Skip to content

Fall/Winter 2012/2013 edition of Magnets and Ladders

Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities
Fall/Winter 2012/2013

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

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. If submitting Word documents, please put your name and the name of your piece at or near the top of the document. Submissions will be acknowledged within two weeks. You will be notified if your piece is selected for publication.

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 Donna Grahmann at



We bring some surprises with this issue. Three grandmothers reach out: one through herbs and broken English; another through 1960’s technology; and the last through a classic poem. Relations go south, and a man with murder on his mind goes north. A skunk, a goat, and a housefly push the right buttons to catch your laugh.

Would you like to take a writing class by phone; try a tricky poetry form? There’s a good resource book to help sort through those pesky words that sound alike but don’t have the same spellings or meanings. Personal journaling doesn’t have to be busywork. Moods, timestamps, and locations can help you stay organized.

Music will be a section theme in the Spring/Summer issue. What instrument broke? Who interrupted what song, and why? Did the beauty or challenge of listening or learning give you a new perspective? Holidays, vacations, the outdoors, romance, mystery, and memoir are only a few possibilities for submissions, with or without a musical theme. Science fiction and music? You never know.

You’ll recognize some familiar authors if you’ve been a regular reader. Welcoming new readers and writers reassures us that we’re stretching in the right directions. Please share your suggestions with us at our website, and Email or call a friend who might like to join the fun and creativity.


by Nancy Scott

“I’m up,” I’d insist to the sibilant sibling 7:30 phone. It was our morning disability ritual.

Mark knew my careful management–my Braille lists and disciplines and myths. He likely also suspected my real desire. “Yes,” he’d always sagely say. “But are you dressed yet?” I imagined Mark’s morning apparel and accessories–boxers, bathrobe maybe, second cigarette, warm Diet Pepsi from the bottle, TV remote and cordless. I also assumed he was back in bed.

Mark, my only brother, named his obesity and heart trouble and unwilling knees “retirement” at forty-three, believing odd jobs counted more than his current half-life. I, blind from birth, was “disabled.”

Mark never made plans except for necessities. He preferred invention suiting his whims. Was there nothing he still had to prove? Was there no future success he wanted bragged about? Was it my success he chose because I wanted it more? Without being ready for something, would I trade risk and reward for a good book and pajamas under the covers? I rarely tempted fashion’s fate to find out.

Mark baked banana bread at 3 a.m. He only seriously cleaned when someone visited. I was almost always asleep at 3 a.m. I polished furniture.

I bought Mark’s last car so I’d have spur-of-the-moment adventures like Jimmy’s Hotdogs on the first really warm Spring day. He liked spur-of-the moment adventures. But he hated people staring at the wheelchair he needed for distances and at my white cane, thinking we were the sorriest of pairs.

I didn’t think us sorry at all. We had time to create and play. He could read print. And drive. I could reach high shopping shelves. And buy gas. Together we could part a crowd.

Which one of us did Mark pity more?

These days I whine, “Giving up is easier.” Mark doesn’t answer from his perch near the ceiling, even when I point at where he must be.

Nine years beyond his voice, my callings are not calling. I have a list–cleaning, phone calls, pieces to read and write, and even some noble causes. I still hope for, but more rarely get, good surprises (the kind that don’t change my landscape too much). And I spend more time willing away bad surprises.

Today I’m up at 6:30. Because I forgot a small chore I will have to settle for warm Diet Pepsi in a glass, but I am dressed by 7. Maybe I will find the perfect place to submit one of my essays, or someone will bring me banana bread.

Nancy Scott, Easton PA, is an essayist and poet. Her over 550 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, Thema, Whistling Fire, and Wordgathering. Her third chapbook, co-authored with artist Maryann Riker, is entitled “The Nature of Beyond.” Her essay “One Night at Godfrey’s” won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest.

The Art of Dying, memoir
by Bonnie Blose

“I think you should see Grandpa before you leave for school,” my father said somberly. “I don’t think he has very long.”

With those words, fear entered the kitchen and took residence in my heart on that April day.

“I’ll see him when I get home. If I don’t leave right now, I’ll miss the bus.”

“He may not be here then. You may not have another chance.”

Climbing those stairs to my grandfather’s room was the last thing I wanted to do, but I managed to find the courage. Since he was unable to speak, I stood quietly by his bed for just a few moments and then left. Through the wall that connected our two rooms in the double house we shared with my grandparents, I had spent a long night listening to my grandfather’s labored breathing. My father had no idea how difficult what he was asking would be.

At the age of six, my childhood friend Barbara died the very night after I stayed over at her house. Both totally blind since birth, we met in a special education class. As I made my way to my grandfather’s room, I remembered what happened at her viewing. My dad asked if I would like to say goodbye. When I said yes, he took my hand. We walked across the room. He placed my hand on something hard and cold. It was Barbara. I was touching her, and she was dead. It took everything in me not to scream.

Would I have to touch grandpa too? I shuddered at the thought.

As my father had predicted, my grandfather died four hours later, succumbing at 69 to an end brought on by a heart attack and effects of long-term drinking. I was 13.

Although I knew he was gone, I could still hear the sound of his heavy breathing on the other side of the door. Would death come to steal me too? Could its hunger ever be satisfied? Was anyone strong enough to keep it at bay? Who would listen to my fears?

I had learned early that people leave. Like a thief in the night, death stalks its prey. It always wins. When my grandfather died, I knew no one could save me if death had other plans. Too afraid to sleep in my room, I started sleeping on the living room couch.

“I know why you sleep downstairs,” my brother Rick said. “You’re afraid grandpa will come take you away if you sleep in your room.”

“No, I’m not. I just like sleeping down here,” I denied hotly.

We didn’t use the word death in my family. If it was referred to at all, it was couched in phrases such as, “the last time I saw him, I thought it would happen soon. He didn’t look good.” “I was afraid of that. She looked so sick when I saw her a couple weeks ago.”

Hospitals offered little hope. If someone went to a doctor, he would probably send them to the hospital. I would never see that person again.

In July of 1974, my sister called with devastating news. She told me our mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I was attending a college preparatory program at Syracuse University for part of that summer. During the drive home, my father told me she was dying. When I was not visiting my mother at the hospital, I could forget the intravenous medications and hospital smells of her room. I could remember her planting flowers and caring for the family she loved. In daily phone conversations, she tried hard to hide her pain. I tried hard not to notice. It was a dance of denial designed to keep the truth away a little longer. One day, in a voice filled with pain so deep I could have cut it with a knife, I knew she was really dying. Although neither of us said the words, death was there on the phone line between us.

My mother died four days after her 58th birthday. That August day changed my life. I had just turned 21. How could loved ones just disappear?

In college, I took a course on Death And Dying, interviewed half a dozen people about the death of someone close to them. The fear remained.

In a late night conversation, I told a friend two boys I had crushes on in high school died two years after I graduated. Attempting to lighten the serious mood, she called me “Typhoid Bonnie.” I wondered if there was some truth in those words. Why was death such a huge part of my life?

Many years later, I became a friend of a woman who would change my view of dying. Alice attended a local church. The minister there introduced us. He thought she might help me with grocery shopping.

As our friendship grew, we shared a love of books and spent hours at local libraries. Alice Carroll would describe pictures on book covers saying, “Oh, this sounds so good. Listen to this. I have to read this.” Alice loved steamy romances, fast-paced murder mysteries and true crime. She enjoyed the Christian fiction of Janette Oke and Grace Livingston Hill. My friend loved life and lived it joyfully, enthusiastically, completely. I looked forward to many more hours talking and laughing with her experiencing complete happiness in being a part of her world.

One day, she called with exciting news.

“Guess what?” she said.

“I can’t imagine,” I replied, smiling in to the phone, eager to hear her news. “Just tell me.”

“My daughter Lucy is going to have a baby. I’m so excited.”

“That’s wonderful news. I am so thrilled for you.”

The months flew by. Lucy had a baby girl she named Casey. At a yard sale one Saturday, she told me how much she was looking forward to rocking her. Unfortunately, she had no rocking chair. We found one at that yard sale. I bought it for her wishing her many hours of rocking her grandbaby as she drifted into sleep.

“Have you heard Alice Carroll is in the hospital?” my son Kevin asked a few months later.

“No. I just saw her last week. We went grocery shopping. Will she be in long?”

“Mom, Alice Carroll is dying. She has pancreatic cancer. The minister of her church told me. He wanted me to tell you.”

I remembered a day just a few months before. Alice and I were going on a picnic to a local park with my dog Sunshine. She called me at the last minute saying she did not feel well. I told her she was probably just getting a cold. Was that day a harbinger of what was to come?

I went to the hospital to see her several times over the next couple months. Always positive and filled with absolute faith, she never lost hope. Over and over, Alice told me God would work everything out. We discussed how she felt about dying. Although money was limited, Alice Carroll was rich in spirit. She counted her blessings, a family, friends, a life she loved. I thought of the baby just a few months old Alice would never rock or hold again. How could she be so ready to go?

During my last visit to her in the hospital, I started to cry. I wiped the tears away quickly, hoping she hadn’t seen. “Please don’t hide your tears, Bonnie. They show me you love me. Everyone tries so hard to hide their feelings. Don’t ever hide love. It’s fine to cry in front of me. I understand.”

“I will miss you so much. You shouldn’t have to see me sad. I should be here for you.”

“Bonnie, you are here for me. I care about how you feel, that you hurt. I just want you to be honest with me. I am sad that all we have done together is going to end too. I have had a good life. I am ready. Please believe that. I love you and I am so glad I got to know you. We had so much fun together.”

Alice Carroll died a few days later two weeks before Thanksgiving. In her dying, she taught me much about living. I learned dying could be done graciously if life was lived that way. She taught me the value of reliving the treasured moments I cherished. In our time together, I realized both life and death require tremendous courage and could be faced without fear or bitterness. Her dying was happening to both of us. Alice never forgot that. May I have the courage and grace Alice Carroll had when I turn that page.

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.

The Nicest Little Friend, fiction
by Nicole Bissett

I knew early in my existence why I was created. I was different to begin with, because I was created to be a granny doll, to smile and be happy just to love and watch over a little girl. And happy to love her, I was. It was never an act. I think my little girl sensed that. I also think she sensed that I could understand things, because I did my best to talk to her.

But I knew one day I would be put aside in favor of other, more grown-up toys as my little girl got older. In fact, I really thought it would happen a lot sooner than it did. It would have, had my first little girl, Carry, decided to keep me. A doll can sense when a little girl loves her, and I knew I was just another doll to carry, one she really didn’t much like. But Nikki came over to play one day, and told Carry she liked Mrs. Beasley dolls. That was when Carry gave me to her.

Nikki particularly liked talking dolls. Her Traci doll and her Drowsy were two other favorites, because they talked, too. That was why they came along with us to camp. But I always knew she especially loved me.

Nikki played with me long after she knew it wasn’t really “cool” to play with dolls. I went on many adventures with her. She even took me to school some days. I was right by her side when she discovered she had the Chicken pox and when she cried with homesickness at summer camp. I went on ski trips and to her grandmother’s. I lived with her in several homes as well when the family moved from one state to the other.

I think I really knew just how much she loved me when she was eight. It was the fall after camp, and the family was moving. One of the neighborhood kids pulled my string out, which disabled my voice box. Her daddy tried to get it fixed, but I ended up losing my voice box altogether. Poor Nikki cried and cried. I think it upset her more than it upset me. But she still played with me all the time after that. She didn’t want another Mrs. Beasley doll. Only I would do.

I was whatever she wanted me to be. When she got older, she started naming me Olivia, after Olivia Newton John, and Mindy, after the gal on Mork and Mindy. She cut the curl off the top of my head and sprayed me with many different perfumes. I knew this haircut of hers didn’t make me very pretty, but as long as Nikki loved me and still wanted to play with me, nothing else mattered.

When the Tom Selleck posters started going up on her wall, old Mrs. Beasley went up on the shelf, but I didn’t mind. I still kept a good eye on her, and I could always hear the goings on in her little room.

By the time Nikki had moved out and had a little boy of her own as so many little girls do, her parents had given most of her dolls away, or worse, thrown them away. But I sat on a shelf in the house for years before being moved to the garage. I was glad not to have been thrown out like the others, but I felt tired and old, and a part of me went away with Nikki. Truth be known, even if someone else wanted a Mrs. Beasley doll as much as Nikki had wanted me, I didn’t want anyone else.

So I was broken-hearted when her dad suddenly put me in a box one day. I hate boxes! Not just because there’s no breathing room in there, but they always remind me of the anticipation of being given away. I didn’t like them even when I was being sold.

Now, I was going somewhere, but I didn’t know where. It saddened me, and inside that box, I cried. I thought he was finally giving me away, or worse, possibly throwing me away! After all, what use would a little girl have for a doll in my condition? I had little tears everywhere, no voicebox, and I was dirty. To top it off, I was practically bald!

I was pleasantly surprised and delighted when a lady opened my box and actually spoke to me! No one has spoken to me since Nikki put me away, and the mom gave away most of the other dolls. Though Nikki’s parents knew how special I was to her, I think only Nikki suspected I understood things. This lady apparently did, too.

“Hello, Mrs. Beasley,” she said. “I’m Dr. Terri. I’m very glad to see you!” I liked Dr. Terri. She was very nice to me, even though she kept exclaiming over the shape I was in.

“You’re gonna be in surgery for quite a while, I think,” she told me. “From the looks of you, I’m afraid it’s gonna be big surgery, but when you’re done, you’ll be as good as new.”

Then what? I was going to be sold after all? Well, at least I wasn’t thrown away like so many other dolls were.

Dr. Terri brought me down to a room with an entire row of brand new dolls, or so it seemed. She brought me over to a drowsy doll (another doll Nikki had loved), and sat me beside her. She looked new. “See drowsy?” she said. “Soon, you’re gonna look just as good as new, just like her.”

I had to admit, all of this sounded like more adventure than I had been on in years! I missed going places with Nikki. It was also fun to finally have someone to talk to.

“Hi,” said Drowsy. “I’m Drowsy.”

“I know,” I said. “My last little girl had one.”

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I was fixed up for someone,” she said. “All the dolls who come here get fixed up for someone. I was a mess, too, before Dr. Terri fixed me. Though, if you don’t mind my saying, you look worse than I did!”

“Flattery will get you nowhere.’

‘Sorry, but ya do.’

“Fixed up for who?’

“A man doll. Maybe you’re being fixed up for Mr. Beasley.”

“A man doll! Gracious me! At my age?”

Drowsy laughed. ‘Just kidding. I don’t know who I’m going to. Some lady. I was sold by the little girl who used to own me.”

“Who am I going to?”

“Probably some lady who likes old dolls like us. Girls don’t like to play with us anymore. I guess they like iPhones and gameboys and stuff. People think it’s weird for little girls to carry us around.”

“My last little girl carried me everywhere,” I told her.

“Mine didn’t, but the one before her did. Then she died from Leukemia it broke my heart.”

