Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 2

Thanksgiving Surprise 3

Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 2
By
Carol Marrs Phipps

Illustrated By:
Lana Dobbins Cramer

“Let’s stop here for just a bit, Gobbler,” Krista said as she planted herself down on a large, flat-topped tree stump and motioned that he should draw near for his usual session of scratching, petting and being told him how extremely magnificent he was.

He went to her at once and leant blissfully into her hand. As she began her deft ministrations, he gobbled a sigh of utter contentment.

“I have a surprise for you Gobbler. Today is a very special day, my sweet,” Krista crooned as she wove her nimble fingers through Gobbler’s satiny feathers. “It is a holiday we humans call Thanksgiving. It is a time when we gather together with our loved ones and give thanks for our bounty. This year, dear one, you will be the guest of honor and from then on you will forever be a part of me. How does that sound?”

ACEO - Turkey Dinner, Thanksgiving

In answer Gobbler simply pushed his head further into her soothing fingers and closed his eyes dreamily. He didn’t see farmer Stanz coming up from behind his wife to hand her the freshly sharpened hatchet and then step back by the rail fence to observe Gobbler’s execution at the hands of the woman he adored.

Suddenly, Krista’s fingers tightened painfully in Gobbler’s neck feathers and his eyes flew open in shock. He stared up into Krista’s beautiful green eyes imploring her to tell him what he had done for her to suddenly treat him in this manner. The odd gleam in her eyes and the humorless grin she gave him in return frightened him nearly senseless. He began to struggle frantically to get away from her.

“Oh no, my pet, it is much too late for that,” Krista said as she grabbed him by the throat and stood, putting her hatchet down on the stump she had just vacated. With her other hand now free, she grabbed his beak and held it shut so he couldn’t bite her. “I’ve been feeding you up for months in anticipation of the fine meal you would make for my family on Thanksgiving and I’m not about to let you get away…” With those fateful words she twisted Gobbler’s neck and he went limp at once. She smiled broadly in satisfaction and laid him carefully out with his head and neck draped over the stump. She studied him for just a moment to make certain he was dead or at the very least, safely unconscious. She picked up her hatchet and raised it to chop off his magnificent head. Just at that moment Gobbler opened his eyes which were now glowing an eerily blood-red color. He stared straight at Krista with such hatred she gasped and backed away trembling.

Farmer Stanz at once sprang towards his wife. “What are you doing, Krista? Chop the damn bird’s head off!” he commanded as she took another step back and stumbled over the bucket her husband had put there to throw Gobbler’s severed head into. Her arms instantly began to pinwheel backwards and she lost her grip on the hatchet. It spun end over end through the air then lodged deeply into the middle of the farmer’s forehead, splittting it open. Krista landed smack on her backside just in time to sprayed with blood and brains and gore from her husband’s split skull as he, too, crumpled to the ground. She let out an unearthly shriek then stumbled to her feet and tried to jerk the hatchet from her dead husband’s head. It took her three mighty attempts before she freed the instrument from where it had lodged, deep within Ben’s skull. Wildly she spun back to where Gobbler had been draped across the tree stump, but he was no longer there. He was on his feet staring at her with those unearthly glowing eyes.

“But you can’t still be alive!” she rasped. “I wrung your neck…what are you?”

Gobbler continued to stare at her as he silently advanced toward her.

Krista’s eyes bulged in terror, she raised her trembling hand with the hatchet held in her white-knuckled grip. “Stop now or I swear I’ll kill you!” she warned. But when Gobbler continued to advance she spun around and fled. Running in blind fear she tripped over her husband’s body and fell forward. Instinctively she flung her hands out before her to break her fall. Her only sound a sharp, “umph!” as she hit the ground and lay still, her life’s blood flowed from her chest and seeped away into the dirt. Krista’s chest had been ripped open when she landed on the upturned hatchet blade. It had cleaved her breastbone and sliced clean through her heart.

Thanksgiving Surprise 4

Gobbler surveyed the morbid scene for several long minutes as his glowing eyes slowly returned to their usual beady dark brown. “What do you think of your Thanksgiving surprise, now?” he asked, then slowly strutted back to his barnyard home.

 

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM OUR HOUSE TO YOURS

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Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 1

Thanksgiving Surprise 1

Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 1
By
Carol Marrs Phipps

Illustrated By:
Lana Dobbins Cramer 

“Just look at him, Sid,” Sybil Fantail gasped in dismay as she paused on the porch to the beautiful home she shared with her mate and their only son, Gobbler…and the rest of the turkey flock, of course. “He’s watching for her again…I just know it.”

Sid nodded as he turned back to look at his beloved. “I expect you’re right. He’s got the ridiculous faraway look in his eyes he always gets when he is expecting her to show up.”

Sybil hurried down the few steps to stand by her mate. “He’ll come to a bad end if he keeps this up. He needs to start showing some interest in one of his own kind, rather than moping after that…strange hussy. I hear tell that Rodney and Alvira Strut’s young hen, Fancy, is looking for a mate.”

Sid pecked at a few grains of corn by his feet and chewed thoughtfully. “I heard that too dear, but I expect that Gobbler already knows, just as he knew about Sassey, Mandy and Peeps. No, all he can think about is that alien human thing.” He shook his head and continued. “The boy just ain’t right, darlin’…I’m sorry, but he just ain’t, and never has been. You remember, I told you back before he hatched, right after that big blow when we found his egg rolled out of the nest all the way across the floor in that dark dusty corner of the house. I told you then that we should leave him right there and try for another clutch, but you wouldn’t have it.”

Sybil eyed her spouse in irritation. “And you remember what I told you then, too,” she retorted. “I wasn’t about to abandon my very first fertile egg and I’ve no regrets that I didn’t, Sid. He’s been a good boy…until now. Well, he’s not actually bad now, either, just…a bit confused.”

“Have it your way, darlin’,” Sid soothed, “I don’t want you to get your feathers all in a knot. Maybe you’re right and he’s just going through a phase. Though, I kinda think it’s because she doesn’t miss a day coming to see him and giving him all the extra feed he wants, scratching his head and making over him like he’s somethin’ really special.”

“You may have the right of it Sid,” Sybil agreed after a moment, “but what I don’t understand is why. Why has she singled out our boy when there are dozens of others she could have chosen?”

Sid glanced at his mate, uncertain whether he should share the dire warning he had recently been given by Widow Pluckly.

Sybil, however, noticed the odd look in her mates eye and leaned close to him with an inquiring look. “I know that look, Sid,” she said with certainty, “so whatever it is you aren’t telling me you had better just do so right now!”

Thanksgiving Surprise 2

“You might wish I hadn’t, love,” he replied softly.
“Now!” she insisted.

“All right, I expect you should know this, anyway,” he conceded with a sad shake of his head. “I was out grazing on the south side of the house yesterday when Widow Pluckly strutted right up to me and told me she’d been noticing our boy had taken up with that human siren. Well…what could I say? I mean, I expect just about everyone has noticed by now, darlin’…so I just nodded. Then she went on to say that her Tom had been enchanted by that very woman before he disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again…and that he vanished just about this time of year, too, so we should be keeping an extra keen eye on Gobbler.”

Sybil reared her head back and glared at her mate.. “What? How does Gladys even know that she is a widow then, if no one has ever seen or heard from her Tom again? Perhaps he just…left her for another. There are wild turkeys about in these parts, you know…and I’ve heard lots of tales about some of those hens, let me tell you!”

Sid sighed. “I know, darlin’, we’ve all heard those stories, but this is something quite different.”

