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Spring/Summer 2023 Edition of Magnets and Ladders


Magnets and Ladders
Active Voices of Writers with Disabilities

Editorial and Technical Staff

  • Coordinating Editor: Mary-Jo Lord
  • Fiction: Kate Chamberlin, Abbie Johnson Taylor, Winslow Parker, and Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Nonfiction: John W. Smith, Kate Chamberlin, Marilyn Brandt Smith, and Brad Corallo
  • Poetry: Abbie Johnson Taylor, Leonard Tuchyner, Brad Corallo, lisa Busch, and Sandra Streeter
  • Technical Assistants: Jayson Smith

Submission Guidelines

Writers with disabilities may submit up to three selections per issue. Deadlines are February 15 for the Spring/Summer issue, and August 15 for the Fall/winter issue. Writers must disclose their disability in their biography or in their work. Biographies may be up to 100 words in length, and should be written in third-person.

Do not submit until your piece is ready to be considered for publication. Rewrites, additions, deletions, or corrections are part of the editorial process, and will be suggested or initiated by the editor.

Poetry maximum length is 50 lines. Memoir, fiction, and nonfiction maximum length is 2500 words. In all instances, our preference is for shorter lengths than the maximum allowed. Please single-space all submissions, and use a blank line to separate paragraphs and stanzas. It is important to spell check and proofread all entries. Previously published material and simultaneous submissions are permitted provided you own the copyright to the work. Please cite previous publisher and/or notify if work is accepted elsewhere.

We do not feature advocacy, activist, “how-to,” or “what’s new” articles regarding disabilities. Innovative techniques for better writing as well as publication success stories are welcome. Content will include many genres, with limited attention to the disability theme. Announcements of writing contests with deadlines beyond April 1 and October 1 respectively are welcome.

All work submitted must be original. We do not accept work written by an AI or any form of plagiarism.

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Authors under age 18: Please include a statement from a parent or guardian that indicates awareness of your submission of literary work to Magnets and Ladders.

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for publication.

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About Behind Our Eyes

Behind Our Eyes, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization enhancing the opportunities for writers with disabilities. Our anthology published in 2007, “Behind Our Eyes: Stories, Poems, and Essays by Writers with Disabilities”, is available at Amazon and from other booksellers. It is available in recorded and Braille format from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

“Behind Our Eyes, a Second Look” is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers, and in E-book format on Amazon Kindle. It is also available in recorded format from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. See our book trailer on Youtube at

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Table of Contents

Editors’ Welcome


The Spring/Summer edition of Magnets and Ladders is packed with stories, poems, articles and exciting news.

The Perkins Library for the Blind has been recording issues of Magnets and Ladders for several years. In 2017, these recordings became available on cartridge to patrons of The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. For many of our readers, the Perkins recording of each edition of Magnets and Ladders is their only access to the magazine. Other readers may enjoy the pleasure of hearing the stories and poems performed by the Perkins narrators after reading the magazine online. In the fall of 2022, we were given permission, by Perkins, to upload mp3 files of magazine recordings. Back issues starting with the Spring/Summer 2019 edition of Magnets and Ladders are available now at Please check back often, as we anticipate adding more back issues soon.

Once again, we are welcoming a guest judge for one of our contests. Behind Our Eyes Vice President Carol Farnsworth made a recommendation and chaired a committee to start this initiative. Our first guest judge, B. T. Kimbrough, generously volunteered to judge our fiction contest for the Fall/Winter 2022-2023 and the Spring/Summer-2023 editions. He comes to us with an extensive background in editing and disability services

Ever since he moved to the Chicago suburbs in the 1970s to go to work for DIALOGUE, B. T. Kimbrough has been a teller of other people’s stories. DIALOGUE was less than ten years old when Kimbrough joined the staff, and he was involved in helping to shape many of the sections such as Careers and Fiction, which were to become lasting parts of the publication’s identity. He was also deeply involved in helping to develop the magazine’s groundbreaking work to foster and encourage the work of previously unpublished writers.

Blinded by a household accident at the age of nine months, Kimbrough learned Braille at the school for the blind in his home town of Louisville, KY, then went on to graduate from a public high school in 1960, and earn Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in music from the University of Louisville. Volunteer work as a part-time radio announcer for the University led him into professional radio and newspaper work, as well as his lasting connection with magazine publishing.

He’s always been fascinated with technology, both the up side and the down, and that fascination led him to stop telling other people’s stories for a time and become part of the story himself. In the 1980s, he managed Braille and Technology services at a Philadelphia nonprofit. Later he went to work for the braille embosser maker Enabling Technologies, where he served as Vice-president in the 1990s. In 2007 he returned to DIALOGUE, first as Executive Director, and then as Editor from 2010 till his retirement in 2019. Having moved back to Louisville with his wife Paula, Kimbrough is now active in a local theatrical group called Imagine Blind Players. He is also working on a project that aims to place all the content of DIALOGUE‘s 57-year publication run online so that the public can freely access this amazing literary legacy. At the moment, the website offers free access to a number of samples from the last ten years of DIALOGUE, including the five-part history of the publication Kimbrough wrote in 2012 to mark the 50th year of DIALOGUE.

I would like to give a big thanks to all of the committee members, B. T. Kimbrough, Marilyn Brandt Smith, and Jason Smith for your hard work and support throughout the production process.

We had contests with cash prizes in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. There were many great submissions as a result, we had a tie for one of the Honorable Mention positions in the nonfiction category. Below are the Magnets and Ladders Spring/Summer 2023 contest winners.


  • First Place: “Regret” by Winslow Parker
  • Second Place: “Firewood” by Ann Chiappetta
  • Honorable Mention: “Swamp Gnome” by Leonard Tuchyner
  • Honorable Mention: “A Death of No Consequence” by John Cronin


  • First Place: “Gilbert Crashes Ashore” by John Cronin
  • Second Place: “Stroke” by Leonard Tuchyner
  • Honorable Mention: “Four Iconic Albums That Changed the Music World Forever” by Brad Corallo
  • Honorable Mention: “What’s Your Name, Little Girl, What’s Your Name?” by Marilyn Brandt Smith
  • Honorable Mention: “Weighing Words” by Marcia J. Wick


  • First Place: “Beethoven's Fifth” by Lynda McKinney Lambert
  • Second Place: “Ancestral Rivers” by Wesley D. Sims
  • Honorable Mention: “Aftermath” by Valerie Moreno
  • Honorable Mention: “Burial Ground” by Winslow Parker

Congratulations to all of the contest winners.

The Magnets and Ladders Staff wishes you a safe and happy summer.

Part I. From a Different Perspective

Regret, fiction First Place
by Winslow parker

Thornhill Plantation, Georgia, June 1, 1845

I pen these words with trembling hand and dimming eye. My body is failing me. I have, so the good doctor says, but hours to live. Even now, I slip into sleep without effort, waken with a start, ink pooling around broken pen nib.

They say that your life flashes before your eyes as you die. I find this aphorism partly true. My life now passes before my inner eye but in slow motion; one day, one week, one person at a time, slowly adding up to the years, months, days and hours until now.

Random runs of memory float unbidden, superimposed on the real world. Playing with slave children, my first fishing trip with my father, my first dog, Hazel, later scenes of adolescence, marriage, living life on a plantation, slaves mere chattel.

Washington was given to me on my fifth birthday. He was six. I called him “Wash.” I did not understand that I owned him. To me, we were just two friends. We played in the barn, petting the horse's ears and muzzle over the partition and climbing into the hayloft, making forts of the dry hay. One of our favorites was The blacksmith's shed, where Wash's father reigned supreme. The roaring fire was a terrifying monster, the clang of hammer on hot metal, a fascinating rhythm. We were intrigued how his father's skilled hands could form a horse shoe complete with nail holes, in mere minutes. It seemed like a miracle to us.

We trailed behind the field hands, picking bolls of cotton they missed and, after accumulating enough, put it in their sacks. For us it was fun. Now, I'm quite sure it was not so for those whom the overseer carried a whip. He was careful, however, not to use it in my youthful presence.

“Have you ever been whipped?” I asked Wash.

“Yes, young massa” he said, “but na boss black snake touch ma back.”

He would say no more about it, though I pressed him for details. I did see, as we swam in the cattle pond, white welts against his black skin. I touched them and asked, “Do they hurt now?”

“Nah young masa,” he said. “Da Pain done gone.”

We fished in the stream. We stood silent, scared and brave at the same time, on the edge of the swamp, watching for alligators and poison snakes. We raided the smokehouse for choice bits of pork, hanging above a slow green-wood fire. We teased my sisters who were playing dolls with Wash's sisters.

Life was ideal until the day my mother sat me down in the shaded light of the parlor. “You can no longer be Washington's friends,” she said.

I think I was about nine. I cried, “Why, Mother? Why not?”

“He's not one of us.”

“What do you mean, Mother? He's a boy like me. We have a good time playing together. I don't want to lose my friend.”

“You're growing up and he's growing up. He will start working in the fields next week.”

“Working? Will I start picking cotton too?”

“Oh, no, you will never need to pick cotton. That's what the niggers are for. They pick the cotton so we don't have to.”

“Why is Wash different from me? Why does he have to work and I don't?”

“That's just the way it is. Haven't you been listening to Reverend Pickford?”

“Well, um, yes ma'am, I been listening for sure.”

“'have been listening,” she corrected. You can't talk like Washington anymore.”

“Yes'm. But what did the Rev say that made it OK for Wash to have to go to work?”

“Well, I think it was two Sundays ago, when he quoted from the book of Ephesians, 'Slaves be obedient to your masters…' They are our slaves. We are their masters. God tells them to obey us. It's just the way the world is.”

“That doesn't seem fair.”

“Well, maybe not, but it's right there in the Good Book.”

Many were the sermons which justified our behavior toward our slaves. I repeated the same words to my children and grandchildren, for the same issue arose in every new generation.

I was heartbroken. I could not look Wash in the eye. When we passed each other, as we often did, we both lowered our eyes and pretended the other did not exist. I missed his mischievous games, our wrestling, swimming, play. From my bedroom window, on the third story of our house, I could see into the fields. Occasionally I spied him, back bent, slowly pulling a long gunny sack behind him, reaching into the bushes for bolls of cotton. No longer a game, he spent long days filling his quota of twenty-five pounds. I wondered if his hands bled from the sharp spikes of the opened shell of the cotton boll. I wondered how he could work from sunup to sundown. I wondered what he did for fun, now that we were no longer best friends.

It seems so long ago, yet is imprinted so clearly on my memory that it seems but months instead of years.

On the death of my father, when I had just turned seventeen, I took over the running of the plantation. Punishments, by that time, were merely an unpleasant background to plantation life. I barely noticed them. Men, women, and children were often whipped and degraded. Sometimes whippings were saved up for “accounts day” when the punishments for misdeeds of the week were meted out to one servant after the other. Sometimes, if the offense were more substantive, -an individual would be whipped on the spot of his or her offense.

The first time I ordered someone whipped was two days after I assumed ownership of the land and its people. Socrates, a huge coal-black field hand, thumbed his nose at the overseer, thinking himself unseen. Perhaps it was a test of the new young master. That is how I chose to interpret it. “Thirty lashes,” I ordered. I watched. A great sense of power and righteous superiority rose within me. I suddenly realized I had life-and-death power over this man who was so much larger and stronger than I. A delicious sense of control swept through me. Until I was master, I was ambivalent about punishments. I winced when I heard the slap of lash on flesh. I always turned away, unwilling to witness. Now I understood the significance of the whip. It was a symbol of the authority that I wielded over these people who could have murdered me in my bed any night of the week. Their terror of the whip kept them in my thrall. It was a heady sense which has never left me. I have to admit, now, that I experienced a sense of loss at that time, too. I'm not quite sure what it was, perhaps a sense of innocence lost or of a new stoniness of heart. The sensation is now so clouded with life's joys and sorrows that it is difficult to dredge up those long-ago feelings. Yet, I remember that sense of loss, of shame.


“Ten lashes,” I said to the overseer. “He must be made an example. Slaves cannot steal and get away with it.” At age thirty, my childhood memories were dimmed, nearly extinguished. I pronounced the sentence upon the back of my erstwhile friend, Washington. I witnessed, without outward emotion, the opening of ten long bleeding wounds on his back. I ignored his suffering, his groans and pleas for mercy.

I treated him as I did all my slaves. It wasn't often that I had him whipped, but, on occasion, I did. I felt nothing. It all came to a head when he ran away after I had to sell his wife and four children to pay a gambling debt. He waited for a month until the time of harvest then disappeared one moonless Friday night. I knew he would head north, so, when his absence was discovered, I called on my neighbors to help me hunt for him. We made a game of it. The dogs bayed and howled. We drank too much, laughing at nonsensical jokes and cursing the perfidy of our slaves. I was surprised how far he managed to travel in the brief time of his freedom. The dogs finally treed him. My overseer whipped him out of the tree. He fell among the dogs. If their masters had not called them off, he would have been ripped to shreds. In the early morning light, his eyes sought mine, pleading, attempting to appeal to our childhood friendship. I turned away, ignoring his plea. “Two hundred lashes when we are back on the plantation,” I told my overseer, “with everyone watching.”

His arm grew tired before administering the full punishment, but there was no purpose in continuing. Wash was dead.

Now, with hours or days to live myself, the sound of leather on skin, the sight of strips of skin ripped from already-scarred backs, the screams and moans of the victim, all haunt my sleeping and waking hours. I cannot escape the macabre visions. They pour, like water in a sluice through my fevered brain. Should I live, I will be insane. My wife sought the counsel of the new Reverend. He sat at my bedside spouting the same old self-justifying scriptures. I am sure he is attempting to alleviate my sense of guilt and shame. It is not working. My wealth is no satisfaction to me now.

Wash is dead.

Bio: Winslow is retired and lives with his wife of over half a century in Portland Oregon. Together, they have two adult children and three grandchildren. He has, during his work years, been a hospital chaplain, school teacher, associate pastor, Mental-health tech, social worker and finally an adaptive technology instructor. He did not begin to write seriously until 2007. He wrote his first poem “tears,” in 2019. He delights in word manipulation and loves to sharpen his quill alongside other authors. He has self-published two books of short stories and several poems in Magnets and Ladders and Avocet.

A Death of No Consequence, fiction Honorable Mention
by John Cronin

“Oy, brother. Ya forgot ya bicycle.” The barman yelled out.

“No problem. Me to rass drunk ta ride. Me cum back tomorrow.” The youth hollered, as he strode away.

“dat true. Me dam well drunk. It be that worthless woman's fault. Me treat her good and she sneak around behind me back. She think I don't know, but I do. Me friends a laughing behind me back. She soon get a big belly and gim me a jacket. Pure bullshit. Me not take it. She get me so worked up me cann't think right and me guts start churning.

“I don't know what ta do. Me think about killin her, but I love her too much. When I get ta thinkin about her sneakin around, I get this empty feeling. Then me head starts paining me and me get all mixed in me brain. I just wann de pain ta stop. Me do anything ta mak it stop.

“If me dead, no more problems with the bitch. Me don't have to listen to her sharp tongue. No more gossip and lafin behind me back. Dem dam sorry if me gone.

“Dis is one rass hard climb up Malcom Heights hill. Me tired. No light at Baby Lou's. Everyone a bed.

“Me guts a churnin again. Me slip into the cane patch for a shit. Me squat by ddis old tree and wipe me ass with cane trash.

“Me rass! Da full moon a shining on me and da tree! It make us glow. The way da light shimmy and shake, it be alive. It be a sign from Jah.

“Jah calling me! Yes, I, Rastafari! Me hear ya calling de I. Me commin, Jah. ..What? Yes, Jah!

“Me wrap me Marino Around me neck. Yes! Step on de broken limb. Me tie the loose end around de tree branch. One step and drop.

“No more head pain. No more sharp tongue. No more laughing at me. No more problems.

“She gonna miss me bad, now that I free.

“No! Me still alive. Cann't breathe. Not ta be dis way. Too slow!

“Me make one rass terrible mistake. Me wanna live. Cann't loose the knot. Cann't breath. Me try. Fingers no use. Cann't loose the knot. Every ting goin dark. Me comin Jah.”

Author’s note: Thank you to Winslow parker for editorial assistance.

Bio: At sixty-seven, John spends most of his time reading, writing and visiting with friends. In his childhood he contracted polio, leaving him a paraplegic. Later he attended the University of Waterloo where he obtained a B.A. in philosophy and political science, and an M.a. in philosophy. While working on his P.hD. John's vision deteriorated and he became legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa. Unable to continue his studies, John decided to travel. He resided in Texas, later living in Jamaica. While in Jamaica he met and married Gillian White. They reside on an acre in rural Ontario, close to Lake Huron.

Firewood, fiction Second Place
by Ann Chiappetta

She scanned the trees along the logging road. The flash of red amid the early autumn foliage caught her eye. Movement lent definition and she watched Dad's cap move and the rest of him appear, picking his way among the fallen debris littering the escarpment.

“Okay, I am going to roll the log down the hill. You need to stop it before it rolls off,”

She turned, looked over a shoulder, eyes following the log's probable path to the road's edge and the emptiness beyond. Last year she was too young to help and now…

“Dad, I don't know about this.”

He straightened from freeing the dead fall, which would become firewood. Wiping his brow with a bandana, Dad sunk the ax into a log with a thunk and descended to the rutted track. Standing beside her, he pointed to a section of a tree trunk by the side of the road. Dad would haul it up into the truck bed with the other cuts her uncle had trimmed and left for them on the hill. Deadfall logs were the only wood they could take from the area, it being a game preserve.

“When it's coming at you, stick out your leg and plant your boot on it, like this,” he said, the bottom of the size twelve work boot rested against the dry, patchy bark. “Trust me, you'll stop it,” She glanced down at her own boots, a third of the size and swallowed. He didn't seem to notice the fear drying out her mouth. He wiped his hands on his work pants “Ready?”

She walked to the dead fall, it was as high as her knee. She faced it and lifted a leg placing a booted foot upon it “Like this?” she asked.

“Yes, Use your arms to help you balance. Keep your feet farther apart.”

Dad demonstrated with the piece of the tree trunk, rocking and rolling it towards her. She practiced but it didn't make the edge of the road and the death drop less of a worry.

“Can't I do something else?” she asked, putting more distance between her and the drop-off, chewing a thumbnail.

Dad sucked at his teeth. The sound of the chainsaw in the distance reminded her of blood thirsty wasps. She saw herself being flung into the ravine, her body impaled by tree branches and falling down only to be pulverized by the granite boulders far below. It would take hours to find her and by then she would have bled out, her brains smeared on the rocks. She tried to meet his eyes, show him how much she feared what he was asking her to do but he watched the horizon, mouth set in a hard line.

“I can't do this by myself. If we don't get enough wood now, we won't have another chance.” He said.

She felt the heat in her face and tried to make it go away. Dad waited, hands on hips.

She shrugged, I'll try,” she said, the rush of panic clogging her ears and tightening her chest. Dad climb back up the hill. The ax blows echoed, the sound caused her skin to pimple.

He appeared beside a big elm tree. “Remember what I showed you.”

This wasn't what she expected, maybe she was still too young. Thirteen was supposed to be her lucky number. Why couldn't she just split and stack the wood like last time? Her temples began to throb but she stood her ground. Sweat broke out on her forehead and the trembling in her arms and legs inspired a quick prayer and a mental thread of false bravado; she would not be afraid.

She heard the crash, a huge log raced down the hill, flattening saplings and bushes like a wild steamroller and it was coming her way. She tried to do what Dad said,
but her body didn't listen; she side-stepped and the log swept past plunging over the edge of the road into the air above the ravine. It hung for a breath in the emptiness, then crashed, resulting in a cacophony of breaking branches and displaced animal sounds. How the heck was she supposed to stop that? She wanted to tell Dad he was nuts but kept silent, her fear of his anger at odds with her sense of self-preservation.

“Jesus Christ,” she said. She hadn't realized she was holding her breath and sucked in a big bunch of air, The rushing sound in her ears almost brought her to her knees. She hunched over, hands on knees, trying not to collapse. She heard Dad muttering and cursing through the trees, The chain saws had stopped and it was quiet, only a few bird sounds echoed high on the hillside. Eventually she straightened.

“I'll send down a smaller one,” he said.

She Swallowed the hot knot of fear and drew in a few more deep breaths. As the dappled, autumnal sun dried the cold perspiration from her face, she convinced herself Dad would not make her do something dangerous.

“Ready,” she said. Clenching and unclenching her fists protected by the leather work gloves. Feet positioned and arms ready to break a fall, she realized she wanted it to be over wanted whatever would happen to happen so she could go onto the next thing.

Down came the log, gathering speed. It came for her, thudding onto the road with such force, she felt it in the bottom of her boots. This time she stood her ground, braced for the impact, met the log with a boot,
and was surprised it stopped. She didn't get hurt or even fall.

“I did it!”

She heard Dad laugh, “Good girl, roll that sucker near the truck. I've got more for you,”

She muscled the log aside, wiped the bits of bark from her gloves, and got ready for the next one.

Bio: The author of five fiction and nonfiction books, Annie's poems, creative nonfiction, essays and fiction are featured in anthologies, online magazines, blogs and small press reviews. Annie is also a cohost of the Friends in Art of ACB, “Art Parlor” podcast.

Annie's interests include disability awareness, exploring the human and canine bond through service dog partnerships, guide dogs, literature and creativity, the paranormal, military families and veterans, and continuing to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with her assistive technology.

Visit Annie's website at: to purchase books, listen to poetry essays and view video performances or to request Annie as a guest speaker.
Visit her blog at:

Swamp Gnome, fiction Honorable Mention
by Leonard Tuchyner

I like to think of myself as a world traveler. I never travel first class, but get to where I'm going any way I can. Sometimes based on the luck of the outstretched thumb, sometimes in an open box car, and sometimes on the soles of my feet. Those soles are clad in plastic, cardboard or anything I can find to cushion the skin from pebbles and tarmac. I'm traditionally known as a hobo.

I've seen most everything there is to be seen. One day I was taking a snooze in a narrow alleyway behind some garbage cans, when a short little fellow sat down beside me. By short, I mean less than 3 feet high. He was dressed rather smartly in brown and green. His shoes were pointed and so was his hat, though it could have used some starch.

“Mind if I sit down beside ye, brother?” he asked. He had an unusual accent which I could not quite place.

“Do you mind if I ask where you hail from?” I inquired.

“Oh, I'm from here. In fact, I'm one of its oldest citizens.”

“Is that so? How old would that be?”

“About 1,234 years. But it might be off a few years. I never got used to this newfangled calendar. We didn't used to use them, you know.”

“That's very interesting. I've met a lot of people, but none quite as old as you say you are. You're pretty short by modern standards. Is that normal for you?” I was skeptical about what he told me. He must have been either intellectually challenged or flat-out lying.

“It's not unusual at all. I know I appear to be human to ye, but it is merely coincidence.”

“So… you're not really human,” I said, having a hard time not to have a derisive tone in my voice.


“Then what in the world are you?” I demanded.

“I'm a swamp gnome,” he said with a straight voice.

I just stared at him. He stared right back. I was really at a loss for words. But there was something about him that said 'gnome.'

After several minutes of silence, I finally found my voice. “What the hell are you doing in the nation's capital? There's no swamp here.”

“Back in the day, when I was born a swamp gnome and given this parcel of ground, it was a swamp. This place was full of life. Every sort of living thing lived here. There were cypress trees, swamp flowers, and vegetation of bountiful varieties. There were animals from the very small to almost gigantic. The sounds were varied and delightful. Ah, those were the days.”

