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RPG Digest

December 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 2020

 

Copyright 2020 by the RPG Partnership All rights reserved

No portion of this work may be reproduced without prior written permission

RPG Partnership

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Appreciation

 

Thanks to all these talented writers who have contributed to every issue of RPG Digest with such enthusiasm. We thank Betsy Breedlove for the beautiful mountain photos. We welcome Diana Goldsmith’s return with a beautiful Christmas poem. In addition, this issue has the results of the famous Edward Bulwer Litton Fiction contest for who can write the world’s worst opening sentence to a story. Enjoy!

 

 

Photo by Betsy Breedlove

 

 

Table of Contents

Appreciation. 1

The First Christmas by Laura Alston. 3

Journey by Rebecca Dunleavy. 3

Jane Austen Wrote Only Six Books by Rita Berman. 3

Living in London in 1939 by Rita Berman. 10

USS North Carolina by Peggy Ellis. 13

My Cousin Rita by Diana Goldsmith. 14

Christmas Means Good Food by E. B. Alston. 14

The Treasure Hunt by Tim Whealton. 17

Christmas by Marry Williamson. 19

Some Thoughts Concerning the Information Age by Randy Bittle. 21

The Worst Person on the Best Team by Tim Whealton. 21

Then It is Winter. 23

Confucius Did Not Say: 23

Eulogy for My Father by Howard A. Goodman. 24

Where Is It? by Peggy Ellis. 25

My Environmental Journey Since November by Carol Rados. 26

An Unsung Hero From My Hometown by Howard A. Goodman. 27

Hammer Spade and the Four Horsemen. 28

The Edward Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. 36

A Celebration by Diana Goldsmith. 41

Asleep at the Wheel by Tim Whealton. 42

The Truthful Lawyer. 44

Merry Christmas from Moccasin Gap by Brad Carver. 44

The Diary of Edward Bulwer-Lytton. 46

The Christmas Dream by P. L. Almanza. 50

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 52

 

 

Editor’s Note: We, as in the RPG magazine contributors, have lost one of our founders. The very name reflects this. When I disbanded Righter Publishing Company and consequently, Righter Monthly Review, two of the contributors, Rita Berman and Peggy Ellis insisted that I continue the magazine. I never liked “Righter” but “Writer” was already taken. Sounds the same when spoken. This is how RPG Digest came to be. Rita, Peggy and Gene=RPG. In many ways, it has been actually better than Righter Monthly Review was. I attribute this to the new set of contributors who have improved the character over the old version. Rita died in October. I will miss her forever.  Gene Alston

The First Christmas

Laura Alston

 

On the first Christmas, Jesus did come

To a world that was dark and hungry

For His bright light to shine.

So, God sent His son Jesus to be born.

 

Shepherds were told by the angels about Jesus

And went to seek Him that first Christmas day.

What an amazing thing for them to behold:

The precious babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

 

What a great gift we all have received.

There’s Jesus the Savior to save us from sin.

Christmas comes each year, filled with cheer.

We will be with the ones that we love so dear.

 

Journey

Rebecca Dunleavy

A memorial tribute to her mother, Rita Berman

 

She’s going on a journey

One way ticket bought decades ago

But only recently started to pack.

Her departure date is unknown

But she’s notified her family and friends.

Her mind keeps returning to her youth

Her conversations keep recounting when loved ones took this trip.

Her business is finished

But she’s still planning and checking her list of things to do.

Family is around to wave goodbye

But they know those final lasting hugs and well wishes will never be enough.

Her journey started decades ago

But soon the next stage will be realized to her alone.

 

Jane Austen Wrote Only Six Books

By Rita Berman

 

In the summer of 1994, I visited my father in England. I also hired a car to take me to the village of Chawton in Hampshire. Not only did I want to see the Jane Austen House Museum, but I was doing research on the proposed Center for the Study of Early English Women’s Writing, which would be located in Chawton House, a five-minute walk away.

Chawton House was a rambling, rundown, 17th century property of 51 rooms and many acres of parkland and woods, formerly the summer residence of the Knight family. Thomas and Catherine Knight were wealthy but childless kinfolk of Jane Austen’s father. This couple had adopted her brother Edward when he was 16 and he inherited Chawton House and other properties.

At the time of my visit an American woman from Seattle, Sandy Lerner and her husband, co-founders of Cisco Systems, had been granted a long-term lease on the house and grounds for the Center and library. I was given a private tour by Robin Auburn, the caretaker. He, his wife and several young children, were camping out in the living room and using the large fireplace to get some warmth. The roof needed repairing and some timbers were exposed. The rooms that I saw still had paneling on the walls and some of the windows were stained glass. There was a large old-fashioned kitchen.

Jane Austen is said to have strolled on the grounds of Chawton House. My cousin and I did the same. A small deer ran out in front of us, then a rabbit. The sun shone and birds sang overhead. The quietness of our surroundings led me to reflect how pleasant it must have been in Jane Austen's time when she came and went along the road between her cottage and the manor house.

A short walk from Chawton House led us to Chawton Cottage, better known as “Jane Austen’s House”. Edward had offered it to her mother, Jane, and sister Cassandra after the death of his father and Jane lived here from 1809 to 1817.

I found the smallness of the cottage startling after walking through the many, large rooms in Chawton House.

The cottage, dates back to the 17th century, is said to have been built as an alehouse and posting-inn and later became the farm bailiff's cottage. We looked through the rooms without encountering any roped-off areas. It is furnished with pieces in the style of Austen's day. There are books, prints, and Austen mementoes, including a faded lock of her hair. I went up the staircase to the first floor, and looked at the bedroom that she had shared with her sister Cassandra. This had its original fire grate, examples of her needlework, and a quilt on display that she and her mother and sister are said to have made. I spent more time downstairs, in the dining parlor because this is where she is reported to have done her writing, on a little table which was on display by the window. I also took some photographs of the rooms and her table.

Looking out of the window of the dining parlor at Chawton Cottage, I could see the curve of the road, offering the same view seen by Jane. It is said that she often jumped up from her sewing and hurried to her little writing table, smiling to herself, to scribble something down on a scrap of paper."

Jane Austen enjoyed living in the village, and it contributed to her sense of place which she put into her writing. She said as much in a letter she wrote to her niece, Anna Austen, who was also a writer: "You are now collecting your People delightfully, getting them exactly into such a spot as is the delight of my life; 3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on."

She was born December 16, 1775 in Steventon Rectory, Hants, into an educated family. Her father would read aloud to the family in the evenings, and conversation was much prized. She had six brothers, James who became a clergyman, Edward who after being adopted by the childless Thomas Knight II later inherited Godmersham Park, Kent, and the Hampshire estates at Steventon and Chawton.

Another brother, Henry was a soldier, banker, and then a clergyman. Two others, Frank and Charles went into the navy, and both became admirals. Not much has been recorded about George who was 10 years older than Jane and suffered from fits. He was not brought up with the family. Jane had an older sister Cassandra and neither of the girls married.

Jane and Cassandra visited some of the grander families, and also went to assemblies. I guess they were what we might call parties or dances. The girls were looking for husbands. In 1795, Jane Austen is said to have conducted a flirtation with Tom Lefroy, nephew of the rector of Ashe. Christmas was a time of balls and Tom and Jane met at four of them when Tom visited his uncle and aunt before going to London to study law.  She wrote about him in her letters to  her sister Cassandra.

Lefroy did not take up their friendship when he visited his family in Ashe in later years, for his family’s expectations were that he marry a woman with money. However, when he was an old man he confessed to a nephew that he had a “boyish” love for her.” There is some speculation that the intensity of feelings that are found in the novel Persuasion were based on Jane’s feelings for Tom Lefroy.

Cassandra became engaged to the Rev. Thomas Fowle in 1793, but he went out to the West Indies and died in 1797. The Austens moved from Steventon to Bath in 1801, maybe to give Jane and Cassandra a wider circle of possible suitors. Unfortunately, Bath society was found to be tedious, formal, and elderly, and nothing happened. On a visit to the seaside town of Sidmouth in the summer of 1801, Jane Austen met a young clergyman whom the family believed she might have married. He planned to meet her the following summer but it seems he died not long after meeting Jane.

Jane did not like living in Bath and she and Cassandra visited some friends in Steventon the following year, 1802. They stayed with the Bigg-Wither family in nearby Manydown. Cassandra told a niece that Harris Bigg-Wither, who was 21 had proposed to Jane who was 27 at that time. At first Jane accepted him, for she would be mistress of a fine house, have financial security and social position. But then having thought it over and realized she was only fond of him as a brother, not a husband, refused him the following morning.

She made a hasty, embarrassed explanation to his sister and both Austen girls quickly returned to Steventon and then Bath. By then Jane was determined to continue her work as a novelist. By the time she was 23 and still living in Steventon she had written her first three novels. These were: First Impressions later renamed Pride and Prejudice; Elinor and Marianne which was changed to Sense and Sensibility; and Northanger Abbey which she called Susan in the original draft. Susan was sold to the publisher Crosby and Co for ten pounds. Not much but  it showed she could earn money.

After her father’s death in 1805, Cassandra, Jane, and Mrs. Austen, were left with only 210 pounds a year, about a third of what they had been living on since Mr. Austen’s retirement. But the brothers helped out with money. And later on Edward offered his mother and sisters the use of Chawton Cottage which he had inherited along with Chawton Great House in the county of Hampshire. After he improved the cottage, his mother and sisters moved into it.

The effect on Jane of this move to a permanent home in which she was able to re- establish her own rhythm of work was dramatic. It was as though she were restored to herself, to her imagination, to her powers; a black cloud had lifted. Almost at once she began to work  again. Sense and Sensibility was taken out, and revision began.

Surely she drew from her own life experiences when she wrote in Mansfield Park that the death of Mr. Norris, a clergyman in the novel, resulted in Mrs. Norris leaving the parsonage and moving  to  a  small  house  in  the  village. During the time she lived quietly in Chawton, from 1809 until 1817, her creativity returned, so that not only did she revise Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, (published in 1811 and 1813) but she also wrote Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, which was completed in 1816.  She did not put her name to any of her books. Paid to have them published and termed it her “great good fortune” when Sense and Sensibility produced a clear profit of about 150 pounds, according to her brother Henry Austen. A lot of money in those days.

Her sense of place as regards Chawton parish church and village might have come to mind when she described the village that she called Uppercross in Persuasion. It was “a moderate-sized village….containing only two houses superior in appearance to those of the yeoman and laborers, - the mansion of the

‘squire, with its high walls, great gates, and old trees, substantial and unmodernized, and the compact tight parsonage, enclosed in its own neat garden.”

The Austen family kept in touch by writing letters. The letters of Jane Austen are chatty, sometimes malicious, in other words gossipy and reveal her as a person. Little is written about events and people outside of their circle.

E.M.Forster who reviewed the larger edition of her letters published in 1932 by R. W. Chapman, thought he detected “ill breeding”, that she was weak as a letter writer…partly

because of her subject matter. However, much of the charm of the letters is due to their content. In the letters she discloses her real world, the foundation of her novels. I think that the Austen family helped to provide her sense of place.

By 1794 her habit of using names in her novels to allude to her sources of inspiration was well established. She uses some of the remote family connections, Leighs and Brydges in every novel.

Thus you will find Brandon, Middleton and Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, Bennet and Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, Tilney in Northanger Abbey, Ross in Mansfield Park; Woodhouse, Knightley, and Fairfax, in Emma,  and Wentworth, Carteret and Dalrymple in Persuasion.

Jane Austen would have seen these names on memorial tablets and graves and also heard them talked about in the family. The stories are played out in the great houses, rectories, and small houses of rural Southern England. Marriage being the only way a woman in those days could elevate her station, it is not surprising that the story line of Austen's novels focuses on the prospects of her heroines making good marriages.

In Austen's personal correspondence, to her niece Fanny Knight in March 1817 she wrote: "Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor- which is one very strong argument in favor of Matrimony.”

Jane Austen herself had to face the fact that she was considered a poor relation although superior in mental powers and cultivation. Dressing up to the standard of the upper classes who lived in the East Kent houses was a constant problem for Cassandra and Jane as their personal allowances were only 20 pounds a year each. All the more reason for making a suitable marriage.

I think this is brought out in Emma, which some say is her most mature novel, and which was dedicated to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent in 1816, after Jane Austen learned that he was an admirer of her writing.

Austen’s novels are a great source for learning about life, morals and mores in Regency England. They are more revealing than any history book about the class system in England and the snobbish attitude that extends even today.

The 1800s were days before the arrival of the railways and before travel became within the reach of the lower classes. People generally stayed put in the same village in which they  were born. To visit a friend’s house entailed walking, riding a horse, or traveling in a carriage.

Some families rich enough to own horses and carriages might also employ a coachman. Leaving the village and undertaking even a journey of 20 miles, which we can do today in half an hour, involved time and discomfort in Jane’s day. As we see in her novels, when family members came to visit they stayed several weeks, not hours.

It is not surprising that this lack of mobility resulted in a limited social life – dinner parties and balls provided the most opportunity for social interaction.

Therefore, we read in Austen’s novels about the daily routine, and the concerns of the female members of the household, their thoughts and reactions to the news they heard from neighbors or visitors, all given in minute detail.

The pace of her stories moves slowly as she uses lengthy paragraphs of dialogue, which is quite a contrast to modern-day writing. Her characters don’t interrupt each other, and she uses explanatory phrases such as “he said, she demurred, he replied,” and so on, a style of writing now frowned upon by editors.

Austen lived during the period when the English began to take an interest in the sea, for health reasons at first. It was after Dr. Richard Russell suggested that sea water might be effective for treating a variety of ills, that other medical doctors encouraged their patients to drink sea water or bathe in it.

Consequently, Jane Austen and her family made yearly visits to the seaside resorts that were developed at this time. They went to Sidmouth, Dawlish, Weymouth, Worthing, and Lyme (which is now known as Lyme Regis because of Royal Favor). Lyme was her favorite seaside resort and she spent two vacations there in the summers of 1803 and 1804. From Lyme she  wrote to her sister Cassandra that “the bathing was so delightful this morning.”

The men in her stories are possibly drawn from those in her circle, mainly her brothers in the Navy and visiting clergymen who were accepted as members of neighborhood society. As her father was the vicar of Steventon, when Jane Austen traveled in Southern England she would meet clergymen at the houses of friends and relatives. The clergy were in great demand at card parties, dinner parties and dances, and provided a source of interest for Jane Austen.

While Austen’s stories center around the marriageable young women and their search for a partner they are not romantic stories. Austen is more concerned with painting a picture of relationships, human behavior, and their foibles.

A characteristic theme in her novels is that maturity is achieved through loss of illusions. Faults of character are corrected when lessons are learned. She had a keen eye for universal patterns of human behavior. That is why her novels still resonate today.In Emma she points out with humor that Emma is deluding herself if she thinks she can manage people and arrange marriages. She also deludes herself about Mr. Knightley, thinking him to be merely a friend until she learns of his possible interest in another woman and then she realizes “that Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself.” With what arrogance she has tried to arrange everyone’s destiny.

Jane Austen wrote Emma when she was 38 years old. By then she probably had little hope of marriage herself, for her life was settled with her mother and sister. And she was ill. She began to have a pain in her back. Yet in spite of this, and of the almost uninterrupted family visits, and the cold and rainy summer in 1816, she continued writing Persuasion completing it on 18 July. It is reported that it took her about a year to write. In the winter of 1816 she declared herself “stronger than I was half a year ago,” strong enough to walk into Alton, although not back again.”

However, her health continued to deteriorate and one wet Saturday at the end of May 1817, Jane Austen left Chawton in Edward Knight’s carriage and with her sister Cassandra went to Winchester in search of a cure for her illness under the care of Mr. Giles King Lyford, a surgeon. Her brother Henry and nephew William Knight accompanied the carriage on horseback. From various reports the conclusion is that she suffered from Addison’s disease which nowadays can be cured. It is adrenal insufficiency, described in 1855 by Thomas Addison. The symptoms are weakness, fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite due to destruction of the adrenal glands.

Cassandra and Jane took lodgings at 8 College Street, Winchester. The house is now owned by Winchester College and is not open to the public. Jane left the house only once, late in May in a sedan chair. In her last two months, she was only able to walk from one room to another.

After completing Persuasion she began work on Sanditon which is said to have some of her funniest satire. Because of her illness, Jane abandoned work on Sanditon about two months after she began it, four months before she died.

She spent most of her time on the sofa, took her meals with Cassandra, and wrote letters to her nephew. She wrote a poem to mark St. Swithun’s Day, on July 15th and then her condition worsened. On the 17th her doctor Mr. Lyford gave her an (anodyne). She died at 4:30 a.m. on July 18, 1817. At the age of 41 years.

