Volume 5: Issue 1
While I write this, winter is still flexing its muscles. In fact, we have a winter storm warning, but by the time this issue is released, it will officially be spring. Despite the cold, harsh winds and deep snow, a plant outside our office is bravely putting its head above the ground, stretching its leaves to the sun. For the past six years, this plant has bloomed every Easter without fail. It knows spring is coming even if we have trouble seeing it. What does this have to do with this issue? As we began pulling the stories and poems
together, we noticed a prevailing theme: perception. How we perceive the world affects us. In this issue, you will read about a woman dealing with grief, a man gaining a new understanding of his friend, and a writer discovering his muse. When we look beyond the obvious, we find treasures, secrets, and blessings. We can, of course, choose to only see the storms and the hardships, or we can reach out and seek the sun. We hope this issue inspires you to pursue the latter.
Our Mission Published four times a year, Shadows Express strives to bring new voices to discerning readers. We pride ourselves on being the stepping stone for new writers as they begin their published journey. We welcome quality work from all writers at any stage of their careers. Managing Editor: K. Wall email@example.com Fiction Editor: P. L. Scholl firstname.lastname@example.org Non-Fiction Editor: Winnie Kay Davis email@example.com Poetry Editor: Liam Oâ€™Haver firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial Assistant: Lisa Byus email@example.com
Volume 5: Issue 1
Columns Burning the Midnight Oil ~ With Every Breath You Take………..………….………………….……...4 Rhythmic Reflections ~ From the Toolbox……..………….…………………………………………………..5 Fireside Conversations ~ The Dance of Revision……………………………..…………………..………...7 In the Spotlight ~ Who Needs Punctuation ……………….…………..…………….………………………..8
Fiction God’s Telephone by Anne Warchol.….………….…………………………..…………………………………..…10 Survival of the Strongest by Colin Shaw……......….………….…..….…..…….……....….………………..16 Parkie, Tanker, Tiger of Tobruk by Tom Sheehan..….…………….……………………….……………..….19
Poetry Wanderer by Bob Buckner…………….………………………………………………..………………………………...9 In the Spotlight by Linda M. Price……………………………..……………………….………………….…………15 Snows of Portrayal by D.R. Smith.…….…………………….……………….………………………….…….……22 Prairie Crocus by Dennis Cardiff………………………………………..…………………..………………………..29 You by Bob Buckner…..…………….……………………..……….………………………….…………………..…….33
Non-fiction Blavatsky’s Bus by D. R. Smith……………………….………………......….……………………………..………16 Every Soul has a Story by Charles E. J. Moulton…..…………………………………………….……………….30
The ideas and opinions expressed in the stories, articles and poems belong to the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the staff of Shadows Express.
With Every Breath You Take Our lives, parenthesized by our first inhalation and last exhalation, consist of pairings. We breathe in, and we breathe out, each equally important to our existence. On average, during our lives, we will take six hundred million of these breaths. We will have moments that take our breath away and moments when we hold our breath, but they always come in pairs. If we think about it, pairings make up our lives. Love and hate, passion and indifference, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears—we are creatures of extremes. With balance, all of these emotions belong. Sometimes, though, we lose ourselves absorbed by the negative. Yes, life can be tough. It can give us difficulties we believe we can’t bear, but that is when we need to find our balance. For every inhalation, there is an exhalation. For every sorrow, there is joy. Lately, I have witnessed people facing minor setbacks and others facing great tragedies. The way these individuals handled their problems speaks volumes about their character. A young man receives several rejections of his novel, a devastating blow to any creative
individual, but instead of facing this down by revising or setting himself back on track through more education, he riles at an industry that does not appreciate quality. Now, this is not abnormal, but at some point, he needs to move on. Two years of immersing himself in his negative attitude, fighting back against any encouraging words, is too long. What could he have accomplished if he had turned that energy to a positive attitude? With so much breath wasted in negativity, we will never know. A woman facing her husband’s diagnosis of terminal cancer first falls apart, as can be expected, but then she reaches out, seeking some meaning in life. She finds joy in the days she and her husband will continue to share. She discovers they are closer than ever before, and she revels in the memories they share between the laughter and tears. Which way do you want to go through life: embracing the special moments or miring yourself in difficulties? It is your decision—with every breath you take.
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From the Toolbox
By Liam O’Haver
We have previously talked about how using sound enhances the beauty and pleasure of reading well-written poetry. Another characteristic that distinguishes truly great poetry is the effective use of figurative language. There are numerous poetic devices that fall into this category. Of these, some of the more frequently discussed (and used) include metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole, oxymoron, and metonymy. Since much has been written on these devices, I needn’t elaborate on them in this article. Rather, I would like to mention a pair that is far less focused upon—that is, denotation and connotation. Denotation is a literal meaning or the dictionary definition. Connotation is when you mean something beyond the literal that is often inferred or may be partially hidden. Denotation and connotation are very effective devices when used in poetry because they determine the meaning of your words and help to set the tone of the poem. Consider how the denotation of the word “nature” is used here to support the dichotomic tone (like opposing sides of the same coin) in the poem “Harmony”: I pluck a flower as the sparrow sings But I think of those who shovel snow. For all too soon the seasons shift And winter's wind will chill the spirit. Hope and despair; fruit of the same tree, To know one is to possess the other. As a final breath caresses cold lips Somewhere new life emerges. While an old man sits alone Regretting the loss of his youth, A child celebrates with friends As he blows out candles on a cake. Such is the nature of harmony And the harmony of nature
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Shadows Express Continued from page 5.
One of my favorite examples of connotation is found in Emily Dickinson’s poem “A Book”1. In this poem, she compares literature to transportation—a boat, horses, and a vehicle—but she uses romantic connotations to describe them so as to romanticize the poem and show the beauty of literature: There is no frigate like a book To take us lands away, Nor any coursers like a page Of prancing poetry. This traverse may the poorest take Without oppress of toll; How frugal is the chariot That bears a human soul! I hope that these examples will help you better understand denotation and connotation and encourage you to use them to elevate your poetry.
The poem “A Book” was published in the third series of Poems by Emily Dickinson (edited by Mabel Loomis Todd) in 1896 by Roberts Brothers. 6
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The Dance of Revision In 1958, Ernest Hemingway told a writer from The Paris Review that he had rewritten the last page of Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times. When asked what the problem was, Hemingway replied, “Getting the words right.” I wonder what would have happened if Hemingway had not felt such a compulsion to get it right. Would this iconic American classic have endured for all of these years? Would it have been published at all? Of course, we will never know, but I do think we can learn some valuable lessons from Hemingway’s attitude toward revision. First, let’s be clear about something: editing and revising are two different things. Editing is correcting errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Simply put—there is a right and a wrong. Certainly, an author had better understand this, or his work will be buried in a slush pile somewhere. However, when an author revises, he dances with the language. He trades this word for that word. He deletes this phrase, or he partners those words with another. The dance doesn’t stop until the author can feel the rhythm and hear the melody. For the last page of Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, that meant thirtynine revisions! Why? Because revision is where the language comes together to form the music. Hemingway understood that his first attempt would not paint the picture. He understood that his first attempt would not elicit the right emotions. Instead, the author needs the
dance of revision. He needs to twirl the words around until the picture forms. He needs to play the notes until the words elicit emotions from the reader. So if Hemingway were here today, he would tell you not to stop until you get it right. To his advice, I would like to add a couple of practical suggestions. First, give yourself time between each revision. When you come back to the piece, you may be amazed to find what a fresh perspective can reveal. Second, seek feedback from others you can trust for an objective opinion. The feedback will let you know if you are indeed getting it right. Finally, for a glimpse of the power of revision, check out two of our stories in this issue of Shadows Express. The first is “God’s Telephone” by Anne Warchol, and the second is “Survival of the Strongest” by Colin Shaw. While our acquisitions board saw promise in both pieces, neither of the first submissions proved ready for publication. However, at our urging, both of these talented authors agreed to revise, and I am so glad they did. Both stories exceeded our expectations. While I will not spoil either of them for you by going into detail, I will tell you that “God’s Telephone” will leave you in tears, and “Survival of the Strongest” will run chills down your spine. So the next time you write your first draft, remember—you are not finished until you feel the rhythm and hear the melody. After all, if it took Hemingway thirty-nine times to write a page, how many revisions will it take the rest of us?
Who Needs Punctuation Winnie Kay Davis
In a rare interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2007, the famous author Cormac McCarthy discusses his views on punctuation—or the lack thereof—as he professes, “If you write properly, you shouldn’t have to punctuate.” McCarthy goes on to say that it’s important to punctuate for people to read and understand, but there is no need to “block the page with weird little marks.” His novels do not contain quotation marks, semicolons, or apostrophes (for contractions), and commas are used only when the occasional complex sentence needs clarification. So if this guy can win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with a punctuation-starved novel, then who needs to learn proper punctuation? Well… anyone who expects to be taken seriously in the literary world needs to learn and use proper punctuation. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Mr. McCarthy’s eccentricity is a result of any form of arrogance, laziness, or illiteracy. In order for McCarthy to create his postapocalyptic masterpiece The Road—with its unorthodox style of sparse punctuation—he had to first completely understand English grammar and punctuation. Many of his fragmented sentences are devised to eliminate the comma needed to
connect an absolute phrase or non-essential element to a complex sentence structure. His quotation-markless dialogue is precisely arranged on the page so the reader has no doubt who is speaking. His lack of apostrophes for certain contractions doesnt confuse the reader in the least, though I’m sure his spell-check tool had to be thrust into overdrive. Before you can get away with an unconventional literary style, you must be an expert in the conventional. Before you can chop up complex sentences into comprehensible fragments, you need to understand the technical intricacies of linguistic dissection. Ernest Hemingway shares his views of taking literary liberties in this famous quote: “My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements.”
