RPG Digest

September 2019


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Thanks to all these talented writers who have contributed to every issue of RPG Digest with such enthusiasm. This month we welcome two talented new contributors, Howard A. Goodman and Fleur Adcock

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View from Juneau Alaska- June 2007




A Weekend to Remember by E. B. Alston. 3

D. H. Lawrence and His Sexually Explicit Novels by Rita Berman. 4

My Melody by Laura Alston. 11

Natters of a Nomad by Peggy Ellis. 11

No Act of Love Goes Unpunished by Howard A. Goodman. 13

Thought Experiments Regarding the Mind by Randy Bittle. 16

Nine Eleven by Sybil Austin Skakle. 18

Wisteria House by Marry Williamson. 19

The Day When Everything Changed by Diana Goldsmith. 20

A Day Off To Remember by Tim whealton. 21

Excerpt from The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. 23

For a Five-Year-Old by Fleur Adcock. 27

Friends by E. B. Alston. 27

Agapé by Sybil Austin Skakle. 29

To Helen by Edgar Allan Poe. 29

Time Flies by E. B. Alston. 30

Signs 31

Hammer Spade and the Inca Curse – Serialized book by E. B. Alston. 32

Happy Birthday to Gene Alston by Rita Berman. 39

How It All Started by Brad Carver. 40

From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza. 42

How the Internet Started According to the Bible. 46

Why, How?. 47

Contributors. 48



“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt


 A Weekend to Remember

E. B. Alston


September 1, 1973

Butner, North Carolina


Have you ever had a day when the gods smiled on you, the wind was at your back, your boat traveled downstream and your planets were in full alignment? I have. Actually it was Labor Day weekend forty-six years ago.

On the first day of dove season in 1973, Black Industries, a contractor for the telephone company, invited a number of telephone company employees to a dove hunt on their farm near Butner, North Carolina. People came from as far as Alabama and Georgia to attend. The day began with a quail breakfast followed by adult refreshments and card games. Then there would be a pork barbeque lunch. After lunch, we would shoot doves until sundown. Then the games and adult beverage consumption would begin again.

I lived in Butner at the time, so I left the house at seven to go to the breakfast. On the way out the door, I told my wife that I’d be back at noon to get the boys and take them to the barbeque lunch and the dove hunt. This was the first my wife had heard about this plan and, to put it mildly, she was quite upset. Not a very happy start for “my day.”

The breakfast was gourmet grade. Then the play began. I was at a table with eight card players. One of them was Bruce Knott, budget manager for the Plant Department. A piece of good advice: never play poker with Bruce Knott. Things went well for me, too, but I can only win at poker if the other players are drunk. Since Bruce and I didn’t indulge in the adult beverages, we cleaned house. I was up over four hundred by the time I had to go pick up the boys. Bruce did twice as well as I did.

When I arrived at home to get the boys, they were waiting expectantly, but my wife and Lynn had gone to visit my wife’s family. They left about five minutes to twelve. There was a note telling me where they had gone and they would be back Sunday afternoon.

The boys, Mike (13) and Carl (9) had a great time at lunch. They enjoyed mingling with men, doing “manly” things. They were the only children at the function, so the other guests made a lot of them.

After lunch, the sober guests shot a few rounds of skeet from the electric skeet trap that Craig Black had installed. Both of my sons hit their clay pigeons when their time came up to shoot.

After the skeet shoot, we were taken to the hunting field where we were assigned our stands. Our host, Craig Black, had taken quite a fancy to Mike, and put him on a choice stand all by himself. He made his father proud. He shot a single barrel H&R shotgun and I didn’t see him miss a single dove that flew over him. Gary Lee was overheard telling somebody that if that boy had an automatic shotgun, nobody else would get a shot.

At the end of the day, both my boys and I had limited out on doves. By the time we left to go home, my sons were glowing with pride from the complimentary remarks the men had made about their marksmanship and safe handling of their shotguns.

Because I had the boys I didn’t stay for the evening of card games and adult beverages. It was a small sacrifice because, although I enjoy playing cards, getting drunk at a party has never been on my to-do list.

Since I was responsible for supper, the boys and I went to a restaurant in Creedmoor to eat. On the way home I remembered there was a rifle match at Winston-Salem the next day. I got the boys to buy in on going to the match by taking them and a picnic lunch. The range at Winston-Salem had a large open area behind the firing line and usually other shooters came with their families so the boys would have other children to play with while I shot the match.

We got up early the next morning. On the way we stopped in Greensboro at the Spring Garden restaurant for their famous country ham and eggs breakfast. When we arrived at the range, there were other children already there and mothers to look after them, so the boys were taken care of.

I shot very well that day. My classification was Expert at the time and I was pretty sure I’d shot good enough to win the Expert class. But when names of the winners were called out, my name was not called. I started moving my gear to the truck when they called my name. I was match winner and they presented me with the biggest trophy I have ever received.

The boys and I had another nice restaurant meal on the way home. When we drove into the driveway, their mother and sister were already home. As soon as the truck stopped moving, the boys jumped out, dashed into the house and began regaling their mom and sister about all the fun things they had done over the weekend. Then I walked in with that big trophy.

It truly had been my weekend.



D. H. Lawrence and His Sexually Explicit Novels.

Non-fiction by Rita Berman


More copies have been sold of Lawrence’s book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published in 1928 and banned for more than 30 years, than all of his other works combined.     

Lawrence was frank in his writing about the relationships of men and women and his descriptions of sexual behavior shocked many people. They wouldn’t nowadays. “I shall always be a priest of love,” he said, in a letter written soon after he had finished his first major novel Sons and Lovers.

David Herbert Lawrence was known as “Bert” to his family.  His parents, Arthur John Lawrence and Lydia Beardsall Lawrence had three children before he was born on 11 September 1885 at Eastwood, a coal-mining village in Nottinghamshire, nine miles away from Nottingham. 

Lawrence was a frail child, not expected to live beyond a few months.  He died 2nd March 1930 at the age of 44 of tuberculosis.   

His father and mother were not well suited.  His father began working in the Brinsley pit when he was only 7 years old.  He met Lydia, Lawrence’s mother, when he was 28.  She was 22.  It was an attraction of opposites.  She was high-minded and pious.  She had been a schoolteacher and had written poetry.  Arthur was irresponsible and poor, also a heavy drinker.

She loved reading and talking.  He could hardly write and his reading never went beyond the newspapers.  He understood little of what he could read.  “Lass, what’s meaning o’ this ‘ere.” He would ask his wife.  He was inarticulate, and when he did speak had a slight stammer.

Lawrence wrote that his mother was “superior.  She came from town, and belonged to the lower bourgeoisie.”  She spoke King’s English, without an accent, and couldn’t imitate the dialect that her husband and children spoke.

Her daughter wrote that their mother “did not recover from the shock of realizing that her life would be one of almost ceaseless monotony among ugliness and dirt.”

Mrs. Lawrence paid her husband’s debts.  She made continued sacrifices to keep her sons out of the mine and give them a good education. 

Bert (D.H) was her favorite child. When he was 12 he became the first boy from his school to win a scholarship to Nottingham High School. It was worth 12 pounds a year and he had to travel two hours each way.  But he did it for the next three years.  Most of the boys were middle-class, sons of lace manufacturers and shop-keepers.

He left school in 1901 and went to work as junior clerk in Haywood’s surgical goods factory. The hours were long, 12 most days, six days a week.  After three months he became ill with pneumonia and left the job.

He then went on to spend two years at Nottingham University College.  By now he had become friendly with the Chambers family who owned Haggs Farm and he developed a friendship with Jessie Chambers, the middle daughter. While working as a pupil-teacher in Eastwood, he began writing poems, short stories and The White Peacock.  

In 1906 he entered Nottingham University College and received his teacher’s certificate in June 1908.  At the age of 22 he left Nottingham to take a job in Croydon, Surrey, south of London.

From here he continued to write to Jessie.  She visited him in London and he persuaded her to give herself to him.  Shortly after this he met Alice Dax, the wife of an Eastwood chemist and she offered herself to him but he remained faithful to Jessie when Alice visited him in London.

However, during the summer holidays Alice wrote to a friend “I gave Bert sex.  I had to.  He was over at our house, struggling with a poem he couldn’t finish, so I took him upstairs and gave him sex.  He came downstairs and finished the poem.”

Lady Chatterly's lover.jpgIn 1910 his mother became ill, dying of cancer.  Lawrence and his sister could not bear to watch her pointless suffering.  They put morphine in her milk, three days later she died, according to Keith Sagar in his biography, The Life of D.H.Lawrence, published 1980. Photographs of Lawrence, his friends and family, extracts from letters, and reproductions of Lawrence’s art contribute to an in-depth study.

An advance copy of The White Peacock, his first novel, had been rushed to him. He put it into his mother’s hands shortly before her death but she was beyond reading it.

Lawrence recalled that after the funeral his father struggled through half a page of the novel and asked:

“And what dun they gi’e thee for that, lad?

“Fifty pounds, father,” Lawrence replied.

“Fifty pounds!”

“He was dumbfounded”, wrote Lawrence, and looked at me with shrewd eyes, as if I were a swindler.

“Fifty pounds! An tha’s niver done a day’s hard work in thy life.”     

The White Peacock was published in 1911.   In November 1911 he had another bout of pneumonia and gave up teaching in order to write full time.  His output was prodigious, besides novels, he wrote short stories, poems (some 800), plays, essays, travel books, and literary criticism.

Few novelists have broken so much new ground as Lawrence, yet he is never what is usually thought of as a literary experimenter, said Ronald P. Draper, in his evaluation of Lawrence’s work.     

Considering that he died at the age of 44, the quality and quantity of Lawrence’s writings is astonishing, wrote Draper. In creative vitality he must be reckoned on a par with Dickens.  His range is smaller than that of Dickens but he goes much deeper.

In addition to The White Peacock, Lawrence’s novels include Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  One of his most famous short novels, The Fox, has a lesbianism theme played out between two women, a fox and a man.

The main feature of Lawrence’s writings was realism and the gritty struggles of everyday life.  His themes stressed the need for honest and open love between the sexes.  He was skillful at describing the feeling a woman has during lovemaking.

Still, his descriptions of sex were shockingly frank for the Edwardian period.  That may reflect a carryover from the prudish Victorian period.  Sex was something people experienced but didn’t talk about. Lawrence’s book, The Rainbow was banned for containing a lesbian relationship and one publisher called Sons and Lovers, “the dirtiest book he had ever read.” (Wikipedia.org)

Another theme he used was the destruction of nature and the dehumanizing effects of modern life and industrialization.   As a working-class writer he is said to have influenced post-Second World War novelists and playwrights, who tried to present working-class life of their time honestly and from the inside.  Alan Sillitoe, John Braine, Arnold Wesker, Shelagh Delaney and Doris Lessing are some of the writers from that period.  

In 1912 Lawrence went to lunch with Ernest Weekley, his former modern language professor.  Weekley’s wife Frieda Weekley was 15 years younger than her husband and six years older than Lawrence. She had 3 young children by Weekley, but was disappointed in her marriage and had lovers.     

About a month after their meeting, she and Lawrence eloped, first to Germany and then to Italy.  Lawrence had only 11 pounds in his pocket when they left England. Weekley refused to let her see the children after she left him.

While in Italy he completed the final version of Sons and Lovers. Published in 1913 it was said to present the realities of working class provincial life.  It was drawn from his childhood memories, including descriptions of the houses, the location where he lived, the people he knew, and his first interview at the factory, though he did change the names of people. 

About this time Frieda and Lawrence met John Middleton Murry, a critic, and Katherine Mansfield who was a short story writer.  Mansfield is said to have inspired the character of Gudrun Brangwen who appears in two of Lawrence’s books The Rainbow and Women in Love.

After Frieda got her divorce she and Lawrence moved back to England and married in July 1914. Katherine Mansfield and Murry were witnesses at the wedding.  Lawrence and Mansfield had a great deal in common. They were considered outsiders in English society.  They were unconventional in attitude and highly creative, and they were both seriously ill with tuberculosis.  

Lawrence started to write The Rainbow and when he was more than half way through he admitted in a letter to his editor, Edward Garnett, that “nobody will ever dare publish it.  Yet I love and adore this book.”