“But that was a long time ago. There isn't any kind of swamp here today,” I protested.

“Ye know, that's absolutely true. It's nice to meet someone who realizes that. I thought I saw something in ye when I saw ye settling down for a nap. But ye are not really alive.”

“I have a problem with thinking of myself as not alive,” I protested.

“No, no, I don't mean literally. Ye are absolutely alive, more than most around here. But your kind of life is absolutely insignificant. Ever since they decided to drain my swamp, there has been total chaos. I still see the swamp, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, being a swamp gnome, I can still see the spirit of the swamp here. I see it as clear as day. It is the actual reality. Oh, it's all covered up with concrete and tarmac, but it's still here. In fact, its reality is greater than what I see. Actually, I have to do some rather difficult magical incantations to see your reality. In a blinking of my eye, I can return to the real reality.”

I was getting a little nervous talking to this fellow. I began to feel my solidity dissolving and a swamp replacing my existence. I shook my head vigorously to rid myself of the illusion.

“Stop it!” I cried. “You're driving me out of my mind. For a minute there, I thought I saw a cypress tree.”

“It doesn't surprise me,” he said. “Oh, ye are real enough in an alternative universe. Just not here. Yet, our worlds are vying for supremacy. Some of your people are aware of that.”

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“Haven't ye heard them chanting, ‘Drain the swamp. Drain the swamp’? If they were secure in their own reality, would they be chanting to do something that has already been done? Or, I should say, may happen?”

“But what about Central Park? Isn't that alive?” I pointed out.

“Yes. But Central Park is just reality trying to break through this false, competing universe. It's not really a swamp, but it is closer to being alive.”

“I'm sorry, this is too ridiculous. I must have drunk something toxic. Never can tell what's in your drink these days.”

“Don't fret, Ye are as sane and clear-minded as I am. I noted that you are the kind of creature that isn't at home in a world like this. Ye haven't adapted to being an ordinary human. Have ye?”

“That's beside the point. It is what it is, and there is no denying that. Besides, I'm content enough.”

“Ye want to be living in a beautiful swamp more than ye want to stay here. Admit it.”

“I admit nothing.”

“Close your eyes. Listen to the swamp,” he intoned.

As he intoned the phrase over and over again. “Listen to the swamp; Listen to the swamp…,” I found myself becoming drowsy. Then I felt as if I were coming out of a dream. When I opened my eyes, my beautiful swamp lay before me. I was sitting on a lily pad. Herbie, the swamp gnome, sat on the water next to

“Wow, I just had the most horrible dream. I dreamed I was something called a human, and that my world had been transformed into something called a city. It was horrible.”

“It's all right. With a little luck, that will never happen,” he assured me.

I flicked my tongue and caught a fly, as it buzzed past. “That was yummy,” I said.

“Have a good day, Froggy.” And he disappeared, no doubt attending to business.

Bio: Leonard has Stargardt's disease. Now eighty-two, he reads through the media of Braille, recordings, and electronic voices. Leonard lives with his wife of 43 years and their two dogs.

He is active in the local writing community, which includes facilitating a Writing for Healing and Growth group at the Charlottesville Senior Center and also facilitating three critique groups for Behind Our Eyes. Leonard has published a poetry book, a novel, had a column in Dialogue, and has many poems and articles published in anthologies, paper and electronic media.

His main hobby presently is gardening.

Somewhere Down the Road, fiction
by Trish Hubschman

My name is Jared Nelson. I'm a twenty-three-year-old college student working toward my Masters in microphysics. I have a theory and I want to prove it. Time travel is possible. If I want to wave to the father of this country, I have to turn in a certain direction. If I want to see Moses' part the Red Sea, the same idea applies. The future's a bit more complicated. We don't know what's ahead of us, but it's there.

Okay, there I was in the twenty-first Century, walking to campus for my first class. It was a beautiful spring day. The birds were chirping. The flowers smelled great. My apartment was a few blocks away, so I was using my feet for transportation.

What happened next is difficult to explain. It was a phenomenon! I didn't sit under a tree and fall asleep. I didn't trip over a rock and crack open my skull. I continued walking and something changed around me. It happened quickly. The grass became the richest green I've ever seen. The sky was so blue it hurt my eyes. The birds still chirped and flowers smelled great.

“Professor Nelson,” someone call from behind me. I whirled around. Was he talking to me? A kid stood there. He was around my age, or the age I was before this metamorphosis occurred. The kid bore a shocking resemblance to me.

He chuckled. “Guess I can't expect all my professors to remember me, huh?”

I shook my head, then pointed my index finger at my temple. “I was lost in thought just now. Beautiful day, eh?”

He smiled, then held out his hand. “Foster Stone, Professor Nelson. I'm in your Diagnostic analysis class.”

I nodded and took his hand. Foster was my middle name and Stone my mother's maiden name. We were walking toward campus.

Foster continued. “The other day in class you were speaking of the existence of the past and future and possibility of time travel.” I nodded. “I went home and told my folks your theory and they think we're all nuts. They're considering taking me out of college because it's a bad influence.” We both laughed.

Later that day, Foster and I were in the campus cafeteria having lunch. I was devouring the best pizza I'd ever eaten. I don't know what they did to it, but it only took five minutes to bake. This heightened my desire to know where I was. I was tempted to take Foster into my confidence, but I was still confused. I had caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror in the men's lavatory. I was no longer a twenty-three-year-old kid. I looked distinguished, and how I might look in my forties.

“Are you okay?” Foster asked. “You kind of seem not too with it.”

I chuckled. He was right. I wasn't too with it. I couldn't say how I did it that morning, but I found three lecture class locations AND taught for an hour. I also found my office and the men's lavatory. The wallet in my pants pocket contained a driver's license. My name wasn't Jared Nelson, well, my middle name was Jared. My first name was Alexander. Who the heck was Alexander Jared Nelson?

“Yeah, kid, I am OKAY, or think I am.” I leaned across the table. “What year is this?” I whispered.

To my surprise, Foster didn't miss a beat. “2132,” he replied. “What year are you coming from?”

The question brought me up short. “2021. So, you and I both definitely know time travel to the future does work.”

Foster shrugged. “What did you do to get here?”

I thought about it, then shook my head. “Nothing, that's the problem. It just happened. How do I prove this?”

Foster sighed. “Don't know if you can, man, but we both know and it's cool.”

When I opened my office door at five o'clock, Foster was waiting for me. I hadn't expected that. Startled, I took a step backward. Foster chuckled. “Came by to offer you a ride home, Professor.”

I closed and locked THE door. “How did you know I was still here? My last class ended at 4:00.” I hung around the extra hour trying to compose a report on the events of the day.

At lunchtime, I asked Foster about the computer systems here and he told me to ask Marge. That was the name of the computer voice.

“You can even give her some ideas,” Foster explained. “And she'll put them together in a report for you.” He laughed. “Best way to get straight A’s in school, ask Marge.”

He answered my earlier question. “I was in the Student Union studying when the lady came and told me you were still here and needed a ride home.”

I stopped walking. “What lady?”

“The same one who came to me in my dreams last night and told me to meet you this morning.”

All I could do was nod. It was becoming more and more clear. Foster Stone had been assigned to me as my guardian angel. I liked the sound of that. I liked the kid.

“Who are your parents?” I asked when I was buckled into the front passenger seat of his bright red sports car. It looked like a Porsche, but I doubted a college student could afford such a vehicle. The car ran on a twenty-year rechargeable battery. No gas or maintenance ever needed.

Foster glanced at me. “My mom is Magenta Stone. Dad's Hickory Birch.” Without meaning to, I winced. I noted that he had his mother's last name. He chuckled. “Mom and Dad have been married as long as I've been here,” he added.

Well, that answered my next question. His mother was my descendant on my mother's side. I still couldn't figure out what Foster's relation to me was.

“Why am I here, Foster?” I asked. I had one definite impression, the two of us were being thrown in this together.

“I think Mrs. Nelson would be better equipped to answer that, Professor,” he said.

My head shot up. “And who may Mrs. Nelson be?” I asked. It would be nice to know who my wife was.

Foster snickered and told me her name. A few minutes later, we pulled into the circular driveway of what looked to be a hotel. It was three levels and spanned about half a block. This was my house?

“Got my instructions to drop you off, Professor,” Foster tapped the spot over his left ear. People had brain conduction cell phones. I saw kids on campus with a wire across the top of their heads.

I was extremely nervous as I went up the steps of the house. Facing the unknown Marietta Nelson was more terrifying then this hundred-year flight into the future.

The Door was opened by an expressionless maid. “I saw you pull up, Professor,” she said. “I've apprised Mrs. Nelson of your homecoming and she'll be down promptly.” She pointed to her right ear, then raced off.

Seconds later, I heard the clip-clap of heels on the ceramic tile. “It's about time you got home, Alexander,” she snapped. “I told Foster he was to return you here after your last class.”

What else could I do? I shrugged.

“Who's Alexander Nelson?” I asked. We were in the formal dining room. The table seated twelve. I refused to sit at the opposite end to my wife, so when she sat down at the head, I took the adjacent seat.

Before answering me, she unfolded her cloth napkin and laid it on her lap. “He's my husband. He's missing.”

“Where is he?” I shot back.

“I don't know.”

I tried another angle. “Why do I have his identity and who is he to me?”

she turned her nose up, and sighed. “I believe the government agents are holding Alex while you're here conducting your research.”

“Is your husband also a government agent?”

She nodded. “I hate his job, Jared. I wish he was a college professor.”

I smiled. I wanted to try something else. “Are you Foster Stone's mother?”

She shook her head. “My husband is his father…with Magenta Stone.”

My eyebrow went up. “Does Foster know this?”

She stared at me. “I don't know, but my husband has always taken his responsibility financially for him.”

Marietta and I talked into the night. We relocated from the dining room to her sitting room off the master bedroom. When I realized it was ten p.m. and I had to rise around six in the morning, I inquired about my sleep lodgings.

“I don't want the hired help to think anything's amiss,” Marietta explained. “So please make yourself at home in the master bedroom. You'll find everything you need in Alex's bathroom and closet.”

And I did. I slept in a luxurious King-sized bed. I was alone. I don't know where Marietta slept. I didn't see her the next morning when I came downstairs either. Foster was parked outside the front door when I came down the steps.

“I have a lot to tell you, kid,” I said as I climbed into the vehicle.

“Sure thing, Pops,” he threw back.

“Did you know Alexander Nelson, not me, the real one, is your biological father?”

He shrugged. “Sure, mom told me.”

“Does the Professor know that you knew?”

“Don't know. I never told him I knew, but I liked him and hung around him a lot. He seemed to like me too, but neither of us said we knew we were Father and son.”

“Don't you think you should do that at some point?”

Foster glanced at me. “He's not here, man, so I can't say ‘hey, Dad.'”

“Okay, you have a point, but when I leave and he comes back, I want you to think about clearing the air with him.”

“Sure, man, but I like you too and maybe I can go back to your time with you.”

I was touched. “We'll be together someday, Foster, somewhere down the road.”

That day, I repeated what I had done the previous day. I went to my lecture classes and taught them. I had lunch with Foster. I observed people and my surroundings. I was gathering research data. When my classes ended, I holed up in my office and make notes on the computer. I told Marge to transfer the files to my 21st Century college laptop in my apartment. She said 'Affirmative', so I'm hoping she understood and did what I had asked.

Foster provided me with roundtrip transportation. “How long are you going to be around, Pops? How are you going to get back to your own time?”

“I don't know how I'll get back, Foster. When it happens, it'll happen.”

As the days passed, I grew closer to Foster and Marietta. I ALSO found myself missing my cat Dusty, my girlfriend Kate, my friends, my parents, and my college classes where I was a student.

At the same time, Foster and I were growing closer. “I want you to meet my mom,” Foster said.

I was touched. “I'd love to at some point, kid, I replied. “Do you think your mom would mind if you spend some time with Alex and Marietta Nelson?”

He shrugged. “Why would mom mind? Besides, I'm a grownup and well, heck, I admire Professor Nelson, the real one,” Foster said.

“Let me take it from here, Foster.”

A few nights later, the three of us were out having pizza. Marietta and Foster had communicated only by Brain conduction phone. The boy did what he was told, but had never stepped foot in the Nelson residence. But now, with my coaxing, it was working out well.

We were in the car heading home. Foster was driving. Marietta was in the front passenger seat. I was in back. I wanted to lean against the door and prop my legs up on the seat. I was exhausted. I wanted to close my eyes. It was nice hearing the two of them chatting.

“You still with us, Nelson?” called a voice from the front seat.

I opened my eyes. I was confused. “Where are we?” I asked. “Did I have too much to drink?”

“Probably,” Tom replied. “But we're home now. You can crash on your own bed. Tomorrow is Sunday. No one but Dusty will disturb you.”

I sat bolt upright. It hit me hard. Marietta and Foster were gone. My eyes filled with tears. “Yeah, good idea about hitting the hay. I need some shut-eye.”

Over the next few days, I threw myself back into college life. It wasn't easy. Foster and Marietta weren't far from my mind. It saddened me that I would never know if the kid took my advice and faced up to Alex and the three were a family. I logged onto my laptop and to my delight, my notes of one hundred years in the future were there. I could start putting together my thesis paper.

Another email jumped out at me that made me smile. It was from Foster Stone.

“Hey, Pops, you left us pretty fast, huh? When Marietta and I turned to look in the backseat to wake you up, you were gone. We both cried. It was great having you here and we'll miss you. Guess what? Professor Alex came back the day after you left. I told him I knew he was my real Dad and I was cool with that. Marietta told him she was okay with it too. Now, the three of us are hanging out together. How does that grab you? Anyway, thanks, Pops. You did a great thing for all of us. I'm going to miss you. Maybe we'll meet again somewhere down the road.”

Tears were running down my cheeks. I wanted to respond to Foster, but needed to think of what to say. I decided to close his e-mail and get back to it later. I opened some research notes and began compiling the data. Two hours later, I was back on my regular e-mail and ready to respond to him. But his e-mail was gone.

Two weeks later, I sat in the Student Union waiting for my girlfriend to join me. I had my laptop open. I looked up suddenly. I felt someone's eyes on me. A guy stood there, smiling.

“Hi, I'm Foster Stone. Can I join you. We're in the same Biology class.”

I smiled and held out my hand. “Sure, please do. I'm waiting for my girlfriend, Kate. I'm Jared Nelson.”

Bio: Trish Hubschman is the author of the Tracy Gayle mystery series: Tidalwave, Stiff Competition, Ratings Game, Uneasy Tides, and Gayle's tales.
Trish is a graduate of Long Island University's Southampton Campus and has a Bachelor's degree in English-writing. She is deaf-blind and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband Kevin and their dog Henry.
Visit her website at:

On the Edge, nonfiction
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

It’s hot, dangerous, and unhealthy to cram human beings into trucks as if they were cattle. Unfortunately, many Mexicans and people from Central and South America enter the United States under risky and illegal circumstances. Coyotes charge them thousands to cross the border, and often don’t follow through with promises made. Starvation, heat strokes, disease, and death lead stories about this inhumane method of entering America for a better lifestyle.

Tunnels have been uncovered in border areas. Hikers with guides have been deserted, sabotaged, and provided inadequate amounts of food and water for the journey they may walk across desolate or desert land to find a settlement.

Central and South America are homes to much illegal immigration, perhaps because of the widespread gang violence and drug running missions they foster. Over 200,000 people from Central America were detained at the border six years ago. The numbers are much greater now, and those numbers only reflect the people who were caught.

In the 1950’s, as a child in a ranching family, I knew another system. I’m sure it still exists, but it doesn’t get the attention over today’s mass illegal immigration methods. The Texas drought lasted from the early through the mid 50’s. Men with city jobs away from their ranches could not put out hay and other necessary food for cattle regularly. During the Summer, when my dad wasn’t teaching, he got up at 4:00 AM, and drove to the ranch about five miles from our smaller ranch home to burn the thorns off prickly pear cactus so the cattle could eat the plants. There simply was not enough rain to grow the grass they needed, or to let ranchers provide their own hay. They had to buy it.

Mexican men illegally swam the Rio Grande from Mexico, or sneaked across the bridge under a truck loaded with other agricultural material. They used maps, word of mouth, and memories from past trips to find their way across desolate territory in order to arrive at a prearranged station or home. Some ranchers offered barns for shelter for a day or two while arrangements were made with people in the community who wanted workers. It resembled the Underground Railroad system, and was often a cooperative effort including women who cooked and shopped for the new arrivals. For all concerned, it was considered a win-win situation. Mexican men sent their wages home, or accumulated them over a few months, then took them home to support their families.

Local law officers either looked the other way, cooperated, or pretended innocence if challenged. INS, Border Patrol, ICE as it’s now labeled, did their work at the international bridges and border towns, but we didn’t hear the horror stories we hear today when large gatherings of people invade the border crossings. These practices were not justifiable then, and are not justifiable today. I have no knowledge of networks in Texas at this time.

It was a blow to my preteen and teenage spirit to understand that my family was involved in something against the law, as were most of our neighbors. Very large ranches rotated illegal immigrants in and out of service year round. I knew enough to know that this issue was bigger than my opinion of it. I had sympathy for those Mexican men who were glad for the work, and had family who were in need in Mexico. I also was old enough to know the plight the drought was causing in south Texas farm and ranch country. I learned to love the chili sausage we bought for the workers to cook over a campfire or a camp stove in a tent or other meager shelter.

There’s a song called Just Across the Rio Grande recorded in the mid 80’s from the view of the other side of the river. It’s a view we don’t see or completely understand. I’ll provide a link to it at the bottom of this article. I hope you take time to hear it. It’s definitely food for thought.

I know there have to be limits, and laws have to be more carefully enforced for the good of all concerned. When I worked in rehabilitation in south Texas counties, I often shopped in the border towns across the river. The marketplaces were pleasant, friendly environments, but there were children and some adults with their hands out, and willing little windshield wiper boys. We knew better than to take our cars across, but sometimes we did. We knew better than to eat the roasted corn in large pales of sauce, and that we didn’t do, but it was very tempting—it smelled so good.

With new passport tightening, it’s not as easy as it was to travel those international bridges just for a lark as we did decades ago. In border towns, nannies, housekeepers, cooks, car wash guys, and yard work people could work daily in cities and towns where they were not allowed to live. There may be some legal ways or some grey market techniques people know that allow them to continue that employment, but if one wants to be safe, a passport is a must.

In 1987 at a border crossing, Mexican authorities kept my family from crossing for about an hour because my fifteen-year-old daughter from Korea did not look as if she were part of our family. She had a legitimate passport, but they tore apart her simple powder compact looking for cocaine, we were told. We almost said, “Forget it,” and traipsed back across into Texas, but she really wanted the pleasure of hearing the roaming musicians and shopping for souvenirs and a purse that looked like a basket. Today I would never attempt that shopping trip with someone who might be questioned, detained, or worse.

What would I do if I were a young person with a family in Central America or the worst parts of Mexico where gangland members might have something they could use to threaten or injure my family? Were I a single mother with children, but without food or medical care, and I couldn’t trust or respect the law in my province to protect me, should I chance escape, knowing it was dangerous? Would I postpone doing anything because I’d been told to do paperwork and wait…and wait…and wait…and hope? What if I didn’t have the information the paperwork required or the money to process the form?

As an adult American, I might say, “You have no business in my country if you can’t support yourself and pay your share of the taxes you will use through our schools, medical system, and welfare programs. Stay home, and find answers over there.” But if I couldn’t see beyond the next need, and therefore, couldn’t save money to help my children and myself find a better tomorrow, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t run.

People ride that train they call “The Beast,” not with tickets, but by climbing on top. Sometimes they fall off, sometimes they get pushed off. There are Underground Railroad type stations in Mexico to help people and find guides to get travelers across the border. It’s a thriving business, and promises don’t have enough caveats.

We need better answers on both sides of the river. Our compromises with other nations help, but those who make promises about what their border officers will do can’t put themselves in the shoes of the desperate people who, once on the run, have no security at all.

Although Mexican illegal crossings are certainly still part of the problem, Mexico finds itself in the middle because of the influx primarily from Central American countries. The United States, at the end of the human chain, finds itself questioning what is fair, what is moral, and what is workable when our border towns are strained beyond belief with illegal entries. Political parties blame each other. Everyone seems to agree that we should have nipped this problem in the bud. The reality is, we didn’t.

We’re faced with the problem of trying to help others without hurting ourselves. Disabled people and seniors are probably left behind because, as transients, they are not thought to be good candidates for employment or for surviving stressful journeys. Too often, children are forced to find the strength to survive those journeys. Parents are not happy about breaking up the family that is bonded and dependent on one another. Opinions are free—unfortunately, answers are not. Answers will cost dollars and tears and disappointments on the way to a better solution.

I feel a strong kinship with the border people on both sides of the Rio Grande from having lived, worked, and traveled there. I know the stories of the men who worked the ranches in the 1950’s in Texas. I hope for better futures for them, and for our relationships with their government. No one should have to be afraid to live where they do, and be unable to meet their personal and family needs. The song I recommended to you earlier may seem overdramatic if you are a skeptic or have not seen their circumstances firsthand, but I encourage you to listen to it. Most of us have never known the economic circumstances they face.

Just Across the Rio Grande:

Bio: Marilyn Brandt Smith worked as a teacher, psychologist, and rehabilitation professional. She has edited magazines and newsletters since 1976, and was the first blind Peace Corps volunteer. She lives with her family in a 100-year-old home in Kentucky. Her first book, Chasing the Green Sun, published in 2012, is available from Amazon and other bookstores and in audio form. She loves writing flash fiction stories, and was the primary editor for the first Behind Our Eyes anthology, as well as Magnets and Ladders from 2011 through 2013. She enjoys college basketball, barbershop harmony, and adventure books. Visit her website:

Bad Neighbors, fiction
by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

Thwack! A tennis ball whipped past Sassy's nose and ricocheted off the branch where she clung.

“Damn it! Humans make awful neighbors!” she fumed. Sassy wrapped her fluffy squirrel tail around her trembling body.

“They have no consideration for those who already live where they build their houses,” commented Fern, folding his dark green fairy-wings to alight beside the agitated squirrel.

“You're right,” agreed Larkspur. “They murdered the goldenrod, milkweed, and buttercups to put in a tennis court, destroying valuable food sources for butterflies and other pollinators. They have definitely brought the quality of living in this neighborhood down. Don't even get me started about the noise and air pollution!” she stormed, scattering fairy dust in a shimmering cloud as she fluttered in irritation.

“The meadow they plowed under was such a magical place to dance in the moonlight on Midsummer's Eve,” mourned Violet. “We may have to move deeper into the forest,” she sighed.

“I hope not,” chittered Sassy. “You fairies have been such good neighbors. We woodland creatures would miss you.”

“Hmmm, let's think about this,” murmured Fern. “What if we make it so unpleasant for them they decide not to stay?”

“The problem is we are vulnerable to their chemical poisons, traps, and mechanical devices,” warned Sassy.

A nearby plant whispered, “I believe they call me poison ivy because they are allergic to my oils. If you roll that tennis ball through my leaves until it is well-coated with oil, then, if you please, push it back toward there tennis court. I wouldn't want them to blame me.”

“You can act as lookout, Sassy, and let us know if one of them is coming to look for their fuzzy menace before we are done,” directed Larkspur.

“Oh, this could be fun,” giggled Violet.

