x   vc

Return to Homepage



Righter Quarterly Review – Fall 2016

Table of Contents


Goblin Tree by Mike Dailey. 4

Fall on a Farm-1942 by E. B. Alston. 5

The Otis Clark house located in Warren County, North Carolina. 9

Red Leaves by Joan Leotta. 11

A Second World War Memoir by Rita Berman. 12

A Forgotten Landscape by Ariana Mangum – Serialized Book. 14

Alaskan Summer by Tim Whealton. 19

It’s Halloween by Mike Dailey. 26

Big Rocks Café by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. 27

Essence of Beauty by Randy Bittle. 30

Lifetime Calendar by Joan Leotta. 30

British Aplomb. 31

Trick or Treat at the New House by Joan Leotta. 37

Autumnal Rapture by Michael Warren. 38

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 39

October Full Moon Party by Joan Leotta. 52

Changes at Sunset Lodge by Marry Williamson. 52

Bridget Bishop by Mike Dailey. 56

Did Columbus Really Do That? by Peggy Ellis. 57

Halloween 2008 by Mike Dailey. 60

Reflections on Consciousness by Randy Bittle. 60

Did You Know?. 62

Dog for Sale. 64

What Stories Could It Tell by Mike Dailey. 65

Fahadi’s Sandals byDiana Goldsmith. 66

Halloween Horror by Sybil Austin Skakle. 68

Flooding by Mike Dailey. 69

Hammer Spade and the Long Shooter – Serialized Book. 70

How Many of These Did You Know?. 76

Interesting stuff here folks. 78

Memories of Another Autumn by Frances Stafford Heath. 79

One of Maxine’s Best!!! 81

Red Theo by E. B. Alston. 82

Parallel Lives by Gerry Freed. 84

The Year of No Leaves by Joan Leotta. 88

Say What! 89

Sonnet by Diana Goldsmith. 96

Sonnet by Marry Williamson. 97

Simplifying Our Alphabet by Dave Whitford. 97

The Green Snake and the Red Broom by Elizabeth Miccio. 98

The Naughty Broom by Elaine Jones. 99

Autumn Sunset by Joan Leotta. 101

Contributors. 101


Editor’s Note


1)     For the first time since 2008, when we started with Righter Magazine, print copies of the summer issue were delivered to subscribers on the first day of the issue month!

2)     The remarkable chicken painting on the cover, Chicken Life was painted by Grace M. Andrews, who is the six-year-old daughter of Christy Andrews and her husband. This little lady has an eye for form and proportion.

3)     Thanks for the beautiful photographs that Betsy Breedlove sends me for every issue.

4)     The touching family pictures that P. L. Almanza sends for the cover.

5)     We thank Selma Tharrington, my cousin Gid’s wife, for the photographs of the Otis Clark House.

6)     We thank Tim Whealton for the Mermaid and Alaska scene on the cover.

7)     We thank Jane Foust for the beautiful Sunset at Beech Mountain on the cover.





Goblin Tree

Mike Dailey


There’s a Goblin tree

I just happened to see

Just as the sun’s going down

I just stopped where I was

Wasn’t scared, just because

I thought it best to go around

The limbs seemed to sway

Like they might block the way

Reaching down just to grab you

And pulling you in

With a tree goblin’s grin

No telling what they might then do

Then I said to myself

That’s no kind Keebler Elf

I swore I saw out on a limb

And I felt no disgrace

As I quickened my pace

Not wanting to get near to him

So I hitched up my pants

Took a sprint runner’s stance

And then ran like a poor frightened kid

With my Halloween goods

I got out of the woods

Not stopping to see what was hid



Part two of my life on a farm

 Fall on a Farm-1942

E. B. Alston


Fall was better in 1942. First, humidity was lower and the heat was not as oppressive. The tobacco harvest was in except for the “tips”, the little leaves on the top of the now almost bare stalks. Cotton bolls were close to opening and the peanuts were almost ready to harvest. Daddy and Kenly were topping corn to provide a kind of hay for the livestock. They cut off the top leaves of the stalk above the corn ears and put them up in shocks. Daddy’s only other source of hay produced by the farm was peanut hay. When the peanuts were thrashed the vines were baled. Peanut hay was high in protein. The horses liked it, the cows not so much.

The tobacco market had been open about three weeks. With the war and all those servicemen needing cigarettes, tobacco was up and daddy was in a good mood. Because daddy was a farmer with two children, he was deferred from the military draft. Our father would not have fared well in the military because he was too stubborn. Uncle Jack said they would either have made pop a general or put him in a stockade.

For me, fall brought school, although I still had to milk a cow in the morning and that afternoon and help with farm work until supper. The rest of the time, I was in class. I was a third grader. Miss Harrison was our teacher. She lived with her parents in Brinkleyville. She taught first, second and third grades. My classmates in third grade were cousins Dorothy Alston, Billy Alston and Joseph Powell. C. W. Tharrington was the only other student. That’s right. My third grade class consisted of five students.

Donald Ray Satterwhite was in second grade with six other students. Cousins, Nancy Lee (Dorothy’s sister) and Wayne (Billy’s brother.) Alston and three others made up first grade. I liked the multiple grades because I could listen to all instructions. Miss Harrison was an excellent teacher and she had zero tolerance for misbehavior.

I believe Miss Harrison would have been pretty except her face was scarred from being badly burned. She never married. 

I liked third grade because I was introduced to arithmetic and we started to read good stories.

Hollister School had grades 1 through 8. Ninth grade students went to Aurelain Springs. My mother’s cousin, Miriam Anna Clark, taught 4th, 5th and 6th grades. I could not get away with anything while I was in her classes. Miss Clark was very pretty and cultured. She grew up in a big ante-bellum home in Warren County, NC, very close to where mama grew up. There was an open-basement room under Miss Harrison’s classroom. It had openings for windows and doors but no windows and doors. The floor was covered with sawdust and there were four swings attached to the ceiling. It was a great place on rainy days.

The rest of the building consisted of a front entrance. A lunch kitchen was on the right. Each class picked up their lunches and ate at their desks. Miss Clark’s classroom entrance was to the right and the 7th and 8th grade classroom was to the left. I don’t remember who taught 7th and 8th grades. A hallway led to Miss Harrison’s classroom in the back.

Believe it or not, Hollister School had an auditorium, with a stage, a curtain and eight rows of fold up auditorium seats. I guess it would seat about 40-50 people. It was pretty fancy, considering the size of the student body. I remember one time a country band from Rocky Mount had a show there. Mama and Daddy went and took me and Paul.

Hollister School did not have indoor plumbing. There was a well with a hand pump out front for water. I think my Dad’s uncle Ivey Crawley donated the pump to the school. Behind the school were two outdoor privies; one for girls and one for boys. Sometimes one of the mean boys would throw something like a baseball or basketball into one of the privies. There was a decent baseball field to the left of the school and another, reduced size field on the right where we played softball, volleyball, hide-and-seek, kick-the-can, and dodgeball. Hide and seek were fun because we could hide in the woods adjacent to the school grounds. There was a small branch in the woods behind the school where us boys could catch tadpoles in the spring. We had freedom to play in the woods so long as we were not late for class. Quite frankly, as far as child recreation, I cannot think of anything I would have changed.  There were occasional fights that the teachers quelled with an iron will. Paddling and spanking were allowed and the principal would use a leather strap if the misbehavior was serious.

Miss Harrison would spank the palms of our hand with a ruler if we misbehaved, or did not pay attention. When my father learned she had spanked my hand, he sent word that I needed my hands to work on his farm, that I had another place she could spank. She smiled when she read his note. She never spanked my hand again.

I have fond memories of my time at Hollister School. I received an excellent basic educational grounding that has stood me in good stead all of these 80+ years. Plus, the friendships that were formed back then are still friends.

Farm work-wise, the worst part of fall was picking cotton. Picking cotton is not difficult and it’s easy to learn how. All you do is pull the cotton out of the bolls. Cotton feels good. It is pretty. My father paid everybody to pick cotton, even my mother. That right there tells us something about cotton picking. A black woman named Mabel was pop’s champion cotton picker. He paid 5¢ a pound and this woman often picked 200 pounds. She made $10.00 a day, with dinner thrown in, at a time when carpenters made $5.00 a day. Normal cotton pickers, like my mom, would pick about 100 pounds. My cousin, Dorothy, could beat 100 every day. Me? I was lucky, and had to work very hard, to get 75 pounds. One pretty Saturday morning, in an attempt to break the 100 mark, I started picking at dawn, picked hard until breakfast, was back at it until noon, had a quick dinner, and picked until sundown. My total: 92 pounds. Mabel picked 207. I gave up after that and I have spent the rest of my life avoiding picking cotton whenever possible.

Pulling corn, which did not pay, was more fun and stacking peanuts was just normal farm work, which did not pay, either.

When the peanut crop was ready to harvest, daddy had a plow that loosened the soil under the peanuts. We would pick up the vines, shake the dirt off and stack them around a short pole. A few weeks later, they would be dry enough to thresh (Separate the peanuts from the vines). My Uncle Fort had a peanut thresher and hay baler. He would come to our farm and set them up. Daddy and Kenly and Uncle Jack would haul the peanut stacks to the thresher. Uncle Fort had a man who fed the vines into the chute. The peanuts would come out the other end and drop into a burlap bag. The peanut hay would be thrown out the back where a men with pitchforks put them into the baler, which squeezed them into bales about a foot and a half square and 5 feet long. The baled were stacked in the field to be hauled to the barn later.

At this time, I was too young to do anything but hand stuff to the adults, but when we grew older, me and Joseph Powell worked with Uncle Fort on his peanut threshing crew. He paid us 50¢ an hour. He would pick us up in his 1941 Dodge pickup.

Halloween was not much of a holiday for us back then, spread out like we were. Nobody had the nerve to do any Halloween tricks on farmers with no sense of humor. Plus, everybody had watchdogs and sneaking up on somebody’s porch undetected was impossible. The pumpkin and witch thing at school was the only “Halloween” thing folks would recognize today.

Thanksgiving was a big deal. There were several reasons. By the end of November, crops had been harvested and either stored or sold. Most of my dad’s brothers quail hunted and opening day of quail season was Thanksgiving. They all hunted morning and afternoon on Ma’s, Daddy’s and Uncle Branch’s farms. There were lots of quail back then.  Dad usually had one bird dog, Uncle Jack always had two, named Bob and Betty. Uncle Fort had four or five and he tried to take all of them on every hunt. My dad and Uncle Jack didn’t like to hunt with Uncle Fort because they didn’t like hunting with a pack.

Back then, we had three Thanksgiving celebrations. Grandma Alston had hers on Thanksgiving Day and, in addition to her nine children and their extended families, she invited her sister, Maude Gupton’s family. It was a huge crowd, feasting on country ham, turkey and fried chicken, country vegetables and every country dessert you could think of.  Thanksgiving supper would be fried quail.

Mama and Daddy had our family Thanksgiving on Saturday. Sometimes Uncle Jack and Aunt Hattie would join us because Daddy and Uncle Jack wanted to hunt.

Mom’s family had their Thanksgiving on Sunday with all of mom’s brothers, sisters and their families in attendance.

Fall was a good part of the year. Christmas was less than a month away.


 This is something I wrote in 2006 that fits in with the period. It was published in Topsail Island Info first and I included it in Telling It Like It Was.

 A Horse Named Flash


 My whole extended family loved horses. From all I heard, grandpa loved horses, too. I never knew my grandfather (Father’s dad) because he died before I was born.

Anyway, when I was about eight years old my father came home from the livestock sale one day with the prettiest plow horse anybody had ever seen. He weighed about fifteen hundred pounds, not huge like dad’s big draft horses, but certainly not a small horse. He had a shiny black coat, a blaze face and four white stocking feet, a long mane and full tail. He looked classy grazing or eating hay. He’d hold his head up in a proud way and look you in the eye like the whole world was his. He was as proud a horse as Secretariat. People driving by would slow down to look at him when he was in the pasture beside the road. 

Mom asked dad why he bought him. We already had four horses: three big plow horses and a smaller horse that was a combination work and riding horse. Dad told mom he bought the new horse to use plowing the garden. He said he told the man selling the horse that he was looking for a horse for plowing the garden and the owner said that this horse was the best “garden horse” he’d ever seen.

You couldn’t plow the garden with just any horse because most horses would step on the vegetable plants. Pop said that Bob, the biggest horse we had at the time, could step on six cabbage plants in two steps. “Garden” horses watched where they put their feet and didn’t step on cultivated plants. I know this sounds farfetched, but there were such horses back then. However, most of them were mares. Actually, dad already had a good garden horse, but she was also his favorite fox hunting horse, (the horse pictured above), and, at the time, he told folks he hated to waste her energy pulling a plow. All this was just an excuse to justify buying a pretty horse that he didn’t need.

The man selling the “garden” horse also told dad he was a “gaited” saddle horse. 

As I said, it was a very pretty horse. The man told dad his name was “Flash.” We would learn later why he was called that.

We lived about a hundred yards from my grandmother’s house and every weekend a fair number of uncles, aunts and cousins would visit my grandmother and most of the time they stopped to visit us because we lived almost in her yard.

Everybody oohed and aahed at pop’s new horse. In retrospect, Flash must have liked the attention because if he saw somebody looking at him, he would strike a pose, looking noble and proud.

A few days later, pop decided to plow the garden with Flash. When he went into the pasture to get Flash, pop was pleased that he was so easy to catch. Flash stood as still as a statue while he was being harnessed. Then dad led him to the plow and backed him up to hitch him to the plow. This went so smoothly, it was eerie because the other horses were not easy to catch, they didn’t cooperate and didn’t like to be harnessed and hitched up to a plow.

After Flash was hitched, pop took the plow lines, slapped Flash on the rump with them and clucked for him to move. Flash didn’t move. Pop slapped him harder and said “git up.” Flash stood as still as a statue. Pop told Kenly, the black boy that helped him, to hit Flash with a coil of rope. Kenly whacked him pretty hard. Flash didn’t move. Pop went to get the whip from the shed. As soon as he was out of sight, Flash took off. 

It was dark when dad brought him home. In the process, the plow had been demolished and all that was left was the tongue. Nobody ever found the rest of it. Dad put Flash put back in the pasture where he still looked pretty, which was apparently all he was capable of.

A week or so later, a friend of dad’s, who lived near Roanoke Rapids, stopped by. He was impressed with Flash and asked about him. The conversation went something like this:

“I bought him to plow the garden with.”

“Man, he is pretty! I need a good garden horse. Sell him to me.”

“I don’t know if I want to. I just got him.”

“You’ve got four now and you told me Silver Spot is a good garden horse.”

“She’s my best fox hunting horse.”

“Heck, it won’t hurt her to do that little bit of work. Sell him to me.”

“Okay, since it’s you. The man that sold him to me said he was a gaited saddle horse, too.”

Dad gave him a price that was $50.00 more than he had paid for Flash.

Pop’s friend gave dad the money and came back the next day on his 1936 Ford one and a half ton truck to get Flash.

He came again the next day.

“I thought you said that dang nag was a good garden plow horse.”

“Naw, I didn’t. I told you that’s what I bought him for.”

Dad’s friend frowned at that remark. “He balked when I hitched him to the plow and when I picked up a tobacco stick, he ran away.”

“He did that when I tried to use him too. Tore up my plow. Took us the rest of the day to catch him.”

“You said he was a gaited saddle horse.”

“I never rode him.”

“Did that feller say he was four or five gaited?”

“Two, I guess.”


My pop broke out laughing, “Yeah, two. Balking and running away.”

Pop’s friend gave my dad a pained look at that little bit of humor.

A week or two later I was with my dad when he went to see if his friend was still mad about the horse.  We didn’t see Flash anywhere in the pasture.

“Where’s Flash?” pop asked when his friend came out on the porch.

“Sold him.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, a feller from Scotland Neck stopped to look at him and told me he was looking for a horse to plow his garden with. I said that’s what I bought him for. I got $50.00 more than I paid you for him.”

“Has he come back?”

“Not yet.”

“I got $50.00 more from you, too,” pop confessed.

“Maybe one of us ought to buy him back,” pop’s friend suggested.


“At this rate, he’ll be worth a thousand by the end of the year.”


Happy Thanksgiving,

Gene Alston


 The Bible According to Children

 “In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, God got tired of creating the world so He took the Sabbath off. Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark. Noah built an Ark, which the animals came to in pears, Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night.” Richard Lederer

The Otis Clark house located in Warren County, North Carolina.


clark hous3.JPG

  This was my maternal grandmother, Zelma Clark Benson’s birthplace. Otis Clark was her brother.

Clark House5.JPG


There was a basement at the rear of the house and it had built-in whitewashed furniture where the family spent hot summer evenings.


Clark House6.JPG

This is the old kitchen behind the house. It had a huge fireplace and hardware for holding pots over the fire. Houses back then had detached kitchens. If the kitchen burned down, the family still had a place to sleep.



Red Leaves

Joan Leotta


I think what I miss most

living in the south

by the sea

are the red leaves.

Deep red.

Here, by the ocean

in the south

seasons slide slowly

one into the other.

No sharp divides

in a language of soft

consonants and drawled vowels


 A Second World War Memoir

Rita Berman


Rita Berman’s latest book Parallel Livess came out in July, published by  Righter Books..  This preview is for readers of the Righter Quarterly Review. 


9781535505239_cover.jpgMy book Parallel Lives is a personal history and collection of stories that started with a previously published memoir in the Spring edition of the Righter Quarter Review.

In response to the memoir, about my father Louis Castleman being conscripted into the Army while we were living in London during the Blitz, my cousin Gerry Freed wrote about his experiences as a child during the War.  He in turn had me soliciting stories from my other cousins.  

After the declaration of war there was a period that became known as the “Phony War” that lasted about six months when no enemy action took place.   Fearful of the unknown the English government began to prepare for a German attack. Because the city of London might be a prime target it was decided that in order to protect children they should be sent away to parts of the country that were safe areas.  Children as young as five or six were relocated to stay with strangers.  The intentions were good but traumatic for the children and their parents.   

In the beginning some children sailed to Canada, and for a while that was to be my destiny along with my brother. We had cousins on my father’s side of the family who had already gone to Canada and the report was they were happy there. But they were older than me, these boy cousins.  However, on learning that one of the Red Cross ships was bombed and children lost their lives my mother’s fear kept us in London.

I remember hearing the first air-raid siren.  I’m unsure as to whether it was a practice run or German planes were on their way, but it was an awful wailing noise. I have the impression that my mother was standing at the top of the stairs holding my brother when the siren sounded. We rushed out into the street to go to a public shelter.  In the confusion my mother was still carrying my brother while I and my baby sister ran alongside of her.  

After the German planes dropped bombs on London in earnest people began to get used to hearing the air raid siren followed by the sound of anti-aircraft guns. Some areas, like the underground stations were designated as bomb shelters.

In order to save lives the British government supplied shelters for the civilian population. There were two types - one called an Anderson shelter that was designed to be put in the garden and the other an indoor Morrison shelter, was built as a large cage with a metal top intended to be placed inside the house. Crouching or lying down inside the cage the occupant would thus be protected from bricks and debris falling down.  In some houses the dining table would have to be removed to accommodate the Morrison shelter.


Building a shelter


My parents decided they didn’t want the Morrison shelter and it was agreed that an Anderson shelter would be put next door in my grandparents’ garden and all of us would go into it when the siren went. There was already a   door in the fence that separated our back gardens and so we had easy access.

Several of my uncles dug a large hole for the shelter.  The top had a curved metal roof, like an arch. The shelter roof had to be strengthened by covering it with various materials like earth and small rocks. So my uncles looked around for all sorts of containers in which to pack the earth and my dolls house was taken.

It was only an orange crate that my mother had turned into a dolls house for me. It had just two rooms. My mother had covered the walls with scraps of wall paper and glued linoleum tile on the floor of the house, so it looked like wood.  On the outside she had nailed some wire and made some little curtains that hung from this.  Small items of doll furniture were inside, some of them, like a chest of drawers, were made from matchboxes glued together and covered with wallpaper.  It was all very simply done and I liked playing with it. But to my uncles in war time it was a wooden container that they needed. 

After hearing the siren my mother would take the three of us children into the Anderson shelter. Inside were four small bunks, narrower than a single bed.  We had to step down into the shelter and I don’t recall it having a door, but possibly it had a wooden shield that was placed in the opening once everyone was in the shelter.  We used flashlights for there was no electricity, no air conditioning.

On some nights there may have been 6 or more people in the shelter. We children were small so were probably put on the top bunks. The others sat crouched on the bottom bunks. It was dark, no fresh air, a group of people in a confined space at night waiting for the unknown.  Eventually, after some hours, maybe towards dawn, the all-clear siren was sounded and we left the shelter and returned home.     

This went on for weeks until my mother said she was fed up with spending the night in the uncomfortable shelter. So, instead of leaving our house when the siren sounded, we took blankets and pillows and hid under the side-board and dining table. This was a large mahogany table that could seat 14 people with the leaves opened. Looking back I can understand my mothers’ fatalistic attitude. If we get bombed and we die, at least we die in our house. At the time being a child I just did what my mother told me to do.

My family stayed in London all during 1940 when the bombing was incessant as the Germans tried to crush England along with Europe. The wave of planes continued for 57 consecutive nights, and that period was known as the “Blitz”. Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament suffered damage as well as the ordinary homes.  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to the East End to see the bombing destruction for themselves. In addition to bombs we were subjected to incendiaries and explosives. Later reports said that more civilians were killed than died in active service during that time. But the spirit of the Londoners remained high.

We got used to seeing barrage balloons floating up in the sky. These were used to prevent enemy aircraft from flying too low. My cousin Edward Goldsmith remembers sleeping overnight in our grandparents’ house on Terrace Road and waking one morning to see a huge grey shape outside the window. It was a barrage balloon which had winched down near the ground, perhaps to be re-inflated he said.

The sound of the ack-ack guns (anti-aircraft) was similar to thunder and later when I was an adult and heard thunder I would sometimes get a flash back. Everyone was issued a gas mark, in a cardboard box with a shoulder strap. Signs were posted on hoardings, buses, and trains warning people to be careful what they said, spies might be amongst us. I remember one was “Loose Lips Sinks Ship.” Another, seen on trains was “Careless talk cost lives.” 

In the early days of the war, my father, like many civilians became a member of the Home Guard.  This required him to go out in the night after the siren had sounded and stand in the street, or on the roof of a building, and watch where the German planes dropped their bombs.  He then reported this to the fire department.