Then I was really sad. I never thought my precious Nikki would give me away, even though her parents had given everyone else away. Maybe her parents were giving me away. Then a thought worse than anything occurred to me. Nikki couldn’t have died… could she?

I didn’t suppose I could play with another little girl in the shape I was in. Even if she fixed me, I was old and tired and felt it, too.

I went to sleep that night with a heavy heart, but when I awakened, I felt different. I smelled different, too. I felt a vitality I hadn’t known in years.

“Now you look pretty again,” Dr. Terri said. “See? I’m sure you can see a lot better now.” She put me up to a mirror, and I couldn’t believe my eyes, which could see much better with my glasses on! My hair was curly and fluffy again. My cloth smelled and looked clean, and my body looked firm again! Then, she did something that made me realize what had happened. She pulled my string. I had a voice box again! “You took me twelve hours, girl! But I fixed you all up, and now you’re ready to go!” Go where?

I stayed with Dr. Terri another week. As much as I felt better, that talk with drowsy and other dolls really made me sad. Maybe it would have been best for me to rot in that garage. I didn’t want another little girl, or just some other lady to put me on a shelf again. What was the purpose in that? It wasn’t what I was created for!

The day came when it was time for me to go. I guess she wanted me to recover there. But I still had no clue where I was going!

It was fun getting to know the other dolls, but I wanted to get this departure over with. I did my best to look at the bright side of things as I always had. Looking at the bright side always helped me keep that smile and the joy in my voice when Nikki pulled my string. Surely, this new person, lady or girl, would love me, or she wouldn’t have ordered me.

A few days later, I arrived. I couldn’t see through the box, but the voices sounded very much like Nikki’s parents. I waited for what felt like forever for someone to let me out of the box, and finally, someone did.

The voice of the lady opening the box sounded a little familiar. She had a deeper voice, but the inflection was the same. I could hardly believe it when the grown-up version of my little girl Nikki pulled me out and hugged me! “Wow! You look great!” she cried. “I’ve missed you!

I looked up into her green eyes. She looked mature now; her hair no longer short like it was as a child. It was shoulder-length with hints of gray. But she looked every bit as happy to see me as she did the day Carry gave me to her. I should have known she wouldn’t give me away. She held my stomach gently and pulled my string. “I do think you’re the nicest little friend I ever had!” I said. That was one of her favorite things I said to her, and, judging by her huge smile, it still was. Best of all, it was true.

I loved my voice box and was glad to have it back again. That was how I could communicate with Nikki in a way she could understand, and she always did. “If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?” I said when she pulled my string again. She just laughed, hugged me, and said “I already got what I wished for!” She was talking to me again, amusingly enough, in that same squeaky little girl voice she used to use when talking to me. Life was good again!

Nikki talks to me all the time now. I live at her house with her and her husband and her grown boy. I don’t go many places with her like I used to, because Nikki knows I’m fragile now. I still feel some of my age, but it’s so nice to know I’m still loved and cared for. I am so much more blessed than most dolls, because I don’t think I’ll ever be put away. Nikki really did love me more than everyone else. That was, and is, all I ever need to know.

Author’s note:

Okay, admit it: if you are a grown girl of the sixties or seventies, wasn’t there a treasured doll friend you had like Mrs. Beasley? If so, Dr. Terri is real. Her name is Terri crane, the founder of Mattel Collectables. If you have an old doll like Mrs. Beasley you’ve always wanted to get restored, or if you lost a doll and want one just like her, you can email her at You can also hear the voices of the other talkers she has on her Youtube channel, terribear61.

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

by Terri Winaught

It was Saturday, September 3rd, 1994, the day dawning bright and clear. As I walked to my friend Nan’s van, the sun reminded me with its warmth that it was still summer. Although my ride to Downtown Pittsburgh was mostly silent, my mind was far from quiet. Like marathon runners, a world of What If’s raced through my expansive imagination.

“What will my son think of me? Will he ask why I placed him for adoption? Does he equate adoption with being discarded like a toy that a child got tired of too soon after Christmas?”

“We’re at McDonald’s,” Nan startled me away from my thoughts. “If I’d known you were going to “give” Glenn away,” she continued, “I would have taken him. “He was such a beautiful baby!” she ended wistfully.

“I didn’t “give” him away,” I responded defensively. “I made what I thought was the most loving decision based on my circumstances at the time.”

Not wanting to debate the pros and cons of adoption, I slid to the end of a booth and ordered coffee and apple pies. I also returned to my tumbling thoughts.

“My son knows that I’m white because he’s been asking why he’s so much lighter than everybody else, and he said that was cool,” I remembered. “Does he know that I’m blind?” I wondered. “How will he feel about that? Are there any children with disabilities where he goes to school?”

“We’re here,” Glenn’s adoptive Mom and birth father, also named Glenn, announced.

“Hi, Kathleen,” I said, trying not to sound nervous as I extended a clammy hand. Almost immediately, I was clutching the hand of a precious little boy I hadn’t seen since he was four months old. As I recalled the sound of his cry at birth, and his contented coos after eating, I wondered what Glenn sounded like now as a ten-year-old.

“Hello, ma’am,” Glenn said shyly.

“Hi, sweetheart,” I replied. “It’s so wonderful to see you again.”

“It’s good to meet you, too,” Glenn responded with the same shy tone as before.

“What school do you go to?” I asked.

“I go to Monessen Elementary,” Glenn answered. “I really like it, and I’m a straight A student,” he told me proudly.

“WOW!! That’s awesome,” I exclaimed.

“Glenn, do you play any sports?”

“I’m going to try out for soccer. I really like it.”

We talked on for a while, exchanging interests and answering questions. A fragile bond could develop from this meeting. We knew we shared a common heritage.

“We’ll have to leave soon so we don’t miss the bus back to Monessen,” Glenn’s Dad informed Nan and me.

“Kathleen, I really want to thank you for being such a great Mom,” I ventured cautiously as we walked to the ladies’ room. “You are Glenn’s “real” Mom in every way that matters,” I continued. “Also, I want to apologize for how awful I was to you years ago. Feeling sad about giving up my son and being in the worst phase of my mental illness were no excuses to have been such a bitch,” I concluded.

“God says we’re supposed to forgive others the way He forgave us,” Kathleen accepted my apology. We exchanged contact information; I said goodbye to Glenn and thanked his Dad for arranging our reunion.

“You know, when I said that I felt Glenn should know about his mixed race heritage because he might have lots of questions, I never thought I’d actually get to see him,” I said quietly after taking Glenn’s Dad aside.

“Well, Glenn said he wanted to meet you, so why wouldn’t I let him?”

“Well, I want you to know just how much this means to me. In fact, I just have to say it: For doing something this special for me, you should be cloned!”

“No,” Glenn assured me. “One of me is enough!”

“Glennie wants to ask you something.” Kathleen motioned to Nan and me as we were about to leave.

“What is it, honey?”

“I can’t call Kathleen Mom anymore, can I? I guess I have to call her Kathleen.” As I heard the confused sadness in Glenn’s voice, I imagined a big, brightly colored balloon that had just been deflated.

“No, sweetheart. You absolutely can still call Kathleen Mom because she is your Mom in every way that matters. You just happen to have two Moms,” I explained with a reassuring hug.

“Thank you, and I hope I can see you again.”

“You certainly can, and I can’t wait.”

As I headed back to Nan’s van, I realized just how much I had to be thankful for. My What If’s had melted like chocolate drops in a child’s tiny, clenched hand. They were replaced by the healing reassurance that only love can bring–love–and the unmatched joy of a mother and child reunion.

Bio: Terri Winaught is a feature writer for the Matilda Ziegler Magazine. She also writes for the quarterly newsletter where she works at a Pittsburgh-based mental health organization.

She belongs to an auxiliary which raises money for Saint Paul of the Cross Monastery where she also sings in the choir. As a member of the Church’s fundraising arm, Terri created a Chinese auction gift basket entirely of her poetry which was matted and placed in frames.

Terri enjoys watching or attending Pittsburgh Pirates games to cheer the team on, sometimes boo the umpires and enjoy ball park food.

Terri can be reached at

To a Roomful of Young Mothers, circa 1975, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

I know when, in a room full of people,
I felt most alone–
most different.
No, not when I was the only blind person:
I could and can easily deal with those common occurrences.

In a beige room, with wood-paneled walls,
you, the several young women, sitting on over-stuffed chairs and sofa,
softly and happily conversing about your children and babies,
made me feel the most alone–
the most different.
Echoes from the motherhood kept swirling around me,
but you all went on and on–
your never including me,
my never finding an entry door to your hood.

In the midst of cacophony,
I knew that I fully accepted the news
of a Saint Louis specialist’s telling me,
then age21,
that I should never have children.
Compliant, I could live with never having babies;
but could I exist with never being a part
of the mother klatch?

Exercising nonconformity,
I never wanted to pledge a sorority;
nevertheless, even after college,
you formed other sororities
to which I could never belong.
I accept that I am a peripheral person:
I am childless, but I am dogful.

Dear young ladies
who could only talk on one topic,
thank you for letting me find and adopt
other circles of cherubic complacency.

Bio: Since writing her first poem about poodles in second grade, Wisconsinite Alice Jane-Marie Massa has relished writing poetry, memoirs, dramas, and children’s books. Recently retired from 20 years of full-time work at a technical college where she taught writing and public speaking, Ms. Massa now plans to devote more time to submitting her creative endeavors for publication. In earlier years, her poems and articles were published in Dialogue, Leader Dog Update, Newsreel, local newspapers and newsletters. Away from her desk, she most enjoys long walks with her third Leader Dog, Zoe.

Into a Memory, memoir
by Robert Kingett

When I was little, I did not wander as a cloud. I floated on one. I have to admit that much later, when the assignment was given to us to write about a poem, I did not think I would find one that would capture my interest or my memory. For days, my ears would burn the table of contents as my fingers struck down page numbers in a hopeless search to find something that I could connect with, for something that I could write about and have it be genuine. I was lost and my hopes for finding a poem that would even hold my interest long enough to allow me to write about it seemed to be an impossible reach. I was a bibliophile at heart, but I did not like writing about poetry. I enjoyed reading it, but writing about it was a different kind of circle of hell. On my fifth haphazard hunt through the table of contents, my ears caught something that I had not noticed. I was instantly drawn because it sounded familiar. “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” By William Wordsworth. I wanted to see why the poem sounded familiar. I had an odd sense that it would be significant to my life, but I did not know why it would be or even how. I wanted to explore the kind of emotional journey that this poem would take me through, and so I did.

After listening to the first line, I was instantly transported to a memory that I did not even know I had. It is late at night, and I am six. I remember feeling the Braille calendar poised in my lap, my finger tracing the soft indentations of the moons among the days. A sound erupts from the living room and I look up, my ears picking up every shift of the air just a few rooms from me. Shouting soon breaks out as if I am in a pep rally. The shouting grows louder and more obscene with each passing word. My mother has made her appearance on stage yet again, and I start to sob. I am guessing that Grandma and Grandpa are out in the fray as well, but I do not want to be in here all alone. The shouting reaches a volume that I do not even know exists, and my fright and anger mesh into one emotion as the stupidity of the situation finally reaches me. As my mother and her husband continue to scream at each other while mixing in some sounds of hitting and smacking, and managing to produce sounds of someone hitting the table, Grandma comes into the room. I know it is she because I can smell the peach scented perfume that I always smell when she is within a few feet of me. It is as if the smell alone is a blanket, about to wrap me up. My bedroom door softly clicks shut, and tender shoes thud over to me. She takes my small hand in hers.

“Are you ready for bed?” she asks me. I smile and nod, while all the while trying to hide my anger at my stupid mother.

“Well, I’m sorry. I do not have a story for you tonight. All I have is this book of poems your grandfather gave to me.” I groan at the mention of poetry. Even at that young age, I much prefer it when she reads me something GOOD such as Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. Outside of my bubble of safety, my mother starts to cry as grandpa yells at her about how stupid she is acting. I hear pages slowly open. Grandma leans to read and instantly I am taken to the place of golden daffodils, leaving the screaming behind me.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud, that floats on high o’er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils.” (lines 1-5)

I am soon floating on that cloud, looking at dancing yellow flowers. As Grandma continues to read the poem to me, I feel a sense of peace. I am flying, and the newly developed sounds of clashing in the kitchen are just a faint whisper. We both are wandering as a cloud, but not lonely. I listen with eagerness as she finishes the poem, allowing me to ignore the stupid smashing sounds in the next room. Once she is all done, she tucks me in and kisses me goodnight. She tells me she loves me and then leaves the room. I soon drift on my own cloud of safety, finally able to feel calm and happy enough to go to sleep. I am comfortable and soon floating on my own cloud that is floating across vales and hills far from the treachery of the world. I am safe.

That was when I was six. That memory of Grandma sprang to mind when I first listened to the poem. I reread the poem after that, repeatedly, making it my comfort poem. While I was reading the poem at that young age, I had a literal visual interpretation of the poem. It seemed pretty logical and obvious to me that that was what the poem meant, that the speaker was looking down at golden flowers swaying in the wind. Back then, I pictured vibrantly the golden tendrils swaying gently in the breeze, and some shadow sitting up high on a pink cloud looking down at this dancing show. I do not know when my interpretation changed, but it did.

I presume that it changed just after my grandmother died and I had no way of escaping the domestic violence I had to endure. I would always wish that Grandma would come softly into my room, click my door shut and take me with her on a cloud high above the bad things in my life. With the passing of years, I never saw or heard the poem again. Now, when I rediscovered the poem, I was instantly six again, feeling a sense of love. I replayed the poem, wearing out the skip back button on my CD player in order to keep hold of the memory that this poem helped to bring back from the dead. I loved this rare opportunity to smell Grandma’s peach scented perfume again. I loved the chance to hear her powerful delicately articulate voice read me a poem to take away all the bad things in my life. Listening to the poem now, I soon realized that I had a different interpretation.

Perhaps this interpretation came from her death when I was seven. The speaker talks about how he is happy to watch “golden daffodils” dance. My grandmother was always like that, happy to see, create, and experience pure happiness. This poem, I believe, is what my grandmother sees and saw. Because of this realization about my grandmother, I no longer have the same image when I listen to the poem. I picture someone looking down on people, but not just any people. I picture someone looking down at me, and other people, some wealthy, some poor, some old, some young, some black, some white, some Asian, and some of everything. All of us are dancing with an airy display for our spectator. We all twirl and giggle as we all choreograph a perfect rhythm. I no longer picture the shadow on top of the cloud as having no face or figure. It now has a form and a shape to it. It is someone I know. I picture the wrinkly old woman looking down at us softly smiling. She is comfortable on the pink cloud, basking in her glory and her peace. I am sure, if we were closer, we would smell the peach scented perfume. I picture the old woman slowly bringing her wrinkled hands together, clapping and shedding silent tears as she watches the spectacle. I would like to think that she would be smiling at this point; glad to finally have the opportunity to watch the best show in the world, the show of a host of golden daffodils tossing our heads up in a sprightly dance.

