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Twice Begun

by Reina Lisa Menasche

In every issue, we feature books written by up-and-coming authors, in the hopes that our readers will check out their work.

The Sophia Secrets by Savitri Bess

About an Elder's Search for Meaning… With a sense of urgency, writer Anne Demaree escalates her elder-years’ quest when she moves from New Mexico to a bungalow by the sea in Southwest Harbor, Maine. But first, she and a friend take off to India on a twoweek pilgrimage to a Kali Temple. Shaken to the core by her experience, Anne is determined to dig into the essence of this controversial Hindu deity, the Goddess of Transformation. Back in Maine, Anne's spiritual/psychological search features a mysterious old woman, ten Wisdom Goddesses (the tantric dasa mahavidyas), a gentle retired philosophy professor and a drugtroubled teen. A colorful group. All interwoven with visions, daily life in Maine, exotic experiences, stories, romance and healing. You may have a deeper look at The Sophia Secrets on Savitri’s website, www.pathofthemother.com. Also available on amazon.com.

It all begins in the closet… Paris Jablonski, wife, mother, social worker, and aspiring writer, is celebrating her seventh wedding anniversary when she uncovers a secret letter about her sexy French husband—and his girlfriend. The letter is in French, nearly incomprehensible, and so is the betrayal. How could she, an experienced mental health professional, have so misread her own life? After traveling to France to confront her husband, Paris returns to face wildfires, evacuations, and a new job with recovering addicts. And she finds herself attracted to the most unlikely candidate: a recovering alcoholic who also happens to be a client. In this heart-tugging story of love, loss and renewal, Paris Jablonski is a heroine whose street savvy must learn to take back seat to a wiser heart. Available at http://www.amazon.com/Twice-Begun.

The Cherry Red Collection of Poetry by Steve Presley

The Cherry Red Collection of Poetry. was named so because the poems taste like cherry red sweet and rich with such pure flavor. Cherries are exquisite enjoyment. They are a pleasure almost divine. The poems are all original. Poetry is tasty and has flavor. Red cherries are like this. Available for purchase at

Sailing to the Far Horizon by Pam Bitterman

http://www.publishamerica.net/product49347.html

Woman Conquers Adversity in Tall Ship… Autobiographical Master-andCommander-meets-A-Perfect-Storm tale features adventure, quirky characters, and tragedy. When Pam Bitterman talks of her experiences on the adventurous but ill-fated Sofia in her late twenties, you can hear that this is a story she feels she can’t keep to herself. Lucky for us, she hasn’t, because the result is a book in a class by itself. Bitterman joined the crew of the old-fashioned tall ship to see the world and to prove to herself she could handle it. In the end, she also got a grim sort of “growth experience” she hadn’t bargained for, when the Sofia sank during a storm off New Zealand. And so Bitterman came away with not only a plethora of fascinating tales of world exploration and personal dynamics, but also the wisdom of one who has truly grown through adversity. Sailing to the Far Horizon draws on original journal entries, photographs, and excerpts from official Coast Guard documents that chronicle the fascinating enigma that was the Sofia and its dramatic end and is available forsale at bookstores, by phone at 773-702-7000, and online at http://www.uwpress.wisc.edu .

Starlight Amy by Gary Weston

The Revolting Animals Motorcycle Club is real, and the incredible work they do for animal rescue, fundraising and such is remarkable. Su Kane, on the cover, really is Su Kane. Gary Weston offered not only to write a fictionalised account of their activities but give all royalties to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals in the UK to build a new animal hospital. The book is also unique in as much as it covers such things as animal cruelty and some of the issues that sadly still persist today. Tempered with humor and fun, Starlight Army begins over twenty years ago with eleven year old Su Kane and her first awareness of how cruel people can be towards animals. It progresses through her teenage years, when she becomes a bike chick, and becomes involved with the Revolting Animals MCC and Cerbarus the Unstoppable. Between them, they embark on missions to protect those who share our planet but are without a voice. You can find this book at http://www.amazon.com/Starlight-Army.