Bio: DeAnna Quietwater Noriega is half Apache and a quarter Chippewa, living in Columbia, Missouri with her husband of 52 years, Curtis and her tenth guide dog Flynn. She has been a writer and story teller since childhood. She has had work published in six anthologies. Her writing has also appeared in Magnets and Ladders, an international e-mag; Generations, a native literature magazine; Dialogue Magazine; The Braille Forum; and Angels on Earth. She is currently at work on a short story collection loosely based on her adventures of being an older sister to younger brothers with a working single parent mom.

Until Now, poetry
by Brad Corallo

Lost in strands of nightmare or
awakening uneasy.
I wandered in the fields of morning.
Looking for something I saw in a dream.
I may have glimpsed it again
once or twice.
But each time
the mists deepened and
I became unsure.

I've spent much of my life
chasing things I couldn't find.
I know I'm not alone.
Multitudes share my mystification.

In these broken, twilight days
where nothing feels certain
and bully's voices with twisted tongues
loudly spit hatred and half-truths.
It is harder to find anything
intact, sparkling or glory chiming!

Instead, all too frequently
we are eagerly offered
the vilest chilling depravity.

When I was young
and anticipation and wonder
drew me joyfully like a magnet.
It was all so different then.

What has happened?
So much that was good
has been lost.
Trusted arbiters of truth have gone away.
The world feels
like a different place.

Though life strictly demanded and
always exacted its price,
it never felt quite like this.
Until now!

Bio: Brad Corallo, a writer in multiple genres, is a Long Island native. His work has been published in sixteen previous issues of Magnets & Ladders, in The William B. Joslin Outstanding Program Awards Journal “NYSID Preferred Source Solutions”, The Red Wolf Coalition, L.I. Able News and several additions of The Avocet. He has been a life-long student of fine wine, food, music, books, space exploration, several professional sports and relationships of all kinds. Brad is now happily retired after thirty eight years of employment in the human service field. Due to LCA (a very rare genetic retinal condition) Brad has experienced impaired and worsening vision throughout his lifetime

Ibuprofen Fun, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

Let's go out to the land of roller coasters
and let the mad steel take us to the heights
throwing us up and down the crazy track
mere mortals in the hands of a manic god.
We'll ride them all then reminisce with wonder
at the joyous fear, the fear of soaring joy.
We'll take our pills to blunt aching muscles
mementos of this day on which we flew.

Let's drive up into the mountains
and find a trail suitable for our skill.
We'll climb the stairs between the cliffs
as flashing waters tumble to the vail.
And at the summit we'll look to the distance
at hills, and all the works of man below.
When it is done, we'll medicate ourselves
to relieve the strain that is our journey's due.

Let's go out and bowl those memory lanes
as we did when young and full of life.
We'll hurl the ball between the gutter bounds
and if our aim is true the pins will thunder.
We'll tally up the scores relive high moments
delighting in the games which we have played.
The pills to still the ache of unused muscles
will ease us through the toll accessed by time.

Yes, we could gripe, complains about the pain.
We could lament the creaky fruits of age,
how traveling round the sun has made us brittle
Making us feel as rickety wrecks of time.
Yet I'd rather feel pain than feel nothing,
watching the talking heads as days go by.
So, I will seek life's ibuprofen fun
and live the best life that time will allow.

Bio: Shawn Jacobson was born totally blind. He attained partial sight through several eye operations. Shawn worked for the Federal Government for 37 years. He worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and at HUD. He is currently retired and does a lot of traveling with his wife. He uses these travels as inspiration for much of his work.

Is It Well With My Soul, poetry
by Elizabeth Fiorite

Is it well with my soul
That I walk barefoot on the beach,
Where the receding sand underfoot
Causes me to totter?

Is it well with my soul
That I hear without seeing
The birds stir at daybreak
And start their chatter?

Is it well with my soul
That I know but never see
The gulls kamikaze into the ocean
To snatch their daily bread?

Is it well with my soul
That I delight in only hearing
The giggles and squeals of the children
Cavorting at the water's edge?

Is it well with my soul
That I can smell the rain before it pours,
Feel the sting of a pelting rain,
Or taste the salt on sun-cracked lips?

My days are filled with memories of good times and sorrows.
Life has been good while taking its toll.
I relish the past and dream of tomorrows.
Thus I say gratefully, “It IS well with my soul!”

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

Kite Tales, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Like a child holds onto a thin, delicate kite string,
I hold onto faith.
At times, I watch the wind snatch my kite
and take my old kite of paper and fine wood aloft
swiftly into a Heavenly atmosphere.
What a glorious sight–
that kite, my faith suspended against a Hoosier sky,
then drifting, drifting, flying, flying–
while I still hold onto the thin, delicate string.

Then, I look up and see the kite's tail
writing cursive notes on the blue tableau.
Each scrap of material
with which I formed a knot
marks a point when my faith was tested.

I on the Earth;
kite tail on the azure sphere:
I gaze at the fifth knot from the top
and recall ”Peach,”–
yes, the name her grandchildren gave her–
but I called her “Mrs. W.”
One day, when I was fretting, worrying my best
about something I now cannot even recall,
Mrs. W., a braille student of mine,
asked me as only she could,
“Girl, where's your faith?”

Throughout the decades since our braille lessons
in her farmhouse with her husband and their little dog,
I have heard echoes of her words:
“Girl, where's your faith?”

Now, I know:
my faith is the paper kite
flying above the field
in my Indiana hometown.
The ball of string unwinds
to a great and growing length
as I still hold on, hold on.

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

Each week, you will find more of Alice's writings on her blog, initiated in 2013:

Part II. Challenges and Triumphs

Gilbert Crashes Ashore, nonfiction First Place
by John Cronin

September of 1988 found me living on the tropical island of Jamaica, perched high on a hill, overlooking Lucea harbour. While the people sweltered below, the balmy ocean breezes kept my eyrie cool. Baby Lou, the woman I lived with, shared her ramshackle wooden house with me. It was a primitive existence, living without electricity, running water nor telephone, but it kept the wind and the rain at bay.

On September 12, the raucous crowing of the nearby rooster rudely awakened me. Rolling over, I reached for the radio, turning it on, just in time for the six o’clock news.

“'The Miami Hurricane center' has issued a hurricane warning for Jamaica, Cuba, and Kaman. Gilbert, the seventh named hurricane of the season will make landfall in Jamaica about noon. The 'Jamaican disaster preparedness center' advises that everyone board up their windows, fill drums with water, collect nonperishable food, and move from low-lying areas and hillsides that are prone to mudslides. For those that must move, evacuation centers are located in most communities. Ask the local police for the location in your area. Remember, there will be high winds and heavy rain, so stay under cover for the duration of the storm.”

“Oy! Baby Lou. Did ya hear the announcer? Sound like we're in for a big storm. Plenty of rain. We'll just stay put. Smoke, eat and have some fun together. The storm cann't be that bad. By the way, what do I smell? Smells like plantain, dumplings, acai, and salt fish. Let me at it. To hell with the storm.”

By the time Baby Lou and I finished eating breakfast, Freddy and two of his friends arrived. As Freddy opened the door, it blew from his hand, slamming into the wall with a tremendous bang.

“Oy, Misa Cool! Ja wind blow us away!” Freddy exclaimed, as he and his two friends staggered into the house. “Da radio say Gilbert is on his way! Everyone ta board up window and get water and food.” Freddy continued, fighting to catch his breath. “Baby Lou, what you need us ta do?”

“Notin man.” Baby Lou replied. “Me see storms before and notin bad happen. Just set some pans fe ketch da leak. Me going to cook now. Me wanna cook before the wind get bad. Da smoke from the coal pot will tink up the house. Ya wanna full belly wen da storm hit.”

While Baby Lou prepared spaghetti sauce, Freddy's German friends practiced their English by quizzing me about Canada. Caught up in our conversation, I completely forgot about the storm raging outside. Every now and then, while talking about Canada and Germany, someone mentioned that the wind was becoming louder and the sky was getting darker.

“Oy, Cool. Can ya hear da rain a beatin on the roof? It's a gittin worse. I hear tings a banging on the ouse wall. De wind a shakin da ouse.” Cracking the wooden louvers open a smidgen, Freddy gasped, “My Got! Da world a gone mad. Da palm trees a waving like old drunk walkin home. Every ting a flying around. Coconuts, dirt, leaves, even ya pan flyin around like bird.”

Although Freddy yelled when describing what he saw, I could barely hear him above the racket from the rain pounding on the zinc roof.

Yelling into my ear, Baby Lou shouted, “De spaghetti sauce de ready. Eat lots. Ya need strength for the storm.” Having filled my bowl with spaghetti, Baby Lou shouted to the others, “cum now mun! Freddie, food de ready. Eat, mun!”

We ate our spaghetti dinner in silence, as conversation was impossible with so much noise. While I savored the food, I worried about what the storm had in store for us. With the last fork full of pasta, the house commenced shaking.

Suddenly there was a loud crack, immediately followed by the sound of rending wood and metal. Instantly, wind whipped rain splattered into my face. Something terrible happened, but I did not know what.

Leaning over me, Freddy yelled in my ear, “Oy Cool, l gotta move to da other side of da house! De wind lift de roof off one corner of de ouse! Every ting gittin wet! We moving every ting to da rooms on the side of the house overlookin the hill.”

Grabbing hold of my wheelchair, Freddy pushed me into one of the undamaged rooms. Now, I was on my own, cut off from everyone by the uproar outside!

This is one hel've a jam you got yourself into, John boy. I thought to myself. You're blind and cann't hear a dam thing anyone says. You're at the mercy of the elements. You're completely dependent on someone to keep you alive. I'm scared shitless. Will I make it out of this hell alive? God only knows.

Suddenly the floor beneath my wheels began to shake! Hearing the loud crack of splintering wood, I knew the room tore free from the house! As the floor tilted, the wheelchair and I started to roll! With the wheelchair and me Gathering speed, and the walls blown away, I sailed out of the room.

“O my God! I'm gonna die!” I whispered to myself as the wind buoyed me aloft. “I'm flying like a bird, but what about landing. Shit! I can't even see where I'm gonna land, but I dam well know there is a lot of jagged glass, splintered wood and rusty nails, just waiting for me.”

As the flying wheelchair lost some of its momentum, it tipped forward, depositing me gently upon what had been the house wall. Thank God I did not get impaled by any of the dangerous objects strewn around the hill.

Although the wind and rain continued to pummel me, this was the first chance to gather my wits. It gave me a chance to calm down and assess my situation. It looked grim.

“Begging,” I mumbled, “Our Father, Who art in heaven, please spare me. Don't let me die on this cold miserable hill.” Yelling out, “Freddy! Baby Lou! Help me!”

However, my cries were useless; I was just pissing in the wind. My frantic cries for help were swallowed by the freight train howling of the winds, but I continued hollering for help.

Soon, Horse from yelling, and beginning to experience a mild case of hypothermia, There was more than rainwater running from my eyes. What could I do? I needed to get off this hill or die here. I realized that if no one came, I must crawl off this hill myself.

Not liking my chances, if I had to climbed down myself, I screamed, “Baby Lou! Freddy! Help! Me need ya help!”

Straining my ears, I thought I heard a faint voice reply, “Oy Cool, me soon come. Hang on.”

Relief washed over me. Someone had heard. I did not recognize the voice, but help was on the way. Maybe I would not die here.

Suddenly Baby Lou had me in a bear hug, blubbering into my ear, “Cool, ya alive! Me see ya fly out a da room. Me thought ya died.” Squeezing me even harder, Baby Lou wept, “Thank God ya alive. Me not know what me do if ya get killed.”

“Top the balling, Lou!” Freddy demanded. “Are ya iray, Cool?”

“Me Iray.” I cried in reply. “What are we going to do?”

“We get down de ill to Bunga's house. We'll be safe der. Let Baby Lou and me carry you down the ill.” Freddy and Baby Lou chorused, grabbing me under the arms, dragging me to the lip of the hill.

“This is not going to work!” I shouted. “You can't even stand up, let alone try to carry me! We will each have to try to crawl down the hill on our own.”

This is going to be one hellish trip down the hill, I thought to myself. Even during dry times with steps cut into the clay, a person must cling to the bamboo for support. Could I avoid all the broken glass and splintered bamboo stumps littering the margins of the path? With the torrents of water falling from the sky turning the trail into a water slide, Could I make it down safely? I knew I must dig my fingers deep into the saturated clay to keep from being washed away in the surging current. Concentrate on each hand hold. Make sure you are secure before pulling your hand from the sucking ooze. Next handhold. Slow, but sure wins the race and keeps me alive.

Reaching the bottom of the hill, after what felt like an eternity, I finally grasped how much water was pouring down the hill. At the nexus of the downhill trail, and the track to Bunga's, a mini waterfall had formed. I found myself sloshing around in a two-foot-deep raging torrent. The flood was too deep for me to fight through if I wanted to get to Bunga's house. With no hesitation, Baby Lou and Freddy grabbed me under the arms, half-carrying half dragging me through the deluge, to the nearby house.

Seeing us coming, Bunga Ray's wife, Marva, flung open the door just as we arrived. Hustling us into the house, she brought us towels. What a relief to be out of the slashing rain and gale force winds. To help me calm down, Bunga offered me a spliff of marijuana, but I Shook to badly to light it unassisted. Seeing me shake, Marva offered me a jacket. Having caught our breath and dried off, we commenced blurting out our adventure. It felt fantastic to be warm and dry after the last few horrendous hours.

For more information on hurricane Gillbert go to (

Author’s note: Thank you to Cleora Boyd and Winslow Parker for editoral assistance.

The Further Adventures of One Eyed Jack the Pirate, creative nonfiction
by John Cronin

The adventure began when I was on my way to London to do battle at the Ivey Eye Institute at Saint Joseph's hospital. My crew of pirateettes, Gillian and Anne, along with myself, arrived at the port about high noon. After hanging around the wharves for an hour and a half, we met the refitters. They were as fine a crew as my own. There leader was Larry Allen and like me he had a couple of pirateettes helping him. We cut a deal. When the others cleared the docks, my crew brought me in for a refit.

A half-hour before the supper bell, they rolled my ship into the refitting dock. Larry had some more help on hand to carry out the refit. They too were a hardy bunch. While I waited for the refit to begin, we swapped some yarns about past adventures. You can be sure that One Eyed Jack came out the best in these tales.

The job was about to begin. The gas passer gave your ever-faithful spinner of yarns some joy juice to get started. I was flying high. The jovial Larry stuck a couple of needles of the freeze around the eye and one-eyed Jack's eye was as numb as the nose of a hardened snorter of snow. To make a long story short Larry and his first and second mate slashed and hacked at the eye, while your humble servant exchanged sea shanties and tales of the briny main with them. Before you could get a mutinous cur to walk the plank, Larry and his mates had the old eye out and the insert in ship shape and ready to go. When they rolled poor old Jack out of the refitting yard, he had turned into One Eyed Jack.

With the refit complete, the crew made sure everything was ship shape for the journey to our homeport. Once the sails were set we got out of London town quicker than it takes to loot a town of beggars.

Our return voyage took us to old Berlin where Anne, the navigator, received her discharge papers. The first mate, Gillian, had never been to London town, so we had picked up Anne, a tried and true navigator of the briny deep. Har! When going a pirating, who are more deserving of trust than kinfolk?

As the breeze freshened, we left old Berlin behind, tacking our way to the Norse village of Cargill. It had been a long day afloat for first mate Gillian and One Eyed Jack. We had been at sea since the sun broke the horizon, with the witching hour rapidly approaching. The frosty was starting to come out of One Eyed Jack's right spyglass so we anchored for a quick hit of the poppy. We were off again arriving at our homeport a couple of cables before the witching hour. It felt good to be snug and safe back in a friendly port. So ends the tale of how One Eyed Jack got his name. It may be the end of this yarn, but not the end of your ever-faithful servant, One Eyed Jack.

Stroke, nonfiction Second Place
by Leonard Tuchyner

December 23, 2019, I awakened. Something was not right. At first, the foundations of the quandary eluded me. My body, as far as I could determine, was perfectly functioning. I proceeded to take my shower without losing a beat. Then I performed my morning exercises without difficulty. While I did my exercises, I listened to Radio IQ. No problems there. Then I proceeded to the breakfast table, and managed to get through without a noticeable change in my behavior.

However, I was extremely taciturn. It was then that I told Diane, my wife, that there was something missing. She took what I said seriously, asking for a smile from me to see if my facial features were uniform. She looked at my eyes to see if she could discern any issues there. She could not find anything unusual. I told her that I might have had a stroke of some sort. She could find nothing amiss. So, I proceeded through the day, and we both noticed my degree of quietude.

Then it occurred to me, I was quiet because I had nothing to say. I could answer questions, but little in the way of spontaneity. I tried to explain what was happening but found I could no longer string the concepts together. So, my wife took me off to the emergency room. There they were mystified. They looked into my eyes, asked me to smile, tested my strength and coordination, to no avail. All except one person, who was not a doctor, looked and saw something in my eyes. However, I thought he was just seeing Stargardt's eyes. Finally, they did a CT scan or did something like that. Sure enough, I had a very deep lesion affecting my speech.

They kept me in the hospital for three days to observe. Then, finding nothing more, they sent me home with a referral to a speech therapist. I attended many sessions in which speech restorative exercises were used. These sessions lasted until the pandemic made meeting impossible. This was unfortunate for an intern who attended our sessions. Her program was severely disrupted.

One thing that I found very disturbing was the fact that I could not remember a litany I had been practicing every night. It was comprised of a number of prayers, lasting about 20 minutes. This litany was made up by me and had personal meaning. I had been practicing it for longer than I can remember. Nevertheless, I could remember almost none of it. It was almost a complete blank in my mind. The work had required the memorization of many, many names and concepts. Also lost were prayers in Hebrew and other languages. They just stared back at me when I tried to remember them. Here and there, I could bring up a fragment. It was as though I had a book in front of me. I could turn the pages and had a vague idea of what was on them and the order of information, but I could not actually grasp any of it.

Little by little, I painstakingly brought it back together. This was a long and laborious process wherein each word gained was a victory. However, once I remembered a fragment, I could not rely on my retaining it. I had to really work to find it again. Eventually, I succeeded in putting the litany bac to wholeness. I even added to it significantly. It is a project which never ends, and reflects many aspects of my life, as it is lived out.

Yet the underlying problem of word loss persists. As I run through the exercises, I cannot recall certain words. They just elude me. I know what they mean but can't find the words themselves. I've learned to continue with the litany through the occasional breaks. At some point, they all come back unexplainedly, during the practice. I never know which ones will elude me. I can successfully run through a section for very long intervals in a practice session, and then it just doesn't appear, and I am left with a blurred small section of the virtual book. They usually consist of one word. I don't know why, but two words which are often missing are 'compassion' and 'passion'. I'll have to talk to Freud about that one.

In confronting the issues of memory close up personally, I've discovered a few interesting characteristics about memory as experienced by a lay person. Memory is a many-headed beast. It comes in different forms.

One form seems to be almost disconnected to verbal content. For example, muscle memory is a task that the body does without the necessity of knowing what you are doing. We can be driving our cars without knowing what we are doing. The problem is that driving, without a conscious mind paying attention to what is happening, can be dangerous. On the verbal level, we sometimes can be reciting without much of a conscious involvement. Some of the prayers I've learned are so ingrained that as I recite them, I suddenly realize I'm not really present or aware of the words. This is true even when the language is English. I often force myself to listen to what I'm saying. The words are coming from another part of my brain, but I can listen to them. Or not. It is interesting to listen to myself talk as though someone else is doing the talking.

On the other hand, conscious involvement in the recitation of something, such as a prayer, can interfere with the smooth unfoldment of the memorized content. It is when my conscious mind is involved that I often hit those memory lapses I've talked about. In fact, it seems that forcing the mind not to seek the memories will often facilitate their sudden reappearance. I think all of us have experienced that phenomenon at times.

Reciting a poem requires an inordinate amount of time and effort for me to learn. Yet, if I break the lines into units and listen to the poem by these unit blocks, and I can echo the blocks as they are presented, this is relatively easy for me. The memory here is short-term, but cannot be achieved without the aid of the unit blocks. I may eventually learn the poem, but if it is not my intention, it is not learned. However, at some level the poem, in fact, is learned. Poems I have recited with the echo mode, are more easily relearned if I am asked to recite them in the future.

The coordination of the conscious and the unconscious parts of the brain is like a dance. The stroke has made me more aware of the process, but it also hinders me. I can't depend on the glibness I once had. I can't depend on a word to be there when I need it. That creates a tension which further interferes with my ability to communicate. I find a glass of wine does help me in the process. It relaxes me and gives me the permission to say whatever comes to the forefront. My confidence for speaking in public has been sullied, but I've learned, and am learning, to cope.

This is an ongoing issue. At 82, I'm not sure when aging is the operative factor, or when it's the stroke. Probably both factors are at work.

To sum up, I've gained a lot of insights as a result of the CVA. But, as often has been said, I'd would prefer not to have eaten the dish.

Where Did That Word Go? poetry
by Leonard Tuchyner

It was here not more than a minute ago,
a word I wanted to use in a phrase.
I dropped it off the tip of my tongue,
and it ran away to elude this one.
Heretofore it had been a friendly word,
always ready to help me express —
but what that was escapes me presently.

That seems to happen these elder days.
More and more familiar words slip away.
It isn't as though I miss their gist.
Their concept is there as good as ever,
but the words themselves are simply gone.
Somewhere in time they will come back to rest,
like wayward birds returning to nest.
They will stay with me for a little while
then flit off again as has become their style.

Interactions With Locals, poetry
by Joan Wilder

My mind is a database of the right behavior
Not a twisty, cluttered database, full of
Forgotten corners and dusty side passages, but an
Orderly, if complicated, database, full of
Meticulous cross-references and tidy footnotes, the edges
All squared up nicely, all the things I've learned over the years
Stored neatly away, ready for reference

But sometimes the database doesn't have a reference
Or I'm tired, or the database is running a bit slowly, perhaps led astray by an
Errant footnote, and the whole system sort of
Short-circuits and comes crashing down
No filing system is perfect

So when you ask me if I have any fun plans for the weekend, and I say
No, because I don't, and your face falls, and you say
“No? Nothing? (Which then tells me this was, of course, the
Wrong answer, and I have betrayed my secret)
I will briefly short-circuit, I will sigh
And I will add it to my database

After much teasing apart and
Spiraling inward upon, I might happen on a
Helpful cross-reference (See: Small Talk: Vol II: Tips and Tricks: #4:
Evade and turn the question back on the asker)
And I will file away a response for next time
Nothing much, what about you?

But by then you will be a different cashier in a
Different grocery store, asking me a
Different question, aiming your warm
Empty chatter at me, landing on my ears with all the
Sweaty palms of a pop quiz, or a surprise speaking presentation
When you accidentally came to work stoned
Don't let them find out! Don't let them see you're not –

Don't let them see that I am
Riding the panicky, skittish stallion of a foreign language
Sometimes it's even exhilarating, if the database is whirring away
Efficiently, the pounding of hooves filling my ears, the speed
Pulling tears from my eyes and I'm mastering the
Wild beast beneath me, and of course there is much
Windswept curls and rosy cheeks and
The gleam of adventure in my eye

But sometimes
The wild animal beneath me bucks and twists and
Leaves me in the dirt before I even know what's happened
I will get back up, of course, and hurriedly dust myself off, wincing at my
Bruises, hoping that no one saw, that no one
Knows, knows that this isn't my
Mother tongue
That I'm not one of you
That my mind is a database

Bio: Joan Wilder is a writer living in the mountains of Colorado. As a woman on the autism spectrum, she is passionate about advocating for the autistic and disabled communities. When not working on her latest poem or novel, she can often be found skiing, hiking, or watching the same music video on repeat for hours on end.