“Oh?” Sybil asked. “What do you mean?”

“Darlin’ have you ever heard that at this time of year humans have a big feast they call Thanksgiving?”

“Why no, but it sounds lovely. But what do humans give thanks for?”

“I’m not exactly sure, beloved, but the point is that their feast supposedly is made up of certain traditional foods with the main course usually being a plump, juicy stuffed and roasted…turkey.”

Sybil’s beady eyes bulged in alarm. “That’s why that tramp has been feeding our Gobbler with all that extra corn and grain! We have to save him, Sid…”

Sid nodded in agreement, but when he and Sybil looked over where Gobbler had been standing for the past hour awaiting the farmer’s wife, Krista, they discovered to their utter horror he was nowhere in sight.

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*Don’t miss Thanksgiving Surprise, Part 2 on Thursday’s blog!*

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Halloween Tricks and Treats, Part 2

ACEO - Halloween 3

Halloween Tricks and Treats

Part 2

BY: Carol Marrs Phipps

Illustrated By: Lana Dobbins-Cramer

 

Benny laughed and sailed up the walk to the neat brick front stoop and the cheerily decorated house before them. It even had fake spider webs all over the bushes near the house and a neat witch decoration on the front door. Benny rang the doorbell and a moment later the boys heard an odd pitter patter coming across the floor inside the house. A few moments later the screen door creaked open a crack and Josh and Benny peered inside, somewhat confused that they at first saw no one and didn’t know why the door had come open. Suddenly, Josh felt something tap on the top of his shoe and looked down to see a disembodied hand motioning him inside. His first reaction was to jerk his foot away from the little horror and get the hell out of there, but Benny was giggling. Josh looked inside again and saw a young boy, Benny’s age, dressed like Count Dracula, himself, remote control in hand, coming towards the door. Beside the little vampire was a beautiful girl, with long, blonde hair, dressed up like Sleeping Beauty. He was sure she had to be close to his own age. Benny’s party shows promise, he thought as their hosts stopped at the door to greet them and bid them enter.

***

The party was amazing and both Josh and Benny were having the time of their lives. The costumes were the most realistic either boy had ever seen. The beautiful teenage girl turned out to be Mindy Cates. “Moving back to this very spot and even having this party was my idea,” she explained to Josh. “Well, and my therapist’s, too. He felt that I must confront what had happened to me. You know, that was ten years ago on Halloween night on this very spot,” she confided. “The doctors hope that I might finally free myself of my horrible nightmares of what happened that night.”

 It seemed a bit extreme to Josh, but hey, what did he know about psychology? Soon he found himself dancing to crazy Halloween tunes like The Monster Mash and having the time of his life. When Michael Jackson’s Thriller began to blare from the CD player the partiers got into place and began an incredible imitation of what the boys had both seen Jackson and his incredible dancers do in their music video. To Josh’s surprise, they pulled him into it.  He was having such a riot he never even noticed when Mindy, Damon and Benny disappeared from the room.

ACEO - Halloween 4 The Pumpkin Thief

Mindy and Damon led Benny to a quiet little room down a long hall that was completely empty save for three chairs. Mindy indicated he should sit with a wave of her hand. Once he had complied she and Damon took the other two chairs.

“So,” Benny said after a moment, “is this some kind of game?”

“No,” Mindy said, sharing a quick look with Damon, “this is quite real and quite serious, Benny. You see, Damon and I want to help you…if you will let us?”

“Help me? I don’t get it. Help me what?”

“Heal your body and your sad heart,” Mindy replied in almost a whisper.

Benny’s eyes widened. “How? The doctors said it will take years of surgery…and even then, I won’t be the same as I was before the accident.”

Mindy chewed her bottom lip briefly and studied Benny’s face. “Look…you’ve nothing to be afraid of and this is all…complicated. So, I’m going to ask you to just trust me and do what I ask. I promise I won’t hurt you and when it is over, you will look exactly as you did before your accident…if that is what you want?”

Benny sat back in his chair and looked questioningly at Damon, who nodded his reassurance. “OK,” he replied. “What do I have to do?”

“Close your eyes tight and keep them shut, no matter what, until I tell you to open them,” Mindy instructed. “Will you do that?”

“All right,” Benny said after one more quick glance at Damon. Then he squeezed shut his eyes and waited. A moment later he felt something quite cool, but very soft, brush across his neck, and pause there.

“You can open your eyes now, “ Mindy said in what seemed to Benny to be only a few seconds later. “All done.”

Benny blinked. “That’s it? Now I’m magically transformed into my old self?”

“Yeah, all transformed…only, we’ll have to do this again every year on Halloween until you become eighteen. Then…you decide if you want your healing to remain permanently, or return to what you were before I…helped you,” Mindy said.

Benny frowned. “I’m confused. What exactly did you do and how do I even know that you did anything?”

Damon jumped up and hurried over to a door on the far wall and jerked it open, revealing a full length mirror attached to the backside of what Benny could now see was a closet door. “Come take a look,” he invited.

Benny strode quickly to the door and gasped when he saw his flawless reflection. Then he reached up in wonder and felt his now baby, smooth skin. Tears of joy and gratitude sprang into his eyes. “But…how?” he asked as he turned back to Mindy, who had come over to stand by him and Damon.

“I…shared my regenerative powers with you,” she said, “but when you become 18 you will have to either become fully like me or become as you were.”

Benny reached slowly up and touched the place on his neck where he had felt that cold, soft touch. Mindy nodded at the realization she saw in the young boy’s eyes. “Yes, Benny, I am a vampire. But you are not…yet…as I am. I will come to you every All Hallows Eve until your appointed time. No matter where you go, I will find you. But the final choice will be yours. Do you understand?”

Benny glanced at his image in the mirror once more then back at Mindy and nodded.

“Good, then we should return to the party, I expect it is nearly over and you and Josh must return to your lives while Damon, I, and our friends return to ours. You will not remember how you were transformed this night, until we meet again, next Halloween. That is both for your own protection and ours,” she said. Then she led him back to the party that did, indeed, come to a conclusion, almost as soon as they re-entered it.

Time somehow seemed to stretch and then shrink and become all fuzzy. The next thing Benny knew he and Josh were standing back in their own kitchen and their Mom was coming through the kitchen door.

“Hi guys!” Jean said breezing into the kitchen, “how come you’re both still up? You didn’t just get here, did you?” she asked as her eyes narrowed and her gaze darted to the bold-faced kitchen clock. It clearly read 12:15. She placed her hands on her hips and turned back to wait for a reply from her sons. Suddenly she gasped and nearly fainted as she finally got a clear look at Benny’s no-longer ruined face. She stared questioningly at Josh, who shrugged and shook his head. Benny just beamed and threw himself into his Mother’s arms.

ACEO - Pumpkin Patch & Wagon 1

The next morning, Jean packed her two sons into the car and drove to 666 Mockingbird Lane, determined to get to the bottom of this mysterious healing of her precious young son and also to thank whoever had been responsible for this amazing miracle. The family piled quickly from the car the moment Jean turned off the ignition and hurried to the narrow sidewalk between the tall hedge…and stared in amazement at the empty lot beyond.

 

Final Day to Get Heart of the Staff: Complete Series at the Giveaway Price of Just $0.99…Click on Title or Picture to Download it Now From Amazon.