hears it all the time—people needing answers, people seeking counsel, and in need of something more than psychotherapy can provide. In 1978, a scruffy, unkempt, uninviting couple had just come from India when the voice told John, “You will go to India.” Off he went to Pune, India to study with Rajneesh Osho, a guru who taught him about the deep, dark secret we all carry—namely, we are all going to die. This is people’s fundamental fear, and avoidance of this “terminal” truth is what keeps us from living in the moment. John learned to meditate on death to create an awareness of where we are. It’s the only place where any of us live. We [truly] only live in the now. “If you want to know where you’re at, check in with your fanny. Our head can be all over the place, but our fanny brings us right back to where we are.” Why is awareness so important? John’s answer: “On the whole, the only way anything evolves is by being in the present. That’s where there are potentials, possibilities. If our energies are totally in the present, then we’ll be able to listen… this includes creative moments.” John states that people today spend a lot of time trying to escape the moment through daydreaming, watching TV, playing video games—anything to be anywhere else but the present. “There is no silence anymore. There is no discipline…, and that word,” he explains, “in the original Latin, meant ‘to listen.’ We have lost the original meaning in today’s language.” John goes on to tell me about another experience he had while vacuuming where his eye began hurting intensely and his vision changed. For 24 hours, he saw only densely packed particles of light, some moving fast, some moving slow. People told him that a bright light was coming from his eyes. “It was the light of pure heaven,” one woman stated. He has never had this experience again, but he learned at that moment that everything is light. We are light. A rock is light. Everything is energy. “This brings us back to the problem of ego,” John says. “The work is about getting ourselves out of the way. When we’re in the way, things can’t happen. The ego, which is full of desire, full of demands, full of discontents, full of needs, full of wants… gets in the way. The reason for meditation is to get it out of our way. The problem with the way mediation is taught in the West is it creates a fight.” (Back to watering the plant, are we?) Rajneesh Osho taught John how to just sit and be aware and don’t try to get anywhere. “With so many of the meditative or contemplative visualization practices that are taught in this country, you’re trying to get somewhere, you’re trying to change your mind. Well, talk about giving the plant water… wrestling with [problems] is giving them energy. Anything we give energy to grows. The only way to deal with them is simply to watch them, dispassionately… just as an observer. That which we are aware of but give no energy to will quiet down, and sooner or later it’s going to die on its own.” John mentions the case of a former client who was bulimic. He advised her to stop wrestling with her problem, let it be, and watch It from a distance. She did, and it worked. “Culturally, in the West, we don’t support this sort of ease and acceptance because of our Judeo-Christian heritage, the concept of sin, and the control of the priestly caste over consciousness. In today’s secular society, psychiatry is the new priesthood.” Now for the burning question: how does all this relate to astrology? John claims, “Astrology helps one understand one’s habitual responses and to be aware of how to work with certain energies.” And how exactly does astrology trump both psychology and psychiatry when it comes to creating awareness about ourselves and our issues? John replies, “It brings us an understanding of energy, how it works through the body and through the mind and how it works specifically in [a person’s] particular vehicle.” According to John, astrology does VOL 8, ISSUE 1