Three days after Jane Austen’s death, Cassandra who had been with her to the end, wrote an account of her last night. She rested her head on the pillow on Cassandra’s lap. Among her last words she said, “God grant me patience, Pray for me, oh Pray for me.” Jane left what little she had to Cassandra. It is estimated that she made at the most only 700 pounds from her novels.

Jane Austen wrote her novels in the dining parlor of Chawton Cottage sitting at a small table placed near the window which overlooked the street. Soon after Jane’s death, her mother furnished a cottage for an elderly servant and Jane’s table went to the cottage. Years later, the significance of this table was recognized and it was returned to the family with a covering letter, a copy of which is displayed above the table.

Her nephew, J. D. Austen-Leigh published a memoir of family descriptions of Jane Austen. He described her as: “In person she was very attractive, her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light and firm and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation. She was a clear brunette with a rich color, she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and well formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls close round her face.  At the time of which I am now writing, she was never seen, either morning or evening, without a cap; I believe that she and her sister were generally thought to have taken to the garb of middle age earlier than their years or looks required.”

“She was careful that her occupation should not be suspected by servants, or visitors,…she wrote upon small sheets of paper which could easily be put away or covered with  a piece of blotting paper…She lived in entire seclusion from the literary world; neither by correspondence, nor by personal intercourse was she known to any contemporary authors.”

Her brother Henry Austen wrote that she, “never uttered a hasty, silly or a severe expression. In short, her temper was as polished as her wit. She was tranquil without reserve or stiffness.”

Her niece, Caroline Austen, wrote that, “As a very little girl I was always creeping up on Aunt Jane, and following her whenever I could, in the house and out of it…As I got older, and when cousins came to share the entertainment, she would tell us the most delightful stories, chiefly of Fairyland, and her Fairies had all characters of their own. The tale was invented, I am sure, at the moment and was sometimes continued for 2 or 3 days. Of my two aunts, Aunt Jane was by far my favorite – I did not dislike Aunt Cassandra – but if my visit had at any time chanced to fall out during her absence I don’t think I should have missed her – whereas not to have found Aunt Jane at Chawton would have been a blank indeed.”

In 1819 Jane’s brother James died of Addison’s disease, the same illness that caused Jane’s death. Jane’s mother died in 1827. Cassandra Austen died in 1845. Both are buried in Chawton village, in the grounds of the old parish church, St. Nicolas. Jane Austen is buried at Winchester Cathedral.

Chawton Cottage was divided into three separate tenements for agricultural laborers who worked on the Manor Estate. In 1948 the house was bought by Mr. T. Edward Carpenter and restored as a memorial to Jane Austen and to his son who was killed in action in the Second World War. The red brick cottage was opened as a museum in 1949.

For more than 200 years Jane Austen’s books, though few in number, have been read, and re-read, pored over and discussed by her admirers. Winston Churchill, who was Prime Minister of England after Neville Chamberlain, made the comment that he relaxed by reading Jane Austen's books. A copy of his comment is on display in the Jane Austen museum.

The Jane Austen House Museum reported that 2017 was a year to remember, “We commemorated the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death but also celebrated her life and achievements through an ambitious program of events. We welcomed more than 55,000 visitors – a record for the Museum – drawn from all parts of the globe.”

In September 2017 the Bank of England launched a new ten pound note with the  mage of Jane Austen on it.

After Sandy Lerner sank some 20 million pounds into renovating Chawton House, she also donated her personal rare book collection to serve as the nucleus of the Chawton House Library for the study of early English writing by women. This opened in 2003 and has a collection of over 9,000 books together with related original manuscripts. Chawton House is open to visitors as well as scholars and is now used for conferences, filming and more recently a venue for weddings.


 

 

In 2008, Rita graciously agreed to write her memories of life in London during World War II for my anthology, Challenges on the Home Front, World War II. She agreed I could include it in the second issue of my book published in January this year. In her memory, I’ve excerpted her story for the RPG Digest.

Peggy Ellis

Living in London in 1939

Rita Berman

 

My memories of World War II begin with England declaring war on Germany on September 11, 1939. I was seven years old and living in London’s East End on Terrace Road, with my mother, father, and younger brother and sister. For the first six months, things appeared quiet while the country began preparing for an attack. I remember my mother took us to a public shelter when the first siren sounded.

My father was in the Home Guard and went outside whenever the sirens sounded. He had to observe where the bombs dropped and pass on details to others. My maternal grandparents lived in the house next door to ours and, after my uncles built a shelter in our back garden, we spent many nights in that, as we were being subjected to the nightly bombing blitz by the Germans. During one of these air raids, my father’s parents’ house and the family business were bombed and completely destroyed.

Eventually, my mother got tired of the nightly bombing and, thinking we would be safer away from the city, rented a chalet bungalow in Caterham Hill, a village about 20 miles south of London. Our Terrace Road house was sold, but I don’t recall when. My father then had to travel to London every day by train to go to work in his family’s factory before it was destroyed. It was a cut-make-and-trim business in which he, his sisters, and his father all worked to produce ladies coats and jackets. My father designed, made the patterns for the coats and jackets, and cut the material. The husband of one of his sisters was a presser, finishing off the completed coats and jackets.

A couple of years after the war began, the government commenced to conscript all able-bodied men. My father was not excused even though he was 38 years old and supporting a wife and three children. He was assigned to the Royal Corps of Signals and told he would be a lorry (truck) driver. He had never driven a vehicle before, but he said he had to climb into a truck, was instructed on how to shift gears, and, after driving three times around the motor pool, he was considered qualified. Later, he broke his thumb when starting (cranking up) his truck. He said it was scary driving at night if there was no moon, for all the street lights had been turned off and people had to cover their house windows with curtains to avoid any signs of light showing.

Soon after he was conscripted, my Dad came home on leave, and he and my mother went to a photo studio and had their photos taken. Their unhappiness showed for they were not smiling. I was too young to understand why.

At first my father was stationed somewhere in Surrey and he came home on leave occasionally. I remember him getting annoyed because no sooner would he come into the house, than my young sister would ask, “When are you going back, Daddy?” I think he took it the wrong way, because she really wanted to know how long he would be home to spend time with her.

He gained weight while he was in the Army because they ate better than those of us at home. And he got used to drinking beer, something he never did at home. His service as a truck driver didn’t last too long for after the Colonel of his unit learned that Dad was a tailor, he was assigned to sew the stripes on the uniforms whenever anyone got promoted, and he was given a sewing machine so he could alter the uniforms to fit.

With my father absent, my mother was alone in caring for us three children, as she was no longer living next door to her mother and sisters. The bungalow had two bedrooms upstairs and one small bedroom downstairs as well as a formal dining room that we rarely used. Mostly we ate in the morning room that had a table and chairs and a sofa. The kitchen was very small with only a stove, a work table, and a sink in it. There was also a larder to keep food cold.

In those days, we didn’t have refrigerators, dishwashers, or washing machines, all of which are common now. To heat the bedrooms, we had gas fires, electric heaters, or, in the morning room, there was an open fireplace in which we used coal or coke. The bathroom had a gas geyser which had to be lit when we wanted to take a bath. This was done only once a week and all three of us children shared the bath.

I shared a bed with my sister. Our brother slept in the other twin bed in the same room upstairs. Mondays were change-the-bedsheets-day, and what a job that was. My mother turned on the geyser for hot water, soaked the sheets in the bathtub, rubbed them on the washing board, and then had to drain the water, fill the tub, and then rinse the sheets. Then she had to wring them out by hand. No dryers in those days. I remember helping her do the wringing out.

The next step was to take the sheets and pillow cases outside and hang them up on the washing line. It rained a lot in England, so sometimes the damp sheets had to be brought inside and hung on a ceiling pulley or on a rack in front of the fire to dry. You can understand why we never washed blankets.

Before my father went into the Army, my mother had enough money for our needs. However, his going into the Army meant that my grandfather had to hire a man to take his place. My mother then had to keep us on the small family allowance that the government gave her, which was less than Dad earned.

On the few times that we visited my father’s family, my grandfather would dole her out a pound or two and. although she took it, she nevertheless resented having to be dependent. She had also been in the tailoring business before marrying and having children. To bring in some money, she got hired by a London firm to make expensive silk blouses at home. She used a Singer sewing machine that was a treadle, operated by her feet. She had to travel up to London to deliver the finished blouses.

As the oldest child, I was responsible for my brother and sister. There were no baby-sitters in those days. Whenever mother went out shopping or to London, I took care of them. Even to go food shopping in the village was an effort for there was no bus where we lived at 113 Foxon Lane. Going to school meant we had to walk about ten minutes to a public bus stop and then take two different buses.

My mother would walk, carrying her empty shopping basket, to the grocer and green-grocer where she got fruits and vegetables. Of course, it was heavier on the return journey even though the quantity of food was rationed. The grocer would stamp the ration book each week to indicate we had our quota. I remember we only got one egg a week and my mother would use her egg for cake making. Our meals were not elaborate, a lot of bread and butter, mashed potatoes, and baked beans on toast. We could only buy eight ounces of meat per person each week. I never saw a banana until after the war, but plenty of apples because they were grown in England. The Americans sent over powdered egg, which at first was not well received, but eventually we got used to the taste.

My mother didn’t allow us to play with the other children who lived on our street, so the friends we had were our classmates. We played in the garden if the weather was fine. For entertainment indoors, we played card games, or Snakes and Ladders, or read. We could also listen to the radio, but there were only two channels, BBC1 for the news and light programs and BBC2 that played classical music and opera.

Life for my mother must have been dull away from family and friends, but for a while we felt safer in Caterham. That is until the Germans sent over the VI and V2 rockets. They didn’t reach London but fell in our area. Sometimes our lessons were interrupted by us going into the shelters. Many of our classmates got evacuated, so the students who were left behind no longer were separated into different classes.

In my memoir, Parallel Lives, I described what happened after my father was stationed in the North of England and my mother wanted to evacuate us up there to be near him. People in the north were not under attack and had little idea that the country was at war. My father found a woman who lived with her children in a large, but sparsely furnished house and she let us move in. My father obtained cots and blankets for us from his Army unit.

We lived in Huddersfield only a few months. I think one reason was that while my brother and sister went to the local school, I didn’t. I understood that they didn’t have a place for me. I was about 13 at the time. During the day then I took care of Mrs. Weir’s young children. After we returned to our house in Caterham, other children who had been evacuated also began to return and the school teachers went back to separating the classes by age. I was one of three students who won the 13-plus scholarship and were eligible to advance to a grammar school.

By then, there was a feeling the war would soon be over. The Americans had joined in and some were stationed in England. We waited for my father to be demobbed and rejoin the family business which had been relocated in a different building. After being bombed out my grandparents had moved into an upstairs apartment in Brick Lane, still in the East End of London.

When the war in Europe ended, people celebrated with street parties. Our family travelled to London by train to join the crowds of people in Trafalgar Square and near Buckingham Palace. I saw men climbing lamp posts, people singing, and holding arms, kissing strangers. It was a happy time.

 

USS North Carolina

Christmas 1943

Peggy Lovelace Ellis

 

The USS North Carolina was the lead ship of the North Carolina class of fast battleships, the first vessel of its type built for the US Navy. Construction began in 1937 and the ship launched in June 1940, receiving its commission in April 1941. She was decommissioned in 1947 and removed from the Navy register in 1960, becoming a museum ship anchored in Wilmington, NC in 1962. During World War II, she earned 15 battle stars during service in the major Pacific battles.

At any given time, more than 2,000 sailors manned the ship. Sailors enjoyed considerable comradery onboard, but we can be sure that didn’t make up for being away from home and family, especially at Christmas. In a sense, family came to the USS North Carolina somewhere in the Pacific for Christmas in 1943. This is a brief researched account of that unforgettable Christmas.

Perhaps the best loved and most respected person on board was the chaplain, Everett Wuebbens. Earlier, he collected $5.00 from each crew member, totaling almost $2,500. He sent the money to Macy’s Department Store in New York along with a list of children’s names. He asked Macy’s to choose, and deliver, a gift of $3.00 value to each child with a note saying the gift was from a loved one and others onboard the USS North Carolina. In total, more than 700 sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters would receive a gift from their loved one.

Meanwhile, back at the ship, Chaplain Wuebbens arranged a burlesque show for his men. These sailors, far from home and families, laughed at the antics of their fellow crew members dressed in drag. Still, it was Christmas without family.

When the show ended, Chaplain Wuebbens asked the sailors to remain seated for a film. They greeted this request with a groan. Yet another training film? Poor timing on someone’s part.

No, something else entirely.

Macy’s people, in tune with the season, had exceeded the chaplain’s request. Rather than deliver the gifts, they invited to New York as many children and mothers as could come. There, the store photographer filmed the children opening their gifts.

So, instead of a boring training film, homesick sailors had a bit of a family Christmas as they watched their loved ones open gifts and telling—in some cases, singing—their missing husbands, fathers, and brothers hello and Merry Christmas. [Michael Fopp, PhD, DSc; Internet, Various]

 

Excerpt, Challenges on the Home Front, World War II, Peggy Lovelace Ellis, January 2020.

 

My Cousin Rita

Diana Goldsmith

 

My cousin Rita was the daughter of my mother's younger sister, Sophie. She was born on June 2nd 1932 in England. She was 11 years old when I was born. As a family we used to travel quite a lot to see them in Purley Surrey. It was not that far from where we lived in Farnborough in Hampshire as we were fortunate to have a car and I don't think that my uncle Lou and Auntie Sophie had one then. Uncle Lou used to commute to the East End of London by train to the factory where he was a tailor. Auntie Sophie was a dressmaker.

My cousin Rita trained as a secretary and so did her younger sister Ann. Her brother Maurice was a draughtsman, I believe.

Rita and Ann went to the United States of America in their late teens or early twenties to take up jobs as secretaries.

One of my first recollections of Rita was her showing me some of her jewellery. There were lots of bright sparkly necklaces. She gave me some brightly coloured glass beads which I thought were prized jewels! She also said that when I grew up I could be her bridesmaid!

However, as it turned out she married while in the States and one didn't just get in a jet and fly over the Atlantic to go to a cousin's wedding in those days! She married Ezra, an army veterinarian and had a very happy marriage until he died of lung cancer. They had two daughters, Jessica and then Rebecca. I did manage to visit the family when I was on a trip to visit friends in Maryland in the '70's.

Rita's parents moved to Bognor Regis, a seaside town on the south east coast in England. I had friends who lived in Chichester, a town only a few miles away and this meant that when Rita was over visiting her parents I would go and stay with my friends in Chichester and drive over to see her and my uncle and aunt. Over the years we found we had so much in common and after Ezra died she would come and stay with me in the West Country. When I got a new contract with my phone provider I used to call her at least once a week. We went on holiday, rented a cottage and took my dog too and had a great time. We did that a few years to various places like the Cotswolds and Herefordshire. Unfortunately it came to an end when Rita's arthritic knee meant it was too painful for her to make the flight here.

It was Rita who convinced me that I could write. She read some of my stories and suggested she ask Gene Alston to see if I could send one to him. Well he liked it and so I have been writing for his magazine for many years and can now say I am a published author!!

Rita and I agreed we were more like sisters than cousins. Now I miss her and she would be the one whom I would ask to check this article. She would always read and correct my work and make suggestions. Thank you for letting me share a few things about my cousin Rita.

 

Christmas Means Good Food

E. B. Alston

 

It’s that time of the year when food is prominent at all celebrations. In the not too distant past, before refrigeration, December represented the end of summer’s fresh food bounty. It wasn’t the disaster people today might think it was. When I was a boy, we had several apple trees, one of which produced apples that ripened in September. My father saved these by putting them under a bed of straw in one of the tobacco barns. We had fresh apples until spring. We had fresh milk year-round because we had two milk cows. My parents were acutely conscious of the need for fresh vegetables during the winter months so we had a turnip patch. We also had all those canned summer vegetables because mama had saved the summer surplus of butterbeans string-beans, cabbage, squash, peaches and pears.

I have been blessed during my life by many opportunities to eat and, sometimes, dine well. My extended family was nutrition conscious. Holiday get-togethers were very food focused. Nobody left hungry.

My uncle Fort had seven daughters and one son. He had to be a farmer to feed his family. Breakfast at his house consisted of fried eggs, ham, with red-eye gravy, bacon, sausage, biscuits, several kinds of jellies and jams, fig preserves, milk and coffee. They ate at six a.m.