AFL Cover.jpgA Forgotten Landscape

Ariana Mangum

 Chapter 73

A Day to Remember

One Saturday shortly before Thanksgiving, I planned to drive into town with the Houghtons. We wanted to start our Christmas shopping, ‘ and I needed to find a birthday gift for my mother. On Mr. Houghton’s radio that morning Polly Dafferine, the fashion consultant for the, Richmond station, came wafting over the air waves with her high-pitched  voice. 

“Today’s a perfect time to shop because the stores are having linen sales. Everything for your bathroom and bedroom is a fourth off. You shall find downtown Richmond very exciting. I would like to recommend Miller and Rhoads’ tea room and Thalhimer’s Virginia foods counter as delightful places to each lunch.”

Mr. Houghton turned off the radio.

“That woman annoys me. If she isn’t diving into your pocket promoting sales, she is describing those awful clothes with the padded shoulders. I think women would look like football players in some of these new styles.”

“Come on, Harry, Doc and I want to go downtown early. I need to replace my towels. I have had to cut most of ours in half, because they’re worn out in the middle. Now even these are wearing thin. Perhaps if we leave early, we can avoid the crowds.” 

“You want me to take you all the way to Miller and Rhoads?” asked Mr. Houghton, horrified by this prospect. “I hate to drive in the city.”

“Yes, and we plan to shop at Thalhimer’s too,” I replied. “We shall

. need at least two hours to spend in each store.” 

Mr. Houghton walked out of the kitchen. Undaunted, his wife made out a shopping list and gathered up her library books. A whole day in Richmond to browse through the shops seemed to us a royal affair... But it took’endless, preparation. Recently we had found the stores a disappointment because goods were scarce and the quality was often poor. 

Sheets had become almost nonexistent. Ours were mostly cut down the middle, the worn sides turned out, and the centers resewn with French seams. Although these ridges could sometimes be uncomfortable to sleep on, we still managed to have plenty of muslin and percale sheets. I had heard recently on the radio, that at a sale in a Washington store several women had actually fought with each other over towels and sheets. I could not believe that adults would act in such a childish manner.

Other items we found scarce-included men’s white shirts, stockings, and bath towels. Silk stockings had become impossible to buy, and in winter most ladies wore cotton ones. Shoes, except those with no style, came’ in sizes either too big or too small. Carefully I polished my brown oxfords every night for school the next morning. My Sunday shoes I kept in their own special box, so they would not get scuffed.           

Finally, by nine o’clock everyone was ready, and we started out for Richmond in Mr. Houghton’s old car.. I could hardly contain my excitement. In my purse I carried twenty dollars, an enormous sum. As we drove through the suburbs down Cary Street Road, I observed Mr. Houghton appeared nervous.                          ‘.

“I have decided,” he told his wife, “to leave the car at Gregory’s garage and let him repair my tail light. So you and Doc must ride the trolley car downtown.”

Mrs. Houghton looked disappointedb but she said nothing. The prospect of a day in Richmond was far too exciting to spoil.

“Then leave us off on Grove Avenue. I find the trolley quite convenient, because it stops right in front of the big stores,” Mrs. Houghton smiled. “And Doc loves riding it down Broad Street.”

“How exciting. It’ll be great fun,” I agreed, scrambling out of the front seat as Mr. Houghton brought his car to a stop against the curb.

“We’ll meet you at Dot’s, Pastry on Cary Street around four o’clock,” his wife reminded him and we waved goodbye.                                                 

The trolley car ran down the center of Grove Avenue, an exceedingly practical mode of travel. For one nickel I could ride from Richmond College (located just outside of the city limits) all the way downtown to Fourteenth and Main Streets. Here the saddle shop was located. I loved swaying back and forth in the middle of the street and looking down into other people’s cars. I could just peek in and see what they were up to. Although I knew this practice was sneaky, I loved doing it just the same. Riding on the trolley car added to my day’s pleasure. Nor did we have to wait. In a few minutes a long yellow car came clattering down the tracks towards us.

After stepping up and allowing my nickel to slide down into the money box, I selected a seat next to the window. Mrs. Houghton joined me, settled herself and placed her shopping bag,-containing the library books, on her lap. Then the trolley car glided down the rails towards town.

We decided to get out at First and Broad Streets and walk across -to the main public library in order to return the books.. After tip toeing around the big reading room, Mrs. Houghton selected several biographies and a new novel. Still speaking in whispers, we checked the books out and reentered die bright fall sunshine. We walked the five blocks in the crisp, bracing air down to Miller and Rhoads. Along the way, I noticed several shop windows looked bare of merchandise and instead displayed a large poster telling us “Buy War Bonds.”

“When we reach Miller and Rhoads, I wish to go down to the basement first,” Mrs. Houghton planned our method of attack, “because that’s where the sheets and towels are on sale. Then we shall come back up to the first floor and look for a pair of gloves for your mother’s birthday.”

      Since it was still early as we entered the store, Miller and Rhoads appeared almost empty of customers. We passed through the men’s department and walked back to the elevators. When we reached the basement and the girl who ran the elevator opened the door, I clutched at Mrs. Houghton’s arm. Before us stood a crowd of about fifty women who surrounded a counter heaped high with sheets and towels. Several of these shoppers pushed their way through and grabbed at the linens as if they were the last ones on earth. I saw a sales lady brace herself against the counter, her face ashen, as if she were going to faint. In vain, an elderly floorwalker tried to stop the pushing, shoving women.

“Ladies, ladies,” he pleaded hopelessly. But no one paid him the a slightest attention..                     

Then three other sales people, from different departments, converged upon the towel counter. But they, too, were almost knocked down as the excited shoppers continued to snatch up everything in sight. Mrs. Houghton and I stood rooted to the floor in front of the elevator and watched this spectacle in horror. Finally a bell rang over our heads, and two policemen arrived on the scene.’ Still the women fought with’each other, pulling the towels and jerking at the sheets. I heard ominous ripping sounds and found several tom sheets on the floor in a heap in front of  me.    

“Round everyone up,” shouted the security officer, “and bring5 them down to the office.”

I felt a heavy hand upon my shoulder, My heart raced with terror as Mrs. Houghton and I were escorted from the elevator, through the underwear department, and into a waiting room.

“Sit over there, miss and be quiet,” the plainclothes detective commanded as Mrs. Houghton tried to explain, “Sit down please, you’ll get your chance.”

Rushing to and fro the security officers brought more customers into the waiting room, and confiscated their towels and sheets. Then a large, burly man slammed and locked the door. Mrs. Houghton took my hand in hers, and held it gently.

“Quiet!” shouted the security officer over the excited voices of fifty women. “Never in all my thirty years of experience have I seen anything equal to this!”   

I regarded him squarely because I had done nothing. I could not imagine how we could ever explain this to Mother. Being arrested and locked up in an office with fifty screaming women was hardly the behaviour she expected of me.

“You shall be taken into the office and interviewed one by one.”

I shivered at the prospect of facing the store detective. “Then you will return all of your merchandise and leave the store!” The burly officer sounded ominous. “You,” he addressed me, “You’re nothing but a kid, you’ve got no business in this kind of fracas.”

I cringed against Mrs. Houghton’s shoulder and tried to reply. “Sir,” I addressed the officer, “Sir.”

“Never mind, Doc,” Mrs. Houghton shook her head,  I’ll explain.” Finally, our turn came to enter the office. The detective behind the desk regarded us with open hostility. He had spent most of the last two hours interviewing tearful women, who had given him various explanations for their conduct. 

“I won’t listen to any more excuses,” he snorted at us.

“Please allow me to explain,” Mrs. Houghton said calmly. “We have no towels or other parcels. We had just stepped off the elevator when we were confronted by chaos. We were unable to move in any direction because of the crowds of shoppers, and sheets scattered on the floor. We both felt terribly frightened and greatly relieved when you arrived. Neither this young girl nor I have anything except library books.” Mrs. Houghton, offered the detective, her shopping bag. Unceremoniously he dumped the books out onto his desk. When he looked up at us, I thought he seemed disappointed. ,    

“I expect that you shall now tell me you are not from Richmond─ like most of those other women, who insisted they came from Waverly or Ashland or as far away as Fredericksburg. If this ever got out to the newspapers, many reputations would be ruined.”                                                                                                      

“I am not even a Virginian,” I watched Mrs. Houghton pick up the books and replace them in her shopping bag.«“I come from England.” “Now I’ve heard everything,” the detective laughed unpleasantly. Then he studied us intently before he inquired, “What language do you speak there?”

A look of disbelief crossed Mrs. Houghton’s face. She opened her mouth to reply, and then closed it again. The detective wrote something down on his pad.

“Why English, of course,” Mrs. Houghton finally regained her voice. “At least I don’t talk like a Virginian with a plum in my mouth!” Without saying another word she turned on her heel, and with me in tow, left the office. The next instant we marched through the waiting room, past the burly officer and out of the door. Nor did we stop until after we caught an express elevator and arrived at the fifth floor.

“We shall forget about the shopping just now,” Mrs. Houghton explained, appearing quite breathless, “until after we both are revived by a cup of hot tea.”


Chapter 74

Fool’s Faces


December 1943


The next day the paper showed a photograph of the women in Miller and Rhoad’s pulling the sheets to pieces. In the corner hardly recogniz­able I stood in my best coat and hat. Mrs. Carthage telephoned before church to tell Mrs. Houghton my picture was on the front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch.

I am sure you are mistaken, Alvira,” Mrs. Houghton told her. “Doc doesn’t shop for linens.”

“Oh, boy,” I said when Mrs. Houghton put down the phone, “I’m in for it now.” 

“Fools’ names and fools’ faces generally end up in public places,” Mr. Houghton reminded me. “It will be all over Richmond that you were arrested. Just let Alvira get a hold of it.”

“I simply can’t go to church and face that crowd all asking me ques­tions,” I told them. “How can I ever face them again?”

“That’s just what you must do; go to church and pretend it didn’t happen, or else everyone will know it did. You will be accused of hiding because you are guilty,” Mrs. Houghton sent me into my bedroom to dress.          

Tears stained my face as I put on my best dress and shoes. I selected a jacket rather than my good coat and put on my last year’s hat. I thought it looked rather nice and masked the tears.

Ten minutes later Mr. Houghton let us out of the car in front of the church.         

“Now, dear,” Mrs. Houghton whispered, “we shall deny you were there. The picture only shows half of you and anyway, newsprint makes your face unclear.”

“But Mrs. Carthage will tell the world I was there, and Mother will know I’ve been arrested,” I replied, speaking in an undertone.

We got away with it on Sunday, but Monday evening at the store Ethel told me she’d seen us at Miller and Rhoad’s Tea Room on Saturday when she went into town with her sister.

“I saw you, Doc,” she said, “all dressed up in a brown coat and hat looking ever so smart ─ like that girl on the front page of the paper.”

Ethel’s remark made my heart leap into my throat and do flip-flops. I could not tell her a lie, she was slow-witted and very trusting. I always’ told her the truth

“Yes, Mrs. Houghton and I had walked down from the library and were dying for a cup of tea,” I replied. “We went into the Tea Room before we did our shopping.” 

“Sister was buying some china and I saw you going past us off the elevator.” Ethel confirmed her belief it was us she saw.                                  

“We were trying to shop for Christmas.” I felt relieved she hadn’t seen us in the basement.

“That young girl on the front page of the paper, is that you?” Ethel came from behind the counter with the newspaper in hand. “Is that your picture?”

I looked around. No one else was in the store except us. Mrs. Henley was outside pumping gas and Arthur Henley was in the feed room. I stood between a pickle and a hard place. I didn’t know what to say: I couldn’t lie to her out of honor, and also because she was simple and trusting. Yet she must not tell her suspicions to anyone or I’d be in terrible trouble for years.  

“Ethel,” I drew her aside, “can you keep a secret?

“I love secrets,” she confided, “what is it?”

I hesitated a minute collecting my thoughts. I decided to tell her the truth straight out, no curves, no evasions.                                   

“Well, you see that is I in the picture, but my mother would skin me if she found out. Mrs. Carthage already called us yesterday about it. If she finds out that picture was of me she’d spread it all over Goochland and Richmond too in five seconds,” I whispered. “Please, please don’t breathe a word or I’ll be in trouble for the rest of my life.”

“For the rest of your life?”  Ethel drew me closer to her.

“Yes, Ethel, for my entire life I’d hear about it.”

“Were you arrested?” she asked in a whisper.

“No, just questioned. The security guard found out that Mrs. Houghton and I were not suspicious characters. He let us go,” I told her.

“I won’t tell a soul. It will be our secret,” Ethel promised. “Now let me fix you a double decker cone.”

As I handed her a dime I knew my secret was safe.

At school, I was again questioned about the photograph in the news­paper. I realized our Headmistress would be very disappointed in my deportment if she knew I had been with those screaming women tearing ,up sheets in Miller and Rhoad’s basement. I didn’t want Mrs. Houghton to be questioned either about how she was bringing me up.

“Doc,” said Mary Ann, “I know that picture is of you. Were you really taken into custody by the police?”

“How could you ever think such a thing?” I demanded. “I am not a criminal.”

“You could have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. What really happened?” she needled me.                                                       

“Mary Ann,”‘I told her, “I love you dearly, and I consider you my very best friend, but I can’t utter a single word about this incident. Mrs.Houghton must never come under suspicion, and my Mother would kill me dead on the spot if she even heard a whisper of it.”

“Since when do you buy sheets?”

“I don’t. I’ve never bought a sheet in my entire life,” I replied and walked away.

“Not so fast; wait a minute,” Mary Ann caught up with me. “I prom­ise I won’t breathe a single word, but I know what happened because my mother saw you.”

“Look, Virginian’s push unpleasant things under the carpet. Just leave it lay where Jesus flung it,” I pleaded.

Mary Ann agreed.




Alaskan Summer

Tim Whealton


(Editor’s Note: This has some gorgeous photographs and we did not want to resize them to fit the page. We left them full size and moved them to the end of the piece.)


With some of my grandchildren living in Alaska I am obligated to go and make sure they are ok. Funny that I happened to schedule my trip during the salmon run. Alaskan summers are short so they have to pack in a lot of activities. Even though the season is short, the days are long so that helps. Mid-summer sunrise is 4am and sunset is 1130pm. Good thing they don’t work in tobacco up there!

Since most of Alaskan terrain is hilly, I decided to try and improve my physical conditioning before the trip. 50 miles a week isn’t much to a cyclist but if you’re 65 and 230 pounds in July it seems like it. A few days before the trip, I was riding after work and I came upon a group of 10 year olds throwing a football. I heard one yell to the others “Stop! You’re going to knock that old  fu#*er off his bike.” I looked around to see who they talking about but I was the only one on a bike. I guess at 65 you just have to accept it. Seems like I remember a bible story where the kids were picking on an old preacher and a bear ate them.

I didn’t have to travel alone this trip. My wife Rhonda came with me to see Alaska for the first time. When you look back on your best times it will usually be you and one other person. Rhonda makes me feel sorry for people that don’t have anyone fun in their life. She is also the best person in the world with kids. Especially my 7 year old granddaughter Arabella. Arabella can wear one person down even when the sun goes down at 5pm much less midnight.

Our flight to Alaska went well but it is always long. We got up at 3am and got to Alaska around 5pm, don’t forget we pushed our clock back 4 hours. In spite of a long day we were happy to see the family. My son in law James had grilled caribou burgers for supper. You really couldn’t tell it from quality beef. After eating, we spent some time getting to know the new addition to the family, Fred Paul. He is a mix breed with a great friendly personality. Filling the belly made the eyes heavy and the first day was well spent.

When I got up the next morning, I realized how much things had changed since my trip in March. Everything had exploded in green. Vegetation growth, blooms and fruit was everywhere. The temperature was high 60s and low in the mid-50s. It really seemed like NC on a crisp October day. It was the rainy season in Alaska but we would call it drizzle season. They rarely have rain like we do. We all seemed to disregard the drizzle and enjoyed not being wet with sweat.

We went sightseeing for the first couple days. We visited an old gold mine and looked at how the miners lived and worked. Talk about a rough life! 16 hour days in bad conditions. We stopped and panned for gold and picked wild blueberries on the way back. This family that spent the last 20 years living on Ocracoke has certainly changed.

My daughter Susan said “Before we tried to get stuff, now we try to do stuff. It is a better life.”

In between the trips to see old mines, farms and waterfalls, we made lots of stops for shopping at Fred Meyers, Walmart and my favorite grocery store, 3 Bears. Imagine a grocery store that has 100 guns in stock and a full line of Berger bullets. They even have Browning boots and camouflage bikinis. 

Finally, it is the weekend and time for family fishing. We headed to Montana creek to meet our guide. Jeff happens to be Susan’s boss and lucky for us a real fishing fanatic. We slipped into our new waders we bought at 3 Bears and Jeff gave us a short lesson on how to hook a salmon on a fly rod. The fish are huge and swimming upstream in swift water to spawn. The fish don’t eat when they are spawning but they swim with their mouths open. Once you figure out the technique it is easy to get a hookup. You just cast out your line and let it drift back into their open mouths. Once you set the hook it’s a big fight. They were 8 to 12 pounds and very lively on a fly rod.

Some of the most fun was giving the onlookers a chance to land a fish. People were stopping by that were travelling and saw us fishing. If they had kids we would hook up a fish and hand them the rod to land the fish. It was nice to see a kid with something other than a phone or Gameboy in their hand. We kept some of the Salmon for supper. We thought we didn’t cook them correctly but a local told me they were pink salmon and they used them for dog food. Evidently the bears think the same way because we kept seeing fish drift by missing the heads. Jeff said the bears only eat the eggs after they bite off the head. We didn’t see any bears. Still to be on the safe side I tried to stay close to people that I could outrun in case one showed up. It is getting harder to find people like that!

The next day we went to a beautiful lake so our mermaid can swim. It was too cool for all but the most determined.  Arabella definitely falls in the category of determined. She had a new mermaid outfit and I think she would have gone in ice water. The lake was one of the most beautiful mountain lakes I have ever seen. It is also the drinking water for the town of Anchorage. They had found a kayaker lodged in the intake pipe last month. He had been missing for a month. I have never been a fan of city water!

Our next excursion included a stop at the skating rink to see Arabella skate. It seems odd that the little girl from Ocracoke would be on ice. The outside rink that we used in March is now a parking lot. Inside we find group of children and some adults moving effortlessly across the ice. Grandad made the right decision and sat this one out in the bleachers.

The next day we went to Anchorage. We were seeking the outside market. It is a collection of small vendors in tents. Lots of souvenirs, t-shirts and food. We tried halibut and Vietnamese BBQ. Everything I tried was good. After the market we went to a movie about the Alaskan earthquake of 1964. The independent spirit of the Alaskan made the difference in their recovery. Alaskan people obviously know how to take care of their selves. Then it was supper at Golden Corral in Anchorage. Eskimos can eat a lot of food!

The last day was filled with making more yeast rolls, enjoying family and riding Jamie’s bike. I didn’t realize how important brakes are in Alaska till I started downhill. You wonder why one bicycle cost more than another that looks almost the same. If you get over 30 mph you will find out. Luckily the road was clear at the bottom of the hill. I got reminded to check my equipment before I ride. After riding back uphill it was time to take Arabella swimming. We went to the city pool in Palmer Alaska. No tanned swimmers in the Alaska pool. It was like watching marshmallows bobbing in the water. The high school diving team was practicing at the deep end. I don’t remember diving at school when I went unless I jumped off the Neuse River bridge on the way home.

Flying home proved to be an adventure in itself. Delta computers had failed two days earlier and flights were backed up. We were told we couldn’t get to New Bern for a couple days. When we asked if they could fly us into Greenville they said yes and changed our flight. You know how you get a creepy feeling that something isn’t right? That feeling hit when we were over Wyoming. It was then that I realized our change was taking us to Greenville, South Carolina. No way to call on the plane so I had to wait till we landed at 7pm in Atlanta. Luckily we go a ticket to Jacksonville and my daughter came a picked us up. We finally got home at 2am. Not bad for me, but poor Rhonda had to get up at 6am and go to work. It was another great trip.



Alaska summer1.jpg

Figure 1Fred Paul


alaska summer3red.jpg


Figure 2-Panning for gold! We found some but decided to not stake a claim.

alaska summer2red.jpg

Figure 3Vegtables grow huge and fast in Alaska


alaska summer4red.jpg

Figure 4 It’s all in the technique!

alaska summer5red.jpg

Figure 5 Jamie holding up our stringer


alaska summer6red.jpg

Figure 6 Pristine!

alaska summer7red.jpg

Figure 7 A real Alaskan mermaid


alaska summer8red.jpg

Figure 8 The mermaid on ice

alaska summer9red.jpg

Figure 9 Not everyday you get to walk on a glacier!

It’s Halloween

Mike Dailey


When the moon can be seen

And betwixt and between

A shadowy figure floats by

And the kids hear the scream

From something unseen

And they fear it’s a wild banshee’s cry


You act surprised

As the kids in disguise

Go door to door on your street

You hand out M&Ms

To each ghoul and his friends

When they call out to you “Trick or Treat”


And then late that night

When you’ve turned out their light

The real monster finally strikes

While the kids are all sleeping

Into their room it’s creeping

To steal all the candy it likes


And the morale of the story

Perhaps in allegory

Disregarding everything that’s said

It comes each Halloween

And often leaves unseen

That not all monsters live beneath their bed


Goblins, scarecrows, kids in sheets

Knocking on my door for treats

Begging for unhealthy sweets

I guess it’s Halloween





A faithful friend is the medicine of life.”

Ecclesiastes 6:16

Big Rocks Cafe

Elizabeth Silance Ballard


The sign said “Big Rocks Cafe” and those who didn’t know any better, those who were first-timers or who had just stopped in to ask directions, thought it was named for the two thirty pound rocks perched precariously on a shelf over the outdated cash register.

“Came from the North Pole.  These rocks are always cold,” they were told upon inquiry.  “Carried them in my sea bag all the way.  Feel.  They’re cold, just like I told you.”

Patrons would carefully reach up high to rub the gray cold hardness and ponder the pink streaks circling the rocks.  They were eye-catchers all right, but actually the café was named for Rockford K. Lancaster, the owner, a hulk of a man who stood six foot four and who was generally known as Big Rock.

“Just couldn’t think of a real name for the place,” he would say by way of explanation.

“But why don’t you put an apostrophe on your sign?”  Someone once asked him, someone not from the neighborhood.

“Everybody knows this is Big Rock’s place and that I’m Big Rock.”

And that was that.  Big Rock was not a man who was concerned with trifles like apostrophes and it was true that everybody--at least everybody in Big Rock’s world, which was that six-block area of the city called Pine Ridge--knew who Big Rock was and where his place was.