not determine our destiny. It gives us a map of our personalities and our consciousness. Still, what does all that up there in the sky have to do with our lives down here? “It all has gravitational pull. Everything is related energetically. If the planet Jupiter would disappear from our solar system, what’s going to happen? If we think for a minute that the interrelationships of the planets at the time of our birth don’t have a vibrational, energetic effect on us, we have our heads in a sack… [For example] a kid who is born on a full moon night tends to have a lifelong wrestling between his/her emotional nature and his/her core central sense of ‘I’—the ego—which is represented by the sun, no matter what sign they are, they wrestle. When those two planets are in a sextile (a 60 degree) relationship, there is harmony between the feelings and the core being. You can see it behaviorally. “The Babylonians, the Sumerians, and the Assyrians all started observing this, as did the subcontinental Indians. They started observing certain behavior patterns and emotional expressive patterns as they related to the star points, the major planets, the location of the planets at the time of birth and in transit, which means these planets are always moving in relation to the earth.” John gives an example to illustrate. “The planet Uranus makes its circuit within 84 years. You will notice that most people die when Uranus returns to its natal point in their charts... We [astrologers] look at transits [as] an energy field [to be] really conscious of working with [in order to] go higher or deeper in your evolution of our awareness of yourself and be able to detach to a greater degree to these influences. It’s all about going free. When we do an astrological chart, there are all sorts of lines in the middle of it. In actual fact, the planets are all situated in an outer circle, and the center is absoutely empty. That’s where, if we can stand in our awareness and consciousness, we can say, ‘Oh, right now if I use my moon square sun energy I’m not going to have a very good discussion in this context, but if I go to my moon in a beautiful relationship with Mercury, I am going to be able to express myself really well here, and I will be listened to.’ It’s as though we’ve learned that these are building blocks that we can use in order to make our lives function more effectively on earth. One of the things we can tell with astrology is timing. When there are transits of certain kinds, then those times are either opportune or times to lie low, sit back, and wait. And that the astrologer can predict. But we cannot predict how a person will chose to use the energies. It’s how the person uses the energy that is the ultimate determinate.” This brings us to the heart of the matter—namely, practical mysticism, where spiritual technique serves us in our mundane existence. “It’s highly functional on a purely professional level. It’s a tool. I’m not interested in astrology as an interesting theory,” says John, “That is b. s. I’m interested in it because I see how people can use it to make their lives better and to allow them to grow in conscious awareness to a greater extent. If they want to come for a prediciton about a beautiful person coming into their lives or winning the lottery, it’s not what it’s about.” People want predictability and hope, but the bottom line for change and resolution rests within the individual. “Nothing happens without awareness.” John offers unique insight as a professional therapist, trained spiritualist, experienced astrologer, and lifelong practitioner of practical mysticism. John charges $150 for a natal chart and a solar return based on birth information: time, place, date. He can be reached via email at johndwyermcl@aol.com or by phone at 207-522-4465. John ends with this quote from Rajneesh Osho: “Life is not a riddle to be solved. It is a mystery to be lived.” Laurie Notch has been the Managing Editor of IdeaGems Magazine since 2005. In 2010, Laurie made Google’s Top Ten Paranormal Writers list for her short story Death’s a Bitch and Then You Haunt. In 2012, she was featured in The Infinite Facets of Sphere, a European anthology.

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coffee. Bus boys are busy as silverware is clanging in the wash tubs as a table is cleared for us. Over breakfast, we discuss the next operation. It is in Helsinki, Finland where aid is needed to keep the opposing Stalinist Russia from making further progress. Germany is set to withdraw from Finland but needs military persuasion. After breakfast, the bellhop hails me a cab. “New York Municipal Airport and please hurry.” Turning my head to see my past and future fade in the cold blizzard, I clear my throat and tug at the ends of my woolen scarf. “You will be lucky if your flight makes it out today with this blizzard,” mumbles the cabby. When advised yesterday through intelligence obtained at the drop point in the park that proved Irina was a sleeper agent, my heart felt like a metal sword pierced it. How could my beloved Irina be doublecrossing me? The cab ride to the airport allows me time to examine the contents of the briefcase already in my cab when it arrives to pick me up this morning. A photo of Irina wearing a pink scarf around her head and that distinguishing red trench coat as she boarded Hitler’s private jet becomes etched in my mind. As I read through the text, details begin to solve mysterious questions that have been unanswered for years. The mole, Irina, has to be eliminated. She poses a threat to the larger plan at work here. Her flight today will be her last. After reading these words, I know the time I had just spent with Irina was my last. My mind then races to the baby. The blood pumping through my veins begins to quicken my heart rate. Determined to get to the airport and stop the mole on Irina’s flight to Moscow, I ask the cab driver to drive faster. The telegram clearly describes how Irina is to be poisoned on the flight by Mole #222. Her meal, meatloaf and potatoes, the only one she ever ordered, would be laced with cyanide. Preparations had been made at the food processing plant in New York, seat arrangements were assigned, and hers was 4A. Her fate is sealed. “Can you drive any faster?” I query. “Sir, the blizzard has left much of New York at a standstill. Your flight may be delayed. I will do my best, but I cannot guarantee anything,” said the cabby. Pulling a twenty-dollar bill from my pocket and tossing it in the front seat of the cab, I have already made my mind up that I will attempt to run the last three blocks to the airport. The traffic situation is one of utter gridlock that fateful morning. My heart is racing, but it is imperative that I get to the airport to intercept the meal slotted for Irina. With overnight bag over my shoulder, I brave the elements for the love of my life and my child. “Good luck,” said the cabby, “you’re going to need it.” I plow through the ensuing blizzard, pushing my way through the crowded streets of New York. Sounds of car horns echo off the buildings and Christmas music fills the hearts of small children rifling about with their parents. One day that would be Irina, our child, and I. My one true love would bear our future in eight short months. Saving her life is my mission. At the airport, my overcoat heavy with the wet snow from the blizzard, I run to gate 28. The boarding process is set to end in twenty minutes and the plane leave for Moscow. Out of breath, I tell the boarding agent that it is imperative that I speak to someone who is on that plane. The attendant checks and says that Irina

