks but hey, it’s a bar; rent a sense of humor, whad’ya say? Morris the Cat was on his seventh or eighth life by the time I got there, and was still giving the boys grief with every fresh beverage.

“I don’t like this one either,” he’d complain, never failing to remind them that, as a rule, he wasn’t the finicky type at all. Cap’n Crunch and the Lucky Charms leprechaun expressed a good deal of dissatisfaction with their drinks as well; evidently their shots of tequila were nowhere near sweet or crunchy enough. A quite lovely young mermaid was talkin’ tuna with a real smooth-talker by the name of Charlie, two and three stools down. Ol’ Chuck must have been doing something right; in a dramatic moment of unbridled passion, the stars kissed. Early on in the evening a guy wearing a fully loaded tool belt staggered in.

“Hey, grape-head, gimme one a’ dem screwdrivers, will yuz?” he bellowed, approaching the bar. Slowly. He was fully loaded as well.

The grape-tender laughed. The guy was obviously hammered.

“Tell ya what,” he of grapeness said to the white-haired souse, “save big money and haul your ass outta here ’cause, frankly pal, you’re plowed.”

“But I…I…”

“Hey, could we get security over here, please,” berry-tender yelled in the general direction of the front entrance.

The Jolly Green Giant had been employed as The Spot’s bouncer for many years and was at the bar before you could say Sprout.

“Yea, boss?”

“But I…I…”

“Look pal, you’re nailed. We saw ya comin’,” interrupted Polynesian-medley-tender (a.k.a. Fruitsy) with a snort. “Shovel this guy outta here, will ya J.G.? Before he tries ta sell me a dryer or something…”

The scantily clad giant physically, easily picked up the man who, incidentally, was smiling profusely–had been, the entire time–slung him over a shoulder, and started for the door.

“Ho, ho, ho,” he boomed, flattening a cocktail waitress along the way. “Ho, ho, ho.”

The man liked his job.

Sara Lee was there but nobody liked her so she rolled her buns out early. Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb showed up together. Strange thing: I mean, I know they’re not even related but, somehow, that night I’d have bet you a bottle of pop they were twins; I certainly couldn’t tell which was which. Orville Reddenbacher and The Pillsbury Dough Boy popped up for a few hours. Talk about your odd couples: ancient, tall, geezer with macular degeneration and a prepubescent fat kid desperately in need of some sun. At one point in the evening Mr. Whipple slugged dough boy in the gut with a bony finger.

“Hee, hee,” tittered the little white ball of child.

Old Man Whipple had been pulling crap like that all night, punching, squeezing, fondling anything he could get his hands on. The Marlboro Man got tired of Whipple’s act and hit him, knocking the half-glasses off Whipple and the ever dangling cigarette from his own lips. Dr. Scholl was making rounds on his hands and knees, sniffing feet.

Eventually, The Jolly Green Bouncer tossed out everybody in the previous paragraph.

There was a very small dog prancing around selling burritos. His Mexican accent was atrocious and I still can’t believe he never got stepped on, purposely or otherwise. There was a very old, very small woman sitting alone at the bar.

“Would you like to buy a burrito, senora?” the little fella chihuahua-ed. The shriveled relic bought one and slowly unfolded the wrapper.

“Where’s the beef?! Where’s the beef?!”

She angrily hurled the meatless tortilla at the poor little fella and he sauntered away, with that thing sometimes referred to as a tail between his legs.

Tony The Tiger was, quite likely, the most popular beast in the bar that night. He chatted up pretty much everybody and ended each conversation the same way:


Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were absolutely adorable that night, holding hands and a lot of that other senior citizen romantic garbage. When they weren’t being all hot and bothered over each other, they spent a good deal of time and effort filching recipes and other intimate trade secrets off Betty Crocker who, by the way, got uncharacteristically fried that night. Once, Mrs. Butterworth tried to poke her head in on one of their conversations, but Old Lady Jemima caught her in the act, southern-drawled a few choice expletives, and kicked her in the shins; that was the end of that. Mrs. Paul and Mrs. Smith also swapped trade secrets for a while but, after a rather heated exchange triggered by a half-baked theory by a certain Sir Duncan Hines, who had risen to the occasion with an opinion at precisely the right moment, the two old dames cooled down a tad, made the decision to blend their resources and interests, forming one hot company: Mrs. Paul Smith, which was obviously a bad idea. Ms. Libby and Senor Del Monte appeared to be vegging out in the corner booth until I realized Senor Monte was trying out a few of his better Latino cha-chas on her.