In a later letter he explains “I can only write what I feel pretty strongly about: and that, at present, is the relation between men and women….the establishment of a new relation, or the readjustment of the old one between men and women.”

It was in this time period that he and Frieda were adjusting to life together. Frieda had not seen her children and in 1915 she visited Weekley wanting to see the children.  They argued and he asked her why she hadn’t gone away with a “gentleman”. He said his solicitors had instructions to arrest her if she tried to see the children.  A year or so later she was allowed to see them for half an hour in the solicitor’s office, wrote Keith Sagar. 

Lawrence was right when he said he would encounter resistance to The Rainbow.  It was published in Sept 1915, and suppressed on November 13 that same year because of its alleged obscenity.

By April 1916 he was working on a sequel to The Rainbow.  He called this book Women in Love.  Some say this is his masterpiece.  It continues the theme of a search for romantic fulfillment.  Through the interaction of Ursula and Birkin, Gerald and Gudrun, set in a coal-mining town in the English Midlands, we see the disharmony when it comes to sex and the inability of men and women to achieve a satisfactory relationship with the opposite sex.

Life was not easy for Lawrence.  He had little money, was married to a woman whose parents were German. Earlier when they had visited her parents in Germany and were overheard speaking in England Lawrence had been accused of being an English spy. 

The Lawrence marriage was stormy, they fought physically, observed by Murry and Mansfield who were staying in a nearby cottage in Zennor, Cornwall.

Katherine Mansfield wrote that: “He simply raves, roars, beats the table… out of control.  After one of these attacks he’s ill with fever, haggard and broken... They are both too tough for me to enjoy playing with.  They are not my kind at all.  And I shall never see sex in trees, sex in running brooks, sex in stones and sex in everything.”  So Mansfield and Murry left.

Meanwhile Lawrence and Frieda were accused of spying and signaling to German submarines. Her cousin was the famous Red Baron air ace.  Their cottage was searched, papers taken and the police came with a paper that said they must leave Cornwall within three days. 

By 1919 Lawrence and Frieda left England and traveled to many countries among them Italy, Ceylon, Australia, North America, Mexico, and France.     

When I think about where he lived, the grimy mining village, the strict class system, and the cold, damp weather, it’s not surprising that he went searching for the sun.   His descriptions of the healing effect of the sun are found in his short story called The Sun.  This was privately printed in London in 1926 and later appeared in his Woman Who Rode Away collection. 

Publisher Harry Crosby had asked Lawrence if he had any manuscripts for sale, preferably having some connection with the sun. Crosby had adopted the sun as his private symbol. He offered to pay Lawrence in pure gold.       

Unfortunately, Lawrence couldn’t find the manuscript of The Sun.  He then wrote to Curtis Brown’s office asking if it was there, saying an American had offered him 100 pounds for it, in his words it was “a windfall.” 

Nancy Pearn, in Brown’s office, wrote back with a list of the manuscripts they were holding and said they had previously returned the Sun manuscript to him.  “Tell me, she asked, would it be cheating to write out the story again in your own fair handwriting to sell to the eager Yank?  If not, why not?”

He took her advice and rewrote it with revisions.  The Black Sun Press subsequently published it.  

Lawrence’s need for warmth was expressed in a letter to John Middleton Murry. “I want to go south, where there is no autumn, where the cold doesn’t crouch over one like a snow leopard waiting to pounce. The heart of the North is dead, and the fingers of cold are corpse fingers.” 

In 1924 he and Frieda acquired a 160-acre ranch near Taos, New Mexico in exchange for the manuscript of Sons and Lovers.  Lawrence is said to have loved this ranch, it was the only home he ever owned. But in March 1925 he suffered a near fatal attack of malaria and tuberculosis and returned to Europe. 

In 1928 Lawrence and Frieda lived in a villa in Northern Italy, southwest of Florence, where it cost them only 25 pounds a year.  Money, the lack of it, was still of great concern. The Villa Mirenda became their home for two years and despite his physical condition it was here that he wrote The Virgin and the Gypsy, and various versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. 

Lawrence said when he created Clifford and Connie, (Lord and Lady Chatterley), he had no idea what they were, or why they were, they just came, pretty much as they are.

And so, sitting on the sunny terrace of the Villa Mirenda or in its tower, which looked out on orchards and olive trees towards Florence, Lawrence created his story of the lady of an English manor house who is awakened by having sex with her husband’s gamekeeper.

He rewrote the story from start to finish three times, giving it three different title.  He called the first version, The First Lady Chatterley, the second was John Thomas and Lady Jane, but when he sent the final version to his London and New York agents and publishers they were unenthusiastic.  So Lawrence decided to have the third version, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, printed privately in Florence.

He thought he would sell a thousand copies at 2 guineas each. “I must bring out the book complete.  …It is, in the latter half at least – a phallic novel, but tender and delicate.” As far as an expurgated edition he said he couldn’t cut the vital passages out of the book.  “I might as well try to clip my own nose into shape with scissors.”

Lawrence used the four letter words because he was weary of British prudery. He said he had trouble finding a typist for the book that was while “verbally improper, the last word in all its meaning, but truly moral.”  A woman in Florence had said she would type it for him and after doing five chapters said she could not go any further as it was too indecent.  “Dirty bitch!” he exclaimed in one of his letters.   

After the publication of the book, Lawrence wrote an essay on Pornography and Obscenity in England.  This was in great demand and was selling at the rate of 12,000 copies a week. In the most part the essay is a discussion of “shock” words.  So it is not surprising it was a best seller.  

T.S. Eliot didn’t like Lady Chatterley’s Lover.   He said “it was our old acquaintance, the game-keeper, turning up again; ….the well-born lady bestows her favours… The author of that book seems to me to have been a very sick man indeed.” 

But other writers of that time stood up for Lawrence. E.M. Forster said he was a “novelist of prophecy.”  And Virginia Woolf said “he had moments of greatness, but hours of something very different.”  

After it was privately printed in 1928, the book remained publicly unavailable in unexpurgated form in England until after 1960.     

In his final years Lawrence took up oil painting again.  A London exhibition of some of his pictures in 1929 in Mayfair, London, had some 13,000 visit but it was raided by the police and some of the works were confiscated. They were eventually returned to Lawrence after he agreed he would never exhibit them again in England.  The largest collection of the paintings is now at La Fonda de Taos in Taos, New Mexico. Sagar’s book shows some of the paintings.

In his last month’s Lawrence wrote numerous poems, reviews and essays, as well as a robust defense of his last novel against those who sought to suppress it. 

By Feb 1930 Lawrence although ill was not receptive to entering a sanatorium as had been recommended by a Dr. Andrew Morland.   Dr. Morland had visited him and later wrote that he thought Lawrence had been suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis for a long time, probably ten or 15 years.  He had either never been properly advised about treatment, or much more likely he had chosen to ignore most of the advice given.

However, on Feb 6 Lawrence gave in and entered the Ad Astra sanatorium.  He found the place dull and “only French people convalescing and nothing in my line.”  Most of the time he had to lie in bed. But he read many books.  His comment about Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel was that he was “sick of self-conscious young Americans posing before their own cameras.”

H G Wells visited him, as did the Aga Khan. Even in his last illness, Lady Chatterley’s Lover was still on his mind.  He wrote to a friend asking for a first edition so that he could give it to his English doctor as he would not take a fee.

He left the sanatorium a few days before his death, and moved into a rented villa, Villa Robermond, Venice.  At 10 o clock on the night of March 2, 1930 he died.  Frieda commissioned an elaborate headstone for his grave. 

Soon after Lawrence’s death, John Middleton Murry went to visit his grave and he and Frieda became lovers. Murry’s wife, Katherine Mansfield, also had tuberculosis and had died in 1923.

Frieda returned to the ranch in Taos, lived with Angelo Ravagli and eventually married him in 1950.  In 1935 he had arranged, on her behalf to have Lawrence’s body exhumed and cremated and his ashes brought back to the ranch to be interred there in a small chapel amid the mountains of New Mexico.



At the time of his death, Lawrence’s public reputation was that of a pornographer who had wasted his considerable talents.  E.M.Forster, in an obituary notice, challenged this widely held view. (Wikipedia).  He described him as “the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation.”

Lawrence is now generally valued as a visionary thinker and a significant representative of modernism in English literature.  I thought he was ahead of his time and would fit in very well today.

Anais Nin published a study of Lawrence in 1932, not long after his death.  Her book was found refreshing, according to Moore, because it saw Lawrence as a writer, a great writer, and it sensitively explored his work. 

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, is a more perfect expression of his mystical attitude towards the flesh than any other book he wrote, says Nin.

“Artistically it is his best novel because one idea is sustained to its conclusion with intensity and clarity she explains.  The result is our only complete modern love story. “ 

With the passage of time Lawrence’s once banned book is no longer considered obscene. Grove Press published an unexpurgated edition in New York in 1959 which was soon banned in the mails by the Postmaster General. 

Penguin Books published the original version in English in 1960 and were tried under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959. This trial was a major public event, and a test of the new obscenity law.  If the publishers could show that a work was of literary merit, they could escape conviction. A jury of ordinary citizens heard evidence and excerpts from the book as the publishers presented their case that using the four-letter words in the book was now acceptable in England.

Academic critics and experts of diverse kinds, including E.M.Forster, Helen Gardner, Richard Hoggart and others were called as witness for the defense.  During the trial the prosecution was ridiculed for being out of touch with changing social norms.  The chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, asked a witness if it was the kind of book “you would wish your wife or servants to read.”  It was a ridiculous question on several levels including that in post-war Britain most households were servantless.

The jury took just three hours to return their “not guilty” verdict on November 2, 1960. Within a day the book had sold 200,000 copies, rising to 2 million in the next two years. 

The Penguin second edition, published in 1961, contained a publisher’s dedication to the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, who returned a verdict of ‘Not Guilty” and thus made D.H. Lawrence’s last novel available for the first time to the public in the United Kingdom.’

It is interesting to note that not only had the book been banned in Australia, but a later book describing the British trial was also banned.  However, a copy was smuggled into that country and then published widely. 

In 2006 BBC Wales dramatized the trial in a movie called The Chatterley Affair. Written by Andrew Davies the movie mixed documentary, historical fact and fiction to create a modern passionate love story.  It is very sexually explicit by showing what happened when two strangers who were serving on the jury were attracted to each other, and how they met out of court and acted out parts of Lawrence’s book. Some years ago I bought a DVD of the movie, the actors include David Tennant, Claire Bloom, and Pip Torrens.  It may be available for streaming now.

In April 2006 I went on a group tour of the middle of England, but also made some side trip by myself. I took a steam train excursion, and went by coach to Melton Mowbray an open air market, saw the largest gas power plant in Europe.

I found it too complicated, from where I was staying, to get to Eastwood to see the D. H. Lawrence Birthplace museum located in Victoria Street, Eastwood so I took a taxi into Nottingham to see the castle.  The taxi driver, Mr. Paxton, was born in Eastwood and he told me his mother was a little girl when Lawrence lived there and she knew him. Mr. Paxton said that American tourists were often seen on the D H Lawrence walk, reading from Lawrence’s works.   

In 1970 Glenda Jackson won the Best Actress Academy award for her role as Gudrun in Ken Russell’s adaptation of Women in Love.  Russell also filmed The Rainbow. Thirteen movies have been made of his works. The short film Lady Luck is the most recent. It was made in 2013 and based on his Rocking Horse short story.

An article in The Guardian on May 24, 2019 reported that the annotated copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover that was used by the judge in the obscenity trial was sold to an overseas buyer at Sothebys the previous year for 546,250 pounds.  However, the arts minister Michael Ellis put an export bar on the book. The English PEN association launched a crowdfunding appeal to keep the book in the country and donations poured in from Penguin Books, The TS Eliot estate, and individual writers and readers. The trial judge was Sir Lawrence Byrne, whose wife Dorothy highlighted and annotated his copy of the novel, pointing out which sections were “coarse” or contained “love-making.” She also hand-stitched a blue-grey damask bag in which he could discretely carry the inflammatory book to court.


Note:  A majority of the contents of this article come from lectures I gave to members of Shared Learning of Chapel Hill in May 2008.  More recent research shows that interest in Lawrence’s books is still strong.