Kostanova has not checked in yet. As there is only ten minutes until the gate closes, she allows me to board the plane with a security agent to find this person. As we make our way onto the plane, I see Irina’s seat is empty. How can this be? Where is Irina? In utter dismay, as I am escorted off the plane, thoughts race through my head about Irina. Was she a sleeper? Who was she really after? Questions again surface. The mystery grows deeper. Turning away from the gate and making my way to the private concourse area out the window, I notice a private jet with German markings. Walking up the roll-away stairs is that unmistakable red trench coat and pink head scarf. It is Irina. My heart sinks as I know there is no way to reach the tarmac – you are on the passenger list or you are not – there are no exceptions. I begin to pound my fists on the tall panes of glass as I yell, “Irina! Irina! Do not board the plane!” Senseless and looking like war had crossed my own backyard, I continue my attempts to grab Irina’s attention but my efforts are in vain. Passengers in the terminal area begin to back away from my scene of desperation and security guards grab both arms and escort me to the front entrance. Out of shear desperation, I call my handler Jonathan at the CIA safe house. He offers no apology and advises me that this plan has been in motion for some time. “Germany is a vital ally. Stalin and his Communist plans for all of Russia cannot be allowed.” Pleading with him to kill the hit on Irina, I let him know she is carrying my child. “I am sorry, Victor. You knew better than to get into bed with a sleeper,” he says with no concern for my feelings. “This is larger than you, Irina, and this so-called baby. This is about an entire country.” I drop the phone. It dangles like a giant storm cloud over the sea, and I am knocked to the ground by an ear-shattering BOOM! There is a massive explosion, and a giant fireball reflects off the panes of the airport glass. Running toward the end of the building to see what has happened, memories of Irina’s wonderful scent of Chanel #22 fill my head. It is if I am running in slow motion and the vivid images before my eyes are replacing the reality I don’t want to face. Her luxurious blonde hair cascades over her shoulders as her black dress hugs the curves of her body. Memories of gently grasping her hand as we glide across the dance floor to Bing’s silky voice echoing Christmas greetings take me to a wonderful memory. As I round the corner of the building, I see debris flying across the tarmac. It bears the same German markings Irina’s jet had, and I know my future has just disintegrated before my eyes. I begin to weep uncontrollably and am whisked into a black car. In a fit of rage, I thrust my fists toward the asset, Jacob, but am grabbed and subdued by a secondary asset in the vehicle. “She was the sleeper. She was on her way to Germany where she was going to take part in an assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler.” said Jacob. I did not want to hear these lies about my Irina. Showing me the photos of Irina with Ludwig Beck, I see it was going to take place at Wolf’s Lair. I do not want to hear the truth, even though I know it is true that my Irina was an unwilling ally. It was never her intention to aid us in taking down Stalin. Once again, I find myself in that same familiar place a spy often does—alone with an uncertain future. (See Karla’s bio. on p.25)