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Wanderer Bob Buckner
A wanderer in spirit and in heart, I walked a lonesome path and found you there. I knew at once the wisdom you impart, the essence of your soul, so sweet and fair. I searched the distant reaches of my love, where sorrow and delight have seldom gone. I heard you in the trilling turtle dove, and saw you in the sunrise of the dawn. I loved you when the morning saw your face, and when the evening paused and kissed your hand. I knew what I had longed for in my space. I loved you when we dwelt in distant land. When love takes flight for all the world to see, your tender smile shall set my spirit free.
"Mrs. Davenport?" A fist rapped on the kitchen door. I cringed. "Shea, is that you?" Whenever Shea showed up, I knew he brought trouble—trouble in the form of my son, Max. I opened the door to the garage. A gaggle of twelve-year-old kids, pushing, hollering, and laughing, silenced when they saw my face. Shea spoke up. "Max's got somethin', Mrs. D." What now? “Another alligator?" Max called from behind Shea's back, "Nope, no alligator, Mom. 'Sides, it's puny, can't bite anyone." I massaged the back of my neck, calming a spasm. "Capturing alligators is a felony for Heaven's sake." "Sorry, Mom." His tone brightened. "He likes his cage.” I clapped my hands over my ears. "Don't tell me." I stretched up on my toes and tried to see over Shea's shoulder, but the kids shifted and blocked my view. I sighed and hazarded another guess. "It's a dog, right?" Last month, he had come home tugging a red pit bull. I had noted her swollen belly. "Found her in the park, playing with a ball. Nobody around. Had to bring her home," Max had explained. The next day, I tracked down the owner, who offered me a pup. Lucky for me, Max was in school. Saying no to him is like defying gravity. Andrea, one of Max's many girlfriends, said, "No, Mrs. D. No dog."
How can a twelve-year-old boy have so many girlfriends? We had to install a dedicated phone line. I lost five pounds one month, running from place to place trying to find him. A popping sound leeching from under the kitchen door caught my attention. I twirled on my toes and ran back inside to pull boiling soup from the microwave; it splashed on my hand. The back door to the past yawned and an image formed. Was Max only two when he tried to microwave his plastic book? I laughed. Maybe I should write a collection of short stories. Story one: Max and the Microwave. All I needed was a title for the book. Max called from the garage. I wiped up the soup and delivered my mind and body into the hands of my son. "Okay, okay." I surveyed the heads of the kids. They looked too happy. What could it be this time? My mind whirled back to last summer: Max and the Horses. Last August, horses neighing in my backyard woke me. I peered out the window and saw four horses tethered to trees. Max said he found them straying in the field behind our house. Later, I found out Max had knocked down a section of the corral ... "No more horses, right?" "No, Mrs. D. My parents kinda said Max can't come anymore." This from Lisa. Her parents owned the horse ranch that butted up to our property. "A snake?" Another story for my collection: Max—Dances with Snakes. That's what my neighbors call him when they find a snake on their
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property. My son claims he knows the difference between poisonous and harmless. But every time I watch him rip his T-shirt off and ensnare the reptile by its neck in one magnificent motion, I tremble. What if…? Max stepped forward, arms behind his back. How bad can this be? I wanted to run away, to not be this child's mother for just a few seconds. "You wanna hear all the story or just the ending, Mom?" These questions kill me. He always offers the abbreviated version, but tells you the whole thing anyhow. Resistance is futile. “From the beginning." He grinned. "Ya know the lake behind Mick's house?" I crossed my arms and scowled. "Your father said to stay away from there." "Thought you said from the beginning." Somehow he manages to look contrite and irresistible at the same time. It's in his eyes, bright azure, like his dad's. "Okay, let's hear it." "We found a turtle. I captured it." He held it up for inspection; I backed up through the open kitchen door and plopped down at the table. "Out. Everybody out." The kids drifted away. The world needs replacement mothers for people like me—clones to take a shift or two of motherhood. Max had not captured a turtle. The turtle had captured him. His left thumb was imprisoned under the turtle's shell. Are there guide books for kids like this? Do manuals exist where moms can look in the index and find solutions for thumbs trapped in turtles? New story: Max and the Turtle. "We'll just wait for the turtle to relax and open his shell." I questioned more than commanded. Max shrugged and collapsed on the floor, the turtle nestled in his lap. He flipped open his cell and started calling friends. For twenty minutes nothing worried me. I stared at Max—this glorious, horrible boy who brings joy and disaster into my life—and just breathed. The miraculous
moment passed when the turtle opened up and released my son's undamaged thumb. He jumped up, tucked the turtle under his arm, and called back over his shoulder. "Amy saw a water moccasin in that creek behind her house; gotta go catch it." "Water moccasins are poison—" "Don't worry. Got my lucky stone Dad brought from Colorado." He was gone. Dinnertime passed and shadows hunkered down behind trees. Max's phone rang six times and went to voice mail. "Max, please call." Five minutes later: "Max, where are you? Please call." I hung up and dialed again. "Max, you're scaring me. Call back." Thirty minutes ticked by while trying to reach him. I called Shea, then Lisa, and then Andrea. I called Shea again and asked for his mother. Why had I relied on a kid for information? "No, I'm sorry, Bridgette—" The doorbell chimed, and I hung up midsentence. Thank heavens. Max lost his keys and cell phone. That's all. But when the door swung open, two police officers stood on the front porch. "Mrs. Davenport? I’m Officer Bridges, and this is my partner, Officer Hanson. May we come in?" Their uniforms were crisp, their eyes a calculated neutral. I hesitated. "It's about your son." "Max?" My fingers curled around the doorframe, and I leaned on it for support. "Yes, Ma'am." My voice quivered. "Please come in.” I gestured toward the living room and followed with reluctant steps. The two officers flanked the fireplace. I focused on the shelf above and the gaps where Jake’s photos had been before I boxed and stored them in the attic. The female cop stepped forward and squeezed my hand. “Mrs. Davenport, I'm sorry. We have some bad news.” My heart hit the pit of my stomach before soaring into my throat. The scene before me 11
blurred; I blinked several times before responding. “Officer Hanson—” "Call me Wendy." I swallowed hard and nodded. “Wendy, Max is full of mischief, but he’s never done anything wrong. He’s not in any trouble?” “No, nothing like that.” Her voice trailed off, and she placed a hand on my back, guiding me to the rocking chair, but I perched on the edge of the seat, desperately unwilling to abandon my wild hope. I planted both elbows on my knees and leaned forward. “The snake bit him?" The male officer—Officer Bridges—cleared his throat. "Is there anyone we can call to sit with you?" I shook off Wendy’s hand and asked Bridges, "What the hell happened to my son?" "What about your husband? Can you reach him?” "No. I already told you. Just me and Max." Wendy looked at me like she appreciated a single mother's pain. My words came out on a sanded tongue. "Jake . . . he’s . . . he was my husband, died last year. Rare brain tumor. Gone in six months." Wendy passed me a tissue and I crumpled it in my fist. "For God's sake, tell me what's going on." The man officer—forgot his name already— said, "Your son cut through a neighbor's yard on his way home. Jumped out of a clump of bushes onto the street." He paused and locked his eyes on mine. "Near dusk." I catapulted from the rocker, grabbed my jacket and purse, and squeezed the keys in my palm, gouging the skin; I wanted to inflict pain, to prepare my body for the oncoming train wreck of truth. "He was running for help after the snake bit him. You got him to the hospital in time?" Wendy resisted my tug toward the door. I yanked my wrist from her grasp. “Come on. I gotta go. He's probably scared to death."
"Please, Mrs. Davenport, sit back down." "No. I don't want to sit down. I want to get Max. He needs his mother. What's wrong with you people? Can't you see we're wasting time?" I shoved a knuckled fist into my mouth and bit down with my front teeth, damming tears before they spilled. "The driver”—Officer Bridges flipped through his notes—“a Mr. Blake Carrington, said Max came from nowhere." My brow furrowed. "The driver? What're you saying? This . . . uh . . . Mr. Carrington took him to the hospital?" If I continued my mind game, Max was still alive. Wendy and her partner exchanged looks. "It was an accident." "Accident? What accident?" I swiveled on my heel and peered from one to the other, my fingers laced together, clenching and then unclenching. I licked salted drops that escaped the dam and cascaded, unheeded, down my face before pooling around the corners of my mouth. A cold finger of certainty traced down my spine. No more time to play with. I was forced to accept the message I intuited the second the cops appeared at my door. Still, Officer Bridges’ words were gut punches. "Vehicle vs. pedestrian. Mr. Carrington's SUV hit Max dead on. He was DOA when we got there." "Don't say that—‘DOA’—like you're filling out some routine paperwork." Visions sprang to mind. Max smashed in the road? Zipped up in a body bag? Was I expected to identify the body? My throat ached from the strain of suppressing emotions; if I maintained my composure, the tragedy would remain undefined. Unreal. My fingers shredded Wendy’s tissue—all the specks drifting like people amiss. "You're wrong. Mixed him up with some other kid." I loosened the twisty-tie holding back my hair and raked fingers through it. "Please, not Max. He's my life. My son."