When he had workers helping with the harvests, he fed them too. Sometimes there might be twenty people in the kitchen and out on the porch wolfing food down. I liked to work for Uncle Fort because he paid me and fed well. He had zero tolerance for slackers so you had better fuel up before you went to work for him. I worked for my other uncles, too and I dined well with them. They never paid me because they helped us with harvests and we helped them.

When I lived in Jacksonville, NC, I went bird hunting with a friend on a farm near Richlands. The farmer invited us to breakfast before the hunt. Our host outdid Uncle Fort. We had fried eggs, homemade bread, biscuits, pancakes, fried shad, shad roe, link sausage, country ham, Karo syrup, molasses and blackberry jam. He rounded this breakfast bounty off with a bowl of navy beans.

He served us lunch, too. In comparison to breakfast, lunch was a modest affair with black-eyed peas, cornbread and, in a culinary contrast of epic proportions, oyster fritters. The fritters were prepared using the famous River Forest Manor in Belhaven, NC oyster fritter recipe. I embarrassed myself over the oyster fritters.

About this time of the year in 1958, I was a telephone lineman on a crew building new telephone lines. When we worked in Belhaven, we stayed and dined in the famous River Forest Manor because there was nowhere else we could stay. It was the five-star place for yachtsmen sailing up and down the Inter-coastal Waterway. Imagine us phone company linemen dining elbow to elbow with millionaires. While we were there, one had his chauffer drive his Rolls Royce to Belhaven so he could see all the area sights in style.

Our foreman and one of the yachtsmen became drinking buddies. The yachtsman tried to persuade Bill to leave with him one morning but Bill demurred.

When he asked why, Bill said his boat wasn’t ready. “Why not?” the rich man asked.

“ ’Cause I ain’t got a motor yet,” Bill replied, “and I am damn tired of rowing.” That got a big laugh from everyone, including his drinking buddy.

When we worked in Engelhard, NC, we stayed in the Engelhard Hotel. They served meals family style. Their breakfasts were similar to the two mentioned above except for the navy beans. In place of navy beans, they served oyster fritters.

The Sportsman Café in Williamston, NC, served normal breakfasts but they provided the fastest service I have ever experienced. The first time I ate there, I placed my order and opened my paper. Before I finished reading the headline, my breakfast was piping hot on the table before me. Now that was fast food. The waiters actually ran to and fro between the kitchen and the diners’ tables.

Many years later, the company sent me to fiber optic cable engineering training in Everett, Washington. We were there for three weekends. It is boring in a hotel with nothing to do. Classes ended at noon on Fridays. The second weekend three of us decided to sightsee on the northwest coast of Washington and into Canada. We left after class Friday. We took route 101 north on the west coast of Washington. We spent the night in a rooming house in Kalaloch. Saturday morning we drove to Port Angeles and took the ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, where we toured the city before we took the ferry to Vancouver Saturday afternoon.

I knew that Vancouver Telephone Company rented a block of rooms in the downtown Sheraton for visiting employees. They were usually vacant on weekends. I had a friend at the company who set us up with free rooms on top of the downtown Sheraton. I invited my Canadian friend and his wife to join us for supper. We were hungry and I asked the concierge to recommend a nice restaurant. He sent us to a French restaurant in walking distance of the hotel. That was the finest restaurant meal I have ever eaten. I had the rack of lamb and all the trimmings. Good company and excellent food always makes a splendid evening.

Mention of the hotel deal and my local phone company contact reminds me of the old days before President Jimmy Carter “fixed” the telephone industry. Back then, 9000 numbers were reserved for the telephone company. 336-253-9001 might be the local manager’s office in Graham. 919-477-9001 might be the manager’s number in Durham. The local test board had the same four-digit number everywhere. That way workers, like myself, always knew how to call the test board no matter where we were working. The local test board was manned 24 hours a day.

My family and I were in Myrtle Beach the summer of 1959. I had car trouble on the Sunday we planned to return to New Bern. I called the local test board in Myrtle Beach, told the test board operator who I was and where I worked. Then I told him I had car trouble. He called the mechanic that worked on phone company vehicles who said for me to meet him at his garage. An hour later, me and my family were on our way home to New Bern. The repair was simple and the mechanic didn’t even charge me anything. Anywhere I traveled, and I traveled a lot, if I had a problem, help was always available to me at the local phone company. Man, do I miss those days!!!

There is one other December breakfast that comes to mind. Because I had emergency leave during basic training in the Army, my training schedule got out of whack. I was assigned to the transient center for almost a month. On the second day I was there, a golden-tongued colonel spoke to us during the morning formation and offered volunteers an escape from this awful place. Those who volunteered would participate in an experimental training exercise. You would sell your soul to the devil to get out of a military transient center. I took the second option and volunteered.

That afternoon we marched to our new barracks and were assigned bunks. The next morning we were issued combat gear and hot weather and cold weather clothing. That afternoon we went on a five-mile hike with weapons, ammunition and full field gear. We knew this was something unusual because the officers also carried M-1 battle rifles instead of M-2 carbines or pistols. At 05:00 the next morning we exercised on the parade field. Then we went through “leadership” training. This consisted of telling us that if we were a PFC in combat with a bunch of private E-2s, we were in command and they had to obey our orders. That afternoon we went on another five-mile hike with full combat gear and rations. We camped out that night, got up early enough to hike back and be on the parade field at 05:00 for exercises. Second day: ditto. By the way, this was preferable to staying in the transient company. We were on the firing range every day for a week.

One Sunday morning at 02:00 sharp, we were hustled out and loaded up onto C-119s and flown to a dirt airstrip somewhere in Colorado. We spent nine days marching up and down mountains, crossing streams, eating cold rations and freezing. We took a lot of ammunition and did a lot of shooting until we had fired every cartridge. After the ammo was depleted, we started back to the airstrip. Somebody commented that since we had fired all the ammo, we would have to fix bayonets if a grizzly bear attacked us.

The C-119s picked us up and we took that long, long flight back to Ft. Jackson. The mess hall stayed open late in anticipation of our return in the wee hours. We had fried eggs, bacon, toast, coffee, milk and juice. The strange add-on this time was fruit cocktail. That breakfast was a luxury that made everything else seem inconsequential. It was December 23rd, 1953. I would go home for Christmas!

Enjoy the season and all the good food that comes your way.


 

The Treasure Hunt

Tim Whealton

 

It started innocently enough. When we were at the Whealton family reunion I asked my cousin what was going to happen to our Grandfather’s house in Mesic, NC. She was the owner but no one had lived there since hurricane Irene flooded it several years ago. She said it would either be torn down or given to the fire department for a training burn. She also told me I could go there and look around for any old wood or souvenirs.

I always loved Grandad’s house. I was 5 when he died when so my memories are mostly from stories. I only remember seeing him alive at night when my Dad took me with him to go visit. It must have been for some special reason because we never drove that far from home with Pop’s car at night for just a visit. Pop was a mechanic and his cars were usually projects that still needed some work. Pop carried me on his arm to the front door. He put me down and knocked  on the front door. A tall man with gray hair holding a short double barrel shotgun opened the door. (It was a 10 gauge Baker with 11 inch barrels!) Pop looked at the shotgun and asked “expecting trouble?” Grandad just smiled and said, “No son, this is my midnight reading companion I keep it on my lap when I’m up late reading the paper.”

Who wouldn’t love a Grandad like that?

Grandad built the house in 1916. Before then he worked in a shipyard in Detroit, Michigan. He and Grandmother Whealton decided they didn’t want their children growing up in Detroit and made plans to move to Mesic, North Carolina, where Grandad was raised. Grandpa bought land and built the house before he moved his wife and children to Mesic. This is where the mystery starts. He was a laborer in a shipyard. How did he find the money to leave them and go buy land and build a house? It must have taken at least a year. The house he built wasn’t the typical down-east farm house either. It was grand for 1916. It was a two story with 4 bedrooms upstairs and a living room, parlor and kitchen downstairs. The workmanship was impressive as well. Plaster walls and dark wood door and trim. It really stood out in a neighborhood of small farm houses and commercial fisherman camps.

I told my brother of my plan and he wanted go with me. Warren is older and remembers many more things about Grandad. He had actually hunted with him and remembered the layout of the house when Grandpa lived there. After he died in 1956, my Aunt and her family lived there for many years. Aunt Sissy was my Pop’s sister and I loved her. She was witty and always ahead of the conversation. It was easy to see that she and Pop had a special relationship.

Warren brought up the lost Whealton treasure. He said there might be a chance that some of Grandad’s fortune was still stashed in the house somewhere because he died suddenly of heart attack. Warren also reminded me of the 1929 Great Depression story. Grandad and Grandmother went to New Bern to buy supplies. They stopped in Bayboro to withdraw money while Grandmother waited in the truck. She watched through the window as Grandad transacted business and noticed the clerk seemed uneasy. When she asked Grandad about it, he said it almost seemed like he didn’t want to give him the money.

Grandmother told him to go back in and withdraw all their money because something was wrong. He did and when they came back later that day, the bank was closed with an angry mob at the door. That was the start of the Great Depression and their money was what saw them through it. Maybe some of that was still around?

Like most things in our family secrets don’t last long and my sister wanted to go. Satan is always at your elbow because I thought now it would be a three way split but I was actually glad for her come. It had been a long time since the three of us had done anything together but eat and who knows, if the money was in gold it might be enough to make us all rich! A thousand in $20 gold coins would be a tidy sum.

A couple of days later we assembled for the hunt. We used my truck so we would have room to bring back lots of treasure in case it wasn’t in gold bullion. We started laughing and sharing stories about growing up before we started and kept it up for most of the drive. We were about halfway there when we passed a sporting goods store. I announced an unscheduled stop and all agreed.

The little store had a small shelf of ammo and I spied a box of 6.5x55 ammo. I told the clerk I wanted it and he told me I didn’t. He told me I was looking for 6.5 Creedmoor. I told him I would take the ammo anyway and he slid it across the counter and said “I tried to warn you!” I started to tell him I had been a gunsmith 49 years, was the gunsmithing teacher, double distinguished, double high master and I knew what caliber I wanted but I decided a plain “thank you was the correct reply. We got a few more good laughs out of that.

Next, we started planning where we would stop for lunch on the way back. We quickly agreed that shrimp burgers from Mayo’s would be perfect. With our food planned it was onward to Mesic and maybe riches. We talked about the many trips to Mesic with Pop when we were kids. Pop made me a wooden airplane that he would let me hold out the window the last 5 miles to see the propeller spin. Warren told the time he was nearly jerked from the car when he opened the rear door on Pop’s Hudson while it was on the highway. The Hudson door opened to the rear and the wind would snatch the door open if you hit the handle while moving. We passed the many houses damaged by Hurricane Florence a month earlier and told more stories about hurricanes when we were little.

Soon we were pulling up at Grandad’s house. It looked old but still grand when you remembered that it was over 100 years old. After a little prying and pushing we were inside and that brought on more stories about Grandad and the Grandmother that died before I was born. She was German and came here at a time when Germans were not well liked. It was WWI and Germans and Americans were killing each other. It must have been hard for her.

The house didn’t look damaged by the flood but it was stripped inside. The doors were gone, the door facings and the moldings removed. Nothing was really left of the grand house but the broken remains of a player piano. It had the front removed and I marveled at the beautiful workmanship. It was built long before electricity. It used air power to operate the keys as a paper scroll with holes that would pass over a bar with holes for each key. When the hole in the paper passed over the bar air would escape and operate the key. All you had to do was sit on the bench, wind up the scroll and pump the pedals to keep the air pressure going. I thought, how in the world did a shipyard worker turned farmer afford such a luxury? Hmmmm.

In the Parlor was the closet I remembered under the stairs. Pop opened the door once to show me the guns propped against the wall. Grandad loved to hunt and shoot and kept a large collection of guns. Nothing was left but marks on the wall from where the muzzles rested.

The parlor was also where Grandad would sit and read. He got newspapers from New York and Chicago delivered to Mesic because he liked to stay up on world events and politics. Uncle Rudolph told me about the time a drunken farm hand stumbled onto the front porch and opened the door one night. Grandad was sitting in the chair with lamps on each side. The drunk asked Grandad if this was a funeral parlor.

When Grandad lowered the newspaper the drunk man saw that he was holding a sawed off 10 gauge.

Grandpa said “It’s gonna be!”

Uncle Rudolph said you could hear that man’s shoes hitting the dirt road outside for close to a mile.

After hours climbing stairs and looking under everything we could see, we only took a couple of old boards as souvenirs. We loaded up for the trip to Mayo’s for that shrimp burger. We enjoyed the food but the real treat was us spending time together. Having a brother a sister with many talents is good enough but having a brother and sister that shares a love of family is really spectacular.

That was when it hit me. I have had the Whealton treasure all my life. It isn’t money or gold. It’s better than that. It’s a family who knows how to love and does it. Thanks Grandad, what you started is still going strong!

 

 

Christmas

Marry Williamson

 

What is a Christmas story? What can one say about Christmas that has not already been told? Charles Dickens did it best with ‘A Christmas Carol”. Stories about chestnuts, open fires, snowman, angels, shepherds, etc have also all been done. So what else is there to tell? Families at each other’s throats all day because they cannot stand each other but society and tradition tells them that they have to spend Christmas together. Anyhow, stories from a family point of view and tearjerkers about people finding each other or travelling hundreds of miles on Christmas day have all been done as well.

Then there are the nutcracker type stories of toys coming to life on Christmas eve. I have always had a bit of trouble with those. How can you sleep and not hear anything with all that racket going on downstairs? There is really not much more to say about Christmas apart from funny reminiscences, i.e. how we all fell about laughing when Uncle Bertie fell asleep at the table headfirst into the pudding. And when Auntie Mabel drunk too much cooking sherry and insisted on reciting all 142 verses of the Ancient Mariner.

In the Netherlands where I grew up Christmas was done differently. On Christmas day people concentrated mainly on eating and drinking without being side-tracked by presents. The giving and receiving of presents was mainly done on the 5th of December, St. Nicholas Day.

St. Nicholas was a bishop from Myra who clambered over rooftops on a big white horse with a Moorish helper, called very politically incorrect ‘Black Peter’. Poor Peter never got to ride the horse but had to scramble behind and carry a big sack. Good children would get a present which was chucked down the chimney but naughty children would get caught by Black Peter and carried away in the big sack.

St Nicholas evening was celebrated with the whole family and at some point there was a loud banging on the front door, my mother would open the door, me cowering behind and a big basket stood on the doorstep filled with presents for everybody. I was to discover later that it was put there by a neighbour.

I discovered when I was about 6 or 7 that the whole thing was a sham anyway when St Nicholas visited my school and I recognised him as a friend’s father. As my family were Catholics on Christmas eve we attended Midnight Mass followed by supper when we got home. Consequently we got up late on Christmas day. We always had a real Christmas tree with glass baubles and real candles until the fateful year when the tree went up in fire. Just after my father had lit all the little white candles in this tree which, incidentally, was as dry as tinder having stood in the dining room for a number of days, the dog spotted a cat in the garden and made a beeline for the french windows upsetting the tree. Sadly it was the end for the tree and the curtains and we were very lucky that my mother managed to open the door and chuck the tree onto the lawn, candles, baubles and all. Lucky nothing else caught fire. We never had a real tree with candles again.

Speaking about fires. There was a Christmas day when a picture on the wall in my grandparents house caught fire. The dining room in their house had a shelf running halfway up the walls round the room below the pictures and on which my grandmother displayed her collection of little brass knick-knacks. After Christmas dinner the men were sitting round the table with bottles of port and lemon gin (my grandfather’s favourite), a bowl of walnuts and a basket of tangerines. The women were in the kitchen helping my grandmother with the washing up. (No dishwashers in those days). I was probably about 3 or 4 years old.

My aunt came in, gasped and pointed to the big Victorian oleograph of huge cabbage roses in a wide black lacquered frame. It was smouldering. My grandmother had been a bit overzealous in creating a Christmas ambiance and had put little tea lights on saucers all along the knick-knack shelf. She had put one of them right underneath the picture. My mother also came in and calmly took control, opened the French windows, asked my uncle to to help her take the picture, the black frame by now showing little flames, off the wall and tipped it through the windows, over the patio and right into my grandfathers beloved dahlia patch.

He did have the picture repaired and reframed into a new black lacquered frame and it later hung for years in my parent’s hallway.

What else is there to say about Christmas? One can always tell a story from the poor turkey’s perspective. One could write a story about this gaggle of turkeys clucking round the farmyard comparing notes on their diets. “Oh, oh, we have to lose weight. Gladys stop eating all that stuff the farmer gives you. You will be chosen. What is best. Slimming World or weightwatchers? We must lose all this fat before Christmas.”