Some said Big Rock had been a cook in the Navy back in World War II but no one really knew for sure because Big Rock never talked about himself. He spent his days listening to his customers talk about their lives, laughing at their jokes and patting their backs (literally and figuratively) when they were down on their luck.  When the focus turned to Big Rock, when someone asked a question about his life outside the cafe, Big Rock conveniently remembered something that needed doing in the kitchen.

Big Rock was comfortable with the man he had become and the life he had made for himself.  His days and his customers were predictable and he liked that.  Most of his day customers were people who still worked in the deteriorating neighborhood, whose employers were not prosperous or ambitious enough to move across town.  They came in for coffee and cigarettes during their breaks or at lunch time for soup and Big Rock’s own special sandwiches, so thick they were difficult and often embarrassing to eat if you were concerned with good table manners (which most people were not at the Big Rocks Cafe, even the normally well-mannered ones.)

After 3:30 P.M., the place would be filled with neighborhood children and teens sipping sodas, laughing and talking, some even doing homework in the back booths.  They didn’t buy much, but Big Rock didn’t mind.

He knew these kids did not have money, that the only kids who had money in that neighborhood were the ones who got it by--well, Big Rock didn’t want to even think, much less say it aloud.  He only knew that these kids in his place were okay and if they felt good being there, if they needed a place to hang out away from the other kind, he would see to it they had it.

By five o’clock the kids were gone and that was Big Rock’s favorite time of the day when those who lived in the aging, hot and dreary apartment buildings nearby would drop in for refreshment to help them make the daily transition from jobs which bent their backs to the homes which bent their spirits.

A few laughs at Big Rocks got most of them in a better frame of mind though, made it a little easier to face the drabness of home and the never-ending needs of their families which they just couldn’t seem to meet no matter how hard they tried.  It was mostly the same crowd, congenial and comfortable, which had become a sort of extended family to each other over the years and, like most families, they had their favorite member--an unkempt, shaggy man known as “Yogi Bear” Hobson, nicknamed for his favorite cartoon character.

Big Rock had become quite fond of Yogi over the years, perhaps it could be said that he even loved Yogi as he would a brother, a brother who had fallen short of his goals in life.  In fact, everybody seemed to have a special liking for Yogi though they had since forgotten his real name and none of them knew exactly where he lived or worked. He said he painted houses sometimes and did a little carpentry work here and there.

“Whatever and wherever I can make a dollar or two,” Yogi told them and a dollar or two was all Yogi ever seemed to have but it didn’t seem to bother him any.  He seemed satisfied to wear the same few clothes day after day and was never heard to complain or wish for anything he did not have.

Of course, about all anyone could say about his clothes was that they covered him and Yogi’s hair looked so bad that Big Rock brought in a pair of scissors one night and told Yogi he was going to cut his hair.  From that time on, Big Rock was Yogi’s personal barber and no one could deny that Yogi’s hair did look--well, shorter!

Sometimes Big Rock wondered why they all liked Yogi so much. He never smiled, hardly ever talked and even got downright rude when people got too noisy while he was trying to watch his cartoons.  Yet, there was something about Yogi that drew people to him, made them want to do things for him. Maybe it was the lost, distant look in his eyes or the deep lines covering his face, which spoke of a life that had not been kind, even less kind than their own.

Maybe it was the fact that here was somebody with even less than they had, that no matter how hard times got, no matter how empty their wallets were, no matter how little they had or were likely to have, here was someone who had less.  Maybe it wasn’t so much that they liked Yogi as it was that they needed him.

Over the years they bought him beers when he was between jobs, shared their cigarettes and conceded that the seat at the end of the counter nearest the TV was his. When Big Rock saw him coming, he would twist the dial to Yogi’s favorite station and would often slip a plate on the counter filled with steaming soup and a roast beef on rye or a hot dog with chili and onions, Yogi’s favorites.

“Help me out with this, Yogi.  I’ve overcooked again and you know I can’t stand to waste food,” he would say.

Sometimes Yogi would protest, being out of work and money, and Big Rock would have to say, “Oh, go ahead, Yogi.  You know your credit is good with me.”

So, Yogi, to stop the hunger pains in his belly would eat the meal in front of him, eyes steady on the hot, steamy food, shoulders hunched in a way that invited no further conversation.

In time, though, Yogi began to eat less and less and Big Rock became worried.

“You know,” he said one night to some of the crowd, “I think Yogi is sick.”

It was generally decided that something had to be done, his family located, some medical help found for him, but they weren’t sure just how to go about it.

“I don’t even remember his real name,” Big Rock said. “I’m not sure he even remembers it.  I asked him one day what his real name was and he just looked at me as if I were crazy.  Said his name was Yogi--just Yogi.”

All efforts to obtain information about Yogi’s family were futile.

“No family,” he said.  “Just me--Yogi.”

Finally they gave up trying and assumed the responsibility for Yogi’s medical help.  A collection was taken up to help Big Rock who had personally taken Yogi to the doctor, then to the hospital where it was determined that Yogi had cancer.

“It’s why he won’t eat,” Big Rock explained, not really understanding it himself.

He took plates to the hospital filled with all the things he knew Yogi liked best, but Yogi just ate less and less and grew thinner and weaker.

They all rallied to Yogi, taking turns trying to make him laugh, eat and talk; but, in the end it was Big Rock who was sitting by his bed and holding his hand when Yogi simply closed his eyes and left Big Rock sitting alone, trembling as the tears rolled down into the heavy scruff of beard.

“He died easy,” he told the crowd back at the cafe and they began collecting for Yogi’s funeral.  

Gradually the jar on the counter filled with the nickels, dimes, quarters and occasional dollar bills of those who had little but who had more than Yogi ever had.

“You’d all do the same for me,” one said.

“Yogi would have done the same thing for any of us if he could have,” said another and they all agreed.

There was some talk that Yogi’s body could be given to the medical school. Others said the city would bury Yogi, but Big Rock wouldn’t hear of it so Yogi was laid to rest in a nice dignified gray metal coffin while the Baptist minister said the prayer, asking the Almighty to look after Yogi now that his friends couldn’t.

There were a few flowers in a green vase beside the grave, pink gladiolas from someone’s yard. No one knew who had brought them and no one asked. Big Rock had trimmed Yogi’s hair one last time and they all agreed that Yogi “looked real good layin’ there.”

Big Rock left the wreath on the door until it literally fell in shreds one day.  He wasn’t sure why he had been unable to take it down and fretted continually that they had not been able to learn more about Yogi, had not been able to notify someone who would care that he was gone, someone who had loved a younger, different Yogi.

They managed to get all the bills paid and none of them thought it at all strange that, even in their own lack, Yogi was provided for; and, none of them thought it strange when Big Rock removed the stool from the end of the counter.  It had, after all, been Yogi’s.

They often mentioned Yogi, always with a smile, always with affection and sometimes wondered aloud if there were people elsewhere in the world who were wondering about Yogi, wondering whatever happened to him.

“Yogi chose to make his way alone,” said Big Rock, “either by choice or because he just didn’t have anybody he thought cared.”

Big Rock thought about that a long time. It just seemed a shame to die and one’s folks not even know so one night, after the customers had all gone home, he opened the cash register and under the heavy black metal tray, he placed a piece of paper on which he had neatly printed the names and last known addresses of those who had once shared his life.

He didn’t know if they were still at those addresses and he did not intend to find out, but time marched on and Big Rock knew the day would come when his “regulars” would be glad he had left this scrap of blue-lined paper, stained with the grease of his trade.  Until then, like Yogi, he chose to walk alone and it was nobody’s business why.


This story appears in Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories. Available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle. The Three Letters from Teddy story has been translated into Chinese.



Essence of Beauty

Randy Bittle

             They say beauty is only skin deep.  It is true that only surfaces reflect light, and a pretty surface reflects light outwards benefiting others.  But the needs and desires of a heart and soul hidden inside a beautiful body sometimes go unfulfilled.  I once met a woman with all of the above, but she only offered me her body.  A party girl with another man in tow, her heart and soul were unavailable at the time.  With much consternation I declined the heartless, soul-less body.  I would settle only for the whole package or nothing. 

Now don’t get me wrong—the mess was not entirely her fault.  I began with genuine friendship.  We never expressed any deep emotional bonding.  After about a year my feelings for her began to change.  Mere lust alone was not the problem.  I perceived an Ailey-girl essence beneath the party-girl veneer.  I longed to experience and share that inner essence with her.  What a powerful combination of pheromones, but circumstances precluded fulfillment of my desires.  With no demonstration of my affections, I decided to end the friendship with her and her boyfriend.  The situation was unfair to everyone concerned, and it was best for me to walk away.  I had to salvage my feelings with a clean break, removing her from my life so I could rebuild anew.

True friendship is difficult to find.  She valued that kind of relationship and hated to lose it.  The clean break turned dirty before it was over.  I had nothing to offer her but the friendship and a stained-glass trinket.  I thought she would survive giving up the friendship.  She kept the trinket but reluctantly shattered the friendship the hard way.

I had an inner essence, as well, but I don’t think she could sense it, and I know she would not have understood it or cared about it at the time.  My essence has grown and matured over the years, and serves me well in my life today.  I wonder how much of the Ailey-girl essence survived intact?  If she wishes to resume the friendship, she can write me at my home address.  I will do my best to be a true friend, but if traces of the Ailey-girl essence remain, I can make no promises.



Lifetime Calendar

Joan Leotta


School has left its mark on me.


I still thrill to the pre-school

sale season to stock up

on notebooks, pens, paper.


I sniff crayons and admire

pencil cases and sharpeners.


It does not matter that

I am many years past-school routine

every year, on the day after labor day,

I am sure I have to write

an essay on what I did during the summer

Eternally young.

 British Aplomb

Submitted by Don Holloway


 “May I ask you a question, My Lord?”

“Go ahead, Carson,” said His Lordship.

“I am doing the crossword in The Times and I have found a word I am not too clear on.”

“What word is that?” asked His Lordship.

 ”Aplomb,” My Lord.

 ”Now that’s a difficult one to explain.  I would say it is self-assurance or complete composure.”

“Thank you, My Lord, but I’m still a little confused.”

“Let me give you an example to make it clearer.  Do you remember a few months ago when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived to spend a weekend with us?”

“I remember the occasion very well, My Lord. It gave the staff and myself much pleasure to look after them.”

“Also,” continued the Earl of Grantham, “do you remember when Wills plucked a rose for Kate in the rose garden?”

“I was present on that occasion, My Lord, ministering to their needs.

“While plucking the rose, a thorn embedded itself in his thumb very deeply.”

“I witnessed the incident, My Lord, and saw the Duchess herself remove the thorn and bandage his thumb with her own dainty handkerchief.”

“That evening the hole that the rose made on his thumb was very sore. Kate had to cut up his venison even though it was extremely tender.”

“Yes, My Lord, I did see everything that transpired that evening.”

“And do you remember the next morning while you were pouring coffee for Her Ladyship,  ”Kate inquired of Wills with a loud voice, ‘Darling, does your prick still throb’? And you, Carson, did not spill one drop of coffee? THAT, Carson, is complete composure, or aplomb.”




 A Sunday school teacher was telling her class the story of the Good Samaritan. She asked the class, “If you saw a person lying on the roadside, all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?” A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, “I think I’d throw up.”



Trick or Treat at the New House

Joan Leotta


Trick or treat at the new house

where there are no children on

our block. 55, still staying alive.

I still put a jack o lantern out

on the porch

in hopes that

a visiting child will wander by.

We live in a land of

old folks where

golf and mahjong

instead of soccer and carpools

are the topics of our conversation.

Yet, I still fill one plastic pumpkin

with candy bars and with hope

wait and wait and wait

expecting our jack-o-lantern’s

cry of “candy here!” to be heard.

At nine o clock all candy is ours

a windfall of delicious calories.

It seems somehow a trick

to have snared more than a bagful just

for us without even leaving our house.

Treats? I miss the treat of

masks and the tiny voices

chanting thank you

as I dropped one or two

bars into each bag.

But the chocolate does assuage

the longing.


Autumnal Rapture

Michael Warren

 My love ponds around your genius

Like a pool beneath an autumn maple tree,

Fixing you in a glassy palette of shimmers:

Brimming red enthusiasm, the truss

For quiet understanding in yellow glimmers,

And orange blazes of indignation breaking free,

Of drooping brown streaks of old sorrow,

And cascading russet daubs of anger,

To rest in a golden hope for tomorrow.


When the bitter seasons of life

Strip bare your burgeoning heart with strife,

The waters of my still constant affection

Will faithfully echo your essential passion:

Rooted in the earnest joy of life,

Upward branching in graceful boughs of rapture,

Enmeshing in its sunward arc above,

The silhouette of mad, deep, true, undying love.


 From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza


Berry cheesecake salad


Fresh berries combined with a creamy cheesecake fluff.


1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened

½ cup sugar

8 oz cool whip

6 cups berries (you can use any berries but I used the following)

3 cups strawberries, sliced

1 cup blackberries

1 cup blueberries

1 cup raspberries


In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. Fold in the cool whip.

Add strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Fold carefully into the cream cheese  mixture. Serve immediately.


berry cheesecake3.jpg  berry cheesecake4.jpg




Easy Bread Pudding



1 tbsp butter

4 eggs beaten

4 cups milk scalded

2 cups cubed dry bread

1 tsp salt *I never use salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup raisins

sprinkle of nutmeg


Use the butter to grease a 2 quart baking dish. Beat the eggs in the dish. Set aside. Scald the milk in a sauce pan. Soak the bread in the hot milk, add salt*, sugar, vanilla and raisins.

Pour over eggs in baking dish, stir lightly. Sprinkle generously with nutmeg.

Bake at 350 degree F. about 50 minutes, or until firm.

Cover tightly the last 10 minutes if it starts to get too brown on top. This dessert will puff up, then settle down in the dish.

It is great served hot or cold!



bread pudding1.jpg



Chicken Pot Pop-Ups


Cream Base:

1/4 Cup Butter

3 Tbsp Flour

1 Cup Milk

1 Cube Chicken Bouillon


4 small boneless skinless breast cooked (you can use any meat, but I prefer chicken)

1 Large can of Biscuits

2-3 Tbsp of oil

1/2 onion chopped

1 Carrot thinly sliced rounds

1/2 Cup cream Corn

1/2 Cup Frozen Peas

1 Pinch of Onion Powder

1 Pinch of Nutmeg

Salt* (optional)

Pepper to taste


Cook chicken as desired.

Saute Onions and carrots in oil on low heat until soft and onion translucent. Salt*. DO NOT let the onions brown.

While onions and carrots are sautéing, chop chicken and add to a large bowl. Mix in cream base, frozen peas, cream corn, and onion, and carrots, adding onion powder, nutmeg and pepper. Mix well.

Spray or butter 3 small 3 by 6 Inch baking crocks, add one biscuits each, stretching to fill bottom of each crock. On top of each biscuits fill with chicken mix top with 2 biscuits stretched and pinched together to fit top.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 min. until brown and bubbly. Great for fall afternoon meals. Kids love them!


chicken pot pop ups.jpg



CinnaRoll Cake



3 cups flour

¼ tsp. salt  (optional, I never add salt)*

1 cup sugar

4 tsp. baking powder

1½ cups milk

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

½ cup butter, melted


1 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

2 Tbs. flour

2 Tbs. cinnamon


2 cups powdered sugar

5 Tbs. milk

1 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a 9×13 glass baking pan. Set aside.

Mix the flour, *salt, sugar, baking powder, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Once combined well , slowly stir in the melted butter. Pour into the prepared 9×13 baking pan.


Mix well all of the topping ingredients butter, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon together in a separate bowl until creamy. Drop by tablespoonfuls as  evenly as you can over the entire base. Take a butter knife and swirl the topping into the base. Pop into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out almost clean.


While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze in a medium bowl, mix the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla together with a whisk. Drizzle evenly over the warm cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.and set aside. Important: (Glaze the cake while still warm but not hot).

This cake can also be layered. Yum!


Cinnaroll cake2.jpg

















Crock Pot Lasagna


1 pound Ground Beef
Lasagna noodles
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Brown ground beef and drain. Spoon 1 cup of spaghetti sauce in bottom of 4 quart crock pot. Mix remaining sauce with beef. Place 2 uncooked lasagna noodles on sauce in crock pot. Spread 1/3 meat mixture on top of noodles. Spread 3/4 cup cottage cheese over meat. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese over cottage cheese. Add another layer of uncooked noodles, 1/3 meat mixture, the remaining cottage cheese and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Place another layer of uncooked noodles, meat mixture, and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top. Cook on low for 4 hours.
If cooked much longer, it gets a bit well done.

crock pot lasagna.JPG


Easy Cinnamon Apple Dessert



Makes 4 servings but you can double or tripple this recipe according to your family size!


2 packs cinnamon roll dough with icing

4 eggs

½ cup milk

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter

2 granny smith apples, diced

1 cup brown sugar, packed

Vanilla ice cream


Preheat oven to 375°C.

Cut the cinnamon roll dough into 3 even strips, then cut those strip in 3 pieces, making 9 pieces total per cinnamon roll. Set aside the icing.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, cinnamon, and extract, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

In a pan over medium heat, combine butter, apples, and brown sugar, cooking until sugar starts to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle the cinnamon roll dough pieces evenly in a 9×9 baking tray. Pour the egg mixture on top, followed by the apples. Drizzle the reserved icing on top.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with whipped or ice cream!


Cinnamon Apple Dessert.jpg



My Cornbread Dressing



2 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped celery

1/2 cup butter

4 cups finely crumbled toasted bread

4 cups finely crumbled cornbread

1 tablespoon salt (I don’t use salt)*

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried sage

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

turkey broth

4 large eggs, beaten


Melt butter in a skillet and add the onions and celery and saute until tender.

Combine toasted bread and cornbread in a large bowl and mix.

Add onions and celery plus their cooking juices, salt* pepper, sage, and poultry seasoning and mix thoroughly.

Add just enough turkey giblet broth to make a very moist mixture, then stir in the eggs and  scrape the dressing into a large greased baking pan or dish.

Bake in 400 degree F oven until dressing is nicely browned, about 40-45 minutes.


Cornbread Dressing.jpg


Peanutbutter Cake




2 cups of white Sugar

1 teaspoon of baking soda

2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon Salt* optional

2 sticks of butter

1 cup Water

1 cup of peanut butter (I use Simply Jiff because it is low sodium)

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 whole eggs


1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

1/2 cups peanut butter

6 teaspoons milk (1/3 cup)

1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional for frosting but I love the taste of vanilla extract)

1 pound Domino Powdered Sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.


Whisk flour, white sugar, and baking soda together in a bowl. Beat 1/2 cup milk, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into flour mixture using an electric mixer on low until smooth.

Cook and stir water, 1/2 cup butter, vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup peanut butter together in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir peanut butter mixture into flour mixture until batter is well mixed; pour onto the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes.


Melt 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup peanut butter together in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth; add 1/3 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk confectioners sugar into mixture until icing is smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour icing over warm cake.

I like to serve with crushed or whole unsalted peanuts for an absolutely deliciously crunchy dessert!


peanut butter cake slice1.jpg


Peanut Butter Cake2.jpg




Spaghetti Squash Broccolini



1 2 1/2- to 3-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch broccolini, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

2 tablespoons water

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)*

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper



Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 450°F.

Place squash cut-side down in a microwave-safe dish; add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave, uncovered, on High until the flesh is tender, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, place squash halves cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 400°F oven until the squash is tender, 40 to 50 minutes.)

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add broccolini, garlic and red pepper (if using); cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add water and cook, stirring, until the broccolini is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl.

Use a fork to scrape the squash from the shells into the bowl. Place the shells in a broiler-safe baking pan or on a baking sheet. Stir 3/4 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper into the squash mixture. Divide it between the shells; top with the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan.

Bake on the lower rack for 10 minutes. Move to the upper rack, turn the broiler to high and broil, watching carefully, until the cheese starts to brown, about 2 minutes.


spaghetti squash1.jpg


















spaghetti squash brocolli.jpg




1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp flour

1/4 tsp salt* optional

2 cup milk

4 separated eggs

1 tbsp vanilla flavor

1 box of Vanilla Wafers

5 medium ripe bananas

Save 2 extra cookies to crumble


Mix flour, *salt, and sugar; add milk slowly. Stir constantly over low heat until thickened. Stir and cook for about 15 minutes. Beat egg yolks in bowl and stir into mixture slowly stirring constantly. Cook about 5 more minutes stirring. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Line bottom of casserole dish with vanilla wafers, bananas (sliced) and custard mixture. Repeat layers, ending with custard on top. Beat egg whites until stiff. Add 1/4 cup sugar; whip until it peaks. Spread on top of custard and bake in oven at 450 degrees for about 4 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven add crumbled cookies and serve.


old fashioned banana pudding.jpg


Witch’s Hat Cupcakes



This one does not come with a recipe. Use your Imagination to dazzle all of your trick or treaters with a great treat for Halloween!

Here’s what you will need:

Black Sugar Cones

Cake Mix

Cup Cake Pan



witch's hats black sugar cones.jpg




October Full Moon Party

Joan Leotta


During our first month here,

we went to the full moon party

on our south facing beach.

The moon rose

as big as the sun,

as bright.

Lovelier than I imagined

moon rose in the sky

and sent its shadow to play in the ocean.



Changes at Sunset Lodge

Marry Williamson


In the Sunset Lodge the novelty of take-away meals was wearing thin.  The kitchen was now cleaned up and a new microwave had been installed.  Two jolly ladies called Mary and Daisy had arrived the day after the disaster, tutting and blowing out their cheeks.  “My, what a mess” one said.  “What happened here then?”  Margery, who had seen them coming up the drive with all their cleaning paraphernalia felt she had to explain.  “one of us made an apple turnover.”  “Jeez”, the lady called Daisy said.  “some turnover”.  They set to cleaning and scraping once to pause and call for Mrs. Hartnell.  “Microwave totally u.s. I am afraid you have to get a new one.”  Mrs. Hartnell had agreed.  Lunch had been a take-away for everybody from the Jade House Chinese on the corner of the High Street. By the end of the day the kitchen had sparkled once again.  “Prudence would have been so pleased” they all agreed.  Mrs. Hartnell had phoned Prudence several times that day but only got Prudence’s voicemail.  The problem was that Prudence had walked out.  On the day of the big apple turnover, Prudence  had looked at the mess and had hung her pinney on the kitchen doorknob saying: “Enough is enough.  I am going home and won’t be back.  Please post a cheque for the wages you owe me.” They had all looked on horror-struck.  Mrs. Hartnell had called after her: “Prudence, you can’t.  You cannot leave me with all this.  What am I going to do without you?” But Prudence had merely stuck up her hand and wiggled her fingers.  “Ta-ra. All yours.”  Norman had stood on the upstairs landing singing: “Go on.  Walk out the door.  I don’t need you anymore”.  Mrs. Hartnell had looked up and totally out of character had shouted: “Shut up Norman!”