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Halloween Tricks and Treats, Part 1

ACEO - Halloween 1 LISTED

Halloween Tricks and Treats

Part 1

BY: Carol Marrs Phipps

Illustrated By: Lana Dobbins-Cramer

 

Benjamin Burns sprang off the last step of the school bus and rushed up the walk and into his house. And he did so with a happy bounce to his step for a change. After all, it was Halloween and he had just made a new friend at school. But, most of all, his new friend had invited him, him, to a costume party at his house this very night! (After he had finished trick-or-treating, that is).

“Hi Mom!” Benny sing-songed as he fairly skipped into the kitchen where his mother was already preparing supper.

Jean Burns turned from the sink where she was peeling potatoes curious to learn why he seemed so happy and excited, and smiled brightly at her precious younger son. She hadn’t seen him show this much enthusiasm since before the accident. The accident where she nearly lost him. The horrible car crash that stole away her beloved husband, Robert, and left her eight-year old boy scarred and disfigured, possibly for the rest of his life. The semi driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and crossed over into the oncoming lane. Bob had been killed instantly, but Benny was critically injured when the car flipped over four times before it came to a stop upside down in the ditch and caught on fire. Benny was wearing a seat belt, but he had first, second and third degree burns over most of his body, before he was freed from the wreckage. He had hideous burns on his face and had lost his sight in his left eye.

That was two years ago, but since Benny had returned to school he had been depressed. The children at school treated him differently now and did not play with him unless they had no choice. Benny no longer had any friends. He said the kids didn’t like him because he was ugly now. He was convinced that many of them were even afraid of him. It broke Jean’s heart. She had gone to school and explained to all his classmates about the terrible accident Benny had been in, hoping the children would understand and begin including her son in their play once more. But it hadn’t happened. A few girls did try to talk with him and include him, but Benny stopped playing with them after a few days. When Jean finally coaxed him to tell her why, she had been horrified to learn that the girls wanted him to be the scary monster and chase them.

Today was the last day she expected Benny to come home fairly bursting with energy and excitement. She had almost kept him home from school this morning because last year some cruel boys had told him that he could trick-or-treat without a costume. He had come home devastated.

Jean bent over and kissed her son on the top of his curly brown mop of hair. “So, you gonna tell me what has you all excited?” she asked.

Benny nodded and pulled a small envelope from his pocket and handed it to her, then waited as patiently as he could while she read it. As soon as her bright blue eyes shifted from the party invitation in her hands to his own sparkling brown one’s he blurted, “So, can I go Mom? Please?”

Before Jean could open her mouth to form a reply, his teenage brother, Josh, strolled into the kitchen. “Can you go where, squirt?” he asked as he studied first his younger sibling’s imploring face and then his mother’s bemused expression and noticed the party invitation in her hand. “Oh! So you’re invited to a Halloween party, huh?”

Benny beamed and nodded and Josh looked back at his mother. “Hey Mom, don’t sweat it, I’ll take Benny to the party if you have to work tonight.”

“Thank you, Josh,” she said, handing him the invitation to his momentary surprise, but he quickly realized she must have done so because he would need to know the time and location of the party. He glanced quickly at the invitation, read the time and address, then started to hand it back to Benny…but froze with the card still in his hand and met his mother’s eyes before taking a better look at the card.

“Hey! What’s goin’ on?” Benny asked, as his excitement of a moment ago began to turn to fear that he was not going to be able to attend the first fun event he had been invited to since before his accident. “Can I go or can’t I?” he added, confused by the odd turn of events. He had thought his family would have been just as happy and excited as he was.

His mom and Josh exchanged a look over top of his head. “Look, sweetheart, you go get your homework done and we’ll talk about it over supper, OK?”

Benny looked from his mother to his brother, then down at the floor. “Yeah, sure,” he mumbled sullenly and trudged to his room.

***

Supper was a quiet affair until the dishes had been cleared away, then Jean and Josh took turns explaining to Benny that they both wanted more than anything for him to go to his new friends party and have a wonderful time…but the problem was that the address on the invitation said the party was to be at 666 Mockingbird Lane at the Cates’ residence and as far as they both knew, there no longer was a house at that residence. The Cates family that had once lived there were all now deceased.

Benny listened to this information and nodded, a relieved, but knowing look on his young, disfigured face. “I know all of that,” he said impatiently, “but now there is a house there again. It was moved there from Grangerville just a few days ago. My friend, Damon’s family got the place real cheap because the people who owned it had both passed away. They had no family so the city council wanted the land for a parking lot. But they decided that maybe they could make a little profit on the place if they sold it instead of having it demolished.

ACEO - Halloween 2

“Damon also told me that his Uncle John and Aunt Marie’s family lived in the house at the address where his house sits now. They were all murdered by a madman. All except his cousin Mindy, that is. She was only badly wounded and left for dead. The cops had the newspapers report the whole family had been killed because they were afraid that the murderer might try again to kill her if he found out that she was still alive and might be able to identify him. So, when she was well enough, Mindy was sent to live with Damon’s parents, Wolfgang and Elvira Cates,” he added this last with a great sigh and a hopeful expression cast first at his mother, then his big brother, who immediately exchanged a look across the table.

“That is quite a story, young man,” Jean said with a look on her face that Benny knew quite well meant she was not entirely convinced it was all true. Oh, not that he was lying, just that he might not really have been told the truth by his friend, Damon. Still, Benny could tell that the imploring look on his disfigured young face was winning her over, nevertheless. “So…I’ll tell you what. Even though I’m not sure I buy the whole thing I’m going to take a chance and say that you can go…see about this party. Your brother will take you there after you finish with what trick-or-treating you wish to do. If there truly is a house at that location now and your friend and his family are there having a party, you may attend it until ten o’clock. No later. Understood?”

Benny grinned and nodded his head up and down enthusiastically.

“Good,” Jean said, then cautioned. “However, if, as Josh and I fear, there is no house in that location, you will come straight home and do your very best not to feel too bad. You know that there are people out there who are unkind and even cruel to people who are …different…than they are.”

Benny thought this over for a few moments before he slowly nodded. He knew all right. He had been the victim of such cruelness far too often since the accident.

“Then run and get your costume and I will help you get ready before I leave for work,” his mother said. Benny grinned happily and flew to his room to gather up his costume.

***

Jean bent over and tied a neat bow at the neck of Benny’s faux fur prince cape and then set the shining gold plastic crown with the big pretend jewels upon his curly head and kissed his scarred forehead. “Have fun trick-or-treating, and remember…”

“Don’t eat anything until I get home and you or Josh inspects it for signs of tampering,” Benny said before she could.

Jean smiled and nodded. “And…don’t be too disappointed if your party…doesn’t work out.” Benny nodded solemnly and Jean’s mouth spread into a smile once more. “OK, I’ll see you later, then, sweetheart.”

Benny smiled back and waved as he followed Josh out the door and spent the next two hours merrily trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. But now they had finally arrived at Mockingbird Lane, and Benny was anxious to get to the party, though his brother insisted they might as well trick-or-treat the houses along the way.

“Come on, Benny,” Josh said, “at least if it turns out there isn’t anything at 666 we’ll have something to show for coming all the way here.”

Benny agreed, but just to keep Josh off his case. Teenage brothers could be such a pain if they didn’t get their way!

It seemed like time had slowed down, though, and Benny was beginning to feel like they would never reach the end of the block where Damon said his house was. What was more ominous, though, to Benny, was that it was pitch dark at the end of the lane where the Cates’ house should be. He began to feel disappointment and betrayal creep over him the closer they approached to that lightless spot. He trudged downheartedly from the brightly lit porch of 665 beside Josh who cast him a truly apologetic look, as they began to cross the street to go 667 and back up the other side of the lane.