Some Thoughts Concerning the Information Age

Randy Bittle


            Living in the information age is exciting yet challenging.  Like a beautiful, sweet smelling rose with prickly thorns on the stem, the broadband information world beckons.  Enjoy the beauty and fragrance, but be wary of the thorns. 

Social media offers a variety of avenues for self-expression, in addition to regular email, blogging, and website opportunities.  You now have access to a large audience for your messages, but expressing opinions, thoughts, and feelings to the world exposes your mind for what it is.  Be sure you want the world to see who you really are.

On the other hand, beware that information has no intrinsic meaning.  It is inert symbology.  Meaning must be supplied by a person.  What you intend to say may not be how the recipient interprets your meaning, and vice-versa.

In this age of information overload, some people think education is thought control.  That’s not accurate.  Brainwashing causes thought control and emotional manipulation.  True education teaches a person to think for himself and to be resistant to blind, thoughtless agreement with poorly conceived, implausible ideas.  Be aware of that as you sift through the mass of information from social media, emails, blogs, websites, and news media.

Do not limit yourself to reading and reinforcing what you already believe.  Your beliefs could be mistaken, which makes reinforcement a waste of time that can damage your circumstances, since other people begin to command your thoughts and emotions.  Challenge yourself to entertain new ideas and consider their merits within the context of what you presume to know.  Don’t let others think for you.  Take a stand and make a habit of careful interpretation and comprehension of the steady stream of information, misinformation, and disinformation available in today’s society

 

 

The Worst Person on the Best Team

Tim Whealton

 

In 1989 and I was in a good spot. I was a competitive rifle shooter and I had made it to the big time. I was selected to shoot on the All National Guard Rifle Team in the 1990 National Championships in Camp Perry Ohio. A 6 man team that would compete head to head with the Marines, Army, Army Reserve, Marine Reserve, Air Force and Navy.

While it was open competition the real money was on the Marines or Army. At national level, the competition is incredibly fierce. No way did a U.S. Marine want to walk off the rifle range after getting beat by the Army. Try to imagine a Marine or Army team captain going back to tell his commander, “Well sir we shot really well but the National Guard beat us.” I can just hear some crusty old General saying “You mean to tell me the weekend warriors have beat Delta Force and the Marine Raiders?” Yeah, there was a lot of high powered ego at stake.

Each Team was made up of 8 firing members and 2 coaches. This was the Infantry Trophy match. Two the firing members had to be new shooters who had never fired at that level of competition. This requirement meant that every team had to constantly recruit new shooters and train them. If they stayed on the team they would progress from State Championship to Guard Championship to Army Region then Interservice and finally the National Championships at Camp Perry. For a New shooter this would usually take at least 3 years. After that the new shooter would compete with the Old Shooters for a position on the team. This meant in 3 years you had to out-shoot someone with maybe 20 years’ experience to win a berth on the team. Not easily done!

The Guard originally decided to take me to Camp Perry for experience but not to shoot in the team match till the following year. I could shoot in the individual matches and watch the team matches or support by operating targets or filling the water jug. I didn’t care. I just wanted to stand on that firing line and shoot in the biggest shooting match in the world. Over 1400 shooters that year came to shoot in a 3-week competition if you shot all the events.

I did well in the individual matches and picked up some awards. There really wasn’t much pressure so I just relaxed and had a good time. Then came the morning of the team match. I left my shooting gear in the truck because I would just be watching. It was pure excitement. The Big Army team had their flags flying in the breeze and the Marines had more Red and Gold than a winter sunset at Cedar Island. I casually strolled over to our little group. It was a short team meeting and the coaches were discussing strategy. It seems the new shooter they had groomed for 3 years had fallen apart under pressure. Then I heard “Okay we will use  Whealton.” Use me for what I thought, go to the store? Pick up fired brass? The head coach turned to me and said, “Get your gear. You are shooting!”

I hurried to the truck thinking all the way there, “What happens if I mess up?” I already knew to not think like that but negative thoughts kept creeping in. I was shooting with the best shooting competitors in the world and I knew I wasn’t the best. I finally got over the jitters and settled down to do what I trained to do by the time to shoot. Well, long story but I shot well. Not the greatest for me but a good solid performance for a new shooter. When the scores were posted I was the worst one on the team. We had a good score but there were several teams waiting to shoot. Especially the big Army and Marine teams. An old shooter pointed out that if we lost by less than 15 points it would be my fault that we had lost the National Championships. That helped my anxiety!

Well the score held and suddenly I was a hero. We had beat everybody but especially the Marines. They were the ones we admired the most for their spirit so it was a sweet win. And yes I got to go on stage and receive a huge trophy. Inside my thoughts were, yhey won it in spite of me instead of because of me. I’m not a champion, I’m the worst one on the team.

Later my Colonel pulled me aside and asked how it felt to win. I told him how I felt and he explained to me that if you took out my score the team lost. Even though my score was the worse it added the points for a victory and there was no other new shooter that could have done it. The memory of what he have helped me for many years.

I don’t shoot much for competition anymore but the lessons I learned serve me well. I know that as a Christian I’m on a team more important than any that ever walked on the stage to receive a trophy. I’m on a team that is working to lead people to eternal life with God. No award ever made by man can compare with that! Thanks to Colonel Tom Ellis I realize my efforts  count toward the total victory. As a Christian I’m not the best, I’m not even real good. A lot of my shots hit the dirt and never make it to the target. But I’m on the winning team and I have a coach that is out of this world!

You can make this team too. You don’t have to beat out anybody else. Nobody loses their place on the team when you join. You don’t have to be better than anybody and you don’t have to be worthy, just willing. You are not disqualified because of poor previous performance. Need more persuasion? How about this, you entry fees/dues have been paid in advance 2000 years ago. The price was high but he thinks you are worth it!

Jesus gave us a little insight about being last on the winning team. He was speaking about John the Baptist. He said that no person on earth was greater than John the Baptist yet the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven was greater than he.

It simply meant that John was still a sinner on earth but the worst Christian that makes it to heaven will be holy with a new immortal body. John was going to Heaven but he was still on earth when those words were spoken.

Plainly put Heaven is where we want to go. Jesus is the way there.

 

 

Then It is Winter

Author Unknown


             You know .... time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems   just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago and I wonder where all the years went, I know that I lived them all. I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams.

 But, here it is ... the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise ... How did I get here so fast. Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember well seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

But, here it is ... my friend are retired and getting grey... they move slower and I see am older person now. Some are in better and some worse than me... but, I see the great change... Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant...but, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we'd be. Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! and taking a nap is not a treat anymore...it's mandatory!

If I don't on own free will, I just fall asleep where I sit.

And so, now I enter into a new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength   and ability to go and do thing that I wish I had done but never did!!

But,at least I know that, though winter has  come, and I'm not sure how long it will last.... this I know, that when it's over on this earth, it’s over. A new adventure will begin!

Yes I have regrets. There are thing I wish I hadn't done... thing I should have done, but indeed, there are many things I'm happy to have done, It's all in a lifetime.

"Life" is a gift to you. the way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one. Live It well. Enjoy today! Do something fun! Be happy! Have a great day!

 

 

Confucius Did Not Say:

 

Man who wants pretty nurse must be patient.

 

Passionate kiss, like spider web, leads to undoing of fly.

 

Lady who goes camping with man must beware of evil intent.

 

Man who leaps off cliff jumps to conclusion.

 

Man who runs in front of car gets tired, but man who runs behind car gets exhausted.

 

Man who eats many prunes get good run for money.

 

War does not determine who is right; it determines who is left.

 

Man who fights with wife all day get no piece at night.

 

It takes many nails to build a crib, but only one screw to fill it.

 

Man who drives like hell is bound to get there.

 

Man who stands on toilet is high on pot.

 

Wise man does not keep sledge hammer and slow computer in same room.

 

Man who lives in glass house should change clothes in basement.

 

And, Confucius Did Not Say. . . A lion will not cheat on his wife, but a Tiger Wood!

 

 

Eulogy for My Father

Slice of life by Howard A. Goodman

 

In 1997, four days after my daughter's wedding I flew down to Fort Lauderdale to be with my Dad.  My mom told me he was beyond traditional medical help in his battle with cancer.  He appeared frail, uncomfortable and perpetually exhausted, eating next to nothing, dozing most of the day and night.  His only physical activity was occasionally moving across the living room, hunched roughly into the profile of a question mark, to switch chairs, or plodding slowly into the bedroom to take a nap.

For the time he was awake, it was difficult for me to carry on a conversation with him.  His attention span had grown extremely short, so that any of my attempts at discourse beyond two or three sentences were usually met with a still silence or nodding off—a drastic change from the vital, active man who, just six years ago, had finally decided to retire.

Life was not easy for Dad.  He lost his mother, Becky, at an extremely early age.  As a salesman his father was on the road a lot, and the attention and affection he received from others in whose care he was left was minimal and often questionable.

Yet he somehow managed to grow up within the straight and narrow, made a life for himself, married, and helped raise two kids against a background of jobs which he appeared to perform more out of financial necessity rather than enjoyment—overall, a seemingly ordinary accomplishment.

To help break the tension during my visit, Mom sent me to Home Depot to purchase some items to repair a couple of things around their condo.  While waiting in the check-out line, I noticed something on the rack of impulse items standing next to the counter—a nearly forgotten artifact of one of my earliest childhood memories.

I couldn't have been more than three or four when Dad took me for a trip to that Gothic fortress of brick and mortar over on Roosevelt Boulevard that was Sears, Roebuck & Company.  We didn't own a car in those days, so getting there was an adventure in itself, what with taking the 'O' bus from the stop directly across the street from our house to the 'K' bus (or was it the 'J' bus), then finally the 'R' bus.

After negotiating the purchase of what he came to buy, Dad took me through the tool department, showing me this thing and that from a selection which could only have appeared inexhaustible to a kid my age.  Finally, from a small tray, he picked up a carpenter's pencil and handed it to me.

That yellow carpenter's pencil was with me the entire time we lived on North Marvine Street in Philadelphia, disappearing only after I had moved on into my own life as an adult.  Today, I am happy to say, I have, if only in my memories, rediscovered it.

Almost exactly thirty years earlier, I viewed the death of my father's father, Nathaniel, our only long-term surviving grandparent, as the passing of an era, a time in which there was someone else around to offer my brother and me a little attention or otherwise spoil us.  That era came to an abrupt end in 1967, while my (late) wife and I were still at Penn State.

Having outlived even that venerable Gothic fortress—imploded in 1994 to make room for a shopping center which included, ironically, a Home Depot—my father, too, is now gone from this physical world.  Although his message was never verbalized, it screams at my brother and me to carry on the tradition, to try to accomplish the ordinary, give something of ourselves, remain true to the ones we love, make sure that our kids will go out into this world and achieve for themselves.

I can always buy another carpenter's pencil, but I can never replace the original.

 

 

Where Is It?

Peggy Lovelace Ellis

 

Covid-19 forced the cancellation of our Christmas trip to South America this year. The silver-lining is we won’t have to worry about our luggage ending up who knows where between Charlotte and Buenos Aires.

Lost luggage! I could write a book. Well, at least a novella. I’ll try to restrain my in-retrospect frustrations with various airlines. No promises, though, so bear with me.

Most lost or misplaced luggage eventually reunites with its owner, but one-half of one percent remain unclaimed. A very small amount, you think. However, it totals millions of pieces of baggage annually when you consider 4.3 billion pieces of luggage fly every year. Lost or misplaced luggage heaven is in Scottsboro, Alabama at the Unclaimed Baggage Center. They purchase all the unclaimed luggage, sight unseen. One third goes to a dumpster, another third goes to charity organizations, and they keep the final third in their thrift store available for purchase by the public at specified times.

Jim traveled a lot when the Forest Service sent him to various wildfires over a period of 25 or so years. All flights required emergency last minute arrangements and not necessarily by the shortest route. One memorable trip was to travel from Raleigh-Durham to Atlanta to Billings, Montana by way of Chicago. In Atlanta, he learned his flight had been cancelled but he could take a different route and arrive approximately on time. Okay, that worked until he reached Billings and learned his luggage had GONE FROM ATLANTA TO CHICAGO ON THE FLIGHT THAT HAD SUPPOSEDLY BEEN CANCELLED!

Then there was the afternoon I received a call from a woman at the Raleigh-Durham Airport. She hemmed and hawed around trying to describe a piece of luggage that had not made it on Jim’s flight to Midland, Texas. She couldn’t give much information because I could have claimed it whether it was mine or not. Fortunately, Jim had already called and told me one piece of his baggage had not arrived. An important piece of baggage, mind you. So, after letting the woman search for words, I finally said: You have an oblong dark blue duffle bag in heavy duty plastic containing a dismantled tent with metal rods. She breathed a sigh of relief. I insisted they bring it to me in Chapel Hill. Fortunately, the fire camp supplies included extra tents because otherwise Jim would have to sleep out in the open with whatever wild critters came nosing around.

In our travels, Jim and I took turns of being without luggage but each time ours had simply not been put on board the correct plane. Try Eastern Europe in December when your heavy coat is at Dulles in DC! We had four days sightseeing in Belgium before we boarded our cruise ship in Antwerp. Four days without Jim’s luggage. We had learned early in our travels to pack a change of clothing for each other in our separate suitcases, so he wasn’t completely without clothing, only a coat warmer than his fleece-lined jacket. On the day we were to embark in the afternoon, his luggage still had not arrived. That morning, he paid an arm and a leg for some trousers, shirts, and toiletries. We arrived on board at the absolute last minute and hurried to our stateroom. You saw this coming. His luggage had arrived.

Okay, it was my turn to be without sufficient clothing etc., but at least Egypt was warm. We checked our luggage through from Charlotte to Cairo but changed planes in Frankfurt. My luggage was not on our plane when we landed in Cairo. Viking’s local representative there must have forgotten to take his Ritalin that morning. He ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, but couldn’t find my luggage. On our second evening after a long day of sightseeing in and around Cairo, I received word my luggage was at the airport and would be delivered that evening. It wasn’t. Nor the next morning. When we returned to the hotel in mid-afternoon, my luggage was in our stateroom. I have no idea where it was during those two plus days.

A couple of guys from Louisville, also on our Nile River cruise, were not so lucky. Neither had any luggage. They’d been booked in a roundabout way with unexpected changes. By the time they reached Cairo they’d been in so many states and countries they kept the rest of us in stitches describing their trip. Because of Syrian terrorist activity in Cairo eight years earlier, the US government required an armed guard with every tourist group while in Egypt. You can bet the farm an armed guard carrying an AK47 on his arm throughout the crowded Cairo market kept any trouble at bay. That’s where these guys from Louisville finally gave up on receiving their luggage and bought clothing. Even after returning home, they emailed Jim they’d never heard anything about their luggage. Probably went directly from Louisville to the Unclaimed Baggage Center!

So, if your luggage takes a trip without you, don’t be alarmed. Be patient. It will either find you or you can take a trip to Scottsboro. By car. Or leave all luggage at home.

 

 

My Environmental Journey Since November

Carol Rados

 

A petition was made available on Facebook to sign a petition to encourage Greenville, NC (Pitt County) to develop a system to recycle glass by offering drop off containers for glass at our sites that are available throughout the county.  I signed the petition and now I am regularly being asked to sign other petitions that relate to the environment.

I continue to recycle plastic.  I was disheartened to read an article in the November issue of Reader’s Digest that indicated that very little plastic is recycled, and often it is actually burned, which is the worst thing for greenhouse gasses.  This gives me another reason to search for and use products that do not use plastic in their packaging.

Target  offers ladies under pants that are made from recycled polyester and cotton.  I was very pleased to see this.

Lands End has some winter coats that indicate that the filling is made from recycled fibers.

I continue to take my mixed paper and plastic bags to be recycled at Food Lion.

We continue to get gasoline at a very reasonable price.

I enjoy writing these articles.  Thank you for sharing my journey.

 

 

An Unsung Hero From My Hometown

Nonfiction by Howard A. Goodman

 

His name was David Raksin (often misspelled as ‘Raskin’). Raksin and I shared the same home town of Philadelphia, though he preceded me by three decades. We were both alumni of the same secondary institution: prestigious, all-academic Central High School for Boys.

During the span that became known as the era of the Popular Song, Raskin went on to pursue a career as a songwriter. Many of his tunes became the themes for motion pictures and later, TV series.

In the period when popular tunes were characterized as consisting mainly of major (happy) and minor (sad) chords, Raksin, George Gershwin, and a few other composers broke the mold by introducing jazz or “blue” chords. This innovation is no more evident than in two of Raksin’s most memorable compositions, “Laura,” and “Love is for the Very Young.”