Bio: Robert Kingett is a blind writer with cerebral palsy who attends Bethune Cookman University, getting his degree in English literature. His publications range from the Fred’s Head blog to guest posts on popular blogs. He attended the Florida school for the deaf and the blind where he was the editor in chief, and initiator of the blind high school newspaper, the cobras claw. Robert Kingett is also an advocate for the disabled.

Trouble’s in Town, memoir
by Ed Potter

From the “Coffee with Ed” series

I worked in small-market radio broadcasting and production for thirteen years. The possible drop-in of an FCC inspector was always expected with holy terror. The grapevine was heavy with stations gossiping about the truth and validity about the inspector being in the area.

Most inspectors I ran into were reasonable and nice, but very quiet guys. You could tell they knew their power. Typically when an inspector came in, after he identified himself, he headed for the bathroom–yeah, that’s right–probably giving people a chance to hide what they could and get in order what they knew he was going to want to see.

The rules, I understand, state that a bathroom must be equipped with toilet paper and paper towels. A $10,000 fine could be imposed for infractions. I heard once that a South Carolina station had this fine levied, but…well, you know how the rumor mill is.

FCC inspectors exhibited a combination of curiosity and suspicion about a blind man in radio. Once an inspector asked me to show him the file proving that we had a daily log about contact with our community, showing how we found out what their needs were. We were supposed to keep a diary. It used to be a law, but I don’t believe it is any more.

We didn’t have such a file; most small stations our size didn’t either. I suspected the inspector knew that. What to do?

Well, I reached into my left hand desk drawer and pulled out fifty or seventy-five pages of Braille commercial copy and laid it on the table.

“I can’t read that,” he said.

“Well, I can,” I said, “and I keep it close at hand to be sure I know what people want.”

He picked up one piece of paper, looked at it, and said, “So that’s Braille, huh?” Then he handed it back to me. He made some comment about the fact that I needed to keep a print copy.

I said, very nicely, “Well, I don’t believe the law says I have to.”

He grunted and went on his way. The general manager whose face, I’m told, turned several shades of white, said, “Don’t ever ask me to play poker with you, Potter. Do you know we could have been fined $25,000 for fraud?” But he couldn’t hide what I seemed to hear in his voice, a grudging admiration for my staying cool under pressure. At least the inspector was gone…until next time.

Bio: Ed Potter is a native North Carolinian. He attended the school for the blind, and prepared for a career in radio in college. For side income he played keyboard, frequently in combos.

He produced Playback Magazine for twenty-eight years, allowing blind people to share information and entertainment related to audio technology. His marketing business is alive and well on the Philmore voicemail system offering personal gifts, collectables, batteries, and CD’s.

After fifteen years in radio, Ed earned a Master’s degree and taught speech at Goldsboro Community College for twenty-five years. He produced the “Coffee with Ed” series through voicemail messages with responses from listeners for six years. Contact him at 773-572-3121.

Unforgettable Neighbor, memoir
by Barbara Mattson

“I need a gun,” John said as we sat on my steps one sunny afternoon, “I’ve got a security job,” he said.

I thought, “He wants me to buy him a gun?” Then I realized with a sneaking suspicion, an unbidden fear, “If I get him a gun, he might kill me if he gets mad.” Memories of the past few years we’d known each other flooded my mind.

While I was mailing things from Charleston to my new Spartanburg apartment, Mom was readying my apartment. In the process, she’d met John who was bringing my mail to the apartment door to keep my box from overflowing. (Unlike post office boxes, none of the apartment building’s mail boxes were locked.)

When I met John, his hair was long and he was a bit overweight. Had he not been helpful, I’d have likely kept my distance, being a bit turned off by his looks.

After I moved in, John often visited me, and I also made friends with his roommate, Richard. When we had to move because the apartment building was being renovated, we found a house with two adjacent upstairs places.

Here our friendship morphed into codependence. John would clean my apartment, serve as my sighted guide, and when I took college classes, read to me. In turn, due to coincidental phone wiring, I shared my phone via extension with them, and I’d buy them non-prescription medications and food.

When John had a toothache I knew he didn’t have money for a dentist. So I took him to mine and paid for the tooth to be pulled, and other dental work.

Soon I noticed that after Richard’s sister would bring their once-weekly groceries, John would stuff himself as if he were afraid that the food would disappear before he got his share. (By then he’d lost weight and was keeping his hair cut.) In an effort to help John budget his food supply, I began to only buy food that he and I shared.

It wasn’t long before I started resenting any monetary help I was giving because I felt like I was indirectly supporting John and Richard’s cigarette habit. So one day when John asked for money for medicine, Mom drove him to the drug store. Inside John was forced to confess that he didn’t need medicine. It was then that I thought, “If he were a true friend, he’d not be dishonest with me.” I not only blamed John, I blamed myself for believing him.

After all, John had told some pretty unbelievable tales; one being that he’d helped the police with catching drug traffickers. Likewise, it was hard to believe John When he said, “I’ve been diagnosed as a psychopath.” Even if I’d known that John had been diagnosed as having no conscience, and was strictly out for what he could gain in a relationship, I wouldn’t have believed him. It wasn’t the John I knew.

There was another warning bell I should have heard. Unlike practically every other man I’d been with, John conveyed no romantic interest. I now know my oversight was because I wasn’t looking for romance. Eventually I learned from a lady John tried to make love to, that he seemed to be impotent.

During this time John began to talk about a lady named Rachel who worked security at a used car dealership. While most of us were sleeping, John spent a majority of his night at that dealership with her.

So it was with all that in mind, that I sat that afternoon and asked myself, “How can I tell this man ‘no’ without losing our friendship?” still codependent. “But how can I say ‘yes’ without risking my life?” I wondered. So I finally said, “I’d think the people who hired you would buy you a gun.” This was my indirect way of letting him know I didn’t believe he had a job.

A while after that, John met a trucker named Susan on the CB and they married.
By then we were talking much less and I was doing nothing for him or Richard.

After John moved out, Richard revealed another oddity about John. “John’s room is a mess,” he said. “He’s left jars of urine.” To me, that seemed to point to mental illness.

It has been years since I’ve talked with Richard or John. My brother Paul said he saw John at a car dealership. Paul was smarter than I when he said, “Don’t believe anything he says.”

Sometimes I wonder what has become of John and Richard, but I haven’t tried to find out. After all, I prefer to keep my distance–something, on hindsight, I should have probably done from the beginning.

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.

Lost Lake, poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

Long time ago, we were family-close.
Can you see the old lakeside beach
hidden in an Orange Mountain vale?
It was big enough for a tennis court
and a concrete handball slab.
You played so hard it blistered your feet.
The blood stained the sun baked pad.
I saw you hurl a ball that ascended so high
It seemed it would never fall back to earth
and would be lost in the open sky,
as were our youthful spirits and hopes–
thought we’d last forever.
I watch the picture in my mind
And see it fade to white–
a fading image of blinding light.
Where did we go?
I call every few years.
Your long-dead father’s voice answers.
It is a lovely voice, but I can’t hear you.
You brag how well your new knees work.
Now you can reach the pantry shelf,
with your patched-up baseball arm.
And I hear your ghost vanishing in time,
with our deserting lost lake memory–
Where we were children.
And I can’t tell you how sad I feel.
So I smile behind my telephone
and pretend that we are still there.

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.


More Than Books, a Prose Poem
by Robert Kingett

I love you more than I love my books. Your cover is the one thing I look forward to each day. Your leather binding captivates my eye. Your words always keep me turning the pages, wanting more. I love the plot points you reveal to me when we are communicating.

I can’t find the words to describe my feelings when I pick you up and begin a new chapter. I love how there are so many verbs in your steps, so many adjectives in each syllable you utter, such deep metaphors in every unspoken thought. I love it when you show me striking flashbacks.

Each night, I set a bookmark so the next morning I can pick up where I left off. Each time a chapter ends, I love turning back the pages to gaze one final time on what a splendid story we made together.

When you make me feel the best I can feel, you are my romance novel. When you make me laugh out loud, you are my satire. When you tell me you love me and I know it’s true, you are my short story. I look forward to dwelling in your pages, reading chapter after chapter each day.

I never want to give you up. I never want to place your beautiful story back on the shelf to be replaced by some tragedy. You are, and forever will be, a best-seller in my eyes.

by Norma Boge

When days are dark and the world’s so cold
And memories are all I have to look forward to
I think about you, so sweet and so playful
And how I loved to see the boy inside the man
I know you loved me for your own reasons
And my heart holds a special place for you
Time and space conspired to keep us apart
And I’m sorry fate dealt the hand it did
I will carry on, as will you, down separate paths
And I’ll meet you where the stars collide

Bio: Norma A. Boge resides in Des Moines, Iowa, and has been blind since 1989. Her hobbies include music, reading, college sports and enjoying her pets.

by Marsha Gaide

My mind is breaking the chains of a love story.
To shed these gold chains into tears.
Golden tear drops on a woven web.

Bio: Marsha Gaide has suffered with schizo-affective disorder for the last thirty five years. She loves to write to express herself. It’s like putting a puzzle together for her. With her matching words together in finding herself.

by Laura Minning

I turn eastward
to allow the radiance of the sun
to light my way.
And I allow the moon
to descend without grace
from Heaven’s warmth
and peaceful embrace.
My hopes have been liberated
from the chains that were made
to bind them.
And I bask in the knowledge
that I have been victorious
over all of the pain and suffering
that I have chosen to leave
far behind.

Bio: Laura Minning has traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia. She’s additionally had the opportunity to visit the Caribbean. Laura’s also a published poet and author. She’s had 102 individual poems, six articles, two books and one short one-act play published both in hardcopy and online. She strongly endorses the National Federation of the Blind. To learn more about Laura and her work, please feel free to log onto her web-site at

But not today
by Shawn Jacobson

Awaking with pre-dawn alarm,
I move the gate releasing dogs, they howl joyously.
I race them down the stairs to the door
avoiding child left obstacles.
I may one day crash bringing down pictures
with percussive dissonance; but not today.

Entering work, the guard barks at me
do you have electronics?
It’s my reader; blind guys want to read to.
I follow orders I disassemble my bag.
I reveal the offending equipment.
I feel like howling freedom! but not today.

The meeting goes rough.
These numbers must be massaged, made presentable;
we must spin your work.
You’re writing is complex, I am told. They fear numbers.
They fear missing their goal.
Tomorrow I may storm out in disgust; but not today.

The Driver woos his brakes with rough romance.
I catch tenuous monkey bar balance.
As I dismount the bus, my knees creak from
misspent life with chocolate and too many pounds.
One day, I may crumple to the sidewalk; but not today.

At home I face marital inquisition.
Why do you not clean your office,
and why is the basement a mess?
Must I do everything?
Dirty dishes go here, clean ones there.
I fear I may explode, exasperated; but not today.

Some days when survived
are a blessed victory
holding back despair.

Bio: Shawn Jacobson Attended the Iowa School for the blind then went to Iowa State University where he received a BA in Political Science and an MS in Statistics. Since 1984, he has worked for the Federal Government as a mathematical statistician for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Shawn is currently treasurer of the Maryland affiliate of NFB and of the NFB Sligo Creek chapter. He is also a deacon at Church of the Atonement.

A Six-Word Poem
by Mary-Jo Lord

Swallowed too many
unspoken words.

Bio: Mary-Jo Lord has a masters’ degree in counseling from Oakland University,
and has worked at Oakland Community College for Twenty years. She writes
poetry, fiction, and memoirs. A section of her work is published in a Plain
View Press anthology called Almost Touching. Her work can also be found in
Behind Our Eyes and in past Issues of Magnets and Ladders. She lives with
her husband and son in Rochester, Michigan. She has been blind since birth.
You can reach her at

by Terri Winaught

I swam in the sea, its salt water stinging my eyes, and I could no longer see.
I swam in the sea, its wall of water roaring in my ears, and I could no longer hear.
I swam in the sea, its turbulent tides tossing me about like a bucking bull, and I could no longer feel.

I swam in the ocean, its crystal waters clearing my eyes, and once more I could see!
I swam in the ocean, its water a soft voice singing in my ears, and once more I could hear!
I swam in the ocean, its turning tides touching me gently, and once more I could feel!
When the angry sea became a cathartic ocean, I was cleansed with a baptism of forgiveness, and I was at peace!


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

A few questions before we get started:

Does our Constitution give you the right to bare arms?

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

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

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

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

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

How is a Council different from a Counsel?

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

Which is the animal, a gorilla or a guerilla?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bio: John Weidlich lives in St. Louis, MO with his wife Donna and has been totally blind from birth. He is retired and loving it. He worked for over thirty years for the local Radio Reading service. He plays piano and is active in his church, teaching and playing in a worship ensemble. For many years, he edited a magazine published by the Missouri Council of the Blind. Although he hasn’t done much creative writing, he is an avid reader and appreciates good writing.

Submissions from a Writing Class

Editors’ note: Esther Cohen, who teaches for the Dorot University without Walls telephone program, sent some comments and poems written by her class members.

I am a writer, and a writing teacher. For many years, I’ve been teaching unusual–in one way or another–writing classes. Dorot’s University Without Walls is one of my favorite classes. It’s a writing class on the telephone, and many of the participants are at home, disabled in one form or another, and eager to write. The words that emerge are often wonderful and unexpected. The classes are on three Mondays, and last from 11-12. We are connected together by someone from Dorot. Because I am a writing teacher, we introduce ourselves, not in the usual way by accomplishment or age, by geography or profession, but by words we like to use. This spring’s class was about REVERENCE. Together we explored what we revered, and we wrote several poems collectively. Each student provided one word, or two, or three, and then we combined the words together. Here are two of the poems the class really liked:

In this poem, each student provided 3 words. Each word was one line. We ordered them together.

Meadows, Streams, and waterfalls
Acceptance, with grief.
Face, mirror, soul.
Laughter becomes you.
Rumors among stars.
Mellow sun. Yellow.

Here’s another, done the same way.

Blue pain. Sleep.
Colors of nature.
Jewels. Precious Emeralds.
Maybe I’m dreaming.
Always forgive love.

The last poem they asked me to submit is called

October Dreams

Surrender, feline.
Song bird
rain forest
chocolate joy
morning awakening.

Students who wrote these poems are Ricky Saady, Nancy Scott, Valerie Moreno, Eileen Lurie, Maureen Mante and Elizabeth Epler.

About me, I am the author of six books, and I teach Good Stories at Manhattanville College.

Yours, Esther Cohen

Editors’ note: Fall and Winter classes, some already in progress, include information about “Finding your Inner Poet,” “Jewish Short Fiction,” and “Learning to be an Audiobook Narrator.” There is a creative writing workshop, and a poetry co-op class. For more information, please visit

Rainbow Journaling
by Kate Chamberlin

There are as many styles and types of writing a journal as there are people–from keeping track of the weather, to daily public events, to chronicling personal events, to journaling your way through divorce or other trauma and, well, the list could go on.