There was a foreboding thick hedge in front of the property at 666 at the end of the lane, broken only by a narrow sidewalk that split the hedges in the center and ran on up into the darkness. By some unspoken agreement, both boys stopped outside the hedge and stared into the inky blackness towards where the narrow sidewalk ended. Suddenly a great many lights flared all at once, illuminating the house that now resided on the property. Josh and Benny both started in surprise, then exchanged looks of wonder.

“Well little brother,” Josh said with a grin, let’s go see about this party, shall we?”

ON THE AIR By Joni Parker

 

Good afternoon, this is Mike Evans at iFantasy talk radio in Tucson, Arizona where we love to talk about science fiction and fantasy. Thanks for joining me today. We have a very special guest lined up for you, an iFantasy talk radio exclusive. World-famous journalist, Olivia Richards, is expected to join us via satellite telephone. As you may know, Olivia and her husband, John, were reported missing at sea several years ago, but she’s made contact and will be here in a few minutes. But first, we must hear from our sponsors at Cactus Thumb Nurseries. (run commercial)

Mike: Welcome back. We’ve just made contact with world-famous journalist, Olivia Richards. Hello, Olivia, this is Mike Evans. Can you hear me? (static) Olivia, are you there? (static)

Olivia: Yes, I can hear you, but just barely, please speak up.

Mike: I will. Thank you for joining me on iFantasy talk radio. I’m Mike Evans in Tucson, Arizona. Let me begin by asking, how are you and where are you?

Olivia: My husband and I are fine, but for the last few years, we’ve been stranded on this island called Seaward Isle. In 2011, we rented a sailboat in southern France and were sailing to Italy when we were caught in a ferocious storm. It came out of nowhere. We hid in the cabin below deck for hours until our boat crashed on the shores of this island. We survived the crash just fine, but we haven’t been able to find a way off. We’ve met hundreds of people here just like us. That’s how I met Takura. He’s a friend of yours, I understand. He talked me into coming on this program because he was concerned people wouldn’t understand his English.

Mike: Yes, I’ve met him and I thought his English was fine. He went to Harvard for his doctorate.

Olivia: Yes, I know, but he feels very self-conscious.

Mike: How is he?

Olivia: He’s doing well. As you know, he’s a geologist and has gathered a group of Japanese scientists to figure out our situation. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough computers or the right equipment to do the job, but at least, he’s discovered that we’re not on Earth and he’s discussed this problem with the Elves.

Mike: Say what? You’re not on Earth? Did you say something about Elves? Are you kidding? Say, have you met Legolas by any chance? (Laughs)

Olivia: No, but yes, I’m serious. They’re real Elves. This island belongs to them and even they can’t figure out how we got here.

Mike: So where are you, if you’re not on Earth?

Olivia: We believe that this island is at the end of a wormhole somewhere in space. We don’t know how or where, but here we are. Takura believes the opening is located about six hundred kilometers above the Earth’s surface somewhere near the moon. We ask all astronomers to use their equipment to locate the opening and ask NASA for a rescue mission. That seems to be our only hope.

Mike: Attention all astronomers and scientists at NASA! Olivia needs your help. Contact this station immediately if you can provide any assistance. (chuckles) How are you able to talk to us?

Olivia: My friend, Ebony Shorter, had a satellite telephone when she crashed on the island. She was in a yacht race that went around the world, but she was caught in a storm and ended up here. Takura and his friends repaired an old generator to make electricity to recharge the phone. He’s also set up a computer network with bits and pieces he’s found.

Mike: What do you use for fuel?

Olivia: The scientists use alcohol made of old potato skins and grain.

Mike: You mean moonshine. Right. Anything else we can help you with today, Olivia?

Olivia: No, just please get the word out. We’d really like to get home and see our families. Thank you so much for your help. (static) Our connection is fading…(static)…only a few (static)…Please help…(static)

Mike: Apparently, we’ve just lost our connection to Olivia. Once again, let me reiterate her desperate situation. She’s located on an island called Seaward Isle, somewhere at the end of a wormhole and needs the help of astronomers and NASA scientists to locate this opening and rescue them. Hey, maybe we can bring the Shuttle program back to life. Well, that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you for joining me on iFantasy talk radio and join me tomorrow for another adventure into science fiction and fantasy. And don’t forget to send your comments and ideas to our Facebook page. Many thanks to our sponsor, Cactus Thumb Nurseries

*          *          *

Mike leaned back in his chair and listened to the program again. Then he pulled out his cell phone. This had to be a joke. But he shook his head when he recalled that his old buddy, Takura, could never tell a joke. He was so serious. They’d met in college nearly twenty years ago when they were freshmen at the University of Arizona with majors in geology. Tak, as he wanted to be called, was a foreign student from Japan and understood more English than he spoke. He also loved the geological formations in the local area, but knew nothing about hiking in the desert. Mike was an experienced hiker and took him under his wing.

They’d remained good friends, but lost contact when Tak transferred to Harvard to finish his doctorate in geology and later returned to join the faculty at the university. Mike speed-dialed the geology department and it rang and rang. Finally, a young woman answered the phone.

“Geology Department, University of Arizona. Bear down, Wildcats!”

“I’d like to speak to Professor Takura, please.”

“I’m sorry, there’s no one here by that name.”

“What? Where is he?” Mike furrowed his brow.

“I’m sorry, sir, I don’t know.”

“Is Professor Lopez there?”

“Hold on.”

“Professor Lopez. Who’s calling?”

“Julio, this is Mike Evans.”

“Mike! What’s up, man?”

“Hey, I was trying to get in touch with Tak, but I understand he’s not there anymore. Where’d he go?”

“Don’t know, man. A few years ago, he went on a sabbatical and never came back. His parents told us the ship he was on disappeared in a bad storm.”

“You mean it sank.”

“No, man. It vanished. No debris, no oil slick, no survivors. Nothing.”

“Weird. I got an email from him at the radio station last week asking for an interview so I agreed. He sent Olivia Richards to speak to me.  She’s a famous journalist who went missing a few years ago. She was on a ship in a storm, too. Anyway, she told me that they were stranded on an island called Seaward Isle, somewhere in space at the end of a wormhole with Elves. I didn’t believe her.”

“Elves? Was she high?” Lopez paused. “You don’t think it’s real, do you?”

“I don’t know, man. They were both lost at sea.” Mike sighed, leaning back. “Thanks, man or should I say Professor?” He laughed and disconnected the call. After a few moments, he scrolled through his list of contacts and called one of them.

The receptionist said, “You have reached the National Aeronautical and Space Administration. How may I direct your call?”

“Doctor Rachel Goodwin, geology division.”

“Hold on while I connect you.”

“Doctor Goodwin speaking.”

“Hey, Rachel. It’s me, Mike Evans from Tucson.”

“Seriously? After all these years?”

“Hey, I come in peace. I apologize for whatever I did.”

“You don’t remember?”

“Not exactly. Hey, have you been in contact with Tak from college? The Japanese guy?”

“You mean the nice guy who asked me for a date and you told him he was nuts?”

“Um, yeah, him. I think he’s in trouble and needs help. Julio told me that he was on a ship that disappeared in a storm, a few years ago, but he just emailed me for an interview on my radio program. He sent a friend, Olivia Richards, the famous journalist. She was lost at sea, too.”

“So you don’t have a regular job yet?”

“Not fair. I want you to listen to it, okay? Just listen and tell me what you think.”

“Okay.” She sighed.

Mike played the program. “Well, what do you think?”

Silence.

“Rachel? Are you there?”