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Wendy fished around in her purse and pulled out a plastic evidence bag. She rattled the stone inside. "We found this in his pocket." I plucked the bag from the air. "Oh, God, no. Please, no." A sob escaped. Both officers lowered their voices. "We're sorry for your loss." The floor rushed up, but Wendy caught me before I fainted. "You're sure there's no one we can call?" The need for solitude engulfed me. "No, no. It's fine. Please, just go." I ushered them out the door and when it closed, a void opened in my soul—a hole where Max had lived. I sat dry-eyed in shock, feeling nothing, while my foot pushed the rocker to and fro, Max's picture album clutched to my chest. What was wrong with me? I should be wrecked, a sobbing wretch. No more snakes, alligators, or dogs—no more Max. If only the turtle kept his shell closed— holding my son captive for more than twenty minutes—he might still be alive. Did I say ‘I love you’ enough? Tears splattered the album and I brushed them away with my sleeve. Was life worth living without Max? Without Jake . . . without anyone? I sequestered the anguish, same as when Jake died. Upstairs, I found the anti-anxiety medication my doctor prescribed after Jake’s death and jiggled the bottle. Five, maybe six. I scrounged around in the back of the drawer and pulled out a refill. Thirty-seven pills total. Sufficient to end my life? I emptied the contents into my palm and filled a glass with water. So easy, never facing the double-deaths, but so wrong. The faucet dripped after being turned off, but underneath that trickling a sound drifted up the stairs . . . my cell phone? Wrong number, probably. Let it ring. The essence of my son filled the room, so real I
extended my hand to brush his cheek, but swept empty air. Max? The glass slipped from my fingers and shattered; the pills scattered across the bathroom floor. I clambered down the stairs two at a time. Where did I leave the damn phone? Kitchen? Living room? Five rings, six— How many before it goes to voice mail? I switched on the light— there, under the rocker. I popped open the cell phone on the seventh ring. "H . . . Hello?" "Hey, Mom." "Max?" I clamped the cell to my ear. My vision narrowed to black spots. Breathe. In. Out. "The police just left. They said you were—" "Dead, I know. But it was fast, like turning off a light." The lone lamp in the living room extinguished. My breath hitched and I twirled around the room, searching for Max. The gloom glared. "I don't understand . . . how is this possible?" "I'm calling on God's telephone." "Calling me on God's . . . Wait, what?" "Can't talk long. Sorry for all the trouble." My body trembled and I grabbed a sweater from the back of the rocker. "Oh, God, Max. You never caused trouble. Can you come back?" "Mom, I'm in Heaven. Dad's here. Be strong. We love you." Embracing the ethereal realm was horrifyingly tempting. Maybe Max wouldn’t be forever lost. "Wait, don't go." My throat constricted. "I love—" Static, then silence—only the vacuum of the transcendent beyond remained. With the cell phone pressed to my chest, I picked up his photo album, sat on the floor, and let my fingers trip through the years. The last picture taken six months ago. I should have taken more. His baby pictures swam before my eyes. If time passed, it passed unaware, out of sync with me, out of sync with the universe. I
surrendered myself to the River Cry, and with not a soul to witness, I broke. My shoulders heaved until my ribs ached under the assault of punishing, gulping sobs. I punched the wall and licked the blood glistening on my knuckles; my stomach uncoiled and I retched. My vocal chords were ravaged from screaming. Words disappeared into inhuman sounds. Sunshine pricking my eyelids woke me. My bones ached from sleeping on the floor, my face sore from resting on the picture album. I swallowed past a rock of pain lodged in my throat, and a few seconds ticked before yesterday came barging in. Max. The phone call, was it real? I lifted my gaze to the mantelpiece and rubbed my eyes. I crept closer. Front and center, a framed snapshot of Jake holding Max—one I had never taken—gazed back at me. I picked it up and ran disbelieving fingers across their faces. A rosy
glow permeated the room, chasing away the despair. Jake and Max wanted me to live. I kissed the picture, and a melodic surge of energy strummed my body. No, not just live, they wanted me to celebrate life. My son's smile shone brilliant in my mind, and with the grief I suppressed after their deaths embraced, came a paradigm shift— life refocused I shuffled to the kitchen, started coffee brewing, and booted up my PC. The wordprocessing program flashed its virgin pages. A smile chased across my face, and I blotted tears before they splashed down. Inspiration lit. My fingers found their rhythm as I started typing the title page: Maximum Mischief by Bridgette Davenport. Somewhere, Max is laughing….
Embracing the ethereal realm was horrifyingly tempting.
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Linda M. Price.
September 2nd, 1988 was the day I gained a sister, lost a mother, hated my father, and fell in love with my aunt. Iâ€™m not sure if it is because she was the youngest of my motherâ€™s sisters and envied all those older ones, but she introduced me to the world of favorite child that very night as the new baby was put into ICU and I was put onto a pedestal. My father threw me a basketball showed me what an assist is. My mother smiled as I made the shot. My aunt told me she loved me and carried me down the hall, away from attention, and said to allow the new one some spotlight.
D.R. Smith Don’t be shy. Step aboard. Mind you, this is no ordinary bus, but neither is our chauffeur. The fare? Why, you need only touch the tip of her unfurled hand to experience a most extraordinary voyage—a wondrous itinerary filled with enlightenment that will tingle the very core of your psyche. Me? Oh, I’m a regular; been with her a while. In fact, the arm hairs still stiffen, thinking about the uncanny moment we met. It was pure happenstance, a random act with no reason to suspect that my hither-dither years of early adulthood were about to change. But, oh, was I ever wrong. I remember like it was yesterday. I was three months shy of twenty-one and had left the nest to be on my own. I'd secured a job and rented a cheap room in a rundown walk-up at the base of Beacon Hill, its crest, the gold-domed Capitol overlooking Boston Common. The Back Bay area is also home to Paul Revere’s North Church, Faneuil Hall, Old Ironsides, quaint taverns of yesteryear, ethnic delis and restaurants, Chinatown, and dozens of retail stores within the heart of Boston’s hub. Curious and having a thirst for living in a big city, I was anxious to explore the wonders of my new urban turf. I awoke to a sunny Saturday morn, perfect for a casual stroll through Haymarket Square where dozens of Italian vendors hustled meats and produce from push carts and open stalls. After sampling fresh fruits and delicious, char-grilled Italian sausages, I moved on, crossed the Common, and turned north onto ritzy Charles Street. I was content with window-wishing for exquisite things in a dozen high-end curio and antique shops when I ambled upon a fusty used book store—ah, things I could afford. The place was a potpourri of print; shelves crammed with books filled every nook and cranny. I leisurely browsed, looking for nothing in particular when, suddenly, I was infused with an odd sensation—as if some unseen, but gentle force was guiding me to a certain bookcase. I didn’t resist, and without hesitation or distraction, I went straight toward it and stopped. There, just above my head, about mid-shelf, I spotted a two-volume set: Isis Unveiled.
I reached for Volume One and thumbed it open to a photograph of H.P. Blavatsky, taken in 1888. Something about her eyes—the most intense, piercing eyes I’d ever seen. They were beyond alluring, more like bewitching when locked with mine. The eerie sensation seemed to intensify, as if I'd come under the spell of a mystic, perhaps a true Gnostic who’d been dead for nigh on a century. Whoever she was, I seemed to have heard her voice, an enchanting voice whispering to me. She held me captive. I had to have those books, though I had never heard of Isis or dozens of other names such as En-Soph, Osiris, Kabala, Sanskrit, Vishnu, BhagavadGita, and the like. I couldn’t shake the strange sense of intrigue when glancing at subtitles and content, but I understood enough to know I’d been shanghaied, destined to be her newest disciple for a wondrous voyage back in time—way, way back in time—to the cradle of civilization, and perhaps beyond, for a privileged peek at the roots of cosmology. The weeks ahead were spent slowly, but methodically, getting acquainted. The miles clicked away, but the initial going was no easy jaunt trying to grasp even the most basic of tenets. I was mesmerized by the sheer magnitude of her work. It was incomprehensible how one person could locate, decipher, cross-reference, and unravel the core meanings of so many ancient documents, arcane wisdom, and mystic symbolisms. Yet, somehow, she had managed a monumental synthesis of science, religion, and philosophy—all marching to the beat of a single drum. Though I never expected to fully comprehend much of the scenery, I nevertheless had embarked on a fabulous journey that would ultimately rule much of my persona. The more she fanned the flames of dormant curiosities, the more I began to see things with my heart and not my eyes. Cobwebs of confusion and customs were swept aside, the mind cleansed of childhood indoctrinations. Hordes of abstruse questions roiling within since high school were satisfied. After having devoured Isis Unveiled, I switched gears and laboriously chugged along with The Secret Doctrine, one of her more difficult, esoteric works.