Aftermath, poetry Honorable Mention
by Valerie Moreno

taken aback,
I realize we
are not friends

This cuts me
like falling on rocks,
bare feet on broken shells
near the tumbling

You demand attention
with strings attached–
The balance wobbles,
falls through.

Too many conditions,
mar a one tranquil

a door closes,
pain colors grief
purple and black,
until reason glimmers,
pinpricks of resilience
breaking again.

Bio: Valerie Moreno has been writing fiction and poems since age 12. Her inspiration is music, life experience and prayer. Her work has appeared in anthologies, magazines and fan fiction. She is totally blind.

Strange Visitations, Memoir
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

Near the final days of 2007, our forty-two-year-old daughter, Heidi, called to say she was just diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. She was in shock, and I was speechless.

Family members accompanied her when she visited the oncology surgeon. We told him, “We are Heidi's support team.” We all heard the bad news with her.

“We found an additional problem. You also have kidney cancer. We never expected to find this but there is a tumor growing on one of your kidneys. We will have two surgeons working on her. First, the kidney surgeon will operate on her. After that, I will remove the ovarian cancer. The surgery will be approximately twelve to fourteen hours long.”

The room was silent. Later, Heidi told us that when she heard how many hours she was to be in surgery, she went blank and could not remember anything else that was said. We were all stunned because we all knew that ovarian cancer is deadly and Heidi had stage 3C. The future looked grim.

Several family members were with us for the day of waiting the long hours at the hospital during the surgery. When the first surgeon finished work on her kidney, he came into the waiting room.

“I removed a cancer that was the size of a quarter from one kidney. I filled the hole with fat from her body and I expect her to have a complete recovery from this surgery.”

This gave us some comfort, but we knew the next surgeon was now at work and it would be more hours of waiting.

After the surgery, Heidi was in the ICU. She was in excruciating pain and nothing brought relief She was agitated, and in constant pain. The staff worked to regulate her medications. A nurse was directly outside her ICU room watching Heidi through the glass wall. Someone sat at that computer almost constantly, regulating medications and watching stats.

After three days of intense pain and struggling to breathe, Heidi was exhausted It seemed like she was losing ground. The doctor made the decision that she had to be put on a ventilator to try to give her lungs some relief and a chance to recover. He came to see her day and night, and was perplexed as to what had caused her lungs to fail. He explained she had developed ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome).

Heidi remained on the ventilator and one week turned into the next. Since that time fifteen years ago, when I see a butterfly in a summer field, it brings back a specific memory. The impressions are still vivid when I think of the ICU that day as I sat quietly, watching my unconscious daughter, being kept alive by a ventilator. I was facing my own personal fears because I could not actually see Heidi.

My battle began a year earlier, in January 2007, when I suddenly lost the vision in my right eye. It happened quickly and without any previous warnings. I had Ischemic Optic Neuropathy, which kills the optic nerve and causes blindness.

I could not tell if it was day or might. And, it was just about this time that Heidi learned she was in trouble with Ovarian Cancer.

Like most people who go blind suddenly, it takes a long time for them to get help or know what to do. At the time of Heidi's hospitalization, I had not yet found help or a rehabilitation program. I struggled to help Heidi, yet, I could not even see her.

I managed to figure out how to get from the waiting room to the ICU unit. I could go back and forth but I could not leave that area; I had no mobility training and did not know how to locate anything on different floors. I slept in the waiting room most nights, so that I could go and check on Heidi or stay with her as needed. When Heidi's husband or another person came, then they would bring me something to eat and drink. It was a harrowing time in my life, but my concern for Heidi's recovery by far outweighed my worries about my own problems.

Though I could not see, in the natural sense because of sight loss, on one particular day I watched quietly while two butterflies played together in the stillness of thin air. This strange visitation was just a couple of months after I lost most of my sight.

Tubes sprouted out of her body and up to the ceiling. Tubes were attached to machines on both sides of her bed. I felt like I was living in a netherworld. I seemed to be viewing my daughter through a sheer gray curtain that no one could pass through. I felt helpless. I sat in a chair at the foot of her bed. Soon, I realized that Heidi and I had two visitors that had not come in through the door.

Two enormous butterflies emerged from the atmosphere near her feet. I saw every detail in full color. I never saw such butterflies before that day. The vibrant pair flew gently, gracefully forward. They appeared to be playing with each other, as butterflies do when you see them gliding and hovering around the dancing blossoms in a field on a summer day. These butterflies were deep crimson red. Each graceful wing was the size of my hand. They were bright, velvety, and generously proportioned.

They were dancing together. This was a miraculous moment like something from another world. Heidi’s body became the field over which the butterflies zig-zagged back and forth. They moved so elegantly towards her head. I watched them for what felt like a long time, but I believe it was probably only seconds. The dance of the red butterflies was like an eternal moment when time did not exist.

The butterflies emerged at the bottom of her bed, at her feet. They flew gracefully above her and moved silently from her feet to her head. They were as real as anything I have ever seen. I was wide awake and I was an eyewitness to a silent and elegant dance performance. The strange visitation was comforting and peaceful.

The only thought I had during and after the event is that God was present with us. Heidi looked the same as before, but I was left with the feeling that a healing was taking place.

In the weeks that followed I remembered something I had read in Psalm 91:4 that says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

It felt like, for a few seconds, God allowed me to see the spirit world and the beauty of it all.

I saw a mystery. The butterflies were harbingers of what was to come.

In my book, Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, I tell the story of this miraculous event. I am accustomed to tracing down ideas to their roots, so that we can comprehend the things that are around us in our world. In the story in my book, I do that with the imagery of butterflies: I share a number of cultural thoughts on the meaning of butterflies. And, across the ages and the cultures, there are many significant similarities to explain what I witnessed. This is true of everything, I believe. To understand our time, our Zeitgeist, we need to study the ages that proceeded ours to really figure it all out. We need to know history, and our place in it.

I think there is a very fine line between the physical and spiritual realms. Some people say it is a thin vale, and it is torn at times, for a person to see to the other side. I've been present when some of my loved ones died, and I could see it happen to them. In an instant, they saw something and they passed through with a deep, tender breath and a soft exhale. They were gone.

Before my sight loss, I had one other such supernatural event take place.

I was a motorcyclist, and I had been out all day riding my motorcycle with my husband and friends. Around 11:30 pm I was on my way home and we turned to go up the little hill to our house

Suddenly, my bike stopped and slammed me down hard into the middle of the road. My right foot was caught under the 500-pound bike. The weight of the bike, and the hot exhaust pipes were on my leg. The entire bike was on top of my body. I began screaming. I was aware that the hot pipes would burn through my clothing and into my right leg. I screamed, “My Leg. My Leg. Get me off this road. My leg.”

My husband saw me go down but he had to drive up the hill and park the bike before he could reach me. I was laying in the middle of the road under the bike. I knew that in the darkness if a car comes to the crest of the hill it will run over me. As I screamed, a very large man dressed in black appeared to my right. Instantly, I was off the road, standing beside my bike and he was gone. There was no conversation or words between us. Instantly, I stood there beside my upright bike. There is no way I would ever have been able to lift it up. Yet it was standing and I was standing and his hand was on the right handlebar of the motorcycle.

My husband recalls seeing the large man and me, standing there in the darkness as he was racing to get to me because there was a street light just up the road from where we stood. My husband also remembers that the enormous man vanished. He did not go up or down that road. And, the other things that happened that night is that the man disappeared to the right of the road. At that place, there is only a solid picket fence and no way anyone could go through it. He just famished in the darkness.

To my amazement, even though the dual pipes of the bike were on my leg, there were no burns in my jeans or my flesh. My foot was badly bruised and sore for weeks from the weight of the bike.

This is the only time I saw something that was supernatural and it was an extreme emergency when it happened.

Was the extremely tall, dark, man who came out of the darkness an angel? I have no idea. But I know he was sent to help me that night.

I know that an angel is not a human sized being with wings and silky gowns, as people like to portray them in paintings. I think those images are more reflective of Greek Mythology. In the bible there are a number of visitations by angels and in each situation the angel always says, “Fear Not!” for it must be that they look frightening to a human. And their stature, in Biblical texts, is larger than human size. They typically appear to give warnings or predictions about impending events. So, considering this, I would say that my experience that night on the road was certainly with something or someone who came to rescue me.

I will finish my story by telling you that I was in the waiting room, near the ICU, with my sister when we were told they were going to try to take Heidi off of the ventilator. Within moments, we heard her speaking in the distance. Her voice was so deep and she was talking continuously. In fact, from that time forward, they called her “The Talking Princess.” Heidi's husband likes to say that from that time on, she has never stopped talking. Heidi recovered a few days after her visitation from the butterflies. But, when a person is on a ventilator and suffered from ARDS, the recovery can be a long time in coming. Heidi still has anxiety, flash-backs, This is normal for a person who had ARDS. Heidi weighed about eighty pounds when she was released from the hospital a month after the surgery. She needed a lot of physical therapy to bring strength back and to build muscles again.

Heidi and I call each other some days, as we are working in our studios. We take a break and discuss what we are working on. I am most grateful that she recovered and is enjoying a creative and good life.

I know there is an afterlife and that the decisions we make in this present life determine our path once we pass across that thin line between physical and spiritual worlds. I believe the Genesis story of the creation in the first chapter of Genesis where we see our purpose from before the time of creation. We are image-bearers of God.

Bio: Lynda McKinney Lambert is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities, Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. She authored five published books that focus poetry and creative non-fiction essays. Her writings are inspired by art, art history, music, European history and travel. She is currently taking a six-month Sabbatical to do research, create fiber art and develop drafts for several new books. Lynda lives in rural western Pennsylvania where she cares for her 2 dogs and 6 cats and flower gardens.

Coming Back, poetry
by Wesley D. Sims

Responding to a voice beside me,
I struggle to escape the miry bog
of dreamless sleep, survey the blurry
landscape of my room-adjustable bed
I lie on, a water pitcher beside it,
IV pole I'm tethered to. A lineup
of people along the windowed wall.

Try to puzzle together fragments
floating the featureless terrain
of my mind. Blink heavy lids
to clear the haze, sweep my head
like a perched owl scanning
for field mice, searching for picture
pixels to change, motion to signal
something significant is at hand.

The cloud begins to lift
like fading anesthesia fog
and pieces start to fit,
forming faces I recognize.

Do you know these people?
The doctor's words sound distant.
I open my mouth in faith
and the words slide slowly out.

Yes. My family.
I call my daughter's name.
Someone makes a wisecrack.
A chorus of laughter erupts.
I laugh and catch a deep breath,
grateful I've journeyed back.

Bio: Wesley D. Sims has published three chapbooks of poetry: When Night Comes, 2013; Taste of Change, 2019; and A Pocketful of Little Poems, 2020.

He has had poems nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in Artemis Journal, Connecticut Review, G.W. Review, Liquid Imagination, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Plum Tree Tavern, Novelty Magazine, Poem, Poetry Quarterly, Time of Singing, Bewildering Stories, and others.

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

Theory of Mind, poetry
by Sandra Streeter

Sealed fast away-our choice,
(Or just seeming deliberate)…
“In our own world”…
Remote: appearing to look through
Whoever would approach.

Guarded: all in endless tension,
As if greatly afraid.
At times, without translation,
Without filter-causing us to order
And arrange what little else we can.

We speak in nonsense fragments,
Or echo what we've heard,
Or keep silence as our friend,
Hoping… perhaps without expression…
For someone to reveal what, for us, remains

What bridge can span our worlds-
Or conceptions of world?
Though we seem to ask for nothing
Beyond our fortresses…
We want for so much more, in truth.

Who will construct, where now exists
Only scaffolding?
What great and sympathetic mind will
Unearth what we can be?

Who, by very being, will serve as preceptor:
Gentle… insistent… beckoning
To that frontier, beyond our present knowledge,
Where love awaits?

Bio: Sandra Streeter, a blind graduate of the youth ministry program at Gordon College, and of Western Michigan University's Blind Rehabilitation program, has had a lifelong passion for excellent communication of all kinds. Previously, she has dipped her toe in the “publication pool” through successful submissions to Dialogue, Our Special and Magnets and Ladders. A self-described “rabid fan of the progressive-rock band Rush,” she is currently embarking on the adventure of writing a chapbook about, and dedicated to, its late drummer/lyricist, Neil Peart. When she is not home crafting and keeping her cat, Emily, company, she occupies her time with membership in the Mystic River Chorale and the S.E. Connecticut Community Center of the Blind.

I Forgot, fiction
by Bill Tope

Marty slammed his car door and swept briskly across the vast parking lot toward his local Walmart. The air seemed unusually chilly. It had been eighty degrees yesterday, but today it was in the forties. A fresh breeze penetrated his jeans and the light jacket he had slipped on this morning. He shivered. Pausing behind a heavy-set woman loitering in front of the automatic doors. When he made it through the entrance, he waited while an acne-covered teenager extracted a cart and pushed it in his direction. Marty accepted the cart with a smile and walked into Wally World.

Marty thought about what he had come for. He had to buy some sneakers and a heavier coat for this winter, and something else? There was something he was forgetting, but he couldn’t quite conjure the notion in his brain. He shrugged. It would come to him; it always did. The fat lady was back, eyeing him suspiciously, he thought. He hadn’t done anything wrong—had he?

Marty headed back toward the shoes. Stopping to watch a pretty girl in tight blue jeans try on a pair of Nikes, he practiced his getting-acquainted smile but didn’t have a chance to use it as the girl bounced to her feet and exited into the arms of a devilishly handsome man. Marty sighed and shrugged again. He got one foot into a shoe but had a difficult time inserting the other. His fingers seemed clumsy, and he felt feverish. Again, there was the feeling that he’d forgotten something. He got his second foot into the sneaker but found that he couldn’t tie the laces. What the hell? He thought.

Before he realized what was happening, Marty was on his feet again, careening haphazardly down the various aisles in the store. He paused to read the price tag on a jacket—he knew he was supposed to purchase a jacket like this one—but he couldn’t read it. The numbers became an indecipherable blur. Discarding the jacket, he plunged forward. What was the matter with him? He wondered, but he didn’t devote a lot of energy to pondering his dilemma. He staggered, stumbling into rows of articles suspended by little hooks and knocking them to the floor. He leaned back to retrieve the items, but nearly lost his balance.

“Shit!” he muttered unhappily.

All his senses seemed to be accentuated. He felt as though he could smell colors and feel the odor of the lemon-scented water sitting in the big yellow bucket on wheels against one wall. What was that all about? Had he inadvertently ingested drugs? Someone had slipped him some LSD, he thought frantically.

When had it happened? He thought again of the fat lady at the front of the store. She had it in for him and had sabotaged his Pepsi. But he wasn’t drinking a Pepsi. He looked desperately around him and felt a large display collapse against his shoulder. He needed to do something; what was it?

A little girl was staring wide-eyed at Marty, and her mother grabbed her around the shoulders and pulled her back out of range of the madman. Suddenly Marty tripped and banged his knee soundly against the floor. He was shivering badly now, his hands shaking with a severe tremor. All at once, one of the white-shirted security guards had his hand on Marty’s shoulder, trying to hold him in place.

“Do you need anything, sir?” He asked stupidly. Marty stared blankly at him, as if he hadn’t heard. The guard repeated himself. Then someone else—the fat lady again—said, “The EMTs are on their way. Just hold on, son.” Marty smirked at the concern in her voice. What does she know? He thought.

At length, an EMT arrived. She was a strikingly beautiful Black woman clad in a dark blue uniform with a silver badge appended to her chest. She asked him something, but he didn’t understand. He stared inquisitively at her.

“What’s your name?” she asked a second time. He told her. “Do you know what day it is?” she asked unaccountably. What a silly question! Of course he… He shook his head.

“No,” he admitted. All Marty wanted to do was crawl away and go to sleep. He was so tired.

“Are you diabetic?” she asked next. He didn’t respond. She had to repeat the question two more times before he could give a cogent reply.

“Yes.” He nodded.

The beautiful first responder held up a long, plastic tube of a sugary substance and told him to drink it. Holding it as he drank, she coaxed his consumption of the powdered glucose till, at length, some color resurfaced on Marty’s face.

“He’s coming around,” the first responder assured the growing crowd of onlookers. The fat lady—once more—leaned forward and told Marty that she knew he was having a reaction to his insulin.
“My husband’s got sugar,” she said knowingly. Marty exhaled a tired breath and nodded his gratitude to the lady and to the EMT.

“Do you want to go to the hospital?” she asked him.

“Hell of a first date,” he remarked, declining the invitation. The EMT laughed out loud, revealing perfect white teeth. She really was beautiful, thought Marty. She grabbed his shoulder. Her hand felt warm.

“He’ll be alright now,” she told them. “Eat something, okay?” Marty sighed and nodded.

“Okay,” he said, “and I’ll never forget to eat breakfast again.”

Bio: Bill Tope has Tourette's Syndrome, Parkinson's Disease and nerve damage as a result of Diabetes. He is a retired public assistance caseworker living with his mean little cat Baby in Illinois. he has been published in Magnets and Ladders; Wordgathering; Children, Churches and Daddies; Down in the Dirt Magazine; State of Matter Journal; and a few more.

The Power of Pets and Healing, nonfiction
by Debra J. White

A pedestrian car accident on 1/6/94 left me with a traumatic brain injury that ended my social work career. I had been walking my dogs at the time when a car ran me over. At the age of 39, I never expected to lose my career, part of my mobility or memory. So, I found a new life in volunteer work and creative writing because sitting home watching television had no appeal.

In 1997, I moved to Phoenix since the frigid weather of the northeast would keep me indoors for long stretches. My dogs Judy and Maxine moved with me. Leaving them behind wasn't an option especially since they were a crucial part of my recovery.

After Maxine died in 2001, Judy needed a new companion. I visited the county animal shelter. Hundreds of cast-off mixes and purebreds yapped for attention. Every cage was occupied. Their eyes melted my heart, pleading for love and attention. I could only take one. Who would it be?

Luke wasn't on my list. Other dogs had more spunk but an employee steered me towards Luke, a large terrier mix with sad eyes and honey brown curly fur. What shelter dog doesn't have sad eyes?

Once out of his cage, Luke's personality sparkled. He smothered me with slobber. Tail flapping, he howled as if belting out a top ten hit. My motorized scooter was no impediment for him although he tried lifting his leg on the rear wheel. Luke handed me his paw, rolled on his back and kicked his legs in the air. There was no way to resist his canine charm so I adopted him.

Luke showed potential for pet therapy and I wanted to share his gifts with sick or injured patients, just as Maxine and Judy had uplifted me when my life unexpectedly capsized.

Luke dog breezed through a behavior test and passed a medical examination. We joined the Companion Animal Association of Arizona (CAA), a requirement for therapy work. We were assigned to visit sick, elderly, or injured patients at a rehab center starting in the fall of 1998.

On our first day at a rehab center, Luke endeared himself to Kim, the recreation assistant, a gregarious young woman with a Julia Roberts smile. Luke and Kim developed a comical routine that never wavered. Every Friday morning Luke and I arrived and waited in the lobby. As Kim approached, Luke's tail wiggled in circles. He yipped and yowled. I let go of his leash, cracking up as my dog dashed down the hall throwing himself into Kim's arms. My twice abandoned dog was on a roll.

Patients welcomed us with priceless reactions. Take Maria, the older Latina woman with a brain hobbled by a stroke. Only two words remained in her vocabulary – Maria, Maria. Grinning, she stroked Luke with her good hand and said, “Maria, Maria.” I always said hello and asked how she was. Nodding, she replied, “Maria, Maria.” As Luke brushed against her wheelchair, the gleam in eyes showed appreciation. “Maria Maria,” she said as I rolled out of her room, always smiling at Luke.

Bald and be-speckled Will saved treats for Luke, such as bacon strips, hard-boiled eggs, and soggy wheat toast, which my dog gobbled up in seconds. Luke's bad manners tickled Will. The two always interacted with each other good-naturedly. Two years later, Will suddenly died. As we bypassed his room, Luke yanked on his leash as if to say, “What about Will?” He missed the old man's affection and the tasty treats he saved for him.

And there was Frank. For reasons I never understood, Luke picked Frank as his special friend. Luz, Frank's mother, was stricken with lung and heart disease. In his younger years, Frank drank to excess, was chronically unemployed and gambled away his mother's meager earnings as a janitor. Frank finally spruced up his act and visited Luz daily. Every time Luke saw Frank he bellowed as if he'd seen his best friend. Although Luz was on a ventilator, she smiled at their tender interaction. Several years after I left the rehab center, I drove through a Tempe neighborhood. I noticed Frank outside tending his lawn. I pulled over to say hello. He invited me inside for iced-tea. There on the couch sat a big hairy dog named Budgy. Frank's mother Luz had passed away and I offered my condolences. He took Budgy from a neighbor who no longer wanted the big boy. Frank and his canine companion seemed content. That made my day.

Nearly all patients were elderly except for one, a young man named Mark. He was profoundly brain injured from a drug overdose. Blinking eyes were his form of communication. One blink meant yes; two was a sign for no. On my first visit, he looked down at Luke as if he wanted to pet him. I guided his hand over Luke's fur, moving it back and forth a few times. Unable to smile, a look in his eyes told me he appreciated the gesture. That became our regular routine. One week, we popped into Mark's empty room. A nurse said he was in the hospital across the street being treated for an infection. Luke and I visited the hospital before going home. Of course, Mark couldn't speak so I sat in his room, talking to him with Luke at my side. Then I heard a voice behind me asking who I was. That was Mark's mother who told me his story. Out on a weekend evening with friends doing drugs a few years ago, Mark apparently overdosed. His frightened friends deserted him. By the time Mark was found, he was almost dead. Paramedics revived him but by then he was severely brain damaged requiring round the clock care for the rest of his life. Pro-active as a result, his mother talked to high school students about the dangers of drug abuse. Mark had a dog that she took care of after the incident. That's why she said her son liked Luke's visits.

Luke not only brightened up patients' lives but he brought relief to nurses, doctors, aides, and therapists. Everyone loved Luke.

On a blistering July day in 2001 I stopped at a now closed dog bakery to buy snacks for my scrappy old hounds. At the checkout, a newspaper clipping tacked on the wall about a doggie beach party caught my eye. What was this? We are surrounded by the sprawling Sonoran Desert.

“Who had the beach party?” I asked.

Bakery owner Helen smiled as she explained. “We hosted Gabriel's Angels first fundraiser.” They were a new therapy dog group that works with abused kids. Volunteers spent all morning filling up kiddie pools and opening beach umbrellas. Real sand scattered around the parking lot hinted at an ocean feeling without the waves. “You should talk to Pam Gaber (now Barnes), the founder.”

I grabbed Gaber's business card. Over coffee the following week, Gaber told me about the philosophy of Gabriel's Angels. Luke and I would spread kindness and compassion to heal abused, neglected and at-risk children. My schedule allowed another weekly visit.

A wheelchair bound boy named Ronnie, perhaps 9 years old, caught my attention on my first day at the homeless family shelter. What a place for a disabled kid to end up. Workers said he couldn't talk. His movements were spastic. I assumed cerebral palsy. Ronnie grinned when he rolled into the youth center and always tried to pet Luke. I guided his hand along Luke's curly fur. Despite staff's assurance that Ronnie couldn't talk, I heard him mumble words like “Luke” and “the dog.” Ronnie wasn't there one afternoon. I asked Vaughn, the staff worker, about his absence.

“Where's the boy with CP?” I asked.