“Yes. Is this a joke?”

“That’s what I thought, too, but Tak couldn’t tell a joke if his life depended on it.”

She paused. “You’re right. Send me a link to your program.”

“Thanks, Rachel.” Mike sighed deeply when Rachel hung up. She hadn’t changed much and still resented that prank, but he’d always found her attractive. Maybe he should try again, someday. Mike shivered when the air conditioning kicked on; he’d been sweating heavily. He emailed her the link and leaned back. What if it’s real? Nah! Can’t be, can it?

Guilt, Shame & Fear By Stephanie Collins

“I can’t stand the feeling of being out of control, so I’ve never had any interest in trying drugs or alcohol,” I mused.

“You sure seemed to have an interest when you were younger,” Dad informed me. He responded to my perplexed look before I had a chance to deny his claim. “What? You don’t remember trying pot? Let’s see. It was about 1975. That would have made you five, right? I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a summer afternoon. I walked into the living room and found you with a bong in one hand and a beer in the other. You just looked up at me, glassy-eyed, with a smile on your face and said, ‘Hi, Dad.’ You don’t remember that?”

“Uh…no!”

“Ha! Do you remember the massive headache you had the next day? You hated life that day! I told you not ever to do it again…and you never did,” he reminisced in a tone laced with humor and pride.

It was after that conversation when I really began to question my apparent lack of childhood memories. I have next to no memory of life before the divorce of my parents (when I was eight) and precious few afterward.

My parental split also marks the onset of memories of the “secret playtime” I shared with Dad. I remember realizing that what was happening to me was wrong (to a certain extent, anyway), but Dad really missed Mom. I felt proud to be there for him in his time of grief and loneliness. I had many roles as the oldest daughter. I got my toddler sister to bed on time, scolded her when I found her drinking a beer (that one I do have a vague memory of), and I cleaned the house. Those “more intimate interactions” with Dad were just another in my list of responsibilities as I saw it.

But if Dad remembered the timeline correctly, Mom and Dad were still together when I was five. Where was Mom when her Kindergartener daughter was experimenting with drugs? Could this mean I should add neglect as a descriptor of my “chaotic” upbringing? Could it mean the molestation began earlier than I have any memory of? Does it even matter at this point?

For a time, I was skeptical if someone told me s/he didn’t have sexual abuse in their background. It seemed it was everywhere. I ran a support group in a junior high school when getting my psychology degree. It was for eighth-grade girls, and the only qualifier for an invitation to the group was poor school attendance. After a few weeks of meetings, I opened a session with – innocently enough – “So, how was everyone’s weekend?” One girl immediately began to cry. She explained she had confronted her parents over the weekend with the news that her brother had sexually abused her for years. She had come forward out of fear for the niece her brother’s girlfriend had just given birth to. That student’s admission led to the revelation that six of the seven of us in our circle that day had a history of sexual abuse.

My best friend in college was gang-raped in high school. My college boyfriend was [brutally] raped by a neighbor as a child. Maybe the most disturbing situation I heard about was when I was a senior in high school. I had befriended a freshman. She came to me one day, inconsolable. She was petrified, as she was positive she was pregnant. I tried to calm her with reassuring words, then asked, “Have you told [your boyfriend] yet?” She burst into a fresh bout of tears. When she was finally able to speak again, she confessed in an agonized whisper, “I can’t! It’s not his. It’s…it’s my uncle’s, or my father’s.”

I don’t know how I thought sexual abuse was rampant all around me but had somehow left the rest of my family untouched. Soon after my first daughter was born, I learned that Dad had attempted to molest my younger sister when I was about 12 (my sister would have been 7 or 8 then). As it turns out, I disrupted the attempt when I went to inform them I had just finished making breakfast. I learned of that incident because our [even younger] step sister had just pressed charges against Dad for her sexual abuse from years earlier. He served four years.

Incidentally, that family drama enlightened me to the fact that my grandmother had been abused by a neighbor. My aunt had been abused by her uncle. I wonder if Dad had been sexually abused, too (in addition to the daily, brutal physical abuse I know he suffered at the hands of my grandfather).

As with most survivors of abuse from a family member, I am full of ambiguity and conflict. I am glad Dad was educated to the error of his ways. I’m satisfied he paid for his crimes. I’m relieved the truth came out. I hate that the truth came out. I mourn for the shell of a man who returned from prison. I weep for a family that was blown apart by the scandal. I am heartbroken for my grandmother, who was devastated by the whole ordeal. I am thankful I live 3000 miles away from my family, so I don’t have to face the daily small-town shame they all do, now that Dad is a registered sex offender. I am proud of my step sister for speaking up. I am woefully ashamed for not having the courage to do it myself, which possibly would have prevented the abuse of others after me. I love my father. I am thankful for the [many] great things he has done for me over the years. I hate the effect his molestation had on me, including the role it likely played in my high school rape by another student, and my first [abusive, dysfunctional] marriage.

As I’ve clearly demonstrated, my story is far from unique. Heck, it’s not even remotely severe or traumatic when compared to what others have survived. Still, here I am – 40 years after my first memories of molestation – and I’m still suffering the consequences. Along with my disgrace for allowing others to be abused after me, I carry incredible shame for my involvement in the acts (regardless of the decades of therapy that advise me I had no real power or choice in the matter). I carry unbelievable guilt for the strain my history places on my relationship with my husband. He’s an amazing, wonderful, loving man, who deserves nothing less than a robust, vigorous, fulfilling sex life, but gets – to the best of my ability – a [hopefully] somewhat satisfying one. I carry secret embarrassment over the only real sexual fantasy I have – that of reliving my rape and [this time] taking great pleasure in castrating the bastard in the slowest, most brutally savage way imaginable.

Heaviest of all, I carry fear. There’s nothing I can do to change my past. All I can do is work toward preventing the continued cycle of abuse. I may have a warped view of personal boundaries, I may struggle with my sexuality, and I may be somewhat unfamiliar with healthy family dynamics, but I can do all in my power to ensure my kids fare far better than me. I fear failure.

My eldest daughter has mild to moderate developmental delay. While statistics for sexual abuse in the general population is scary enough, the likelihood of abuse when a cognitive disability is involved is all but a certainty. My second daughter is non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and severely mentally delayed. She’s a prime candidate for abuse. What if my efforts to protect them fall short?

My [teenaged] son and my youngest [“tween”] daughter both have ADHD. Impulse control is a constant struggle for them both. What if the education, counseling, advice, and coaching I offer them about healthy relationships, sexuality, safety and personal responsibility aren’t enough?

I try to counteract these lingering after effects of abuse by remaining ever thankful for the love, good fortune, and beautiful life I share with my husband and children today, but my guilt, shame, and fear cling to me with tenacious persistence.

I am just finishing “It Begins And Ends With Family” by Jo Ann Wentzel. I highly recommend the read. The subject is foster care, but no conversation about foster children is complete without a discussion of child abuse and neglect. While we can debate the best course of action in helping abused children, the top priority must be to work toward a goal of prevention; to break the cycle of abuse. I am hopeful that – as a society – we can work together to empathize, educate, support, counsel, and care enough to stop the cycle of all abuse. If sharing my truth will help toward that goal, well…Here I am. This is my truth

 

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(Stephanie Collins) RWISA Author Page

A Gift of Silence By Joan C. Curtis

 

The man stood outside the store window, shifting from foot to foot. I’d have probably gone right by him, but as I passed, he looked me straight in the face, sending a chill up my back. Mystified, I found a place in the shadows and watched.