My grandfather had a small volume for each 5-year period. You could review what happened on a particular day for five years at a glance.

There wasn’t much room in the allotted space for each day, so he wrote cryptic notes such as: Mrs. Pinch-bottom was here all day. It rained all day. Played cards with Hal and Gertrude. Men beat the girls.

The daily journal May Sarton* kept for the year following her 70th birthday was very detailed. and lengthy. In Pappy’s diaries we get a glimpse of the culture of the times. In Sarton’s journal, we really get to know her as a person.

She shares how she savors the experience of being alive, although her life is so packed with such a variety of things that they summon her out of herself.

Writing is a way of helping her understand what is happening to her; each book seemed to answer a struggle she had within herself. Writing filled her need to remake order out of chaos.

I have been keeping journals of each of my children. Each birthday, I write what has happened during that child’s year of life. Around New Year’s eve, I write in my own journal. My style of journal writing is not as cryptic as Pappy’s, but no where near the detail and prose of Sarton’s.

One of the suggestions in the ‘Personal Journaling Magazine’ to make your journal more useful as a resource for research or therapy, is to color code your entries. For example, if your topic is spirituality and what is happening in the church, use purple. If the topic is your childhood, use pink. You can write in that color or put a color mark (or Braille label) on the top of the pages. Then, if you want to reread certain topics, you can quickly turn to those pages.

If color doesn’t work for you, you could mark each section or page with tactile stickers, perhaps some with aromas. If your journals are audio files, you might creatively tag section openings with music or sounds to suit the mood or season.

Do you remember the autograph books many of us had years ago for our classmates to write in? Very often, the pages were different pastel colors. When you reread them, you’re apt to find that the happy messages are on the yellow pages, the good fortune messages are on the green pages. Then of course, there were those who “wrote on the cover to make room for your lover”!

If you use a computer and have a “sad” wallpaper background, you might find your mood slipping. Change the wallpaper to a bright happy color or pattern and soon your mood will be up and cheery, too. I usually use music to put me in the mood to reflect the story I’m writing.

What is your favorite color? Color has an emphatic impact on us. It can nurture or express human nature. Here are some of the more common attributes your favorite color might indicate you have:

*Black: power, sexuality, sophistication.

*blue: conservatism, security, masculinity, trust, truth, pacified.

*brown: nature, durability, comfort, warmth, reliability.

*Gray: intelligent, futurism, security, technology, modesty.

*green: nature, growth, renewal, freshness, tranquility, youth.

*orange: energy, excitement, warmth, activity, cost effectiveness.

*pink: comfort, gentleness, sweetness, femininity, happiness.

*yellow: hope, cheer, optimism, vitality, communication, cowardice.

*purple: creativity, dignity, mystery, inspiration, passion.

*red: Power, aggression, sexuality, strength, energy.

*white: cleanliness, truth, innocence, sterility, purity, sophistication.

Does your favorite color reflect your personality, how you see yourself, or influence your style of writing?

You can share your journal with like-minded internet journalers. They’ll make comments and suggestions on both your writing, your ideas, your techniques and add bits of their own wisdom.

Whether or not you want other people to read your journal or diary, just the writing of it can help you to see things in their process of change.


*May Sarton is the pen name of Eleanor Marie Sarton; poet, novelist, and memoirist.

`”At 70: A Journal” by May Sarton, Copyright 1984 by May Sarton, published by W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 500 5th Avenue, NY., NY 100110. 334 pages. narrated by Mitzi Friedlander for the NLS.

`’ Personal Journaling Magazine’, August, 2003. ‘Write the Rainbow’ by Janet Ruth Fallen. copyright by F and W Publications, NLS Magazine of the Month, 200. read by Michelle Schaffer.

Bio: 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

Writing an Abecedarian
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Editors’ note: At the end of this article you’ll find websites directing you to examples, historical information, and the song which inspired Abbie’s Abecedarian poem.

An abecedarian is a type of poem that has twenty-six lines. Each line starts with a letter of the alphabet in order from A to Z.

According to an article abecedarian poems were used by ancient cultures for such sacred compositions as prayers, hymns, and psalms. Examples of these are written by King James and Chaucer. They are now used as mnemonic devices and word games for children such as those written by Dr. Seuss and Edward Gorey. However, there are other contemporary examples by Harryette Mullin and Carolyn Forch. Some have twenty-six stanzas with lines that start with consecutive letters of the alphabet.

Below is an abecedarian I wrote. The song “Straighten Up and Fly Right” inspired it. Follow the YouTube link at the end of this article if you’re not familiar with the song.

On Straightening Up and Flying Right

A buzzard and a monkey wouldn’t fly together
because a monkey wouldn’t be stupid enough to
climb on a buzzard’s back since a buzzard is a
dirty old bird with no morals.
Everybody knows that monkeys don’t
fly–buzzards do. My
guess is that monkeys prefer to associate with their own kind.
Heaven knows why the song was written. What an
imagination someone must have to
justify writing it–but
knowledge of values would lead one to believe that there’s a
logical message here. The
monkey makes a point when he tells the buzzard
not to blow his top and to do right.
Of course not blowing your top and doing right are important.
People who are angry blow their tops, but the
question is do these people not do
right? I’ve blown my top a few times.
Still, I try to do the right thing. I
think that even the best of us,
under certain circumstances, blow our tops. It’s not
very unusual. But back to the monkey and the buzzard.
Why would a monkey allow a buzzard to take him for a ride? It doesn’t require
x-ray vision to determine that a buzzard is smaller than the average monkey.
You should realize that a monkey would be safer riding a
zebra. He wouldn’t have as far to fall.

If you haven’t written an abecedarian, you might want to try it. Pick a topic, and see if you can come up with a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet in order from A to Z to start each line. This can be tricky because there aren’t a lot of words that start with X, Y, Z, U, and other letters. Good luck, and have fun. You can submit your poem for consideration in the next issue of Magnets and Ladders.


Bio: Abbie Johnson Taylor’s novel, We Shall Overcome, was published in July of 2007 by iUniverse. Her poetry collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, also published by iUniverse, was released in December of 2011. Her fiction has appeared in Emerging Voices and Disability Studies Quarterly, her poetry in Sensations Magazine and Serendipity Poets Journal, and her essays in Christmas in the Country and SageScript. She is visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, with her totally blind husband Bill, partially paralyzed as a result of two strokes. Please visit her Website at

Irreproducible, memoir
by Aly Parsons

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

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

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

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

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

Behind me came a drawn out creak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bio: Aly Parsons spent about the first third of her life sighted, the second third partially sighted from diabetic retinopathy, and is now blind. Her story, “Cold Hall,” was published in the DAW anthology, Sword of Chaos, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Aly wrote the Afterward for Catherine Asaro’s collection, Aurora in Four Voices, which appeared in 2011 from ISFiC Press. She leads a writers’ group she founded in 1980 that is comprised of professional and unpublished writers. Aly is a graduate of the Odyssey workshop for writers of fantasy, sf, and horror. Currently catless, she lives in Maryland.

Everyday Life–A Poem Lost, poetry
by Kathleen Winfield

I was thinking of my poem–or trying to–
Thoughts of beautiful golden art, ancient statues,
The intricacies of soul to soul,
In other words, Beauty.

A letter arrived a minor crisis ensued–
State farm complaining about our roof
It will have to be re-done! It doesn’t measure up!
Too bad that we reassured you two months ago
When the other homeowners company dropped you!

But Ha-ha, they snigger, We can send out our own roofer to inspect it,
And we have for your convenience our own State Farm Bank.

We can loan you money, lots of it,
At a rate that will certainly thrill you!

Well, there went my poem, calm meditative
Thoughts of clever images.


But not forgotten.
I’ll go out to water my marigolds.

Bio: Kathleen Winfield has been blind with some partial residual vision for many years. In the last few years, her teensy but useful tunnel vision has diminished further. She has a master’s degree in English Literature. She is a singer, a sometime actor, and an artist in clay and other media. She lives with her husband, who is blind, in northern Colorado.

On Writing: A Memory of the Craft, poetry
by Cala Estes

I remember the quest for space, the blank
White lane left at the end of the line.
I remember the cloudy gray of too many words erased,
the tail tale stain of them on the tips of my fingers.
I feel the rumble of them beneath my hands
and hear, as if through a plywood wall in a fifth grade classroom
the stories they might have been.

I remember the delicate slant of the A in my first name
and the graceful curve of the C in my second.
Thousands of narrow gray fragments coalescing to form something
almost magical in its precision.

Towering volumes of them,
flimsy pages lost in dark spaces of desk drawers and stacked boxes.
The lithe dance of swirls and angular momentum which propelled
my bare wrist forward.

Ever smaller, I watched the words shrink in size
and I stared in wonder as the Y’s and K’s took on pageant proportions in their beauty.
The soldier T’s and L’s like guardian sentinels,
they were my masterpieces.

On the big screen, where my eyes could watch the child’s hand,
the ruler lines were tiny marks,
and every breathless moment as the paper filled was an exercise in loveliness.
The looping scrawl, the neat art of pushing the yellow pencil
was elegant in its design.

Bio: Cala Estes is a 21-year-old English major in her senior year of university. After losing what partial sight she had at age 11, she soon discovered, through a 7th grade English class, her love for poetry. Cala plans to continue her education to a Master of Fine Arts program in order to teach English at the college level.


The Reality of Rejection, fiction
by Shawn Jacobson

“You’d be surprised how many stories we reject for very basic reasons: obvious lapses in science, inconsistent characters, poor grammar and things like that,” the editor said. “The form rejection letter actually covers most reasons for rejecting a story, yours included.”

I looked at the form letter for my latest story, but any of the myriad such letters I’d received would have done. “I’m not sure what basic thing I missed though. Is it that the story has been done many times before?”

“Well,” said the editor, “we do see a lot of stories about aliens in human form that eat people, but you had some interesting twists; the one about the aliens breathing fire like dragons to cook their food was a nice touch. Even man-eating reptile-looking aliens don’t want to mess with food poisoning. In fact, the scene where the alien lures the hero out on the hotel balcony to be eaten was rather well done. If I remember, he had to jump to escape, but I think we’re too high for that here.”

From the balcony where our conversation was taking place, I looked down, way down, at the drained and deserted pool now stone cold in the late October evening. No, jumping from here would be a vampire idea for sure.

“Oh, I see you’re shivering,” he added, changing the subject, “are you OK?”

“Yes,” I replied, “just a little chilly, I’ll be OK.” In fact, I would rather have been inside at the science fiction costume party where it was warm, grazing off the snack table and doing damage to my diet, but the chance to talk to the famous editor about my work was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

I had literally bumped into him while backing away from a chunky gal with glue-on antennae and green face paint. She had been teasing me about not being in costume (threatening to arrest me for impersonating a human being without a license) when the editor stopped my retreat, saving me from her clutches. We decided that the balcony was the best place for those of us not in costume. He seemed quite willing to discuss my latest story when I broached the subject.

“Really, it’s not a bad story, just not what we want,” the editor continued, bringing me back to the moment and my rejection letter. The form letter seemed to glow in the ghostly lunar light as I went through the bulleted paragraphs. “I know you like happy endings in the stories you publish and the story ends happily for the hero even if a lot of the other characters get lunched.”

“Nothing wrong with the ending either,” the editor said, “in fact a lot of the aliens had a happy ending too. It was nice that you pointed that out. Most authors I run into wouldn’t have bothered with what happened to the aliens; you kind of stand out that way. In fact, it’s one reason I’m talking to you and not all the other folks whose stories I reject. You’d be surprised how many stories I reject, how voracious a reader you have to be in my job. You also need intestinal fortitude to stomach some of the stuff I get.”

“And I read that you want strong characters and extraordinary challenges; I thought my characters were strong and quite interesting.”

“Yes, yes,” the editor continued, and the challenges were difficult to surmount.’ Meanwhile, someone in the room said, “gee, it’s getting chilly in here, can someone shut the balcony door?” A man in Klingon garb slid the door shut, muting the raucous conversation from within.

“As I said,” the editor went on “your characters were great, delectable as a matter of fact; it’s just that there’s one basic thing that makes your story wrong for us.”

“What could that be?” I asked as the last couple returned to the hospitality suite, leaving us alone in the night. A cloud scudded across the moon, darkening the scene. Suddenly, the stars seemed closer than they had before.

“I believe there’s one bullet on the letter we haven’t discussed; in fact, if I’m not mistaken, it’s the first, most important bullet.”

I looked down trying to read the letter in the lamp light from within the room, a light repeatedly eclipsed by would-be galactic citizens as they moved about doing their thing.

“We are quite proud of our guidelines, you know,” continued the editor through my attempt to read, “we feel that following them is the best way to serve our readers. It gives them the sort of meaty stories you can sink your teeth into, the one’s we’re proud to provide.”

My bafflement grew as I strove to read through the occulted light. How could my story, the precious fruit of my imagination, have run afoul of the first bulleted item? It was obvious to me that mine was the type of story that the magazine would publish. As I was about to give up in frustration, I heard a ripping sound and looked up.

“You see,” said the editor, peeling the skin from his face, “we only publish science fiction.”

Probabilities, fiction
by Manny Colver

Cecil Beauregard was dumbfounded. He couldn’t imagine how the damned thing had found its way in. After all, this wasn’t the cabana at his pool or the screened porch at his cottage up on the island. It wasn’t the deck on his motor yacht either. This was the chief executive’s suite–his suite–on the uppermost floor of One Monger Place, which by no accident was the tallest building in Sunderville. From his bank of floor to ceiling windows Cecil Beauregard could look down on the whole damned city if he were so inclined, though at that moment his attention wasn’t drawn to the spectacular view from his windows but to a patch of wall above his Brazilian mahogany credenza where to his utter amazement he found himself staring at a fly.

“Virgil?” he said, speaking softly into the handset of his Bleat Systems phone. “I’m going to put the phone down for just a moment here if you…yes, thank you. Just a second and I’ll be right back.”

Slowly, noiselessly, and with great stealth, Cecil put the phone down, rolled up a section of the Wall Street Journal, took a deep breath and lunged from his chair toward the wall.



Escaping with its life, the tiny creature rose in ragged circles, spiraling up to light upon the pastel blue ceiling where it hung upside down, batting its wings in a joyous twitch.

Cecil Beauregard glared at the ceiling for a moment, then returned to the phone and his chair.

“Sorry, Virgil. No, it’s a damned fly here. How in God’s name it ever got in is…well, that’s just it. The building is sealed up like a tomb. Aren’t they all these days? Take a damned missile to bust open one of these windows. Hell, if I were to…say what now? No, it’s up here on the ceiling. I missed.”

Cecil shifted in his chair, listening to Virgil briefly before breaking in with, “Well, and that’s just it, isn’t it? For starters, the damned thing would’ve had to make it through one of three sets of revolving doors out front or come in where the wheelchair ramp comes up to the…probably, yes, I suppose so. But even so, the damned thing would’ve had to select the bank of elevators that went higher than eighteen. There’s only a one in four chance of that if you’re thinking probabilities. Then waiting to get off the elevator on thirty-two with the damned doors opening up on every floor along the way. What are the chances of that? Then down a hallway with open doors on both sides and through a set of double glass doors and into the…yes, egg-zactly. Damned near impossible.”