Volume 5: Issue 1 Weeks later, a complete change of venue from civil engineering to the fast and frenzied world of the Board of Trade sent me to Chicago. Oddly, less than a month after settling in, another incredible meeting would shift the bus into overdrive. I took the el-train into Chicago’s loop every day, often keeping company with Blavatsky during rush hour commutes. One afternoon, I was seated next to a middle-aged woman who had noticed my travel companion. We chatted and soon learned we lived only a half-block from each other. Shortly thereafter, she invited me to tea at her place, a nicely appointed condo shared with her elder sister. I was stunned to discover both were advanced scholars of Vedic astrology, metaphysics, and had logged more miles on this cryptic bus than I could fathom. They readily adopted me as their student, I savoring the tutelage as we rolled along. What were the odds of such an encounter, considering the millions who ride the CTA? Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t corralled into becoming a crusader for some cult or other, nor was I a pious zealot or repentant lost soul claiming rebirth. In retrospect, I was not averse to wine, women, or song and likely could have been branded a heathen at times, but never in lieu of shunning ethics or compassion for my fellow man. I simply gave and I received. On and off the bus, I meandered through life as it came until five years ago when one of its blind curves wrought unexpected tragedy—I lost my son. The bus wrecked; my world turned upside-down. I wasn’t prepared for that treacherous stretch of tarmac, yet the winding road ahead had more surprises in store. Two weeks after the funeral, I spotted the wife standing atop the stairs, looking down at me with a kind but forlorn face. It was only a moment, but seemed like an hour we stood eying each other in silence. She spoke naught, yet so much was said with love in her eyes. She was worried about me, my grief. I, too, welled with emotion. My God, what if I’d lost her? The death of a child can send one spiraling into an abyss of despair. Yet for me, it was also an eye-opener, for only then was I able to fully grasp how deep an espousal love can be. I am convinced true soul mates transcend mortality, an eternal union enjoined by a divine golden thread that reverberates with each beat of a celestial heart—such as what has always pulsed between us. The burden of grief lightened. That night my subconscious was again wakened by the soothing chant of a siren: You are to write; it is to be a novel, an epic ride. The bus had returned and we were off again.
This time, we motored headlong into the uncharted realm of the literary craft. Dubious and nervous, I hesitated. I feared inadequacy if adjudged by seasoned talents exposing me as a rank amateur having never been down this road before. But the impulse to write remained strong. The following day, the opening pages of Tree of the Great Long Leaves were penned, its multi-layered themes preordained to reflect the depth and consequences of human relationships no matter how casual or intimate the ties. Months zipped by when another unexpected detour spawned Beaches of Belmont. Sans the gore and dry dust of history, the novella was a fresh look at an old subject inspired by, and dedicated to, a WWII veteran who had befriended me, and of whom I had come to admire as my own father. Sadly, I had to set aside Tree to devote every hour in a rush to finish his legacy. But I was too late. Dad died of a sudden illness two days after I’d placed the rough draft on his sickbed. Here I am today, my mettle tested but hungry for more after forty-three years on this caravan. I’ve been uphill and downhill, through thick and thin, grief and glories—and still no end in sight. Carl Sagan once said something akin to the following: “One glance at a book and you’ll hear the voice of another person; to read is to voyage through time.” How apropos. Yet to be chasing whales with Captain Ahab or to fall in love with Rhett Butler is one thing. Such excursions may prove entertaining and memorable, but they’re finite in contrast to this ride of perpetual surprise and reverence. Who would have thought I’d be a passenger into ancient history, recondite lore, or visit every ‘ism’ on the planet; my mind opened to freely question, to refute hypocrisies and to seek knowledge of things lying latent within the subconscious that would mold my character, cause me to cherish people as I do, or set in motion karmic events that would forever impact lives around me? Now, Blavatsky's bus is quietly idling at the curb, destined for who-knows-where or what-lies-ahead. I don’t have a clue either, but having laid bare the sheer fabric of my being, I stand before you metaphorically naked. You now see me as I am; my thoughts, my style, my themes—all gleaned from such travels, stamped and documented throughout my portfolio. So what do you say? Care to kick a tire to see if either of us is for real? Take her for a spin. Whether for a block or trek around the planet, our chauffeur may not be for everybody, but she certainly has been right for me. Come on, step aboard; it's literally the voyage of a lifetime.
I lie quiet, my eyes squeezed shut. The silence bearing down on me is a physical presence, and my mind whirls with thoughts, pictures, ideas, and sounds. They collide with each other in my head—no start and no finish. I sense movement around me. My ever-present anger builds within. How dare anyone do this to me! Prying apart my gummed eye lids, I can just make out two man-like shadows materializing with the strengthening light. A noise intrudes into the stillness, subdued but pervasive. It is a cross between the slow clockwork tick of a metronome and the rhythmic thud of a heartbeat. The level of light increases enough for me to examine my confederates in more detail. We are dressed in a similar fashion: blue long- sleeved shirt, faded jeans, and ankle high walking boots. The other two could have been brothers with their blond hair, green eyes, and pale skin. We scrutinize each other with laser-like intensity, as if our lives
depend on it. Without knowing why, I realize this is true. I spring to my feet to face them, incensed by a rage I know not from where. “Who the hell are you? Why have you brought me here?” My voice comes out scratchy and dry from lack of use. The taller and more muscular of the two strides forward, making conciliatory gestures with his hands. “Calm down. I’m Michael. I’ve no idea how I came to be here either. It’s probably best if we stick together for the time being and try to focus our energies on finding the way out of here.” He says this with surety, energy, and affability; I hate him. No one tells me what to do. He thrusts out his hand in greeting; I ignore it and turn towards the other. He is no more than a boy. He is seated. His arms wrap tight around his legs, which he pulls into his chest. He raises his face and blurts out an undecipherable word and lowers his head onto his knees. “He says his name is Sammy,” Michael offers. The two of us stand looking at each other, lost in our own thoughts. Sammy sits huddled on the floor. I grunt in the general direction of the others, “My name is Simon.” “SAMMY, ARE YOU THERE? CAN YOU ANSWER ME?” The ear shattering voice issues from the very air itself. Two of us jump at the unexpectedness of the noise. The one named Sammy closes even more into a fetal ball. Michael takes a stand in front of him and looks around for
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any physical threat. I stand to the side and glare at everything around me. The question is repeated with no reduction in volume. Michael yells into the air, “Sammy’s trapped in here with us. He can’t speak at the moment. He’s terrified.” I don’t know if the voice is aware of Michael or not. The only noise I can hear is the steady beat which has been present since I woke. “SAMMY, I’M TRYING TO GET TO YOU, BUT YOU MUST COME PART OF THE WAY.” Someone is coming to help us—or Sammy, at least. If there is a way out, I’m the one taking it. Michael pulls Sammy to his feet and herds him towards the upward incline of the tunnel exiting the cavern. I follow behind. The overhead lights come on as we progress and those behind dim and fade to nothing. We move forward within a self-contained bubble of light. I don’t know how long we travel. Seconds pass like minutes, minutes like hours. There is little change in our surroundings—a rocky, debrisscattered pathway climbing to freedom. That’s what I tell myself. I am isolated and alone. The other two blend together into a cohesive unit. Each draws from the other to find the strength and
the will to go on. Michael is the stronger and therefore the more dangerous to me. He has assumed guardianship over the weaker lad, and I hope that will be his Achilles. I trail at the back, watching their every move. I look for any advantages that I may find useful later. Let them solve the problems we encounter. I am going to get out, no matter what the cost to those around me. We continue climbing. Michael, who is of course leading the way, comes to an abrupt halt and kneels. He tries to lower the exhausted boy, but he just crumples to the ground. Michael moves forward and signals me to join him. This annoys me. Who appointed him leader? I control the rising bile that threatens to erupt. I drop and crawl forward on my stomach to ascertain the impasse that is in front of us. The floor of the tunnel has collapsed and left a gaping crevasse. Even with the lights, nothing can be seen except for the inky blackness below. It may as well be bottomless. I spy a small ledge which circumnavigates the chasm. It varies in width, as narrow as six inches and as wide as a foot. It provides a chance. We return to Sammy, and Michael tells him what we now face. Michael instinctively steps forward when a volunteer is needed. Who am I to deny him? It’s a win-win situation for me. If he manages to find a safe way, I’m one step closer to getting out. If he fails, there’s one less person for me to worry about. With his back pressed hard against the rugged wall of the tunnel, Michael inches his way along the rock shelf. One foot slides forward inch by inch, clearing the debris into the gaping maw of the pit. The sounds of the falling rubble recede into nothingness. He accesses the far side with little difficulty and turns to face us. “Sammy, you come next. Just take your time, and you’ll have no problem.” Sammy lifts his head, looks at Michael on the far side, looks at the ledge, shudders, and shakes his head. Not a word is spoken. I curl my lip in a sneer. The little coward's true colours are becoming apparent. With a look of disgust, I step past him and manoeuvre my way across. A mantra plays over and over in my mind: Don’t look down, and I will survive. Don’t look down, and I will
survive, again and again and again, until Michael's hands grab my arm and swing me forward. The anger flares once more. I do not like to be manhandled. I turn to Michael, but he is on his way back to Sammy’s side with all the aplomb of someone walking the centre of a four lane highway. Bending over Sammy’s recumbent form, he whispers to him, “Come on, Sammy, we’re on the final leg. I’m sure of it. Just one more effort and we’ll be on our way out. You can do it. You know I’m always here for you.” Sammy looks up into Michael's eyes, reassurance, trust, and strength passing between them. Michael helps him to his feet. Once more, he begins to cross. He clutches Sammy’s hand in a death-like grip. They reach the half-way point when from the very air and rock comes that unknown voice. “I’M GOING TO TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO GET THROUGH TO YOU. KEEP TRYING, SAMMY.” Silence fills the void. A delicate crystalline silence which echoes a sense of fragility and that you know cannot last. The whole world holds its breath. Everything is still. The end that you know is coming… begins. My very essence is shaken by an onslaught of sound and vibration. The light, which we have taken for granted, flickers and dies. The very earth rises and falls with the mad gyrations of a bucking horse. I lie winded on the ground. As it starts, so does it finish—with silence. I look back to where Michael and Sammy had been. They have disappeared. Elation rises within me. I have survived. I look over the edge. Hanging from one hand wedged into a crack in the wall is Michael. The limp form of Sammy dangles from the other. “The ever vigilant protector and guardian of the weak,” I mutter to myself. Michael spies me and sings out, “Simon. Simon. You've got to help us!” I look at them and stay silent. Pleasant scenarios play out in my mind. My raising a rock and smiling as I bring it smashing down on his unsuspecting head is one that catches my
attention. Two birds with one stone. His hand is in reach. I do not move. “Simon, I can’t hold on. I know you won’t be able to lift both of us, but you might be able to help Sammy.” I can hear the strain in his voice. He is finding it harder and harder to maintain his grip on the semi-conscious form below him. Gazing into Michael’s face, I sense that he has always protected the boy and shielded him from whatever the world has thrown at him. It is obvious to me that Sammy will soon have to fend for himself. Something shudders deep inside of me. I don’t know why, but I reach down. His eyes lock with mine. He takes a deep breath and tenses. Strain etches itself across his face and beads of sweat burst from his forehead. His face undergoes a chameleon change of colours as it transcends from bright red into the purple spectrum. The boy starts to rise up to meet me. Michael's breathing deepens, heavier and faster. He drags in large amounts of oxygen to fuel the last super-human effort of a dying body. Sammy is now flapping around like a fish out of water. One hand flails out and I grasp it. I hold him steady. Michael’s eyes lock once more, and I garner a sense of fulfilment; his whole body relaxes and falls. I listen but do not hear his body strike as it disappears. “Bye, bye, Michael,” I whisper. The boy hangs below me, his pale face turned in my direction. The pupils are open so wide, black moons against the whites of his eyes. His mouth gapes open and a low, almost subsonic keening issues forth. I draw his limp body up and lay it on the ground. Once there, he struggles to his knees and peers over the edge, searching for any signs of life. “WHEN YOU SEE THE LIGHT, MAKE YOUR WAY TO IT. SAMMY, IT IS IMPORTANT ONLY YOU SURFACE. ONLY YOU MUST GET OUT.” With that pronouncement echoing around me, I get to my feet, raise my foot and with a sense of freedom and release, I put it into the middle of Sammy’s back and push. I scream out, “Bye, bye Sammy.”