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Kyle hadn’t meant it. He didn’t hate Christmas. He didn’t like Mary Pitch, but he didn’t hate her either. And he certainly didn’t hate his dad. But they had been so mean to him. He was just a little boy and he couldn’t help that. Kyle hadn’t gone to his room like Mary had said to. He didn’t want to be there, alone, on Christmas Eve. So he sat by the hallway door and leaned his head against it. His father would come get him soon. There was no way he’d let his only son spend Christmas in a strange room in a strange cabin. Sounds emanated through the door and Kyle found, halfaccidentally, that if he pressed his ear against the wood, he could make out some of the words. He heard Mary’s sharp voice say things like “misbehaved,” “illmannered,” “discipline,” and “disappointed.” His father’s deeper voice reverberated through the wood a little clearer, but Kyle only caught bits of phrases. “Can’t believe… so immature,” and “too soon to bring someone else here,” and “a nuisance.” Confused tears began to sting Kyle’s eyes. His father didn’t want him there? Was he a nuisance? He was a nuisance. Fine then, Kyle thought. If I’m a nuisance to Dad and his girlfriend, they won’t have to put up with me anymore. Kyle ran to his room, ripped opened his closet, pulled on a green sweater, a red snow jacket, red snow pants, a blue scarf, and a blue knit cap. All bundled up, the eight year old boy threw open his bedroom window and climbed out into the cold night. * * * Kyle had just stormed out of the room and his father sat wide-eyed in disbelief. Mary Pitch, her coal black hair a little disheveled from her outburst, sat back down and resumed eating with an intense focus. “What the hell was that?” said Eric. “It was discipline,” said Mary. “He misbehaved.” “He knocked over some yams.” “Because he was being ill-mannered and rambunctious. He shouldn’t have been doing any of that. It was ruining my night,” said Mary. Then, her voice got softer, gentle, soothing. “I’m just disappointed is all. I was looking forward to spending a romantic Christmas Eve with you. Just the two of us.” “I can’t believe you’d be so immature. It’s not just the two of us,” shot Eric. “It’s the three of us. Me, my son, and you.” “I know, but I just thought that we could have some alone time.” “It’s Christmas, Mary. It’s a time for family. He is my only family. Christ, I knew it was too early to bring you along.” “Don’t say that, Eric. And don’t take the Lord’s name in vain,” Mary pouted. “What a nuisance – really.” And Eric shook his head. After taking some time to calm down and to convince Mary to apologize, Eric went to Kyle’s room. He knew something was wrong when he found the window open and Kyle’s closet thrown wide. He started calling for Kyle when he didn’t immediately see him. Then he was yelling. Then he was running through the house opening every closet and pantry, searching under every bed, blowing away the dust in that old cabin to find his missing son. Soon, he decided to call the police. * * * Kyle’s hands were shaking inside his mittens and his nose was numb with cold. The wind had picked up and was blowing pine needles and the tassels of his scarf in his eyes. As the stars popped into being, at first one at a time, then by the tens, hundreds, then thousands, Kyle began to feel tired. He thought on stopping to rest. Surely, the morning would come all the more quickly if he slept through the cold night. As he thought these dangerous thoughts, Kyle noticed something that had not been there before. A soft golden glow had arisen out of 18