Editor’s Note: Rocking Horse Winner is my favorite D. H. Lawrence story.



My Melody

Laura A. Alston


I have a special melody, you see,

That’s only meant for me.

It is a melody that’s clear and sweet.

It is a melody that is always a treat.


My melody is sometimes low.

Sometimes it bursts forth as a rainbow!

Always now it is unpretentious,

But that’s because I’m conscientious.


My melody is steady and sure.

It ascends and descends forevermore.

Sway gently with my melody-

Now stomp your feet to my beat!



Natters of a Nomad

Peggy Lovelace Ellis


We continue our cruise on the Rhine River with a discussion of two castles often confused because of their names, Reichenstein and Rheinstein. I begin with the former.

Reichenstein Castle stands on a mountain ledge on the eastern slope of the Bingen Forest above the town Trechtingshausen.

The first mention of the castle occurs in 1213, when Philipp III von Bolanden was appointed bailiff by the Kornelimünster Abbey at Aachen. Its purported capture in 1253 remains a subject of debate among scholars, though there is documented evidence that King Rudolph I of Habsburg besieged, captured, and destroyed the castle in 1282. Following its destruction, King Rudolph refused reconstruction.

In the period that followed, the ruins of Reichenstein remained in the possession of the Count palatine of the Rhine and were rebuilt. Ludwig IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, granted the castle to the Elector and Archbishop of Mainz in 1344. At that time, a new double wall was built surrounding an inner court containing a rectangular keep, and a forecourt was added to the north. It began to fall into disrepair after 1572, when it became unprofitable to maintain its upkeep.

Franz Wilhelm von Barfus bought the ruins in 1834 and began the restoration. The Kirsch-Puricelli family purchased the castle in 1899 and completed the restorations in a neo-Gothic style. The family lived in the castle from 1902-1936. The current owner is a direct descendant of the Puricelli family.

Reichenstein was the last castle in the area that was rebuilt in the neo-gothic style.

Since 1989, the historic structure has undergone complete renovation. Today, the complex contains a hotel, a restaurant, and a museum. The living quarters reflect the castle as it was a hundred years ago. Many find the Castle grounds the ideal place for special events, including weddings.

Okay, as I mentioned in my August nattering, I still don’t know why the Katz owners wanted an eye view of Reichenstein. If you do, tell me!

§ § §

On board, there was some confusion between Reichenstein Castle and Castle Rheinstein, which is also above the town of Trechtingshausen. I include the latter here.

Originally built around 900 A.D. to serve as a customs post for the German Empire, it was referred to as either the Vogtsburg or the Feitsburg.

The castle was home to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph von Habsburg from 1282 through 1286. Within this castle, he passed judgment on the unruly robber knights of three other castles, the Reichenstein, the Sooneck and the Ehrenfels. In addition, Rudolph von Habsburg founded the Noble Knighthood and renamed the castle Konigstein (King’s Tower).

From the 14th to 17th century, the castle was leased to the Archbishops of Mainz. However, it began to fall into disrepair after 1572 when it became unprofitable to maintain its upkeep. (You might notice this is the same information we have for the Reichenstein, which adds to the confusion. I cannot find that scholars have commented on that point.)

In 1823, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig, Royal Prince of Prussia and nephew of King Friedrich Wilhelm III purchased the castle ruin. Thereafter, the castle was rebuilt (as opposed to renovation) and received its fourth, and final, name, Rheinstein (Rhine Stone), due to its imposing rocky location above the Rhine River.

Since 1975, the Hecher family has owned the Rheinstein. They repaired and restored the castle over a period of 19 years to regain its glory from days long ago. It includes The Little Wine Prince Restaurant and a gift shop offering miniature handmade wooden treasure chests, as well as traditional items including postcards and guidebooks for purchase.

It also possesses a working drawbridge and portcullis, which greatly illustrate medieval construction and defense. We have not encountered this at any other renovated or rebuilt castle.

I give a side note on this purchase. The Hare Krisnas wanted to purchase the property, but a German Opera Singer, Hermann Hecher, purchased it to preserve its history as a cultural monument of the Rhineland-Palatine.

Next, we visit Heidelberg, probably the most visited castle on the Rhine, and the Ehrenfels, which is a complete ruin.



“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.” – Voltaire

No Act of Love Goes Unpunished

Fiction by Howard A. Goodman


            Harold Schechter could feel it coming.  After nearly a month of warnings Shirley handed him her neatly typed bulleted list of Don'ts, each designed to aid her in getting through her self-managed withdrawal from cigarettes.

            In December, nine months into their marriage, the second for both, Shirley had decided as a New Year’s resolution to pull the plug on her addiction to tobacco, which she had kept hidden from Harold during the initial phase of their three-month courtship.

            Her plan, a formula she had used before with reasonable efficacy, was quite simple. For the first week she would Valium herself into a semiconscious stupor. Only this time, her supply of the drug had come not from the pharmacy counter at Eckerd's by authority of a doctor's prescription, rather from some dot.com web site. Two months after ordering, the capsules arrived in an innocuous #10 envelope with the address handwritten and postmarked, “Philippines.”

            Sunday afternoon, Shirley meticulously gathered her entire stash, butane lighters included, and stuffed them into a single Ziploc bag, leaving the bag on the kitchen counter together with explicit instructions for Harold to dispose of them the following morning on his way to work. She had been adamant about having him toss them far from home—not in the trash container on the driveway where she'd surely scrounge for them in desperation as soon as he was away from the house. She had directed him to leave just one cigarette, her very last, and a match. After she had immersed herself in the pleasure of consuming it, Shirley would officially commence her withdrawal. Her final declaration to Harold was that for the first three days he should leave her the hell alone.

            Returning from work Monday afternoon, Harold entered the house through the side door to find his tall, lanky, blond wife in her powder blue robe, zonked out on the couch in the den. He waited until she appeared to stir, then asked, in as low-key a manner as he could muster, if there was anything he could do for her.

            Shirley's reply was a whimper of a “No,” blanketed by the soundtrack of a TV soap opera Harold knew she never watched, and a twisting of her shoulders away from him. By her body language, it was clear to Harold that she was pissed at him for even asking.

            To steer clear of Shirley until bedtime Harold began to search for something to do around the house, a task that would keep him away from the undertow of her ceaseless whining, yet allow him to be within earshot in case she decided to tear down the wall she had built around herself.

            Tuesday evening, following a modest dinner he prepared himself Harold reconnected a pair of intercom stations in case Shirley needed to summon him while he was on the third-floor loft piddling away on his desktop computer. By Wednesday, he recalled a project Shirley had asked him to start—an opening to the lower attic so she could store the Christmas decorations out of the way. Up until the time he had married her, such things had never been a part of his life.

            Harold quickly grew amazed at his enthusiasm for the project.  His motivation to maintain the house had ceased following his divorce, and it was only his desire to please Shirley—to make her feel that this was every bit as much her home, too—that fueled him with renewed determination.

            Wednesday following another of his modest meals, Harold took up residence in one of the two closets of the master bedroom, the only location feasible to construct the attic opening. Using a stepladder to reach the eight-foot ceiling, he slid his electronic stud finder along the sheet rock, as though he were hunting for vital signs, to locate the joists, measuring this, marking that, then with some hesitation proceeded to cut a neat two-foot by two-foot incision with surgical accuracy.

            After removing the perfect square of sheet rock and setting it on the closet floor, Harold began to improvise the way the opening should be framed. He tended to defer the purchase of materials until he knew exactly what he would need. A written list of materials would quickly follow. Without benefit of a written list, once inside Home Depot he would become distracted by the sheer variety and expanse of materials and pieces and parts, quickly losing his focus.  Finally, he decided that an eight-foot length of two-by-four spruce would provide sufficient material to frame in the opening. And a pair of strap hinges for the access door.

            Friday afternoon, Harold returned home to find his wife sitting upright on the couch, her eyes glued to the TV.  “Feeling any better, Hon?”  When Shirley didn’t reply, he turned and went upstairs to change clothes, figuring if she didn't respond to a simple greeting, she certainly wouldn't give a shit about the weather he’d battled on his way home from Research Triangle Park.

            Back in the family room, Harold summoned enough courage to ask, “Hungry, Shirl?  Let me fix you some dinner.” But he could not penetrate the wall of sound she had built by raising the TV volume. He turned to the kitchen, where he began to improvise another creation from a leftover something he had discovered on the lower corner of the refrigerator, its shelf life in question.

            “I see you’re making dinner for yourself again.”

            A startled Harold twisted away from the stove to discover his statuesque wife opening the pantry doors and peering inside. Even without makeup, and especially disheveled, her shiksappeal turned him on. “It's nothing,” he exclaimed in tones an octave higher than usual. “Just some leftover rice. And chicken broth out of a can. You know you wouldn't touch it.”

            “Well, it would have been considerate for you to ask me if I wanted something.”

            Harold laid the stirring spoon on the counter alongside the stove. “Hon, I did ask you,” he said, gesturing. “In there. But you didn't answer, so I took it to mean you weren’t interested.”

            You took it!” she shot back. “Harold, why is it always about you?”

            Harold cringed, then decided that since Shirley did not share his recollection there was no point in arguing further. “Look, Hon, there’s nothing in this house. I can go out and bring you something back. Just give me some idea of what you want.”

            Shirley’s silence and bitter stare cut into Harold like a knife.

            Was it Shirley, he pondered, or her condition? He retreated to the love seat caddy-corner from the couch, stewing, straining to resist the impulse to run out on her. He turned to the TV, hoping to become quickly submerged in the audio-visual din. Ten minutes into a rerun of Seinfeld he became aware that Shirley had slipped back into the den, a coffee cup between her hands, reclaiming her place on the couch to his right. After another ten minutes her silence became deafening to him. Then came a Taco Bell commercial for their limited-time-only Cheesy Gordita Crunch, Harold could stand it no longer.

            “Look, Hon, I have to run over to Home Depot to get some hinges for the attic door project,” and he stood up. “It’s getting late, but if you’re hungry, I can bring you back something.”

            Shirley’s silence was broken by a single utterance. “Okay.”

            “You’ll feel better,” he said, managing a smile. “Think of it as a reward for laying off cigarettes. Be back in thirty minutes.”

            Behind the wheel of his Toyota, Harold felt great relief in Shirley’s reply. By Saturday she should be well on her way to breaking the grip that tobacco had on her, he figured.  Maybe she was already beginning to feel less dependent. Yet he didn’t know for sure because he had never himself experienced the trauma of falling victim to nicotine.

            After turning south onto Six Forks Road, Harold noticed the droplets of freezing drizzle beginning to cling to the windshield and flipped on his wipers to intermittent.  Outside, along the road there began the gauntlet of barrels, bright orange even in the grayed light. Chubby sentries, he thought they resembled, to alert motorists to the construction of the interchange with the new I-540 outer loop a quarter mile ahead.

            Harold crossed the new overpass, and half a mile later the Strickland Road intersection, proceeding directly to the Taco Bell. At the drive-through, he fretted over what to order.  “Let me have one of those new Cheesy Gordita Crunches,” he replied reflexively when asked for his order by a tired female voice. The loudspeaker was hidden inside a back-lit placard featuring colorful illustrations of cross-bred menu offerings.  “And a Chicken Burrito,” he added, an afterthought in the event that Shirley didn’t care for his first choice.

            At the drive-up window he paid for the two items, then grabbed the white bag from the hands of the cashier, set it on the floorboard in front of the passenger seat, and headed back up Six Forks Road. After crossing Strickland Road Harold realized that what had been a timid icy drizzle, worthy of only an intermittent whisk of the wipers, had escalated to a hissy deluge that now challenged his vision. He reached forward to flip the wiper switch to high.

            Less than a quarter mile ahead, in the opposite lane north of the I-540 overpass he peered at the unrelenting stream of passenger cars, SUVs, and a lone eighteen wheeler, their headlights dimpling through the flattened ice droplets clinging to his windshield.  Damn!  Look at this traffic, Harold moaned. The only thing that scares me more than driving around on a Friday night is driving around on a Friday night in this.

            When the eighteen-wheeler entered upon the overpass, Harold grew aghast as its trailer started to waiver tentatively. Then the unthinkable.  The very last thing that appeared to Harold through the rippled front windshield was the jack-knifed tractor-trailer hurtling directly toward him as though on tracks from which it could not derail.