Vaughn frowned. “Ronnie doesn't have CP. His mother's boyfriend beat him up when he was a baby.”

Tears swelled in my eyes. “How could he?”

“Evidently he got irate when Ronnie cried and kicked him around. Ronnie was hurt very badly. He'll be in this chair for life. I heard the boyfriend is in jail.”

Memory loss is a residual effect from brain trauma but I'll never forget Ronnie, the affable, sandy haired boy in the wheel chair who smiled every time he saw Luke.

Gabriel's Angels handed out stethoscopes to volunteers, compliments of a generous donor. We invited children to listen to the dog's beating heart.

“He feels pain like you do,” I said, watching children line up for a chance to listen. “If someone hits Luke he hurts. Just like you hurt if you're beaten.”

“Hitting a dog is bad,” a boy said.

“All violence is bad,” I said.

I brought the stethoscope every few weeks. Some children lived at the shelter for the maximum four-month stay so I didn't want their attention to fade with the same activity. I mixed up activities that taught empathy and kindness. The stethoscope routine was always popular.

Due to the vagaries of shelter life, homeless children often lagged in school. Large families may be cramped into one or two small rooms, depriving children of quiet time for studies. With Luke as the focus, I often brought flash cards to bolster their learning. No sooner had I whipped out the math cards when Stevie, a twelve-year-old, started to cry. Surely, it couldn't be the math so I asked, “What's wrong?”

In between sniffles, Stevie said, “My brother and I got beat up on the school bus today.”

Down with the flash cards; math would wait. “What happened?”

A group of rowdy girls picked on the brothers because they lived at a homeless shelter. Stevie and his freckle-face brother John were both shy and slightly built. When the female warriors pounced, the boys didn't fight back. None of the other students intervened either. The bus driver, according to the boys, said nothing.

Vaughn called the school principal to discuss the pressing matter. I led a discussion among the children present about bullying. Why it happened? How it can be prevented? What to do if you are a victim?

On my way out, Luke sidled up next to puffy-eyed Stevie. He rested his paw in the boy's lap. I hugged him and said I was sorry. I didn't know what else to do.

On December 26, 2004 tragedy struck half way around the world. A giant tsunami nearly swallowed up Asian countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Thousands of people died while the monster storm left millions without homes. Wrecked commerce left millions without jobs. Infrastructure was in ruins.

Moved by the frightful situation I shared my thoughts with the children. Despite being homeless, their hearts were full of empathy for the lives shattered by the tsunami. With little help from me, they wrote letters to ambassadors of the most severely impacted countries. I added cover letters explaining who we were and mailed them to the United Nations. A few weeks later, my phone rang. I almost didn't answer. The ambassador's office from Sri Lanka called to thank me for the kind and thoughtful note the children sent. As soon as the country recovered from the massive devastation, she'd read our letters to schools across the country. I felt so honored. I returned the next week with the good news. A few children who signed the letters had moved. Too bad they weren't around to hear the personal message from Sri Lanka.

Seven years as a pet therapist with Gabriel's Angels and three with a nursing home changed my life. I experienced the hardships of homelessness and how they ruptured family ties. I sensed pain as children and seniors talked of loss. Homelessness involves leaving behind good friends, familiar neighborhoods, beloved pets, and comfortable schools. Living in a shelter and congregate care facility among strangers can be scary. Talk of family violence unsettled me. I taught children negotiating skills to get along in the world without whacking someone. I hope they listened. Luke cuddled with them. He kissed a few cheeks. He rested his paws on lonely seniors. We cared, we loved and we extended ourselves to make a difference to children who needed us. I hope their world is better because we were there.

PS Luke died from massive seizures in January 2010. I'll always miss the dog nobody wanted. To protect privacy names are changed but the stories are true.

Bio: A car accident on 1/6/94 in the Finger Lakes region of NY ended Debra's social work career due to a traumatic brain injury. After recovery, she re-invented herself through volunteer work and writing. An award winning free-lance writer, Debra wrote for The Bark, Animal Wellness, Arizona Republic, Phoenix Business Journal, Social Work, Airports of the World, American Jails, Psychology Today, Potato Soup Journal, Spoonie Press and other magazines/journals. She reviewed books, contributed book chapters, reported for AZ Muslim Voice and wrote a book for TFH Publications. Her webpage is:

Part III. Natural Wonders and Seasonal Delights

Arizona Interlude, poetry
by Shawn Jacobson

Late afternoon sky
shines a special shade of blue
here beneath the cold.

We sit in the late afternoon sun,
embraced by still cool desert air,
refreshing us in this land's winter.
The back yard is at peace
guarded by earth tone walls,
and tall earth tone houses
from the hectic world beyond.

Beyond this place, a diverse world awaits
saguaro cacti and snow caped peaks.
restaurants and mountain passes.
A Spanish mission and a tourist trap,
an old ghost town and an aerospace museum
all in this arid land of painted rock.

Yet here, we find a moment's rest,
an interlude from touring quests,
to see one more site, one more attraction.
We drink our beer and mull what we have seen.
And resting here we remember
the wonders of our journey.

Arizona skies
hold us in this time of rest
here below the cold.

Vernal Equinox, poetry
by Kate Chamberlin

Vernal equinox, the scents of spring,
Two moments in the year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator;
Day and night are of equal length.
Listen to the plunkity plunk thunk of the melting snow in the gutter,
Many twitter-patered little birds in the pines, and A cacophony of frogs in the bog.
Smell the pungent odor of the emerging Crown Imperial Frittallaria,
Ozone left by the lightning, and earthiness of the damp loam.
Welcome the fair, though still cool, breeze on your face,
The ooze of mud between your bare toes, and stepping out of the house without a jacket.
Surely, you can see the willows yellowing and the Autumn Blaze buds swelling,
Not to mention, the white Snowdrops and lavender croci poking through the leaf mold.
The smoky taste of finger licking good chicken barbecued on the patio grill,
freshly picked early peas, and plump, juicy strawberries are just around the Corner.
The astrological Vernal equinox
Two moments in the year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator will recur;
But, will climate change allow the scents of Spring to continue?

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

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

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

Garden Delights, poetry
by Carol Farnsworth

Hidden fruit,
seeds are planted
with hope they will grow
weed with care
all in a row.
Waiting with patience
for the new crop
green beans grow to the top
berry or bean
all taste great.
Hidden treasures
never make the plate.

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

Her first Chapbook, Leaf Memories, is a direct result from experiencing nature from a tandem and walks outside her backdoor. Carol said, “I hope to take the reader with me into my poems. If the reader feels relaxed after finishing the book, the poems have done their work.”
Leaf Memories is available from Amazon in print and as a Kindle book. It is also available from Smash Books.

The Great American Pastime, poetry
by Brad Corallo

Blue sky, soft puffy white clouds, warm sunshine.
An expanse of lush, green grass
with the distinctive diamond,
fowl lines, bases and the pitcher's mound.

The game begins:
fluid balletic motion.
The graceful wind up,
the ball speeding toward home plate
and the crack of the bat
as contact is made.
The batter attempting to outrun the fielder's choreography.
Trying valiantly to reach base, before the ball does.
Many variations on this theme as the innings pass
and the texture of this specific game unfolds.

For the fortunate among us
this great American pastime
has been part of our lives
since our ages were measured in single digits.

It is difficult to put into words
our joy each year
when the new season begins
and the boys of summer return.
Creating so many special, unforgettable moments-
playing the greatest game ever devised.

For the dedicated fan,
there is excitement, amazement and delight
when a great play is made
or a brilliant game is pitched.

Over the last 58 years,
I've seen many changes;
some good, some less so.
Incomprehensible greed resulting in infuriating season delays,
questionable rule changes and sky rocketing ticket prices
have caused many to lay aside their fan t-shirts.
And though I have experienced significant frustration and outrage
I have learned the difficult truth.
I could no more live without baseball
than I could without hope!

There is comfort in familiarity,
when we lose ourselves in this
consistent, regulated world of skill and magic.
It is easy to reconnect,
if circumstances have resulted in some missed games.
No worries, there are 162 in the regular season.
It is easy to catch up and find your place in this year's book.
Perhaps that is the most wonderful part,
baseball never fails
to always welcome you back home!

Bright Angel, memoir
by Shawn Jacobson

“Are you scared?” my wife asks.

“No,” I lie; for I do want to see what's at the end of the trail. “I'll make it.”

The trail is supposed to be easy, a three-fourths of a mile walk out to the Bright Angel overlook from which we can see The Grand Canyon. This is technically correct. The path is paved without the rocks, roots, or marginal steps defined by boards in varying condition that we'd seen on more difficult trails. The fact that I'm looking down a cliff, how many thousands of feet I don't know, without guardrails, doesn't make it hard. It does make for fear.

We walk to the place where the Roaring Springs canyon meets the Grand Canyon and I tthink that we have completed our trek. Where else could the trail go? However, approaching the edge, I get my answer. The trail leads down steeply towards a rock escarpment that reaches for the sky between two voids.

And so, we start down the trail away from the edge. At the bottom of the first descent, I see a gravel track going down along a cliff. I presume that this is the Bright Angel trail which leads down to the canyon floor. We take a pass on the gravel track, continuing on the paved route.

The descent is the source of my fear. My depth perception is lousy; so I have a hard time judging how far my feet must go down to find the ground. My wife got me a walking stick, which I can use to gauge my descent. Due to the reputed ease of the trail, I left my stick in the car. Now I dearly wish we brought it along.

The rest of the paved route takes us along a series of spires which divide the two canyons. Rocks push up into the sky on our right; on the left, there is the emptiness of space. I push thoughts of stumbling off into oblivion out of my mind as we continue.

Hikers come past us returning from the overlook. Fortunately, there is a minimal cleft in the rock which we can duck into to let them pass. We say our hellos, then we move on to the overlook.

Eventually, we come to what my wife says is a small bridge, though I thought bridges had guardrails. Instead, there are ankle high rocks that mark the trails edge. We walk between the rocks with the sky on either side.

Beyond the “bridge” the trail starts up steeply. At this point, I am less worried about seeing the trail than I'd been on the earlier steep downgrade.

After a short steep climb, we go down again and find another bridge. This time, thank God, there are guardrails. At the overlook end of the bridge, there are four steps up to the next big rock. Here, the trail ascends again. A passing hiker tells us that we're almost there. We go around a bend. There, the overlook is in sight. Once more I am thankful that there are guardrails. I feel comfortable looking out over the red pinnacles which rise into a cloudless blue sky.

In the Grand Canyon area, water flows from north to south. Thus the rims are very different. The south rim, with relatively little erosion, is a drop into nothingness. One can stand at the south rim and believe that the world is flat and you have reached its edge.

By contrast, the north rim falls into a jumble of buttes, hoodoos, and other islands in the sky. To look out from the north rims is to look out into a labyrinth of canyons divided by great towering rocks. Having reached the overlook, we take some time to look out over the marvels before us. Somewhere out here, the Colorado winds through the bottom of the canyon. However, the rocky sky-islands before us are more immediate. It is these formations which grab our attention. After gazing at the sight for several minutes, we turn around and head back. I steel myself for the return.

We continue to see hikers as we return. Just before we reach the bridge without guardrails, a fellow hiker helps steady us as we take two steps down to this level, if precarious, stretch of the trail. After crossing this sky-bordered passage between rocks, we reach a place where the trail ascends. Now I feel more assured about my balance and devote some time to actually looking at the canyon's rim, the sights I'd come to see in the first place. This view does not disappoint. The wall reaches for the sky in strata of red and white. The whole thing looks like a staircase built for gods to climb from the depths to the forested rim. I feel joy at the sight, and relief that I'm actually going to make it back up to the rim without falling. I will be able to remember what I've seen. And from this point, the trail becomes truly easy with no unreasonable fears. Soon I am back up on the rim among the pines that lines the canyon.

Later, I sit on a bench looking out over the sky that fills the canyon as I admire the beauty of this cloudless day. I enjoy the special clarity that one gets with high mountain skies. The heat of the sun is the perfect balance with the air's cool touch. The distinctive scent of pine reminds me that we are in the abode of nature. I am glad that I have completed the trail, yet I am also glad not to have to do it again.

Physical courage is like a muscle. In order to have it, you must be able to exercise it. I now wish that I had devoted more of my life in the exercise of this courage. Had I done so, I would have experienced this adventure with more joy and wonder, and with less fear. I have learned that it is good to pack your courage, and a good walking stick, when walking these trails through the mountains, even if they are reputed to be easy.

Treasure, poetry
by Ann Chiappetta

Chubby fingers palm the stone
Chips glitter in the sunshine. The pudgy digit
prods, freckled nose and cheeks scrunched in
concentration. Larger hands
mold smaller hands into a vessel.
“Hold still.”
A trickle of water wets the stone.
Mica flecks burst into brilliant diamond shards.
One magical stone pocketed, another is plucked off the ground. Little
hands offer it to the sun.

Part IV. The Writers’ Climb

Weighing Words, nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Marcia J. Wick

As a grade school girl, I struggled to master the art of cursive writing. I spun black pencil lead like a silky spider web across the wide-ruled paper. The blank lines on the page beckoned like a road map. Loopy letters advanced left to right, curling and crashing like ocean waves onto the shoreline.

In high school, I switched the radio station from folk music to hard rock. At the same time, I rested my pencil and confronted the manual typewriter. Striking round keys arranged haphazardly, I punched erratic letters onto the rolled paper. Clacking hammers created sharp-edged characters that marched like stilted soldiers to an uncertain future.

Over time, the cadence of my keystrokes smoothed. Under a revolving ribbon coated with indelible ink, letters formed words which evolved into paragraphs. The typewritten serif letters seemed more serious than smudged pencil scrawls.

Letters home, college essays-I learned the hard way that my typewritten words were resistant to erasure. Ironically, a skilled news editor showed me how to strike out my mistakes with a number two pencil like I'd used in grade school. Soon, credible news stories floated off the page like butterflies stirred by a breeze.

Transposed into newsprint, my articles landed on porch steps to be critiqued across kitchen tables, debated at coffee shops, and clipped out for scrap books. My weighty words, good or bad, preserved memories and local history.

Eventually, a desktop computer quelled the drumming beat of heavy metal into the soothing rhythm of classic rock. My errors could be deleted with a quick keystroke. Stories could be saved to a disk for later revision.

Today, digitized words can evaporate before being corrected, yet their fleeing impressions can warp history like plastic in a microwave. Social media, podcasts, YouTube videos and memes have trivialized the importance of words. Elusive information buzzes in my ears like a swarm of mosquitoes. I long for the weight of a paperback book in my hands.

Bio: Marcia J. Wick is a blind, grey-haired grandmother retired from a professional writing career that spanned nearly 40 years. She now write freelance if it pays, for fun if not. Her essays have appeared in Motherwell, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Modern Dog Magazine, and Magnets and Ladders. Her personal essays reflect on parenting, caregiving, living with a disability, and adventures with her guide dog. When not reading or writing, Marcia volunteers with Guide Dogs for the blind, advocates for public transit, and enjoys a variety of sports with family and friends. Contact her at

Meeting My Inspiration Again, memoir
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

One sunny May afternoon in 2018, I was resting in my recliner, listening to the drone of lawnmowers and whine of weedwhackers as my landscapers did their weekly business in my yard. Suddenly, I heard a crash. It was a riding lawnmower colliding with a car in my neighbor’s driveway. I know this only because one of the landscapers, not knowing me, came to my door, thinking it was my driveway and my car.

According to a policeman who showed up later, the car sustained a lot of damage. I gave him the landscaping company’s phone number, and he gave me his card, saying he remembered asking me years ago if drivers were stopping to let me cross streets with my white cane. I couldn’t believe it.

In the fall of 2002, I was living in an apartment complex subsidized for seniors and people with disabilities and working as a registered music therapist with nursing home residents. On a day off, I was walking home after my water exercise class at the YMCA. I’d just jaywalked in front of my building and stopped to talk to a neighbor in a wheelchair. She suddenly said, “Oh, there's a cop behind you.”

I turned around and there he was, on a bicycle. Where had he come from? Had he seen me jaywalk? Was I about to get a ticket, my first ever brush with the law?

To my surprise and relief, he introduced himself and asked, “I was just wondering if drivers were stopping to let you cross streets with your white cane?”

Flustered, I babbled. “Most of the time. I usually cross four-way stops and other intersections where drivers are required to stop. But once in a while, somebody ignores the signs. Another officer who came to my visually impaired support group meeting a while ago suggested we get the license plates of the offending drivers, but none of us in the group can see well enough to do that.”

“Well, I'll bring this up at roll call,” he said. “Thanks.” With that, he rode away.

Now, I was again flustered, even though I’d done nothing wrong this time. All I could say was, “You know, our first meeting inspired my first novel.”

“Really?” he said, as if I'd just told him I hadn't committed a crime of which I was being accused.

I should have given him my card, but I didn’t. He probably thought I was nuts and wished he’d given me that ticket for jaywalking years ago. In any case, we parted amicably enough.

After I posted about this incident on Facebook, someone asked if the story would continue. That remains to be seen. I may never see that officer again, but I’ll always have the memory of how our first meeting inspired We Shall Overcome.

“Meeting My Inspiration Again,” was published on Abbie’s blog in 2018.

Bio: Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of three novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir and she is working on a short story collection. Her work has appeared in The Writer's Grapevine, The Weekly Avocet, and other publications. She is visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, with her robotic cat Joy. Please visit her website at:

Disappearing, poetry
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

It’s time to search for another good book review,
Washington Post or New York Times will do,
I’m a participant on several good book review lists,
I read a lot, but there are many I’ve missed.

The vampire feast seems to be taking a break,
Espionage fiction I’ll always take,
A western with a wagon or a cattle drive
Keeps the western history fan in me alive.

Trends are fun to follow when they’re really hot,
But of the latest craze, a fan I am not!
Someone is missing in too many books,
Not usually detectives, drug lords, or crooks.

It’s the human interest stories that are letting me down,
Well-described neighborhoods and people of the town;
A mother walks out, leaving children adrift,
Does she have a lover? Is there a family rift?

A child was taken, or did she run away?
Some suspect violence, some who should know just won’t say;
The manager of the dollar store was last seen on the lake,
Did he really sell drugs? Were there kids on the take?

Sometimes the missing person reappears some years later,
Lost memory, changed personality, lots of good theater,
Folks who love or hate the one who is gone
Struggle with guilt, grief, or relief, still life goes on.

I’m getting tired of plots so easy to foretell,
This genre’s wearing thin; publishers know it will sell,
I want action, not conjecture, clothed in flashbacks, search, and sorrow,
Tell you what, I’ll write my own book if I don’t disappear tomorrow.

Morris by Chris Kuell Atmosphere Press
reviewed by Carol Farnsworth

The editor of the magazine Breath and Shadow has written a compelling book of short stories weaving relations, music, and a well used guitar named Morris. The tales span from the Vietnam War through the Afghanistan conflict. We follow the guitar, which was crafted by a vet for his girlfriend. The fourteen stories travel through the passing of ownership and the relations of the people that come in contact with Morris. The stories are delicately interspersed with lyrics of well-chosen music alongside the struggles of returning veterans coping with battle flashbacks. The book moves the reader through forty years of war, and the people impacted by it, making it an important read for understanding the maturing of the baby boomer generation.

Chris Kuell follows peoples’ trials and triumphs. Connected by a guitar and music, we are shown war and its aftereffects at a personal level.

Morris is Available from Amazon in print and as a Kindle format.

Editor’s note: Sadly, Chris Kuell passed away on February 21 from Cancer. This is a tremendous loss to the community of writers with disabilities. We are grateful that he has left us Morris as a final gift to enjoy.

From frightened radio guest to prolific podcast guest to host of what’s your excuse, nonfiction
by Maxwell Ivey

I started my online journey in September of 2007 when I opened the Midway Marketplace to help other people sell their surplus carnival rides and amusement park equipment. This was my way of finally responding to my father's death and the related loss of our small traveling carnival.

One of my biggest challenges was how to put myself out there without the ability to easily travel to meet people and network with them in person. I knew there had to be a way, and in January of 2013 I discovered an online radio show hosted on Blog Talk Radio by Brian The Hammer Jackson. He posted a listing on linked in asking people to sign up to come on his show and talk about their small businesses. I signed up, and was selected.

So I went out to the garage and waited for my turn to go live. I remember standing out there in the cold waiting my turn. Nervous that he wouldn't like me, that he would make fun of me, or he would hang up on me.

When he took my call, my phone dropped the call. I was using an old flip phones on the Sprint network. I tried to call him back, and he hung up on me. When we finally connected, he said, “what the heck is wrong with you? Are you blind or something,” which resulted in over half a minute of silence. Even in online radio the worst thing that can happen is silence. I've been told that cursing is better than quiet. I got over my shock and started laughing, and Brian started laughing. Then we went on to have a great conversation. It turned out that his producer either hadn't reminded him that I was blind or hadn't made it clear enough.

I was on Brian's show every Friday for six months. Eventually I transitioned from focusing on selling rides to focusing on being an inspirational creative entrepreneur as the Blind Blogger.

I continued doing radio and then podcast interviews. And I started branching out finding many other top shows I could share my stories and life lessons
on. These interviews helped build and then grow both my brands as Mr. Midway the ride broker and The Blind Blogger leader of a no excuses movement.

Over the years, I've learned several important lessons about being a great podcast guest. I do my best to share these with others. I tell people, be as honest as you are comfortable being and work towards having more authenticity the more often you tell your story. Use the conversation as the beginning of a new friendship or relationship with the host. See the conversation as an event to look forward to instead of something stressful. These interviews not only grew my brands, but they helped me to take on more difficult challenges.

It was through the prompting and encouragement of interviewers that I decided to start my own podcast called What's Your Excuse. Relationships with hosts lead to my inclusion in book collaborations, online summits, and getting booked for public speaking opportunities. Heck, I even met Fredrick Bye, the man who would help me get started in podcasting by being my temporary co-host.

All these years later, there are still sighted people who wonder about a blind person with a website, blog, and podcastI get asked some of the same questions,but instead of getting angry, I'm thankful that I can look forward to an easy question that gives me the opportunity to let the host and their audience know that there are lots of awesome bloggers and podcasters out here.

I love telling them that I'm not the best blind blogger or podcaster, not the most talented, not the most consistent, and not the most prolific; I’m one of the best at putting myself out there.

I believe that doing podcast interviews over time is one of the most fun most energizing ways I know to build an author's platform and grow an audience in anticipation of that next book. And for the most part it's free. Pitching hosts, booking interviews, recording conversations could be done by anyone.

It doesn't require any really special gear, you don't have to leave the house, and you don't have to ruin your schedule. Before more hosts started doing
video you didn't even have to get changed out of your pajamas if you didn't want to. And some people are still doing interviews in their sweats.

I would be happy to help you with your podcast booking outreach if you like. Am also available to coach people on proper interviews. Whether you aspire to
good morning America or prefer the long-form interviews on podcasts you can never get too much practice answering those questions.

Wishing you much success.

Bio: Maxwell Ivey, known around the world as The Blind Blogger, has transformed himself from a failed carnival owner to a respected amusement equipment broker to an award-winning author, story telling motivational speaker, online accessibility advisor, digital media publicist, and host of the podcast What's Your Excuse. He has accomplished many challenging goals by being willing to ask for help and accept help when offered, by deciding to find solutions instead of making excuses, and by being determined to find the positive in all aspects of his life. He believes that it is easier for him to answer an awkward question than it is to make you guess. So, if you have any question at all, please just ask him.