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The last I see of him is his wildly windmilling arms as he plunges into the abyss. The overhead lights flare into incandescent fury causing my senses to overload and submerge into blessed oblivion. *** I lie quiet, my eyes squeezed shut. I show no sign of my awareness, but I can sense the padded restraints on my wrists, holding me immobile against the bed. I hear the steady beat of the heart monitor performing its reassuring cadence. Where am I? What’s happening to me? Do they know what I did? Is this why I’m being restrained? I was just protecting myself. Selfpreservation is a strong emotion. It’s not evil to want to survive. I hear footsteps approaching, not one set—but many. They enter my room and start discussing my case. I listen to a deep authoritative voice which sounds familiar. I fake unconsciousness. “In this room, we have Mister Sam Stevens. He is a court appointed referral. He has since been diagnosed with a Dissociative Identity Disorder. Who can explain to me what DID is?” There is silence. With an exasperated tone in his voice, he calls upon one of the others in the room. “Ogilvie, can I have your thoughts, please?” He mumbles, “Well, Doctor Brooks, I believe it’s a disorder in which a person has at least two other enduring personalities.” “Correct. Barnes, continue.” “It’s thought that they take control of that person’s behaviour alternately,” says another voice. “That’s right. His main identity is Sammy, an everyday, functioning personality, who is able to cope with the normalcy of life. If events become too tense or stressful, Michael—a protector or guardian persona who is basically everything that is good, strong, and positive— appears.” A female voice interrupts, “Doctor Brooks, is there any reason to worry about this patient if he is functioning at such a high degree? He surely could manage quite well in society as he is.” “If there were the two, I would agree with you, my dear. But there is a third personality.
Simon. He is the antithesis of the other. When the ‘good’ appears, the ‘bad’ follows. The third personality verges on the evil. His rage knows no bounds. Combine this with an analytical nature and lack of empathy, and you have a very dangerous and amoral personality. He feels any and all of his actions are justified, and selfgratification at the expense of others is one of his primary goals. If not for this man’s medical condition being recognized, he would now be serving time in jail for his actions.” Can this be me they’re talking about? I never considered myself evil. I have done harmful things, but I regret none of these actions. In fact, I believe strength comes from doing unto others, before they do unto you. Should I be punished for this? “What measures have been taken to help Mister Stevens?” inquires another female voice. “Over the last twelve months, we have been using psychotropic drugs, hypnosis, and electroconvulsive therapy. The culmination of the treatments has led to a fusion of both the Sammy and Michael personas and the removal of Simon to form a new personality. Sam. We hope that with the proper therapy, he will once again be able to re-join society.” His voice resonates with confidence and pride as he makes this pronouncement. My ears prick up, and the wheels begin to turn in my mind. I think it is time to make them aware of my presence. I open my eyes and yawn. I look around at the surprised group. Doctor Brooks is the first to recover. “Welcome back, Sam,” he says with a smile. Grinning, I turn my head and focus upon his face. My eyes look deep into his, and I see a flicker of uncertainty and concerns appearing. A chuckle escapes my lips. “Thank you, Doctor. My mind feels much lighter now. I’m looking forward to my new life.” I can no longer suppress my joy. My chuckles become stronger and stronger, until I am laughing uproariously. Life is good.
Entwined in wedded bliss, passionate seeds were sown; In Heaven’s hearth God forged twin Cherubs in thy mold. Nourished in summer’s sun, by fall from nest have flown, Thus rue the autumn frost that wilts thy fam’ly fold. Lo, the knave cloud concealed ‘hind gray horizon’s veil. Her chill wind may smile, but betrayal snows encroach. A savored trust once sweet, now sours in love gone stale As mute ears and blind eyes let wanton storms approach. Drawn by Siren’s song to greener pastures taken, Sacred vows uprooted, yield empty golden rings. Thy jaded heart withers, its vibrant beat forsaken, Fertile ground now barren, shall fallow in the spring. Harrowed fields lie dormant to weather wintry days. Bitter heartaches linger, thy hearth still lacking fire. While hopeful seedlings pine for coming solstice rays So idle pods may bloom once betrayal snows expire. A plea to inner strength must battle woeful throes For thy soul breeds contempt for tunnels void of light. As bellows breaths whisper, a dying ember glows; Ashen coals brought to life, now flicker through the night. Alas, heat of rising sun lifts the mourning haze. As wakened eyes behold two Cherubs sprouted fast, Whose glint from gilded faces hath filled thou harvest trays; Proof that fruit conceived in love, can survive the past.
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Hardly with a hop, skip, and a jump did Frank Parkinson come home from Tobruk, Egypt, North Africa, madness, and World War II in general. A lot of pit stops were made along the way where delicate-handed surgeons and associates did their very best to get him back into working order. From practically every vantage point thereafter we never saw, facially or bodily, any scar, bunching of flesh, or major or minor skin disturbance. There was no permanent redness, no welts as part of his features, no thin and faintly visible testaments to a doctor’s faulty hand or to the enemy’s angry fragmentation. It was as if he were the ultimate and perfect patient, the great recovery, the risen Lazarus. But he was different; it was easy to see, by a long shot. Parkie. Tanker. Tiger of Tobruk. And it was at the end of some trying times for him when I realized one afternoon as we sat looking over the sun lit Lily Pond, a redness on the pond’s face as bright as pal’s smile—the pond face we had skated on for almost twenty years, where we had whipped the long hand-held whip line of us and our friends screaming and windblown toward the frosted shore on countless coffee and cider evenings—that he had come home to die. The September sun was on for a short stay, and we had bagged a dozen bottles of beer and laid them easily down in the pond, watching the flotilla of pickerel poking slowly about when the sediment settled, their shadowy thinness pointing like inert submarines or torpedoes at the bags.
Our differences were obvious, though we did not speak of them. The sands of North Africa had clutched at him and almost taken him. Off a mountain in Italy I had come with my feet nearly frozen, graceless pieces of marble under skin, thinking they might have been blown off the same quarry in which Michelangelo had once farmed torsos. Searching for the grace that might have been in them, I found none. I kept no souvenirs, especially none of Italy and its craggy mountains, and had seen nothing of his memento scenery. But once I saw a pair of tanker goggles hanging like an outsize rosary on the post of Parkie’s bed at Dutch Siciliano’s garage where he roomed on the second floor. In each of his three small rooms— like the residue of a convoy’s passing still hanging in the air, telling of itself at the nostrils with sharp reminders—you could smell the oil and grease and, sometimes you’d swear, perhaps the acid-like cosmoline and spent gunpowder rising right through the floorboards. We left the war behind us, as much as we could. But with Parkie, it was different…pieces of it hung on as if they were on for the long ride. I don’t mean that he was a flag waver or mufti hero now that he was out of uniform, but the whole war kept coming back to him in ways in which he had no control. There are people to whom such things befall. They don’t choose them, but it’s as if they somehow get appointed for all the attendant crap that comes with life. Furthermore, Parkie had no control over the visitations.