            After snaring the hood of Harold's Toyota like a fly, the rig, and the Toyota, continued to slide across the northbound lanes of Six Forks Road to the shoulder, beheading the guard rail of the overpass, the entwined vehicles sinking quietly through layers of drenched air helpless to push back against the crushing mass. The enjoined vehicles arrived with a metallic thud on the blackened right-of-way of the soon to be completed I-540 outer loop, thirty feet below. Only one orange barrel was disturbed.


            Shirley forced herself from the couch, stumbling toward the foyer. Oh, Lord, she thought, who the hell can that be? She flipped on the porch light. Not Harold. Even he’d have sense enough to use his key.

            The sheriff’s deputy was young, tall, lean, clean-cut. “Miz, uh…” He glimpsed the driver’s license in his right hand. “Miz Checker?” His left arm was at his side, gripping a small white paper bag with a logo of a bell on it.

            “Schecter,” she replied, still experiencing difficulty with her own pronunciation.

            “Uh, ma’am, I’m right sorry to report, there’s been an accident. Your husband—”

            “Harold? Is he all right? Where is he?”

            The deputy shook his head. “Witnesses said he didn’t stand a chance. Our preliminary investigation shows he was not at fault,” he added.

            “Is he—”  She raised a hand to her lips. “Oh God, no.”

            The deputy lowered his eyes. “Sorry, ma’am. Seems like he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

            Shirley stood silent for a moment, staring off at nothing, her shock usurping the role of the Valium. “Oh, Lord. I... I don’t know what to say.”

            The deputy shuffled a bit. “Ma’am, after your husband’s remains were removed from the scene, we searched his vehicle for personal effects and such. Didn’t find anything ‘cept this.”  It was then he held out the white paper bag, hoping the woman would take it from him. “They found this lying on the front floorboard, still warm.”

            Shirley reached for the bag, took it, clutched it to her chest, exhaled, swallowed. “But, Harold told me he was going to stop at The Home Depot to pick up some hinges. And a two-by-four. He said he needed them to finish a project.

            “Sorry, ma’am,” the deputy said, gesturing toward the paper bag. “Nothing ‘cept those bur-reet-toes.”



Thought Experiments Regarding the Mind

Philosophy by Randy Bittle


I love philosophy so much I thought it would be fun to teach it to my cockatiel.  His name is Sassy, and he already says “pretty bird.”  I set about teaching him to say “cogito ergo sum,” which is Latin for “I think therefore I am.”  Sassy picked up on “cogito” and has said it several times.  He hasn’t mastered “ergo sum” yet, but my cockatiel can now say “I think” in Latin.  He’s a smart bird. 

Sassy has limitations, though.  He can say “cogito,” but I’m certain he knows not what he says.  He may be thinking something in his bird-brain mind, but it’s not “I think” in Latin, even though he clearly says “cogito.”  He simply mimics the sounds, devoid of meaning.  Despite not understanding the implications of human philosophy, birds nonetheless exhibit intelligence all their own.

Another cockatiel of mine, a female named Jude, died in 2001.  I knew the people who owned her parents, and I had this bird since she first began eating seeds.  She lived in a one-bird cage and still laid unfertilized eggs.  Without being taught by another bird or a person, she instinctively knew how to care for the eggs as if they were fertilized.  Jude gathered them together and sat on them, getting up to eat or stretch, and then sitting back down on them.  No one taught her how.  She somehow intuitively knew how to handle the eggs, as if her brain was prewired with the knowledge.

This intuitive understanding in birds fascinates me and causes me to question how my brain is prewired for certain kinds of knowledge, like language.  My brain had the capacity for learning language built in to it, located in the Broca and Wernicke parts of the left hemisphere of the brain.  However, my brain did not come with words and grammar pre-installed.  I had to learn them from experience.  Comparing how birds think with how I think gives me insight into what it means to think.

Thought experiments are another way to gain insight into mental nature.  Substance is a fundamental issue in philosophy of mind.  What the mind is made of is uncertain.  The question of mind-stuff centers on material and immaterial options.  Physicalists believe the mind is physical material stuff, while others think the mind is a kind of immaterial essence that transcends physical materialism.  Teleporters, familiar to Star Trek fans, offer a thought experiment that challenges the nature of mental substance.

Suppose a teleporter machine maps the body, dematerializes it, and sends the information to another machine which reconstructs the body, causing it to materialize in another place, perhaps thousands of miles distant.  If the mind is immaterial and not physical, how can it be mapped, dematerialized, and then reconstructed?  If the teleporter tests effective at teleporting mice, would you be willing to be the first human to try it and determine if a possibly immaterial mind travels with the physical body and brain?  I believe the mind and brain are integrated and probably would travel together, but I wouldn’t want to go first.

This next thought experiment, first proposed by Australian philosopher Frank Jackson, challenges the nature of conscious content versus knowledge of physical facts about consciousness.  Suppose Mary has never seen colors.  My suggestion is to imagine Mary has worn electronic goggles since she was a baby, goggles that render her visual world entirely black, white, and shades of gray.  Now, Mary is a brilliant woman and studies color.  She learns everything known about colors and color visual processing in the human brain.

Mary knows light consists of electromagnetic radiation at various frequencies which distinguish the colors, and the eyes have sensors that detect these frequencies and manifest conscious awareness of colors in accordance with physiological processes inside the brain.  She fully understands everything about color and mental visual processing, yet she has never seen or experienced color perception.  Can Mary deduce from all she knows about colors how they will look consciously?  My guess is no.  She cannot know what colors look like from mere knowledge, comprehensive though it may be, about the physical peculiarities of color.  No knowledge can prepare her for the conscious experience of colors resulting from removal of the goggles.

I wrote about this next thought experiment in an essay for the Righter Monthly Review several years ago, but let’s look at it again.  The problem of having too much information is examined.  It is a thought experiment that you can do at home if you wish.  You can better visualize the experiment if you are familiar with the card game called Texas Hold ‘Em.  Steve shuffles the cards and deals two cards to each of four players, one at a time, face up.  Then he turns five cards face up, side by side, in the middle of the table.  The players now enter the room and sit in their preselected places around the table.

A full hand of Texas Hold ‘Em has been dealt with the cards face up.  The players can see the winning hand and no betting is desired.  The fun of the game lies in not knowing what other players’ face down cards are, or what face up cards will show up as the game progresses.  Steve reshuffles and deals two cards face down to each player and three face up in the middle of the table.  Now the fun begins as the players evaluate their face down cards in conjunction with the face up cards in the middle and make their wagers.  Not knowing other players’ face down cards enhances the enjoyment of the game.  Winning is pleasurable, but it is the playing of the game that makes the time spent worthwhile.

And so it is with the game of life.  We do not know everything as we conduct our daily activities.  Other peoples’ thoughts can only be guessed indirectly, sometimes right and sometimes wrong.  But it is the not knowing that makes the game of life worthwhile.  You choose your actions based on the best information available to you at the time.  The cards you are dealt in life are seldom changeable, but what you do with those “cards” is up to you.  Again, playing the game, that is living, provides value to your conscious experience, win or lose.  Endeavor to increase pleasurable thoughts and feelings even when the cards are stacked against you.



Nine Eleven

Sybil Austin Skakle


My neighbor Merle and I went for a walk around the block the morning of September 11, 2001. We had returned to our separate homes and I had begun my morning tasks. My phone rang. It was Merle. “Sybil, turn on your TV. A plane has crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City!”

When I turned on the TV, I could not believe what I saw. Was this a repeat of the Orson Welles’ October 31, 1938 broadcast of H. G, Wells’s The War of the Worlds that sent people of the United States, especially New Jersey, into panic? Otherwise, why were the cameras there to record it all and send it over the airwaves all around the world? It seemed they had been set up for the filming and had been ordered to roll on cue.

Then the second plane crashed into the second tower. This was not a replay. This was not a simulation. Commentators began to report that this was a planned attack on America. It still seemed surreal. As I listened and watched, the cameras switched to activity at the Pentagon Building in Washington, DC. Newsmen began to report that a fourth plane was heading for the White House. Brave passengers on that plane fought, overpowering the terrorist inside the plane and the plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.  Within less than an hour our safe world had forever changed.

Alone and helpless, I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed and resolved that I would stand firm in my faith, come what may. To lose faith, to surrender to fear, would be to admit the enemy had won. Hating would help no one, neither the victims of the terrible holocaust, their families or me. I decided that for me the only rational way would be to attempt with God’s help to live about the circumstances; to influence all I could by the peace God would give me and affirm my trust in God.

During the following days I heard many express feelings of anger and frustration. Others echoed my own conviction. 

For many days after the attack, the sound of an airplane overhead caused my heart to react in dread. Perhaps others felt such fear. Yes, we were affected. It had been a long time since there had been acts of war on American soil. Now we believed it could happen here. Hopefully, we became less callous about the victims of war and violence in other countries, even Afghanistan, where even now we were engaged in conflict – where citizens of that country were suffering.

Yes, I am grateful my three sons are past military age. I grieve for parents whose sons were being deployed to fight the enemy. Children of other friends were already serving in other strategic areas. Then I realized that other family, two grandsons and great nephews, might be asked to fight. How cruel war is.

In spite of our insecurities and fears, for most of us anyway, our daily lives returned to the usual. Our people and our country showed an amazing resilience that surprised the world and us most of all. Flags began to appear again and in unlikely places. Patriotism was reborn in wake of the disaster. People showed kindness and concern beyond the expectation of most of us. We began to breathe more easily.

For awhile in the business world chaos reigned. Businesses that had lost records and people in the destruction of the Twin Towers began to rebuild, even as the tremendous effort to recover human bodies continued and the colossal piles of debris were carted somewhere away from the site of twisted steel beams, piles of dust, ash, glass, and stone. Someone named the area Ground Zero. That is a misnomer for while the Twin Towers came down, the people of America and those working there were rebuilding courage and resolve from the first day.

Artists and writers were inspired to create beauty and hope from the disaster.  Poets penned verses and composers wrote songs. Apathy gave way to a unity of a people and friends from other countries sent messages of love and support. Our hearts were strengthened. Our leaders began to plan for the protection of America from further acts of terrorism. We believe that by a miracle of God’s grace and providence that a better world will arise. O God, in whom we trust, may it be so.

God bless America! Help us deserve your mercy, O Lord!



Wisteria House

Marry Williamson


Mary had been walking past the big ramshackle house, two streets away from her flat, for 5 years. She had to pass it on her way to the shops. It looked neglected and desolate. The elaborate cast iron gate only hung by one hinge, the path to the front door had weeds growing between the flagstones and the garden was seriously overgrown. The buddleia bushes had overtaken the borders, the wisteria, that gave the house its name, climbed rampant up the front covering some of the windows and what was left of the lawn was about a metre high. Mary could only speculate what the back garden looked like.

Mary had lived in her flat for about five years now, ever since her husband died. The kids had all married and moved away, starting their own families. She had sold the large family home in which she was rattling around on her own. She was pleased with her little flat. It was easy to keep clean, she had never been keen on house work the dusting and polishing bored her to tears. Edward had left her well provided for and the sale of the big house gave her a nice little nest egg (after she had bought the flat). Now she had the time and the means to please herself and she found plenty of things to do. She did a few hours three times a week in the charity shop and helped out on Fridays at “Second Time Around”, a fashion and dress shop that sold ‘pre-loved designer clothes’.  The shop was owned by Beryl, a large jolly lady of uncertain age and a raucous laugh. Mary and Beryl, who was also a widow, had struck up a firm friendship and on Friday nights after they locked up they went for dinner at the local Wetherspoons and shared a bottle of Zinfandel. Mary’s other passion was reading, something she never had much time for when Edward was alive and the kids small. She frequented the library and was on first name terms with all the librarians. She read voraciously anything and everything but most of all she loved thrillers, gory, psychological or otherwise. She had read all Stephen King’s books and worked her way through Peter May’s China Thrillers, the Lewis Trilogy and the Enzo Files. She also read all his stand alone books and she particularly liked ‘Coffin Road”. She was now devouring Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series. She was in love with Jimmy Perez and had also watched all the ‘Vera’ episodes on TV.