Consequently, a meeting of all residents was called.  In the dining room.  They all shuffled in quietly.  George included.  Mrs. Hartnell frowned at him.  “What is that cat doing out of his bag?” “He is having a trial period” Margery said.  George somehow understood the gravity of it all and behaved impeccably, staying close to Eleanor and parking himself under her chair.  Mrs. Hartnell explained to them all that she had not been able to get hold of Prudence and that she had hired a cook from the agency. He arrived bright and early the next morning.  His name was Brandon and he was about 30 years old, had green hair and a ring through his ear.  He was from Sydney, he said,  The residents of the Sunset Lodge looked at him in alarm and George put up his heckles and spat.  “Ah, good doggie” Brandon said.  George looked at him witheringly and turned his back with a swish of his tail.  They all had to agree, though, breakfast was faultless.  The eggs were just so, the sausages succulent and the bacon nice and crispy.  The toast was just the right colour brown.  In short.  Breakfast was brilliant.  Margery said it: “Brandon, you are a wiz” which prompted Norman  to burst out with “we’re off to see the wizard, the beautiful wizard of Oz”.  Brandon frowned.  “Is he taking the mickey?”  “No, no”, Mrs. Hartnell hastily explained.  “He suffers from dementia.  He sings.  He sings a lot.  Don’t take any notice.”

Brandon proved to be gem.  Morning coffee appeared with a lovely chocolate cake.  Lunch was a perfect cheese souffle with an interesting salad, steaming new potatoes and a mouthwatering lemon tart with cream for afters.  Afternoon tea was equally good and dinner was superb.  They all agreed.  Brandon was actually an improvement on Prudence.  Now here was a conundrum.  It was all too perfect. Margery broached the subject while they were all together in the lounge the next morning after another beautiful breakfast. “It is all too perfect” she said.  Maud and Violet stopped their handiwork.  Violet was quilting a new oven glove for Brandon, while Maud has embarked on a blue chunky sweater.  “he must feel the cold poor lamb coming from Australia”.  Eleanor put down her magazine.  Even George, who was cleaning himself next to her on the sofa, looked up, one leg stuck up in the air.  “Perfect.  Of course he is perfect.  We have never eaten so well”.  “That is what I mean”  Margery said.  “It can’t last.  Something bound to go wrong”.

Well, of course, it did.  Brandon put up exactly two days with the constant barrage of Aussie songs emanating from Norman and when on the third day Norman came down for breakfast loudly singing a rendition of ‘Waltzing Mathilda’  arriving at ‘under the shade of the coolibah tree’ Brandon upended a bowl of perfectly cooked porridge oats over his head, chucked his newly quilted oven glove on the table, flicked his green hair out of his face and flaunted through the hallway and out of the front door.  There was a deadly silence.  They sat looking at one another and at Norman who stood in the middle of the room, horror struck, porridge dripping into his neck.  For once he did not sing.  Mrs. Hartnell was called and she took him upstairs to be cleaned up.  The rest of them finished their breakfast in silence.  Margery and Eleanor took the dirty crockery into the kitchen and made a start with clearing up.  Eleanor was just stacking the dishwasher when there was a knock on the backdoor.  Prudence.  Margery hastily unlocked the door and hugged the large woman.  “Oh Prudence.  You’re back!  We’ve so missed you.  Please say you are back”  Prudence looked at the gleaming surfaces and newly painted white ceiling and the new microwave and took up her pinney which still hung on a the doorknob.  “Ok, now get out of my kitchen.”

The next morning Mrs. Hartnell called everybody together and announced that she was going to advertise the Sunset Lodge in various papers and magazines, an extra large one was to appear in the SAGA magazine.  We have 2 unused rooms, 3 if we dismantle the Neighbourhood Facility and it is about time we filled them.  We are also getting some help for Prudence.  Significant changes all round. Margery suggested they should take in some gentlemen.  “We’ll take in what we can get”, Mrs. Hartnell said firmly.

But in the event it actually were 2 gentlemen who applied.  Visitors came and went.  The gentlemen’s families.  They inspected the lounge and the kitchen and, or course, the rooms their fathers were to occupy.  Norman was kept in his room throughout this exercise. Mrs. Hartnell did not want him spoiling everything and putting the kibosh on the proceedings.  Decisions were made and eventually the first gentleman arrived, name of Brian.  Brian Whittaker.  Retired greengrocer.  He seemed harmless enough.  He endeared himself to Eleanor when he said that he loved cats.  “Intelligent animals, cats” he said.  George looked at him disdainfully but that could also have been a trick of the light.  The next day, the second gentleman arrived.  His name was Jacob, “call me Jack”  Kaufman.  He was a retired tailor.  He had run the bespoke gentleman’s outfitters in town for nigh on 40 years.  He was famous in town for his hand-made suits which he stitched sitting cross-legged on a big billiard table in his backroom.  He endeared himself to Violet when he praised her quiltings and neat stitches.  So far, so good.  It looked as if the two newcomers would fit in nicely in the Sunset Lodge.

Alas, this last could not be said, however, for the ‘help’ which Mrs. Hartnell found for Prudence.  Her name was Alice.  Alice Green.  On her first day she arrived an hour late.  She did not apologise and Prudence scowled at her and said: ‘that’s nice of you, Alice, to grace us with your company after all”.  The irony was lost on Alice who looked gormless and said; “tha’s awright”.  “Well”, Prudence said “since you are here now you can make a start on making the beds and tidying up the en-suites.  I come and join you as soon as I finish preparing lunch”.  Alice looked hesitant.  “Are they men’s rooms.  My mother said not to go in any men’s room.” “Look”, Prudence said  “I don’t care what your mother said.  You are here to do what is required” Alice looked undecided but went upstairs and into Jack’s room.  She made the bed and rinsed out the shower cubicle neatly enough.  She next went into Normans’s.  Next thing Alice was coming out screaming and yelling followed by  Norman in his dressing gown wielding a golf club.  Everybody trooped into the hallway.  “Oh goodness”,  Prudence said “I had forgotten he was still in there.  OK Alice”, she tried to calm the girl down.  It is only Norman, he does not mean any harm”.  But Alice was already struggling into her coat.  She looked up at Norman who looked confused and said: “is she from Wonderland?”.  Alice, who had finally won the battle with her coat wrenched open the front door and legged it down the drive as fast as her skinny legs would carry her.  They all watched her go, her large coat flapping behind her.  She looked like a demented bat.  Norman was still upstairs waiving his golf club and shouting: “off with her head”.  The two newcomers, Brian and Jack looked bemused.  Maud, Violet, Eleanor and Margery shrugged their shoulders, they had seen it all before.  Prudence was angry.  Mrs. Hartnell sighed and went off to phone the agency.

Half an hour later they were all sitting in the lounge when the bell went.  Prudence opened the door.  On the doorstep stood a large woman with straggly shoulder-length bottle blond hair.  She was holding a struggling Alice firmly by the elbow.  “She is sorry”, she said, “sorry for running away”.  Alice peered into the Sunset Lodge hallway clearly petrified.  “There is a nutcase, Mom”, she said.  “He was going to kill me with a stick”.  The blonde woman smiled apologetically.  “Such an imagination”,.  She shook her head.  “Lack of” Margery commented.  “Anyhow” the woman said, “she is sorry and she is back”.  She shook the unfortunate Alice and whispered loudly “we need the money, you dimwit.  Get on with it.”  She shoved poor Alice into the house and closed the door.

Things settled down and Alice got the hang of the routine at the Sunset Lodge.  After a few upsets and dropped tea trays she settled into daily life.  There was great excitement just now.  They were all going on day trip to the seaside.  A minibus had been booked.  Nobody had been sure whether Norman was quite aware what was going on but he had been singing: “didn’t we have a lovely time, the day we went to Bognor”.  They were actually going to Lyme Regis.  The day of the outing, a lovely autumn day,  dawned dry and sunny.  At 9 o’clock they were all ready and waiting downstairs.  The minibus arrived bang on time and the driver seemed kind, cheerful and capable.  He was called Derek Baines.  “Just call me Derek”.  Maud and Violet got on first.  Maud wearing her new cardigan, specially knitted for the occasion and Violet carrying hew newly quilted handbag, big enough to hide a small child.  Margery, carrying ‘Oliver Twist’ followed with Eleanor, who was carrying her big carpet bag, without George this time.  He was staying at home. Brian and Jack got on followed by Prudence and Alice.  They took the back seats.  Last was Mrs. Hartnell leading Norman by the arm.  He looked around the bus and burst into song: “we’re all going on a summer holiday”.  Mrs. Hartnell quietly shushed him.  They set off down the drive stared after by George from Margery’s chair by the lounge window.

The ride to Lyme Regis went well, without mishap or unpleasantness.  Even Norman stopped singing and stared intently out of the window seemingly mesmerised by the traffic on the roads. They reached Lyme Regis safely and Derek parked the minibus in the Cob car park.  Mrs. Hartnell walked everybody to the cob and announced that they were free to go where they wished under 2 conditions.  They had to go at least in pairs and one of them had to have a mobile, switched on.  The second condition was they had to be back at the cob for one o’clock sharp when they were all going to have fish and chips.  Jack and Brian promptly walked across to the Cob’s Arms.  Maud and Violet shuffled off down the promenade and into town in search of a craft shop.  Margery and Eleanor pluckily prepared to climb up and have a walk along the cob, Margery explaining as they climbed the steps that that is where she stood, at the end of the cob dressed in a black cape, waiting for her French Lieutenant.  Meryl Streep.  Eleanor looked suitably impressed.

Mrs. Hartnell braced herself, heaved a deep sigh and took Norman by the arm and proceeded to walk him round the harbour.  She was not looking forward to spending the morning babysitting Norman but he could not be left alone.  He had already upset an old couple sat on a bench with a little Jack Russell by singing:  ‘How much is your doggie in the window’ They thought he was taking the mickey.  Mrs. Hartnell quickly explained and steered Norman on.  That left Prudence and Alice.  Alice stood stock-still, her arms stiffly by her side.  She looked lost and forlorn and seriously weird in her old white cardigan, limp flowery skirt, skinny legs and large clumpy pink trainers.  “It is so noisy. I have never been to the seaside.  I have never seen the sea.  It is so big!  I did not know it was so loud!”  Prudence looked at her disbelievingly, a big frown on her kind face.  She put her arm round Alice and said: “Come on, we’re going to have a nice cup of coffee first.”

The morning passed and one o’clock came round.  Not too soon for Mrs. Hartnell.  She was exhausted keeping Norman on the straight and narrow, apologising to various holidaymakers as they were going along. He had gone through his whole repertoire of doggie songs, the last one ‘who  let the dog out’ at a big Rottweiler.  The owners, two burly men, one dressed in long shorts and with a greying ponytail, the other with no hair at all and covered in tattoos looked at Norman threateningly.  She had been sorely tempted to give him a few of his little yellow pills but Derek and the minibus had disappeared.  Prudence and Alice sauntered up.  Alice still very much in awe of the sea but very pleased with her new sandals, bought for her by Prudence.  At 5 minutes past Maud and Violet shuffled back disappointed because they had not found a single craft shop.  Margery and Eleanor came hard on their heels.  After walking up and down the cob a few times they had found  the antiques shop on the promenade and had spent a lovely time reminiscing over the various things on display, driving the owner mad with their questions and comments and coming out not having bought a thing.  They were now all waiting for Brian and Jack.  Mrs. Hartnell rang Brian’s mobile.  It went straight to voicemail.  Prudence went over to the Cob’s Arms and came back almost immediately.  “They said if we are looking for the two old codgers, they went out on the 12 0’clock mackerel boat.  It is not due back till 2.”  Mrs. Hartnell shook her head. “That is just too bad,  We are going to have our lunch.  They just have to miss out!” Prudence and Alice were sent off to buy cod and chips and a can of coke for everybody.  They came came back with bags full of food and they all found somewhere to sit to enjoy their meal.

At a quarter past two, the mackerel boat returned decanting Brian and Jack carrying a plastic bag between them which they held up in defence to Ms. Hartnell’s angry reprimands.  “One o’clock, I said.  Keep your mobile switched on, I said”.  “But look” Brian said “we caught some fish”.  Inside the bag were 5 bloody mackerels, gutted and their heads missing.  “We can keep them”.  “Well”, Mrs. Hartnell said.  “You can eat them because you have missed lunch and you won’t have time to get some.  Right on cue Derek and the minibus appeared round the corner.  She started packing up the empty cans and plastic boxes and heaped them into the large rubbish bin.  “Come along, everybody.  Back to the bus.” They all trooped to the bus and got on.  That is to say, all except Norman.  “Where is Norman?  OMG we have lost Norman” They all shouted at once.  Prudence and Alice ran back to the cob but he was nowhere to be seen.  Mrs. Hartnell was just about to phone the police when he appeared, carrying two boxes from the fish and chip shop.  He handed them to Brian and Jack.  “Lunch” he said.  Mrs. Hartnell was aghast.  “How did you get these”.  “From the shop”.  “How? You’ve got no money”.  Prudence was already running back to the fish and chip shop.  She came back with a big grin on her face.  “Clever boy”.  She gave Norman a big hug.  She looked up at Mrs. Hartnell.  “He exchanged it for the mackerels.  The man in the shop thought it was so funny.”



Bridget Bishop

Mike Dailey


Bridget Bishop – Salem witch

Today on Gallows’ Hill did twitch

The year was 1692

When witches trials were brand new

The first of nineteen to be hung

One reason – an outspoken tongue

And she wore the witch’s big black hat

She ran a tavern on top of that

For Salem Town where she did live

They say she dressed provocative

A bright red bodice over her black dress

They claimed she left men in distress

They say she’d spoken to the dark lord

And late at night played shuffleboard

No one defended her at her trial

Twas no surprise that after while

They hung her there on Gallows’ Hill

They say her spirit haunts there still




A pastor asked a little boy if he said his prayers every night. “Yes, sir.” the boy replied.

“And, do you always say them in the morning, too?” the pastor asked. “No sir,” the boy replied.”I ain’t scared in the daytime”

Did Columbus Really Do That?

Peggy Ellis


Internet research amuses me. It is possible to ‘prove’ anything we choose to believe is fact. If we choose the ‘pro’ side of a question one day and the ‘con’ side the next, it’s the same thing. Both sides are ‘true’. In March 2011, the RMR published my tongue-in-cheek biography of St. Patrick. Bear with me as I look into the life of another iconic historical person.


In fourteen hundred ninety two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.


Most of us probably memorized those lines from an anonymous pen as an aid to remember when Christopher Columbus discovered America, which to us was what we now know as the United States. Of course, we believed it. It was in our schoolbook, so it had to be true, right? However, centuries of debate have produced a consensus that good old Chris did not discover this great land of ours. (Who did is not the subject of this bit of nonsense. Maybe someday.) Okay, Columbus didn’t get his buckled shoes wet as he waded onto our sandy shores, but what exactly did he do? Who was this man who generations revered as our founder?

According to our schoolbooks back in the day, Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, a gifted navigator, a great colonizer, and citizen of the Republic of Genoa, which is now part of Italy. After receiving significant funding from the Spanish monarchs, Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492 with three ships, the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria, and 104 men. This voyage across the Atlantic took five weeks – much longer than Columbus expected, as he thought the world was smaller than it is.

Finally, on October 12, 1492, Columbus sighted land – America!

Those are the ‘facts’ in the schoolbooks of my childhood, but let’s look closer.

I recently read The Columbus Affair, a novel by Steve Berry published by Ballantine Books in 2012. I recommend it. It is important to mention that Berry, in his Writer’s Note, carefully separates fact from fiction with references. One point in this book particularly intrigued me for no better reason than I didn’t have anything else on my mind that day. (Hush those sniggers in the peanut gallery!) I had never encountered it in my casual reading through the years and none of my teachers required me to research CC’s life.

Was Christopher Columbus a Jew? Or, horror of horrors, was he a Converso? Or, perhaps something worse?

Apparently, it was important to some people now lost in the mists of time, so I decided to do my own research with the help of the all-knowing Google people. (Are they really people? Oh, well, that’s a subject to explore after I stop torturing my brain with the little rhyme that I would rather forget.) I confined my research to Columbus’s first voyage, which appears to define who he was in the eyes of historians, few of whom agree on anything. That’s news?

Little is known of Columbus’s early life. The vast majority of scholars, citing archival documents from Genoa and Savona, believe that he was born in Genoa to a Christian household. However, some modern historians have argued that he was not from Genoa but, instead, from the Aragon region of Spain or from Portugal. Mainstream scholars have generally discounted this, which takes care of the question of whether he was an Italian explorer, in the event it makes a difference to you. Or maybe not.

The History Channel reveals that Christopher Columbus entered the world in Genoa on October 31, 1451, making him 41 years old when he didn’t do what we thought he did. Hold on! According to Wikipedia, the infant who caused such furor in the following centuries entered this world sometime between October 31, 1450 and October 30, 1451. However according to Britannica, little Chris made his first appearance between August 26 and October 31, 1451. The mainstream sources do agree that he called Genoa home and that he died May 20, 1506 in Valladolid, Italy. When all sources agree on anything, I tend to disbelieve it. Suit yourself.

Columbus never wrote in his native language, believed to have been a Genoese variety of Ligurian, whatever that is. Your guess is as good as mine. In one of his writings, he says he went to sea at the age of 10. In 1470, the Columbus family moved to Savona. In the same year, Christopher was on a Genoese ship hired in the service of René of Anjou (I thought that’s a pear, but what do I know?) to support his attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples. This confirms the belief that he traveled widely prior to his first major voyage. After his failed efforts to obtain financing from Portugal, Italy, and England for his proposed trip to Asia, he approached the Spanish monarchy. Two years of effort later, he obtained the necessary financing from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

Back to his alleged Jewishness.

The Catholic Church forced some Jews to renounce Judaism and embrace Catholicism thus the term “Conversos,” or converts. There were also those who feigned conversion, practicing Catholicism outwardly while covertly practicing Judaism, the so-called “Marranos,” or swine. Recently, a number of Spanish scholars have concluded that Columbus was a Marrano, whose survival depended upon the suppression of all evidence of his Jewish background in face of the brutal, systematic ethnic cleansing. Necessity aside, which is worse: being a Converso or being a Marrano?

To ‘prove’ his Jewishness, sources primarily used one particular document, Columbus’s Last Will and Testament, which he signed on May 19, 1506. It contains five curious – and revealing – provisions.

Two of his wishes – tithe one-tenth of his income to the poor and provide an anonymous dowry for poor girls – are part of Jewish customs. He also decreed to give money to a Jew who lived at the entrance of the Lisbon Jewish Quarter.

On that document, Columbus used a triangular signature of dots and letters that resembled inscriptions found on gravestones of Jewish cemeteries in Spain. He ordered his heirs to use the signature in perpetuity.

According to British historian Cecil Roth’s “The History of the Marranos,” (1932), the anagram was a cryptic substitute for the Kaddish, a prayer recited in the synagogue by mourners after the death of a close relative. Thus, Columbus’s subterfuge allowed his sons to say Kaddish for their crypto-Jewish (another term for Marrano) father when he died. Finally, Columbus left money to support the crusade he hoped his successors would take up to liberate the Holy Land from Muslim control.

Further, Columbus’s voyage was not, as is commonly believed, funded by the deep pockets of Queen Isabella, but rather by two Jewish Conversos and another prominent Jew, who advanced an interest-free loan of 17,000 ducats from their own pockets to help pay for the voyage.

There is considerable research by qualified people to conclude that yes, Columbus was, at the least, a Converso if not a Marrano. If you’re interested, you can research it to your heart’s content, just as I did to satisfy my limited interest.

Let us test another schoolbook theory.

Was Columbus a gifted navigator? That is certainly open to question. He began his first voyage with the intention of reaching Asia by sailing westward. This proposal won him the support of the Spanish Crown, which saw in it a chance to enter the spice trade with Asia through a new westward route. However, during his first voyage, instead of arriving at Japan as he had intended, he landed in present-day Bahamas. He believed it was an Asian island. Because he did not find riches there, Columbus decided to continue sailing in search of Japan. Instead, he ended up visiting the islands we now know as Cuba and Hispaniola.

Columbus always insisted, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, that the lands he visited during his four voyages were part of the Asian continent, as previously described by Marco Polo and other European travelers. Columbus’s refusal to accept that the lands he had visited and claimed for Spain were not part of Asia might explain, in part, why the American continent received its name from the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci and not from Columbus.

That takes care of his claim to being a gifted navigator. However, regardless of where he landed in 1492, was he a great colonizer? People of Hispaniola wouldn’t think so.

When Columbus first set foot on that island, he encountered a population of native people called the Taino. The natives were soon forced into slavery, and punished with the loss of a limb or death if they did not collect enough gold (a portion of which Columbus was allowed to keep for himself). Between the Europeans’ brutal treatment and their infectious diseases, within decades, the Taino population was decimated.

Several historians maintain that Columbus spearheaded the transatlantic slave trade and have accused him of initiating the genocide of the Hispaniola natives. Although his political enemies may have manufactured some of the charges, Columbus admitted to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that many of the accusations were true, creating a strained relationship with the Spanish crown and led to his arrest in 1500.

So, Jew or Converso of Marrano? A brave explorer or greedy invader? A gifted navigator or reckless adventurer? A great colonizer or a despot? I’ve taxed my brain on this subject long enough. Research it for yourself and learn some history. Well, at least history until someone decides none of that actually happened and ‘proves’ it by Internet research.

The evidence seems to indicate a far more complicated picture of the man than our schoolbooks contained. Regardless, let’s give the devil his due. Though Columbus didn’t do what our schoolbooks told us he did, his voyages led to the first lasting European contact with the Americas.

The lasting significance of Columbus’s voyages outshone that of his Viking predecessors, because he took knowledge of the continent back to Europe. By bringing the continent to the forefront of Western attention, he initiated the enduring relationship between the earth’s two major landmasses. Perhaps historian Martin Dugard (1961–present) said it best: “Columbus’s claim to fame isn’t that he got there first, it’s that he stayed.”


By the way, if I had read the entire poem, the last two lines would have saved me a lot of brain strain:

The first American? No, not quite

But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.


Okay, brave, I give him that. But bright? That’s open to question. What does the Internet say?