“I have bean gazing at you from afar for so very long, senorita.”

“Oh for chrissake, I was just across the isle.”

“Ah, my lovely cactus flower, may I say you are…how zey say…ze complete package…”

“Look Julio, I’m kinda beet…”

“…ze soft music, candlelight, ze low heat, no?”

“…besides, I gotta pea…”

“But I offer you many valuable coupons for many especial things…”

“…real bad.”

She decked him with a right cross, knocking him on his can. It was pretty funny at the time but, looking back at it now, I suppose it was kinda corny.

Back at the bar, Bud Bowl MMDCCCLXXVIII was putting many people to sleep so berrytender bellowed, “HAPPY HOUR!” an hour early, to a thunderously positive response, and served both teams as the drink special, a-buck-a-beer, first come, first serve. Boom. Twenty-two beers gone in about a minute-and-a-half. Game over. And an excellent call.

Count Chocula and Frankenberry were only too happy to take advantage of a cheapie. Truth be told, they were just too happy, period, until they got themselves stuck in that ridiculous “Frankenberry!…Count Chocula!…Frankenberry!…Count Chocula…” routine, a rut that, for some asinine reason, put them on the cereal map. Then they commenced with the biting and strangling schtick which, as always, I enjoyed very much.


Obviously, that needed to be said.

One incident I almost forgot to point out; about 11:30, a very small green reptile hopped up on the bar, faced the room, took a deep breath and, with considerable volume, distinctly orated the following message:

“I do not sell insurance! Once again, I do NOT sell insurance! I am a gecko, and I repeat, DO NOT sell insurance!”

The evening’s festivities came to a rather abrupt conclusion when, around 1:30ish, a quite distinguished and proud looking woman, mid-fifties, give or take a century, attired in circa early 1900’s flowing robes, majestically swept her way through the overly animated activities of the night, eventually standing, tall, head held high, right next to me. She panned the room with great disdain, a bit overwhelmed, even appalled at the goings-on about her, it seemed to me. Still, her composure remained intact.

“Pray tell me, young man,” she voiced in a soft yet firm, unwavering tone. For the record, technically, she had a smile on her face, but she wasn’t fooling me. This lady was pissed. “Am I to assume that the local government and law enforcement officials are aware of and–the mind reels at the very thought–actually approves of such…unbridled unpleasantries?”

I gulped at my cocktail, stalling for the right words to find their way to my lips. She gave every indication of someone who wanted to slap something; I set my cocktail on the bar and sat up straight.

“This is no big deal, ma’am, trust me,” I soothed outwardly, buzz-killingly frightened inwardly. “Just a bunch of folks and…God, I dunno, what d’ya call whatever else is in here?…ya know, they’re just having a good time.” I forced a brief chuckle. “It may interest you to know that about half of these…things…they aren’t even real.”

Her eyes ceased perusal of the bar–focusing, widening, teeming with fury, at me.

I was so sure I was going to get slapped.

Instead, she slowly turned, calmly patted herself and her garments into perfection, composed herself completely and, chin up and in the lead, strode dramatically toward the center of The Spot. The room quieted with each imposing step until she reached her mark; an eerie hush fell over the premises–not a sound.

Then, with regal presence and a powerful sense of the moment, she pivoted back toward the bar, her incensed eyes raised ceiling-ward, and with one slow, dramatic sweep of her right hand, proclaimed to all:


Then the bar cleared out and I went home in the rain and watched a little commercial-free tube.

Go to Contents

“This Ball is Outta Here!”, Lillian Way

Somewhere in the Seventh Heaven, far above the azure sky and within the pitch blackness of outer space, is the throne room of Almighty God. The Ancient One sits at his huge desk in a corner of his office near the sky window. He rolls the window open and gazes down upon the humans he watches on a regular basis.

On this cold yet sunny Monday of April 13, 2009, his wizened eyes focus on a man he knows well. The white-haired sovereign glances momentarily at his time clock. He sees the hour is drawing near when the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies for nearly four decades, Harry Kalas, will be silenced forever. “Sorry, friend. I know you were looking forward to joining the team on that visit to the White House tomorrow. But it’s time for you to come home, where your close friend and colleague, Richie Ashburn, has been waiting for you for a dozen years. You will have much reminiscing to do,” Remarks Jehovah as he locks his eyes on those of the man entering the press box where that day’s ball game will be announced by someone else.