In 1944, Raksin was commissioned to write a theme for a film noir currently in production, “Laura,” starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews. The score he delivered was, in a word, riveting. When coupled with a lyric penned by Johnny Mercer, the result became a popular song, performed by many well-known artists of the time and even today (Carly Simon). Here, Dear Reader, are but a few examples for your listening pleasure.

Frank Sinatra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Yzgqclyvx0

Johnny Mathis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSV6o6R6Rpo Notice the subtle Doppler effect as Johnny voices, “on a train that is passing through.”

Here’s a full blown overture performed by the FT Pops Orchestra in Sofia, Bulgaria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmRwt9AE9AA

Lastly, even this basic rendition, performed at the piano by Raksin himself, seems to retain the orchestral quality of the theme. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTVVqUT_pDw

As for “Love is for the Very Young,” it was written specifically for the 1952 film, “The Bad and The Beautiful,” starring Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner. When Raksin’s tune was submitted for approval, director Vincente Minelli and producer John Houseman initially dismissed it. However, it was saved through the intervention of fellow composers Betty Comden. and Adolph Green.

There are nearly countless arrangements out there, many of them orchestral as in the movie. In closing, I’d like to draw your attention to a simple yet elegant rendition performed as a solo by legendary jazz pianist, Bill Evans. It may be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgERf0KqX9Q

Hammer Spade and the Four Horsemen

 

Part Four

 

The Fourth Horseman brings Death

 

Tim Whealton

Jerrel Neuhaus

 

I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. The fourth rider was given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. The fourth horseman of the apocalypse is symbolic of death and devastation. The fourth horseman will bring further warfare and terrible famines along with terrible plagues and diseases. What is most terrifying is that the four horsemen of the apocalypse are just precursors of even worse judgments that come later in the Tribulation.

 

▲▼▲▼▲

 

Chapter Twenty-Six

 

Late one afternoon, a man in a navy blue pinstripe suit came into Tim Whealton’s gunsmith shop in Cove City, North Carolina. Not many men in navy blue pinstripe suits came to his shop, or, for that matter, to Cove City. The first thought that came to Tim’s mind was “IRS.”

The man didn’t say anything at once because a customer and his wife were looking at an over-under shotgun. The visitor wandered around the retail area, picked up and examined a couple of used rifles in the display rack and looked at Tim’s marksmanship trophies hanging on the front wall above the big glass window. After the couple had a short spat about spending that much money for a gun, they left.

After the couple was gone, the man introduced himself. “I’m Jason Sparks.” He produced a card that read “Department of Homeland Security” and under that, “U.S. Secret Service.” Then he continued, “I presume that you are Timothy Whealton.”

“That’s me,” Tim replied. “What brings the Secret Service to Cove City?”

“May we speak in confidence?” Sparks asked.

“There’s nobody else in the building and there are no prying eyes in all of Cove City,” Tim said with a grin.

“I came because there is an urgent security threat to the United States and all Western Civilization.”

“That sounds pretty serious. What’s it about and why are you telling me?”

Sparks removed a document from his case and handed it to Tim. “This is a non-disclosure document. It lists severe legal and criminal penalties if you disclose, even to your wife, what I am about to tell you.” He handed the document to Tim. “Sign it on the line beside the X.”

Tim glanced at the list of penalties, took a pen from the pocket of his gunsmith’s apron and signed it.

“Lock the door and put up your ‘Closed’ sign,” Sparks said as he took a seat at the table in the showroom area.

After Tim locked the door and changed the sign from ‘Open’ to ‘Closed’, he took a seat opposite Sparks.

“A shadowy group, who call themselves ‘The Four Horsemen’ recently formed and are in the process of developing an organization whose intent is to destroy Western Civilization. They are organized along the lines of the Biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with the Antichrist, War, Famine and Death. The War group is supposed to foment armed conflict by spreading rumors of threats and counter-threats and actively generating inflammatory incidents. The Famine group has already recruited two American agricultural scientists who, we presume, are to develop ways to sabotage the world’s food production in order to induce widespread famine. Death, the Pale Horse group is currently recruiting agents to find poisons and biological agents capable of killing large populations quickly.”

He paused. “We want you to infiltrate the Pale Horse group.”

“Why me?” Tim asked. “I’m not an agent and I don’t have any training for that line of work. I was a telephone man before I retired.”

“But you worked in an area where you had the clearances we need. And, they have the names of every professional agent in the world. We need a name that is not on their list.”

“How’d you hear about me?”

“You came to our attention through the offices of a man named Phoebus Delius. Have you heard of him?”

“Yeah, I think a friend of mine is about to marry his sister.”

“And you have provided equipment for some of Mr. Spade’s ‘projects’ for Mr. Delius, I believe.”

“Yeah, I have.”

“Mr. Delius thinks you are an excellent candidate for what we have in mind and we have a high degree of confidence in his judgment on these matters.”

“I’ll have to close my shop.”

“We will compensate you for any loss of income caused by this assignment.”

“Can I think about it?”

“We want your decision now. Your country needs you, Mr. Whealton. We cannot delay.”

Tim got up and paced around the room, went into the work area where he counted the rifles in one of his gun safes. Then he came back and resumed his place across from Sparks.

“Okay. I’ll do it. I need a break anyway.”

“Good. Now I have another question.”

“What’s that?”

“Do you know another man with a similar background who you would consider to be your partner?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“What is his name?

“Jerrel Neuhaus.”

“What are his qualifications?”

“He was a Marine. He still holds records in the NRA National High Power Rifle Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio. If my life was at risk, he is the man I would want beside me.”

“Very well. Is he available?”

“I’ll check.”

“Can you check now?”

“Sure.”

Tim went to the counter, picked up the phone, and dialed a number. When the phone was answered, he said, “Want a job?” He listened. “Right away.” He listened again. “Don’t know any details but it’s for the Secret Service.” Another pause. “Yeah, yeah, I know you beat all of them at Quantico. Are you in or out?” Pause. “Okay. I’ll tell him. When can you get away?” One last pause. “I’ll see you the day after tomorrow.”

“He’s in,” Tim said to Sparks when he returned to the table. “He’ll be here day after tomorrow.”

Sparks rose to leave. “I’ll see you then. We’ll finalize everything and I’ll brief the two of you on your assignment. Which one of you should be in charge?”

“Why, me, of course.”

“Does Neuhaus have supervisory skills?”

“Sure, but I’m the one who selected him, not the other way around.”

Sparks gave him a wry smile. “I understand.”

Then he turned and left. 

▲▼▲▼▲

Chapter Twenty-Seven

 

“We sure didn’t get much of a briefing,” Jerrel observed after their plane lifted off from Raleigh-Durham Airport.

He glanced around to see who might be listening.

“I’ve never been dispatched in such a hurry for such a dire emergency,” Tim replied in a low voice.

“But we’re flying business class and you gotta give them credit for one thing.”

“What’s that?” Tim asked.

“They fixed us up quick with our aliases.”

Tim laughed, “Yeah, coming up with Jerrel Oldhaus and Tim Walton took a whole lot of original thought.”

“But we’ve got passports with a lot of travel history and our new identities are so much like us it’ll be easy to talk without remembering a lot of fake stuff.”

“I’d rather the whole thing be a pack of lies than like me,” Tim said.

“Naw, you wouldn’t. When some foreigner’s sticking a gun in your face you don’t want to have to do a lot of creative thinking.”

“Maybe, but the world’s a crazy place and I bet we’re about to learn firsthand that it’s crazier than we thought.”

“What does your wife think about you flying off to God knows where doing God knows what for God knows how long?” Jerrel asked.

“Paula said if I was gone more than two weeks, she’d be engaged to somebody else by the time I got back.”

Jerrel laughed. “Paula is a piece of work.”

“Yeah, she is.”

“You don’t seem worried.”

“She jokes like that all the time.

“What time’re we getting to Heathrow?” Jerrel asked.

“About dark their time.”

“It’s been a while since I was in Limeyland.”

“I didn’t know you’d ever been there.”

“Took a trip there with my first wife.”

“What did you learn?” Tim asked

“They drink warm beer. Where are we meeting the big guys?”

“A little town called Gosford, in Northern Ireland,” Tim replied.

“Wonder why they picked a place like that?” Jerrel wanted to know.

“The lead guy is an Irishman named Smithson. It’s where he lives.”

“I don’t believe I’d pick a place close to my home to meet for something like this.”

“I wouldn’t either,” Tim agreed.

“The other guy’s an Italian, ain’t he?”

“Name’s Ferretti, I believe.” Tim laughed. “Ferretti and Smithson. Sounds like an ambulance chasing law firm.”

“Yeah. Bloodsuckers. They’d be about right for this from what we heard in our thirty-minute briefing.”

“I don’t even like to be around folks like them.”

“Wonder where Jim Travis is?” Jerrel asked.

“I heard he was in Algeria.”

“Glad it was him. I hope we don’t get sent to some hellhole like that.”

“There are worse places,” Tim said.

“I bet Jim’s complaining about something right now.”

“Probably. Remember the time he was introduced to Barbara Pierce at the rifle match at Stone Bay?”

gosford castle.jpg“What’d he say?” Jerrel asked.

Tim laughed. “He told her she was just somebody else he had to beat.”

“I bet she beat him.”

“Not then but she did later. I thought Mac was gonna beat Jim when he said that to her.”

“Yeah, I bet. Mac likes Barbara.”

“Remember the first match she shot at Stone Bay?” Tim asked.

Jerrel shook his head. “I think I was fishing that day.”

“When we were setting up at the six-hundred yard line, she whispered to her scorer that she needed to go to the restroom. Mac overheard her and walked over to her position. He told her she could go and take all the time she needed. So while she was in the head, the rest of us were layin’ out there in leather coats and sweatshirts in the hot sun cooking at ninety-five degrees.”

“Mac sure likes her. I ain’t ever heard of him holding up a match before,” Jerrel agreed.

“He don’t like her half as much as Charlie Lauer does.”

“Yeah, I heard Charlie sent her off to the base PX with a Marine private who was ordered to let her buy anything she wanted.”

“You know, she’d make a good spy,” Tim said.

“Yeah, she’d smile at ’em and they’d tell her anything she wanted to know.”

“When they watched her shoot a 196 with a seven like she did at the thousand yard match at Quantico, they’d surrender. No need to run away from her. You’d just die tired.”

“What time are we getting to Eglinton Airport?” Jerrel asked.

“About ten. They’re picking us up.”

“Sounds spooky. Picking us up after dark. Where are they taking us?”

“Gosford Castle. Started in 1819 and finished about 1850. He said we’d stay there.”

“Is it haunted?”

“Maybe. Probably.”

 

 

They caught a quick supper between planes in Heathrow and flew to Eglinton in a prop plane with two rows of seats.

 

 

Smithson was partially hidden by a life size cardboard poster of a local soccer star while he waited in a corner of the baggage area at Eglinton Airport. They approached him after they had retrieved their luggage.

“We’re looking for Kael Smithson,” Tim said.

“Are you Oldhaus?” he asked.

“No, I’m Walton,” Tim replied and pointed to Jerrel. “This is Oldhaus.”

“Glad to finally meet you two,” Smithson replied.

“We’re glad to finally get here,” Jerrel said. “It’s been a long flight.”

“Did ya eat yet?” Smithson asked.

“We had airport food for dinner at Heathrow,” Tim replied.

“We’ve collected a few pints of Ireland’s finest at the castle to help you unwind.”

“Sounds good,” Jerrel replied.

“We didn’t think of getting anything to eat,” Smithson confessed.

“Beer’s fine,” Tim said. “It’s too late to eat anyway.”

“Where’s the Italian guy?” Jerrel asked.

“He’s waiting at the castle. We didn’t want to expose ourselves an unnecessary amount,” Smithson replied.

“Good thinking,” Tim agreed. “Suspicious eyes are everywhere.”

Smithson led them to a black 1997 Vauxhall Frontera SUV where they loaded their luggage into the back, got in, and drove away into the Irish night. The countryside was very flat.

“It’s flatter here than it is in New Bern,” Jerrel whispered to Tim as they drove through winding streets.

Forty-five minutes later, they drove up to a smallish, grey, granite-stone castle with a narrow covered entrance on the left. Light showed in two windows. One was on the upper level on the far right corner of the building.  The other was on the ground floor to the right of the entrance.

Smithson parked behind the castle under some huge oak trees, led them to a heavy wooden door, and knocked three times.

A thick Italian accent said, “Come in.”

They followed Smithson inside to a room with heavy wooden tables and old-fashioned wooden chairs. Paolo L. Ferretti was a jolly, rotund Santa Claus of a man with a full beard and a tankard of beer in his right hand.

After shaking hands, he handed each of them a tankard of warm beer. “Tonight we drink. Tomorrow we plot to destroy civilization.”

He didn’t look very dangerous.

After many toasts to Ireland and Italy and the beauty of the women in both countries, Ferretti led Tim and Jerrel down a long, dimly lit hall to their rooms. Each room had a heavy wooden door, a single bare light bulb in the ceiling, a cot with a thin cotton mattress and a straight back chair.

After Ferretti left, Tim came into Jerrel’s room. “Spooky, ain’t it?”

“Yeah,” Jerrel agreed. “I guess it’s a good place to hatch a fiendish plot.”

“Where’s the bathroom?”

“Don’t know.”

“Maybe there isn’t one.”

“There’s got to be one somewhere.”

Jerrel fished out a flashlight. “Let’s look.”

They wandered down the hallway to the end, checking each door, but only found rooms like the ones they occupied. Then they followed an intersecting hallway and at the end they found a door-less entry. In the dim light from a small-watt light bulb and Jerrel’s flashlight, they saw a row of ten old fashioned bathtubs with lion paw feet. On the other side were ten commodes and along the wall with the windows, they saw ten sinks and mirrors. Everything was spotlessly clean.

“This must be some kind of old barracks,” Tim said.

“I’m gonna wait until daylight to take a bath,” Jerrel said.

“Yeah, me too.”

“Wonder where Ferretti and Smithson are staying?” Tim asked.

“Not here with us privates. I bet they’re in some fancy Irish inn with plumbing in their rooms and a soft bed with sheets.”

“Rank has its privileges,” Tim agreed.

They returned to their rooms, undressed and were soon fast asleep in their cots.

▲▼▲▼▲

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

A rooster’s crow woke them. After an old fashioned tub bath in the washroom, they reported to the mess room where they had met Smithson and Ferretti the evening before. Light was streaming into the room’s row of windows facing east. There was nothing ready, no coffee, no tea, just the room and tables with empty beer tankards where they had left them when they went to bed.

While they were checking the cabinets for a coffee maker and coffee, a woman entered the room.

“Who are you?” she asked in a heavy English accent.

“I’m Tim Walton and this is Jerrel Oldhaus.”

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“We’re meeting with Kael Smithson and Paolo L. Ferretti,” Tim replied.

“Oh,” she said. “Kael must be using this room for one of his silly conferences.”

Jerrel laughed. “You’re not taking this as seriously as Kael is.”

She looked at Jerrel as if she was sizing him up. “You’re an American.”

“Yep, and you’re an Englishwoman.” Jerrel stated the obvious with a crooked grin.

“I am, and I am proud to be one,” she replied. She stood up straight and tall. She was as tall as Jerrel. “I am Lady Twyla Wingate,” she announced, “eldest daughter of Lady Ethelean and Lord Henry Wingate.”

“I’ve never met a real aristocratic lady before,” Jerrel replied. “You’re a mighty fine looking English Lady, too.”

Tim suppressed a laugh. Jerrel was making points.

She smiled. “You’re a Southern man. Your voice contains a subtle, yet, unmistakable passion. An American Yankee would not possess the manners or the passion of a true Southern gentleman.”

“Naw,” Jerrel agreed. “Their mamas didn’t teach them any manners.”

She obviously approved of his answer. “How long will you be visiting Kael?”

“I don’t know, maybe a couple of days,” Jerrel replied.

“After your meeting is over this evening, I invite you to sit with me for late tea in the castle sitting room,” she said with a smile. “You can tell me more about what a fine looking lady I am. Robert will come for you at eight.”

“Who’s Robert?”

“Robert is our butler.” She paused. “We may share a bottle of wine after the tea is gone.”

“I’ll be ready,” Jerrel replied with a grin.

Lady Twyla turned without saying another word, and walked away swinging her hips as she left.

“She ain’t bad,” Jerrel said with a grin. “Wonder how aristocratic English women are in bed?”

“Jerrel,” Tim said, “you are the luckiest man I know. We ain’t been in Ireland twenty-four hours and you’ve already got a date.”

“When you’re hot, you’re hot.”