Halloween 2008

Mike Dailey


It’s Halloween Trunk or Treat time

And my daughter’s crowd thinks it’d be fine

To support the cause

As the cast from the “OZ”

And my son-in-law fell right in line



You see, I have a son-in-law who

Thinks “I wonder what people would do

If my costume consists

Of not Mr. but Miss

In a beautiful dress of orange hue”



So my son-in-law’s going in drag

As the “Good Witch” not some ugly hag

For he has high standard

And I, in all candor

Can’t really help but to brag


In Wicked they tell the same tale

Of Dorothy, the shoes, and that trail

But I must surmise

When told through witch’s eyes

The one Dorothy told did derail



Reflections on Consciousness

Randy Bittle


The atoms inside my body are billions of years old.  Some of them have only been in my body since breakfast, but they are nonetheless all very, very old.  The configuration of these ancient atoms in the form of my body is recent, and my body is in a constant state of fluctuation and activity as the atoms move around in the process of living physiology.  One effect of the atomic and molecular activity inside me is the existence of my conscious mind, a prized possession which defines my personal identity.  Without it I would be no more sentient than an inert fence post or a pebble.  I cultivate and tend my conscious mind with the utmost care.

Following the “garbage in, garbage out” philosophy, I feed my mind from the best resources I can find.  The better my mental content is, the better I am.  Unfortunately my mind has numerous flaws in its functionality.  Compensating and coping with mental inadequacies are priorities in the cultivation and tending of my consciousness.  Writing down telephone numbers, for instance, because I can’t remember them much longer than it takes to write them down.

Along the same line, with more than 500 books in my house, I cannot possibly memorize what’s in them.  But I have read them and know approximately what is in them, and I know where to find anything they contain when I need that information at a given moment.  My mind may be limited, but good mental management skills get me through to a useful level of proficiency.

A Fascinating function of consciousness is that it restricts the number of things you can be aware of at one time.  Unless you are in pain, you probably are unaware of the pressure of your seat on your back and legs until I now bring it to your attention.   You simply are unable to be aware of everything in your subconscious mind in the same moment.  This feature is mostly good, but there are times when competent multi-tasking would be nice.

Besides restricting attention, what is consciousness itself?  Philosophers since Plato and Aristotle have debated the nature of the mind and soul, but their efforts have proved inconclusive, and still today no one knows what consciousness is.  Descartes’ great mind-body dualism, in which the mind is of a different character than the mechanical body, has been under attack by modern physiology experts.  Their argument is that consciousness must be physiological because according to them existence requires something to be physical.  No mind-body duality is possible under this rigorous theory.

I’m not so sure.  Not everyone is convinced of this purely physical theory.  I admit the mind has a physiological basis, but it may not be entirely physical itself.  An elastic, malleable physiological substrate is necessary.  The brain, of course, provides this substrate, but I don’t think the mind is merely a physical sum of the neural networks that make up the brain.  The mind changes too often and its contents are frequently abstract notions like love and peace, as well as ethical considerations relating to how we should behave in modern societies.  These abstract notions are not static, physical entities.  Their representation in the brain-based mind is not static or certain.  The conscious mind is more like a complex process taking place in a physiological substrate.  The process is different than the physiology itself.

In a similar manner, the word processor I am using to write this essay depends on electronic manipulation of values equivalent to ones and zeroes.  The hardware and software are necessary substrates of the word processing tool, but the usefulness for me is the functional process of the tool at a different level than the physical substrates that make it possible.  Likewise, the functional usefulness of my mind is at a different level than its physiological brain substrate.  I don’t have to worry about a computer being conscious because its physical substrate is unlike the brain substrate of my mind, and a manmade computer is thus far incapable of supporting conscious thought.

I am not threatened by computers that can beat champion humans at games like chess.  Those computers will never be conscious.  Of more concern to me is the medical interaction of electronic computer components with brain physiology.  Progress is already being made in the area of artificial prosthetics controllable by the mind.  A future world in which minds are physically connected to computer interfaces is scary to me.  It will be a different world then, and I will probably die before that time arrives.  I just carry on, thinking with my limited capacity and enjoying the consciousness I experience because I am uniquely who I am.



“Since Trifles make the sum of human things,

And half our misery from our foibles springs,

Small Habits well pursued betimes

May reach the dignity of crimes.”                 Hannah More (1745-1833)


Did You Know?

Submitted by Bill Dodson


1. Your shoes are the first thing people subconsciously notice about you. Wear nice shoes.


2. If you sit for more than 11 hours a day, there’s a 50% chance you’ll die within the next 3 years.


3. There are at least 6 people in the world who look exactly like you. There’s a 9% chance that    you’ll meet one of them in your lifetime.


4. Sleeping without a pillow reduces back pain and keeps your spine stronger.


5. A person’s height is determined by their father, and their weight is determined by their mother.


6. If a part of your body “falls asleep”, you can almost always “wake it up” by shaking your head.


7. There are three things the human brain cannot resist noticing, food, attractive people and danger.


8. Right-handed people tend to chew food on their right side


9. Putting dry tea bags in gym bags or smelly shoes will absorb the unpleasant odor.


10. According to Albert Einstein, if honeybees were to disappear from earth, humans would be dead within 4 years.


11. There are so many kinds of apples, that if you ate a new one every day, it would take over 20 years to try them all.


12. You can survive without eating for weeks, but you will only live 11 days without sleeping.


13. People who laugh a lot are healthier than those who don’t.


14. Laziness and inactivity kills just as many people as smoking.


15. A human brain has a capacity to store 5 times as much information as Wikipedia.


16. Our brain uses the same amount of power as a 10-watt light bulb!!


17. Our body gives enough heat in 30 mins. to boil 1.5 litres of water!!


18. The Ovum egg is the largest cell and the sperm is the smallest cell !!


19. Stomach acid (conc. HCL) is strong enough to dissolve razor blades!!


20. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day & while you walk, SMILE. It is the ultimate antidepressant.


21. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.


22. When you wake up in the morning, pray to ask God’s guidance for your purpose, today.


23. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.


24. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, broccoli, and almonds.


25. Try to make at least three people smile each day.


26. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.


27. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.


28. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.


29. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Forgive them for everything.


30. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.


31. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.


32. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.


33. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.


34. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.


35. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: ‘In five years, will this matter?’


36. Help the needy, Be generous! Be a ‘Giver’ not a ‘Taker’.


37. What other people think of you is none of your business.


38. Time heals everything.


39. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.


40. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.


41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.


42. Each night before you go to bed, pray to God and be thankful for what you’ve accomplished today.


43. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.



Dog for Sale

Submitted by Gerry Fehr


A guy is driving around the back woods of Texas and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: “Talking Dog For Sale”.  He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.

 The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.

 ”You talk?” he asks.

 ”Yep,” the Lab replies.

 After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says “So, what’s your story?”

 The Lab looks up and says, “Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so ... I joined the CIA.

 ”In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders; because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping.

 ”I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running.


 ”But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals.”

 ”I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I’m just retired.”

 The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

“Ten dollars,” the guy says.

“Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?”

“Because he’s a bull shooting artist that lies worse than Hillary. He’s never been out of the yard.”















What Stories Could It Tell

Mike Dailey


What stories could it tell you ask?

I might be up for such a task

For stories are my bread and butter

And pictures like this to me utter

I’ve been a home, a barn, a shed

I’ve housed the living, housed the dead

I’ve seen famine, I’ve seen feast

I’ve seen the sun rise in the east

I’ve seen it set out in the west

The stars, the moon, and all the rest

I was built with loving hands

Never ever written plans

One wall had a stove and sink

A wooden chair to rest and think

A bed behind the only wall

As houses go I was quite small

But love was large throughout the years

As families laughed or shed their tears

Then I grew old, beyond repair

With no more families living there

A goat, a cow, an ornery mule

A place where one could hang a tool

When even that became too much

I kind of fell then out of touch

The vines climbed up my outer walls

The porch post broke, the roof then falls

I’m left to rot where once I stood

To be forgotten now for good

I’m nearing now my closing bell

But oh the stories I could tell.



“There is this extraordinary idea that somehow disbelievers in miracles consider them fairly while believers accept them in connection with dogma. The facts are quite the opposite. Believers accept miracles, rightly or wrongly, because they have seen evidence of them while those who deny miracles believe in a doctrine.

You would believe a peasant who testified in a murder case or of mistreatment by a landlord. Peasants possess a healthy agnosticism. Why would you not believe him if he witnessed a miracle. You could fill the British Museum with testimony by peasants about the supernatural.”

G. K. Chesterton



 Author’s note:  This story is loosely based on the real characters , Mary and Jane Parminter who lived in A La Ronde, an octagonal house in Exmouth Devon. This is now owned by the National Trust. These two cousins went on a Grand Tour of Europe in the eighteen century and brought back many objects, which can be seen in the house today. It is really worth a visit if you are in the south west of England. My story is purely from my imagination except the fact that the sandals are on display in a cabinet in the house

Fahadi’s Sandals

Diana Goldsmith


I reach into the box and carefully take out the sandals from the satin lined interior. My hands are shaking with a tremor that I have had for a few months now and which my physician says will not  improve but may even get worse with time. I look at my hands which are gnarled and veined but I keep them gloved when I am out visiting. Who am I trying to deceive? The years have not been kind to me and I am an old woman now. It is four o’ clock and like every Wednesday my maid brings the box to me  It is my time to remember and recollect times long ago which were sweeter. Hopes and dreams alas unfulfilled, but Amelia my dearest friend for that is who you are, I digress. I will tell you all and you shall write it down thus it shall not be forgotten when I am gone.

I Mary Parminter was born to Richard Parminter and Mary, known as Polly Walrond in 1767. My father came from a wealthy family who owned much land in North Devon. I lived in Broadgate House in Barnstaple and was happy there as far as I can remember. Unfortunately my mother’s health had not been good and being of a weak disposition she sadly died when I was five and because it was not proper for my father to bring me up himself,  I went to live with my cousin Jane who was eighteen years older than I and she became my guardian. I loved her very much and she me. She was like a second mother, no better than that for she was more like an older dear sister. My dear father died seven years after my mother, maybe because he could not be reconciled to her premature death.

Jane herself had an inheritance and although she was a very eligible young lady, had not married. She had received many offers but she was not going to accept just because of convention. She was as her own father was, a dissenter  My father too had been one and hoped that we would follow on in that way. We used to worship at a little chapel in our town. 

I had inherited a great fortune of estates in Devon through my father and properties and businesses in London from an uncle and so would be able to live very comfortably for the rest of my life if  I didn’t marry. Having completed my studies with my governess and tutors in languages, history and art, Jane suggested that we go on a Grand Tour of Europe. Jane thought it would finish my education.

Amelia, it was all I could have dreamed about. We visited countries I had only heard and read about. I was able to speak French and Italian when we visited Paris and Venice. We ate beautiful delicacies like the delicious pastries in France and drank their fine wine eventhough they seemed unable to make a cup of tea as we do! We visited museums and art galleries and visited the Colosseum in Rome. We bought exquisite gowns which were made for us by wonderful seamstresses who just seemed to know the latest fashions and whose art in beading was amazing.

We visited the palace of Versailles and were even introduced to King Louis X1V and Marie Antoinette who took us around the gardens! What a tragedy befell them later!

We went to Spain and Portugal, which were very hot and arid.

On our travels, we would collect objects to remind us of our visits and the places we had been. These have given us delight and helped us remember in later years. Now I am residing alone at A la Ronde, as my dearest Jane has passed away, these treasures have become my friends.,

We visited Constantinople, part of the Ottoman empire. Here the women were all veiled. It was a place of bazaars with bearded  men in long robes wearing turbans on their heads. We were careful to be accompanied on visits to their places of worship, called mosques. However we, as women could not enter  them so we just stood in awe outside and looked at the gold, silver and jewelled decorations on the walls and doors.

I longed to have some lovely silk for a dress and so I persuaded a servant to take me alone to a bazaar to purchase some lengths of material. However I didn’t realize how dangerous it was and some brigands were about to steal my reticule but fortunately this kind gentleman fought them off and rescued me. He accompanied me safely back to out hotel. He had introduced himself as Fahadi, Mustafa and he turned out to be none other than the Sultan’s youngest son.

He was extremely handsome with bronzed skin and a dark beard. His steely blue eyes twinkled when he spoke in impeccable English to me. He charmed my cousin Jane, who had scolded me for going off without her and taking proper precautions.

While we were in Constantinople, we received an invitation to attend a grand reception at the Sultan’s Palace.

How excited we were and I especially, for I had thought Fahadi the most handsome and wonderful man I had ever been introduced to. 

We dressed carefully and my maid made my hair exceptionally beautiful that night. The peacock blue silk dress shimmered in the light. We were taken by a carriage that the Sultan himself had sent drawn by arab stallions and an out rider with a drawn sword for protection.

At last we saw the opulent palace set in wonderful gardens with fountains playing and lit up by many torches. We entered and were taken into a room draped in coloured hangings which gave the impression that you were inside a tent.  We were given  wines and foods that were perfumed and very sweet. Musicians played on instruments I did not recognise but I found the sounds so exotic and the whole atmosphere  intoxicating. Then Fahadi came over and asked if he might accompany me around the garden. Jane said I could go and one of his sister’s came as chaperone.  We talked much and found ourselves at ease in each other’s company. He had had an extremely good education and had travelled extensively. We discussed many things like art and history and he told me about his country and his faith.

I found that I was overwhelmed by him.

Dear Amelia, I have to say that I didn’t know that I could have felt this way about a gentleman before. I had been introduced to many in England and even in Europe, too, even Counts and Marquis but no one excited me like Fahadi!

What was I to do?  My heart was racing. It was late and we had to get back to my cousin. Suddenly there was a loud explosion. I looked up in surprise and to my amazement I saw the most beautiful flashes of colourful lights in the heavens. They are called fireworks, Fahadi told me. They come from China.

It was an experience I will never forget, explosions in the heavens and also in my heart.

Fahadi did accompany us on visits in his city and I brought back many exotic objects. On my last evening in Constantinople I received a beautiful jewelled box. Yes this very one, Amelia. In it were Fahadi’s sandals which he had worn that night at the Palace.

You see sandals have a special significance in his culture and he wanted me to remember him and as I looked at them I would be able to know he always walks with me although we could never be together because of the vast differences in our culture.

As I look and feel the soft brown leather, I think of his bronzed skin and as I see the blue detail on the heels I remember his piercing blue eyes.

So Amelia my dearest friend my fairy tale ended but unlike Cinderella my handsome prince has given me his shoes! 



Halloween Horror

Sybil Austin Skakle

 One cold, dark Halloween night, the wind churned up the deep of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pamlico Sound and the marsh shallows of Hatteras Island. Halloween goblins scratched at the windows and hissed at the doors. Ghosts, anxious to begin haunting, quaked in their hidden places. Lighted pumpkin faces grinned in the darkness of the night. Their flames flickered in eerie patterns against the trees, bushes and houses. A black cat came around the corner of a house and saw a lighted Jack-O-Lantern on the doorstep. It yowled menacingly; its tail and hair sprung into the air like flashes of lighting streak the sky. What would such a night produce?

 It was certain that on this night of haunting, village children would avoid an area of the village near the docks on Rollinson Creek. Years before, one early morning, a fisherman on his way to the dock passing the said area found the truck, which belonged to a man he knew. The driver’s door was open; the key still in the ignition. The truck lights, left on, had drained the truck battery so it would not start. 

Later, someone went to his home, to see if he were there. His wife did not know where he might be. He had not come home. She had not seen him since he left, late the evening before. She had tried to persuade him to stay home. She did not want him to drive the truck. He was already very drunk. “Perhaps,” she told them, “He went off with his drinking buddies.”

She named them. It was not unusual. “He will come home when he sobers up again,” she said, only mildly perturbed. She requested that he report the condition of the truck to the garage, to have them charge the battery, and bring the truck back to her to await his return.

He never came home. No one reported seeing him. His drinking buddies did not know where he might have gone. He had not been with them. They had seen him earlier that night, but he left them and went speeding off in the truck. They suggested that he might have met someone who took him off the island to find more whiskey, because all of Hatteras Island was dry, since the populace of the lower part of Dare County voted to have no alcohol sold on the island. 

Calls were made to family members, on and off the island. No one knew what became of him. So, the local police decided they had better do some investigating. They did, but reported they found no evidence to indicate that there had been foul play.

It had been several days when, on a morning after another Halloween, an unexpected offering appeared on the surface of the deep water of the hole, dredged wider and deeper to provide sand for the surrounding ground near the docks. The body of the lost man floated to the surface. Either the wind and motion of the water dislodged the body from the water’s depths, or gases of the decaying, bloated body caused it to float to the surface.   

The village buzzed with the news. They finally knew what had happened to one of its citizens. Finding the body gave them enough evidence to prepare a possible scenario. Drunk and disoriented, the man left his truck, possibly to relieve himself, with the idea of returning to it. Either he did not realize where he was, or he got too close to the edge of the dredged out hole. In his inebriated condition, his bulky body slid off the sandy bank and sank into the deep hole. The cause of death was determined to be drowning, in ten feet of water, not alcohol.  

The landowner filled that hole with trash, invited village people to help him by bringing their trash to hasten its filling. He covered it with sand and the area had long since grassed over to become part of the landscape. But, Hatteras children know to avoid that area, especially on Halloween. They dread seeing his ghost, who stalks about on windy, dark Halloween nights when other ghouls prowl.



Mike Dailey


                       The rivers are up

The levees are down

Gotta move on before we all drown

Rain keeps on falling

Sick of that sound

Gotta move on before we all drown

Piling up sandbags

Still losing ground

Gotta move on before we all drown

Taking our farm land

Flooding our town

Gotta move on before we all drown

Exhausted and beat

No hope to be found

Gotta move on before we all drown

Livestock let loose

Round up the old hound

Gotta move on before we all drown

Close up the place

One last look around

Gotta move on before we all drown

Me and the family


Don’t know where we’re bound

Gotta move on before we all drown

Gotta move on before we all drown

Gotta move on before we all drown

Gotta move on before we all drown




HSLS cover.jpgHammer Spade

and the

Long Shooter


Part Three

Dave Quigley


Chapters Twenty-Two-Twenty-five


“How much farther to Catacamas?” Dave asked.

“A couple of hours,” Roscoe replied.

“What’s  interesting in Catacamas?”

“Depends on what you call interesting. The Talgua River runs east of town. There’s the famous Talgua caves where all them thousand-year-old skeletons were found a few years ago. There’s a famous Catholic Church named San Francisco de Asis if you’re into touring old churches. There’s Parque Central that has a ceiba tree that’s fourteen feet in diameter. They say everybody in town goes there at least once a day. You can go to the Armeria and look at the guns for sale.”

“I’d rather work than sightsee.”

“I figured we’d set up where we can oversee Philippe’s place. What kind of zeros you got on the rifle?”

“Out to a thousand.”

“That ought to do it.”

“How’d you end up in Honduras?” Dave asked.

“I came to Honduras the long way. I was in ‘Nam. Didn’t go home when it was over. Ended up in Bangkok. Took a few jobs with American companies doing work in Thailand.”

“Why didn’t you go home?”

“The women. Thai women are the prettiest women in the world and they are raised from birth to please men. You can get a new one every month. She cooks, she cleans, she shines your shoes and whatever else you want her to do, and she appreciates the chance to do it.”

Dave laughed. “That is a deal. How’d you end up in this business?”

“The Brits used me on a few projects. One was with Maggie. She put in a good word for me and when I got sick of Thailand, they sent me here.”

“Why’d you get sick of Thailand?”

“Those pretty women were all the same. Same attitudes, same figures, same faces, never disagreeable. I needed a little spice in my life.”

“Do you get it here?”

“In spades! They look different, they act different and they’ll spit in your eye if you treat’em bad.”

“You got any kids?”

“Three. One here and two back in Thailand. I send the Thai kids money every month.”

“How’s the pay?”

“It pays the rent and the bills. I don’t work all the time. The Bronco’s theirs.”

“Have you been back to West Virginia?”

“Naw. Don’t plan to either. This is my home.”

They stopped talking and Dave watched the lush countryside slide by while thinking about this assignment. Roscoe was probably right about Clover but Dave didn’t like the idea of exceeding his orders. Still, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.



They drove into Catacamas at mid-afternoon. It was a pretty town but it was short of things like traffic lights, paved streets and sidewalks. Dave didn’t see any tourists.

After taking rooms at the Hotel La Colina, which was half a block southwest of the Catacamas Parque Central, they drove out to scope out Philippe’s place.

It looked like a fortress with a concrete wall enclosing the compound. The house was surrounded by another concrete wall designed to prevent shots being fired into windows. Armed guards were stationed at the gates and on the roof of the main house.

There was a low mountain covered with vegetation to the northeast of the house that would allow a careful man to slip within five hundred yards of the main house.

Roscoe drove by the compound and turned left on the road up the mountain.  After arriving at the top, they stopped, got out and scanned the compound with binoculars.

“This is gonna be tough,” Dave observed.

“Yep, but we got plenty of time.”

They got back into the Bronco, drove off the mountain to the north and cruised around the countryside until dinnertime.

They ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and discussed the project while they ate.

“I saw a chopper,” Dave observed.

“They use it to sweep the area before the big guy leaves the compound and right before he comes back.”

“Is it armed?”

“Don’t know about the chopper but you can bet that men armed with machine guns and rifles are inside.”

“Anything else?”

“I heard he had a quad-fifty.”

“Jesus!” Dave exclaimed. “What are you getting us into?”

Roscoe grinned at Dave. “If we get Philippe, our names will be spoken reverently round the world.”

“Where’d you hear about the quad-fifty?”

“Scuttlebutt has it that he used one to shoot the Federalistas’ choppers down when they came.”

“You mean the Honduran government has tried to get this man and failed?” Dave asked incredulously.

“Twice, that I know of. I heard they lost a hundred men the second time.”

Dave was silent while he mulled this information over in his mind.

“Would you have helped Margot if she had been assigned to get him?” Dave asked.

“Heck yeah! I wouldn’t have batted an eye.” He looked Dave straight in the eye. “Maggie would get him.”

Dave finished the rest of the meal in silence. Why did he feel like he was in something way over his head?



Chapter Twenty-Three


The two of them were up early looking for an inconspicuous observation spot. They needed one that would allow them to oversee Philippe’s compound without having to drive to the property.

In the southern edge of the city, they found an old, rundown four-story apartment building. Roscoe checked with the management firm handling the property and found out that a three bedroom apartment was vacant on the top floor on the side facing Philippe’s compound. The apartment was too far for a shot but it gave a panoramic view of the whole compound.

After the deal to rent the apartment for two months was closed, they bought some used furniture.

That evening they had dinner at the As de Oro, a restaurant on a dirt street without any working streetlights. Roscoe told Dave that paved streets and streetlights were rare in Honduran towns such as this.

Service was slow, but the food was excellent and cheap by American standards.  Their Olancho steak dinner was served with a huge pile of french-fried potatoes and a big plate of salad. They were not bothered by insects even though the dining room had no windows or screens. 