I don’t know how many times we sat in the Angels’ Club, hanging out, the big booms long down the tubes, when someone from Parkie’s old outfit would show up out of the blue. It was like Lamont Cranston appearing from the shadows; there’d be a guy standing at the door looking in and we’d all notice him, and then his eyes and Parkie’s eyes would lock. Recognition was instant; reaction was slower, as if neither one believed what he was seeing. There would be a quiet acceptance of the other’s presence; they’d draw their heads together, have a beer in a corner. Parkie, as sort of an announcement, would speak to no one in particular and the whole room in general, “This guy was with me in North Africa.” He never gave a name. All of them were odd lots, all of them thin like Parkie, drawn in the face, little shoulders and long arms, nervous, itchy, wearing that same darkness in the eyes, a sum of darkness you’d think was too much for one man to carry. They would hang on for days at a time, holing up some place, sometimes at Parkie’s and sometimes elsewhere, drinking up a storm, carousing, and one morning would be gone and never seen again, as if a ritual had taken place. A solemn ritual. Apparitions almost from the slippery darkness! Dark-eyed. The nameless out of North Africa and whatever other place they had been to and come from. Noble wanderers, it seemed, but nameless, placeless itinerants from who knows what! Parkie never got a card or a letter from any one of them, never a phone call. Nothing. He never mentioned them after they were gone. That, to me, was notice he knew they would never be back. It was like a date had been kept, a vow paid off. It wasn’t at all like “We’ll meet at Trafalgar Square after the war,” or “Times Square,” or “Under the clock at The Ritz.” Not at all. The sadness of it hit me solidly, frontally. I had had some good buddies, guy’s I’d be tickled to death to see again if they walked in just like his pals did, and I knew that I’d never see them again. Things were like that, cut and dried like adobe, a place and a job in the world, and you couldn’t cry about it. Part of the fine-tuned fatalism that grows in your bones, becomes part of you, core deep, gut deep.
The sun’s redness shivered under the breeze. Pickerel nosed at the bags. The beer cooled. Parkie sipped at a bottle, his eyes dark and locked on the pond, seeing something I hadn’t seen, I guess. The long hatchet-like face, the full-blown Indian complexion he owed great allegiance to, made his dark visage darker than it might have been. With parted lips, his teeth showed long and off-white or slightly yellowed, real incisors in a deep-red gum line. On a smooth gray rock he sat with his heels jammed up under his butt, the redness still locked in his eyes and, like some long-gone Chief, locked in meditation of the spirits. For a long while, he was distant—who knows where, in what guise and in what act—out of touch, which really wasn’t that unusual with him before, and surely wasn’t now, since his return. Actually it was a little eerie, this sudden transport, but a lot of things had become eerie with Parkie around. He didn’t like being indoors for too long a stretch; he craved fresh air and walked a lot, and must have worn his own path around the pond. It went through the alders, then through the clump of birch that some nights looked like ghosts at attention, then down along the edge where all the kids went for kibby and sunfish, then over the knoll at the end of the pond where you’d go out of sight for maybe five minutes of a walk, and then down along the near shore and coming up to the Angels’ where we hung out. Most of the guys said when you couldn’t find Parkie you knew where to find him. He looked up at me from his crouch, the bottle in his hand catching the sun, his eyes as dark as ever in their deep contrast. “Remember that Kirby kid, Ellen Kirby, when we pulled her out of the channel on Christmas vacation in her snowsuit, and she kept skating around the pond for a couple of hours, afraid to go home? We saved her for nothing, it seems, but for another try at it. I heard she drowned in a lake in Maine January of the year we went away. Like she never learned anything at all.” Parkie hadn’t taken his eyes off the pond, stillness still trying to take hold of him, and he sipped and sipped and finally drank off the bottle and reached into the water for another. The pickerel force moved away as quickly as minnows.
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Their quickness seemed to make fun of our inertia. If there was a clock handy, I knew its hands would be moving, the ticking going on, but I seriously wouldn’t bet on it. We seemed to be holding our collected breath; the sun froze itself on the water’s face, the slightest breath of wind held it off. There was no ticking, no bells, no alarms, and no sudden disturbances in the air, no more war, and no passage of time. For a moment, at least, we hung at breathlessness and eternity. We were, as Parkie had said on more than one occasion, “Down-in deep counting the bones in ourselves, trying to get literate.” “We just got her ready to die another time.” The church key opener in his hand pried at the bottle cap as slow as a crowbar and permitted a slight “pop,” and he palmed the cap in his hand and shook it like half a dice set and skipped it across the redness. The deliberate things he did came off as code transmissions, and I had spent hours trying to read what kind of messages were being carried along by them. They did not clamor for attention, but if you were only barely alert, you knew something was cooking in him. “You might not believe it,” I said, “but I thought of her when I was in the base hospital in Italy and swore my ass was ice. I remember how she skated around after we pulled her out with that gray-green snowsuit on and the old pilot’s cap on her head and the flaps down over her ears and the goggles against her eyes and the ice like a clear, fine lacquer all over her clothes. I thought she was going to freeze standing up right on the pond.” Parkie said, “I used to think about the pond a lot when I was in the desert, at Tobruk, at Al Shar-Efan, at The Sod Oasis, at all the dry holes along the way, but it was always summer and fishing and swimming and going balliky off the rock at midnight or two or three in the morning on some hot-ass August night when we couldn’t sleep and sneaked out of the house. Remember how Gracie slipped into the pond that night and slipped out of her bathing suit and hung it up on a spike on the raft and told us she was going to teach us everything we’d ever need to know.” His head nodded two or three times, accenting its own movement, making a grand pronouncement, as if the recall was just as tender and just as complete
as that long-ago compelling night. He sipped at the bottle again and tried to look through its amber passage, dark eyes meeting dark obstacles of more than one sort. As much a fortuneteller he looked, peeking into life. All across the pond, stillness made itself known, stillness as pure as any I’ve known. I don’t know what he saw in the amber fluid, but it couldn’t have been anything he hadn’t seen before. I just had the feeling it was nothing different. When I called him Frank he looked at me squarely, thick black brows lifted like chunks of punctuation, his mouth an Oh of more punctuation, both of us suddenly serious. It had always been that way with us, the reliance on the more proper name to pull a halt to what was about us, or explain what was about us. He drank off a heavy draught of beer, his Adam’s apple flopping on his thin neck. The picture of a turkey wattle came uneasily to mind, making me feel slightly ridiculous, and slightly embarrassed. Frank was an announcement of sorts, a declaration that a change, no matter subtle or not, was being introduced into our conversation. It was not as serious as Francis but it was serious enough. His comrades from North Africa, as always, had intrigued me, and on a number of instances I had searched in imagination’s land for stories that might lie there waiting to get plowed up. Nothing I had turned over had come anywhere close to reality, or the terrors I had known in my own stead. No rubble. No chaff. No field residue. Perhaps Parkie had seen something in that last bottle, something swimming about in the amber liquid, or something just on the other side of it, for he turned to me and said, “I think you want to know about my friends who visit, my friends from North Africa, from my tank outfit. I never told you their names because their names are not important. Where they come from or where they are going is not important either. That information would mean nothing to you.” For the moment the silence was accepted by both of us. Across the stretch of water, the sun was making its last retreat of the day. A quick grasp of reflection hung for a bare second on the face of the pond and then leaped off somewhere as if
shot, past the worm-curled roots, a minute but energized flash darting into the trees, then it was gone, absolutely gone, none of it yet curling round a branch or root, and no evidence of it lying about…except for the life it had given sustenance to, had maintained at all levels. It was like the shutter of a camera had opened and closed at its own speed. Parkie acknowledged that disappearance with a slight nod of his head. An additional twist was there: it was obvious he saw the darkness coming on even before it gathered itself to call on us, as though another kind of clock ticked for him, a clock of a far different dimension. He was still chipping away at what had been his old self. That came home clean as a desert bone; but where he was taking it all was as much mystery as ever. The beer, though, was making sly headway, the beer and stillness, and the companionship we had shared over the years, the mystery of the sun’s quick disappearance on what we knew of the horizon, the thin edge of warmth it left behind, and all those strange comrades of his who had stood in the doorway of the Angels' Club, framed as they were by the nowhere they had come from, almost purposeless in their missions. They too had been of dark visage. They too were lank and thin and narrow in the shoulder. They too were scored by that same pit of infinity locked deeply in their eyes. They were not haggard, but they were deep. I knew twin brothers who were not as close to their own core the same way these men were, men who had obviously leaned their souls entirely on some common element in their lives. I did not find it as intense, even with battle brothers who had lain in the same hole with me while German 76’ers slammed overhead and all around us, Michelangelo’s marble still looking for a form to turn into as it flew its own shrapnel route in the awful trajectories. The flotilla of pickerel nosed against the bags of beer. Parkie’s Adam’s apple bobbed on his thin neck. He began slowly, all that long reserve suddenly beginning to fall away: “We were behind German lines, but had no idea how we got there. We ran out of gas in a low crater and threw some canvas against the sides of the three tanks that had been left after our last