 

 

Kael and Paolo wandered in looking like death warmed over.

“You two sure look chipper this morning,” Kael said.

“The rooster woke us up,” Tim said.

“You’ve cleaned up. Where’d you do that?”

“In the washroom at the end of the hall.”

“There’s a washroom here?”

“Yeah,” Jerrel replied, “It’s got lion foot bathtubs, old fashioned commodes, sinks, and mirrors.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“How’d you find this place?” Tim asked.

“I live down the road about a mile.”

“So you know the Wingates?”

“I’ve known them all my life.”

“What kinda folks are they?” Tim asked.

“They’re a reclusive family. They don’t cause anybody any trouble but they don’t go out and mingle with the locals much, either.”

“We met Lady Twyla this morning,” Jerrel said.

“Where?” Kael asked.

“Right here.” 

“She came in here with you?” Kael asked in surprise.

“Yeah,” Tim replied, “And Jerrel’s got a date with her tonight.”

Kael laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Jerrel asked.

Kael couldn’t believe his ears. “You are kidding, aren’t you?”

“No,” Tim replied. “She asked him to have tea with her at eight.”

Kael found this hilarious.

Jerrel was offended. “She’s a nice woman.”

“She is a real catch,” Kael replied with a smirk.

“What do you mean?” Jerrel asked.

“I’ve never heard of her going on a date.”

“That means she’s a nice woman,” Jerrel replied defensively.

“They say Lady Twyla still sleeps in the same room with her mother,” Kael got out between guffaws. 

“So?” Jerrel asked. He was getting angry that Kael thought this was so funny. “Maybe she doesn’t like to sleep by herself.”

“I also heard she writes letters to her father every day.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Jerrel asked. “She honors family bonds.”

“He’s been dead for twelve years,” Kael eked out between spates of laughter. By now, Tim and Paolo also thought it was pretty funny.

“Are you trying to turn me against her?” Jerrel asked. “Why she’s a fine looking aristocratic lady.”

“Oh, no,” Kael replied. “I urge you to keep your rendezvous with the beautiful Lady Twyla. And we want to hear all about it tomorrow morning.”

Tim changed the subject. “We’re hungry. What’s the plan for breakfast?”

“We’ll breakfast at the Rainbow in Armagh.”

These men don’t act like vicious conspirators Tim thought, as they got into Kael’s Vauxhall to go to breakfast in a restaurant two miles from where Kael lived.

Tim and Jerrel were hungry and the Irish breakfast was good. Kael was a popular customer and several men stopped by their table to pass the time of day with him. He introduced Tim and Jerrel as visiting American tourists. It was ten by the time they returned to Gosford Castle. This time Kael and Paolo removed two file boxes from the back of the Vauxhall and carried them into the meeting room. When they were inside, he removed four thick accordion folders and handed one to each of them.

“Paolo and I are in charge of Death, the rider of the Pale Horse. Our immediate task is to identify a way to poison large numbers of people. After we determine the method, we are to meet in Casablanca, Morocco, in three months and give our report to Lord Phillip.

“We have done quite a bit of research looking for poisons that are potent and dilute quickly into public water supply sources. It must be tasteless and clear and it must be compact so that a few ounces will render a whole reservoir deadly to anyone who drinks the water.”

“What about cholera?” Tim asked.

“Cholera is too well known and too easily detected. Anthrax is also too common and commonly understood. We must identify a new poison that acts quickly, before scientists can counter its effects.”

“This could take a while,” Jerrel said skeptically.

“We think we have found one.”

“Where?” Tim asked.

“New Guinea.”

“New Guinea’s nothing but a big tropical swamp,” Jerrel said.

“Right. It is a fetid laboratory of vegetation, strange animals, insects, birds, and people. There are tribes who have not yet been contacted by modern man.”

Tim raised his eyebrows. “So, you’re about to assign us to travel to New Guinea to discover some sort of poison!”

“We have narrowed your search to a particular location where a strange-looking plant produces a clear resin which is reputed to be deadly.”

“What kind of plant?” Jerrel asked.

“Paolo and I have named it the Michelin Pineapple. The drawing we saw in the British Museum looks like the Michelin tire man with pineapple leaves where his head ought to be. It has a greenish purple color and it grows in only one place on earth.”

“Must be in some impenetrable swamp,” Jerrel said.

“No, it grows on a mountain called Mount Wilhelm in Papua, New Guinea.  It is a tropical, mist-covered limestone mountain peak 4,884 meters high. We want you to go there and locate the plant. Then you must obtain a sample of the poison, test its lethality and, if it is as potent as advertised, bring back samples.”

“You are assigning me and Jerrel to do that?” Tim asked skeptically.

“That is exactly what we want you to do,” Kael replied.

“Will one of you go with us?” Jerrel asked.

“Hell no!” Kael replied, his geniality having disappeared at the prospect of doing real work. “Lord Phillip did not tell us to go anywhere or do anything. He ordered us to get it done. You two are our instruments to accomplish Lord Phillip’s directive. Besides, we must stay here where we can recruit other revolutionaries.”

“What about guides and interpreters?” Tim asked.

“We have retained an Australian guide who is familiar with the country.”

“Can he speak the native language?”

“He’s fluent in Melanesian Pidgin, the lingua franca of New Guinea, and he speaks some of the native tribal dialects.”

“Where will we meet him?” Jerrel asked.

“Papua, New Guinea,” Kael replied.

“What’s his name?” Tim asked.

“Rough Hardison.”

“Sounds about right,” Jerrel muttered.

“When?” Tim asked.

“Ten days from now. We have no time to lose.”

Paolo spoke. “Kael, it is time for lunch.”

“So it is,” Kael agreed. “Shall we return to the Rainbow?”

“I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else,” Jerrel said with muted enthusiasm.

Kael ignored the sarcasm. (Continued next Month)

 

 

The Edward Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

2020 Winners

Grand Panjandrum's Special Award

As hard-nosed P.I. Dan McKinnon stepped out into the gray gritty dawn, a bone chilling gust of filth-strewn wind wrapped the loose ends of his open trench coat around him like a day-old flour tortilla around a breakfast burrito with hash browns, sausage, and scrambled eggs, hold the pico.

Lisa Hanks, Euless, TX

Adventure

Winner

"Haul away on those slug guskets, you bilge-scum!" roared the aged captain, leaning wearily against the starboard clog-hutch and watching as the mizzen spittlestoat rose majestically upward until it cuzzled atop the upper spit flukes, and cursing his fate that rum and advancing years compelled him to continually improvise names for the rigging of his own ship but then deciding, with a resigned sigh, that it didn't really matter.  Geoffrey Braden, Seattle, WA

 Dishonorable Mentions

Sally loved Geoff so deeply that if he were a pirate on a dread pirate ship (and not an insurance adjuster), snarling and drinking, murdering and raping his way across the Caribbean (well, maybe not raping, it was the sentiment that counted) and he had a peg leg, she would have gladly sawed her own leg off and sewed it to his stump with silken threads, so he could dance again, holding her up since she was now a sudden amputee. David Lourne, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

 None of us, not a single jack-tar of the ten poor souls consigned to the only surviving lifeboat from our torpedoed freighter, the “S.S. Walter Jacob,” the noblest vessel that ever hauled the weapons of war across the Seven Seas and back again, had a nickel's worth of life insurance.

John Hardi, Falls Church, VA

As he slowly shadowed the white Amazon Prime van down Midvale Drive in the Fresno suburbs on a sweltering July afternoon, Nigel “Cutthroat” Hawkins thought back over his career —fastboating along the Somali coast, broadcasting at 50,000 watts from international waters just off the Isle of Man, running half a million counterfeit “Bourne Identity” DVDs out of Hong Kong—and had but a single question: is this really what piracy has come to? G. Andrew Lundberg, Los Angeles, CA

 

Crime/Detective

Winner

When she walked into my office on that bleak December day, she was like a breath of fresh air in a coal mine; she made my canary sing. Yale Abrams, Santa Rosa, CA

 

Dishonorable Mentions

She sauntered into his smoke-filled office with legs that, although they didn’t go quite all the way to heaven, definitely went high enough for him to see that she was a giraffe. Jarrett Dement, Eau Claire, WI

“Handless” Harvey Hanker, the sharpest detective in the northern hemisphere, had little regard for fingerprints, but a nose like Karl Malden’s, and he could sniff out clues like a bloodhound with its nose buried in the groin of a fox. Pete Zenz, Middleton, WI

 Handsome French policeman, Andre Poiret, grappled with the puffed-up albino hitman, who was about to shoot the beautiful high-class call girl, Gigi Lamour, who was taking a shower in her apartment, with his big gun. Belinda Daly, London,UK

 Dark & Stormy

Winner

It was a dark and stormy night, explained Moscow weatherman Sergei Ivanovitch Nabokov, or Sergei Invanovich, fondly called Seryozha by some and Seryozhenka by his family, but don’t bother memorizing that as Sergei won’t appear again until the end of this book, when his weather forecast is heard in the background as we learn that the main character, Alexei Dmitriovich Makarov, or Alexei Dmitriovich, also known as Alyosha, Alyoshka, or Alyoshenka ( or simply Alexei M.) has shockingly died. Frank Bennett, Malvern, PA

 Dishonorable Mention

It was a dark and stormy night, the kind where the orchestra in a crime movie would bang on a piece of wavy sheet metal and blow raspberries to add ambience to the drizzle coming from an off-camera stagehand holding a garden hose. Benjamin Tennenbaum, Chicago IL

 Fantasy & Horror

Winner

“So, these are Hobbits?” Grenwildr thought to herself, making an attempt to seem worldly and not at all surprised by how small they were, despite the pressure to purchase quickly; the price was right and the taxidermist would be closing shop soon. Grant Gordon, North Sutton, NH

 Dishonorable Mentions

Upon reaching the age of 13, young Ker-Jar of the Hill People was anxious to complete the time honored Test-of-Manhood required for all boys his age; to hunt down and kill a corporate Director of Personnel Management using only a cordless belt sander. Greg Homer, San Vito,

 Costa Rica

She was the aptly named Queen of Night, dark in demeanor and sullen in psyche, nocturnal as well so her given names, Madleve, Noirine, Vespereth were spoken only in the eboonic gloom of a moonless night whereas otherwise everyone just called her “Debbie.” Tim Metz, Kokomo, IN

Historical Fiction

Winner

When Sir John of York fought in the crusades, he killed many Saracens with great dispatch, and was likened unto a whirling dervish of steel and Christian might—minus the dizziness from constantly spinning in a circle, and the fact that he was on a horse that couldn't do that. Edward Covolo, Menlo Park, CA

Dishonorable Mentions

Before the beginning God leaned forward from the Empyrean Throne and gazed at the heaps of OED fascicles littered in layers across the cloudy carpet, still uncertain just which Word was the perfect one with which to begin and seriously annoyed that She had decided to do the whole damn thing in English . . . Art Feenan, Kennesaw, GA

 Purple Prose

Winner

The biker gang roared into the parking lot of the bar and grill like a troop of howler monkeys trying to lure mates, the gravel beneath the tires of their well-oiled bikes crunching like the dill pickle spears the place served alongside their famous tuna salad, BLT, and Reuben sandwiches.

Candy Mosely, Hydro, OK

Dishonorable Mentions

Ah, dearest Lumplina: Her lips were a symphony, her face was a melody, and her body was a concerto—except for that one hangnail that was like a strident E-chord from a sleepy, hungover guitarist who, if he shows up drunk again to practice, so help me I will kick him out of the band—yes, that was Lumplina. Edward Covolo, Menlo Park, CA

 Romance

Winner

In Gertrude’s experience lovemaking was always bittersweet, or at least it had been until one fateful night when Chaz, the seductive man behind the concession stand blessed her with the salty-sweet bliss reminiscent of both true romance and quality kettle corn. Julie Winspear, Washington, D.C.

 Dishonorable Mentions

Gasping for breath as she lay in the dew-laden lakeside grass, Rifka Lieberman's chest heaved with rising passion as Saul Cohen approached with the inhaler she had left behind at the assisted living facility. Leo Gordon, Los Angeles, CA

In his passion, he tore at her clothes, popping the buttons off her blouse, causing her to moan deeply, as she dreaded the thought of having to find beige buttons on the off-white carpeting, to say nothing of her hatred of sewing and her hopes that her favourite blouse wasn't ruined.

Mike Bowerbank, Vancouver, Canada

 Science Fiction

Winner

"You folks from outa town?” inquired waitress Ginny, shifting her wad of gum, notepad at the ready to take the orders, while the slime-green, scale-covered, three-eyed members of the Dzznks family, who had travelled many a parsec from their rock planet home in the Large Magellanic Cloud, rubbering their eyes over the menu in Buck’s Diner, wondered if ‘grits’ tasted just as good as they sounded. David Hynes, Bromma, Sweden

Dishonorable Mentions

“The quantum flux field of the post-Einsteinian hyperdrive has gone asymptotically and we are in danger of approaching singularity as described by the Schrodinger equations!” cried Captain Quirke, having no clue what he said, only knowing it sounded sciencey, secretly crossing his fingers behind his back and hoping there were no physicists reading because he didn’t want any pedantic letters saying it was nonsense. Sue Doenim, England

In the midst of fleeing the city which was under heavy assault by the invading aliens, known as Comadans, in their octagon shaped flying machines, Marjorie fell to the ground with a twisted ankle and feared the inevitable, until a Comadan, in a moment of alien compassion, picked her up and took her inside where he put her to work washing the dishes and scrubbing the toilets.

Randy Blanton, Murfreesboro, TN

 The arrival of the Earthlings with their superior trade goods had devastated the Trmfflagons’ civilization, but Krrsqtch vowed that by before night fell, his people’s pincers-to-mandible existence would come to an end. Gregory Feeley, Hamden, CT

  Vile Puns

Winner

As the passing of Keith Richards was announced on the evening news, just as had been done with Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood before him, Jorge gazed at the television in his Tijuana home and felt a sickening knot form in his stomach, for he realized that finally, after all the albums, concert tours, and era-defining cultural impact, the Rolling Stones would gather no más. Aaron Cabe, Hillsboro, OR

 Dishonorable Mentions

With a whole Holst of problems Mahler Liszt unRaveling from the Verdi beginning, Chaz was the most clueless employee ever at SCHUBERTTER BELIEVE IT!, but the straw that Baroque the camel's Bach—that led his supervisor to finally fly Orff the Handel—was watching as Chaz lost his balance while attempting to climb a ladder with his arms containing the entire store inventory, and he decided once and for all that Chaz was destined for the Chopin block. Amy Torchinsky, Chapel Hill, NC 

 

Enid shrewdly considered the lushness of litigation for copyright infringement as she once more reviewed her genealogical studies which revealed that her aunt, Senta Berger, whose first husband was Gregor Mendel and second was Carl Czerny made her a Senta Mendel Czerny. F. Michael Angelo, Plowville, PA

 Western

Winner

Although Snake-Eye Slade had told him to get out of town (in some old-timey western vernacular), Allthumbs McGubbins reckoned that ever since the unfortunate pistol-in-the-holster discharge accident, he couldn’t quite manage a skedaddle but felt that his departure would require something faster than a mosey. Tim Metz, Kokomo, IN

 Dishonorable Mentions

As sheriff, I had handled most of the Dwarf gang, having shot Sleepy, Bashful and Sneezy, strung up Grumpy and Dopey and disemboweled Happy, but Doc, since you got away, I’m sending Happy’s entrails to you, until we meet again. Arlen Feldman, Colorado Springs, CO

 Lou, the bartender, knew that gunfire in the saloon was pert near sure when Rex threw down his cards at the poker game, rose from his chair and accused Charlie of cheating, and then Charlie replying, “Yeah, well, if you spent more time with your missus then she wouldn’t be spending so much time rollin’ round with me in your hayloft.” Randy Blanton, Murfreesboro, TN

Miscellaneous Dishonorable Mentions

With all three baserunners standing on second base and two of them crying, Little League umpire Brittany Skiles thought to herself; ‘Rule Brittany; Brittany waive the rules.’ Greg Homer, San Vito, Costa Rica

A young and only slightly slack-shouldered Igor acted on his hunch —that University of Ingolstadt organic chemistry morgue interns (whose collective job was to replace decaying corpses with ‘fresh’ cadavers) might better recall the destination protocol with an appropriate mnemonic device: “to Victor go the spoils.” Peter S. Bjorkman & Benjamin P. Bjorkman, Rocklin, CA

 The gentle, rhythmic sound of water lapping at the metal hull of the boat transported Phillip back to a simpler time of marshmallow campfires and magical summers at the lake until, upon waking, he came to realize it was only the sound of the Roomba vacuuming robot which had short-circuited and was running repeatedly into the baseboard heat register. Tony Buccella, Allegany, NY

 

A Celebration

Diana Goldsmith

 

It might seem like the same old story

How our God sent His Son down to this mortal earth

But what made the King of all glory.