The next morning they checked out of the hotel and moved into the apartment. Since both of them refused to accept housecleaning responsibilities, Roscoe hired a local woman named Medea Benjamin to clean the place and continue cleaning it once a week.

She was a friendly, helpful woman. Her first advice to them was they must not drink water from the tap. She advised them to buy five-gallon bottles of water but be sure to collect the seven (American) dollar bottle deposit before they left town. Honduran currency was called the Lempiras and a few American dollars converted into Lempiras would go a long way in Catacamas.

After Medea left, Dave and Roscoe set up a spotting scope in the window facing Philippe’s compound. They studied Philippe’s coming and goings for three long days. Sure enough, every time Philippe left or returned, the helicopter made two wide sweeps around the compound. One was at about five thousand feet and the other was close to treetop level so they could inspect locations that caught somebody’s attention. The helicopter hovered about three hundred yards north of the gate while Philippe was getting into or out of the armored Lincoln automobile.

Dave and Roscoe mapped the compound. They batted ideas back and forth. They laid wide awake nights thinking about it, but by the fourth day, they had not developed a plan.

“I thought you would have come up with something by now,” Roscoe grumbled to Dave.

“You’re half the team. You carry your own load,” Dave shot back. “Besides you live here and you speak the language.”

“Yeah, but you got the big double-o license.”

“It’s not awarded because they think I know anything. They just trust me to shoot the right guy.”

“For all the good you’ve done, they might as well have sent Al Gore.”

Dave stood up. “If you don’t take that back right now, the service is going to be short one in-country yo-yo.”

Roscoe cracked up. “Gotcha,” he said and howled with laughter.

Dave couldn’t decide whether to hit him or laugh. Finally he broke out laughing.

“Nobody has ever compared me to Al Gore,” he said. “You had better apologize right now!”

After several tries, between guffaws, Roscoe finally eked out an insincere apology.

It was dusk. The helicopter took off and made two sweeps in preparation for Philippe’s return.

“I wonder,” Dave mused, “if they have night vision and heat sensing equipment on that chopper?”

“Don’t know,” Roscoe replied. “How could we find out?”

“We could lay out there one night on that hill to see if they notice us. But I’m not too crazy about it when I remember they’ve got a quad-fifty.”

“We’ll have to come up with something else.”

“We could get some of those pouches they use to keep things hot, leave them in some spot that looks like a picnic area and see what happens.”

“By Jove!” Roscoe exclaimed in a fake British accent, “I believe you are onto something, old chap.”

“Can we find anything like that around here?”

“Don’t know. We’ll try to find some tomorrow.”

“We might need camo netting too.”

“We probably ought to go somewhere else to buy that,” Roscoe said.

For the first time since they had taken the apartment, they both slept well that night.




Chapter Twenty-Four


Dave and Roscoe had to drive all the way back to Tegucigalpa to find HeatPacks and camouflage netting. They returned late and had to ring the bell twice to get somebody to let them inside the As de Oro. They were famished and ate heartily. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they were in a mellow mood.

When they returned to the Bronco, Dave waited beside the passenger door for Roscoe to unlock it from the inside. Two men came from behind another vehicle and attacked Dave. Dave knocked the smallest man down with his fist. The big man swung at Dave with a baseball bat. Dave blocked the blow and wrenched the bat from his grasp. Then Dave proceeded to work the two of them over with the bat. It didn’t take long before the two assailants broke off the fight and limped away as fast as their bruised legs could carry them.

Roscoe watched with amusement from the driver side of the Bronco.  “Man, that was awesome,” he said when Dave got inside the vehicle with the bat.

“I noticed you weren’t in any hurry to give me a hand,” Dave grumbled.

“I didn’t have time. Besides, you handled it pretty well yourself.”

“Maybe they’ll come after you next time and I can grin at you while I watch the show.”

“I’d have helped if you were in trouble,” Roscoe said. Then he began to laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Dave asked indignantly.


“Two guys tried old Dave to beat,

they needed his cash so they could eat.

They wished that they had used an ax,

‘cause Dave gave the big one forty whacks.

When he saw what good that done,

 he gave the little guy forty-one.”

“You’re quite a comedian, aren’t you?”

“Man, it was funny. They probably thought they had jumped a wildcat the way you tore into them.” He paused. “Word about this’ll get around fast. They’ll leave you alone from now on, buddy.”

“Or bring a gun next time.”

“They was just some hungry peasants. They ain’t got a gun.”



For the next two days they watched the compound, waiting for Philippe to leave so they could place the HeatPacks. They had gotten careless about Medea and when she came to clean the apartment, she saw them on the spotting scope.

“We’re spying on our rich neighbor,” Roscoe said lamely, hoping she would ignore what she had seen.

“Mr. Cordoni is an evil man.”

“He is?” Dave asked in feigned surprised.

“You know what he is,” Medea replied. “You two did not come to Catacamas to buy fertilizer. You are Federalistas. You don’t have to worry about me telling anybody. Mr. Cordoni ruined my daughter. I hope you kill him.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Roscoe said.

“Mr. Cordoni has ruined many daughters. When we complain to the police, they laugh at us and tell us that Mr. Cordoni is a nice man who would not harm a flea.”

“How old is your daughter?” Dave asked.

“She would have been twenty-two next month.”

“Would have?” Roscoe asked.

Medea’s anger and hurt were palpable. “In her shame, she killed herself six years ago.”

“We are very sorry,” Dave said.

“I do not wish to discuss this anymore. I will tell no one what you do. I will clean now. Go back to your business.”



After Medea had finished her work, she came to the room where they were set up.

“If you need help I can ask some of the men who are dependable. They will do anything you ask.”

“We’d better keep locals out of this,” Roscoe replied. “There might be repercussions if it were found out.”

“I would be happy to cook your meals. You do not have to pay.”

That is a good idea,” Dave said. “We can pay. You can start right away.” He handed her a wad of money. “Use this to buy groceries.”

“Gracias Señor,” she said and left the apartment.

“That was a good move, Dave,” Roscoe said.

“Yeah. We don’t have to worry about being attacked outside restaurants and she’ll tell us if somebody starts snooping around.”




Chapter Twenty-Five


Cardoni left mid-morning the next day. He had not returned an hour before dusk, so Dave and Roscoe set out the HeatPacks in a brushy area on the slope facing Cardoni’s compound. They placed one where a man’s head might be, two were placed side-by-side to represent shoulders, two more for hips and four more arranged to reflect heat like a man’s legs. Then they threw out picnic trash the way an animal might scatter it and broke up the Styrofoam cooler.

They then slipped off the mountain and drove a roundabout way back to the apartment. They were looking out the window when the helicopter rose to make the circles in preparation for Cardoni’s return. Sure enough, the helicopter paused over the place where the HeatPacks were. On the low sweep it hovered for some time over the spot.

A few minutes later, two Ford Expeditions loaded with armed men drove out of the compound and up the trail to the mountain. The area where Dave and Roscoe had placed the HeatPacks was inaccessible to vehicles so the armed men had to walk the remaining two hundred yards.

Roscoe watched through the spotting scope as powerful flashlights swung back and forth until they found the picnic trash. He could see them gesturing and acting disgusted. One of them produced a trash bag. They stuffed the garbage in it and returned to the trucks. One of them got on a radio. A few minutes later, the limousine bearing Cardoni entered the compound.

“That answers that question,” Dave observed.

“Yep. They don’t miss nothing,” Roscoe agreed. “What do we do now?”

“I’ve been thinking about that. First we’ve got to find a place that gives me a clear shot when he gets out of the limo.”

“How can we keep the chopper from seeing you?”

“I think a sleeping bag might hold my heat long enough for them to miss me on the sweep.”

“We had better test that,” Roscoe said.

“Yeah. How many more HeatPacks have we got?”


“I guess we’ll make another trip to Tegucigalpa.”

“Yep. We got to get a sleeping bag too.”

“How about putting out two decoys next and cover one with the sleeping bag to see if they find it?”

“Good idea, Dave.”

The next morning they left a note for Medea and drove back to Tegucigalpa, bought supplies, then returned in one day.

Medea was waiting in the apartment when they arrived.

“The police came this morning and inspected the apartment. I saw them coming and put everything out of sight. They asked me what you two were here for and I told them you were American loggers looking for timber to buy.”

“That was good thinking, Medea,” Dave observed. “Did that satisfy them?”

“That and the two bottles of wine we shared before they left.”

 “Thank you, Medea,” Roscoe said.

Medea got busy preparing dinner while Dave and Roscoe looked out the window towards Cardoni’s compound.

“We had better move on this,” Roscoe said.

“Sounds like it. Medea is definitely on our side.”

“She could have sold us down the river and got herself a big bonus,” Roscoe said.

The next two days were spent looking for a spot to make the shot. Late the second day, they found a shallow swale covered with low hanging bushes. Dave lay in it to see if the line of fire was correct while Roscoe checked to see if Dave was well concealed.

“Looks good,” Roscoe observed when Dave scrambled out.

“It is. I had a clear line of sight to the back door of Cardoni’s limo.”

“Suppose they park somewhere else?”

“I can get a clean shot anywhere in the compound,” Dave said.

“Then all we got to do is test the sleeping bag and, if that works, get ready.”

On their way back to the apartment, Roscoe asked, “Dave, how do you feel when you’re getting close?”


“You know, get nervous?”

“It’s the same as any other day as far as I’m concerned.”

“Dave, you got ice water in your veins.”


Continued Next Issue



How Many of These Did You Know?

Dan Cowen


1.     A sealed envelope - Put in the freezer for a few hours, then slide a knife under the flap. The envelope can then be resealed.

2.     Use Empty toilet paper roll to store appliance cords. It keeps them neat and you can write on the roll what appliance it belongs to.

3.     For icy door steps in freezing temperatures: get warm water and put Dawn dish washing liquid in it. Pour it all over the steps. They won’t refreeze. I wish I had known this for the last 40 years!

4.     To remove old wax from a glass candle holder, put it in the freezer for a few hours. Then take the candle holder out and turn it upside down. The wax will fall out.

5.     Crayon marks on walls? This workes wonderfully! A damp rag, dipped in baking soda. Comes off with little effort, elbow grease that is!.

6.     Permanent marker on appliances/counter tops (like store receipt BLUE!) rubbing alcohol on paper towel.

7.     Whenever I purchase a box of S.O.S Pads, I immediately take a pair of scissors and cut each pad into halves. After years of having to throw away rusted and unused and smelly pads, I finally decided that this would be much more economical. Now a box of S.O.S pads last me indefinitely! In fact, I have noticed that the scissors get sharpened this way!

8.     Blood stains on clothes? Not to worry! Just pour a little hydrogen peroxide on a cloth and proceed to wipe off every drop of blood. Works every time! Now, where to put the body?

9.     Use vertical strokes when washing windows outside and horizontal for inside windows. This way you can tell which side has the streaks. Straight vinegar will get outside windows really clean. Don’t wash windows on a sunny day. They will dry too quickly and will probably streak.

10.  Spray a bit of perfume on the light bulb in any room to create a lovely light scent in each room when the light is turned on.

11.  Place fabric softener sheets in dresser drawers and your clothes will smell freshly washed for weeks to come. You can also do this with towels and linen.

12.  Candles will last a lot longer if placed in the freezer for at least 3 hours prior to burning.

13.  To clean artificial flowers, pour some salt into a paper bag and add the flowers. Shake vigorously as the salt will absorb all the dust and dirt and leave your artificial flowers looking like new! Works like a charm!

14.  To easily remove burnt on food from your skillet, simply add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan, and bring to a boil on stove top.

15.  Spray your TUPPERWARE with nonstick cooking spray before pouring in tomato based sauces and there won’t be any stains.

16.  Wrap celery in aluminum foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.

17.  When boiling corn on the cob, add a pinch of sugar to help bring out the corn’s natural sweetness

18.  Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half, and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.

19.  Don’t throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces. Left over wine? What’s that?

20.  To get rid of itch from mosquito bites, try applying soap on the area and you will experience instant relief.

21.  Ants, ants, ants everywhere... Well, they are said to never cross a chalk line. So, get your chalk out and draw a line on the floor or wherever ants tend to march. See for yourself.

22.  Use air-freshener to clean mirrors. It does a good job and better still, leaves a lovely smell to the shine.

23.  When you get a splinter, reach for the scotch tape before resorting to tweezers or a needle. Simply put the scotch tape over the splinter, and then pull it off. Scotch tape removes most splinters painlessly and easily.

24.  Now look what you can do with Alka Seltzer.

25.  Clean a toilet. Drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets, wait twenty minutes, brush and flush. The citric acid and effervescent action clean vitreous China

26.  Clean a vase. To remove a stain from the bottom of a glass vase or cruet, fill with water and drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets.

27.  Polish jewelry. Drop two Alka Seltzer tablets into a glass of water and immerse the jewelry for two minutes.

28.  Clean a thermos bottle. Fill the bottle with water, drop in four Alka Seltzer tablets, and let soak for an hour (or longer, if necessary).

29.  Unclog a drain. Clear the sink drain by dropping three Alka Seltzer tablets down the drain followed by a cup of Heinz White Vinegar. Wait a few minutes, and then run the hot water.

30.  Makes you wonder about ingesting Alka Seltzer, doesn’t it?


 “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, all the time you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.” John Wesley


Interesting Stuff Here folks.

Submitted by John Burnett

“Stewardesses” is the longest word typed with only the left hand And “lollipop”  is the longest word typed with your right hand.


No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple. 
“Dreamt” is the only English word that ends in the letters “mt”. 

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing. 

The sentence: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” 
uses every letter of the alphabet.

The words ‘racecar,’ ’kayak’ , and ‘level’  are the same whether they are read left to right or right to left (palindromes). 
There are only four words in the English language which end in “dous”: tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.


There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: “abstemious” and “facetious.”


TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.

A cat has 32 muscles in each ear. 

A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds. I have become part goldfish in my senior years.


A “jiffy” is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second. 

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes. 

A snail can sleep for three years. The other part of me has become a bit of a snail.

Almonds are a member of the peach family. 

An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain. (I know some people like that also) 

Babies are born without kneecaps.They don’t appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age. 

February 1865 is the only month in recorded history not to have a full moon. 

In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated. 

If the population of China walked past you, 8 abreast, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction. 

Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors. 

Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite! Now you know, when constipated...eat peanuts!

Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated. 

The cruise liner, QE 2 moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel that it burns. 

The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket. (Good thing he did that.) 

The winter of 1932 was so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely solid. 

There are more chickens than people in the world. 

Winston Churchill was born in a ladies’ room during a dance. 

Women blink nearly twice as much as men. 

Bonus!! All the ants in Africa weigh more than ALL the Elephants!! 

Now you know (a little) more than you did before!! 




Memories of Another Autumn

Frances Stafford Heath


Autumn - what an exciting time of year! Trees are changing colors, temperatures are moderating, birds are migrating, and leaves are beginning to fall and need raking. As a child growing up on a farm, I recall most of the crops being in - tobacco cured, cotton picked, corn harvested, and hay in the barn. For the farmer’s wife the vegetables and fruits picked, peeled, snapped, or shelled and canned or frozen to feed the family through the winter. In my particular case, most wonderful of all, was that school would soon start! In the mid-nineteen-thirties rural schools were only in session eight months, and didn’t ever start until the middle of September when children weren’t needed as badly to help with the farm work. Being an only child was a rather lonely life in many ways, and church and school were the main events in my social life. However, many children (especially boys) didn’t enjoy school as much as I did. It was not unusual to hear the comment in the fall, “I wish the school would burn down and we wouldn’t have to go.” That usually drew laughs, as we knew that was not likely to happen.

In the fall of nineteen-forty, I was looking forward to starting school in the seventh grade. Two weeks before school was to start, my mother and I were in the garden (where else) when a neighbor drove by and stopped to tell us (no rural phones then) that the school was on fire and burning out of control. We had a very beautiful building, consolidated and built less than twenty years before, but no rural fire department - the closest being almost twenty miles away. When the principal informed that department that there was a good-sized pond on the adjoining farm, they agreed to send a couple of tankers down to help.

When the fire was finally out hours later, four detached rooms and a large frame gymnasium built by the WPA a few years before, were all that were saved. In a couple of days, the principal announced that there would be a two-week delay before school could open. This would give four weeks to get everything ready. The consensus of the community was that it surely could not be done that quickly. I was a very disappointed kid!

The four rooms that were saved were the two-room home economics building, the science lab, and the library. The plan was made for the high school classes to use these plus the shop area attached to the gym. A couple of miles away was a two room building that had recently been closed due to consolidation of two “colored” schools and the county still owned it. The first and second graders were reloaded on busses every morning and taken there for classes. A “Grange Hall” had been added to the other end of the gym and this was designated for the third grades. This left the main gym floor for grades four through seven. Ten-foot sheet rock was erected to separate this into four areas, and we had “open classrooms” before they became introduced twenty years later as a great inovation for education.

The next two years were rather hard, but the up-side of it was that many of us, because of families still trying to recover from the Great Depression, were living without modern coveniencies at home that are taken for granted today. At school there were no water fountains or cafeteria. The heat was from coal-burning pot-bellied stoves in each space. Fires had to be started in every one of these each morning, and when the coal bucket was

empty, a couple of boys were sent to the coal pile for a refill. When the   

weather was very cold, it took a long time for the heat to build up. Then those near the stove got too warm, and those farthest away were not warm enough. Worst of all were the out-door “Johns” - never any heat there! These were four-seaters -one for girls and one for boys for all grades one through eleven. (Yes, we graduated from the eleventh grade.)

Our school was rebuilt in a little less than two years, which was unexpected considering all the shortages of the war years. We moved in just before school ended in the spring of 1942. How happy we were to have a wonderful cafeteria, multiple rest rooms, large auditorium, colored walls, and on and on. To be sure, the teachers were the happiest of all with the new building, and 1 can assure you that no-one hoped for it to “burn down”.

Years later, when I became a teacher, I always thought back to what those teachers had to put up with in addition to hardships and shortages caused by the war. I am long retired from the class room, but when the leaves begin to turn, the days begin to grow shorter, and the crops are all in (even though I live in the city), I know that it is autumn and time for school to start.


Francis Heath is retired and lives in Burlington, North Carolina. This is her first published work.



“The days may come, the days may go, but still the hands of memory weave the blissful dreams of long ago.” George Cooper (1838-1927)



One of Maxine’s Best!!!


 Senior citizens are constantly being criticized for every conceivable deficiency of the modern world, real or imaginary. We know we take responsibility for all we have done and do not try to blame others.


HOWEVER, upon reflection, we would like to point out that it was NOT senior citizens who took:

The melody out of music,

The pride out of appearance,

The courtesy out of driving,

The romance out of love,

The commitment out of marriage,

The responsibility out of parenthood,

The togetherness out of the family,

The learning out of education,

The service out of patriotism,

The Golden Rule from rulers,

The nativity scene out of cities,

The civility out of behavior,

The refinement out of language,

The dedication out of employment,

The prudence out of spending,

The ambition out of achievement

or God out of government and school.


AND we certainly are NOT the ones who eliminated patience and tolerance from personal relationships and interactions with others! And, we DO understand the meaning of patriotism, and remember those who have fought and died for our country. Just look at the Seniors with tears in their eyes and pride in their hearts, as they stand at attention with their hand over their hearts, as the American Flag passes by in a parade!


YES, I’M A SENIOR CITIZEN! I’m the life of the party ... even if it lasts until 8 p.m. I’m very good at opening childproof caps ... with a hammer. I’m awake many hours before my body allows me to get up. I’m smiling all the time, because I can’t hear a thing you’re saying. I’m sure everything I can’t find is in a safe secure place, somewhere. I’m wrinkled, saggy, lumpy, and that’s just my left leg. I’m beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.


Yes, I’m a SENIOR CITIZEN and I think I am having the time of my life! Now if I could only remember who sent this to me, I wouldn’t send it back to them. Or, maybe I should send it to all my friends anyway. They won’t remember, even if they did send it. Spread the laughter. Share the cheer. Let’s be happy While we’re here.


Go Green - Recycle Congress!!!!



Fall is hunting season so we must have a hunting dog story!


Red Theo

E. B. Alston


His original owners called him “Theo” but his registered name was Red Theo.  He was a Brittany spaniel, number 136682 in the American Field Dog Stud book: colors-orange and white. He was born May 20, 1978. His parents were Ward’s Freckles and Ward’s Jill who were owned by Marvin L. Ward Sr., famous Brittany breeder and trainer who lived near Durham, North Carolina.

Red was big for a Brittany spaniel. He weighed close to fifty pounds when he filled out. Mr. Ward told me that his ancestry included a dog recently imported from France with a name like “Chief de Coverly” which accounted for Red Theo’s unusual size and stamina.

It was February 1980. The previous year I transferred from my assignment in Richlands, Virginia, back to the General Office in Durham. One morning a company lawyer came into my office and closed the door. The conversation went like this.

“I heard you hunted quail?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you have bird dogs?”

“Yeah, two.”

“Well, last year I gave my wife a Brittany spaniel puppy for her birthday.”

“That was a nice gift.” I figured he wanted me to take him and his wife’s pet hunting.

“It didn’t turn out too good. He’s hyper, he about wrecked our house and now we keep him in the garage. We can’t keep our cars in the garage anymore because he tries to tear up everything.”

“He needs exercise,” I advised.

“We don’t have the time and the last time my wife took him out on the leash, he got away. It took us and the neighbors two days to catch him.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Will you take him and train him? I heard you were a good dog trainer.”

“I’m not in the business. I only train my dogs.”

“Well, take him and train him. If he works out, you can have him.”

That sounded like my kind of deal. Around Richlands, Virginia, Brittanys are greatly respected as grouse dogs. “I’ll think about it. I’ve got two good dogs now. I can’t supervise three dogs on a hunt.”

“I wish you’d reconsider,” he said with desperation in his voice.

“When can I see him?”

“Today after work. And I want you to take him home with you.”

This was a desperate man.

So that afternoon, I became the owner of Red Theo, the prettiest Brittany spaniel I had ever seen. He made it plain at once that I was not his favorite friend. This dog had a brain and opinions of his own. Dogs like that don’t make good foo-foo dogs but they make great working dogs. It might not be such a bad deal after all.

It was February and hunting season ended in a little over a week. I managed maybe an hour of yard training on a long leash and started calling him “Red.” My masculinity would have been questioned if I owned a bird dog named “Theo.”

I took him hunting the next Saturday. The other three dogs, Buckley, Lucky and my hunting partner, Randy Guthrie’s Heidi, were trained, self-confident and in their prime.