The big ramshackle house intrigued Mary. There was never any sign of life behind the torn net curtains and dirty windows. She would love to know what it’s story was. One Friday night when they were having their usual lasagna and salad (Mary) and double cheeseburger and chips (Beryl) and their bottle of Zinfandel she asked Beryl. “Well”, Beryl began and shifted comfortably in her chair and leaned over the table companionably, “sad story. It belonged to a nice family. Rose and David and their four children. It was a happy house. Full of laughter and children’s voices. Rose kept the place clean and tidy and David kept the garden immaculate. There were always toys, bikes and skateboards about. Now it is empty.  Nobody has lived there for years.  Actually, nobody knows who it belongs to. The gas and electric have been cut off ages ago but apparently the rates still get paid, only nobody knows by who. No mail ever gets delivered. Eight years ago all the family went on holiday to Cornwall. They had all been looking forward to it for weeks. What happened there was a tragedy. You will probably remember, it was all over all the national newspapers at the time. Their large people carrier plunged off a cliff into the sea. A couple of people saw it happen. They said the car just drove straight off the road, across a field and over the edge. No attempt to brake. The rescue services retrieved the car and Rose and David and three of the kids, still strapped in their seats. Dead of course. One child, the eldest, a boy of fourteen called Elliott was missing thought to be swept out to open sea. His body was never found. Funniest thing, though, Rose and the three younger children were in the back but David was in the passenger seat. The press made a lot of this fact and a lot of speculation went on as you will remember but in the end they had to let it go as nobody could shed any light on it.” Beryl took a big bite out of her cheeseburger and a large gulp of Zinfandel and continued. “Anyway, people forgot, nobody claimed the house and it fell into sad disrepair.

Mary’s fertile imagination kept busy with this story and she turned various explanations over in her mind. The next time she walked past she stopped in front of the gate and stared up at the empty windows. Just as she turned away the curtain in the front upstairs window twitched.


The Day When Everything Changed

Diana Goldsmith


Caleb draped the tallit over his shoulders. He heard the sound of his uncle singing out the prayers. On his forehead he had tied one phylactery and tied another around his right forearm where it would touch his chest where his heart was. These little black boxes contained the Law which was on one's mind and heart. The tallit or prayer shawl was white silk with blue stripes and had knotted tassels at each corner. Caleb and the other men responded chanting in unison while bowing backwards and forwards. They were in the Holy Place where the worship was made. Before entering this room one had to go through the courts and perform all the cleansing rituals.

Beyond the room was the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. This was the very casket in which Moses put the two stone tablets given by God to him and the branch that budded. On top of the gold covered box were two huge gold cherubim.

However the only person seeing these was the High Priest who was allowed in once a year to pray for God to forgive the sins of the people who came to confess on the Day of Atonement. The priest had a rope tied around one of his ankles so that if he died they could pull him out because they couldn't go inside! Dividing the two chambers was a huge curtain. It reached up to the ceiling so that nothing could be seen in the Holy of Holies. It was made up of squares with red, blue and purple embroidery. It was also very thick and acted like an impenetrable wall.

Today had been a strange day. There had been lots of talk amongst the men in the temple outer courts about a Galilean man who was tried for insurrection and was crucified in the end that very Friday morning. Some of the learned Pharisees were arguing with the Sadducees about his claim to be the Son of God himself. He had acquired quite a few followers on his three years of preaching and teaching. Caleb had modern him first when he came to Jerusalem with his parents for a feast. Caleb was the same age and was also sitting with his uncle and other learned men when Jesus had started to answer their questions with knowledge way above what someone of his age would have known!

Later he had heard about some of the miracles he performed and he even had a young nephew from Galilee who had offered Jesus his lunch when he was preaching to a vast crowd. Jesus asked his disciples to buy bread but they didn't so Matthias let him have his bread and fish. Apparently the food just kept being there every time someone took some to eat.

He heard about a friend of an aunt who had a woman's problem and was ritually unclean yet she managed to get to Jesus and touch his cloak.and Jesus felt it and prayed for her that her bleeding would stop and she was healed. Caleb actually went and heard Jesus for himself and felt very challenged by what Jesus said about being clean inside and out.

When the Lamb was sacrificed that very morning in the Temple as was the custom at the beginning of the Passover feast, Caleb thought about Jesus saying he was the Lamb who would take away the sins of the world. Somehow it was starting to make sense.

Something caught Caleb's eye and he blinked but now he could see for himself that the curtain was moving! Suddenly there was a commotion as others saw it too. The curtain was ripped in two from the top down to the very bottom!

Everyone in the chamber ran out and down as the earth started to shake. Caleb grabbed his uncle and they got off the temple mount.

Apparently there had been reports of it happening just when Jesus died on the cross. Also the sky darkened and during the earthquake the tombs near the temple opened and the dead were resurrected.

After all that happened that day Caleb became a follower of Jesus and often shared with people how God had torn the curtain from top to bottom to illustrate how people could have access to the Holy of Holies by Jesus making the way open to all to go into the presence of Almighty God.



A Day Off To Remember

Tim Whealton


It was a cool morning for September but John and Tony didn’t care. After working three 12-hour shifts at EMS they were looking forward to some fun. John and Tony are both paramedics who work together for Craven EMS. John has years of experience and was a combat medic for the 5th Special Forces Group. Tony is new to EMS and full of the wide-eyed anticipation of youth. Tony was telling John how odd it seemed that he could give fentanyl for pain and decide the dose but last year he was not able to buy someone a beer. John reminded him that he had to tell him 80mcg last time he gave it and chuckled. I know my drugs, I was just making sure,” replied Tony.

“OK Mr. Hot Shot medic what is the dose for Solumedrol for a spinal injury?”

“40 to 125 milligrams IV push,” spouts Tony without hesitation.

“Wrong Hot Shot, it is 30 mg per kilogram of body weight. Now stop at this store and buy me a Diet Pepsi so I can take some Motrin for this backache.”

“How much do you take,” Tony asked as they pulled in the drive to the Mini-Mart.

“400mg three times a day and sometimes 1000mg of Tylenol and I don’t need any advice from a green medic.”

“Sounds like you need 25 grams of Dextrose 50% to sweeten up your old sour ass a little or maybe you already had it and somebody forgot to give the 100mg of thiamine and you are brain damaged.”

“Thanks for the free assessment Dr. Wernecke, but I can stay home and be abused. This will be my only chance to try out my new rifle before hunting season and I can’t miss it for a little backache. Besides I had to clean up the back of the truck after your last IV and I can promise you I won’t be asking for one of your instant hematomas.” Both had to stop and laugh.

“Tell me about this new rifle; did you say it came from the shop in Cove City?”

“Yea the guy that runs the shop gives a discount to EMS.”

Tony nods and adds, “Probably knows our pay scale and feels sorry for us.”

“No, he says he is just glad we came when his neighbor’s daughter had an allergic reaction. She was the one year old that was stung by the bee last year.”

“Oh, I remember that,” says Tony. “You gave the baby 0.01mg per kilogram so the dose was 0.09mg Epinephrine SQ and the mother 3mg Haldol. I think we also drew up 20mg per kilogram of Calcium Chloride so that would have been 180mg because the mother said it was a black widow bite before we found the bee stinger on the back of the arm.”

John paused for a second and then said, “You know, looking back I think Valium would have been a better choice than the Haldol. She wasn’t really psychotic, just upset.”

Tony agreed and said, “Yes, 10mg IV push would have worked but without an IV it would have to be PR and don’t think you could have pulled it off, if you know what I mean.” John chokes as the Diet Pepsi comes out of his nose and Tony is still laughing as they stop to set up targets.

John looks around and says, “Man I love this place, 10 miles from anybody and smack dab in the middle of Croatan National Forrest.”

Tony nods but then turns his attention to the sound of approaching helicopters. Both men have learned to love the sound of helicopters and watch as they approach. Suddenly the one in the rear nose-dives into the tail rotor of the one in front and both are coming down out of control. As they go down behind a line of trees 600 yards away, John and Tony are already in the truck and speeding that way. John tries the cell phone but no signal. When they stop they are less than 100 yards from each crash. One is burning like a torch but the other is intact and smoking badly. Tony sprints toward the burning crash as John shouts, “Not too close, triage first.” John makes his way to the intact chopper and can see movement. He can see Tony running his way now and hears him shout “no survivors.” When he arrives, they decide to move the survivors a safe distance because the whole scene smells like fuel and a small fire is burning near the tail.

“Least injured first,” says John. “4 red tag, 2 dead.” Quickly they do their best rapid trauma extrication and move the injured away from the crash. “Check vitals,” John shouts over his shoulder as he runs back to the crash. Tony starts assessments and finds only 2 are still alive. It seems odd because their injuries don’t appear life threatening. The other two are alive but have shallow noisy respirations. John returns with a large medic bag he spotted in the chopper. It looks like the same bag he carried in Afghanistan.

John makes a quick assessment and tells Tony, “Atropine 2mg as soon as you get IV access. I hope I’m wrong but it looks like nerve gas. Better draw up some extra doses for them and us too!”

“Can we give some Lasix to help with the pulmonary edema?” asks Tony. 

“I don’t see any in this kit and we would need 1mg per kilogram so let’s concentrate on the Atropine while I look for the Pralidoxime so we can give 2grams in 500ml of normal saline.”

“Do we have a nebulizer so we can give 2.5mg Albuterol and .5 Atrovent?” ask Tony. “I think it might help because it will oppose the cholinergic effect of nerve gas.”

“I see the drugs but no neb mask or oxygen,” says John. “We have plenty of normal saline to mix if only had the nebulizer.”

Now they hear the sound of incoming choppers and Tony says it is the best thing he has ever heard but John doesn’t answer. Tony turns and sees his partner lying over his patient and twitching. He gives him Atropine IM in the thigh and then everything gets dark and disappears.

When Tony opens his eyes everything is different. He is in a bed and monitors are beeping. All the people in the room are wearing mask, gown, gloves and goggles. A doctor is shining a bright light in his eyes and says, “Much better.”

“Where is John?” Tony asks with as much volume as he can muster.

“He is in the cardiac unit downstairs. He had a heart attack along with the nerve gas exposure. We had to give him Lidocaine 1mg per kilogram on the way in and it didn’t help so we gave Procainamide at 20mg a minute and the ectopic rhythm resolved. I think he will be on a low dose of Lopressor, nothing like the emergency dose you give of 5mg every 5 minutes. He will probably be on a low dose of Cardizem that will be a lot lower than the .25mg per kilogram you give in the back of your ambulance. Also you were both given Activated Charcoal so don’t be alarmed if you have black stools. I think they gave you 2 grams per kilogram. Luckily you both weigh 100 kilograms so the math was easy.”

“But doctor, what happened?” ask Tony. “I mean, nerve gas and helicopters and everything!”

The doctor smiled and said, “Nobody said nerve gas and this incident is now classified. As far as you are concerned, it never happened. Now just relax and get well while you get the best Bethesda can offer.” Tony drifted off to sleep thinking, “Classified my butt, I’m going tell somebody!” 



Excerpt from The Meditations

By Marcus Aurelius


Book Two

167 ACE

Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.

Whatever this is that I am, it is a little flesh and breath, and the ruling part. Throw away thy books; no longer distract thyself: it is not allowed; but as if thou wast now dying, despise the flesh; it is blood and bones and a network, a contexture of nerves, veins, and arteries. See the breath also, what kind of a thing it is, air, and not always the same, but every moment sent out and again sucked in. The third then is the ruling part: consider thus: Thou art an old man; no longer let this be a slave, no longer be pulled by the strings like a puppet to unsocial movements, no longer either be dissatisfied with thy present lot, or shrink from the future. 

All that is from the gods is full of Providence. That which is from fortune is not separated from nature or without an interweaving and involution with the things which are ordered by Providence. From thence all things flow; and there is besides necessity, and that which is for the advantage of the whole universe, of which thou art a part. But that is good for every part of nature which the nature of the whole brings, and what serves to maintain this nature. Now the universe is preserved, as by the changes of the elements so by the changes of things compounded of the elements. Let these principles be enough for thee, let them always be fixed opinions. But cast away the thirst after books, that thou mayest not die murmuring, but cheerfully, truly, and from thy heart thankful to the gods. 