To humble Himself in arriving by human birth.

We go back to the Garden with Adam and Eve

God gave them fruit if they would only obey

But the serpent’s job was to deceive

So our God had to cast them away.

 

It might seem like the same old story

How our God sent His Son down to this mortal earth

But what made the King of Glory

Humble Himself in arriving by human birth.

 

A loving Father longed to bring them back again

Over the years they heard His voice

Through cloud and fire and even much pain

Would come a time to rejoice

 

It might seem like the same old story

How our God sent His Son down to this mortal earth

But what made the King of Glory

Humble Himself in arriving by human birth

 

So to a world filled with sin and fear

Came God's answer-He would become incarnate man

To angels and shepherds he would appear

Unbelievers though would Him still ban.

It might seem like the same old story

How our God sent His Son down to this mortal earth

But what made the King of all glory

Humble Himself in arriving by human birth

 

Carpenter Joseph and Mary his wife

Came to Bethlehem to give birth

Their boy Jesus would bring new life

While angels, and shepherds were filled with mirth

 

It might seem like the same old story

How our God sent His Son down to this earth

But what made the King of Glory

Humble Himself in arriving by human birth?

 

Asleep at the Wheel

Tim Whealton

 

No, this is not a story about driving but just some thoughts about getting older and looking back. There are so many things in my life that took a lifetime for me to realize what they were and why. Then there are so many others that I understood perfectly when I was younger that are now mysteries again.

When I was a small child, I lived in the segregated world of the 1950s. There were only white people in my town. A small group of black families that lived just outside town. We had basically no interaction with any black person and we were not allowed to go where they lived. They were not hated or despised, they were just separate. They rode on the public bus with us to New Bern but they always sat on the back seats. Mother wouldn’t let me stare but I always was amazed at the physical differences. My mother would always speak with courtesy to the black people but that would be the only interaction. They were obviously treated as second class but I didn’t know why.

I learned more m few years later after my Dad suffered a heart attack and my Mother went to work full-time at the hospital. Pop was almost an invalid but he could take care of himself. Mom informed me that she had hired a black lady to help her clean the house one day a week. I didn’t know much but I knew this meant change. I thought about those old movies with the black slaves waiting on rich white people dressed up sitting on the porch. I didn’t think we were rich!

I was at home from school the first time Elnora came. She worked hard and didn’t say much. My Mother had cleaned for two days so the house wouldn’t be a disgrace. She even had me cleaning to save our reputation. I told mother the house was clean enough we didn’t need a maid but she told me the maid would come next week anyway.

Next week came and Mom was fixing lunch and a cake. I asked for a piece and she told me I had to wait because it was for Elnora’s birthday. I said I thought she was coming to take care of us and not the other way around.

I got the stare that said without words “Watch out, you are getting a little too smart” so I dropped it.

After that, I could tell Mom looked forward to working with Elnora and spending time talking about life and family with her. In short Elnora had become a friend.

Then one day Mom was putting her cleaning stuff in a sack with some food and snacks. I asked what was happening. She said she was going to Elnora’s house to care for her because she had been in the hospital. This meant my Mom was going into “their” neighborhood. I asked her if Elnora was going to pay her and she just said “I hope you will learn to do the right thing one day” as she walked out.

A couple years later I was in high school. I was in 9th grade the first year of integration. It didn’t amount to much. Just one or two black kids in each class. They were ignored by most students and kept to themselves. It must have been hard on those first ones. The numbers increased over the next four years (Believe it or not, I finished high school in four years!). I don’t remember any problems.

A year later I went to work as phone man. When I changed over from installer to cable splicer, they put me with Milton to train me. Milton was a big muscular black man. He went to school before integration but was one of the first black men to work outside as a cable splicer. I knew he had worked with my brother years before but I had never heard the inside story. Milton said on the first day the boss just said “Somebody take Milton with you and teach him something if you can.”

He said everybody got up and walked out and left him there except my brother Warren. He said Warren got up and said “Come with me, I don’t see any difference, you’re just trying to make a living like the rest of us.” It was the start of a lifelong friendship.

I learned a lot about telephone cable with Milton. But what he really taught me was about his life in a segregated world. He told about how his parents couldn’t travel because gas stations wouldn’t sell gas to a black man unless he was local. Motels wouldn’t rent a room and finding medicine, doctors and treatment was almost impossible. I had never thought about such things. I watched how he loved his children and wanted the best for them. He didn’t seem any different than me.

It was years later when I started to hear the word “diversity”. It quickly became a buzz word whenever anyone was speaking about racial issues. Big business and Industry also started talking about how much they valued diversity in the workplace. Every politician was sure to use the phrase “value diversity” several times in every speech. I was busy making a living so I didn’t think about it much and it just sort of crept into my thinking that there must be some advantages to differences.

Since I watch news from many sources, I get lots of views on the state of our world today. It’s scary to see how dangerous the world has become and how divided our own country has become. It’s not just race but deep divisions between cultures. Indeed the countries that have the most diversity have the most problems. Looking back at my life when I met someone that was different, it was the common ground and the ways we were alike that helped us become friends. Maybe we need to start to value common ground and each other more than the things that us different!

I looked in the Bible for help and found advice on diversity. It was 2000 years ago and Paul told the Galatians that they were neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, instead they were all one in Christ Jesus. What would our world look like if we found a way to do this? The first step is to see first that we have a common bond.

Just try it a little at the time for this Christmas season. If it helps go deeper. We have a lot to lose if we don’t find a way value each other.

Merry Christmas


The Truthful Lawyer

 

A lawyer, who had a wife and 12 children, needed to move because his rental agreement was terminated by the owner who wanted to reoccupy the home. The lawyer was having difficulty finding a new place to live. When he said he had 12 children, no one would rent a home to him because they felt that the children would destroy the place. He couldn't say he had no children, because he couldn't lie. We all know lawyers cannot and do not lie.

So, he sent his wife for a walk to the cemetery with 11 of their children. He took the remaining one with him to tour rental homes with the real estate agent. He loved one of the homes and the price was right.

The agent asked: "How many children do you have? He answered: "Twelve" The agent asked, "Where are the others?"

The lawyer, putting on his best courtroom sad look answered, "They're in the cemetery with their mother.”

Moral: It's not necessary to lie, one only has to choose the right words, and don't forget - most politicians are lawyers!


 

Merry Christmas from Moccasin Gap

December 2008

Brad Carver

 

- My daddy used to be able to tell if it was going to rain by the way his corns hurt.

 - He used to sit on the front porch and put his feet up on the railing, take his shoes off, rub his feet and go, “It’s gonna rain today.” It could be sunshine without a cloud in the sky, but somehow he knew it was gonna rain. And it would always rain before the day was through.

- If his arthritis was acting up it was gonna snow. If his rheumatism was acting up it was gonna be a tornado coming through. I once asked him how he knew all that stuff. He said, “It’s a gift.”

 - I was six years old. I was wondering who gave him that gift for Christmas and how can I top it. Somehow, the electric razor I gave him didn’t mean squat. You can’t tell anything from shaving.

 - My daddy wasn’t much for talking. I remember when I moved away to college I would call home to talk to him. He’d answer the phone and I’d go, “Hey daddy.” The first thing he’d say is, “Hang on, I’ll get your mamma.”

 - One year for Christmas he got me an electric train set but I couldn’t play with it for two weeks. Every time I tried, he was playing with it. He loved that train set.

 - He always got me stuff that he could enjoy too and I learned from that. That’s why this year for Christmas; I’m getting my seven year old a twelve foot pontoon boat.

 - We used to always have a big party at our house on Christmas and all the family would come over; aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody. And everybody would bring a covered dish. I remember one year everybody brought potato salad; seventy three bowls of potato salad.

 - To this day potato salad is my least favorite food, right behind fruit cake, which was always made by grandma. She was old and didn’t care if we liked it or not.

 - Who invented fruit cake and why did they do it? What were they thinking? “Let’s invent a cake that no one will eat and make it a Christmas dish.”

 - No one likes it, not even Santa Claus. Every time I’d leave out a slice with a glass of milk on Christmas Eve, the next morning the milk would be gone, but the fruit cake would still be there.

 - You can’t get rid of the stuff. It lasts forever. Fruit cake never goes bad and even if it does, how will you know?

 - I Always give fruit cake to people I don’t like. Those I really don’t like get two.

 - My family’s not really big on Christmas decorations. We put up a tree and a wreath on the door and that’s about it. My neighbors are rednecks. They put up a glowing Santa Claus on top of their house with a number eight on his suit.

- And he’s peeing on a Ford Sleigh.

- And a cemetery wreath on the door instead of a Christmas wreath. I guess when times are tough you make do the best as you can.

- I remember one year when Daddy was out of work and couldn’t get me anything for Christmas, he drove around the neighborhood and picked up boxes on the side of the road where other people got their kids stuff. Then he put the boxes under our tree. We were really poor that year but I got a lot of really nice boxes.

 - Anyway, here’s a Merry Christmas to you and your family from Moccasin Gap. That’s right, I said Merry Christmas. I don’t care who I offend.

 - I notice the folks at Wal-Mart say, “Happy Holidays.” They don’t want to offend the Muslims.

 - There are no Muslims in Moccasin Gap, just God fearing, unemployed country folks.

- And if there were any Muslims here, the rednecks would use them for target practice.

 - If they don’t say, “Merry Christmas” then you shouldn’t shop there, bottom line. 

- And now, in California they’re using a slimmed down Santa Claus because the fat one sends the wrong message. They should rope off California from the rest of the country.

 - I’ll be so glad when the big earthquake comes and sends California sliding into the ocean.

 - I’m so glad I was born in North Carolina. We don’t have crazy people here, just folks who are special.

 “Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best. Genius must always have lapses proportionate to its triumphs.” Max Beerbohm

  Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.

—Ellen Goodman

 

 

The Diary of Edward Bulwer-Lytton

 

15th. Coming on board we found all the Commissioners of the House of Lords at dinner with my Lord, who after dinner went away for shore. Mr. Morland, now Sir Samuel, was here on board, but I do not find that my Lord or any body did give him any respect, he being looked upon by him and all men as a knave. Among others he betrayed Sir Rich. Willis that married Dr. F.  Jones's daughter, who had paid him 1000£. at one time by the Protector's and Secretary Thurloe's order, for intelligence that he sent concerning the King. In the afternoon my Lord called me on purpose to show me his fine cloathes which are now come hither, and indeed are very rich as gold and silver can make them, only his sword he and I do not like. In the afternoon my Lord and I walked together in the coach two hours, talking together upon all sorts of discourse: as religion, wherein he is, I perceive, wholly sceptical, saying, that indeed the Protestants as to the
Church of Rome are wholly fanatiques: he likes uniformity and form of prayer: about state-business, among other things he told me that his conversion to the King's cause (for I was saying that I wondered from what time the King could look upon him to become his friend,) commenced from his being in the Sound, when he found what usage he was likely to have from a Commonwealth. My Lord, the Captain, and I supped in my Lord's chamber, where I did
perceive that he did begin to show me much more respect than ever he did yet. After supper, my Lord sent for me, intending to have me play at cards with him, but I not knowing cribbage, we fell into discourse of many things, and the ship rolled so much that I was not able to stand, and he bid me go to bed.

 16th. Come in some with visits, among the rest one from Admiral Opdam, [The celebrated Dutch Admiral.] who spoke Latin well, but not French nor English, whom my Lord made me toentertain. Commissioner Pett [Naval Commissioner at Chatham.] was now come to take care to get all things ready for the King on board. My Lord in his best suit, this the first day, inexpectation to wait upon the King. But Mr. Edw. Pickering coming from the King brought word that the King would not put my Lord to the trouble of coming to him, but that; he would come to the shore to look upon the fleet to-day, which we expected, and had our guns ready to fire, and our scarlet waist-cloathes out and silk pendants, but he did not come. This evening came Mr. John Pickering on board, like an asse, with his feathers and new suit that he had made at the Hague. My Lord very angry for him staying on shore, bidding me a little before to send for him,telling me that he was afraid that for his father's sake he might have some mischief done him, unless he used the General's name. This afternoon Mr. Edw. Pickering told me in what a sad, poor condition for clothes and money the King was, and all his attendants, when he came to him first from my Lord, their clothes not being worth forty shillings the best of them. And howoverjoyed the King was when Sir J. Greenville brought him some money; so joyful, that he called the Princess Royal [Mary, eldest daughter of Charles I., and widow of the Prince of Orange who died 1646-7. She was carried off by the small-pox, December 1680, leaving a son, afterwards King William III.] and Duke of York to look upon it as it lay in the portmanteau before it was taken out. My Lord told me, too, that the Duke of York is made High Admiral of England.

 17th. Dr. Clerke came to me to tell me that he heard this morning, by some Dutch that are come on board already to see the ships, that there was a Portuguese taken yesterday at the Hague,that had a design to kill the King. But this I heard afterwards was only the mistake upon one being observed to walk with his sword naked, he having lost his scabbard. Before dinner Mr. Edw. Pickering and I, W. Howe, Pim, and my boy, to Scheveling, where we took coach, and so to the Hague, where walking, intending to find one that might show us the King incognito, I met with Captn. Whittington (that had formerly brought a letter to my Lord from the Mayor of London) and he did promise me to do it, but first we went and dined. At dinner in came Dr. Cade, a merry mad parson of the King's. And they two got the child and me (the others notbeing able to crowd in) to see the King, who kissed the child very affectionately. Then we kissed his, and the Duke of York's, and the Princess Royal's hands. The King seems to be a very sober man; and a very splendid Court he hath in the number of persons of quality that are about him; English very rich in habit. From the King to the Lord Chancellor, who did lie bed-rid of the gout: he spoke very merrily to the child and me. After that, going to see the Queen of Bohemia, I met Dr. Fuller, whom I sent to a tavern with Mr. Edw. Pickering, while I and the rest went to see the Queen, who used us very respectfully: her hand we all kissed. She seems a very debonaire, but a plain lady. In a coach we went to see a house of the Princess Dowager's [Mary, daughter of Charles I.] in a park about a mile from the Hague, where there is one of the most beautiful rooms for pictures in the whole world. She had here one picture upon the top, with these words, dedicating it to the memory of her husband:-- "Incomparabili marito, inconsolabilis vidua."

18th. Very early up, and, hearing that the Duke of York, our Lord High admiral, would go on board to-day, Mr. Pickering and I took waggon for Scheveling. But the wind being so very high that no boats could get off from shore, we returned to the Hague (having breakfasted with a gentleman of the Duke's and Commissioner Pett, sent on purpose to give notice to my Lord ofhis coming); we got a boy of the town to go along with us, and he showed us the church where Van Trump lies entombed with a very fine monument. His epitaph, is concluded thus:--"Tandem Bello Anglico tantum non victor, certe invictus, vivere et vincere desiit." There is a sea-fight cut in marble, with the smoake, the best expressed that ever I saw in my life. From thence to the great church, that stands in a fine great market-place, over against the Stadt-House, and there I saw a stately tombe of the old Prince of Orange, of marble and brass; wherein among otherrarities there are the angels with their trumpets expressed as it were crying. There were very fine organs in both the churches. It is a most sweet town, with bridges, and a river in every street. We met with Commissioner Pett going down to the water-side with Major Harly, who is going upon a dispatch into England.

 19th. Up early and went to Scheveling, where I found no getting on board, though the Duke of York sent every day to see whether he could do it or no. By waggon to Lausdune, where the 365children were born, We saw the hill where they say the house stood wherein the children were born. The basins wherein the male and female children were baptised do stand over a largetable that hangs upon a wall, with the whole story of the thing in Dutch and Latin, beginning, "Margarita Herman Comitissa," &c. The thing was done about 200 years ago.

20th. Commissioner Pett at last came to our lodging and caused the boats to go off; so some in one boat and some in another we all bid adieu to the shore. But through the badness of weatherwe were in great danger, and a great while before we could get to the ship. This hath not been known four days together such weather this time of year, a great while. Indeed our fleet wasthought to be in great danger, but we found all well.