Red impressed me. He stayed with the hunt. He loaded up on the pickup when ordered to and he didn’t run up a single quail. Considering he hadn’t a clue what this was all about, it was a remarkable performance. Red watched the other dogs and when they pointed, he stopped and observed what went on. He didn’t point or try to retrieve, but he didn’t mess up either. Red might be okay after all.

I worked with him through the summer and he became a very disciplined dog. Within a month, I didn’t need a leash. I could hide the retrieving dummy under shrubbery at the house and direct him to it using voice commands and hand signals.

He also filled out. I guess it was the exercise. By dove season, Red was a big-boned forty-five pound Brittany, the biggest one I had ever seen. Since he had been trained with wide ranging English pointers, he thought he was a pointer too and covered a lot of ground for a Brittany spaniel.

My pointers didn’t care much for doves because dove feathers irritate a pointer’s mouth, so when dove season arrived, I took Red dove hunting. He sat still beside my shooting stool and retrieved the downed doves in a businesslike manner. That first day, he learned to recognize doves in flight and I could watch him and know that doves were approaching me from behind. We had a very successful day and a couple of other hunters offered me good money for my new dog.

Quail season was the same with Red. He learned fast and in a month, he hunted and retrieved like a seasoned dog. Buckley was not an enthusiastic retriever. He only retrieved because he knew the hunt would not resume until we had found all of the birds we had killed. Red took over retrieving duty with great enthusiasm. One time a quail fell into a brush pile. It was so thick that Red had to back out twice, but he got the quail. This “cute-as-a-button” Brittany spaniel was a tough and determined hunter.

That year, my friend, Woodrow Mullins, from Richlands came to visit and to hunt. I had told him about my free Brittany. When we turned the dogs out at the first field, Red took off in the wrong direction. I called his name and when he looked my way, I pointed in the direction we were going and Red turned the way I had pointed.

Woodrow bred and trained Brittanys for field trials. “I just sold a dog for twenty-five hundred that wouldn’t do that,” he observed. 

I was dove hunting with my youngest son one day at a public hunt near Butner. My son and I were beside a hunter who had three children about eight to eleven years old with him. The ground cover was pretty thick, which was no problem for Carl and me because we had Red.

Just before the hunt ended, the man sent his daughter over to ask if we would come over with our dog to help them find the doves they had shot. I told the girl that the dog’s name was Red and he would follow her if she called his name. When he was close to where they thought their birds were, they could point it out and Red would find them. She petted Red on the head and asked him to follow her. I watched as they pointed and Red retrieved in his businesslike fashion. After all the doves had been located and retrieved, the father accompanied his daughter when she escorted Red back to us.

He introduced himself and asked, “How much would it take to buy this dog?”

“He is not for sale,” I replied.



There’s not much left to tell. I took Red to Kansas on pheasant hunts three or four times and he was an excellent and tireless pheasant hunter too. He retrieved those big birds with the same professionalism as he did quail and doves.



red4 b-w.jpg


 This article is an excerpt from the book “Parallel Lives” by Rita Berman.


Parallel Lives

My recollections of WW2

Gerry Freed

   My mother was Louis Castleman’s younger sister and so I am a cousin to Rita. During the time when the War was at its worst for Britain during the Battle of Britain indeed our grandparent’s home and factory were destroyed.  They were people who like many Jewish migrants valued education and one of the things they had bought for their children years earlier was the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, in some 26 volumes. They managed to retrieve from the bombed building only seven volumes. Two of these went to my cousin Ralph and five I eventually acquired from my mother. I treasure these encyclopedias even now as they convey a very interesting view of the world, at least the part of the world in the pre First World War period that fitted in Lo-Mec and Med-Mum.

   I lived with my parents to the north of the East End, about two miles away from the factory in Upper Clapton in a house belonging to my grandfather on my father’s side. He was a manufacturer-jeweller, a business which mainly depended on the intricate decorations of walking sticks and canes that were once in vogue.  .

   During 1940 our house was attacked and an incendiary bomb landed on the front garden. It spattered and stained the copper sheet that my mother had over the front steps with phosphorous compound which, fortunately, did not ignite.

   At this point it was clear we were going to have to be evacuated, as was Rita.  My father was working in Central London for a company selling the fabrics that my other grandfather’s factory used to use but he was spending his nights, again like Louis, on the roof the buildings in London spotting and reporting on the German aircraft. He didn’t have any work to do of any substance during the day because no one would buy cloth for making up garments.

   So we were evacuated, my mother, myself, and another of her sisters and her two children, our cousins Marian and Ralph. Initially we were sent to a farmhouse in Chipping Norton, some way outside London to the Northwest.  My mother got into an immediate argument with the lady who owned the farmhouse and it was quite clear that was not going to work. So they applied rapidly for a change of billet and we were put, as a punishment I suspect, in the house of Bill and Bert who were unmarried brothers and were the blacksmiths in the village of Stokenchurch.

   Stokenchurch is on the main road between London and Oxford and has long since been bypassed by a motorway. Life there was very primitive compared with that which we had known in London where, I had a nanny, Alice, and we had help in the house.  Here the water was supplied by a pump and a well in the garden. I don’t recall there being any internal toilets. There was a toilet in an outbuilding.

  Among my early recollections was what seemed to be a huge forge with massive bellows and flames as the two bachelors went about their work.  It was mostly shoeing horses and repairing farm machinery. Food was in short supply, we were all rationed and my mother and her sister soon learned to go out into the fields and look for mushrooms and blackberries and even watercress which was found near the river.  My father had a petrol allowance, petrol being rationed at the time, and used to drive back to us for the weekend in his car with those slit headlights that were mandatory at the time.

  During the weekends he was with the local Home Guard platoon, as was Louis, but in Stokenchurch had to learn to a new way of life. The family had never been drinkers of alcohol but the Home Guard activities rapidly gravitated over the evening to the consumption of beer at the local pub.  We went back to the village about 30 years ago and the blacksmiths’ forge was still there, the brothers were long gone and the building was in the process of being sold in the village to make way for a new development. It was very sad because the building was Elizabethan and at another time it would have been preserved. I couldn’t help but note as a sign of the times that the pub my father frequented had become an up-market Indian restaurant.

   Anyway, we lasted there until 1942 when the pressure from the bombing lifted and we rented a house in Eastcote which is a northwestern suburb of London on the Tube.  There we were equipped with two types of shelter.  The Anderson shelter and the Morrison shelter. The Anderson was buried in the garden, was partially below ground level and was covered with a sheet of corrugated bare iron. It was made to a standard design and installed by cooperative efforts between the local people on the street, who built them for each house.  The Morrison was a steel framed structure with a heavy steel plate, about a quarter inch thick, over the top and wire mesh around the outside, it was like an overgrown rabbit hutch made of steel. I used to sleep in that and during the day I would do my homework, if I had any on the top. There was no room around it to put one’s feet under the table.

   My experience in going to school was that I reached the age of 5 while we were still in Stokenchurch, and so I was sent to the village school on the other side of the main road.  I lasted, I understand, no more than half a day when I decided I didn’t like school and left when the teacher wasn’t looking. I crossed the not very busy main road because there was not much traffic except for the occasional military vehicle and the farm cart  The teacher was chastised by my mother for not looking after me and in response she said she would not have me back at the school again as I was too much of a disturbing influence.

   However, when we got to Eastcote I went to a normal primary school and made friends with the children of my age who lived on my street. These were interesting times for a young child.  I never really got to grips with the level of fear which the adults experienced due to the bombing and the other military threats.  The action seemed a little remote to me.

  When the V-1’s and the V-2’s started to arrive it did come a little closer.  The V-1’s were not actually a rocket, they were a pulse-jet powered flying bomb and they were pointed at the general London area mainly as a sort of threat to demoralize the population.  They traveled for a certain distance, the motor was stopped and they dropped and wherever they dropped they blew up. So as they went to the ground there was an incredible screaming noise from the pulse jet which suddenly stopped and then you had a few seconds of contrasting silence and it exploded.  I remember hearing two of those and being told to dive for my shelter before they actually landed. They were referred to as Doodlebugs.

   The V-2s were another matter. This was a genuine liquid-fueled rocket, quite silent and you knew nothing until they actually exploded.  We had a pub near our house on the corner of Field End Road and Whitby Road. In the grounds of the pub the Army had installed an anti-aircraft battery. When it fired as it did frequently during the night, it certainly prevented me from getting a good night’s sleep. Probably it was a great excuse as to why I wasn’t very interested in school during the day. As the war progressed and 1944 arrived, the Americans started to arrive in the UK and were getting organized and prepared for the D-Day landings.  My father had cousins in the United States, something I was not aware of at the time, until one of them, Saul showed up at the house at the wheel of a Jeep.  He took me for a drive, my first drive in an open vehicle around our village where my father as his Home Guard responsibilities were around guarding the petrol station.  We went and visited ‘his’ petrol station in the Jeep.  My father’s cousin then disappeared just before the Normandy landings but after the war ended I gather he survived. He lived in St. Louis Missouri, from where he used to send us food parcels after the war.    The military, while preparing for that D-Day landing, turned what was a wheat field into an ammunition dump just opposite the anti-aircraft gun battery.  But such was the shortage of food in England at the time that every available piece of land was being turned, no matter how urban, into a food production site.   However, this wheat field was covered in military equipment and ammunition.   Once they left and all that was moved away, in less than a month the wheat grew again. However, the wheat that grew in summer was ripening among box after box of ammunition, a variety of hand grenades and large caliber shells for machine guns that were left behind. This was a favorite hunting ground for us young kids and a number of parents were surprised to find that children had live ammunition in their bedrooms.

   The whole thing was brought to a halt or at least our access to the dump was brought to a halt when one of my neighboring friends proudly presented his father with a couple of live (they were about a half-inch to ¾ inch)  shells to put on the mantelpiece above an open fire. As a result the police were called in and they came round and cleared out our stock.  I on the other hand was collecting the empty metal boxes that held .303 ammunition. I made my first crystal sets by melting a small quantity of lead in the corner of the box, using my mother’s gas cooker. I pushed a crystal into and listened in with a pair of ex-army headphones boxes. That was the beginning of an interest in electronics.

   My mother had worked, as had all the family in the factory in the East End making ladies coats and dressing gowns.  I recall visiting it on several occasions, too young to really play any role, and reflected on the fact that to me it seemed to be knee deep in cuttings and trimmings of cloth and linings.  I thought that it only needed a match and the whole lot would have gone up.

   The sewing machines that they used at the time ran on DC electricity and they were relatively low voltage, I think American style 110volt.  The government decided to turn the electricity after the war into AC at 230 volts, which didn’t go with the motors and the factory was forced to reinstall all the sewing machines with new motors.  I think this was a factor that led to the end of the business as it represented a significant re-investment.

   My mother went overseas once when they were celebrating their honeymoon in the 1930s. This was to Zeebruge in Belgium and other than that had never travelled north of Watford. In later life she did succeed in going north but never really went south until after my father died, when she went for an occasional holiday with friends to places like Italy.

    Her cooking partly related from family history of wartime rationing was an interesting lesson in perhaps how not to do it. We could always tell the day of the week because basically she had seven dishes and so as they were repeated daily in a cycle,  you knew if it was roast lamb then it would have to be Wednesday sort of thing.

   On her later visits overseas she must have experienced another cuisine. I wasn’t living at home at the time as I left as early as I possibly could, I never really had much empathy for my parents and by the age of seventeen I was up at University and out of their lives. But one day in fact she decided on the basis of her now wider experience to present me with an Italian dish and she had cooked, something I can hardly describe, it was unrecognizable.  She explained it was spaghetti Bolognese but it turned out she had never actually seen spaghetti Bolognese and had made it from a recipe book with no photo.  That was the last experience I had of any adventure she had with cooking.

  My father was a simple man, he was not well-educated and in truth I think not very bright, but he was a very open and honest fellow and was obviously much respected in the fashion industry in which he worked.  His one passion was for Tottenham Hotspur, the football team for whom he held a season ticket for some 30 or 40 years. Every Saturday afternoon he was always absent to watch football. That was before the days when it was available on television.  I had no interest in football and his love of sports and his one effort to take me to see the game led me to wander off and cause him a distraction.

  While we were living in Stokenchurch we used to go to High Wycombe occasionally which was the nearby large town. I went there one day with our Grandfather, to a market and he proceeded to lose me at the age of about 4. I still have the recollection of being carried on the shoulders of a policeman who already being tall was able to bring me over the heads of the people packing the market until my grandfather rediscovered me.  He was at a disadvantage because he never really learned to speak fluent English and he never could read it either.

  The last real interaction I had with my father was when he expressed a desire to go and see the graveyards in the North of France and Belgium where many of his friends and comrades had been buried following their deaths in the First World War.  He had spent a lot of time in the trenches following the retreat of the horse artillery which was actual responsibility. So we set off to do that in my Citroën DS. I drove him down to the battlefields and cemetery places. I pointed out to him that this was not only the first time he had been driven at 100 miles per hour, but we had actually covered a hundred miles in an hour, it was our average speed. He was impressed by that while I was moved by the number of graveyards that we visited and the people whose tombs he recognized as he reminisced about how he knew them and how young they were when they went. A sad experience.  He died not long afterwards after several heart attacks.  My mother lived on more than a decade after his death, losing her sight progressively but insisting on living alone and supporting herself much like Louis did until the very end.

   Our lives were very parallel, Rita and I, during our childhood period but our outcomes I think have been very different. I moved out of London as soon as possible and went traveling the world and am now living in Tasmania while she is comfortable in the United States.  Our lives are to me an interesting history of how migrants could, in three generations, go from illiteracy and no education towards being exactly the opposite, educated, and literate. We were able to earn a living from intellectual activity instead of the cruel hard work that was apparent in that factory that kept the family fed and together. Today we are not together like that, our extended family has dispersed but in many respects, life is a great deal easier.



The Year of No Leaves

Joan Leotta


On a Wednesday, three weeks after

she had stopped going outside,

Mom called me. Frantic.

“My trees changed from green to

empty in just one day!”

“Mom,” I argued, “perhaps the wind

blew away the leaves from your sycamore

but your maple in back, I know it still has red.”

She insisted, “Not my trees.”

During her usual naptime on Thursday,

I visited. Her sycamore was full of

splotchy yellows, green and browns leaves.

Her maple was a glorious torch of

magnificent reds. I snapped a photo

with that day’s paper in front

of maple’s fiery display.

When Mom awoke she

insisted once more,

“The trees are bare.”

Thinking her eyesight faulty,

I tried to take her outside

to see, even touch the colored leaves.

She refused.

I showed her the photo.

She looked but refused to see.

“I don’t care what your picture shows.

I know those limbs are bare,” she shouted.

It was then I realized that indeed

her trees were bereft of foliage.

Winter had come early

it’s chill stripping her mind of

beauty and memory,

leaving all limbs bare.



Say What!


These United States

Parents in Murfreesboro, Tenn., were outraged when a group of elementary school students were arrested for fail­ing to break up an off-campus fight. Ten students between ages 6 and 10, at least five of them black, were handcuffed and taken away from school after police viewed a video of the altercation and decided that the kids didn’t try to stop it. “They are getting carted off and detained for something they didn’t have anything to do with” one parent said.


A California school district is facing a lawsuit for not allowing students to compete for scholarships sponsored by atheist groups. Antelope Valley school officials admit they failed to notify students of $20,000 in available tuition money because the required essay about the challenges of being a “nonbeliever” would  “upset some parents!”


A New Jersey man is fac­ing jaii time for flying Donald Trump flags in front of his home. Joe Hornick recently received a summons for dis­playing two “Make America Great Again” flags, because a town ordinance bans political signage more than 30 days prior to an election. “I’m not taking the flag down,” says Hornick. “If I do 90 days in jail. I’ll do 90 days in jail.”


An Indiana state trooper has been fired for preaching Christianity to motorists during traffic stops. Officer Brian Hamilton has twice been sued by drivers after he pulled them over for speed­ing and asked what church they attended and if they had been “saved.”  “if the Lord tells me to speak about Jesus Christ, I do,” Hamilton said. “You can’t change what the Lord tells you to do.”


Text Box: X; Text Box: JGood: Fuzzy math, after a Gallup poll found that 57 percent of Ameri­cans think their federal income tax bills are too high, even though - data show that just 55.5 percent of American households will pay my federal income taxes in 2016.


Bad: Napping on the job, after a FedEx package handler fell asleep while loading up a flight from Memphis to Lubbock, Texas. He woke midflight and knocked on the startled: pilot’s cabin door.


Bad: Waiters, after a restaurant in China was forced to fire its much- hyped staff of robot-servers due to poor performance. “The robots weren’t able to carry soup and other foods steady,” one employee said. “The boss has decided never to use them again.”


A Texas high school student is claiming that he’s the victim of gender discrimination after being forced to cut his hair to comply with the school’s dress code. Mickey Cohen spent two days in in-school suspension because his hair extended beyond the top of his T-shirt collar, a rule that doesn’t apply to female, students. “This is gender- biased,” Cohen said.


A convicted burglar In Indiana is suing the homeowner, who shot him after he tried to break into a garage. David Bailey confessed to the crime and served a one-year sentence. He now wants David McLaughlin, who shot him as he fled the scene of the crime, to pay $100,000 for his medical bills and dam­aged shoulder, “it hurts every day,” Bailey said. “I’m very lucky I’m alive.”

A passenger on a flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse caused a two-hour delay when she saw a curly-haired professor writing equations while awaiting takeoff and concluded he was a terrorist writing in Arabic. University of Pennsylvania economist Guido Menzio, an Italian, was questioned by authorities and allowed to re-board the plane. “I showed them my math,” Menzio said later.


Extinction events, after the Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile European superconductor that smashes protons together at nearly the speed of light, was knocked off-line for a week when a small furry mammal gnawed through a power cable and was incinerated.


Sticker shock, after a British motorist crashed his brand-new McCIaren 650’S Into a tree just 10 minutes’ after purchasing the $310,000 sports car. The 641-horsepower car reaches 60 mph in less than three seconds.


Ted Cruz, who not only was forced from the GOP presidential primaries, but endured a week in which he called an Indiana bas­ketball hoop “a ring,” failed to notice when running mate Carly Fiorina tumbled off a stage, and elbowed his distraught wife, Heidi, in the face as he turned to give her a consoling hug.


Diversity Galore, after a new Indiana University study estimated that Earth is home to 1 trillion species of organisms, of which 99.99 percent have yet to be discovered. Most are microbes.


First-world problems, after an Illinois woman sued Starbucks, saying the chain is “underfilling” its cold coffee beverages by put­ting in too much ice. “Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of any ‘iced’ beverage,” a Starbucks spokesperson responded.


Moving to Canada, after the dating site Maple Match launched a new marketing campaign promising to make it “easy for Americans to find the ideal Canadian partner to save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency.”


One-third of British young­sters entering school lack basic social skills, with teachers blaming parents obsession with smartphones. “There is limited parent-child interaction,” one teacher said.


Heads-up play, after PGA golfer Zac Blaiq frustrated that he missed a birdie putt on the fifth hole at the Wells Fargo Championship, hit himself on the head with his putter, slightly bending the shaft and resulting in automatic disqualification on the next hole for using a “nonconforming” club.


Just plain Weird

A flock of “gangster” tur­keys is tormenting Teaneck, N.J., breaking into properties and intimidating people on the street. Courtney Lopchinsky was eating a meal with her kids when one of the wild fowl smashed through her kitchen window, landed flapping on the dining table, and proceeded to rampage through her home, caus­ing $6,000 worth of dam­age. “They’re like gangster turkeys,” she said. “They ter­rorize kids at bus stops and chase people to their cars.” Officials can’t do much about the birds, which are protected wildlife under New Jersey law. “We have to coexist as best as possible,” said an animal control officer

Identical twin sisters from China and their identical twin husbands plan to undergo plastic surgery because they can’t tell who is married to whom. The mix- ups began as soon asYun Fei and YunYang got hitched to brothers Zhao Xin and Zhao Xua in a joint ceremony, with one brother finding himself holding hands with his sister-in-law during a romantic after-dinner stroll.  The confu­sion got so bad on their joint honeymoon that the couples decided to get plastic surgery. Surgeons have agreed to subtly alter the quartet’s noses and foreheads, making each twin more identifiable.


A California man charged with burglary allegedly swal­lowed a ring he stole while fleeing police, but it became lodged in his esophagus. Police said Joel Steffensen was fleeing the burgled home when he crashed his car. He was rushed to the hospital, where an X-ray revealed the gold wedding band. Doctors removed it. “We don’t know what [Steffensen] was think­ing,” said a police spokesman. “It wasn’t smart?”


A Spanish company has created a high-tech mat­tress that can tell its owner whether his or her partner is cheating in the conjugal, bed. The Smarttress contains “24 ultrasonic sensors” that detect rhythmic movements. If the $1,700 bed senses hanky-panky when its owner is away, it sends him or her a message via smartphone, stating that the mattress is in use—and how many people are on it. “You can’t imagine, the tests we have done to make sure the system works correctly,” said a Smarttress engineer.


A cafe dedicated to Russian President Vladimir Putin has opened in Siberia. Patrons of the President Cafe can pose with a life-size cardboard cutouts of the strongman leader, and gaze admiringly at propaganda photos of Putin on the walls. The restrooms—behind a door stamped “NATO bloc” feature toilet paper stamped with President Obama’s face and U.S. flag floor mats. Cafe co-owner Dmitry Zhdanov said he wanted to create a place where fellow Putin fans could eat well and “remind themselves about Russia’s achievements in a pleasant patriotic atmosphere.”


A New Jersey man’s over- zealous attempt to eradicate a home cockroach infestation ended in an explosion. Fire­fighters said the man liberally sprayed Raid, then opened a window, enabling a rush of oxygen to combine with the insecticide. The stove’s pilot light ignited the combustible mix, causing a blast that blew out the apartment’s windows and buckled its front door. Nobody was seri­ously injured, including the bugs. “When I got on scene,”said one fireman, “I saw numerous roaches crawling throughout the apartment.”


A Texas man had an unexpected encounter with an escaped tiger on the streets of suburban Houston. Jona­than Gessner spotted the big cat peering out of a bush and decided to approach the beast. “She started shaking her butt, like a cat getting in attack mode, “he said. “I thought about turn­ing around, but I was like, “Nah, I want to see what she does.” The animal leaped at Gessner, put its paws on his shoulders, and began licking  his face. Animal control officers took the young female  tiger into custody, saying she’d escaped from a private home during recent flooding.


A 10-foot-high statue of Hercules in the French town of Arcachon has been fitted with a removable penis to thwart vandals, who’ve been stealing the mythical hero’s member. The towering statue has been castrated numerous times since it was erected in 1948.To protect Hercules’ manhood from hoodlums, town officials have now commissioned a removable prosthetic that will be attached to the statue’s groin for special ceremonies in the park—and removed right after. “I wouldn’t want anyone—not even my worst enemies—to go through what happens to this statue,” Mayor Yves Foulon said.