Website: Youtube:


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

Please note: Funds for contest prizes are provided by Behind Our Eyes. Checks for prize winning entries not cashed within 6 months of the issue date are void and considered a donation back to Behind Our Eyes. No additional payments will be made to replace the uncashed check. If you intend your prize winnings to be a donation, please let us know upon winning so we can send you a donation receipt letter.

Remember, the deadline for submissions is August 15, so be sure to get your entries in on time.

Hero, finish the story exercise
by Cheryl McNeil Fisher

I took my bracelet off last night and put it right here on the dresser. I'm not crazy. Where is it? “Mom, have you seen my cuff bracelet?”

“No, I haven't seen it. Maybe you should be more careful where you put things.”

Last week it was my favorite shirt, then Friday the earrings I love so much. I know I'm not crazy. Sometimes I'm messy, but I always know where my stuff is.

“Marley, you better hurry, or you'll miss the bus. I can't take you if you miss it.”

Guess I'll look for it later.

Just in time, I run out the door and down the driveway to the bus's open door. Breathing heavily, I say, “Good morning Mrs. G.”

“Good mornin', darlin'. Glad you could join us today.” Mrs. G says with a warm smile and twinkles in her eyes.

No matter how I'm feeling, I feel warm inside as soon as Mrs. G. opens the door.

Monday and Tuesday come and go with no sign of my missing items. Finally, Wednesday after school, my mom says, “Marley, aren't you supposed to take the garbage out?”

“I took it out this morning, Mom.”

“It doesn't look like you took it out to me.”

Maybe Mom did some cleaning today, and the garbage is full again. When I look in the can, I stand in wonder.

“Don't just stand there. Take the garbage out.”

“I could have sworn I took this out this morning.”

“Well, apparently, you didn't because it is still full,” Mom says sarcastically.

Sure enough, it looks like the same stuff on top of the garbage that was there this morning. “Well, Okay, maybe I'm thinking of another day.” I take out the bag, tie it up, and head to the door.

“Watch what you are doing, Marley. You are dropping garbage all over the place.”


“What is wrong with you?” Mom yells. “You are so stupid. Look at the mess you are making.”

Sure enough, I look back, and there is a garbage trail behind me. I look at the bag, and there is a hole the size of my fist in the bottom corner. There are coffee grounds and garbage all over the kitchen floor and down the stairs.

I put the bag down, run up the stairs and get another garbage bag. As I'm wrestling with the torn bag to put it into the new bag, Mom comes over to me and smacks my head. She screams right into my ear,

“You are the dumbest girl. You can't even take a bag of garbage out. You lose your things. You can't keep track of where you put things that are supposed to be important to you. You are garbage! You are no good! You are just like your father, no good!”

Now the tears are swelling in my eyes. I don't want to cry. Why does she say these horrible things to me? I'm a good girl. I really am. I do well in school. I have a lot of friends. Why doesn't my own mother love me?

I get the garbage into the bag and take it out to the trash can. I know I took this garbage out this morning before I began looking for my bracelet. I know I did.

“Hi, Marley. Whatcha doing?” says Mr. Hal. “You and your mom must be cleaning out.”

“Why do you say that, Mr. Hal?”

He scratches his chin and says, “Well, you brought a bag out just before you went to school this morning,.”

“Yeah, we are cleaning,” I said with a forced smile.

So, I'm not crazy. I did take a bag out this morning. No, she wouldn't have brought it back in and then put a hole in it……would she? Mom is standing just inside the door when I walk in. She pushes the broom and dustpan at me.

“Here, clean this mess up. Then mop the stickiness up too.”

I hang my head and say, “Okay, Mom.”

“What did you say?” She smacks me hard on the head. “What did you say to me? Are you smart mouthing me?”

“No, Mom. Not at all.” My tears were almost ready to flow at that point.

“You are such an ungrateful, selfish girl. I don't know why I put up with you. I should just put you in a home somewhere and leave you.”

My tears begin to flow. I am crying now. Why can't my dad come back? Why can't he save me? Why can't someone care about me and love me? God, help me. Do you love me?

While I'm cleaning up the mess, I hear my mother talking on the phone.

“I don't know what it is, but I like hearing Marley cry. I like seeing her search all over for her things, wondering where her stuff could be. Do you think I'm a sick mother?” She is hysterical, laughing now. “No, I don't either. I'm having a lot of fun getting back at Bill through his Marley. The little bitch. He always paid more attention to her. He loved her more. Well, I'll teach him. I'll make the little bitch's life miserable, just like he has made mine. Hero, my ass. How dare he die!”

After hearing her demonic conversation, I wipe my eyes and sit quietly in prayer. “God, how can a mother talk like that about her own daughter? It hurts, but thank you God for allowing me to hear her words. I'm not crazy. She really does do things to hurt me. I'm counting on you to help me survive this nightmare life with her. Thank you for adults like Mrs. G and Mr. Hal. I will survive. I feel blessed and loved knowing I have you, my Heavenly Father. And that my daddy is with you too.”

I miss you Daddy. I know you're my angel, but sometimes it's hard. When I need your hug, I hug my big teddy bear you gifted me and imagine you hugging me back.

Daddy – YOU Will always be my Hero.

Editor’s note: Cheryl has this story off to an amazing start, but what happens next? You have the opportunity to decide. Write your ending to “Hero” and submit it for the Fall/Winter edition of Magnets and Ladders. We will publish Cheryl’s beginning and the top two endings in the writers’ climb. Get your creative juices flowing.

Bio: CHERYL MCNEIL FISHER has authored fiction and non-fiction books through her publishing company, L.I.F.E. Books. For the past 25 years, she has been a keynote speaker and workshop leader throughout the US. Her inner, and spiritual strengths inspire audiences to excel through their challenges. Additionally, she co-hosts the award-winning phenomenon Writing Works Wonders.

She says, “Sudden sight loss created a lot of changes, but I refused to let it drag me into a dark place. Instead, my faith and my inner vision have been the driving force that enables me to live a life beyond my wildest dreams!”

Water Reflections, poetry
by Ria Meade

I write everyday, if possible,
poems, prose, ramblings,
with hopes these thoughts transferred to print,
will be worthy of sharing.
Some days, my fingers touch keys and deliver.
Other tapping's results are hollow.
Many times, addressing this talking alphabet, my darkness enhances the output.
At times, the reverse proves true.

Often, nature inserts herself, resonating images within me,
rich in metaphor, beauty and life.
I drift in memories of my body swimming through countless waters.
Mediate on sighted days mesmerized by ocean waves,
breathing the harbor tide of my local bay
wonder at late afternoon skies.
Impossible to count myriad attempts endeavored to recreate
the sunset I'd been waiting for with my brushes
One image never copied another.

I’ve not enjoyed this privilege in four decades.
Yet still connect with those evenings preserved within me.
Where within do they cocoon?
Conclude many of life's metaphors disappear each day before our eyes
akin to these sunsets I miss.
How do they break free, where do they travel?

I type today to urge the heart, hands, or brain
to find where my love resides.

Bio: A native Long Islander, Ria Meade crafts poems about her adult life as a blind woman. Painting since childhood, her passion culminated with a degree in fine arts. Twenty-five years after losing her sight, she began to paint again with words. She survives this vulnerable existence independently with her beloved 8th guide dog and many newly discovered senses.

A Conversation with Jack, poetry
by Sandra Streeter

Were I to travel back the years
That I had, early, dozed away-
To will my infant eyes ajar
And look where you'd direct:
Would I, then, cringe with child's fear
(As I, so often, do today),
At booming voices from afar,
And dread that they reject?

…Or… rather,… would yours echo
Only Aslan's might?
Oh, I think it must! I catch its glee,
'Neath the image of the giant mind.
And… to wait the decades you won't know,
I lift, again, a book tonight-
Filled with dotted forms that bring to me
The truths that you first mined.

I hear Him speak, through you, once more:
“While fretting for what pounds were lost,
And seemingly in anguish spent,
You seek, in truth, His faithful gaze.
By the will to faith, you'll stand secure.
This petty thing-it will not cost-
(Although your mind is earthward bent,
And grasps for it today).”

This near-forgotten Wine You send,
I lift to world-parched lips, at last;
And feel, anew, my hunger grow,
And taste the aromatic Crust.
And, sated, rally, once again,
Begin the race, but holding fast
This time the kernel He has sown,
(Though the land seems only dust).

…And, eagerly, I wait to see
That grinning face, that twinkling eye-
To hear explained the treasured things
I never fully understood.
(In Perelandra, you lost me)!
Our one true God, we'll glorify,
With the holy angels will we sing-
And proclaim forever, “It is good!”

To C.S. Lewis

Season of Poetry, poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

I went looking for a poem
and found one midst the sweet peas climbing over the east fence.
I went looking for a poem
and found one in the row of zucchini
growing in my father's garden.
I went looking for a poem
and found one on the front porch swing.
I went looking for a poem
and found one atop the gob pile
as I took in the panoramic view of our small Hoosier hometown.

Now, where should I transplant these poems?
Should I plant this poem
in this plastic container on my cement porch?
Should I transplant this poem
in my city garden?
Should I transplant this poem
in the rock area behind my townhouse?
Maybe, I should translate this poem
from rural hometown to city residence
in words that are foreign to me.

No, I will transplant these poems
in my heart and in my magical memory
to carry them to their next destination.

I will plant these poems
into an old-fashioned runner desk's inkwell
filled with teardrops
that will nourish each word into a poetic blossom
whose petals will eventually
fall onto pages as
velvety, unpublished verse.

“Season of Poetry” was published on Alice’s “WORDWALK” blog during National Poetry Month of 2022.

Part V. Slices of Life

Meeting Paul Simon, poetry?
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

“Do you mind if I sit here?” he asks.
I look around the crowded bar, then at him.

“I suppose so,” I answer.
“Do I know you from somewhere?
You look familiar.”

He starts singing, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

“Paul Simon, is it really you?”

The jukebox begins to play the song.
As the opening strains float through the room,
barely audible over the din,
he takes my hand, leads me to the dance floor.

As we move to the music, he sings that he'll dry my tears,
comfort me in the darkness,
be there when I need a friend.

I hear our furnace.
Sunlight streams through the window.
In bed next to me, my husband, who is not Paul Simon,
who is unable to use his left arm and leg,
says, “I'd better pee.”

I haul his partially paralyzed body into a sitting position,
hand him the urinal,
wait at a discrete distance till the deed is done,
flush the contents down the toilet,
resigned to being someone else's wife.

Reunited, fiction
by Abbie Johnson Taylor

I hadn't had a drink in ten years, but when I went to my first high school class reunion, that changed. My wife was attending a writing conference that weekend and couldn't come with me. She'd been doing a lot of traveling since her romance novel made the bestseller list. We were living in Sheridan, Wyoming, where I went to high school, so I didn't have to drive far to the reunion.

On that Friday night in early June, I went to the Holiday Inn, where most of the events were held. The first was an icebreaker with a cash bar. Since I didn't keep in touch with most of my classmates, I only planned to stay long enough to greet a few people and get some free food before heading home after a long day at the office.

When I walked into the ballroom, I spotted her. She stood in a corner, looking as beautiful as she did when we graduated. Her long blond hair cascaded in waves down her back, and her sea-blue strapless dress, the same color as her eyes, accentuated her tanned shoulders. She was wearing black sandals, and her red nail polish said a lot. Our eyes met, and against my better judgment, I found myself walking in her direction.

“Ryan Foster,” she said. “I'd have known you anywhere.”

“Heather…is your last name still Wilson?” I looked at her left hand and didn't see a ring.

“I'm afraid I'm still single. I heard you got married. Your wife didn't come with you?”

“Nope,” I said, captivated by her eyes. “Kate's at a writers' conference.”

“A writer?” Heather said. “What does she write?”

“Mostly romances,” I answered. “You may have heard of her latest one, Sunset Passion. It's on the New York Times bestseller list.”

“Wow! I picked that up at the Denver airport, so I'd have something to read during my layover. Did you know I'm living in Los Angeles?”

“No,” I said, relieved at the opportunity to change the subject. “Are you an actress?”

“I work in an art gallery. Let's get something to drink and catch up, shall we? I'm dying of thirst.”

We found an empty table in a corner, and I went to get our drinks. I hoped by the time I got back, others would be there, so we wouldn't be drinking alone. When I returned a few minutes later with a bloody Mary for her and a Scotch and soda for me, the table was still empty except for Heather. I put down our drinks and sat across from her. “So, if you're not an actress, what do you do with yourself besides working in an art gallery?”

“I model on the side to make extra money.”

“Modeling? I'm not surprised. You were always the prettiest one in the class.”

“That's sweet of you, but it's just a way to pay the bills,” she said nonchalantly.

“I thought models worked in New York.”

“Not if they model swimsuits. Wait a minute. I think I may have…”

She opened her purse and pulled out a photo that looked like it could have been from a magazine cover. I stared at Heather's body, clad in a black bikini. Looking at her lying in all her splendor on a sandy beach, I felt myself getting hard.

“Wow!” was all I could say, as I handed her the photo.

“I'm glad you like it. I've been told I'm pretty irresistible, even to married men.”

“Well, um…I…um…I'm sorry. It's just that the last time I saw you was at graduation, and now, look at you. With that scholarship you got to UCLA, I should have known you'd do well.”

“I majored in drama, but I'll admit I just don't have the talent. So, during my sophomore year, I switched from drama to art, but I couldn't paint, either. I considered moving back here. I thought Dad might let me work with him in his coin-operated machine business, but I knew that would bore me to tears, so I stayed in Glendale, and as they say, the rest is history.”

“You always had a head for figures. Remember when you sat next to me in geometry?”

“Yes, I remember cheating off your tests because I'm really not that good with numbers.”

I found that hard to believe but decided to let it drop. “You like living in California?”

“Most of the time.” She took a long sip of her drink. “But I often think about what would have happened if I stayed here. Anyway, I saw an ad for a modeling school and dropped out of college to give it a try.”

“And you became a successful model overnight.”

“Well, it wasn't easy. I had to work a few topless jobs before I found an agent and started modeling for Sporting Life.”

“So, you only model swimsuits?”

“I've also modeled water skiing, scuba diving, and tennis wear, but that's not nearly as lucrative or fun.”

“Wait a minute. Didn't I see you on the cover of Sporting Life last winter wearing nothing but a tiny bikini and skis?”

“Oh, God! That was the worst shoot I've ever done. Remember when I went skiing with you and your brother when we were seniors? I kept standing and falling, standing and falling. Your brother said I was falling wrong and could get hurt. So, I ditched the skis and walked to the lodge, where I waited until you guys were done skiing.”

“Yeah, I've always remembered that day.”

“Okay, enough about me.” She took another sip of her drink. “What have you been doing with yourself all this time?”

“Honestly, there's not much to tell. After high school, I went to Sheridan College and majored in police science. After a year, I decided I'd rather defend criminals, not arrest them. So, I transferred to the university in Laramie, where I got my law degree, and that's where I met Kate.”

“Your wife.” It was more of a statement than a question from Heather.

“She was majoring in creative writing, got her MFA, and after I graduated, we moved back here and got married. I think she'd rather be in New York City, where all the agents and editors are…”.

“Who doesn't want to live in New York City?” Heather snorted.

“But at least these days, there's email and other ways around that,” I continued. “I don't think she's happy living here, but there's not a lot I can do about that now.”

“Oh, the things people give up for love. So, do you have any kids?”

“No, Kate never wanted children,” I said, for the first time regretting my marriage. “She was too busy writing to be bothered. She always wore a diaphragm when we, well, you know.”

“Yeah, I had to do a little of that to get where I am today, but I don't mind. I like a good fuck.”

I found myself laughing so hard I almost peed in my pants. She handed me her empty glass and said, “I'd love a refill.”

“I need to make a quick pit stop first.” As I walked across the ballroom, I kept looking back at Heather. What was I doing?

In the restroom, I heard the band playing “Islands in the Stream” and remembered dancing with Heather to that song during our senior prom. I was anxious to get back out there with her and do it again, although I knew it wasn't a good idea. I finished my business, hurried to the bar to get our drinks, and headed to the table. Setting our glasses down, I took her hand and said, “Come on, let's dance.”

By the time we hit the floor, the song was over. The band went right into “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” which was a bit livelier than I would have liked. Heather began swinging her hips. So, I went along with it and got into the song's rhythm.

Throughout the rest of the night, we danced several times. The more I drank, the more things blurred. One minute, I was feeling her body against mine, and the next, we were back at the table, laughing, talking, and drinking.

After we danced to “Sexual Healing,” we walked out to the lobby to say our goodnights. Instead of pecking her cheek, urging her to keep in touch, and walking away, I went with her to the front desk, got a room, and stepped into the elevator with her.

When I woke up, it was dark except for the faint light from the clock that showed it was four in the morning. My head ached, and there was a knot in my stomach. Heather was asleep in my arms, and at the warmth of her body, I started to feel aroused. I had to slip out, go home, and pretend all this never happened.

The room spun when I sat up. I disentangled myself from Heather and the sheets and looked around for my pants. In the darkness, I couldn't find them. Heather stirred.

“Aw, what the hell!” I said, crawling back into bed. “Maybe I could move my law practice to LA.”

“Now, you're talking,” she murmured, pulling me into an embrace.

Captcha, poetry
by Jyothsnaphanija

It could be waving hands you have to count Or cars among scooters.
Thermometers among several objects.
You imagine password field so smaller
Just to be fit for the keys on keyboard.
You keep it short, for a moment you certify yourself an encoder of capitalized letters, numbers and letters which are smaller like poppy seeds.
After you align your password
Like fixing a plant in the pot,
It occurs to you
You have to insert the text of the image.
You know very well
Navigating the other side of the card.

You listen to the numbers
Captcha always has something to do math's. Counting or listening the digits.
Confusion springs.
It is 1 6 7 5 3
Or 1 6 1 5 3
In the ending is so envious of you, all the time problems with 1, 7 and 9 you know.
You press the same exact button to listen.
1 number will be repeated in the sequence. What is that number?
A well-shaped 0 should be there in the capture you wish.
Isn't so easy to trace 0 while listening Even though you have traffic sounds, shouting people, television screams, at home and from the machine.
0 has unique, clear, valuable existence in your audio world.
You want to trick yourself, entering the captcha after the first listen. It is your intuition than memory you know it.
It tests you, you tell the machine
That you are an alternative,
A machine like
Missing vain of the planet.

Bio: Jyothsnaphanija teaches English Literature at ARSD College (University of Delhi), India. Her first poetry collection Ceramic Evening was out in 2016. Her poems most recently have appeared and are forthcoming in Shot Glass; Quail Bell Magazine; The Handy, Uncapped Pen; Wishbone Words; The Hopper*; and others. She blogs at

Guide Dog Chronicles: CarliGrace and Ziggy G, poetry
by Kate Chamberlin

CarliGrace, acrostic
October 2 – 30, 2022

Collie and Labrador mix is a Lollie
ADHD, pace too fast, pull too hard
Ready to play, 21-months old
Lean body, black with white chest
Intelligent, very independent
Gazelle-like prancing on the patio to leap onto the grass
Related well to elderly cat and retired guide dog
A slow, dainty eater at mealtime
Chewed two rug bindings, a hair brush, leather, and lots of garden mulch
Ever-after partner will be someone else.


Ziggy G. and Me, adapted Senryu
October 31-November 7, 2022

Ziggy G is tall
Seventy pounds of Lollie
Does well in our home.

Ziggy G and I
Up one aisle, down another
Fun working in Tops.

Me with Ziggy G
Partners for eternity?
Human and Lollie.

Ziggy on my street
Zig to left and zag to right
He does not go straight.

Wending on sidewalks
Country walks are confusing
Shorelines not his thing

Shrub in the walk way
Ziggy didn't veer around it
Watch It! Turn about!

Ziggy distracted
Skinned knee, bruised lag, hat flies off
Watch it! Turn about!

Ziggy must leave me
His future home is elsewhere
God's speed Ziggy G.

I Carry, nonfiction
by Nancy Scott

I carry a smile and the conviction that I must make this new life work. It's my third day of Independent Living and I decide to attend Happy Hour. This event happens every Friday at 3 p.m. but I don't know that yet.

Some people are actually allowed small amounts of alcohol. Most of us get juice or iced tea.

I am learning when and how to move around by myself or with help. I laugh at the prospect of asking for Angry Orchard. I must learn and teach and earn far more credibility than I have now.

Happy Hour is popular. A staff person finds me a chair next to Viola. Viola is very deaf, but very aware. She likes my big, clear voice because it carries. She knows I'm new. She's been here about two months.

“How long have you had your trouble?” she asks.

It takes a few seconds to understand what she's asking. I appreciate her tact, but correct it quickly.

“I've been blind all my life.”

One navigation I carry is that residents who understand and remember that I can't see are more aware. We talk about Viola being 92 and my cool folding cane. I opt for the exotic cucumber water which arrives in a Styrofoam cup. In still warm early September, it tastes wonderful.

“We should go out on the balcony,” Viola says. “Have you been to the balcony yet?”

“I have. The staff already knows it's a good bribe.”

Someone rolls Viola out and comes back to guide me to a chair and a patch of sun. I carry the half full cup of water, knowing I should never carry open cups of anything, anywhere.

We talk about the school bus, and the kids, and dogs, from nearby townhouses. Where is the highway whose hectic hum I carry as background? How close are the houses? Are there trees and such. I carry the not-knowing and the joy of this outdoor freedom.

Eventually, I decide to check my Braille watch. We must be in before dinner. And I must try to avoid the traffic jam of residents at the dining room doors.

My new Braille watch is difficult to open to access dots and hands. It's a manufacturing flaw. I tip my hand holding the water for leverage and you know what happens next.

“Crap,” I say, proud for not actually swearing. There are probably people watching me. I'm still a novelty or an undefined concern. I want to be the cool blind person who doesn't need more help than necessary. Whatever that turns out to be. But 20 seconds of inattention and I've spilled water and ice into my lap.

Viola looks, and says, straight-faced, “Yes. You need a table.”

And then she adds, “in 10 minutes the water will be gone and you'll be fine again.”

I smile, for real. Is this how my first resident friendship begins?

Fifteen minutes later a staff person disposes of my empty cup and guides my now water-less self to the inside stairs. She doesn't mention my inept carrying. Maybe she didn't see it?

Now, I'm on my own. I'm just ahead of the rush of wheelchairs and walkers. I carry a real smile and this story up two short flights and around the elevator and the dining room doors to my room.

I already know I will tell it often.

I carry my knowledge and mythology about geography and judgments. I carry my achievements and abilities. This might be a beginning with a whole new cast of characters. Where might they carry me?

Author's note: It was the 'I carry' prompt, given at a virtual poetry salon that turned this story into my first essay since my move. Sometimes poetry prompts become non-fiction. I stayed up to write the first draft that night. I woke the next morning and my first thought was, “I have a better idea for the ending.”

Bio: Nancy Scott’s over 925 essays and poems have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies, newspapers, and as audio commentaries. Her latest chapbook The Almost Abecedarian, appears on Amazon. She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Her recent work appears in Black Fox Literary Magazine, Braille Forum, Chrysanthemum, Kaleidoscope, One Sentence Poems, Shark Reef, Wordgathering, The Mighty, and Yahoo News.

Part VI. Music and Memories

Beethoven's Fifth, Abecedarian poetry First Place
by Lynda McKinney Lambert

Audible holograms remained when
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony ended
Classical music inhabits
dark matter
exists in
fifth-dimensional forms
grown in mundane fields
How can I fathom
invisible forces
just beyond the well-
kept secrets in the cosmos
lyrical, other-worldly
music, independent
never comprehended
plausible trajectories.
Questions about autonomous
reality remains.
track its position
until Beethoven's notes
vibrate eternally
Where does such beauty go? Like
Xian warriors, it remains hidden
Yes! Beethoven's Fifth lives – somewhere
zipped up. Fastened tight.