While Cecil and Virgil conferred on probabilities, the fly, for whom gravity seemed but a minor affair, dropped from the ceiling to circle high above the lumbering earth-bound giant. Then, catching the scent of sweetened coffee, he swooped down to land on Cecil’s coffee cup where he trotted along the rim like a kid on a fence rail, making it halfway around before a sudden gust of air from a hand waved frantically nearby sent him off again in ever widening circles to a spot high on the wall where he stopped to feast on microscopic sweetness.

“Son-of-a…” Cecil grumbled. “Virgil, can you hold just a minute? Yes, this damned thing just ruined my coffee…be just a minute. Yes. Thank you.”

Cecil pounded several keys on his Bleat Systems phone console in rapid succession, sending Virgil out into the land of hold where Red Bloom sang the last few stanzas of “You Act as if I’m Me on Purpose.”

“Susan. Get maintenance up here, will you? No, no, everything’s fine in there. Almost a full roll as of yesterday. No, it’s a…there’s a fly gotten in somehow. Yes, here in my office. Tell them to bring a stepladder too because the thing is high up on the wall near the…”

He looked up. Squinted. Blinked.

“Well, actually I don’t see it now. It must have moved on. Yes, a fly. A common housefly, though maybe not so common. The damned thing managed to find its way in here, didn’t it? I have directors that can’t find this office and yet here’s this…yes, I know it is.”

Buzzed from the blindside, Cecil batted the air before him in wild desperation, sending the poor beleaguered fly off to land on the back of the great man’s chair.

“Yes, well, anyway, is Edgar still over maintenance for this building?”

Cecil listened while he plucked the tightly coiled cord on his phone like a giant banjo string.

“Well,” he broke in, “I thought under terms of the sale and leaseback that Edgar was supposed to…oh, okay, well, whoever. That’s fine.”

Cecil’s index finger plunged toward his phone console, stabbing at one key, then another.

“Virgil? Yes, thanks for holding. No, he’s still here. Just buzzed by a second ago. Don’t know where he’s off to, but uh…say what now?”

Cecil probed his left ear with an index finger as he listened to Virgil’s attempt at some humor. “Yes, maybe,” he broke in at last. “Well, of course, yes. The proverbial fly on the wall!”

Cecil’s mirthless laughter crested and broke like a wave, shaking his chair back so violently the fly took off for the wall above Cecil’s credenza.

“No, you’ve got to keep your sense of humor, Virgil. It’s the only way to…I’m sorry, what?”

Cecil examined his fingertip and the small deposit of earwax it held.

“Well, no, no. Nothing urgent really. Just wanted to ask your advice on something.”

He began to pivot back and forth in his swivel chair, listening.

“Oh, no, nothing like that, Virgil. No, it’s Ivan Waterlow. Uh-huh. He’s retiring from our board of directors when his term expires and I thought maybe you…oh, is that right? From your board too? Well I knew he sits on quite a few boards, but…is that so? Fourteen? My God. Well, he’s a good man. Bob Baron University, class of ’39, Plate and Parsley Society on top of that.”

Cecil nodded agreeably.

“Oh, yes. He certainly was. Got them to change their secret handshake to something less likely to bring on arthritis in later years.”

More nods.

“Well of course he is. Going to be missed in any number of…”

Cecil froze in mid swivel, his face gone suddenly angry and dark.

“Hold on, Virgil,” came forth in a low growl. “He’s back.”

Cecil put the phone down as before, retrieved his business-savvy weapon and got to his feet. Noiselessly, he inched his credenza back from the wall. The fly was a good eight feet up the wall by now and Cecil wasted no time in climbing atop, first his chair, then his credenza. Crouching there before rising slowly, he prepared himself to strike.

Then, as so often happened in Cecil’s part of the world, the earth began to tremble, then shake, and the great lumbering earth-bound giant teetered and fell with a terrible, bone-crushing crash. Susan rushed in from the outer office and just as quickly got to the phone, so that help soon arrived.

While Cecil was rushed to the hospital, the fly took off in search of sweeter, less hostile pastures, eventually finding the break room on the thirty-second floor where food was aplenty and he lived to the ripe old age of 34 days, expiring ironically on the very same day that Cecil did.

“Now,” you might ask, “what are the chances of that?”

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 reads and bowls as much as possible.

Away Together, fiction
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Clay knew there was no cellular service in this remote Alaskan property, twenty-five miles from a tribal village. He was sure Mona didn’t know, and wouldn’t think to care if she did know. The pilot would be back in a week. They’d walked the half-mile from the landing strip, loaded with backpacks and rolling luggage, ready to rough it in this yuppie get-away supplied with everything except a connection to the outside.

“I love the quiet,” Mona sighed, coming out of the kitchen of the twenty by thirty foot log structure, drink in hand. “You should have brought me up here a long time ago. Do we go fishing tonight?”

“Not ’til tomorrow morning,” he laughed, pouring his own bourbon and water at the bar. Through the window he could see the slope down to the creek. Mona would have several bloody Marys, more vodka than mix, soon enough and wouldn’t want to go down there tonight.

Clay had it worked out. She would be dead by morning. He would burn her body. There was no one to see or smell smoke since the nearest neighbor was miles up the gravel road beyond the air strip. If the ashes looked suspicious, he’d float them down the creek a few at a time. He had a week to get it done.

The job transfer from LA to Dallas was timed carefully. This was their celebration trip. The condo was sold, and a new one under contract. Their friends had dropped all pretense of a social life when she added pharmaceutical addiction to her alcohol habit. He was about to drop her too, right off the face of the Earth, and out of his future.

Clay had her bloody Mary mix laced liberally with a narcotic bought discreetly through an underground website whose experts guaranteed it would silence her quickly. “Did you check to see what the travel agency left us for food?” he asked, “Did they follow our shopping list?”

“There are so many choices, we’ll have trouble deciding,” she smiled. “Are you going to miss the Dodgers this week?”

“Not a bit,” he said, “and I hope I never see another Email.”

“Me too,” she agreed, “but I’m surprised there are mosquitoes up here. I hope I brought repellant.” She unzipped her backpack, “I’ll just take this up to the loft so I can put everything away.”

“You won’t need repellant,” he whispered to himself as she zigzagged around furniture, glass almost empty, but still in hand.

While Mona puttered in the kitchen preparing dinner, he ventured outside to locate an area safe for a campfire. He’d cook out all right, and after the deed was done, maybe he’d actually use some of those burger patties he’d seen in the freezer. A typical couple spending a week in the wild would be expected to have a campfire, wouldn’t they?

Clay sat on a smooth rock beside the creek, a spot where visitors before him had probably fished for hours. The only troublesome detail in his plan was the return trip. They’d rented the cabin with a second week option. Could he convince the pilot that his wife was staying on alone? Maybe it would be a different guy flying him out. Of course he would say he was driving back to pick her up, giving her a week alone with her art or writing. He’d hinted about both hobbies on the way up. That was believable; Anchorage was only a half day away.

Mona surprised him, making her way down the path, drinks and cocktail sandwiches in hand. “Dinner is served, my Lord,” she teased with a flirty twist of her tush. He could see she’d spilled some drink mix on her tank top. He was so tired of those damned pink flamingos on everything she wore. As they made their way up the slope to the cabin, he carried the tray and steadied her steps.

“Penne pasta and veal,” he commented as they enjoyed the main course. “The sauce is especially good. I believe those are fresh mushrooms, not the canned or dried ones we usually get.”

Clay tossed some dishes in the sink, and disposables in the trash. “I brought some new bestsellers, Grisham, King, and Koontz. I think I’ll sit outside for a while.”

“I’ll just do up the cleanup,” she slurred, “then I may go up for a little rest, but wake me whenever.”

Almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, she heard his boots on the steps to the loft. “”Welcome to the wilderness,” she cooed as he slipped in beside her. “I didn’t expect you so soon.”

“I’m not feeling so good,” Clay admitted, “a little queasy, kind of washed out. I guess I’m just tired. It’s been a long day.”

“Me too,” she whispered. “I’m sure the food was just fine. They’d be careful about that. That sauce made it so good. We did bring another bottle of that Mary mix, didn’t we? I used most of that first one tonight for the sauce.”

Bio: 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.

Cab Driver, fiction
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

“Why are you torturing yourself?” I say to my passenger. “I’ve driven you by Marie’s house three times. You’re lucky I haven’t been running the meter.”

“I know,” he says, placing his head in his hands. “It’s hard to let go. I don’t know what happened. I was good to her, took her out to dinner, brought her roses on her birthday. We both like the same movies, music, food. I don’t get it.”

“Maybe she doesn’t know what she wants. Some women are like that. You’re better off finding someone else.”

“You’re right. I guess you’d better take me back to the motel.” As I turn off of Marie’s street and head in that direction, he says, “I met her about six months ago. She was a waitress at Marlin’s. Do you know the place?”

“I sure do,” I say.

“I was there one night with some friends after a show. I took one look at her black, skimpy dress, black hair, blue eyes and thought she was the one for me. I asked her for her phone number. She gave it to me. She told me she was off the next evening so I called her and made a date with her for the following week. We went to Vinny’s for dinner, and we hit it off. We kept dating, going out to dinner or a movie or both or to a Colorado Rockies game. A couple of months later, I moved in with her. I’m an architect, and her uncle is an architect. That’s another thing we have in common.”

“Really,” I say.

“When I came home from work a couple of weeks ago, there were a bunch of boxes stacked outside the front door. Marie had already left for her evening shift at the restaurant. I thought she’d put them out for the Salvation Army. But then my key wouldn’t fit in the lock. I also had a key to her back door so I went around and tried it. It didn’t work, either. I came back around to the front of the house and then noticed a note pinned to the top box. It read, ‘Dear Ted, I’ve found someone else. His name is Jake, and he’s a bus boy at Marlin’s. I’ve been seeing him for a couple of months, and I’ve invited him to move in with me. All your stuff is in these boxes, and I had the locks changed today. If you try to contact me, I’ll tell the police you’re stocking me.'”
“Ouch,” I say.

“I should have known when she said she had to work later because the restaurant was staying open longer. Then there were some nights when she was supposed to be off, and she said she had to cover someone else’s shift. I’ll bet she was also seeing him during the day while I was working.”
“I suppose so.”
“I didn’t know what else to do. My car was in the shop. It still is. I’d taken a taxi home. I used my cell phone to call for another cab, loaded all my stuff into it, and had the driver take me to the Comfort Inn. I still haven’t found a place to live.”
At the motel, he insists on paying me for the extra trips by Marie’s house. “That’s not necessary,” I say. “You’ve got enough on your plate as it is.”
“But I wasted your time, asking you to drive around the block all those times.”
“That’s all right. I’ve got nothing better to do but see my gal.”
“At least you have a gal,” he says, climbing out of the cab.
As he slams the door and walks in the direction of the entrance, I breathe a sigh of relief and drive away. A few minutes later, I park in front of Marie’s house.
She flings the door open. “Jake, I saw your taxi drive by the house three times. Why didn’t you stop?”

by Barbara Mattson

My eyes sprung open and my heart felt like it was going to pop out. “Who just came in?” I wondered. The footsteps seemed to thunder across the living room floor toward my closed bedroom door.

Even if I could have gotten to my bedroom door in time, I knew I would be no match for any attacker who was determined to barge in. So I flung myself off my bed and froze as my bedroom door opened. An eternity passed as I lay there before the footsteps faded away, and I prayed I’d hear my front door close again.

But then my study door creaked open. Apparently not finding anything of interest, the steps diminished toward the kitchen. I began to wonder what the heck this invader of my personal space was going to do. Next the refrigerator door closed. “I don’t believe this!” I shouted to myself. But then I thought, “Take anything you want; just don’t come back in here.”

Instead, the footsteps got louder. I hardly dared to breathe. Then I heard the TV click on. Dr. Phil was saying something about not letting people take advantage of you. Well, right then I sure thought someone was taking advantage of me, but I thought, “It’d be like taking my life into my own hands if I tried to do anything about it with my bedroom door wide open.”

Suddenly I heard Sherry Rupert say, “We interrupt this program to bring you a special bulletin. The man whose picture you see on your screen is Harry Louser, (a convicted murderer,) who escaped from our state prison early this morning.” I thought, “Oh my god!” That’s who’s here!” Then I heard the lock on my outside door flip and hoped the killer was leaving. Sherry went on, “If you see this man, please call 9-1-1 immediately. A reward will be given to the person who gives information leading to his arrest.”

As much as I wanted to call that very second, I had to stay put until I heard my outside door close. After all, I didn’t want to be the louse’s next victim. But there was only silence as the TV noise covered any real sounds I might have picked up from the killer.

Not knowing any more than I did about the murderer’s motive for killing before, I had to hope the convict hadn’t killed Mom on the way from her place to the doctor.

Meanwhile, I was discovering just how much of a skeleton I was as I lay on the dusty scratchy rug. Even more uncomfortable was the near pain of lying on a full bladder. So I decided the next time I heard the killer head for the kitchen, I’d make a mad dash for the bathroom on the other side of my other bedroom door. I could lock both it and the bathroom door that goes to the study if I had to.

After Dr. Phil went off, I heard the TV click and I prayed the louse would leave. Instead, the intruder went back toward the kitchen.

I thought, “OK, here’s my chance!” But just as I was on my knees and getting ready to stand up, an even more urgent need hit me. I had to call 911!

So I reached toward the phone at the head of my bed. But before I could grab it, I sneezed. If I hadn’t already wet my pants from the sneeze, I surely would have as I dove back to the floor in pure terror.

As the intruder thundered closer I prayed like I never had before that the man wouldn’t approach my side of the bed. I hardly dared to breathe as footsteps boomed in my bedroom. When the bathroom door opened, though, I said to myself, “Thank you Jesus.” Then the bathroom door to my study opened and the intruder went out the other study door and back toward the kitchen.

I heard running water and my dishes rattling. I thought, “Don’t tell me this guy’s actually going to wash my dishes.” Then I concluded that he was just trying to stay off the streets and out of sight.

Just about the time I was getting up the courage again to call 911, I heard footsteps coming back my direction. But instead of coming toward the bedroom, the intruder walked to my outside door and flipped the lock again. I prayed that this time the killer would leave. Instead, the intruder went back toward the kitchen and turned on the air conditioner.

I asked myself, “Should I try to call 9-1-1 again while the air’s on? I might get caught, but if I don’t try, I could be trapped here all day. As long as the air conditioner’s on,” I thought, “the killer can’t hear me when he’s in the kitchen. But I can’t hear him either which means he could be almost at my bedroom door before I’d know it.”

As I lay there I couldn’t hear anything except the roar of the air conditioner. I began to wonder if the intruder had gone out my outside kitchen door.