He wore a black golf shirt with a Nike swoosh. His black slacks were neatly pressed, but scuffs covered the toes of his dark shoes. As he paced in front of the store, as if waiting for something or someone, his left foot dragged. Maybe that was where the scuffs came from. A girl passed by him without so much as a glance. She wore flip-flops and short shorts. He turned away from her. Why look me in the face and ignore this young girl with long flowing blond hair?

After an interminable twelve minutes, he entered the store. I crept to the side window to get a closer view. A saleslady approached with a big hopeful smile. He jerked away as if he might flee, but she persisted. Probably learned that in Sales 101.

Peering inside, I could make out the blurry image of the saleslady as she crouched down to retrieve a box. While she bent, the man grabbed an item off the counter. He pocketed it so fast if I’d blinked, I’d have missed it. Gasping in surprise, I nearly collapsed into the window. So neat. So fast.

While I recovered from the shock of having witnessed a theft, the man exited the store. He hurried in the direction of downtown. Hands tucked in his pockets and his head lowered, he wove along the sidewalk, avoiding moms with kids, students with backpacks, and cyclists. I followed. What did he plan to do with his ill-gotten gains?

My friend, Rose, would give me a lecture. Why didn’t you go inside the store and raise the alarm? What were you thinking, watching, witnessing, and doing nothing? No wonder we pay so much money for our trinkets. Thieves get away with it, and it’s all because of people like you. But, I never intended to tell Rose about this. Not if I could help it.

Instead, I hastened to follow the man, avoiding other shoppers and site-seers. My sole purpose was to find out what this strange person was up to. My watch read two-fifteen. I had missed the coffee date with my cousin. She’d forgive me. I’d have to make up an excuse about traffic or something equally lame, but I couldn’t think about her now. I had to see where this man led me. My curious nature would never let me rest otherwise.

Moments later he entered the parking deck. He was going to his car. Darn! Once he got in a car, I’d lose him for sure. My Honda was parked here as well, but on the top level. With my luck, his was probably on the first level. It was impossible to imagine we’d be parked close enough for me to follow him.

He entered the elevator. The light flashed up to level 4. I raced up the stairs like a madwoman. Huffing and puffing, I reached the fourth level just as the elevator doors opened. I caught a glimpse of his black form walking to a red Kia. I made a quick turn and hightailed it up to the fifth floor to retrieve my car. Then I plowed down toward the exit, round and round, hoping, praying. Eureka! The red Kia was just in front of me, waiting to pay. The Universe was on my side.

Mr. Thief drove with caution, obeying all the traffic rules, making it easy for me to keep him in sight. Nonetheless, I stayed one car back, not wanting to risk him seeing me. Maybe he’d remember me from the street! A shiver ran through me. What would he do, this thief? Stop his car, jump out, and murder me? Absurd.

The light changed. We moved down the road. A strange thought filled my head. Had the Universe wanted me to witness this thievery? Everything seemed to be falling into place. “Don’t be stupid.” Rose would say and would add I was being melodramatic.

We turned into the parking lot for the Hermitage Nursing Home. This made no sense. Why not a pawn shop? Didn’t thieves go to shady establishments on busy street corners with flashing neon signs to hock their merchandise? Not to a nursing home. Maybe he worked here? Maybe he was some sort of klepto and couldn’t help himself? Maybe he had no intention of hocking the stolen article? He pulled into a parking place a few steps from the entrance. I chose one farther away. From my rearview mirror, I spied him getting out of the car and entering the building.

Once he disappeared, I made my way inside and approached the information desk where a girl of about twenty had her head buried in a People magazine. When she finally looked my way, her eyes filled with wonder, as if I’d dropped from the sky, “Can I help you?” she said.

“The man who just came in. He dropped a five-dollar bill in the parking lot. I ran after him, but I missed him. Do you know where he might be?”

“Oh, that’s Jerome. He’s visiting his mom. Comes every day at least once. Want me to give it to him?”

I hesitated. She blinked. “Well… I guess it won’t hurt for you to go down to room 212. It’s the last room on the right, down that corridor.” She pointed the direction.

I moseyed away as if I had all the time in the world. Once out of her view, I picked up my pace. Conversation came from room 212. Mr. Thief was talking very loudly. Apparently his mom had hearing issues.

At the door, I peered inside where Mr. Thief perched on the edge of the bed near an attractive woman with cottony white hair.

“You shouldn’t have, Jerome. I know how much this place is costing you,” the woman said.

“But, Mom, it’s your birthday. I wanted to give you a little something.”

“Just having you here is enough. But, I do like bracelets. You know how I like bracelets. Remember when your dad gave me a diamond bracelet—of course, I didn’t know it wasn’t diamonds then. It wasn’t till later. Remember? After he died and left nothing but bills and debts, I tried to sell the bracelet and found out it was worthless. I flushed it down the commode.”

“I remember, Mom. You told me that story. I wanted you to have a real diamond bracelet before… well, you know.”

She hugged him. “This is the best gift ever.”

I backed away from the room, my heart racing.

Back in my car I didn’t wait for Mr. Thief, a.k.a. Mr. Nice Son, to come out of the building.  I started the engine and drove home.

 

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(Joan Curtis) RWISA Author Page

One Nice Fall Day by Bruce A. Borders

 

 

©2017 Bruce A. Borders & Borders Publishing

Not having a good Monday at work, I decided to cut my day short and head home. Home, my sanctuary. As a single guy, I often retreat to my sanctuary when things become intolerable, such as today.

Pulling into the drive, I noticed the yard and house really needed attention. I kept the lawn mowed, but the knee-high weeds were another matter. The house too had long been neglected. The loose siding and trim boards couldn’t be ignored much longer.

“Maybe next weekend,” I mused.

But then, I’d said that last week too. I’d only gotten as far as hauling out a garden rake and a tree trimmer before reconsidering and putting them back. Or, maybe I hadn’t put them away, I thought, seeing my rake in the yard.

Taking a minute to replace the rake in the tool shed, I wandered inside, intent on taking it easy for the rest of the afternoon. And I did. The next couple of hours were spent napping. Then, feeling slightly more energetic, I thought I’d give the yard work another try. And that’s when I found the body.

A male, early twenties, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, lay face down in the weeds, not ten feet from where I’d walked earlier. Good citizen that I am, I immediately called 911. Within minutes, my yard was swarming with cops and other emergency personnel.

After examining the body, one of the detectives walked over. “You discovered the body?”

I nodded, as another officer joined us.

“Tell me what led to your discovery.”

I related the gist of my activities of the day, such as they were.

Then began a series of inane questions. “You live alone here? Why’d you leave work early? What took you so long to call 911?”

“You’re acting like this guy was murdered or something.”

“We’re just trying to figure out the timeline and what happened,” one said.

“And to what extent you were involved,” his partner added.

I guess I’ve seen too many TV dramas because the first thing I said was, “So, do I need a lawyer?”

The cop shrugged. “Depends. Is there a reason you may need a lawyer?”

“I don’t know,” I stammered. “Don’t think so. Just don’t want to be blamed for this murder.”

“No one’s blaming you—yet.” The officer paused, whether for dramatic effect or to weigh his words, I wasn’t sure. “Should we be looking at you as a suspect?”

“Of course not.”

The detectives eyed me a moment. “We’ll be in touch,” one said as they turned away.

They’ll be in touch? What’s that supposed to mean? They’d said I wasn’t a suspect; was that just to keep me off-guard until they’d had time to gather enough evidence to build a case?