From his elevated vantage point the Heavenly Father observes as someone discovers the unconscious man lying on the floor of the press box and calls for medical assistance. Harry is then rushed to a nearby hospital in Washington, D.C. where he is pronounced dead by a physician in the emergency room around 1:20 P.M.

At that same instant Harry’s spirit approaches the pearly gates. “Hello, Mr. Kalas, welcome home,” says St. Peter, shaking Harry’s hand vigorously. “I’m as big a fan of baseball as you and many in the world below seem to be. I only wish there’d been something relaxing like that to do to loosen up when I lived on earth! It sure looks like fun.” He holds the gates wide open for Harry to walk through.

“Why, thank you,” Replies the announcer sincerely. “I suppose you’ll ask me to say my most famous call?” Harry says, and follows that up with a broad grin.

“If you wouldn’t mind,” St. Peter confesses in his thick Hebrew accent.

“Sure, why not? This ball is outta here!” Harry obliges.

Many friends and loved ones greet him. One in particular flings his arms around him joyously. “Hey, Pal! I’ve been waiting twelve years to see you again!”

“Hey Richie! I’ve missed working with you all those years!” Kalas proclaims, returning the friendly embrace.

“I’ll accompany you to the Father’s throne room. He’ll want a word with you. Then I’ll show you where your mansion is,” promises his former colleague.

“Welcome to your new home, Harry,” Jehovah speaks to the newcomer in a soft, gentle voice. “I’m very proud of your behavior while you were on earth.”

Later in the beautiful mansion next door to Richie Ashburn’s, the men and even God the Father watch the ball game Harry was expecting to announce. “Wow! Look at all those people down there!” exclaims Richie. “I don’t think I received the same outpouring of love and affection from the fans that you’re getting! They’re dumping cards, flowers, even memorabilia at Mike Schmidt’s statue! I won’t be a bit surprised if someone gets the notion to erect one in your memory!” Ashburn remarks.

They observe the news reports relating to Harry’s graduation from Earth to Heaven. Harry beams proudly as his three sons throw out a baseball, each to a different player representing different eras in the history of the game. The youngest boy sings the National anthem during the opening of Friday night’s baseball game.

On Saturday there are several tribute and memorial services in honor of Harry Kalas while his casket lies in state at the stadium. “I feel so cherished and loved,” admits Harry.

“Your family will also hold private services sometime next week,” adds Richie.

“I’ll miss it all, the game, the family, the fans, even those who come up to me at a restaurant, who want to hear me say their favorite announcements. I’m amazed to know how many of them grew up hearing only me call Phillies’ ball games,” Harry confides.

“How about that, Buddy! They’re even interviewing little kids mimicking your calls!” Richie puts in with obvious surprise.

“I’ve always been told that mimicry is the greatest form of admiration,” answers Harry. Jehovah smiles at the easiness with which these best friends resume their camaraderie.

Many of the Phillies team players give eulogizing speeches during the Saturday afternoon Memorial Service which is broadcast several times that weekend. Even his three sons speak some words of encouragement to their dad’s fans, to comfort them in this time of great loss.

“We love you! We know our memories of you will be with us in our hearts, even as your spirit will live on, always, so will your most famous calls. Here’s to you!”

Videos play at his memorials. Games will be cherished by his fans for years. Even Jehovah’s ancient eyes begin tearing at the sound of Harry’s words. “This ball is outta here!”

Go to Contents

A Labor Day Lament, poetry, Manny Colver

This Labor Day it’s sad to say
that worker pay’s gone flat.
It’s been that way for decades now.
You ask, “What’s up with that?”

You know full well that exec pay
has suffered no such fate
when you hear that bonuses
have doubled here of late.

It’s not that hard to figure out
the blithest and the blessed.
They’ve managed to create a thing
called corporate board incest.

Top execs from everywhere,
some family members too
with friends from academia
a well connected crew.

They sit upon each other’s boards
and vote each other’s pay.
And with those fat directors’ fees
they’d never dare vote nay.

They claim it’s just and rightful pay
with bold, self-righteous thunder.
Consultants tell them that it’s fine
but workers know it’s plunder.

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