Londoners will soon be able to eat truly au natural at the city’s first nude restaurant. The Bunyadi, due to open in June, will feature “clothed” and “unclothed” dining areas and staff who are “naked with only some covering,” said restaurant owner Seb Lyail. He hopes to ‘ create an environment free from “the trappings of mod­ern life,” with candlelight, food cooked on an open fire, and tree stumps serving as chairs, “It won’t be a first- date venue,” Lyail said, “but certainly second dates and dinner with friends.”


Australian brewers have created a tangy new beer using an unusual, locally sourced ingredient: yeast grown from their own belly-button fluff. Staff at Melbourne’s 7 Cent craft brewery began by swabbing their belly buttons and cultivating yeast colonies. One fragrant strain went into Betty Button Beer, a white beer with hints of “fresh orange zest and toasted coriander seeds,”

the brewery said. Company founder Doug Bremner said drinkers shouldn’t be put off by the yeast’s origins. “Yeast is yeast,” he said. “This beer - is no different from any other beer out there,”


Two Britlsh anglers have honored their late fishing buddy by turning his ashes into bait and using it to catch a 180-pound carp. Ron Hopper, 64, died of cancer before he could go on a long-ptanned fishing trip to Thailand with friends Paul Fairbrass and Cliff Dale. But on his deathbed. Hopper urged his pals to mix his ash­es with their bait. Fairbrass and Dale did just that and reeled in a record-breaking Siamese carp while in Thailand. “It’s what he would have wanted,” Fairbrass said.


Ohio police are pleading with an alleged drug dealer’s customers to “please stop calling” his phone, so that they can search the device, without being interrupted. After Steve Notman was arrested on suspicion of selling methamphetamine, officers began looking for incriminat­ing messages on his phone. But a constant stream of “really annoying” texts and calls from Notman’s alleged , clients—accompanied by a “terrible” ringtone—is slowing the investigation, the Alliance police department ‘ wrote on Facebook. “You don’t need to call—we will come to you soon enough the police advised.


An Israeli man requested a restraining order against God, saying that he’s fed up with the Almighty Interfering in his life. David Shoshan told a court in Haifa that God “started to treat me harshly and not nicely” three years ago, and calls to the police had not put an end to the harassment. Judge Ahsan Canaan denied the request for a restraining order, saying Shoshan needed the kind of help the court could not provide. God did not present himself at the hearing.


An Ontario family’s fireside argument over whether the earth is fiat or round became so heated that the fire department had to be called out. Police said a 56-year-old man was sitting at a park bonfire with his son and his son’s girlfriend when the woman asserted that the earth was flat. When she refused to back, down, the man became enraged and started throwing camping equipment into the fire—including a propane cylinder. Firefighters were called to put out the blaze. After admitting the fight was “stupid,” the dad was charged with a misdemeanor,         


Lonely New York City men and women are paying $80.00 an hour to be cuddled. The cuddling service, Cuddlist .com, employs 40 professional cuddlers to offer non-sexual hugging to men and women, many of whom are so involved in their careers hat they don’t have time for relationships. One regular client, Saskia Frederitfe said she rarely sees her husband because of his work, and has informed him she needs the cuddling to keep from getting very lonely. “I really look forward to it because I love affection? Fredericks said. It’s my treat.”


A Texas man called police to report he’d been shot, but when cops arrived, they discovered he was so high on marijuana he didn’t realize his dog had bitten him. The man had been smoking

weed on his porch when a thunderstorm arrived. “The loud thunder scared one of his dogs, causing it to nip the ‘victim’ on the left buttock,” a police spokesman said. “He believed he’d been shot.”




“It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. You only have to be right once* and then everyone can tell you that you are an overnight success.” Marie Cuban, quoted in AOL.com


“Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.” Painter/TV host Bob Fioss, quoted in Hollywood.com


“There are worse things than losing an election. The worst thing is to lose one’s convictions and not tell the people the truth.” Adlai Stevenson, quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan, quoted in the Chicago Tribune


“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they
just stand there shining.” Anne Lamott, quoted in NYMag.com


“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison, quoted in The Washington Post


“It isn’t what they say about you, it’s what they whisper. “ Errol Flynn, quoted in Economist.com


“If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it.” George Orwell, quoted in The Wall Street Journal


“An artist is somebody who produces things that people don’t need to have but that—for some reason—thinks it would be a good idea to give them.” Andy Warhol, quoted in Vice.com


“We must reject not only the stereotypes that others have of us, but also those that we have of ourselves.” Former U.S, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, quoted inTime.com


“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old. They grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” Gabriel Garcfa Marquez, quoted in BuzzFeed.com


“Don’t let your kids grow up to be rock stars. A new Australian study has found that pop and rock stars have average life spans that are about 25 years shorter than those of their non-misician counterparts.” The Intelligence Briefing 


The Ancients were Smarter than We Thought: AI, (Artificial Intelligence) is in the news these days and the thinkers are wondering what to do with all the workers after the machines take over. Aristotle’s (384-322 BC) comment: “Slaves are animate tools and slavery will continue to exist in some form until all menial work can be done be self-operating machines.”


Individualism stimulates the able, degrades the simple, creates wealth magnificently and concentrates it dangerously.


Liberty is no friend of equality. The strong grow stronger, the rich become richer while the poor remain poor.


Cleverness gets all it can and mediocrity gets the rest. The ignorant get nothing.


To be truly educated is to be in love with reason.


History remembers the geniuses and ignores the fools. Only mountain peaks escape the obscurity of time.


Moral indignation is the standard strategy for endowing an idiot with dignity.


People who consider themselves “artistic” types recoil from simplistic answers to any problem and take refuge in a sophistry that is itself laughably simplistic.


It pays to read the classics: In the debacle of the Athenian attack on Syracuse in 415 BC, captive Athenians faced a living death in the Sicilian quarries. Those Athenians who could quote passages of Euripides were freed.


The sovereignty of the people has become the  sovereignty of the politicians.


About an abstract artist who died young: “It’s a shame he died before he learned to paint.”


Art was to antiquity what industry is today. Men could not enjoy the lavish abundance of useful products that now pours from factories. But they could, if they cared enough, surround themselves with objects whose zealously finished form gave to all who lived with them the subtle and quiet happiness of beautiful things.


If a man has spoken ill of you, make no defense, but say, “He does not know of the rest of my faults, else he would not have only these.” Epictitus


“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Mark Twain, quoted in the Los Angeles Times


“Evil is unspectacular and always human.” W.H. Auden, quoted in The Guardian (U.K.)


“Marriage is insurance for the worst years of your life. During your best years you don’t need a husband.” Helen Guriey Brown, quoted in NYMag.com


“As a general rule, nobody has money who ought to have it.” Benjamin Disraeli, quoted in


“Joy, it must be remem­bered, is. nothing like happiness, its milquetoast cousin, it is instead a vivid and extreme state of being, often arrived at in the after math of great pain.” Novelist Ayana Mathis, quoted in The New YotkTimes


“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” Albert Einstein, quoted in USAToday.com


“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” Plato, quoted in the Philadelphia Daily News


“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” Psychiatrist and author Theodore Isaac Rubin, quoted
in the Buffalo News


“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” Albert Camus, quoted in the New York Post


“I hold it that a little rebel­lion now and then is a good thing, and as neces­sary in the political world as storms in the physical.” Thomas Jefferson, quoted in The Wall Street Journal


“Maybe stories are just data with a soul.” Author Brene Brown, quoted

“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just stand there.” Witt Rogers, quoted in the Sandusky, Ohio, Register


“The noblest art is that of making others happy,” PT. Bamum, quoted in WeeklyStandard.com


“Most rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who
can’t read.” Frank Zappa, quoted in LA Weekly


“It’s useless to hold a person to anything he says while he’s in love, drunk, or running for office”
Shirley MacLaine, quoted in United Press international


“When the people fear the-government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people,
there is liberty.” Thomas Jefferson, quoted in the Houston Herald
“If 1 read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.” Emily Dickinson, quoted in The Charlotte Observer


“We have to change truth a little in order to remember it.” George Santayana, quoted in TheBrowser.com


“It is possible to be homesick for a place even when you are there.” Don Detrllo, quoted in
The Atlantic .


“Too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery.” Plato, quoted in . - New York magazine


 “Mistrust the man who finds everything good; the man who finds everything evil: and still more the man who is indifferent to everything.” Swiss theologian Johamm Kasper Lavater quoted in the Associated Press 




I set my writers’ group the task of writing a sonnet as 2016 is the 400 year anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. I found it a challenge myself and so here is my contribution!



Diana Goldsmith


It is very hard to write a sonnet

And compose alternative lines that rhyme

In the end I may have to con it

Procrastination Di you won’t have time


Caroline you are my first and only love

My sweet you are more lovely than a rose

You shine like the stars in the heavens above

Caroline our affection grows and grows


Look to the great bard for inspiration

Titania, Bottom’s potion has power

To make lovers have those they desired

And the Queen sleep on a soft bower.


It doth become all a very silly dream

In the end it wasn’t all it did seem!




Marry Williamson


Write a sonnet she said. A la the Bard

Not caring how difficult this might be

The rhyming form is rigid for a start

And to find a good topic defeats me

What can I possibly write of I think

My braincell has left home or gone to sleep

The thing scares me and drives me quite to drink

I want so much to lay my head down and weep

But I have to go and not be obtuse

Even though at first my mind is in a mist

There must be something out there I can use

I nearly have it now. I get the gist

I am nearly there. It will not be long

Oh darn. Only fourteen lines. I am done



Simplifying Our Alphabet

Dave Whitford


Ben Franklin wanted to simplify our alphabet.  So do I.

Let’s start by eliminating C.  Sometimes we pronounce it like S, and at other times like K. So it’s not only ambiguous but also redundant with two other more useful letters.  C be gone!

Next to go would be Q … totally unnecessary.  We’d replace it with K, or a K-W combination.  My wife, Sherry, makes beautiful quilts.  When she bought a new minivan several years ago, she wanted to personalize it with a vanity Virginia license plate.  She was dismayed to discover that someone else had already taken QUILT-ING, so I suggested KWILT-ING instead.  Guess what!  Everybody who sees that plate gets it.

And why do we need X?  SEX could just become another dirty four-letter word: SEKS.  Eliminating X, of course, would wreak havoc on advertising, wouldn’t it?  And we could spell xylophone with a Z, just like we say it.

Of all the languages that I’ve either studied or dabbled with, Serbian makes the best use of its alphabet.  The Serb language has only 30 distinct sounds, and the alphabet that Serbs use has a distinct Cyrillic character for each. A nineteenth-century Serbian linguist and language reformer, Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, once said, “If you can speak the language, you can also spell, write, and read it” … words to that effect.

Oh, by the way, Serbian Cyrillic also contains an X. Serbs pronounce it like we pronounce H, although with a bit of a gargle in it too. And Serbs don’t use C either.  Serb kids learn their A-B-Gs: Ah, Buh, Guh, Duh … they recite.

My second nomination for a most user-friendly alphabet is the 31-character Macedonian Cyrillic, quite similar to Serbian Cyrillic.

According to which linguist you listen to, English has 41-43 distinct sounds, all of which can be represented with some combination of a 23-character alphabet.  I’m sure it would take an apocalypse, however, to make us simplify our alphabet down to all its necessary basics.  So you can laugh at me and ole’ Ben Franklin all you want to.  It won’t alter my belief.




The Green Snake and the Red Broom

Elizabeth Miccio


The “green snake” spits water!

I run “in” right away.

WET” I do not like. 

Green Snakes are “Scary.”

So, when she picks up the green snake

I head for the door!


The “Red Broom” is squishy

The red broom is “Evil.”

It sweeps around searching

Under the bed!


Don’t they know I do not want to be “Found.”


I do not want to go to the “Cat Salon.”

In that box with the holes in front!

With the cuddly blue blanket inside!

To have my “nails done.”

Or, have my hair

                                                                …washed, brushed, and fluffed.

I just want to go “OUT.”


To catch the little flying things

                          …she calls butterflies.

Or tasty white things

                …like cabbage moths.

Or a jumpy grasshopper

Oh! And a roly-poly bug

                                          …they are fun to catch.


I do not care to chase “BIRDS.”

“as Sofia Lucia Maria does.”

I watch sparrows, blue jays, finches

Juncos and downy woodpeckers.

I can watch them all day

From the table in front of the window.


So, I know how they are.

I am NOT interested in chasing them,

As praying mantis is more my style!


P.S. Under the sofa is my safe house

Between the covering and the springs.

I made a hole and I go there

For a while, when I need “Peace!”

I “hiss” and “swipe my paws” with nails out

When people hunt for me..





The Naughty Broom

Elaine Jones

 I’m going to tell you a story about a little woman and her naughty broom. This woman couldn’t tolerate any dirt or dust on her kitchen floor. She had dogs and cats in her house, which is always a definite cause of dirt and dust, but she worked endlessly to keep her floor clean.

One day, after the umpteenth time of sweeping, she grabbed the broom to clean up another mess. What she didn’t know, the Dirt King and his Dust Elves were in the kitchen corner having a party. The dust was flying and the dirt rolled across the floor. That little woman attacked the floor with her broom as if she was on the warpath, pushing anything in her way into a big dustpan. That’s where the Dirt King landed, then he was promptly dumped into the trash can. With coughs and sputters, he flew into a rage. Climbing out of the trash can and bringing some of its contents with him, he demanded with a very loud voice to know who was responsible for his disgusting circumstance.

Some of the Dust Elves scattered, afraid he would cast an evil spell on them or else get Mr. Clean out of his bottle and wipe them out. They spoke up together, “The broom did it.”

“Ah ha,” bellowed the Dirt King. “By the time I finish casing my spell on that broom, even the little woman will hate him.”

“Bubble, bubble, gubble, gubble, go and cause a lot of trouble,” was the spell cast on the broom. The broom began to shake and quiver. It could no longer stand in its corner and began to fling dirt, dust and trash of all sorts around the kitchen floor.

When the little woman saw the mess the next morning, right away she blamed the animals for it. (I do exactly the same thing so I understand her logic). Quickly she swept and cleaned again. This process occurred night after night until she wised up, sat the trash can outside the house and locked the animals in one room, but this didn’t stop that naughty broom. It just found a different way to make a mess.

One night it flew to the shelves knocking jars, flour, sugar, and other containers to the floor. That broom was having the time of its life as it slid around the floor scattering the many contents.

Suddenly a mysterious voice yelled out, “Stop this at once!”

Well that stopped the broom in its tracks and it stood at attention as straight as the Tin Soldier.

From one of the jars on the floor, a shiny but stern-looking fairy emerged. “What do you think you are doing?” she demanded.

The broom couldn’t respond as he didn’t know that he had been hit with a spell or that the fairy had also. The Sparkle Fairy had been locked inside that jar by the Dirt King for a long time. Now she stood stretching her body and it was obvious she was overjoyed at being set free and was ready to cast some spells of her own.

Pointing her glowing finger toward the broom, she commanded, “Broom, Broom, make this floor cleaner than ever before. Find the elves and sweep them out the door was well. Throw the Dirt King out with a fling”. (Maybe I should check the jars in my cabinets for a Ms. Sparkle Fairy. My kitchen could use some shine.)

The naughty broom was banished and in its place was the fastest sweeper-upper in town. It swept so fast that its bristles became a blur. Every nook and cranny was spotless.

How surprised the little woman was the next morning to find everything so clean but the sweeper-up was a temporary fix. Then she noticed that the broom in the comer was beginning to look rather worn. Maybe she had pushed it rather hard while trying to keep her house spotless. He leaned slightly into the mop as she placed her curly mop head against him in a silent gesture. They knew they made an awesome cleaning team.

So the broom and mop waited every day in the corner for a chance to show off their domestic skills once again. The mop liked to slither back and forth around the floor in rhythmic movements as the broom made swaggered sweeping actions. They looked like a Broadway dance team when they performed.

In the meantime, the little woman decided to bring a big Vac on the scene. With the speed of a Tasmanian devil, it whirled among the “oh’s” and “ah’s” from the little woman as it dominated the spotlight of cleaning. It made modem technology look like a dream. It wasn’t long before big Vac overheated because he couldn’t keep up the speed. Then, one day he dropped his belt. Gave out just like that.

Happily, Broom and Mop danced from their secluded comer to greet the little woman and without missing a beat, they cleaned up the mess Mr. Vac had left behind.

The little woman exclaimed, “It’s impossible to replace a broom and a mop. They are a reliable “cleaning team.”



Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night

Has flung the Stone that puts the stars to flight:

And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught

The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.”


Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883)


Autumn Sunset

Joan Leotta


Rolling west on a concrete ribbon

Toward the river, toward its bridge.

Into the large orange sun


watching sparrows watch me

stretched across power lines above

in an array of music to accompany my drive.



Peering ahead now, sun looms ever larger,

finally filling my windshield with a fiery orange

I pull down the small rectangular screen


rolling west on a concrete ribbon

toward the river, toward its bridge.

Into the large orange sun


Squinting, I drive on into the glare.

Cannot block coming of end of day.

Cannot stop summer from giving way to fall


rolling west on a concrete ribbon

toward the river, to cross its bridge.

Into the large orange sun






P.L. Almanza: From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza; lives in Hamlet, North Carolina. She has been writing stories since she was four years old. Her first book, The East Side Killers came out in April 2014. Her cookbook, Family Meals and Desserts, came out in the summer of 2015. She is currently working on Cat Tales.


E. B. Alston: Author, columnist, literary critic, and sometimes poet. His work has been published in various newspapers, telecommunications trade magazines, and books. He is the Managing Editor of the magazine.


Elizabeth Silance Ballard: Big Rock’s Cafe; is a magazine columnist and author of Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories, co-author of Whoopin and Hollerin in Onslow County, Kate’s Fan, Christmas Without Koyoko, The Fourth Wife of A Markham Gillespie, Welcome Home, Teddy Stallard and her latest, Three Rivers to Cross. 


Rita Berman: Second World War Memoir; was born in London, England, is a free-lance writer, lecturer, editor, and author of Still Hopping, Still Hoping, the biography of Carla Shuford, (2012), and The A - Z of Writing and Selling, a Writer’s Digest Book Club selection Sept, 1981. Her work has appeared in more than 500 travel, feature, business, and trade journal articles, as well as newspaper columns for diverse publications in the United States and Great Britain. Her other books are Dating Adventures of a Widow and The Key Her latest book, Parallel Lives came out in July.    


Randy Bittle: Essence of Beauty and Reflections on Consciousness; is an independent philosopher living in Raleigh and currently working on a beginner’s book about modern philosophy


Mike Dailey: Goblin Tree, It’s Halloween, Bridget Bishop, Halloween 2008, What Stories I Could Tell, and Flooding; was born in Puerto Rico while his father was in the service and stationed there at the time. He spent 30 years as a management analyst before he retired and moved to North Carolina. He began writing poetry as a youth and has published two books of poems He writes as a labor of love to give to others. He writes rhyming poetry.


Peggy Ellis: Did Columbus Really do That?; is a writer and editor who resides in Black Mountain, NC.


Gerry Freed: Parallel Lives, received Honors Degree in Physics with Electrical Engineering from University of Manchester England. Retired to France after a career as CEO of international companies in IT and medical technology, and consultant to Australian government agencies and companies. Gerry and his wife Yolande now live in Lauderdale, Tasmania


Diana Goldsmith: Fahadi’s Sandals and Sonnet; is a retired teacher in England. She lives in Chard, Somerset.


Frances Stafford Heath: Memories of Another Autumn; is retired and lives in Burlington, North Carolina. This is her first published work.



Elaine Jones: The Naughty Broom; is a member of the Writers’ Block writers group that meets in the Mebane Library. This is her first published work.


 Joan Leotta: Red Leave,s Lifetime Calendar, Trick or Treat at the New Home, A Year of No Leaves, Autumn Sunset; has been writing and performing since childhood. Calabash Headline: Three of this Calabash, NC award winning journalist and performer’s books were released this past summer one in romance/women’s fiction, a collection of short stories, and the third is Joan Leotta’s first picture book. Her second picture book, Summer in a Bowl, is being released on September 30.


Ariana Mangum: A Forgotten Landscape; is a retired English teacher and author of When the Goldenrod Sang in the Meadows, A Forgotten Landscape and Where the Butterflies Roam. Her newest book, Shenandoah Promise, is out.


Elizabeth Miccio: The Green Snake and the Red Broom; spent her early years in Westchester Coy, NY, and now lives in Greeley, CO, near her children and grandchildren. She is a graduate of Rocky Mountain School of Art. Later on the staff of Colorado Institute of Art, she became head of Media and taught life drawing. She is an artist and a poet. Her work includes both word and pictures of people and places she has visited. Her work has appeared in Lest the Colors Fade and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories.


Sybil Austin Skakle: Halloween Horror; grew up in Hatteras, NC, born January 10, 1926, was a hospital pharmacist for 23 years, has published poetry, Searchings, 2001; a memoir, Confessions of an Outer Banks Filly, 2002; another memoir Valley of the Shadow, 2009. Her work has appeared in periodicals and numerous poetry and prose anthologies, four of which were published by The Chapel Hill Writers’ Discussion Group. She has been a member of Friday Noon Poets for more than thirty years.    


Michael Warren: Autumnal Rapture; is the author of the novel The Estrangement of the Rain God, 2nd edition, published by Righter Books. He maintains his author web site at http//:www.tiliks.com. His first novel is the first of a teratology, The Glory River Saga. He has just completed the second novel, The Cripple Goat. His newest book, a children’s book, Squeach and the Magical Starfish came out in 2015.    


Dave Whitford: Simplifying Our Alphabet; writes from retirement in Toano, Virginia, after a labor lifetime that included kitchen scullery, soda jerking, radar maintenance, boat and marine-engine sales and repair, technical writing, wedding photography, golf-course maintenance, metal fabrication, and house construction and inspection.


Marry Williamson: Changes at Sunset Lodge and Sonnet; lives in Chard, Somerset, England. She was born in the Netherlands and moved to Britain in 1966. She worked for an Anglo-Dutch company in London. In 1999, Marry and her husband retired and moved to Chard, Somerset. Her hobbies are writing, reading, bird watching, and exploring ancient monuments. She is a member of a local writers’ group in England.


Tim Whealton: Alaskan Summer: writes a regular column from New Bern, NC. He is a gunsmith whose shop is in Cove City, North Carolina. His book, According to Tim was published in 2013.













Thanks to Betsy Breedlove for the picture above