Whether he had or not, I had to grab the chance to report the invader, otherwise I’d be stuck on my bedroom floor indefinitely. So as fast as a pop-up toy, I got to my knees again and reached for the phone. I pulled it down and flattened myself on the floor again. But when I tried to dial, there wasn’t a dial tone. I thought, “Damn! He’s cut the wires!”

I got up from the floor and shot toward the bathroom where my cell was. As much as I hated to risk my life, I knew calling 911 was my only hope of saving it. While there, I kicked off my wet panties, and then dashed back to the other side of my bed.

Back on the floor, I lay there and opened my cell. I dialed 911, but only a beep sounded. I thought, “Damn! Dead battery!” I started to cry, and shoved both phones under the bed. But that’s when I saw the cord that was supposed to be in the wall jack dangling. So I slid further under the bed and pulled the cord down, and plugged it in. I thought, “I must have unplugged it when I grabbed the phone.”

The 911 operator answered and I was about to speak when the air conditioner quit. I almost hung up, but then I thought, “It’s now or never!” Then I heard the intruder in the kitchen running more water into a pan. Was he going to cook something? “He’s still here,” I concluded. So I whispered, “The killer’s here.” Instead of hearing the operator say, “Someone will be there in just a few minutes,” the lady hung up.

It took all the courage I could muster not to start crying again. After all, I didn’t want the intruder to hear me sniffling. As I lay there I thought, “Surely my address must have come up on the 911 display. Someone’s got to come soon.”

As the seconds stretched to minutes, the accumulation of tension was getting to my stomach. I could stand to lie on a wet floor, but I was determined not to have to lie on a dirty one. So I bolted from the floor and raced to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet, scared shitless!

Suddenly I heard the intruder coming from the kitchen. I thought, “OH God! He heard me! If he looks for me, There’s no way he’s not going to know I’ve been here.” So I sprang off the toilet, and darted into the bedroom and slammed the bathroom door behind me. I dashed from the bedroom into the living room, and jerked open my outside door. Thank goodness it was already unlocked. That’s one good thing the killer did. I streaked downstairs and landed on the sidewalk.

I nearly sunk to my knees with relief when I saw a police car pull up. But my relief was short lived. The cop darted out of the car, slammed the door, came around to the other side, and opened the back seat door. He shoved me in and threw a blanket over my head to cover my naked body. He barked, “I’m taking you in for indecent exposure.”

I wrestled the blanket from over my head, and pleaded, “But you don’t understand! The killer’s in my condo!” The cop just slammed the door.

When he opened his door, I tried again. I explained, “The convict was chasing me and I had to get out before he killed me.”

The officer just said, “Yeah,” and slid in the driver’s seat. Slamming the door, he added, “Tell that to the intake crew down at the station.” I thought, “I will, maybe they’ll believe me.” Then the cop said, “They keep getting false emergency calls from different places. These characters keep whispering that the killer’s there.” He went on, “The last call that came in was from this address.”

I said, “I had to whisper so he wouldn’t hear me.” Then I almost shouted, “I’m telling you the convict’s in my condo! And if he runs free and kills again, it’ll be on your head.”

The cop asked, “Name?”

I said, “Bee Mat, and I swear I didn’t do anything wrong!” The cop just grunted, started the car, and headed to the station.

I sat back, telling myself, “Well, at least I’m safe now.”


In Our House, It’s Not the Cat That Has Nine Lives, Pantoum poetry
by Mary-Jo Lord

It’s the dog.
His cuteness saves him every time.
Socks, underwear, slippers,
He steals them.

His cuteness saves him every time.
My wedding rings and diamond earrings.
He steals them.
Anything is fair game.

My wedding rings and diamond earrings.
Into his belly they go.
Anything is fair game.
When things are missing, he’s our suspect.

Into his belly things go.
Socks, underwear, slippers,
When things are missing, who’s our suspect?
It’s the dog.

Blind Cat’s Bluff, memoir
by Valerie Moreno

Several months ago, I was blessed with the adoption of a blind Russian blue cat, who has become my best friend. Not quite a year old when he came to live with me, JJ was at home in our small apartment within a few days. Being blind myself, I’d decided not to limit his activity around the house, so we could both share our independence together. He certainly is the smartest cat I’ve ever had, and I soon began to understand the meaning behind his Mona-Lisa smile, a trait of his breed.

After falling off bookcase shelves, JJ decided this wasn’t his cup of cat tea. The bathroom became off limits after he woke me from a sound sleep at two in the morning, banging on the shower curtain. He enjoyed toys that made noise, especially ones I used to play with him.

Then came the game of “Let’s Fool Mommy” when I didn’t oblige his tactics for mischief. Most notable was the case of the missing spoon. I’d dropped one while drying dishes and heard him grab it, scurrying into the bedroom.

“I know you took it, boo,” I declared, using one of his many nicknames.

After taking the house apart three times, I gave up. “You’ve got a stash somewhere!” I shouted. JJ put his nose in my palm. Kiss, Kiss.

One week later, passing my chair at the kitchen table, my foot hit something beside the back chair leg. The spoon! JJ circled my legs, tail wagging merrily, as if to say, “Gotcha!”

His unconditional love gets me through lonely holidays, grief, and tears. He knows when I need to cry, often wiping tears with kisses or a gentle, soft paw.

Just like me, he gets confused if someone visits and moves furniture. He goes to his dish of dry food and puts his paw in first to see how much is there. JJ scampers around as if he can see, only occasionally colliding with something. But he won’t go outside my apartment door.

Loud voices and noises from windy or stormy weather frighten him. He may jump into his favorite hiding place, which is a playpen where I store my dolls. His favorite “hide and seek” game with me finds him quietly waiting until I come close to his chosen spot. Then he stretches out his paws and grabs me. We still clash over his jumping on the kitchen table, and it’s taken six combs and a thousand scratches to find a way to groom him we can both enjoy.

He reminds me daily that love and friendship are the most incredible gifts. He’s consolation, comfort, and assurance when life seems to make little sense.

As for his mischievous behavior? As I write this, my left slipper is missing. Where is his stash?

Bio: 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.

Old Crow and the skunk, fiction
by Ernest Jones

Old Crow sat on his favorite perch as he surveyed his home. His chest swelled with pride as he thought of how important he was. It was his job to protect the chickens from the hawks, skunks and other predators. He also had to keep watch over the garden for those pesky gophers. Yes, some days it kept him busy, but usually his work was easy; much of the time he just played lazy.

Now in the dwindling evening light he rested a moment to take in the beautiful sunset far over on the western horizon. “Just look at the color,” he murmured to himself.

Then a slight movement to his left caught his attention and he saw a creature he knew was trouble sneaking onto the back patio. “Here comes that critter again; what is he doing in my yard?” the Old Crow questioned. “How many times have I told him to stay out of my yard? Won’t he ever learn? Guess I will just have to tell him again, but this time I will use a little more force; he will be sorry when I get through with him. I will make him wish he had never come here.”

With that thought, the Old Crow flew into the clear, crisp air until he was right over Mr. Skunk. Then he zoomed down, Screaming his loudest cry, followed by a hard peck to the skunk’s head.

The startled skunk jumped and tried to run, but he felt the crow’s claws dig into his back. “Skunk,” the Old Crow screamed at his enemy, “Why are you here? Stealing the cats’ food again are you? I will fix you this time. Phew, but you stink; don’t you ever take a bath?”

Mr. Skunk liked to sneak into the yard and eat the cats’ or dogs’ food. He would even drink out of their water dish. If the cats or dogs tried to stop him, the skunk would spray them with his thick, stinky perfume, which would fill the air so everyone within a mile would smell it. The awful stink would hang in the air for days. Then the man would have to give the dog or cat a bath in tomato juice to remove some of the smell. Old Crow knew the skunk would also try to catch and kill one of the chickens for his dinner and would succeed if the people were not faithful in closing the trap door every night.

This evening as the skunk struggled to shake the Old Crow off his back he also tried to lift his tail to spray.

“Oh no you don’t!” the crow screamed, as he jumped to land right on the skunk’s bushy tail. He wrapped his claws around the stinky tail, and didn’t give the skunk a chance to spray. At the same time, he gave another vicious peck to his back.

The screaming bird bounced up and down on the skunk’s tail. Finally, the sting from the crow’s attack was so strong, Mr. Skunk left the yard. Down the driveway he flew. His feet were stirring up dust, he ran so fast. The crow held on, jet black wings flapping, atop the black and white skunk. He jumped up and down, wings beating in time with the skunk’s busy feet. The screaming Old Crow sounded more like a run away locomotive whose whistle was stuck than a crow cawing from the tree top.

At last Mr. Skunk turned off the road and scrambled through thick brush, knocking the Old Crow off his back. Still the skunk ran, his tail dragging the ground behind him in his flight.

The Old Crow flew into the air and screamed a last warning to the skunk,

“now you stay out of our yard or I will give you even more trouble; do you hear me Mr. Skunk? “

Old Crow flew to his garden. There were some old tomatoes left over from the harvest, and he knew their value. “Phew, my feet sure stink after that ride on the skunk’s back. Hope these old tomatoes do the trick’,” he said as he landed right on an old soft tomato and felt its juice flow over his feet. He walked back and forth over several over-ripe tomatoes and let the red juice cover his feet. “I sure hope this works. I don’t know how his wife even puts up with that smelly old fellow.” Then the Old Crow flew to his perch to rest.

“Well, I have to admit, my feet don’t smell very good, but even over-ripe tomato juice is better than the skunk’s odor.” He smiled as he looked at his feet, knowing the red color was a sign of the great work he had just done for his family. “After all,” he told himself, “the place would fall apart without me to keep watch.”

Then he heard another sound, and to his great joy, saw the man bringing him a bowl of his favorite berries. “Oh, strawberries!” he said as the bowl full of large, sweet-smelling strawberries was set on the porch by his nest box.

“I guess my family appreciates me, and they know just how valuable I really am.” With that, Old crow reached his beak down and began eating the sweet berries.

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:

My Little Neutrino, memoir
by Bruce Atchison

After Sunday service one August afternoon, my friend Willy strolled up to me. “I’ve got this little rabbit,” he began. “He’s in a pen with the others, but they keep biting him. The poor guy just sits in one corner of the cage while the rest of the rabbits sit in the other. He’s too small to be a meat rabbit, so I was wondering if you wanted him.”

He knew I adopted rabbits and made them my house partners. I felt sorry for that poor picked-on bunny and I accepted Willy’s offer. Sunday after Sunday, I waited for him to bring me the rabbit, but something always stood in his way. It wasn’t until the last day of September that my church friend brought the rabbit in a dilapidated carrier.

“I want the carrier back sometime soon,” Willy said.

That didn’t bother me at all. I had other carriers which were in much better condition.

When I got home, I took out the bunny and placed him in the white cage, which I then moved into the living room. As I watched him exploring his new surroundings, I pondered the interesting things Willy had told me.

Three church families had that poor rabbit in as many years and all lost interest in their pet. The children must have manhandled the little creature, causing him to be wary of them. No wonder he cringed and was jumpy whenever I reached out to stroke his fur. Of course, he was traumatized by the big bunnies that bit him and that could have accounted for his nervousness too.

The last family called him Peewee. I despised that name because it reminded me of that children’s TV show Peewee’s Playhouse.

Since the rabbit was tiny and his black fur made him hard to see in dim light, I called him Neutrino. In scientific terms, a neutrino is a sub-atomic particle that is nearly impossible to detect and can pass through most matter without disturbing it. I also loved the rock group Klaatu’s song The Little Neutrino. According to an American Rabbit Breeders Association poster, my new lagomorph lad was a Netherland Dwarf. He was small with classic markings, a beige belly and chin, shortened ears with beige fur inside, beige rings around his eyes and brownish fur on the back of his neck. I was amazed at how large his brown eyes were compared to the rest of his head. They made him appear naive and innocent.

Neutrino loved to push toys out of a cardboard tube used by builders to make concrete pillars. I suppose it seemed like a burrow to him. The odds and ends I shoved back into it were like dirt that caved in. We spent many happy moments playing this game. He was soon jumping on top of the tube and running around the house with the other bunnies.

During the summer, I invented a cool bunny toy. My PC had ruined a fair number of CD-R disks and I was idly examining one when an idea struck me. I found a toilet paper tube, flattened it and turned it into a spindle. Then I shoved it through the center of the disk. The toy rolled back and forth and made a satisfactory noise, from a rabbit’s viewpoint.

All three of my lads loved the new plaything and my house was filled with the distinctive sound of their game. The only problem with my new invention was that the aluminum coating on the disk started to peel. I scraped it off so the rabbits wouldn’t ingest it, and that solved the problem. When I told the folks on the PetBunny e-mail list about my new invention, members liked the idea so much, they started making them for their bunnies.

Neutrino had found the security he deserved and the freedom to explore and have fun. I feel particularly grieved whenever I hear instances of animal abuse. God put us humans in charge of this planet but he never meant us to neglect or mistreat his creations. Neutrino’s is only one of many stories I tell in my book, “When a Man Loves a Rabbit: Learning and Living with Bunnies.”

Bio: Bruce Atchison is a legally-blind Canadian freelance writer with articles published in a variety of magazines. He has also authored “When a Man Loves a Rabbit: Learning and Living with Bunnies,” a memoir. “Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)” is his recollection of being sent five hundred miles from home. Contact him at or on Facebook or Twitter.

He posts portions of his published memoirs, along with his upcoming How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity memoir, on Atchison lives in a tiny Alberta hamlet with his two house rabbit companions, Mark and Deborah.

Sharing Your Gifts, fiction
by DeAnna (Quietwater) Noriega

Small rabbit crouched in the tall grass near the crest of a knoll. He could see a long way across the prairie. He watched some antelope race off in the distance. He said to himself, “Oh how swift and beautiful they are! I wish I were an antelope!”

He saw a bear tearing apart a cottonwood log looking for grubs. “Oh, to be a bear would be fine! He is so strong and so big. He doesn’t have to hide from eagle in the grass. He isn’t afraid of coyote! I would love to be a bear!”

Grandmother spider paused in her work and said softly, “Little rabbit, little rabbit, you are as the great mystery has made you. Listen and I will tell you a story.” This is the tale she told little rabbit.

A doe moved softly along the trail down the side of a mountain. The dust was thick beneath her hooves. The sun beat down making her thirsty. When she came to the stream, she found it dry. She gave a mournful little sigh. Bear looked up from where he was trying to find berries among the dry thirsty vines, and grunted his agreement with doe’s disappointment. Thunder bird was perched high on a Craig above them. He spread his great wings, enjoying the feel of the heat on his powerful body. He heard their mournful sounds and took pity. It was selfish of him to bask in the sunlight while his brother and sister below suffered thirst. He decided that he must leave the place where he rested to bring the storm with rain to fill the creek so that all might drink. When the flash of the lightning lit up the sky, bear saw Butterfly trembling in fear on the edge of a withered leaf.