I shook my head. I must be crazy. There was no evidence. There was no case. I hadn’t done anything except find the body. I certainly hadn’t killed him.

But, they didn’t know that. And here I was acting all weird. Even I had to admit my strange behavior and ramblings appeared suspicious. The police likely thought so too.

And that’s how I ended up seeing a criminal defense attorney for a crime I hadn’t committed.

“Sounds like you’re a bit paranoid,” said the attorney after I’d filled him in.

“Paranoid, huh?” I said, somewhat sheepishly.

He smiled. “A little.”

I couldn’t think of an intelligent response, so I just sat there.

“Tell you what,” he said, breaking my uncomfortable abeyance. “I’ll keep my notes and if you’re arrested, call me.”

“Thanks. Hope I don’t need to.”

“If you didn’t commit the murder, they can’t exactly find any evidence. Although…”

I frowned. “Although what?”

They could always charge you with manslaughter if anything you’ve done, intentionally or unintentionally, contributed to the man’s death.”

“Right. I didn’t even know he was there until I found the body.”

“It’s most likely nothing to worry about. But you never know.”

As I stood to leave, he added, “If you are arrested, don’t say anything until I’m present. You’ve already given your statement. That’s all you’re obligated to do.”

Nodding, I left.

Just talking to the lawyer had helped. The anxiety I’d felt earlier was gone. Feeling better about my prospects, I drove home and was utterly shocked to find two police cars in my driveway, the officers knocking at my door.

As I parked, they came toward me. “Mr. Powell?”

“That’s me.”

“Can we come in and talk?”

I hesitated. The attorney had said to say nothing if I were arrested. He hadn’t mentioned anything about not being arrested. “Depends,” I finally managed. “Am I under arrest?”

“No,” the officer said. “We just want to clarify a few things with you.”

I repeated what the lawyer had told me. “I’ve already given my statement. That’s all I’m obligated to do.”

“You’re not interested in helping solve this murder?”

I certainly was interested in solving the murder, but something told me that “helping” might have an entirely different meaning to them. “I’ve already given my statement,” I said again.

The officers looked perturbed. “Well,” one said, reaching for his handcuffs. “You leave us no choice then. Mr. Powell, you are under arrest in connection with the murder of Vincent Dalhart.”

As the cop handcuffed me, I focused on what he’d said. I wasn’t being arrested for the murder but in connection with the murder. I wasn’t sure what that meant if anything. I hoped it meant they didn’t actually think I’d killed the man.

The next two days were a blur of numerous meetings with the detectives and my attorney. Through these conversations, I finally learned what had happened.

Vincent Dalhart had been stabbed to death. There were four puncture wounds, evenly spaced. Two had pierced a vital organ. The time of death was uncertain although, the medical examiner estimated it to be five hours before I, the only suspect, had stumbled onto the body.

Meanwhile, the police had executed a search warrant for my property, finding my rake, which they believed to be the murder weapon. Lab testing confirmed that blood present on the tines was that of the victim. Murder in the first degree was the charge.

To his credit, my lawyer seemed undaunted by the discovery. I told him about seeing the rake and putting it away. He seemed satisfied. “But the police will want to know how you didn’t notice any blood on the rake.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. “Not sure how I missed that.”

He shrugged. “Easy enough explanation. The blood was only on the tines—probably not a large amount. By the time you picked it up, the blood had likely dried. It would’ve been very difficult to see unless you were specifically looking for it.”

Unfortunately, the police were specifically looking for it, having determined a garden rake to be the likely murder weapon. And as my lawyer had predicted they weren’t exactly sold on my account of the events. Instead, they believed I’d used the rake to murder the man breaking into my house.

With no other options, we prepared to go to trial. My attorney seemed to like my chances. I wasn’t so confident. Here I was, a guy who’d never even been in a fight, charged with murder. It all felt so overwhelming.

Then, the next day, things took a surprising turn.

The guard came to escort me to the briefing room where my attorney waited.

“Good news,” he greeted me. “All charges have been dropped. You’ll be released within the hour.”

I was stunned. “That’s great, but… why? How?” With the direction things had been going, I found it hard to imagine the police had suddenly decided I was innocent.

“Turns out your neighbor saw the whole thing from across the street. Mr. Dalhart arrived at your house on foot, poked around; checking doors and windows, then went to the shed and retrieved the rake. Standing on your porch railing, he attempted to use the rake to pull himself up to an open second-story window. The window ledge gave way, and Mr. Dalhart fell to the ground, impaling himself on the rake.”

“But the rake was a good ten feet from the body.”

The attorney nodded. “Apparently, the would-be thief lived long enough to remove the rake and fling it away.”

I was frowning. “My neighbor watched all this and didn’t even try to help? Or, report it? Not that I care, really. The thief got what he deserved. But how does someone just watch all that and not do anything?”

The lawyer shrugged. “People are strange. Maybe he didn’t want to be involved. Who knows? He’s been arrested and faces legal troubles over his lack of humanity.”

“I would hope so.”

“Just be glad he eventually came forward.”

“I am.” I fell silent then.

The attorney noticed my gaze. “What is it?”

I smiled wryly. “Was just thinking… That window ledge has been loose for quite a while, banging in the wind. Been meaning to fix it for months, just hadn’t gotten around to it.”

Eyeing me a moment, the lawyer said, “You might want to keep that information to yourself.”

 

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(Bruce A. Borders) RWISA Author Page

DETOUR à CUBA BY Michael Hicks Thompson

PART I

Once the port-of-call jewel for Magnus Wealthy, Cuba has been a country lost in time for the last half century, plus some.

Never been to Cuba? I recommend it. But do it before it returns to the playground of the filthy rich and the Hemingway admirers.

Yes, I’ve been there twice. But not as Magnus Wealthy. Think short-term mission trip. Door-to-door evangelism. Knock, knock. “May we come in.” (Of course, my interpreter said it the proper way: “¿Podemos entrar?”)

An interpreter is essential if you can’t speak the language.

But here’s the beautiful thing. Most Cubans are the friendliest people you’ll meet. They love to meet and greet Americans. We’re a mystery to them. It’s amazing. And understandable. Most have never tasted freedom.

Castro usurped the country in the biggest land swindle ever. Now, the elderly Cubans alive today are happy with a single, pathetic gift from Papa Castro’s government.

“He give me this cooking pot,” the appreciative, sun-wrinkled, Spanish speaking octogenarian said.

Never mind that his midget refrigerator will take him a lifetime to pay off.

PART II

We flew into Havana, via Mexico, spent the night and flew on to Holguin (hole-Keen) early the next morning. It’s a four-hour flight. Cuba is the size of California.

The ‘hotel’ in Holguin was once a grand one—now, dilapidated. Papa not only didn’t let the government keep hotels up to standard, he took the toilet seats away. From personal experience, I can assure you he did it to humiliate the eleven-and-a-half-million souls into submission.

Ask any American what Cubans look like and they’ll include “dark-skinned” as an answer. However, you’d be surprised to see nearly as many red-headed and blue-eyed Cubans as dark-skinned islanders. The Spanish influence is apparent. Fifty-one percent of Cubans are Mulatto, thirty-seven percent, White, and eleven percent, Black.

All Cubans are proud. And friendly. Why shouldn’t they be? They’ve not had the outside world of communications and world events for three generations. They’ve simply missed the rise in socio-economic gain around the world. They’ve been isolated. They don’t know any other life. They’ve lived on Cuban baseball and communism since 1959.

And they’ve avoided all the gun-shot TV news and television episodes of Law & Order. God blessed them.

Or, did He?