Remember how long thou hast been putting off these things, and how often thou hast received an opportunity from the gods, and yet dost not use it. Thou must now at last perceive of what universe thou art a part, and of what administrator of the universe thy existence is an efflux, and that a limit of time is fixed for thee, which if thou dost not use for clearing away the clouds from thy mind, it will go and thou wilt go, and it will never return. 

Every moment think steadily as a Roman and a man to do what thou hast in hand with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice; and to give thyself relief from all other thoughts. And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason, and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion which has been given to thee. Thou seest how few the things are, the which if a man lays hold of, he is able to live a life which flows in quiet, and is like the existence of the gods; for the gods on their part will require nothing more from him who observes these things. 

Do wrong to thyself, do wrong to thyself, my soul; but thou wilt no longer have the opportunity of honouring thyself. Every man's life is sufficient. But thine is nearly finished, though thy soul reverences not itself but places thy felicity in the souls of others. 

Do the things external which fall upon thee distract thee? Give thyself time to learn something new and good, and cease to be whirled around. But then thou must also avoid being carried about the other way. For those too are triflers who have wearied themselves in life by their activity, and yet have no object to which to direct every movement, and, in a word, all their thoughts.

Through not observing what is in the mind of another a man has seldom been seen to be unhappy; but those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy. 

This thou must always bear in mind, what is the nature of the whole, and what is my nature, and how this is related to that, and what kind of a part it is of what kind of a whole; and that there is no one who hinders thee from always doing and saying the things which are according to the nature of which thou art a part.

Theophrastus, in his comparison of bad acts- such a comparison as one would make in accordance with the common notions of mankind- says, like a true philosopher, that the offences which are committed through desire are more blameable than those which are committed through anger. For he who is excited by anger seems to turn away from reason with a certain pain and unconscious contraction; but he who offends through desire, being overpowered by pleasure, seems to be in a manner more intemperate and more womanish in his offences. Rightly then, and in a way worthy of philosophy, he said that the offence which is committed with pleasure is more blameable than that which is committed with pain; and on the whole the one is more like a person who has been first wronged and through pain is compelled to be angry; but the other is moved by his own impulse to do wrong, being carried towards doing something by desire. 

Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly. But to go away from among men, if there are gods, is not a thing to be afraid of, for the gods will not involve thee in evil; but if indeed they do not exist, or if they have no concern about human affairs, what is it to me to live in a universe devoid of gods or devoid of Providence? But in truth they do exist, and they do care for human things, and they have put all the means in man's power to enable him not to fall into real evils. And as to the rest, if there was anything evil, they would have provided for this also, that it should be altogether in a man's power not to fall into it. Now that which does not make a man worse, how can it make a man's life worse? But neither through ignorance, nor having the knowledge, but not the power to guard against or correct these things, is it possible that the nature of the universe has overlooked them; nor is it possible that it has made so great a mistake, either through want of power or want of skill, that good and evil should happen indiscriminately to the good and the bad. But deathcertainly, and life, honour and dishonour, pain and pleasure, all these things equally happen to good men and bad, being things which make us neither better nor worse. Therefore they are neither good nor evil. 

How quickly all things disappear, in the universe the bodies themselves, but in time the remembrance of them; what is the nature of all sensible things, and particularly those which attract with the bait of pleasure or terrify by pain, or are noised abroad by vapoury fame; how worthless, and contemptible, and sordid, and perishable, and dead they are- all this it is the part of the intellectual faculty to observe. To observe too who these are whose opinions and voices give reputation; what death is, and the fact that, if a man looks at it in itself, and by the abstractive power of reflection resolves into their parts all the things which present themselves to the imagination in it, he will then consider it to be nothing else than an operation of nature; and if any one is afraid of an operation of nature, he is a child. This, however, is not only an operation of nature, but it is also a thing which conduces to the purposes of nature. To observe too how man comes near to the deity, and by what part of him, and when this part of man is so disposed. 

Nothing is more wretched than a man who traverses everything in a round, and pries into the things beneath the earth, as the poet says, and seeks by conjecture what is in the minds of his neighbours, without perceiving that it is sufficient to attend to the daemon within him, and to reverence it sincerely. And reverence of the daemon consists in keeping it pure from passion and thoughtlessness, and dissatisfaction with what comes from gods and men. For the things from the gods merit veneration for their excellence; and the things from men should be dear to us by reason of kinship; and sometimes even, in a manner, they move our pity by reason of men's ignorance of good and bad; this defect being not less than that which deprives us of the power of distinguishing things that are white and black. 

Though thou shouldst be going to live three thousand years, and as many times ten thousand years, still remember that no man loses any other life than this which he now lives, nor lives any other than this which he now loses. The longest and shortest are thus brought to the same. For the present is the same to all, though that which perishes is not the same; and so that which is lost appears to be a mere moment. For a man cannot lose either the past or the future: for what a man has not, how can any one take this from him? These two things then thou must bear in mind; the one, that all things from eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle, and that it makes no difference whether a man shall see the same things during a hundred years or two hundred, or an infinite time; and the second, that the longest liver and he who will die soonest lose just the same. For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that this is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose a thing if he has it not.

Remember that all is opinion. For what was said by the Cynic Monimus is manifest: and manifest too is the use of what was said, if a man receives what may be got out of it as far as it is true. 

The soul of man does violence to itself, first of all, when it becomes an abscess and, as it were, a tumour on the universe, so far as it can. For to be vexed at anything which happens is a separation of ourselves from nature, in some part of which the natures of all other things are contained. In the next place, the soul does violence to itself when it turns away from any man, or even moves towards him with the intention of injuring, such as are the souls of those who are angry. In the third place, the soul does violence to itself when it is overpowered by pleasure or by pain. Fourthly, when it plays a part, and does or says anything insincerely and untruly. Fifthly, when it allows any act of its own and any movement to be without an aim, and does anything thoughtlessly and without considering what it is, it being right that even the smallest things be done with reference to an end; and the end of rational animals is to follow the reason and the law of the most ancient city and polity.

Of human life the time is a point, and the substance is in a flux, and the perception dull, and the composition of the whole body subject to putrefaction, and the soul a whirl, and fortune hard to divine, and fame a thing devoid of judgement. And, to say all in a word, everything which belongs to the body is a stream, and what belongs to the soul is a dream and vapour, and life is a warfare and a stranger's sojourn, and after-fame is oblivion. What then is that which is able to conduct a man? One thing and only one, philosophy. But this consists in keeping the daemonwithin a man free from violence and unharmed, superior to pains and pleasures, doing nothing without purpose, nor yet falsely and with hypocrisy, not feeling the need of another man's doing or not doing anything; and besides, accepting all that happens, and all that is allotted, as coming from thence, wherever it is, from whence he himself came; and, finally, waiting for death with a cheerful mind, as being nothing else than a dissolution of the elements of which every living being is compounded. But if there is no harm to the elements themselves in each continually changing into another, why should a man have any apprehension about the change and dissolution of all the elements? For it is according to nature, and nothing is evil which is according to nature. 

This in Carnuntum. 



For a Five-Year-Old

Fleur Adcock


A snail is climbing up the window-sill

into your room, after a night of rain.

You call me in to see, and l explain

that it would be unkind to leave it there:

it might crawl to the floor; we must take care

that no one squashes it. You understand,

and carry it outside, with careful hand,

to eat a daffodil.

I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:

your gentleness is molded still by words

from me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,

from me, who drowned your kittens, who betrayed

your closest relatives, and who purveyed

the harshest kind of truth to many another.

But that is how things are: I am your mother,

and we are kind to snails.




E. B. Alston


How many friends are enough? A few years ago The Economist had a piece about a study to gauge the impact of Facebook and the likes of that monster. They had two categories. One was what I would call acquaintances that you like. The statistical average is 155. I still have the list of contacts from work in 1999, which included some people not associated with the phone business. It has 157 names on it with their addresses and phone numbers. For once, I’m typical. The sample singled out the younger Facebook crowd and it was 187. I expected a much larger number.

The second category was close friends that you call or visit at least twice a year. That statistical number was fifteen. Twelve for the Facebook bunch. This is where I’m off the norm by quite a bit. I meet for lunch with a group of about eight every Tuesday. My immediate families are friends. Counting brother, sister, and their offspring adds twenty. We get together several times a year. I have fifty-four cousins on both sides of my family. We still have reunions in June that have been going on at least since I was a toddler. This year the total was  66 Bossy and Nanny Beth Alston descendants.

Almost forgot about church. I am a member of a very supportive church. A few years ago, I had an emergency visit to the hospital. Thanks to smart phone email, member prayers had been dispatched to Heaven before I got checked in. That is real friendship!  

Then there are my distant friends who are not family that I used to visit a couple of times a year. Three live in Southwest Virginia, where I was District Manager in the 1970s. I would visit them every week if I could. One now lives in Panama. This group includes people in several walks of life, a wide range of personalities, lifetime achievements, education levels. Some have high intellect and education. My brother is one of them. One is a black farmer who has enough common sense on farming to match my brother. He and I quail hunted together for over 40 years. He was a peerless wing shot in 33 eastern North Carolina counties. I would visit all of them every week if I could.

You may be wondering what kind of people these friends are. None of these folks and I have ever had a disagreement to the point of raised voices, unless it was funny.

If it were possible, there are a few more that I would like to add to my friends list. On top of this list is historian Will Durant who wrote the eleven-volume Story of Civilization and The Story of Philosophy. Michael Grant, who wrote histories of the Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans. Another would be C. S. Lewis, Christian theologian and moralist, and St. Jerome, who God put in charge of developing the Bible. He set a high standard as far as public relations. Jesus’ name in Hebrew is Joshua. Joshua was the Jim Smith name among the Hebrews at the time. I read somewhere in the Old Testament about a father who named all seven of his sons Joshua. By choosing the Greek version, Jesus’ name became unique and a PR success that will never be equaled. St. Jerome did the same thing with the Apostle Paul, whose Jewish name was Saul, another very popular Hebrew name.

Johannes Kepler, a German mathematician and astronomer (1571-1630) who developed fascinating theories on planetary movements and time travel. He reminds me of me because he never considered any idea to be impossible. I also share his lack of sentimentality about “beliefs” and trust numbers more than words. Knowing and believing are two very different concepts in any operational sense.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who wrote Meditations between battles on the Roman frontier. Father Thomas Merton, who wrote The Seven Storey Mountain.

This could go on and on, but you get the idea. If Kepler was right in his theoretical calculations, meeting with friends in Heaven will be infinitely easier. He theorized that, since Heaven is eternal and, outside temporal time, everything happens at once. Following that to its logical conclusion leads us to accept that the physical universe is a figment of God’s imagination. The Bible says we were created in God’s image. Jesus said if we believed, we could do anything He could do.

The Bible uses different references to our relationship to God. When in reference to our temporal existence, God “Holds us in His hands” or “Is with us.” When in reference to our spiritual existence, it is “In Him.” This is not style, nor is it translation carelessness. It is deliberate. There is a big difference between “with” and “in.” “With” conjures up images like me in a big conference room with all the other saved souls with God at the head table planning something really, really good, and we are “helping” Him make His decision.

Not so. “In” means “part of.” Both Aquinas and Augustine wrote long, tedious, pieces about this to explain that Heaven was God. Milton has several stanzas in Paradise Lost on the subject. C. S. Lewis uses it in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. So, Kepler’s theories confirm the work of the greatest Christian thinkers who have ever lived.

Where are we now? Upon achieving Heaven, our reality becomes our ideas. Within the two known universes, and all the other possible universes, there is none other like me, or like you. As the FaceBook crowd would say, AWESOME!



“Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first call ‘promising.’” Cyril Connoly


Sybil Austin Skakle

Together with agape’

we are invincible

Against the forces of

Prejudice and partisanship

Which victimize us and

Destroy our peace and unity

Walk proudly, uprightly and

Encourage me to do so

I pledge my respect for you

And humbly seek yours

I affirm my desire for your good

And that of every created being

I covet your goodwill for myself

Your welfare and happiness

Are as important to me as mine

Agape’ is our strongest weapon

Against negatives of our world

Our hope for peace and prosperity

For ourselves and others


Agape’-beneficial love which wills good for others.