Author's Note: My inspiration for this poem came from new discoveries about classical music. “Physicists claim that any given performance or recording of a classical music piece is a kind of audible hologram projected into our everyday reality by the true musical work, which vibrates eternally in an ethereal medium floating in and around us at all times…
Classical music transcends both the linear, forward flow of time and the Euclidean space we are used to,” said Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the director general of CERN. “A musical work is a mysterious entity whose essence totally eludes our senses.”
Quoted from: “Physicists Prove Classical Music Inhabits Separate Realm, Inaccessible to Humans,” Submed, October 1, 2015.

“Beethoven's Fifth” was previously published in the following:
Poetry Quarterly, Spring 2018
Lambert, Lynda McKinney. Star Signs: New & Selected Poems, 2019

Four Iconic Albums that Changed the Music World Forever, nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Brad Corallo

From 1965 through 1969, four unique master- works took the music world by storm. It has been said that for the purposes of music evolution and quality the sixties actually ran from 1965 through 1975. During this period, we saw the development of highly poetic Folk-Rock, Symphonic Progressive-Rock, psychedelic imagery and sounds through increased multitrack recording and the Rock-Opera. Additionally, during this span of years the following musical forms developed: classical and jazz Rock-Fusion, Country-Rock, Acoustic-Rock with full spectrum vocal harmonies and the rise of the singer-songwriter.

These four landmark albums threw wide the gates of possibility. The first, released in 1965, was Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. This album ushered in the first 6 minutes+ single, “Like a Rolling Stone.” Highway 61 Revisited was Dylan's first fully Folk-Rock record. The recording was completed four days after Dylan's controversial electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965. Earlier in the year, he had released Bringing It All Back Home, which had one acoustic side and one electric side. But because of the nature of the venue at Newport, no one expected Dylan's introduction of electric instruments into his performance.

Many of Dylan's most beloved and respected songs appear on the record. Every track on the album is important. There is no filler. In this writer's opinion, the song, “Desolation Row” contains some of His most interesting and complex poetic lyrics. Other standout tracks include: “Tombstone Blues” with the legendary Mike Bloomfield tearing it up on electric guitar, “It takes A Lot to Laugh It Takes a Train to Cry,” and the ominous “Ballad of a Thin Man” with Al Cooper's haunting organ work. It was difficult for many of Dylan's fellow musicians and some fans to appreciate at the time, that an artist of Dylan's caliber would inevitably explore and evolve through many musical forms.

In 1967 during the Summer of Love, two of the four iconic albums were released. The Moody Blues, who had evolved from an R & B band to something completely new put out Their record, Days of Future Passed which was the first full length album to be recorded with orchestral contributions both between and behind the music of the five musicians that comprised the band. The London Festival Orchestra and the Moodys created and produced a record that was the first example of Symphonic Progressive-Rock. This was also a concept album which took listeners through a day from before dawn through deep night. Huge hits from this amazing effort include: “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon.” With Days of Future Passed, the band developed a unique style that evolved through their next six records.

The other landmark release that year was The Beatles’s ground breaking record, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Though one can see their musical style changing significantly on their preceding effort Revolver no one expected anything like Sgt Pepper. On this album, both the recording studio and their producer, George Martin added a dimension not previously seen in Rock music. In addition to the brilliant song writing by the band the extensive use of multitrack recording techniques, the use of unusual instruments and outstanding sound quality for its time, had a huge impact upon its release. Like Days of Future Passed's album cover art, Sgt. Pepper's astounded fans and critics almost as much as the delightfully unique music. Another significant aspect of the record was the use of deeply psychedelic sounds and imagery. It is difficult to convey the impact of this record upon its release.

Moving forward to 1969, another British band, The Who, gave us Tommy the first Rock-Opera. This two-record concept album tells the story of a young English boy who became blind, deaf and mute due to serious trauma. While in this state Tommy experiences: bullying, an acid trip and sexual abuse by his uncle. He also is found to be the ultimate pinball player, a true “Pinball Wizard” which was a very successful single release. Through unusual means, Tommy regains his senses and becomes a messianic, cult figure with a large number of followers. However, it doesn't last and Tommy withdraws again but with a new understanding of reality. The Who designed the album to be playable live and performed it all over the globe including the Metropolitan Opera House. Nothing like Tommy had ever been done before in Rock music. There were many stage play adaptations featuring The Who and other music luminaries. There also was a full- length movie with The Who based on the record's story.

These four records completely broadened the idea of what Rock music was and could become. They opened fans' minds to the almost limitless nature of the genre. After these four records people were ready to listen to, appreciate and understand the music of bands like: King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, the Electric Light Orchestra, Pink Floyd, Rush, Focus and Emerson, Lake and Palmer to name just a few.

It is difficult to imagine that anything like these four records and their collective impact will ever happen again in music. But as no one could have anticipated the release of these creations, perhaps I am wrong. I sure hope so!

What’s Your Name, Little Girl, What’s Your Name? nonfiction Honorable Mention
by Marilyn Brandt Smith

Title borrowed from lyrics by Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington, for Lynyrd Skynyrd

Were you named after a celebrity? Norma Jean wasn’t named Marilyn when I was born, but Marilyn Monroe was “all that and more” by the time I was in high school and college. I enjoyed the attention because there weren’t many Marilyns, but I had too much Texas in my voice to imitate her “come and get me” soft vocal style.

Names I heard from people my grandmothers’ age included Maud, Myrtle, and Matilda. They wouldn’t be listed among today’s favorite baby names. Way back then, who knew a girl named Madison, Malory, or McKenzie? Melissa and Mandy (okay, Amanda) came along in the generation gap between those two eras.

Songs have always enjoyed playing with names. You have to be careful with some, like in The Name Game recorded by Shirley Ellis if you’re in a crowd of innocent children or picky parents. People are named after products. I know a girl named Harley, and one named Mandolin (or Mandolyn). Their dads either tore up the back roads with their rides or tore up the audience at bluegrass festivals.

Some people think middle names are boring: Ann, Fay, May, Jo, Sue, Lee, etc. I was jealous because I didn’t get one. When we had substitute teachers, we girls loved to tell them our false name during roll call. I was Dorothy, and my best friend was Jonelle. Usually some classmate—or we ourselves—would forget and give it away, but we usually didn’t get in trouble.

I don’t believe guys are as picky about names unless Timmy, Billy, or Gerry are ready for careers in science or opera. Nicknames worked pretty well in politics; Jack, Ted, and Bobby did all right. As Pee Wee and Shorty grow up and start hitting three-pointers and slam dunks, somehow those names get changed.

Parents of some girls don’t seem to think their daughters prefer a classic name I.E. Shelly—not Michelle, or Laurie—not Laura or Lauren. Then there’s Effie. That name comes from a derivation of a Greek name, Euphemia. Maybe Effie is really okay.

I like unusual names. Catholic girls often get three names, one for a saint. I like names that hint at another language, Lashawn. I’d probably spell that one differently—get rid of that W in favor of another letter, and write it as two words. Guadalupe is a nice Spanish name, but it’s easy to mispronounce. In downtown Austin, a street by that name is pronounced Guadaloop. What girl would want that handle?

I’ve always been a reader. In elementary school I read The Girl with Seven Names. This is not the same book as the one from 2015 about a North Korean defector. Mine was a Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume kind of humor for youngsters. The name for the main character was something like Melissa Louisa Amanda Miranda Cynthia Jane Farlow. We would swing in rhythm, chanting that name series in unison in order to get that Doppler effect from passing each other going forward and backward.

Twist the stem off the apple as you count letters and you get your next boyfriend’s—perhaps your husband’s—initial. Find two apples to get first and last name initials. We did the same thing with alphabet pasta and cereal, but after a while that got rather messy.

Would you change your name if you could? Maybe you already have. Compare crazy or new names from today, maybe Dyronda from a shopping channel model, or Ladasha, actually using a dash instead of the “dash” letters. My granddaughter found that one in her high school. Discussions of names make good icebreakers when the conversation lags at a party.

Good Housekeeping and another book purporting to know what’s going on in the naming world claim the following names as most popular girl names today: Lisa, Grace, Cecilia, Scarlet, Deborah, Olivia, Emma, Amelia, Mia, Isabella, and Sophia. Those are not the names I’m hearing for new baby girls today; perhaps I don’t live in the right place. Maybe next time we’ll discuss names of dogs and cats?

Ancestral Rivers, poetry Second Place
by Wesley D. Sims

Memories of the dead hover
like spirits over the beloved
cemetery where two rivers
of ancestors merged and spawned
tributaries branching into
ever more living streams.
Each generation spread like forks
of a giant, multilayered oak tree
whose long, winged shadows
from many outstretched limbs
fell across the astral plane
of this honored place, blessing
the land, hallowing this garden
of vining connections.

When the Sky Is Blue and Gray, poetry
by Wesley D. Sims

The nation is at war with itself.
Half blue, half gray at first,
then colors start to swing
back and forth, warp and swirl,
mix and mingle in chaos
as fortunes shift, as hopes surge,
wane and die and resurrect.

At times the sky grows red
glowing with the blood
of thousands fallen in a day.
Sometimes the sky roils black,
dark with the anger of widows
and mothers of young sons
whose patriotic fervor stripped
their innocence, snuffed out
their lives too soon.

Storms soot the clouds
also with God's wrath
at man's inhumanity heaped upon
their brothers. At last, and years
too late, the sky turns white
with surrender when General Lee
rides his white horse to give
his sword to General Grant,
and the heavens slowly heal
again with a cerulean blanket
spread peacefully overhead.

Lefty, fiction
by Susan Muhlenbeck

Lefty woke up on the morning of May 6 with a splitting headache. His first thought as he stared out the hotel room window into the blinding sunlight was to go back to sleep. Then with a deep sigh, he dragged himself over to the basin and started washing. He still felt the phantom pain where his right arm had been even two years later. His mind was in a fog as he tried to run over what he would tell Doc Adams later that morning.

He staggered outside into the warm Wyoming air. He wasn't going anywhere until he drank several cups of strong coffee. The thought of eating anything made his stomach lurch.

“Sure I can't get you some bacon and eggs?” the restaurant owner asked as he set the steaming coffee on the table.

“Not now,” Lefty yawned, “But I'll probably want plenty to eat when I get back.”

“Where are you off to?”

“To see the gunsmith,” Lefty said, hoping saying the words would make his headache fade. He slurped the hot coffee as he longed to put his head on the table and pass out.

“Is he expecting you?”

“No, oh no, I came a long ways to see him.” He shut his mouth with a snap, not wanting to get into his reasons for hunting Doc Adams down.

The second cup of coffee started to revive him. He practiced his speech in his mind again. He closed his eyes and contemplated what he would do after he gave the former doctor a piece of his mind. Would he kill him or turn around and run out?

“Time will tell,” he said aloud, setting down his mug.

“Excuse me?” the restaurant owner asked, not understanding his remark.

“Never mind,” Lefty said, setting some coins on the counter. “See you later.”

He walked toward the edge of town. The day was already getting hot, but the breeze felt good on his face. He stopped to drink from his cantina several times. He ran into several people on his walk, but most of them ignored him. A few of them stared at him, undoubtedly wondering what happened to his arm. He was glad nobody asked. He would have had to tell them the cold hard truth.

“Your pal the gunsmith did that,” he muttered. “He chopped it right off, right under my nose he did, without trying to save it.”

It was almost noon when he saw the sign that said, “Blue Dome Guns”. He stopped in his tracks. He had been waiting two years for this moment. Now that it was here, he felt surprisingly awkward. He stood there for a full minute before the door opened and a young man strode out, carrying a water pitcher. He stopped to stare at Lefty, who glared back.

“Can I help you?” the young man asked.

“I'm here to see Doc Adams,” Lefty said. “Is he in?”

The young man seemed momentarily confused. “Doc Adams? Oh, you mean George?”

“Yes,” Lefty said impatiently. “Who are you?”

“I'm his helper,” the young man said, shifting from foot to foot. “My name is Charlie. What's your name?”

“You can call me Lefty.”

The boy stared blankly at him for a moment. Then he burst out laughing. “Lefty!” he cried, smacking his forehead. “That's good.”

Lefty managed to crack a smile. “Is your boss in?” he asked again, his expression turning serious.

“Yeah, let me fill the pitcher first. I'll get him for you.”

As the boy disappeared around the corner of the shop, Lefty thought again of what he say to the former doctor turned gunsmith. Lefty still blamed him for the loss of his arm, but could he bring himself to shoot an unarmed blind man? He almost laughed as he thought of the irony of a gunsmith being shot inside his own gunshop.

“I'll get George,” Charlie said, returning with a full pitcher of water. He pushed open the wooden door, which creaked on its hinges and let it slam behind him. Lefty wondered what Charlie was telling George. A sudden feeling of dread settled in his stomach as the door swung open again.

“George said for you to come in,” Charlie said, flicking his long brown hair out of his face. “He's working on something.”

Lefty stepped inside the small shop. He looked around at the various instruments and gun parts strewn on the tables and floor. His gaze fell on the man sitting at one of the tables, holding a bent piece of metal in his hands. As Lefty approached the table, the man he knew as Doc Adams set down the piece of metal and stood up. Lefty thought he had aged a good ten years since he had last seen him. His hair was all gray, and he had worry lines in his face.

“This is Lefty,” Charlie said loudly. “His name is Lefty because his right arm is gone,” he explained to his boss.

“We met before,” Lefty said evenly. “I'm William Andrews. Does that name ring any bells?”

“He can't hear out of his right ear,” Charlie told Lefty. “You have to get on his other side.”

Lefty repeated himself in the former doctor's left ear.

The gunsmith seemed to consider. “It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't quite place it,” he said thoughtfully. “Your voice sounds familiar too.”

“It should sound familiar,” Lefty snapped. “Remember Stoneville, Georgia?”

“Very well,” George said, visibly cringing. “That's where I lost my eyesight and the hearing in one ear when a cannon blew up near the hospital where I was tending the wounded. I left the military after that.”

“So did I,” Lefty said between clenched teeth, balling his hand into a fist. “A musket ball shattered my right arm, and you amputated it. You cut off my arm without even trying to save it.” He was shouting now, feeling the blood pounding in his ears.

George stood his ground while Charlie looked on nervously. “The war took a lot of things, young man,” George finally said in a low voice. “I had to do a lot of amputations, not just yours. In cases like that, the goal is to save the patient's life, not his limbs. If I had not have amputated your arm, gangrene would have set in, and you would have died.”

“He was just trying to help,” Charlie added after a long silence.

“You should have tried to save my arm,” Lefty insisted. “What kind of doctor are you anyway? Give me one good reason I shouldn't shoot you right now.”

“You're not the only one who lost something during the war,” George snapped. “Look at me. I can't be a doctor any more. A lot of men lost their very lives, as you know. Charlie here sustained a bad head injury.”

“It messed up my brain,” Charlie said in wonder. “I have problems thinking sometimes, and I have terrible nightmares.”

“But we escaped with our lives,” George said, “and we have to make the best of it. What have you been doing these last two years?”

“I tried farming,” Lefty said angrily. “It didn't work out. Now I am a gunfighter, a very good one too.”

“A gunfighter?” Charlie asked, awed. “You go around shooting people?”

“Ever thought about settling down?” George asked before Lefty could answer.

“Why would I do that?” Lefty demanded. “I have no reason to stay in one place for long.”

“So you're trying to run from your problems,” George stated, “and not doing a very good job of it.”

“I'm not the one with problems,” Lefty shot back. “It was you who cut off my arm, and now you have to live with it, fool.”

“He saved your life,” Charlie said, putting a placating hand on Lefty's shoulder. “Don't be mad at him.”

“Bitterness doesn't get you anywhere in this life,” George said. “It will eat you alive from the inside out if you allow it. I could have chosen to go down that road myself after the explosion that blinded me, but I chose a different path.”

“He helps me more than I help him,” Charlie chimed in. “If I wasn't his helper, I would be out on the streets because I can't do a lot of jobs like most people. I could be dead if George didn't hire me.”

There was another long silence. “Maybe I should have died from my injuries,” Lefty said.

“But you didn't die,” Charlie said, taking his hand. “Can you teach me how to be a gunfighter? I'm just kidding,” he said seeing the horrified expression on both men's faces. “But you shouldn't think about dying,” he added, not letting go of Lefty's hand. “Your work is not done yet.”

Those words seemed to trigger a reaction in Lefty. He suddenly felt dizzy and light headed. He sank slowly to the floor and put his head between his knees.

“Are you okay?” Charlie asked, patting him on the back.

“I need a minute,” Lefty said in a raspy voice. Your work is not done. He could not get those words out of his head. What could that mean?

“You came here for a reason, and it wasn't to shoot me,” George said. “I think your gun fighting days are over, and your days of running may be over too.”

“That's a good thing, ain't it?” Charlie said, giving Lefty's hand a hard squeeze. “If you keep running, you won't have any friends, and everybody needs friends. George is my friend. Mr. Gray at the hardware store is my friend. Mr. Davis at the saloon is my friend. Riley is my friend.”

“That's his dog,” George explained. His voice sounded very far away.

“He's my best friend,” Charlie said with conviction.

“But what can I do?” Lefty asked with a tremor. “Gun fighting has been my thing for a long time.”

“Mr. Parker, the schoolteacher, needs an assistant,” George said. “The school year is almost over, but maybe you can help him in the fall. He has a school full of unruly pupils he needs help keeping in line, and you can teach them some very important history. Meanwhile, ask around town. I'm sure you can find something to do.”

“And where would I stay?” Lefty asked. “I can't afford to stay in the hotel for very long.”

“You can stay with Charlie and me until you get your act together,” George offered. “We can use help with the cooking and cleaning, can't we, Charlie?”

“Yeah,” Charlie grinned. “It's a small house, but we have just enough room for you. You have to sleep in the parlor,” he added.

Lefty thought about what the two men said. His mind had trouble processing the idea. “Why would you want to help me after I threatened your life?”

“Did you forget that I was a doctor before I became a gunsmith? It's a doctor's job to help people any way he can.”

Lefty was feeling overwhelmed. “I'll think about what you said,” He said in a voice barely above a whisper, “and thank you.”

“Come back later with your stuff, and we'll take you to the house,” George suggested. “We have to get back to work.”

“Right, I'm going to grab some lunch,” Lefty said. “I'll be back in a couple hours.”

“Fair enough,” George said, picking up the piece of metal again.

Lefty pulled himself to his feet and headed for the door. “By, Lefty,” Charlie called as he walked out. “Don't run too far.”

“Thanks, guys, thanks a lot,” Lefty said as the door swung shut on its rusty hinges. He felt a lot lighter than he had when he arrived. It was his heart, he thought as he walked back to the hotel. He was surprised how much his bitterness weighed. Don't mess this up, he told himself as he continued his walk. This could be your last chance to make things right.

The restaurant was crowded. “You're back,” the owner said as he sat down at the last empty table. “What can I get you?”

“Ham and eggs and biscuits and milk,” Lefty said.

“Certainly, give me a few minutes. We're pretty busy as you know.”

“Hey, do you know anywhere around here I can find work?” Lefty asked, “at least for the summer?”

“I can use some help,” the owner said. “When can you start?”

“Tomorrow morning,” Lefty said unable to believe his luck.
“William Andrews is the name.”

“I'm Mark Draper,” the owner said, shaking his hand firmly. “How was your visit with the gunsmith? He is something else, ain't he?”

“Yeah, he and Charlie both. I'm going to be staying with them for a while, just until I get my act together.”

“Well, that's just fine,” Mr. Draper said, heading into the kitchen.

Maybe settling down wouldn't be so bad, Lefty thought. Maybe it would be nice to form some long-term relationships. This town seemed to have some nice people. He was so engrossed in his thoughts he didn't notice a short, gray-haired woman sitting down across from him. “Hello, are you new in town?” she asked, startling him out of his reveree.

“Yes, ma'am,” he said as politely as he could manage. “William Andrews is the name.”

“I'm Mrs. Ramsey, William, my husband and I have the boardinghouse in town.”

“Then I may be wanting to rent a room from you pretty soon.”

“People come and go all the time, so that shouldn't be a problem. If you don't mind my asking, what happened to your arm?”

“Lost it in the war,” Lefty said. He didn't want to tell Mrs. Ramsey his problems.

“We lost one of our boys in the war,” Mrs. Ramsey said, her eyes starting to well up. “A cannon blew up almost right in front of his face.”

“Sorry to hear that, ma'am,” Lefty said. He felt a new emotion worm its way into his heart-shame. He had exchanged his bitterness for shame for feeling the bitterness in the first place. He ordered himself to apologize to himself and Mr. Adams and God for his old attitude. “I'm sure he was very brave,” he added.

“Yes, he sure was,” Mrs. Ramsey said softly, “but let's not talk about that awful war. I just came by to visit my friend Mark.”

“I start working for him tomorrow,” Lefty said, relieved to change the subject.

“Good, it's about time he got some help. I would help him myself if I wasn't so busy with the boardinghouse. Well, here comes your lunch. I'll let you eat in peace, but we'll be seeing you around.”

“Sure thing,” Lefty said, digging into his eggs. “Glad to have met you.”

Back at the gunshop he told George, “This is so weird. I've been so bad, but I feel so good.”

“You must have done a lot of growing up in the last twelve hours,” George asserted. “Well, that's good, glad the war didn't take everything from you.”

Bio: Susan Muhlenbeck was born in Seoul, Korea and spent her first five years there. She lost her sight at the age of two. She was raised in the Midwest and moved to Virginia as a teenager. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and master's degree in rehabilitation counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has worked as a church organist, peer counselor, transcriptionist, phone psychic/Tarot card reader, appointment setter, braille proofreader, dish washer, dispatcher, and debt collector. Her interests include reading, swimming, bargain shopping, and cats. Her books are available on amazon.

The Girls, memoir
by Deborah E. Joyce

Panic stricken, I drove throughout Pine Plains calling out her name, searching fields, houses, playgrounds to no avail. She was gone.

I put signs in local stores, parks, the veterinarian, everywhere I could think of. A few days later, I received a call.

“My name is Dee Smith. Are you the person who lost a collie?”

“Yes”, I replied, my heart pounding with hope.

“I think we saw her – there was a tricolor collie running on 199. We couldn't get near the dog”.

My heart sank. Tiffy was a beautiful sable collie. “Thanks anyway,” I said, almost in tears.

“How could you let her get loose? Don't you have a fence, a leash?” She was getting hostile but she calmed down when I explained to her that I was going through a divorce.

Tiffy was temporarily staying with some people I knew; I couldn't keep her in my apartment. She ran out to follow the son when he went to work, and never came back. Not wanting to ruin my Thanksgiving, they didn't tell me for 3 weeks. They felt they would be able to find her, but after so much time had passed, they felt I had to know. I had visited when I could but lived 45 minutes away. Work, holidays, and general chaos had kept me so busy; I couldn't get out to see her. That alone made me feel really guilty.

Upon hearing this, Dee softened. She had a kennel full of Great Swiss Mountain Dogs, as well as Dachshunds. “Please,” she said, “if you find her, bring her here. My husband and I would be glad to keep her safe for you until you can take her.”

Rejecting my offer of money, she said that good deeds are often returned in kind. Maybe someone would help her daughter, also divorced, with 2 children living in Florida. When we hung up I sent out a prayer. Please Tiff, come home.