the forest’s shadows. It speckled the ground ahead of him with glittery things, as if the ground was strewn with silver crystals. Kyle followed the glow deeper into the forest, and as he did, the glow grew brighter and brighter until it burned his eyes worse than the cold had stung them. Blind with golden light, Kyle still marched on. Then and all of a sudden, the glow dimmed and was a cheery, festive light, the sort of ambiance one might affect to warm away the night during the darker months. For some time, Kyle only stood in the soft glow, neither wondering nor thinking, neither fearing nor dreaming. Slowly, he began to notice his surroundings. He was in a clearing, and bordering it in every direction was a circle of naked sycamores, grey and white and solemn like guards. It was warm in the clearing, the warmth cascading down like summer rain. Yet all around, untrodden, virgin as the morning and shimmering white and blue, was snow and more snow. The entire clearing was carpeted with the icy stuff, yet as Kyle ambled through it, sometimes sinking in as far as his knees, he did not get wet or cold. It was simply there and it was pretty being there. In the middle of the clearing, watching with golden light, was an enormous spruce tree. Its reaching branches, covered in pointy green leaves, tumbled down like a wedding dress to hover above the snow. Hanging off of each branch, perhaps growing from them, were stars. There must have been thousands of these stars. Each one softly glowed the color of wheat or honey or ginger root. Some stars had five points, some had six, and a few had points growing out at all sorts of angles, but most were flat. They all blazed together to fill the clearing with light and warmth. “Hello, boy,” came a voice. It sounded like sweet nectar and cinnamon. Kyle turned around to see a woman, or what seemed to be a woman, dressed all in blue glass and white glass. She strode towards Kyle, bare feet never sinking into or disturbing the snow, dress tinkling with each fairy step, until she stood next to the boy, who was all bundled up in puffy red and blue. She was tall, Kyle noticed, his head only reaching her waist (although that was because he was knee-deep in snow while she floated above it). She was so near, Kyle saw that her dress was not glass but ice that caught the light and stored it. The ice draped in sheets and waves, the dress folding over itself like the dresses of those dark Spanish dancers his father had taken him to see last summer. At the wrists and hem of the dress hung little icicles that danced as the tall woman shifted from one hip to the other. “Boy, what is your name?” she said. “Kyle.” “A handsome name.” “What’s yours?” “I don’t suppose I have one,” said the lady, “but I am the Christmas Lady, and you can call me that.” “Christmas Lady,” said Kyle, trying out the name that didn’t sound much at all like a name. “Where is this?” “This is here, Kyle. And it is warm and safe. A good place to spend Christmas Eve, I think.” “But,” said Kyle. “Never mind. I’m hungry.” The Christmas Lady bent down to face Kyle, dress chiming like sleigh bells. “If you are hungry, Kyle, I shall feed you from the heavens.” The Christmas Lady’s face was inches from Kyle, or would have been except the Christmas Lady wore a white veil that reached past her chin to flirt with her collarbone. The veil was white and milky, but sometimes, as her warm, spiced breath teased it to flutter, the veil grew thin and Kyle thought he could make out a full mouth, a soft nose, a chin. As Kyle wondered at the ethereal caretaker, she glided over to the great Christmas tree and bent over, flicking one pale leg in the air as she did. Her dress slid a little and Kyle couldn’t help but stare at her

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peachy thigh. When she rose again, no more than a moment later, she held in thin hands a glowing star. It had five evenly-sized points. “Eat, Kyle,” said the Christmas Lady, and handed him the star. It felt as light as air, and Kyle wondered if he were holding anything at all. Kyle bit one of the points. It was delicious. It was a cookie! It tasted of warm dough, sugared nutmeg, roasted almonds, wood smoke, and cherries. It was warmer than scalding tea, yet it did not burn his mouth. The impossible warmth spread through Kyle, from the tips of his fingers to the soles of his feet, until he forgot that there was such a thing as cold. When Kyle finished the star, his hunger delightfully sated, the Christmas Lady placed a hand on his back and led him towards the tree. “It is time to open your presents, Kyle.” She leaned down near the edge of the tree and blew hard. Snow fluttered into the air, the great Christmas Tree rustled, the stars glittered red and green as the wagged on the branches, and the Christmas Lady’s dress danced around her ankles, chiming and singing. Kyle though he heard her giggle and it was a music clearer and sweeter than any song. After the snow settled, surrounding the Christmas Tree, in every color, big, small, and sizes in between, were presents. They were all vibrantly colored boxes tied with silver bows. Hanging off of each was a different knitted trinket. One present was orange with a knitted candy cane. Another was purple with a knitted angel. There was a particularly enormous green present with a large knitted polar bear. “This is amazing,” said Kyle. “Are they all for me?” “If you like,” said the Christmas Lady. “But the ones you leave will go to other boys and girls on other Christmases.” “Oh,” said Kyle. “I’ll only take one then. But which one? They’re all so beautiful.” The Christmas Lady kneeled down so that her head was level with Kyle’s. She stroked his hair and patted his head where cowlicks peeked up. “Sweet boy, open two. Whichever two you like,” she said. Kyle ran to the presents, his short legs tromping in the deep snow like a show pony’s. He picked a medium-sized red present with a green knitted snowflake. “How do I open it?” asked Kyle. “Just pull on the silver bow.” Kyle gave the silver bow a tug and the ribbon fell away, then the sides of the box fell away as well, revealing – nothing. But before Kyle could even begin to feel disappointed, the warmth of a fire filled his face. He felt the flush of red from sitting too long in front of a campfire. His head swam with laugher and the sense of drunken music. All around the chords of happy chatter swelled and waned. When it was all over, Kyle was sweaty and grinning like mad. “What was that, Christmas Lady? What was my present?” “That was sitting by the fireplace while a large family sang Christmas songs at a party.” “It was wonderful.” “I’m glad you liked it. Open your next present. Choose carefully – there’s one just for you, Kyle Bell.” Kyle galumphed around the Christmas Tree and examined the presents strewn there, the color, the ribbon, the knitted ornament, until he spotted one he knew was for him. It was a small box, no bigger than a coffee mug, light blue in color, with a bell all knitted in gold and red. Kyle pulled the ribbon. Tears filled his eyes and he breathed heavy and fast. It was over in a few seconds, but Kyle sat there near the fallen-apart box for five minutes. The Christmas Lady sat next to him. “Why do you wear that veil,” said Kyle. “Are you ugly?” VOL 8, ISSUE 1