To Helen

Edgar  Allan Poe


Helen , thy beauty is to me

Like those Nicaean barks of yore, That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,

The weary, wayworn wanderer bore To his own native shore.


On desperate seas long wont to roam, Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,

Thy Naiad airs, have brought me home To the glory that was Greece

And the grandeur that was Rome.


Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche How statu e-like I see thee stand,

The agate lamp :vvithin thy hand!

Ah, Psyche, from the regions which Are Holy Land!



Edgar Allan Poe: To Helen; was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. 

Time Flies

By E. B. Alston


Fifty-three years ago Elvis was on the Marquee

Of a theatre in Wilson, North Carolina.

We saw him for two dollars.

I don’t remember the name of the girl I was with.


I don’t remember a single song.

Or what he looked like.

Just the name Elvis.

I remember that.


You couldn’t buy a six-pack on Sunday.

I heard that the girl I was with died

In a car accident a month later.

But I still don’t remember her name.


I was in the Army at the time.

I wasn’t sure who was the luckiest.

Or the unluckiest.

I guess I was the former.


But, who knows what lies

Beyond that great Beyond?

Maybe she was.

But I at least had a life.


She had wanted to be a poet.

And sing opera.

She lived in Wilson County.

I bet she would have been the first.


Sometimes when the wind dies down

And the evening comes

And the moon rises

I know there will be reconciliation.


And those leaden hours of doubt

Will prove to have been for naught

For we were meant to succeed,

Even if our successes were small ones.



“Marriage is a wonderful invention; but, then again, so is a bicycle repair kit.” Billy Connolly



 Sign in a shoe repair Store

 We will heel you

 We will save your sole

We will even dye for you.


 Sign in a Venetian Blind and Curtain Truck

 Blind man driving.


 Sign over a Gynecologist's Office:

 "Dr. Jones, at your cervix."


 In a Podiatrist's office:

 "Time wounds all heels."


 On a Septic Tank Truck:

 Yesterday's Meals on Wheels


 At an Optometrist's Office:

 "If you don't see what you're looking for,

 You've come to the right place."


 On a Plumber's truck:

"We repair what your husband fixed."


 On another Plumber's truck:

 "Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber."


 At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee:

 "Invite us to your next blowout."


 On an Electrician's truck:

 "Let us remove your shorts."


 In a Non-smoking Area:

"If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and  will take appropriate action."


 On a Maternity Room door:

 "Push. Push. Push."


 At a Car Dealership:

"The best way to get back on your feet - miss a car payment."


 Outside a Muffler Shop:

 "No appointment necessary. We hear you coming."

 In a Veterinarian's waiting room:

 "Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!"


 At the Electric Company:

 "We would be delighted if you send in your payment on time.

 However, if you don't, YOU will be de-lighted."


 In a Restaurant window:

 "Don't stand there and be hungry; come on in and get fed up."


 In the front yard of a Funeral Home:

 "Drive carefully. We'll wait."


 At a Propane Filling Station:

 "Thank Heaven for little grills."


 In a Chicago Radiator Shop:

 "Best place in town to take a leak."


 And the best one for last:

 Sign on the back of another Septic Tank Truck:

 Caution - This Truck is full of Political Promises



Hammer Spade and the Inca Curse


Chapter Twenty-Two

hsic cover.jpg

Alonia called the next night to say she was off for a couple of days and she would fly out early Saturday morning.

Sally came to me the middle of the afternoon of the next day to say that Alonia was at the Aeropuerto Jorge Wilsterman waiting for me to pick her up. Isabela drove the van and waited in the passenger pick-up area while I found Alonia and brought her and her luggage to the van.



Raúl Castedo and Ronny Peñaranda had managed to get on the plane with Alonia. First, they were astonished that she flew to Cochabamba. They got a taxi to follow the van and when the van entered the office park where Goitia’s office was, they were even more astonished. When the rollup door opened and the van drove inside a suite almost directly behind AG Enterprises, they were beside themselves.

Ronny wanted to rush to their office and announce that their enemy was thirty meters from their office. But Raúl was ambitious and suggested that they take the cab back to the airport to talk this out.

“Why?” Ronny asked.

Raúl spoke as if he were speaking to a child. “We, the two of us, have a chance to be heroes. If we tell them now what we know, Antonio will thank us and he will take over. He will forget all about us and we will return to our boring job. The man at the ticket desk said the lady bought a round trip ticket and she will return to Buenos Aires the day after tomorrow.  We know that the Señora, and Señor Spade will return to the airport in two days. If we are waiting at the airport and we kill them, we will then be heroes and Antonio cannot claim our glory.”

Ronny was dubious. “Suppose they do not go to the airport? We will look like fools.”

“To whom will we look like fools? Antonio does not know we are here. He thinks we are in Buenos Aries watching the lady like we are supposed to do.”

Ronny was not an assertive or an analytical man. He was uncomfortable about it but saw no advantage in disagreeing with Raúl. The pay was the same either way and if it worked, he wouldn’t mind basking in a little heroic fame himself.

“I agree to do as you suggest,” he said.

Raúl grinned. “I bet Señor Fuente will give us a huge bonus when we kill his enemy in our own backyard in Cochabamba.”

The cab turned around and took them back to the airport.



Alonia was fluent in Spanish so she gave Sally, Isabela and Roscoe a break by helping with the calls. This was a boring time for us, sitting around doing nothing, waiting for word about where we could find the Raúl Fuente that we were after. Don called to say Fuente used three different phones to make his calls and the numbers were listed to fictitious names. So we spent our time logging call times so they could identify the location of the calling phone. Dull, dull, dull and, more work for all involved.



Alonia was supposed to fly back to Buenos Aires on Monday. We slept in late and had a relaxing morning together before she had to pack. By now all of us were pretty sick of MREs, so we decided to leave for the airport early and have a late lunch there before her flight left.

On the drive to the airport, Sally called to say that London was on the red phone and they had ordered me to return to the office. I asked her to have somebody waiting to drive Alonia to the airport. We turned around and drove back the way we came.

We were both disappointed. “I was looking forward to us eating alone for a change,” she said.

“Me too, and, besides, I am sick of MREs.”

She laughed. “You spoiled man. Try living off the land in the desert sometime.”

When I drove into the garage area, Roscoe was waiting to take Alonia to the airport. She kissed me good-bye and waved as the van pulled away.

I picked up the red phone. “0061 here.”

“We have an informer report that two of Goitia’s men are shadowing Miss Lockheart in hopes that she will lead them to you.”

That was unwelcome news. “She was just here.” I said. “5470 is taking her to the airport.”

“Warn them at once. Call me back when you find out if Goitia’s men are following them.”

“Will do.”

As soon as I got off that phone, I called. Roscoe answered on the first ring.

“London just informed me that two of Goitia’s men might be following you. They may have been shadowing Alonia to find me.”

“I’ve been watching a white Toyota van that drove out of the office park behind us.”

“That could be them.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I think they’re after me. Take Alonia to the airport and escort her to check-in and to airport security. She ought to be safe then. If they don’t follow you inside the airport, go back to the van. We don’t know what they have in mind and they might think you’re me, so be on the ball. I don’t believe they’ll attack you at the airport. If they follow you back here, we’ll have a little welcoming party waiting for them.”

“I’ve got a shotgun and my piece so Miss Lockheart will be safe.”

“Do what you have to do, just make sure Alonia gets away safely.” What a time not to have a spare vehicle, I thought.

“Got it, Boss.”

“What was that all about?” Alonia asked after Roscoe hung up.

Roscoe explained the plan to her.

“If they follow us into the parking area, drive up to one of the upper decks away from the crowded areas,” Alonia said authoritatively.

Roscoe was between a rock and a hard place. All of a sudden, Alonia was giving him orders as if she was his boss. He didn’t like the idea that Hammer might not approve. “Hammer told me to escort you to check-in.”

“Do as I told you!” Alonia said sharply.

The white van continued to follow them into the parking area. Alonia directed Roscoe to take the ramp to the daily parking area and go up to a level where there were no people moving about.

“Ain’t we setting ourselves up?” he asked.

“We’re setting them up,” Alonia retorted.

Alonia’s behavior surprised Roscoe. She had been pleasant, polite and congenial the whole time he had been around her and now she was ordering him around as if he was a private in the army and she was a general.

She spotted a parking spot between two luxury automobiles with the space in front vacant.

“Park there,” she ordered.

Roscoe pulled into the parking space and watched as the white van came closer. Alonia opened the door.

“Do not leave this vehicle,” she ordered. “Do not look back or in the rear or side mirrors.”

That was a strange request but Roscoe decided that obedience trumped valor as far as Alonia was concerned. He got the shotgun ready in case they came his way.

The white van pulled up behind their van and stopped. Alonia went to the rear of the Roscoe’s van as if to get her luggage. Roscoe heard two men get out of the Toyota. They said something to Alonia.

¿Quiénes son Ustedes?” (Who are you?) Alonia asked.

Buscamos a Usted y a Señor Spade.” (We seek you and Mr. Spade.)

“¿Por qué?  (Why?)

They pulled out UZI submachine guns “Si les matamos a Ustedes recibimos un galardón.” (If we kill you, we will get a bonus.)

Roscoe didn’t see the guns because Alonia had ordered him not to look. He heard a metallic clatter as if something fell to the concrete floor. He then heard two doors slam and the Toyota van took off squealing tires.

Alonia opened the back doors of the van. He turned and saw her lay two UZI submachine guns on the floor of the van and cover them with a piece of tarp.

“They left these,” she explained.

Then he heard what sounded like a vehicle slamming into a concrete pillar in the direction the Toyota van had gone.

When Alonia opened the door she said, “Take me to the terminal and drop me off. Don’t use the ramp they took.”

Her eyes had a strange amber tint. For a fleeting moment, Roscoe thought he was looking into the eyes of a cat and these strange words came into his head:


Sable Panther, burning bryte,

From the forests of the nyght.

What immortal hand or eye

Caused these evil men to die?[1]


When he drove up to the terminal entrance closest to the gate for Alonia’s flight, he stopped and helped her with her luggage.

“I’ll call Hammer and let him know I’m okay,” she said. “When you get back, tell him not to worry about the men Goitia sent after us. They have been taken care of.”

She walked into the terminal without looking back, while a very mystified Roscoe got into the van and drove back to Salazar Importers.



Alonia called me from the airport. “The two men in the van tried to attack us in the parking deck,” she said.

“Tried? “I asked.

“I took care of them,” she replied.

“You? Where was Roscoe?”

“I told him to remain in the van.”

“Alonia! Roscoe was supposed to protect you!”

“I caught them off guard. Roscoe would have precipitated a shootout and I would have missed my flight.”

Alonia was impossible sometimes! “That would have been better than you getting injured or killed!”

“Hammer, I’m okay. You forget that I can take care of myself.”

Her and Minerva’s confidence in themselves knew no bounds. “Alonia, it was Roscoe’s job to protect you and get you safely on the plane.”

“Hammer, I said I was okay. Roscoe did what I asked him to do.” She paused. “By the way, I put the two guns that those men dropped in the back of the van.”

“I’ll have a talk with him when he gets back,” I said.

“Do not be critical of Roscoe. He did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Alonia said firmly and hung up her phone.

Who in a million years would think a fashion model would be her own bodyguard and thwart two armed attackers?

Fuente and Goitia had behaved like savages. They tried to attack my office. They tried to attack Alonia. Alonia should have been off-limits to them, as Lady Margot’s parents should have been off-limits. The time had come for retribution!


Chapter Twenty-Three


When Roscoe walked behind the van to pick up the two UZIs and take them inside the suite, he noticed splashes of red that looked like blood on the back of the van. He wet his finger, touched it to one of the red splotches and tasted it. It was blood! He was even more perplexed when he went inside.

Dave was sitting at the conference table drinking a cup of coffee when Roscoe laid the two guns on the table.

“Where’d these come from?” Dave asked.

“Two of Goitia’s men dropped them in the airport parking deck,” Roscoe replied.

“Hammer said somebody was following Alonia to find him. Did they come after you?”

“Yeah, they did.”

“You obviously took care of them. Did you get Alonia off safely?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Roscoe replied as he sat down and poured himself a cup of coffee.