When I think of Cuba, I think of Maria. She’s the Lady who led our group through Cuba. Maria was born and raised in Havana, in a prominent family.

Shortly after Castro took over, her father gathered his wife and children and fled to America.

Maria has such a huge heart for her native land. She’ll always love her people and her land.

Many wealthy families left their homes and their businesses behind; to start over. But the ones not able to afford travel remained behind. They faced the dark days of seclusion.

Catholicism gradually faded away. To be replaced by many false religions—Santería being the most prominent. It’s a singing religion based on the old songs of slavery. So, most Santeríans are descendants of African slaves.

PART III

Every morning ten of us would have breakfast, pray, and pile into vans with our interpreters for an hour or two ride to a small village, usually to the south, near Guantanamo. A different village each morning. That way, we could avoid the immigration officials who’d heard we were proselytizing in their country. Only once did we hear our leader yell out, “Everybody in the vans. We have to leave. Now!”

We would meet at a local house church and greet the pastor. Some would have no more than ten church members; some as many as thirty. We snuck in bibles, clothes, hygiene products, and boatloads of gum.

Each church provided a local member to escort us, individually with our interpreter, to un-churched homes in the village. The patriarch or matriarch always welcomed us. Some even asked us to hold off any discussion so they could gather their family. Even neighbors. All ages would gather around in a small living room, many sitting on the floor, while we introduced them to original sin, Jesus, the Gospel, and a merciful God.

The interpreter kept track of those who repeated the prayer of salvation (asking Jesus to come into their hearts and save them from eternal damnation). More than a few grown men cried on my shoulder after accepting Jesus into their hearts.

Naturally, there were plenty who preferred to worship their idols. Ceramic statues, sometimes made of wood or plastic.

If the idol worshiper wasn’t getting what they wanted from their man-made God, they’d place them face down in their underwear drawer, to punish them. Strange stuff. And sad.

At the end of the week, our leader would give us the number. “Four-hundred-fifty-two made a profession of faith this week. You’ve not only sowed the seeds of the Gospel, you’ve been a part of the harvest.”

That made me feel pretty good, but we all knew Holy Spirit had been working in those hearts long before we arrived. Only God can change the heart of man. But, what really made me warm and fuzzy, was the sight of my sons who’d been able to join us on the mission field. They had been part of the harvest. And it would have a lasting, lifetime effect on their lives. They talk about it to this day.

 

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(Michael Hicks Thompson) RWISA Author Page

 

And so do I.

The Fight by Robert Fear BY Robert Fear

Es Cana, Ibiza, Spain – August 1977

Jose took an immediate dislike to me.

He worked as a waiter at the Panorama hotel near the seafront. I had been there to see Diane, an English girl I met while at work in Grannies Bar. Petite and with short blond hair, she had a delightful personality. She was also a real head-turner.

Diane came to Ibiza on a two-week holiday with her friend, Elaine. It felt fantastic she wanted to spend time with me, but Jose thought his role was to be her protector. He glared at me every time he saw us together

Towards the end of her holiday, Diane spent a night with me and I didn’t get her back to the hotel until breakfast time. Jose was on duty and spotted us outside as we kissed. That just made things worse.

After Diane left for home, things deteriorated. The next Friday evening, as I walked to work, Jose headed towards me with a group of Spanish lads. Their intentions were obvious as they stared, raised their fists and shouted at me across the street.

Before they could catch me I escaped down the steps and into Grannies Bar. Their taunts still rang in my ears as I headed for safety.

Friday nights were always manic. Eager drinkers packed the outside terrace after a day in the sun. A queue of customers had already formed as I dived behind the bar to help serve them.

Four of us; Mick, Pat, Graham and myself, worked that evening shift. Pat was half cut and spent most of the evening with her friends. Mick’s mood was not good as a result, but the three of us got stuck in and served the eager punters.

After six weeks at Grannies, I knew the routine. We served drinks and collected pesetas in quick succession. Spirits were easier to serve than at home. Two ice cubes got thrown into a glass and the vodka, gin or brandy poured until the ice floated. Then the mixer was added.

We could drink behind the bar, provided we remained sober enough to serve. Pat loved her gin and tonics and often wasn’t! Mick, Graham and I had regular supplies of vodka and orange but remained level headed as we rushed around serving eager customers.

Willing female hands often helped out. They collected glasses and washed them up in the sink at the end of the bar. As a reward, they had drinks bought for them and got the chance to pull Graham, myself or even Mick on occasions.

Work finished at 3 am. We headed to El Cortijo for another drink and a dance. A group of Spanish lads hung around near the entrance, but I thought nothing of it. Only later did I found out they were Jose’s friends.

The disco pulsed and the dance floor heaved. Lights from the ‘disco ball’ flashed around scantily clad bodies as they cavorted to the sounds of Abba, Rod Stewart and Status Quo. We caught John’s attention, and he passed us a bottle of San Miguel each.

Graham and Mick met up with two girls they had chatted up in Grannies earlier. Pat had gone back to their villa with her friends so Mick was free for the night. Propped at the bar I sipped my beer and relaxed after a hard night’s work.

By instinct, I spun round to find Jose stood behind me. He glared at me and mouthed something. The music drowned out his words. Jose beckoned for me to come with him. Even though it was obvious he wanted a fight, I went. By the time I got outside it was too late.

My fighting skills were minimal. I had been the object of bullying at school. One lad taunted me with the repeated chant, ‘Freddy’s got a rudimentary organ’, while in the showers. This hurt me and screwed with my teenage sensibilities. I tried to avoid the shower room when he was there.

Two other lads pushed me around and sometimes thumped me. They wanted money, but I had none to give them. One time I gave in to their pressure and stole books for them from a sales exhibition held in the school hall. I never thought of fighting back. I did not know how!

Now I stood on the dusty wasteland twenty yards away from the front entrance of El Cortijo. Jose faced me, surrounded by his group of friends. The atmosphere was menacing and none of my friends were even aware what had happened.

‘So, you silly man, what you say?’ screamed Jose in broken English as he edged towards me.

‘What did I do wrong?’ I retorted.

I sweated in the heat of the August night and he must have sensed my fear.

‘You took girlfriend, English scum.’

‘No I didn’t. Diane wanted to be with me you arrogant pig.’

I amazed myself with that response. The drink from earlier in the evening gave me a false sense of courage. Things were dire and soon became worse.

Jose swung his right fist toward my head. I ducked and there was a whoosh of air as he missed.

He turned round and aimed another punch at me. This time he connected and his fist crunched into my jaw. I reeled backwards. Maybe I should have just gone to ground and admitted defeat. This time I fought back.

Well, fought might be too strong a word for it! I stumbled forward and made a dive for his midriff. Jose grabbed me by my shoulders and flung me to the ground.

I spat out a mouthful of dust before I tried to get back up. Then I saw the flying feet of Jose and his mates. It became obvious they wanted to give me a severe beating.

In defence I rolled into as tight a ball as possible with my hands wrapped around my head. The kicks and punches continued and my senses faded as protection against the pain.

Then it stopped. Shouts came from the front door of the disco and the Spanish lads scattered. John, Alan and two others screamed at the top of their voices to get them away from me. A German girl on her way to the disco had seen the scuffle and dived into El Cortijo to get help.

Worried faces peered at me as I uncurled myself. Although bruised and battered there were no broken bones. I hauled myself to my feet. With support from my rescuers, I struggled back to the disco for another drink.

An uneasy truce existed between Jose and me for the rest of the summer.

 

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(Robert Fear) RWISA Author Page