“I can’t fly when it rains and the drops will damage my delicate wings,” she cried.

“Don’t be afraid little one, the rain is a good thing and will make the leaves fresh for your young to eat. It will make the berries sweet and full of juice for me. More flowers will bloom so you can drink their nectar. I am very strong and cast a large shadow. Shelter beneath me until this passes and wait for the sun to return,” he instructed.
Doe offered, “Once the rain has passed, I will carry you to a high meadow where the new flowers will spring up after the rain. You can dance on the soft summer breezes and bring delight to my fawn who will be amazed by your bright colors. He will think that a flower has learned to fly and he will laugh with joy at the thought of such a wonder.”

So it is when we look beyond our own troubles and offer help to one another. That which is good for one can be good for all if each is willing to share his gifts and look beyond what is good for himself alone.

“So my foolish child, you must think what gifts you have and use them wisely because there is a place for you in the dance we call life. A place that can only be filled by you and that calls for the very gifts you have been given.”

Bio: DeAnna (Quietwater) Noriega is half Apache and a quarter Chippewa. She lost her vision at age eight. She has been a writer/poet, advocate on disability issues and story teller since childhood. She currently is teamed with her eighth guide dog, Reno, a chocolate Labrador retriever.

Her writing has appeared in magazines such as: “Dialogue,” “Angels on Earth,” “the Braille Forum,” “Generations–Native Literature,” and in the anthologies “Behind Our Eyes,” “2+4=1,” “My Blindness Isn’t Black,” and “Where We Read the Wind.”

She lives in mid-Missouri with her husband, youngest daughter, three grandchildren and a host of critters.

Her Spirit Guide, nonfiction
by Eve Sanchez

Although Connie Standing Clear was a seasoned graduate of Pilot Dogs, Inc. she was amazed by a guide of a different type who chose to be with her one day. Connie was vacationing with her brother Rick in North Carolina. They planned to spend one day hiking up Clingmans Dome. She considered the heat, and decided to leave her guide dog, Sugar, her third from Pilot Dogs, in the hotel to enjoy the comfort of air conditioning.

Rick was experienced in guiding his sister safely, but she tired halfway up the mountain and chose to settle on a rock and rest while he continued on. There were other hikers in the area, but she enjoyed just being by herself with the quiet sounds of nature and the freshness in the air.

Shortly after Rick ascended with another group of hikers, a small dog came and sat down next to Connie. She was very surprised to find a loose dog on the mountain, but welcomed the company. The little dog lay down beside her as she started petting him. They sat that way for quite some time, and she talked to him as if to a beloved friend.

Finally she could hear the group, including Rick, returning from above, their footsteps reverberating through the weight of the air. As they turned the last bend hiding her and her new friend from them Connie heard them all come to a sudden stop. “Hold still Connie.” came Rick’s voice. Unconcerned Connie did not understand the sound of distress he expressed.

“Who does this little dog belong to?” she asked. She was quickly and quietly informed that her little dog friend was actually a fox. Rick told her to stop petting it as he was now nervous for his sister. She responded with calmness in her voice because she felt no fear and did not want this moment to pass. She finally, reluctantly, took her hand from the fox and said, “Thank you.”

At this, the fox stood up and licked her hand. He then turned away and started towards the trees. Rick and everyone else there swore to Connie that as the fox reached the trees he turned to face her again, and bowed his head before continuing out of sight. Like many blind people, Connie Standing Clear has had several guide dogs and remembers them all fondly, but she had one special guide, a spirit guide as her Cherokee heritage has taught her, that she will never forget.

Bio: EvaMarie “Eve” Sanchez has had many chapters in her life. Originally from Northern California she has lived too long in the cold winters of Eastern Idaho. Recently she moved to the Red Rocks of Northern Arizona where she hopes to start a new chapter with her new guide dog. Some of the chapters in Eve’s life could have titles such as ‘Surfing Hawaii’, ‘Riding the Tetons’, and ‘Fighting Fires’. As a licensed social worker and a blind artist who loves animals of all kinds, it is anyone’s guess what Eve’s next chapter will be called.

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a… memoir
by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

We had two houses on our farm. I was unloading groceries at the lower house when my guide dog asked to be unharnessed to take a run. Five acres around the houses were fenced, so I removed his harness and leash and stood talking to my teen-aged daughters. Angelyn’s pygmy goat cross, Basher came up and thrust his head through the yoke of the harness. I was amused and bent to fasten the straps and attach the leash to his collar to see what he would do. He promptly jumped in to the back of our van and settled down. If he had a subtitle, it would have read: “Guide dogs get to ride in the car!”

I gave a gentle tug on the leash and he bounded down to stand at my side. I picked up the harness handle and said “Forward.”
He moved on up the driveway and walked sedately until we reached the steps to the wide deck in front of the second house. When I found the step with my foot, he moved up the stairs and across to the door. He placed his nose confidently on the knob of the screen door. After all, guide dogs get to go in to the house!
I opened the door and he marched in to the kitchen, steering us around the center table and in to the living room where my husband sat reading the paper. Curt said Basher with his full set of horns would be a great asset in handling the crowds of Christmas shoppers. Of course, the real trick would have been in housebreaking my guide goat.

Omen from My Totem, poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

Beyond my sliding window door,
birds come to feast on seeds I store–
an outdoor fare I set out there.
They pay with color, song and flair.

Long have I known my connection
with the tiny, wistful, lonely bird
who comes to me in reverie,
gazing through my windowed mind;
Seeking to be with me. Is he
calling me to come outside?

On a clear early winter brisk,
he came to me in feathered flesh;
waiting on a feeder perch;
did not choose to flinch away.

His eyes were clouded, like my own.
“Little brown bird, why do you wait?”
He stepped upon proffered finger;
we gently touched nose to beak.
Then, his mission done, took to flight.

Was it his wings, the day before,
that flapped against my startled face?
If so, why did he return?
What message did he bring my way?

The ways of omens are cloudy-eyed,
As are dreams and visions held inside.
What does he see with blinded eyes?
How does he flit through tree-etched skies?

The Wings of Man, fiction
by Myrna Badgerow

The man and boy stand on the edge of Earth, watching sun fade to crimson. Serenity of Spirit sits beside them and Truth stands tall behind. Silence waits at a distance as Silence often does, never intruding or expecting notice. Across twilight horizon an eagle dips and soars, catching the boy’s imagination. He lingers in thought until Truth nudges him to speak.
“Sir, why is it that man cannot fly as does the eagle?” asks the boy as he continues to watch the beauty of flight.

The man sets his gaze upon the magnificent creature and after some time passes he says, “The simple answer would be that man does not have wings, would it not?”

The boy remains silent for he knows that the man expects no reply. He simply nods, his eyes seeking the eagle once more.

The man continues, “The wings of man are not feathered with nature’s secrets. They are not hampered by wind and rain, but only by man himself.”

The boy reflects for a while, then he asks, “Will I find these wings one day?”

Speaking quietly the man responds, “You will fly, my son, and soar across your own skies if you remember these things: Breathe deeply of each day. Hold each moment lived in your hands, feel its warmth and its soul. Every second, every minute, and every hour is a gift. Use them. Harness the power, the strength found in each. Trust in yourself. Do not let the wind and rain of your uncertainty keep you grounded and always remember, my son, there is not one moment of your life that is more or less important than the next. All of your moments are untried wings poised for flight and upon them your dreams will soar.”

The boy listens, remaining silent for a time. He sighs and says, “I think I understand, Sir.”

The man smiles, takes the boy’s hand in his. “No, not quite yet, but one day you will, my son. You will then be as our winged friend here, flying on the edge of a dream. Now come. Day needs its rest.”

They turn, walk away, and the eagle disappears into the falling sun. Truth and Spirit follow, leaving Silence alone to mark the end of day.


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

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

A few miles away, in that tiny rural area called Klondyke, was my paternal grandparents’ farm. In addition to a farmhouse with a red swing on the front porch, a bountiful garden, four peach trees, cows and chickens, a barn, a three-seater outhouse, fields, a woods, and a front yard along a gravel road–a large and beautiful grape arbor graced the farm which everyone loved to visit. Of course, my grandmother used the grapes to make jelly, and my grandfather was known for the Italian wine he made from those grapes.

In the first decade of the 1900s, all four of my grandparents left the Levone valley of Northern Italy to come to this quiet area of rural Indiana, but one way in which they could keep in touch with their homeland was through these grapevines. Since the majority of the people in the area where I spent my young life were of Italian descent, Columbus Day was celebrated with a spectacular parade in the nearby town of Clinton. Then, during my high school years, the largest town in Vermillion County planned a new celebration: in 1966, Clinton began its Little Italy Festival which continues each Labor Day Weekend for four days.

Besides the selection of a Re and Regina (King and Queen) of the festival, a young Queen of Grapes and her court reign over the festivities. I remember that high school friends who were chosen for this honor stomped grapes for the tourists and television cameras, and temporarily had purple feet. At the main stage area, during the grape stomping contests, men, dressed in festival costumes, threw clusters of grapes to the audience.

My grandparents’ friend Joe Airola grew and cared for the grapes that naturally decorated the earthly terraces of the banks of the Wabash River (where Clinton, Indiana, is located.) At the annual festival, one of my favorite treats was grape ice–almost like a grape sherbet.

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

Although I think all of my family must have grapevines in our veins, I am sad to report that no one from my generation is continuing our ancestors’ tradition of growing grapes. Nevertheless, recently, my nephew called me–thanks to the miracle of modern communications–from Afghanistan and told me that, amazingly, from the extremely dry and hard ground of Afghanistan, grapes do grow. Tired of MREs (Meals-ready-to-eat,) he tasted some of the green grapes and shared with me that the grapes, although small, tasted good. I believe when my nephew settles down again in the United States with his lovely bride, he will continue the tradition of tending to grapevines and making Italian wine. I hope the tradition of grapevines will weave through a new generation of our Italian-American family.

The Safe Place, memoir
by Valerie Moreno

It was pouring rain that night when the last threads of my security broke apart.

My year at college had started terribly. I was homesick. One of two partially sighted students, my vision was less than that of Mara, a Junior who could read print without magnification and needed no white cane to travel about campus. Half-way through the first semester, my recorded books were still in progress from the agency, and requests for a mobility teacher made in June hadn’t materialized.

I’d spent the beginning of my Freshman year getting lost on campus, being late for classes, making numerous calls for help, and endlessly explaining to teachers why my textbooks were not ready yet.

I’d learned every inch of the grounds after getting lost every day. One place I’d found was the music studio where every girl in the Freshman class had tried out for Glee Club.

Music had been my refuge from an early age. It spoke to my soul and spirit where words could not travel. The sound of my own voice singing would fill me with strength and resolve. I wanted to sing with others now that I had the chance.

Tonight we’d learn who would be chosen. Many of us crowded the dorm hall as Barbara rushed through the heavy double doors, drenched, but exhilarated. “I’ve got the cards!” She yelled, waving them in the air.

“Straight from Mr. G. Wait for me to call your name, then come get your card.”

My heart was pounding as each name was called. Please, let the next card be mine. Every freshman girl on all three floors was named, then thickening silence followed as all eyes turned to me.

“Barb?” my roommate asked slowly. “Where’s Val’s card?”

Deafening silence hovered as Barbara franticly searched her jacket pockets. “Maybe I dropped it,” she said, her voice shaking.

Girls around me began muttering, looking around the floor.

“What the hell…” Tina, my roommate shouted, following with a string of curses. “You didn’t lose it, Barbara; I saw the hard time he was giving her at the tryouts. All he’s worried about is how she’ll turn the pages in the book and how she can learn the music if she can’t see the print.”

“I told him I’d memorize it, tape the classes…” I thought back to the dozens of problems he’d foreseen and remained stony at my common sense solutions.

Now, standing in the midst of these girls, humiliation, anger and defeat formed as tears. Pushing through them, I grabbed my cane from our closet and raced for the doors at the other end of the hall. Behind me, Tina was raging and I rushed out into the teeming rain. I was vaguely aware of not wearing a jacket and stamped through puddles as my feet kept time with my beating pulse.

Turning down a path in the drenching dark, I collided with a tree stump and belly flopped on it, my cane spinning out of my hand.

“Damn it,” I screamed at the stump, the darkness, rain and God. “Shit!”

Movement in the brush startled me and a soft, soothing voice asked

I recognized her. She was the girl who’d sat beside me at tryouts.

“Colleen,” I answered, as she helped me to stand. “My cane flew somewhere. What are you doing out in this deluge?”

“Here,” she said, putting the cane in my hand. It was dirty and cold.

“I like the rain,” she said, “It helps me think, so I figured I’d take a walk over to your dorm to see you. What are you doing out here?”

“I was on my way to tell Mr. G. to go to hell,” I said. “I’m the only Freshman in my dorm to get bumped out of the Glee Club.”

“Well, he’s a goony loon,” Colleen said as we began walking. “I was hoping his mental capacity would jumpstart, but he’s a goony loon. He’d boot me out if he could. He dislikes anyone who’s original. Remember last week when I’d nudge you to turn the page? He stopped every time and said, “Are you with us, Miss C?”

“Yeah, well that’s crap! There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“Ask most people here about me,” she laughed a little, then sighed. “How many girls wear bows in their hair, don’t wear make-up and have a dorm room filled with dolls?”

I remembered how she’d introduced herself the week before. “Hi, I’m Colleen. I have curly hair too like you. I’d touched the flow of honey-brown curls; they were silky, unsprayed.

“I think Mr. G. needs a heart repair as well as a safe place within his mind. Why can’t he give us new songs? He’s completely out of tune with himself. This Glee Club sings the same songs every year–Stabat Matar, My Funny Valentine, Mac The Knife…”

“Oh, God!” I cried.

“He’s stuck in his fear of difference, of change. I’m eccentric, I know that, but it’s not a prison for me. I like curls and bows and dolls.”

“”I love dolls,” I said. “I still miss mine.”

“Come over to my room and I’ll give you one to keep.” After a pause, she said: “We’re secret sharers, you see–not just the dolls and curls, but inside. You write and sing, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I cried. “You too?”

“well, you know I sing, of course, and I write fiction and poetry. I’m on the outside looking in. I don’t fit either.”

“What a pair!” I said. We were laughing now as we opened the big doors to the music room.

“You look like two drowned rats!” Mr. G. was staring at the puddles forming on the floor. Our hair hung in wooly ropes. “I didn’t get a card for the Glee Club, Mr. G.” I said. “Is my voice that awful?”

“Of course not,” he was shuffling papers now. “I can learn the music by recording classes and Miss C. is my official page turner.”

“Oh, and not to worry, Mr. G. I’ll always be right with you.”

He let out a resigned sigh. “Your card will be made,” he said.

I turned with Colleen. Walking arm-in-arm, we sang “Funny Valentine” as we stepped out in to the rain.