 21st. The weather foul all this day also. After dinner, about writing one thing or other all day, and setting my papers in order, hearing by letters that came hither in my absence, that the Parliament had ordered all persons to be secured, in order to a trial, that did sit as judges in the late King's death, and all the officers attending the Court. Sir John Lenthall moving in the House, that all that had borne arms against the King should be exempted from pardon, he was called to the bar of the House, and after a severe reproof he was degraded his knighthood. At Court I find that all things grow high. The old clergy talk as being sure of their lands again, and laugh at the Presbytery; and it is believed that the sales of the King's and Bishops' lands will never be confirmed by Parliament, there being nothing now in any man's power to hinder them and the King from doing what they had a mind, but everybody willing to submit to any thing. We expect every day to have the King and Duke on board as soon as it is fair. My Lord does nothing now, but offers all things to the pleasure of the Duke as Lord High Admiral. So that I am at a loss what to do.

22nd. News brought that the two Dukes are coming on board, which, by and by, they did, in a Dutch boat, the Duke of York in yellow trimmings, the Duke of Gloucester in grey and red. MyLord went in a boat to meet them, the Captain, myself, and others, standing at the entering port. So soon as they were entered we shot the guns off round the fleet. After that they went to view the ship all over, and were most exceedingly pleased with it. They seem to be very fine gentlemen. After that done, upon the quarter-deck table, under the awning, the Duke of Yorkand my Lord, Mr. Coventry and I, spent an hour at allotting to every ship their service, in their return to England; [Sir William Coventry, to whom Mr. Pepys became so warmly attachedafterwards, was the youngest son of Thomas first Lord Coventry, and Lord Keeper. He entered at Queen's College, Oxford, in 1642: and on his return from his travels was made Secretary to the Duke of York, and elected M.P. for Yarmouth. In 1662 he was appointed a Commissioner of the Admiralty; in 1665 knighted and sworn a privy Counsellor; and in 1667 constituted a Commissioner of the Treasury, but having been forbid the Court, on account of his challenging the Duke of Buckingham, he retired into the country, nor could he subsequently be prevailed upon to accept of any official employment. Burnet calls Sir W. C. the best speaker in the House of Commons, and a man of great notions and eminent virtues: and Mr. Pepys never omits an opportunity of paying a tribute to his public and private worth. Ob. 1686, aged 60.] which being done, they went to dinner, where the table was very full: the two Dukes at the upper end, my Lord Opdam next on one side, and my Lord on the other. Two guns given to every man while he was drinking the King's health, and so likewise to the Duke's health. I took down Monsieur d'Esquier to the great cabbin below, and dined with him in state along with only one or two friends of his. All dinner the harper belonging to Captain Sparling played to the Dukes. After dinner, the Dukes and my Lord to sea, the Vice and Rear-Admirals and I in a boat after them. After that done, they made to the shore in the Dutch boat that brought them, and I got into the boat with them; but the shore was full of people to expect their coming. When we came near the shore, my Lord left them and come into his own boat, and Pen and I with him; my Lord being very well pleased with this day's work. By the time we came on board again, news is sent usthat the King is on shore; so my Lord fired all his guns round twice, and all the fleet after him. The gun over against my cabbin I fired myself to the King, which was the first time thathe had been saluted by his own ships since this change; but holding my head too much over the gun, I had almost spoiled my right eye. Nothing in the world but giving of guns almost allthis day. In the evening we began to remove cabbins; I to the carpenter's cabbin, and Dr. Clerke with me. Many of the King's servants come on board to-night; and so many Dutch of all sorts come to see the ship till it was quite dark, that we could not pass by one another, which was a great trouble to us all. This afternoon Mr. Downing (who was knighted yesterday by the King)was here on board, and had a ship for his passage into England, with his lady and servants. By the same token he called me to him when I was going to write the order, to tell me that I mustwrite him Sir G. Downing. My Lord lay in the roundhouse to-night. This evening I was late writing a French letter by my Lord's order to Monsieur Wragh, Embassador de Denmarke a la Haye, which my Lord signed in bed.

 23rd. In the morning come infinity of people on board from the King to go along with him. My Lord, Mr. Crewe, and others, go on shore to meet the King as he comes off from shore, where Sir R. Stayner, bringing His Majesty into the boat, I hear that His Majesty did with a great deal of affection kiss my Lord upon his first meeting. The King, with the two Dukes and Queen ofBohemia, Princesse Royalle, and Prince of Orange, come on board, where I in their coming in kissed the King's, Queen's and Princesse's hands, having done the other before. Infinite shooting off of the guns, and that in a disorder on purpose, which was better than if it had been otherwise. All day nothing but Lords and persons of honour on board, that we were exceeding full. Dined in a great deal of state, the Royalle company by themselves in the coach, which was a blessed sight to see. After dinner the King and Duke altered the name of some of the ships, viz. the Nazeby into Charles; the Richard, James; the Speaker, Mary; the Dunbar (which was not in company with us), the Henry; Winsly, Happy Return; Wakefield, Richmond; Lambert, the Henrietta; Cheriton, the Speedwell; Bradford, the Successe.  [The Naseby now no longer England's shame,
But better to be lost in Charles his name. That done, the Queen, Princesse Royalle, and Prince of Orange, took leave of the King, and the Duke of York went on board the London, and the Duke of Gloucester, the Swiftsure. Which done, we weighed anchor, and with a fresh gale and most happy weather we set sail for England. All the afternoon the King walked here and there, up and down (quite contrary to what I thought him to have been) very active and stirring. Upon the quarter-deck he fell into discourse of his escape from Worcester, where it made me ready to weep to hear the stories that he told of his difficulties that he had passed through, as his travelling four days and three nights on foot, every step up to his knees in dirt, with nothing but a green coat and a pair of country breeches on, and a pair of country shoes that made him so soreall over his feet, that he could scarce stir. Yet he was forced to run away from a miller and other company, that took them for rogues. His sitting at table at one place, where the master ofthe house, that had not seen him in eight years, did know him, but kept it private; when at the same table there was one that had been of his own regiment at Worcester, could not know him,
but made him drink the King's health, and said that the King was at least four fingers higher than he. At another place he was by some servants of the house made to drink, that they might knowthat he was not a Roundhead, which they swore he was. In another place at his inn, the master of the house, as the King was standing with his hands upon the back of a chair by the fire-side, kneeled down and kissed his hand, privately, saying, that he would not ask him who he was, but bid God bless him whither he was going. Then the difficulties in getting a boat to get into France, where he was fain to plot with the master thereof to keep his design from the foreman and a boy (which was all the ship's company), and so get to Fecamp in France. At Rouen he looked so poorly, that the people went into the rooms before he went away to see whether he had not stole something or other. In the evening I went up to my Lord to write letters for England, whichwe sent away with word of our coming, by Mr. Edw. Pickering. The King supped alone in the coach; after that I got a dish, and we four supped in my cabbin, as at noon. About bed-time my Lord Bartlett [A mistake, for Lord Berkeley, who had been deputed with Lord Middlesex and four other Peers by the House of Lords, to present an address of congratulation to the King.] (who I had offered my service to before) sent for me to get him a bed, who with much ado I did get to bed to my Lord Middlesex [Lionel, third and last Earl of Middlesex. Ob. 1674.] in the great cabbin below, but I was cruelly troubled before I could dispose of him, and quit myself of him. So to my cabbin again, where the company still was, and were talking more of the King's difficulties; as how he was fain to eat a piece of bread and cheese out of a poor body's pocket; how, at a Catholique house, he was fain to lie in the priest's hole a good while in the house for his privacy. After that our company broke up. We have all the Lords Commissioners on board us, and many others. Under sail all night, and most glorious weather.

 

The Christmas Dream

By P. L. Almanza

 The year was one of the coldest one on record and Bill had no where to live. It had been one of the hardest years of his life. For a man that had worked thirty years on the same job, and with the sudden layoffs last year, he found himself homeless. Now he was alone in the world with just the shirt on his back and his one last winter's coat. All of his investments in the stock market had failed. His car was his new home now and he didn't even have money for gas. He was now just like the men, women, and children that would wait outside of his office to beg for a little change to buy a hot meal. And He had so often whisked by them without even a second look or any concern for their situation. Why had he not been more considerate? Oh what he would give to turn back the hands of time.

Maybe he would have helped open the homeless shelter a couple of years ago that he had pulled the plug on the plans for because the building was too close to his office, and to Bill appearances meant everything. Maybe he would have opened up his 27,000 square foot home to some of the city's homeless. He could have even built the shelter on part of his more than one thousand acres of land. Well, hindsight really is twenty/twenty vision.

With only two days until Christmas day, Bill had gotten really depressed. He had never thought about the have-nots. Now all he could think of was the could haves, and should haves that he failed to do. He thought of how selfish he had been in not sharing his wealth with anyone. He wished he had married and raised a family. He wondered why he had been so selfish. All of his life, he had never shared with anyone, even when he was a child, he had never shared his toys with the poor neighborhood kids. “Oh if only,” he thought out loud.

Suddenly there was a tap on his window. It was another homeless man that wanted to ask him something. He had been on the streets now long enough now to know that the homeless really do not hurt one another, so he wasn't afraid. He opened the window and said hello to the gentleman. He was surprised to see the concern on his face, when he asked him if he was hungry. Bill told him that he was a little bit hungry. The man then told Bill that he had two sandwiches that a lady had given him and that he wanted to share one with him. Bill asked him if he wanted to sit in the car to get out of the weather. The gentleman declined his offer, gave Bill the sandwich and walked briskly away.

What Bill saw next, brought tears to his eyes. He saw the homeless gentleman stop to talk to a young lady and two kids. He could tell by their dress that they too had fallen on hard times. Without hesitation, the gentleman gave the lady his last sandwich. She hurriedly divided it for herself and her two kids making sure that the kids got the bigger part of the sandwich.

Bill was amazed how someone with so little could give so much, he felt guilty because he knew that the gentleman was hungry also, yet he gave his last good meal of the day to someone that he felt had a greater need than his own. He had put all others before himself. Sharing was some kind of special! Finally Bill  got it, if we don't share what we have with others, then the world will never be a better place, and we will not be the better for it.

When Bill went to sleep that night in his car, he simply could not get the gentleman off his mind. He tossed and turned and turned and tossed until he heard the sound of his alarm clock buzzing in the background.

“What has happened?” he thought out loud, “It was all a dream, I'm not poor!” Then his thoughts went back to his horrible nightmare. He leapt from his bed with a whole new mission. He was going to help the poor everywhere, he would share his wealth, his heart and his home and all of his property and material things. He now realized that what he had was not as valuable to him as it would be for others and sharing gave him the kind of warm feeling that he had never had in his old selfish heart.

Bill suddenly realized that he had been given a second chance. He called the mayor of the city to arrange for the shelter to be built. He also wanted to donate his house as a charity hospital for the poor and homeless. Bill had decided that at least in his city, there would be no more homeless or hungry or sick without the proper healthcare. Not on his watch.

With just two days left before Christmas, Bill decided to have the biggest celebration ever, right there in his home. He offered baths for the homeless, food and a warm place to sleep every night until the shelters were built. That Christmas, Bill would not be eating alone. In fact Bill never ever wanted to spend another Christmas or any day alone again. He was truly a changed man and all because of a dream that he had had two days before Christmas.

So let us not forget this Christmas to share what we have in our hearts and in our homes. Being rich is not about having lots of money. Being rich is peace and love and sharing and caring. Each and everyone please remember that Jesus was born homeless in a stable with animals and he never owned a home, but what he shared with us his whole life, and death, is worth it's weight in gold.

Merry Christmas everyone and an especially Merry Christmas to Bill and all of his new found friends! May Bill be our example of Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards all of mankind.

 

 

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza

 

Cranberry Christmas Cake Made Easy

 

Ingredients:

 3 eggs

 2 cups sugar

3/4 cup butter, softened,

 1 teaspoon vanilla

 2 cups all-purpose flour

 12 oz or 340 grams fresh cranberries.

 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF or 176ºC degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe,  do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl.

2. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout.

3. Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan.

4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.

5. Let cool completely before cutting into small slices.

 

Sugar Cookies

 

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks (1 c) salted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 extra-large egg

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large bowl and using a mixer, cream together the softened butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Gradually, beat in the flour mixture on low speed.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls (about 1"), and place onto ungreased cookie sheets, spacing about 2" apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are golden.

Let stand on cookie sheet for 1 minute then remove cookies to wire cooling racks. Makes about 48 cookies.

 

Optional:

When cookies are completely cool, frost with simple icing (confectioners sugar and enough cream for desired consistency. Icing can be tinted with food coloring) and decorate tops with sprinkles or sparkling sugar, OR dip cookies half way in melted milk chocolate chips. Allow time for icing to harden before serving or storing.

Soft and chewy, They're always a favorite on holiday cookie trays and for gift giving. I love them plain.

 

Heavenly Lemon Frosted Cake

 

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1 1/4 cups white sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon cornstarch

6 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup white sugar

4 egg yolks, beaten

4 cups confectioners' sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons milk

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 8 inch round pans. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

 

Filling:

In medium saucepan, mix together 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 tablespoon cornstarch until smooth. Mix in 6 tablespoons butter and 3/4 cup sugar, and bring mixture to boil over medium heat. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. In small bowl, with a wire whisk, beat egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in a small amount of the hot lemon mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the sauce pan, beating the hot lemon mixture rapidly. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes, or until thick (not to boil).

Pour mixture into medium bowl. Press plastic wrap onto surface to keep skin from forming as it cools. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate 3 hours.

Frosting:

In large bowl, beat confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon lemon zest until smooth. Beat in milk, and increase speed and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

To Assemble:

With long serrated knife, split each cake layer in half horizontally, making 4 layers. Place 1 layer, cut side up, on a serving plate. Spread with half of the lemon filling. Top with another layer, and spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Add third layer, and spread with remaining half of the lemon filling. Press on final cake layer, and frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Refrigerate cake until serving time.

 

 

 

Contributors

 

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

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

Laura A. Alston: lives and writes in Henderson, North Carolina. Her first book, My Pet Rocky Renee, was published in June 2010. In addition she has published Too Many Goodbyes, You Gave me Wings and a book of her collected poems, From My Heart to Yours

Randy Bittle: Is a self-taught independent philosopher who is still learning.  He has two books, both collections of essays, available on Amazon.com. His latest book, More Colors Through My Mental Prism is also available.

 `Brad Carver: was a regular columnist. His book, Daddyhood, was published in 2007. Brad was a humorist, and friend who lived in Semora, North Carolina.  This is a reprint from November 2012. He is now deceased and I still miss him.

 Peggy Lovelace Ellis, has been a freelance editor for 46 years, and a published author for considerably less. Over the past 25 years, she has published regularly in such magazines as Good Old Days, Reminisce, Reminisce Extra, Rock and Gem, Aquarium, True Story, Splickety, Woman’s World, Highlights, and Righter Monthly/Quarterly Review. She publishes in the Divine Moments series, Merry Christmas Moments (November 2017) and The Right Words at the Right Time (forthcoming). She has compiled and edited three anthologies for her writers’ group: Challenges on the Home Front World War II (Chapel Hill Press, 2004), Lest the Colors Fade (Righter Books, 2008), and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories (Righter Books, 2010). Each contains her short fiction, memoirs, and research.

 Diana Goldsmith: Diana has been attending and now runs a shared learner’s ‘Writing for Pleasure’ group for the past 8 years.  She is an avid reader especially historical crime and loves Anne Perry’s books about Victorian England. She lives in Chard, Somerset, UK.

 Howard A Goodman: A veteran of corporate society his entire working life, Howard discovered his passion for writing—an occupation that had lurked subliminally in his subconscious—thanks to the grim reality of suddenly being forced to make a major mid-life career transition. Though he didn’t grow up in the South and is not particularly partial to grits, Howard considers himself a Southern author of sorts. In contrast to those who spin tales of being raised dirt-poor on a tobacco farm, Howard's focus is on the lives of corporate professionals and their families—the thousands who flocked to the upscale cities and towns surrounding North Carolina’s high-tech Research Triangle Park—the Neo-Southerners. Howard resides in Cary, North Carolina

 Carol Rados: resides in Greenville, NC with her husband.  She is retired.  Since her water aerobics classes ended, she has been participating in yoga and stretch classes that are held outside in Alice Keen Park in Greenville, NC. As participants are always socially distanced and often participants wear masks this is a safe environment.  Usually instructors wear masks.  She is the sister of Gene Alston the publisher.

 Marry Williamson: lives in Chard, Somerset, England. She was born in the Netherlands and moved to Britain in 1966. She worked for an Anglo-Dutch company in London. In 1999, Marry and her husband retired and moved to Chard, Somerset. Her hobbies are writing, reading, bird watching, and exploring ancient monuments. She is a member of a local writers’ group in England.

 Tim Whealton: writes a regular column from New Bern, NC. He is a gunsmith whose shop is in Cove City, North Carolina. His book, According to Tim was  published in 2013.

  

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