battle. If we could keep out of sight, sort of camouflaged, we might have a chance. It got cold that night. We had little food, little water, little ammo, and no gas. It was best, we thought, to wait out our chances. If we didn't know where we were, perhaps the Jerries wouldn't know either. Sixteen of us were there. We had lost a lot of tanks, had our butts kicked.” He wasn’t dramatizing anything, you could tell. It was coming as straight as he could make it. Whatever was coming, though, had to be pretty wild or exorbitant or eerie or, indeed, inhuman. The last option came home pretty cold to me. The hair on the back of my neck told me so. “We woke up in the false dawn, and they were all around us. Fish in the bottom of the tank is what we were. No two ways about it. Plain, all-out fish lying there, as flat as those pickerel. They took us without a shot being fired. Took us like babies in the pram. All day they questioned us. One guy was an SS guy. A real mean son of a bitch if you ever met one. Once I spit at him and he jammed me with a rifle barrel I swear six inches deep. Ten times he must have kicked me in the guts. Ten times! I couldn’t get to his throat, I’d’ve taken him with me. They stripped our tanks, what was left in them. That night they pushed us into our tanks. I saw the flash of a torch through one of the gun holes. You could hear a generator working nearby. Something was crackling and blistering on the hull or the turret top. Blue light jumped every which way through the gun holes. It was getting hot. Then I realized the sounds and the smells and the weird lights were welding rods being burned. The sons of bitches were welding us inside our own tanks. A hell of a lot of arguing and screaming was going on outside us. The light went flashing on and off, like a strobe light, if you know what I mean. Blue and white. Blue and white. Off and on. Off and on. But no real terror yet. Not until we heard the roar of a huge diesel engine. And the sound of it getting louder. And then came scraping and brushing against the sides of our tanks. Sand began to seep through the gun holes and peep sights. The sons of bitches were burying us in our own tanks! All I could see was that rotten SS bastard smiling down at us. I saw his little
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mustache and his pale green eyes and his red nose and a smile the devil must have created. And his shining crow-black boots.” I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t ask him a question. A stunned sensation swept clean through me. First, disbelief, a surging block of disbelief, as if my veins had frozen in place. The dark pit in his eyes could be read; the darkness inside the tank, the utter, inhuman darkness that had become part of Parkie and part of his comrades, the imagined sense of it hitting me slowly. It crept within me. I knew a sudden likeness to that feeling; it was peering over the edge of a high place, the ground rushing up to meet me and then falling away and the long descent, the torturous fall becoming part of me…in the veins, in the mind. A shiver ran through every part of my body. And then hate welled in me, stark, naked, unadorned hate, hate of the vilest kind. Parkie put his hand on my knee. His grip was hard. “I never wanted to tell you, none of you. We all had our thing. You had yours. I had mine. I’m so sorry your feet are so screwed up. I wish nothing had happened to you. But a lot of guys’ve had worse.” “What happened?” I said, letting his hand carry most of his message, letting my own small miseries fall away as if they did not exist. Not by comparison anyway. My feet had iced up practically in my sleep. I knew the ignoble difference. “The sand was almost over the entire tank, and the noise inside the tank started. Screaming and cursing and crying. Cries like you never heard in your life. God-awful cries. I know I never heard anything like them. And coming out of guys I’d known a long time, tough guys, valiant guys, guys with balls who had gone on the line for me. I heard some of them call for their mothers. There was screaming, and then whimpering and then screaming again. And curses! My God, curses that would raise the friggin’ dead. The most unholy of curses. Everything dead and unholy and illegitimate, raised from wherever, were brought against the Germans and that little SS bastard. He was castrated and ripped and damned and denounced to the fires of hell. You have not heard profanity and terror and utter and absolute hatred
all in one voice at the same time. The volume was turned way up. It filled the tank. It filled that makeshift and permanent vault. And our useless and agonized banging barehanded against the hull of the tank. Knuckles and fists and back-handers against the steel. And the outside noise drowning all of it out.” I was still reeling, kept shaking my head, kept feeling the same glacier-like ice in my veins. And the heat of hatred coexisted with that ice. I was a mass of contradictions. Parkie kept squeezing my knee. The pickerel kept nosing the bags, hung up in their own world of silence. Silence extended itself to the whole of Earth. The quiet out there, the final and eventual quiet out there, after the war, was all around us. “Suddenly,” he continued, “there was nothing. The sand stopped its brushing and grating against the steel of the tank, then the diesel noise grew louder, as if it was coming right through us. And powerful thrusts came banging at the tank. I didn’t know what it was. And then we were being shoved and shaken, the whole structure. And I heard curses from outside and a lot of German on the air, and we seemed to be moving away from our hole in the ground. Whatever it was was pushing at us. And then it went away and we heard the same banging and grinding and grunting of the engine nearby. Then the blue and white light again as a torch burned around us and the tank heated up, and lots of screaming but all of it German. And there were more engine noises and more banging and smashing of big bodies of steel. Finally the turret was opened, and we were hauled out and canteens shoved in our faces, and the other tanks were being opened up and guys scrambling out, some of them still crying and screaming and cursing everything around them.” He reached for the last bottle in one of the bags. The bag began to drift slowly away in wavy pieces. The pickerel had gone. The bottle cap snapped off in his hand. I thought of the tank’s turret top being snapped open, the rush of clean air filling his lungs, a new light in his eyes. “Then I saw him,” Parkie said. “The minute I saw him I knew who he was. General Rommel. He was looking at us. He looked me right in the eye, straight and true and bone-steady and no shit
at all in it. I didn’t think he was breathing, he was so still. But I read him right off the bat. The whole being of that man was right in his eyes. He shook his head and uttered a cry I can’t repeat. Then he took a pistol from another guy, maybe his driver, a skinny itchy little guy, and just shot that miserable SS son of a bitch right between the eyes as he stood in front of him. Shot him like he was the high executioner himself; no deliberation, no second thought, no pause in his movement. Bang! One shot heard round the world if you really think about it. He screamed something in German as if it were at the whole German army itself, each and every man of it, perhaps lifting to whatever god he might have believed in because it was so loud, so unearthly, and then he just walked off toward a personnel carrier, not looking at us anymore or the SS guy on the ground, a nice-sized hole in his forehead.” He drained off the last bottle, mouthing the taste of it for a while, wetting his lips a few times, remembering, I thought, the dry sands, the heat, the embarrassed German general walking away on the desert, the ultimate graveyard for so many men, for so many dreams. “They gave us water and food, the Germans did. One of them brought up one of our own jeeps. It was beat to hell, but it was working. One German major, keeping his head down, his eyes on the sand, not looking at us, pointed off across the sand. We started out, the sixteen of us, some walking, some riding, some still crying or whimpering. Some still cursing. The next day we met some Brits. They brought us to their headquarters company. We were returned to our outfit. Some guys, of course, didn’t get to go back on line, but were sent home as head cases. Can’t blame them for that. I kept thinking about General Rommel, kept seeing his eyes in my mind. I can see them now, how they looked on his face, the shame that was in them. It was absolute, that shame, and he knew we knew. It was something he couldn’t talk about, I bet. If he could have talked to us, we might have been taken to one of their prison camps. But he knew he couldn’t do that to us. Make amends is what he had to do. He had to give us another chance. Just like we gave Ellen Kirby another chance at drowning.”
In his short flight he had circled all the way back to the Kirby circumstance and all that played with it. Francis Dever Parkinson, tanker sergeant, survivor of Tobruk and other places in the northern horrors of Africa, who walked away from death in the sand on more than one occasion, who might be called Rommel’s last known foe, who rolled over three cars on U.S. Route 1 and waged six major and distinct bouts with John Barleycorn thereafter in his time, who got to know the insidious trek of cancer in his slight frame, whom I loved more than any comrade that had shared a hole with me, who hurt practically every day of his life after his return from Africa, hung on for twenty-five more torturous and tumultuous and mind-driven years. They found him one night at the far end of the pond when nobody knew where he was for two days. A handful of damp earth was squeezed into one fist, and the metal crypt, perhaps, was long gone, just as were the days of Africa and its two dark eyes.
Originally published in Stirring, a Literary Collection, V3 E9, September 2001
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After the snow moves north the prairie crocus, native anemone, ears of the earth listens for the rustle of summer. Gently she sways to moments of truth; in her petals, the purple blue mist of far distant mountains, a small golden sun close to her heart. Eternity folds close around her, warms her from the cold winds. of spring.
Charles E. J. Moulton
Most people judge a book by its cover, but doing that is like chasing the wind. The wind cannot be caught; the soul cannot be categorized. Yet, we do categorize. The simple fact, though, is that everybody deserves some respect. Aretha Franklin knew that. She sang about it. Respect is a powerful tool. When someone feels respected and understood, it can prevent misunderstandings and, perhaps, even wars. Many of the greatest disasters in history would have been prevented if only those responsible had respected their counterparts. Choristers are lazy brutes, Germans are rude people who only eat Sauerkraut, all Americans eat hamburgers, and all Chinese people eat dogs. All presidents and kings are noble, the common man loves sports, movie stars never lose their money, and the Queen of England has no ordinary problems. Those are clichés. They are what they are: lies that create a lack of respect and understanding. In my forty-three years on this planet, I have concluded that we are all more individualistic than anyone can imagine. And yet, in God, we are one. Our differences are important, because we can all learn from each other. There is no such thing as the common man. He does not exist, because no man, woman, or child is common. Everyone is unique. Every soul has a story.