Some time passed, and the phone rang again. My girl had been found by a woman in the area. As soon as Tiffy saw me, she perked up and strained to get to me. The woman was so happy for both of us, she said Tiffy was probably trying to come home. Thanking her profusely, I ushered Tiffy into the car. Without thinking, I drove straight to Dee's house in Stanfordville.

Dee and Randy lived on a beautiful piece of property in the country. The house was an old colonial, surrounded by mature trees and all sorts of plants. I could hear dogs barking as I approached the door and knocked gently. Dee opened the door and upon seeing me, gave me a great big smile and a hug. Then she looked at Tiffy. Upon seeing my girl's monstrous coat, she decided Tiffy would have to live indoors. She could stay in their enclosed front porch. It was hard to say goodbye to Tiffy again, but I knew she was in good hands, and I would see her soon.

Three days later, adjustment had to be made. It seemed that Tiffy, with her kind and gentle nature, was being taken advantage of. Dee told me that she watched, as one of her Dachshunds went over to Tiffy as she was eating a milk bone.”

“My rotten Dachshund took that bone right out of that poor dog's mouth and all she did was cry.”

“That's my girl,” I told Dee.

“Well, she's in the house now…”

One of the dachshunds was named Katie. She was so fat, her belly dragged on the ground. Tiffy and Katie formed a strange friendship. When Tiffy would go outside, Katie followed. Dee and Randy were ecstatic. Dachshunds like to run, and they are stubborn, they explained. As Randy put it,” your lungs burst trying to call the darn dog because you waste your breath. They come when they're good and ready.” But now all they had to do was call Tiffy, knowing that Katie would be waddling behind. Tiffy always watched out for her, and Katie would sleep near Tiffy.

Dee, Randy, and I also bonded. We would go to flea markets, garage sales, and out to lunch at local restaurants. Everyone knew Dee and Randy, as they had lived there for over 40 years. People wondered who I was. I was 32 at the time, Dee and Randy were in their late 50s, some people thought I was their daughter.

With the holidays over, I visited weekly. We talked about gardening, and I would play with all the dogs. I would bake a cake or something and we would have coffee. We had a good laugh when Tiffy, not wanting to be ignored, poked my elbow with her nose and sent my coffee flying.

I learned about their struggles and triumphs getting married during the war. Their wedding presents were mostly ration tickets. Dee explaining that she didn't know how to budget them. She spent the tickets on butter, eggs, etc. not realizing that was all they would get for a month. They lived on what Dee called “honeymoon food”- glorified creamed tuna. She was surprised I'd never had creamed tuna and laughed at how much I enjoyed it. I still have her recipe, and think of her fondly when I make it for myself.

Dee taught me how to sew and crochet, although I never got the hang of crocheting. Randy taught me how to refinish furniture. He was an amazing woodworker and craftsman.

Gus was one of my favorite Dachshunds. I would hold him in my lap and rub his belly, and he would pretty much fall asleep. Dee was amazed, saying that Gus normally didn't behave like that. I didn't believe her, until one day A friend dropped by, and Dee told me to put Gus in his kennel. I told her I'd hold him, but she insisted. When their friend came in, I thought the hound of the Baskervilles came with him. There was my Gus snarling, spitting, banging at the cage door trying to get out for all he was worth. It was an amazing transformation. When their friend left, D let Gus out and he came back into my lap, as if nothing happened, and was sound asleep within minutes. Dee said “I told you there were two Gus’s” She said one of the reasons she let Tiffy and I in their lives was Gus. They trusted their animals' instincts…

Finally I bought a house. It was time for Tiffany to come home. Randy also conned me into taking his favorite kitten, Ebony. Tiffy was with me for 7 more years until she passed away from kidney problems. She was almost 13. Dee and Randy cried with me, and it was so lonely without her.

Five months later, Dee was yelling at me again. “If you go to Coxsackie yourself, you'll get the first scrawny Collie puppy you set your eyes on. Randy and I are going with you.”

Sandy Draper's place was gorgeous, the Collies even more so. Everything stopped when, surrounded by puppies, I heard Sandy say “those are breeders' choice.”

What? Sitting on the grass and the pen, trying to pick the puppy out from the myriad bundles of fur, I wasn't really paying attention. Dee explained that the puppies were made available to breeder's first, whatever was left over would be sold to the general public.

Sandy hadn't told me that part. Dee started telling him about Tiffy and their kennel, and the dog shows they had participated in with their Dachshunds throughout the years. They even knew the same judges that Sandy did. Sandy's manner did an abrupt change. Would I be interested in an older puppy?

“How old?” I asked.

“Five months”.

I said I would take a look, but I was disappointed. Sandy disappeared, after sending us up to the house to wait. Wondering what he had in mind, we sat for 45 minutes, sipping iced tea and chatting with his wife. All of a sudden, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Dee followed my gaze, both of us gazing up the hill to see Sandy holding the leash of a beautiful sable collie. Dee and I both burst into tears.

Randy just shook his head and smiled watching the spectacle. Sandy said he had never gotten that kind of reaction from a prospective owner. At the same time, Dee and I blubbered “you don't understand, the dog is the exact copy of our beloved Tiffany.”

Without thinking, I blurted out “what a bonnie lass!” Not a scotch bone in my body, that I know of.

“This is weird, Dee” I said into the phone. “When I brought Bonnie in, I let go of the leash to let her sniff around. Ebony came running down the stairs, took one look at Bonnie, ran over to Bonnie, laid down and stretched out one paw and said ‘meow.’”

I had taken a picture of it. I have many pictures of Bonnie and Ebony curled up together taking a snooze like old friends. They really bonded, and we had a happy home.

Bonnie Lass grew to be a beautiful girl, just as loving and protective as her predecessor.

Three years later, Bonnie was sitting regally in the backseat of my car, as I was unloading donations for the Salvation Army. A woman approached my car, peering inside.” What a beautiful dog! Would you ever want another one?”

Laughing, I said, “No, I have enough trouble with this egomaniac.”

“Well, my daughter works at the animal hospital, and they have a Collie who is slated to be euthanized.”

“What's wrong with the dog? Is it mean? “I asked.

She didn't know.

“Hello, I'm inquiring about a Collie that you have?”

“Yes, we do. But do you know anything about Collies? They are a lot of work, especially with the hair. The dog has had 4 homes already even though she's only a year and ½ old. We are looking for a permanent home for her.”

Dropping Bonnie off at home, I went straight down. She was a beautiful blue Merle who was skinny, because she was lost and scared. A man just brought her in, surrendered her, saying he didn't care what they did with her. They couldn't keep the weight on her, as she was always shaking.

I promised I would return with Bonnie right away. “Let me make sure they will get along, as I don't want any dogfighting to occur.”

As they brought her back to her crate, she slowly went in with her head down. I felt really guilty, but I noticed they took the deathwatch sign off her crate. I returned within the hour.

As I walked through the door with Bonnie on a leash, everyone remarked how beautiful she was. Now, at least, they could see I knew how to take care of a Collie. They had a large fenced in grassy area out back, Bonnie and I waited.

When the Collie was brought out, she seemed hesitant. She perked up a little when she saw me, eyeballing Bonnie a little warily. A few minutes of sniffing and tail wagging found the two of them prancing around together. I said it was a great start, now I wanted to see how they would be at home, because the environment would be different. If that worked out, she had a home.

After hugs and scratches, they waived us out the door, knowing it would be the last time they would ever see her.

“What did you do?” Asked Dee.

I told her I couldn't help it,” You should've seen her”.

“What did you name her?”

“Dee, she's already been through so much, I don't want to change her name too. She cries when the steel dog dishes make noise. Her ears are always down, her tail is always down, and when she is outside, she cringes. I'll keep her name as is.”

Dee asked me what the dog's name was. “Katie.” I replied.

“Oh, Deb! Of all the names in the world… Don't you see? Tiffy and Katie are together again!” I hadn't made that connection.

Katie has decided her spot is right in front of the sink. She'll be there for hours. Bonnie and I sit on the floor with her, scratching her ears and telling her, over and over, that she's okay, that she's loved, and she's home. She slowly came out of her shell after a few weeks. It was a joy to see her tail wagging, sniffing the flowers, and playing with Bonnie in her backyard. Vivacious Bonnie wasted no time getting Katie out of her shell. They all acted like old friends, many times Ebony would speak up and start a chase. Many times, I struggle to find space in my own bed!

The girls and I even volunteered as pet therapists at a local nursing home. I don't know who had more fun, the girls or the residents. They may crowd me out of my bed, but they will never be crowded out of my heart.

Author’s note: I was sighted when I wrote “The Girls” and am totally blind now. I am on the list for a guide dog. I hope the guide dog will live up to the standards of my girls and look forward to the day we meet.

Bio: Deborah E. Joyce is a blind identity theft victim. She has an M.A. in Psychology and a Paralegal certification, both from Marist College, as well as a B.S. in Criminology from U. of Wisconsin. These degrees served her well as she did extensive research for her book, Identity Theft: A Victims Search for Justice, available on amazon.

Finding Solutions, Moving Carnival Rides, memoir
by Maxwell Ivey

I grew up in a family of carnival owners. I also knew that eventually I would lose most if not all of my vision.

My family found ways to involve me in the business. I did menial jobs in my grandmother's cotton candy stand at first. As I got older, I helped set up and take down rides. Eventually, I helped with booking our calendar of events and operating several kids games.

One thing I learned early on is that the carnival business doesn't have any room for self pitty. We knew we would never have all the time, money, or materials we would like; we also knew we had to get open each week. That old saying about the show must go on doesn't just apply to Broadway. Because customers don’t care about the show owner's struggles. All they care about is can they buy a funnel cake, ride the tilt-a-whirl, or win a stuffed animal on Thursday or Friday night.

My upbringing taught me the valuable lesson that there are always solutions available. We just have to recognize them and be willing to implement them, even when we don't like the options available to us. One of my favorite examples of this concerned a time me and my dad had to retrieve a couple of rides from a mud-soaked lot in Shreveport, Louisiana.

We had gone there for a hot air balloon festival. However, a tropical storm came through, flooding the location. We had to leave two of our rides behind, planning to come back for them after the festival grounds had a chance to dry out.

Being visually impaired and a large, strong young man, it was decided that I would accompany my dad to retrieve the rides. The rest of the family continued to set up the midway so that it would be ready to open in the next town.

I loved getting to go with my dad. We both liked the same kind of music. We would sing along with the radio when we could pick up a station. We also talked about life. I learned a lot from him about being a man when riding or working with him. And we almost always stopped for a chocolate milk or Pepsi and some peanut butter crackers.

So, we loaded up in our old pick-up truck and headed off. Honestly, I wasn't sure how we were going to manage it.

The two rides that we left in Shreveport were children's rides, an air plane ride called the rocket sleds, and a play area called the Raiders. The first one was what is called a ground mounted ride. Meaning that it could be disassembled and loaded on to a truck or trailer. The second was trailer mounted, but still had a lot of stuff loaded on to that 28 foot long fifth-wheel trailer. That ride had rope ladders, punching bags, a swinging bridge, and a slide.

When we got there, we discovered the lot wasn't completely dried out. The one trailer was also quite a long way from the entrance to the park. The question was how would we get both of these rides loaded up and return to the Houston area without any help.

The first thing my dad did was buy some sheets of plywood. We would lay these down and back the truck wheels across them. We had two sets of two pieces of plywood. When we got to the end of one set, we would move the other set ahead of where the truck was sitting. Think of playing leap frog but with a truck and long sheets of plywood. We backed that pick-up down into that park eight feet at a time. It was several hundred feet, and it seemed to take hours.

When we got there, the next problem was where would we load everything. We could load the air plane ride on the truck, but then we wouldn't be able to hook up to the play port trailer. If we hooked up to the trailer, then there would be no room for the other kiddie ride.

My dad said that he thought we could load the air planes themselves on to the Raiders trailer. We could, but we soon realized that we would have to load three of them on the upper deck of the trailer. Thankfully, he was also a tall man. This meant that we could lift the planes up on to the top level of the trailer. They were heavy, weighing over 200 pounds each. And we had to reach them way over our heads.

We had another problem. My pants didn’t fitt. Every time I lifted, my pants would fall down. We would set down the plane so I could pull up my pants. When I lifted the plane again, my pants would fall down. Finally, I told my dad, “to heck with my pants, let's just get this thing loaded.” I told him I had on clean underwear, and regardless there was no one around to see. So, after we loaded each plane on the top of that trailer, I pulled up my pants so I could walk over to the next plane. When we were through loading the planes, my dad said, “I know you don't care; but I'm buying you some suspenders the first chance I get.”

We still had the problem of what to do with the center of the rocket sleds ride: the a-frame, the motor, the spindle, and the sweeps. The sweeps are the part that the planes hang from. It was too big to just lift on to the trailer. So, my dad got a wrench. Together we proceeded to take the center completely apart. We strained with nuts that hadn't been removed from their bolts in years.

Once loaded and hooked up to the trailer, we headed back out of the park. Going the same way we had come eight feet at a time on our makeshift driveway.

We managed to get the rides back to Houston in time to get them set up for the event we were working that week. When the family asked my dad how we did it, he just looked at them and grinned. And then he asked one simple question that has always been with me. He said “What, did we have a choice?”

When it comes to solving a problem, the issue is rarely a shortage of solutions. The problem is we don't usually like any of the available options. Quite often success requires being willing to do things we don't like. It can mean doing things that are dirty, greasy, or disgusting. And it can mean doing things that are embarrassing.

As I like to say, “Life ain't the olympics, no one will give you style points; so stop trying to win them. I have done a lot of things in my life in order to keep moving along on my journey.

From carnival owner to online amusement equipment broker to creative entrepreneur. I have always had to think outside of the box. Sometimes I feel like I live outside the box. Once, someone told me Max you are just comfortable being uncomfortable. I told them yes, but it's taken a lot of practice.

Wedding Days, fiction
by DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

“There! You look pretty enough to go on the top of my wedding cake,” Tabby smiled down at her five-year old sister Tina as she finished adjusting the flowered headband holding back the tumble of dark curls flowing down the small girl's back. “Now don't get messed up.” The bedroom door flew open and their mother stood framed in the doorway.

“Tabby! Can you dress yourself?”

“I should be able to manage that, I've been doing it for most of the past twenty years!” said the bride-to-be as she turned toward where the sugar crystal organza dress lay across the twin bed in the room she shared with her flower girl sister.

“Well, I can't!” cried her frazzled mother. “My zipper's stuck and Nina says every time she raises her arms up like she is going to fold back your veil, the snaps on her sleeves pop open and they fall back to her shoulders!”

“Tabby!” cried Tina, “My hoop-skirt hit me in the face when I twied to sit down!”

Tabby turned from where she had been gently extricating the fold of blue satin out of the jammed zipper on the back of her mother's dress. “Mom, look in my little bag there, I have some safety pins you can use to fix Nina's sleeves. Oh! Don't cry Tina. You'll make your pretty brown eyes all red. Here, let me show you how to pick up the back of your hoop so you can sit without it popping up and smacking your nose!” Tabby checked her watch. She really had to get in to the dress and veil pronto! It was almost time for the music to start. She hoped her two grandfathers weren't coming to blows over union stuff and Uncle John hadn't started sampling the keg of beer he insisted on buying for the reception.


The organ played softly and a rich contralto voice began to sing, “Come Saturday Morning, I'm Going Away with My Friend.” As the bride slipped her slender hand through the proffered arm of the distinguished gray haired man at her side, a large black Labrador charged up the aisle trailing a leash and wearing a guide dog harness. She burst in to uncontrolled laughter. “I told you we should have let Tammy be the flower dog or ring bearer!”

Christopher Grant smiled down at Tabitha, the girl he had married fifty years ago. He exchanged a smile with his sister-in-law Tina, as she finished the song and the renewal of vows ceremony dissolved in to laughter tail wags and hugs all round.

Implements of My Youth, poetry
by Ann Chiappetta

I learned to cook prior to food preparation machines and commercial blenders.
We used whisks, hand-crank mixers and potato mashers. I stood on the Romper Room emblazoned stool beside Mom until my little arms tired. I whipped cream, eggs, and sifted flour. I was practicing to be a Suzie Homemaker, don't you know. At nine
I learned to scramble eggs, boil water for macaroni, and help make
meatloaf and meatballs. The serving spoon with the drain holes and the potato masher made the move with us.
Dad's folding carpenter's measuring stick given to him by his father
was the last tool Laid in a reverent place among elderly scrapers, hammers and planers. “Bobby,” said a friend
“your making mistakes, get rid of that thing.” The measuring tape wasn't as fun to play with
and pinched tender fingers more than once. Dad would
release the stop and as if by magic it zipped into the case. And
he would chuckle and say something about The wonders of modern technology.
Then whip out the stubby pencil from behind an ear, mark the wood
and return to work with the hand saw. I pretended the curled papery bits from shaving the wood
that fell like petals onto the shop floor were
secret messages from fairies or a mouse. I put them to my nose and inhaled the fragrances
cedar or pine was the best
Pop gardened and gave me the first taste of fresh mint, Strawberries
warmed and sweetened by the sun. Pickled cucumbers
in jars so big a child's hands could not carry or open them.
My little fingers squeezed Lupini beans from their casings
as directed By the diminutive Italian lady visiting From next-door
and my lips tingled from a bit of afternoon antipasto
confidence tempered by losing a few hands of Casino. I tried
buying Lupini beans and couldn't find them Though I
remember the card game rules and pulpy fragrant Refinements Of the shop
and how attached I am to a few outdated implements
The telltale products of my youth.

BIO of One Brick from Indiana's Jacksonville Grade School (1914-1962), poetry
by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

One brick–
alone and strong,
from a kiln in 1914,
alone and strong,
in my hands,
the cornerstone
of my quill and scroll,
my touchstone
of inspiration,
my birthstone
of memories-
lost …
yes, one milestone lost
in one misstep of a move
from west of the Great Lake
to east.

One brick-
for fifty-eight years,
within my grasp,
within my touch-
Where are you now?
In the midst of a path
for another dreamer,
another writer?

Wherever my brick is-
may it be forever appreciated
as it will ever be
my heartstone
from where writing skills were garnered
and writing dreams were carefully carved.

NOTE: In 1962, the brick was chosen by my dad after our beloved Jacksonville Grade School was unnecessarily demolished. As a memory piece, my dad gave me the brick from Jacksonville Grade School, built in 1914. After my mother and her siblings attended this school, my sister, some cousins, and I were graduates from this two-story schoolhouse which formed the center of our rural Hoosier community from 1914 through 1962. In the final year, the bell rang and called in 88 eager students and four dedicated teachers to the four classrooms in each of which were wooden row desks. Each runner desk had a hole for an inkwell. As each desk was connected to one or two other desks in the row, I have stayed connected to these roots of my rural grade school which I happily called my own from 1956 to 1962. Sadly, somehow, during my move from Milwaukee to Michigan in 2020, the brick was lost and, to this date, never found-except in my memory.

“BIO of One Brick from Indiana's Jacksonville Grade School (1914-1962)” was published on Alice’s WORDWALK blog in August of 2022.

To a Soldier's Mother, poetry
by Gunjan Singh

As I die tomorrow
Go away from you, far, very far
You shouldn't cry on remembering me ever
I am your eternal silhouette.
I emerged from you,
And would exist in your every moment.

Feel my vibrant happiness in the colours of your paintings
My enlightened soul in the ornaments on the Christmas tree.
Do me a favour that each time you see my friends ever
Embrace them and kiss me with kindness oh mother.

Whenever you would walk on the country grounds
I would kiss your feet on every step.
And each time you would salute the hoisted flag
Feel me in the flowing breeze that lifts it up.
Just see my face in the flag oh mother
Without any teardrop but with pride for ever.

Keep me alive whenever you make my favourite pumpkin pudding
Experience me besides you as you recollect my childhood memories.
On looking at the medals and stars hanging inside dad's closet
Promise me that you would never drop down a single tear ever.

There is a significant reason for you to have mothered me in this life
I emerged from you and with you I would be always alive.
My first picture in the military uniform that you always carry in your purse
Oh mom, today hold it again in your embrace.
I may not be in front of you or besides you in body
Mom, I miss you so much, in every single jiffy.

I have never gone away from you in spirit
I will exist inside you till your last breath.
Even after that, in each nook and particle of this nation
Your son would stay immortal with each passing proud moment.

Bio: Gunjan Singh is a late blind female from India. She works professionally as a banker. She pours out her creative instinct in her writings. Her personal struggles with late blindness led her to coach other blind people around her for employment and instruct them about rehabilitation tactics. As she found her way through humanitarian deeds, she was led to her own inner calling. She speaks about spreading awareness about disability, self help and inner growth at a spiritual level for every human being.

Daddy, nonfiction
by Marcia J. Wick

Daddy, Oh Daddy. Where have you gone-the earnest boy who delivered newspapers on his bicycle, the studious student at the top of his class, the young man who navigated a B-24 bomber by the stars?

Daddy, Oh Daddy. You were always there for me-when you taught me to ski, when I climbed my first mountain, when we celebrated our birthdays by jumping out of a perfectly good plane together.

Daddy, Oh Daddy. I'm sorry for the times I let you down-when I smoked cigarettes, when I failed chemistry, when I dated boys who fell short of your high expectations.

Daddy, Oh Daddy. You were so proud of me-when I graduated from college, when I earned my first byline, when I bought my first home.

Daddy, Oh Daddy. Thank you for standing in as a father figure for your grandchildren-when you helped my daughters with homework, when you taught them how to drive, when you assisted their single mother with unpaid bills.

Daddy, Oh Daddy. Thank you for trusting me-when you leaned on me for advice, when you cried on my shoulder, when you held my hand at the end.

Daddy, Oh Daddy. Where have you gone-soaring high in an airplane, commanding the attention of eager learners, skiing and hiking and biking in the clouds?

Daddy, oh Daddy. I hold your heart in my heart-clinging to your words of wisdom, reflecting your joy for living, following faithfully in your footsteps.

Burial Ground, poetry Honorable Mention
by Winslow Parker

Tropic heat weighs on my head and shoulders, a nearly-forgotten sensation.
Sweat courses down my back and chest, soaking shirt and pants.
I rest against a tree, remembering.

Green, green everywhere, but for Gauginesque splotches of tropic flora.
Insects drone, seeking my blood.
A troop of monkeys chatter ten clicks away.
Rotting vegetation, exotic flora, and unidentified scents;
Create a funereal ambiance, appropriate to time and place and purpose.
Unplucked flowers are more fitting than well-designed bouquets.
Twisted ribs and bent rotor blades,
A more fitting coffin Than a flag-draped polished oak casket.

The lone unnatural object, tilted to one side on a broken skid, drips rust icicles.
Small round holes, its death stings,
Leak light like blood;
Grim reminders of unsought enmity.
It is the vehicle of my best friend's death,
Nearly obscured by the lush vegetation of this forgotten, unmarked, unmapped place,
Ten thousand miles from his Indiana home.

He is not here;
He rests in a carefully-mown veterans cemetery, row on row, rank on rank.
Not a single blade out of place;
Too neat, too orderly, too civilized, too spit-and-polish military;
A poke in the eye of real Marines.

It defies symmetry to be buried in such a place,
So distant from the chaos and terror of battle.
It seems far more fitting, far more fitting to be buried here, in this remote place,
No path from here to the nearest village,
Isolated from those whom he was sent to kill;
To rest in this alien soil;
Their soil.

I drop his silver star and my tears into the tangled foliage of the Huey fuselage, honoring and remembering.

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