Drip, Drip, Drip, poetry
by Deon Lions

Drip, drip, drip, the rain gently slides off the shingled roof;
Darkened skies cry out, loosening their heavy haul;
Dry ground graciously welcomes the comforting showers;
Parched plants stand tall again, shouting out their approval;
Droplets, turning to a trickle, slowly form a steady flow;
Puddles appear, while ditches fill with building current;
Trees, heavy with wet, lower their humbled heads.

A young boy, sighing with head in hand, stares out a large picture window;
Watching the rain fall, he daydreams his way out into the morning;
Tracing the drops of rain, his fingers slowly follow them down the pane.
Exploding in smile, he leaps up and bounds away from the window
With boots of rubber and raincoat adorned, he bursts outside with cheer.

Spinning in time, he lifts his head to taste the sweet, steady drops;
Unsuspecting puddles empty quickly from the beat of his stomping parade;
A hearty giggle and a full helping of laughter, echo out through the falling rain.

With stick in hand, he proudly conducts the symphony of running water:
Stray, bows of tree bark become flowing schooners and vessels upon his mighty sea;
Imaginations skip across the deck, as distant ports grow smaller on the horizon;
Tales of scalawags, and treasures abound, flow along the puddled shores.

Another spinning taste from droplets above refreshes his spirit within;
Rising tides of make believe capture the wandering hearts, packed with ageless innocence;
With cargo holds full of magical tales, the sails turn and clutch the trade winds for home;
Praise and song welcome in the tired sailor to port, with celebrated warmth and cheer.
Tracing along the lines of distant shores, he gazes out through the weathered pane again;
Drip, drip, drip, the rain gently slides off the shingled roof.

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.

A Final Frontier, poetry
by Lynda J. Lambert

My brother sifts through old photographs
Beyond the shadows of a cold October night
His fingertips glow like red neon
As he holds each one up to the light
From a leather chair
I watch him laugh
We wait patiently between glass walls
This night seems more quiet than sleeping turkeys
Settling onto thin black branches
High above the forest floor
My brother begins to close his eyes
Doesn’t want to see the winding trails
Of transparent tubes plunged deep into his throat
He examines another buried memory
The little boy standing beside the weathered fence
On winter grasses folded into flattened paths
Beneath softly pounding feet
He feels the chill of the final frontier
When his wife reaches out to touch him.

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.

Wild Turkeys, Wild Montauk, poetry
by Ria Meade

Editors’ note: Montauk is on the south beach of Long Island, and is the farthest east populated area in New York state.

December’s nakedness,
isolation, icy winds,
wildlife dominant, thriving.
Never saw wild turkeys then.

Use to sketch, paint, breathe
this bleak, hypnotic,
beautiful landscape,
when summer breezes,
turned hostile,
chasing vehicles west.
This was my Montauk.

Deer re-emerged,
liberated from dense brush.
Harbor seals arrived,
lounged on jetties,
surrounding the lighthouse.
Lakeside shallows welcomed
stately herons.
Red tailed hawks, rabbits, foxes
reclaimed golf courses.
Never saw wild turkeys.

I love Montauk.
Best, clearest memories,
were when colder months
came due.

Went there, invited no one.
Created Christmas cards:
Cliffs dwarfing strips of sand,
against sleepy ocean waves.
Attached wreathes to masts,
so solitary, stoic, sad,
in their empty, winter harbor.
Would gilt these penned scenes gold,
where sun’s light lay.

That was thirty years ago.
I use a guide dog now,
and Montauk’s winters are just cold.
My friend George, a year-round resident
of this unique place, calls.
His words paint scenes,
detail changes of the area’s character,
when outside breath is frosty.

He reports that twenty wild turkeys, more,
gathered in his neighbor’s yard.
Their numbers surpass
the problem deer.

Montauk’s winter images,
freshly redrawn,
empty spaces refilled.
I can see them,
a herd of turkeys
in a run,
along that wide strip,
of white sand,
headed for Montauk’s Point.

Wild turkeys,
wild Montauk.

Bio: Ria Meade, 56, a Long Island poet, has been blind more than half her lifetime. She chronicles her experiences, especially those with six guide dogs.

The Box on the Porch, memoir
by Ed Potter

From the “Coffee with Ed” series

“They didn’t even care enough about it to come outside and get it. Let’s take it home!” Those were the approximate words from six-year-old Margaret, on the brink of tears. You’ll understand when I tell you what happened.

My wife, Sue, and I thought the children could use a little focus on someone other than themselves at Christmas time. We asked the social services folks to give us the names of a needy family, preferably with children about the ages of ours. Margaret and Edward really seemed to get into the project. They chose presents for the children; they wrapped them, then couldn’t wait to give them out. Sue and I chose a couple of presents for the adults. We also packed the box with some luscious Christmas food that they probably wouldn’t be buying on their limited income.

Well, the big night finally came. We lugged the box up onto their porch. We knocked.

“Who’s there?”

“Uh, we’re the Potters, and we have some Christmas treats,” we said very uncertainly.

“Yeah, I heard you were coming,” the male voice said. “Just set it down on the porch. We’re just too busy now to come out.”

Then came Margaret’s remark. She and Edward were really disappointed not to meet the kids.

We left the box anyway, as we knew we should. It was then my job to explain just what happened.

It could have been that the guy was just a creep. That was the easy explanation. Or it could have been that he hated to have to face people who were, in his view, a bit more successful and wealthy than he, and this was the only way he knew how to deal with it. We’ll never know.

I tried to explain to our children that what they did was good, and that the giving in itself was enough. No one can control how others respond to deeds done for them. That was, of course, all very well and good, but I couldn’t help knowing that the disappointment was still there.

I hope the recipients enjoyed the little presents, and that their children thought about the fact that their Christmas was nicer than it might have been otherwise. I wanted our project to provide an awakening for our children, and it certainly did–just not the awakening we expected. Even though the deed itself is what’s important, and not how others respond to it, somehow we just never did it again, and I really think we should have.

DECEMBER 25th, poetry
by Michael Price

And in those days there went out a decree
Which started it all, this thing, most importantly.
A kid in some straw with some cows looking on
In a Motel 6 parking lot ‘cuz the rooms were all gone.
Three wise guys got together, all in one place
To bring a savior some cash and smelly stuff for his face.
Shepherds, on the job in a field nearby,
Watched angels and other stuff fall out of the sky.

Very inspirational.

The old guy with the beard wasn’t there; he’s here now–
He of red suits, obesity, and prominent brow.
Eight over-sized rodents hauling a sled
(Or nine, counting the one whose nose was red,)
Beating gravity, with Santa having a pipe-full in back.
And elves and toys and, for later, a little snack,
With a chimney fetish–it could be worse;
A fat, aerial Robin Hood, but financially in reverse.

Cute. Fun.

With mom in her kerchief and dad in the den
Watching football or hockey, depending on when.
Sis back from school; nice ta see ya, see ya, see ya later;
The frat-man’s in town, from Wisconsin, an all-stater.
And Grandma in the kitchen, or resting, or all ears
Relating studied wisdom gathered through her years.
Going broke being nice; it’s that time again.
Buy now, worry later. Can I borrow a pen?

No problem.

A pen today will get you a lot the next day;
For the month prior we’re talkin’ serious layaway.
Sports stuff for nephew, doll stuff for niece,
Or that game on the tube, in the silly commercial piece.
Light-em-up Santas and look-alike trees,
Tinsel, wild parties, and chocolate covered cherries.
And the joyous sentiments after the service that eve:
“Happy holidays to all and…I’m sorry, but do I even know you?


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.

Birds of Noel, memoir
by Judith E Vido

Scriptures of Christian teaching tell us that a multitude of angels,
joined by the heavenly host, filled the skies with song on the night
Jesus was born. This one event is the fuel of religious zealots,
spiritual salvation for the downtrodden, and the inspiration for the most
beautiful music dear to Christian hearts.

When I was in grade school, one of my most prized possessions was a small booklet my third, or possibly my fourth grade teacher handed out to our class. The booklet contained the lyrics to all of our favorite Christmas carols. Together we would gather and sing every song until we knew at least one verse by heart.

During the holiday season, our song booklets were always with us, small enough to easily fit into a coat pocket. We would sing whenever given an opportunity. A group would break into song on the bus going home. Girls on the playground would gather to sing when it was too cold for the jungle gym. One day a week a class would entertain after lunch in the school cafeteria.

All of the melodies were lovely. Singing them became the treat of our eight-year-old lives. It meant Christmas was near. It meant holiday fun, decorations, presents–and no school for the longest time.

I still look back on those days and times and find myself humming one of my favorites. “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” or “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear” and my all time favorite “The First Noel.”

“The First Noel” sprang to my lips as I walked my mother’s country acre in 1990. I loved walking the property, checking out all the trees, shrubbery, and pansy beds my mother once kept with pride. Exiting the house that morning, the first thing of notice was the absolute quiet. On this Christmas morn all was still; nothing disturbed the silence. After five or ten minutes, a single car turned into Long Bridge Road just up from the house. Then, again, perfect calm, and the silence was enthralling. Crisp, cold Christmas air mixed with bright golden sunshine. Everything was clean, clear, and wonderful.

Working my way along the edge of mother’s land, I came to the end of the drive by the road. I stopped and stood, still amazed at the utter quiet of the day. “Only on Christmas day…” I thought to myself as I started up the drive. My steps crunched on gravel, sparking a beat.

“The first Noel, the angels did say,” my strong contralto voice broke the silence that had become almost too eerie to stand. I moved upward on the hill of the drive and realized as I sang, I was not alone.

I stopped. I stood quietly listening. Nothing broke the silence. With a shake of my head, I began singing again and proceeded along the drive. At the top of the hill, I softened my song to discover the sounds I could only hear as I sang.

A group of birds accompanied me. As long as I sang, they sang. When I paused, they paused. Still vocalizing softly, I listened carefully. Four, no five individual bird voices were distinct and identifiable. I couldn’t remember the musical term for their soft sweet tones that backed up my lead, but I recognized their joy. I sang out. They joined me, matched me in a full, rich rejoicing of Christmas day. I stood spellbound in the moment, knowing the day’s silence was to a purpose.

“The First Noel” with bird’s choral trills, filled the quiet stage as the Creators had patiently awaited the performance.

Bio: Judith E. Vido lives in Richmond, Virginia and has published four novels available from She holds a BS in Psychology and masters in Clinical Social Work from the Virginia Commonwealth University. At age eight Ms. Vido was diagnosed with Juvenile diabetes and lost her sight months before her twentieth birthday from its side effects.

Currently she advocates for persons with disabilities in Richmond and is one of the performing soloists with the Senior connections Choral Group. She lives with her retired Seeing Eye dog, Maddie, also blind now, and continues to work on her autobiography and other suspense novels.

The Mighty Mountain, memoir
by Deon Lyons

I always loved winter as a child in Southern Maine. There was no better feeling than grabbing my Speedway sled and dragging it out to the top of the huge hill in front of our house, dressed in my snow suit, winter boots, knitted stocking hat, knitted mittens and scarf. Those were some of the happiest times of my life, and I truly cherish the memories.

There was one winter memory though, that I would just as soon not remember, but I vividly do. It was the winter of 1969. That winter had been chugging along like a typical Maine winter usually did. The sledding was wonderful, the conditions were perfect, and through the holidays, into January, I found myself speeding down the mighty winter mountain at every chance I got. I was a happy, smiling kid with a winter full of never ending fun.

There were a dozen kids in the neighborhood, and you could usually find us out on the hill, all weekend, from dawn to dusk. A rapid retreat back home for a hot bowl of lunch time soup, and we would quickly find ourselves right back out on the frozen slope until the four thirty whistle from the down town mill warned us to start heading home for supper. Even on the weekdays, we hurried off the school bus and changed into our winter wear so we could get out and take in all of the winter magic.

During that glorious winter of 1969, I remember a stretch of weather during the end of January that brought tropical conditions from the southwest. The weather for three or four days was warm and rainy. It was the weather pattern sent from the devil himself, with no good intentions whatsoever, at least in the opinions of an eight year old avid winter sledder.

I remember looking out the living room picture window for two days as the rain and warm temperatures slowly melted away my winter playground. It was horrible, and I couldn’t stop watching it happen.

On the third day of the warm spell, I would periodically look out the window, towards the hill out front, and across the open fields below. Slowly but surely, small patches of bare ground started to appear across the fields. My winter playground was disappearing right before my eight year old eyes, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. My mother came up behind me at the window, put her hands on my shoulders, bent down, kissed me on the cheek and whispered, “Don’t worry sweetie, winter isn’t over yet.”

Her words didn’t really register, as all I could do was look out at my winter being stolen right from under me.

As the snow continued to disappear, I could almost hear my grief stricken sled in the garage, hollering at me to get it back out onto the hill.

As the week rolled on by, the temps slowly started dipping back to their normal sub-freezing levels, and within a few days, the winter weather patterns, along with the much welcomed snow returned. My livelihood and all of the joy that came with it, also returned, one inch of snow at a time.

Within a week, the whispered words of my mother came true as I found myself laughing and screaming, careening down the mighty mountain in front of my house. The world was right once again.

Years later as an adult, I revisited my old homestead from my childhood. All of the memories and feelings grabbed hold of me as I turned the corner, and that same mighty mountain came into view. It was the same hill that I had slid down a thousand times as a child, but one thing seemed different. The mighty mountain had somehow shrunk into a small sloping piece of land that didn’t really stand out as I remembered. It didn’t seem possible. Where was the death defying vertical drop? Where was the mountain top that seemed to touch the heavens? Where did the never ending slope that brought so many wonderful moments into my childhood disappear to?

As I rode up past the hill, I took a deep breath and smiled, remembering all of the crusty, tasty, snow sandwiches, the frozen fearless fury of the crisp winter wind, the worn out legs that just kept climbing, again and again, back to the top of the hill, for one more trip down to the bottom.

All of the wonder and magic of those childhood memories, all of the incredible wintry days of adolescent bliss, every minute of The countless hours spent out in the frozen snows of the mighty mountain had been comfortably, and neatly tucked away, inside my mind.

What a perfectly fitting place for them.

by Nancy Scott

With the second grunt and twist,
the square jar’s round lid loosens
almost spurting juice toward the red sweater
worn against the Weather Channel’s
five-degree windchill.

Ignore outside chopping and shovel-grinding
graveled on top of the foot of snow
now loved only by dramatic newscasters.
The groundhog says “Early Spring–”
a thing he almost never says.

Don’t believe the Pennsylvania woodchuck yet.
Reach with a tablespoon.
Excavate one piece of grapefruit,
refrigerator-cold like savored summer’s best.
Then capture two small orange slices.

Inhale foreign warm states.
Wonder where and by whom
fruit was picked and peeled.
Clamp down. Chew.
Sugar. Swallow the rumor of July.

Stand at the kitchen sink.
Drink juice from the jar–
a bad habit of too much alone.
Dig and reach for what comes up.
Don’t wish for a bowl or a seat at the table.

Feel healthier by the fourth spoonful.
Feel too cold by the sixth.
Seal the jar with a savage wrist.
Save some cold comfort for later.

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