“No,” said the Christmas Lady. “There’s no such thing as ugly. I could show you my face. You only have to ask. But it’s for the best if you don’t.” “Why? What would I see?” “You would see your mother’s face,” said the Christmas Lady, and for the first time, her voice sounded sad and salty, rather than sweet. “I don’t remember my mother’s face.” “No? Well then you wouldn’t see a face at all. Or you would see blurred recollections, hazy features. Bits and pieces, but nothing real, nothing whole. You have whole things in your heart, Kyle Bell, and you don’t need faces. They’re such fickle things, anyways.” The sky was black overhead, the real stars blotted out by the brilliance of those on the Christmas Tree. The glow seemed to grow heavy, then, both intensifying and receding. The light was a warm blanket, the snow a soft bed. Kyle and the Christmas Lady were close now, and Kyle saw that her veil was made of interlocking snowflakes sewn together with mist. “What do you remember about your mother?” asked the Christmas Lady. “Not much. A smell, a cough. Her arms, holding me.” “That’s the ticket,” said the Christmas Lady. “Arms are much more important than faces. Faces only look – arms do things, important things. “Arms are for holding. They hold fast to a mother’s leg, they wrap around teddy bears and stuffed llamas. Arms are for taking up stray puppies. Arms are for wrapping around young, pretty waists and for carrying noble loads. Arms are for fighting and making love. Arms comfort friends and protect them. Someday, when you have a daughter or a son, or many daughters and sons, you will hold them for the first time in strong arms and they will remember those arms no matter how far they run, no matter how long time reaches. Arms are important. You already know this.” Kyle looked up at her, expectantly. “What was my present, Christmas Lady?” “It was a good hug.” “I liked it,” said Kyle, and he smiled with front teeth too big for his head. “I know,” said the Christmas Lady, and Kyle was pretty sure she was smiling too. Kyle and the Christmas Lady talked for a few minutes, but Kyle’s eyes drooped and his voice grew soft and low. The Christmas lady placed his head on her lap and pulled a blanket of holly and mistletoe over the dozing boy, its lining of red moss, soft and warm. * * * The police had come and left. They had instructed Eric and Mary to stay inside, told them that they had special teams to search for people at night, that if Eric and Mary went out searching, they could easily get just as lost as Kyle. They had left, but Eric wasn’t having any of it. “Get some warm clothing. We’re going to find Kyle,” he said. “Eric, the police – they said we should stay put,” pleaded Mary. “I don’t care what they say. We won’t get lost. We’ll take flashlights, we’ll stick together, and we have our phones.” “The flashlights could die, we could get separated, the phones might not have reception out in the forest. Eric, you have to calm down. We’ll wait here, have some tea, sit by the fire, and soon, Kyle will be with us.” Eric turned on her, his face blotchy and red. “How can you say that?” he bellowed. “Kyle ran away because of you. That’s your fault. That’s on your head.” Mary was taken aback. Tears started to well in her eyes and she stared at the floor. “I don’t think—” she started. “No!” shouted Eric. “No! You don’t think. That’s why you yelled at

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Winter 2013  

Seasonal fare of inspiring stories, poems, articles and artwork. Check out our new Writer's Tip Jar column for advice from published authors...

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