Who is he, this famous common man? Ordinary, normal—what is that? Yet society caters to this cliché, and too many people buy it. They think the media expects them to be common, and the media think people expect them to provide the necessary output. A mass of individuals think that the other person expects something, then act accordingly. However—and here it gets complicated—the other person might be expecting something different. They might be caught up in themselves. Surprise them with your skill. Let them discover your brilliance. Lead them into your world of kindness and grace. The examples below are all true stories. We see Joan Collins and we think, “That woman has never been poor!” What we don’t know is she collected unemployment-money prior to her Dynasty-fame. We see the hardworking stagehand, a repairman with many gaps in his teeth and close to retirement, and we think, “This is a guy without much culture or education!” What we don’t know is this man is an accomplished classical painter who has sold his art for high prices at countless exhibitions. We see the eccentric old lady rummaging in her wallet for some change at the check-out line and we think, “What a crazy, boring old lady. Can’t she be quicker?” What we don’t know is she is a Russian Jewish concert pianist who survived the death-camp of Auschwitz in Poland. While sketching a portrait in the winter air,
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a man stinking of alcohol comes up to us and sits down to chat. We think, “What a loser! He stinks!” What we don’t know is he is an exairplane-constructor who ruined his health through his hard work in the factory. He now spends his time travelling to Gran Canaria and Seville just to compensate for the pain of his early retirement, trying to get over his girlfriend’s death ten years back. And yet, that man is just following his dreams. His need to lead a fulfilled life is what drives him forward. In this day and age, too many people are playing catch-up, presenting themselves as the hottest thing on the planet, much due to social media. Our goal, however, should be creating quality work. If fame and extreme attention come as a result of that work, that is fine. But fame itself is fickle. What we want is something lasting. Where do we find fulfillment? Fame is never a guarantee for happiness. Likewise, clichès are common. Follow your dreams, whatever those mankind-loving and Earth-improving dreams may be. I bet the Queen of England brushes her teeth at night like everyone else and goes to bed wondering if her children and grandchildren are all right. I bet she has a cold from time to time, like everyone else. I bet Bill Gates has stomachaches and has to ask his wife if she will make him some tea. I am sure that when the President of the United States is sick, he tells his wife. “Dear, I can’t go to the conference tomorrow. I’ve lost my voice!” We are all people. No, I will correct that. We are all souls. Souls inside people. The soul is the first thing that you should care about. Without that, life does not matter. Souls matter. Feelings matter. Individuals matter. Love matters. Our feelings, our microcosmos, rule our lives. These feelings carry the packages that we brought with us into the world.
God lives in us, and our fate resides there and manifests the reality as we know it. Inside us. The answer is, was, and always will be inside us. There is a ticket there that leads to the next world. What is the answer? In acting training, we speak of thinking outside the nine dots. The concept starts with nine individual dots formed on a paper inside a square. The assignment is to connect them without crossing the lines or lifting the pen from the paper. That is only possible if you make a triangle whose boundaries end outside the square. In acting, you have to look for character-similar emotion outside the normal borders of the play. Likewise in life, we have to think outside the dots. We can’t afford to believe in clichés anymore. Be individuals. Brave innovators are individuals. They follow their intuition. Socrates, da Vinci, Mozart, Gandhi. Edison would never have invented the lightbulb if he had followed the leader. Wires and glass don’t normally create light, right? Einstein would’ve never ever created his theory of relativity if he hadn’t believed in the unique experience. This is not about fame. Who cares if you’re famous? You’re famous. Yes, you. You reading this article. You are famous in your own right. A lot of people know you—your family, your friends, your colleagues. You have met thousands of people in your life, and they all know you, like you, and admire you. If that’s not fame, I don’t know what is. We live in a time where the mainstream engulfs so much of what really is individualistic and true. In such a time, it is vital that we try thinking for ourselves. Make unusual and humane choices. The kind man who lets you go first into the elevator—ask him how his day was. The little girl playing in the sandbox—give her a flower.
The foreign-exchange student who chats with you by the bus stop—teach him a song from your country. The woman with the beautiful hat—give her a compliment. The bus driver yelling at you for being slow while getting into the bus—tell him that you understand that he has had a long day. Only if we take brave steps to look beyond what is superficial can we change the world. Look deeper into the symbolic canvas of your spiritually manifested life. Don’t believe what society tells you. See
for yourself what lies inside the hat of the beggar. If your colleagues tell you that the new boss is an awful man, talk to him yourself and find out what makes him tick. If the woman in the cantina at work tells you the girl working in the art department is an antisocial snob, go meet her. Find out who she is. If you don’t learn for yourself, at least don’t tell anyone else that she’s a snob. How can you know? You’ve never met her. Every microcosm reveals individualism. Every soul has a story.
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I didn’t search the boundless deep for you nor climb the highest hill nor swim the sea. I didn’t pray to gods as some men do. I found you in that quiet place, in me. The whirlwind didn’t bring you to my arms. No raging fire has seared you to my breast. No wise soothsayer worked her magic charms. A still small voice, so softly, gave me rest. I sensed you in the silence of my dream, there in the sunset of a golden day, and in the gurgle of a mountain stream, fresh as the fragrance of the new mown hay. Then, as my waiting heart began to stir, I simply turned around, and there you were.
Our Contributors Bob Buckner (Wanderer; You) Bob Buckner is a retired associate pastor. He received his formal training at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. For forty-two years, he served churches in Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. He resides in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Buckner has a large portfolio on Writing.Com under the pen-name Candlemaker. His favorite literary style is the Shakespearean sonnet which he believes to be the best instrument for romantic poetry in all of literature. Dennis Cardiff (Prairie Crocus) Dennis Cardiffâ€™s poem "Woodland Spirit" was recently published in the Writing.Com Anthology 2012. He has also had poetry published in "The Sheaf" (University of Saskatchewan) newspaper.
Charles E. J. Moulton (Every Soul Has a Story) Charles E. J. Moulton has been a stage performer since age eleven. His trilingual, artistic upbringing, as the son of Gun Kronzell and Herbert Moulton, led to a hundred stage productions, countless cross-over concerts, work as a bandleader and as an acting teacher. His writing has appeared in Idea Gems, Vocal Images, Pill Hill Press and Aquarius Atlanta. He is a tourguide, a voice-over-speaker, and a translator. He is married and has a daughter. Linda M. Price (In the Spotlight) Linda M. Price is a graduate from Northern Kentucky University. She majored in English, "with the Writing option," and minored in Cinema Studies. This has allowed her to greatly enjoy her life. She lives in Northern Kentucky, in the town where she has spent 85% of her life. Linda has been writing seriously for four years (poetry and creative non-fiction), has been published half a dozen times, and has received two awards, one being a poetry scholarship. She greatly enjoys traveling abroad and finds that her periods in Europe are some of the most inspiring times.
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Colin Shaw (Survival of the Strongest) After a lifetime of many and varied jobs in many and varied places, Colin Shaw has now settled and works part-time. An avid reader of many genres, he has recently been bitten by the writing bug and has written several short stories and poems. He resides in Australia with his wife and two dogs.
Tom Sheehan (Parkie, Tanker, Tiger of Tobruk) Sheehan served in Korea, 1951. Books are Epic Cures; Brief Cases, Short Spans; A Collection of Friends; From the Quickening. He has 20 Pushcart nominations, and 320 stories on Rope and Wire Magazine. His newest eBook from Milspeak Publishers, The Westering (2012), was nominated for a National Book Award. His work is in/coming in Rosebud (5th issue), The Linnet’s Wings (6th issue), Ocean Magazine (8th issue), and many internet/print sites. D. R. Smith (Blavatsky’s Bus; Snows of Betrayal) D.R. Smith, a pseudonym after his grandfather who raised him, considers himself more of a literary hobbyist than a prolific author. Whether poetry, fiction or non, D.R. tends to need solid inspiration with definite themes in mind to get the quill moving. His first book, Beaches of Belmont was published in ’08, and perhaps one day soon, he will finish Tree of the Great Long Leaves, an epic novel inspired by his son’s death as referenced herein: ‘Blavatsky’s Bus.’ Anne Warchol (God’s Telephone) Anne Warchol lives in Orlando, Florida with her guinea pig, Reese Cup, and Porsche, her rescued cat. She is fascinated by the teachings of Carl Jung, the complexity of quantum physics, and the curious nature of time. Her passion is writing, and she has written several stories inspired by her three adult children and grandchildren. And, all the animals in her life.
Graphics Cover: Ana C. Gulpe – morguefile.com Wanderer - Jane M Sawyer / cohdra /morguefile.com Parkie, Tanker, Tiger of Tobruk David Ellis firstname.lastname@example.org You – Emlyn Addison. We thank the wonderful people at morguefile.com who allowed their creative endeavours to grace our pages. It just would not be the same without your contributions.
Our Staff Publisher S. Randez enjoys taking new writers under her wing, encouraging them to work hard toward achieving their writing aspirations. She is an avid novice poetess and also enjoys writing flashfiction and short stories in many genres. Managing Editor K. Wall returned to editing and mentoring after a ten-year hiatus. Now in her second year, she continues to enjoy working with an incredible team of professionals assisting new writers as they grow, soar to new heights, and achieve their dreams. In her spare time, she writes fiction delving into relationship dynamics and the human condition. Fiction Editor PLScholl is a professional writer and educator. She holds a BA in English, a BS in Education, a MS in Literacy, and has won numerous awards for both her writing and her reviews. Currently, she is an adjunct professor for Sinclair Community College. When not writing or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her two children and husband of 22 years. Non-fiction Editor Winnie has been on the Staff of Shadows Express for two years. She is an instructor for New Horizons Academy, an on-line writing school associated with the global writing community WDC and has taught the fundamentals of proper comma placement and sentence structure for over two years. Winnie enjoys writing traditional poetry and short-stories designed to stir the emotions of her readers. But her greatest delight is polishing and editing promising works for new writers in preparation for possible publication. She established Walrus Editing and Proofreading in 2010. In addition, she is a member of the editing staff of Wynwidyn Press Poetry Editor In his youth, Liam O'Haver was taught that with diligence you could reach any dream. This has generally proven true. In his life, he has been a student, paperboy, soldier, private detective, printer, technical consultant, and teacher. As a husband and father, along with his wife, he has raised four children, enjoyed seven grandchildren so far, and has looked into the eyes of one greatgranddaughter. Despite being an accomplished poet, even in his wildest dreams, he never anticipated being a poetry editor. Editorial Assistant L. Byus, a dedicated advocate for quality in literature, believes in nurturing new authors. She joined the staff of Shadows Express in September 2012. Her freelance editorial business, Cicero Grade, was established in January 2012.
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