“Who were they?”

“Don’t know.”

“Did they try anything?”


Dave laughed and motioned toward the UZIs. “I guess you handled it in your own special way.” Roscoe’s reticence surprised him. Was he nervous about telling Hammer what he had done?

“How well do you know Alonia?” Roscoe asked.

“About as much as you know. She’s good looking, smart and hooked on Hammer.”

“How well does Hammer know her?”

“Pretty well, I think. He’s in tight with her family and they’re making him rich.”

“But, does he really know Alonia?”

Roscoe’s earnestness revealed that he was troubled. “Tell me what went on at the airport.”

“Dave, I don’t hardly know.”

“What did you see?”

“Nothing, really.”


“Yeah, Alonia told me not to look.”

Dave raised his eyebrows. “Are you saying Alonia did something to Goitia’s men?”

“Yeah, and I don’t understand what.”

“Are they dead?”

“Maybe. They drove off but there’s a lot of blood on the back of our van.”

“Tell me exactly what happened.”

Roscoe related everything that happened after they spotted the men following them. He told how Alonia ordered him to drive to where nobody would see what went on, her tone of voice when she forbade him to look toward the back of the van, her meeting them at the back of the van, the men dropping their weapons, speeding away and what was obviously them crashing their vehicle into a concrete pillar.

Dave listened intently. It sounded weird to him. “Maybe Alonia is some kind of judo expert and nobody knows about it.”

“It won’t judo, Dave.”

“Then what did she do?” Dave asked.

“I don’t know, but Alonia can be a very dangerous woman and I don’t ever want her mad at me.” He paused and added, “Nobody had better attack Hammer if Alonia is around either.”



Roscoe looked nervous when Isabela and I came out and saw that he had returned.

“Alonia called to tell me she got off okay,” I said. “Thanks for helping her.”

“She told me to tell you she was okay and Goitia’s men were taken care of.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Boss, I don’t know exactly what happened. Alonia handled it.”

“Alonia? Why did Alonia do anything when you were supposed to protect her?”

Roscoe seemed upset about what happened. “Boss, Alonia told me to let her handle it and she did.” He paused. “And I don’t know what she did.”

“I guess Alonia can take care of herself better than I thought she could,” I said.

“Alonia sure took care of herself and me, too,” Roscoe agreed. “I didn’t lift a finger.”

“What happened?”

“She met them at the back of the van. They said something to her, she replied back and they dropped these.” Roscoe pointed at the two UZIs on the table. “Then they jumped back in their van, slammed the doors and squealed tires gettin’ outta there.”

What Roscoe said didn’t make a lot of sense. I remembered Bernie Hatcher telling me about the time a man tried to mug him and Alonia in Las Vegas. Bernie said she gave him a hard look and the mugger ran away “like a mean dog was after him.”

“She’s handled muggers before,” I said.

“Alonia would be about the best I’ve ever seen dealing with muggers,” Roscoe agreed.

I didn’t fully understand what went on at the airport, but neither did Roscoe and he didn’t want to talk about it. Alonia wouldn’t tell me much either. I guess I owed Roscoe the benefit of the doubt.

Isabela caught my eye and I knew she was thinking about how odd Alonia was. But this wasn’t the same thing we were talking about in the dining room that night. Alonia is different, but, to my thinking, she is not odd.



Goitia’s home phone rang at 9:35 p.m. The voice on the line asked to speak to Antonio Goitia.

“I’m Goitia,” he said.

“This is Dr. Goya, physician in charge of the intensive care unit in Viedma Hospital. We have two men whose names are Raúl Castedo and Ronny Peñaranda here. Señor Peñaranda was able to speak and he said that they work for you.”

They were supposed to be in Buenos Aires, not Cochabamba. “Yes, they work for me.  Why are they in the hospital? What happened to them?”

“Señor Peñaranda says they were attacked by a black panther in the parking garage at the Aeropuerto Jorge Wilsterman.”

“A black panther? In the airport? This sounds ridiculous. Were they drunk?”

“Their wounds are consistent with those made by these animals. The airport police reported a paw print of a large cat at the place they were attacked. The two vehicles adjacent to the space have blood spatters on them.”

Goitia was very puzzled. “Can they talk?”

“Señor Castedo is still unconscious. He has a head injury from the vehicle accident when he drove into a concrete pillar at high speed. Señor Peñaranda is able to talk and has asked to speak to you.”

“I’ll be right down.”

Goitia wondered why they were in Cochabamba when they were supposed to be in Buenos Aires. Attacked by a black panther? This was even more puzzling. Maybe one had escaped from the zoo. And why hadn’t he heard from Ángel and Rodolfo? They had been in America for three days and he had not heard a word from them. Nothing seemed to be going according to plan. Now a panther had attacked two of his men!

Twenty minutes later, Goitia turned off Avda Aniceto Arce into the hospital parking lot, got out of his car and went to the intensive care unit.

“I’m Goitia,” he said to the nurse behind the counter. “Dr. Goya asked to see me.”

“Yes,” the nurse replied. “He is with Señor Peñaranda. I’ll page him.”

The waiting area was empty so Gotia took a seat in a chair beside the wall across from the nurse’s station. A few minutes later, a solemn-faced man in a hospital lab coat approached him. Gotia stood up to greet him.

The man extended his hand, “Señor Goitia, I presume.”

“I’m Goitia,” Antonio replied as he shook his hand. “You must be Dr. Goya.”

“Yes, I am. Your men are in grave condition. If Señor Castedo survives, and that is a big if, he will be bedridden for the rest of his life.”

“What about Peñaranda? Will he pull through?’

“He is conscious at least, but he is near delirium when he speaks of the attack. If he recovers physically, his mind will be affected because of the trauma he has experienced.”

The doctor led Goitia to a bed and drew back the curtain so they could enter. Goitia was shocked when he saw that Peñaranda had bandages from head to toe. The little skin that showed had lacerations. A head bandage covered one eye. He was staring at the ceiling with his other eye. Dr. Goya left them alone.

“Ronny, it’s Antonio.”

Peñaranda cut his eye toward his boss then looked back toward the ceiling. “Inti is angry at us,” he said hoarsely. “The lady we followed is a Daughter of the Sun. He sent a black panther to protect the lady.”

“You’re delirious, Ronny. That’s nothing but an old superstition. The panther that attacked you must have escaped from the zoo. Why were you and Raúl in Cochabamba anyway?”

“We followed the lady to Cochabamba to find Señor Hammer Spade as you ordered.”

“Did you find Señor Spade?”

“Yes, we saw him.”

“Where is he? In Cochabamba?”

“You must not attack Señor Hammer Spade.”

“Señor Hammer Spade is my enemy.”

“He is a Son of Inti. Inti adopted Señor Hammer Spade as his son because Señor Spade tried to prevent the desecration of the holy mountain of Viracocha when the English Lady was killed. Inti will protect Señor Spade and punish anybody who tries to harm him.”

“You’re delirious, Ronny. Come off that superstitious crap and tell me where Señor Hammer Spade is. When you get out of here, I’ll get you a big bonus and you will never have to work again.”

“Inti has forbidden me to tell you where Señor Hammer Spade is.”

“You work for me, not an ancient myth,” Goitia replied in an exasperated tone of voice. “You had better tell me where this Spade is!”

“I will speak of Señor Hammer Spade no more,” Peñaranda said and closed his eye.

“Speak to me, you fool!” Goitia yelled. “Tell me where Hammer Spade is! I order you to tell me!”

Dr. Goya entered. “You must leave. He is too frail to be shouted at.”

The doctor took Goitia by the arm and led him back to the nurse’s station.

“I will call you when he is better,” Dr. Goya said. Then he went back to Peñaranda’s bedside.

Goitia left the hospital. Things were not going well. He thought about calling Fuente but decided it was not a good idea. Fuente was probably drunk at this hour anyway and might be even more excitable than usual. The ghost of Lady Margot Fisher still hung over them. When would they excise her ghost?


Continued Next Month



Happy Birthday to Gene Alston

From Rita Berman


Gene at 10.jpg         September 12 is the day to celebrate the birth of Eugene B Alston.   In his Christmas card he indicated he would be 85 this year.  He carries his years lightly, is an entertaining storyteller, still enjoys participating in rifle and shotgun matches, and finds time to produce the monthly online magazine RPG Digest that enables our writing efforts to reach an audience.

In addition he has written and published some 30 books on a variety of topics. One of the first published is The Last Voyage of the Dan-D that was written for and dedicated to his grandson, Brandon Alston. 

Gene is presently working on his futuristic book, The Venus Chronicles and from what I have already read it is an adventure story about a group of people who leave our planet Earth and start a colony on Venus mingling with the original species found there. Adding to the mix are highly intelligent robots, one of whom writes a mystery story in the manner of Mickey Spillane.

Gene & Scout.jpgWhile he grew up on a farm and experienced that kind of hard work including picking cotton, he left it to go pole climbing. In his book Telling It Like It Was, published in 2009, Gene recalled his first job was working for the telephone company in 1958. In those days his knowledge of algebra and ability to solve problems counted for more than a college degree.

army last day.jpgHe wrote technical reports for upper management that were later published in trade magazines.  Gene also wrote technical system instructions for the telephone company that covered everything from how to sharpen a pencil to installing satellite systems. “They tried to leave nothing to chance,” he said.  His knowledge of rifles earned him $300 for a piece published in Precision Shooting magazine 

By the time he retired in December 1999 Gene had seen a fair amount of the world, had made business trips to 47 of the 50 states plus Mexico and Canada. Nowadays he stays closer to home in Graham, North Carolina.

Ariana Mangum introduced me to Gene when I was editing one of her books some ten or more years ago.  Since then he has become my publisher and my friend.  It gives me great pleasure to wish him “Happy Birthday” in this month’s RPG Digest.



How It All Started

Brad Carver


Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. –Jack Benny


            August 2008. I remember it well, the day my wife, who is fifteen years younger than me, asked if I ever wanted children.  We were sitting on the couch, watching TV.  I don’t remember what TV show we were watching, but she looked at me with that gleam in her eye and asked, “Do you ever want children?”

            Right away I knew this was a trick question. If I said “No,” I wouldn’t be able to touch her for a month.  I didn’t want that. I’m old, I’m not dead.  So, I said what she wanted me to say and what she wanted to hear.  I said, “Sure, I want kids. One day.”

            I didn’t expect that ‘one day’ to ever come however.  If I really wanted children, I would’ve had them by now.  So, I went on about my business, never thinking about it again.  Until two months later. That’s when she came to me and said, “I’m pregnant.”

            I said, “No you’re not.”

            She said, “Yes I Am.”

            I said, “Maybe it’s trapped gas. It could be trapped gas, you know? It’s the same feeling.”

            She said, “No, I’m pregnant and I’m going to have it.”

            So I reminded her, “I’m fifty-two years old. By time he’s getting out of diapers, I’ll be going in them.”

            She didn’t care. She wanted a baby and she was determined to have one. There is nothing, absolutely nothing I can do to stop her. So I buckled down and waited for the baby to come. I watched her go through all kinds of mood swings during the pregnancy. At one time I think she actually tried to kill me.

            Her mother was happy, of course. She was going to have a grandbaby. But her dad just sat there and looked at me with that, “I may kill you” look in his eyes.

            When I first told them, her dad laughed. I don’t think he even knew what I said, or he did know and didn’t take me seriously. But when he found out I wasn’t joking, he changed his attitude. He stopped laughing right away.  After all, his only daughter is pregnant and I did it. I can’t make her un-pregnant.  The only difference between a light bulb and a pregnant woman is you can unscrew a light bulb.

            The grandparents were at the hospital when my son was born and the first time Granddad laid eyes on him, his face lit up and he started smiling. He wasn’t angry anymore. He was proud just like I was. Isn’t it amazing what a baby can do to a person?




From the Kitchen of P. L. Almanza


Butter Pecan Cheesecake


butter pecan cheesecake 1.jpgIngredients:


For the crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the pecans:

2 cups pecan halves and pieces

2 tbls unsalted butter

3 tbls granulated sugar

pinch of salt


For the filling:

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream



To make the crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter, and mix with a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingers until thoroughly combined. The mixture will be crumbly but should hold together when pinched.

Press the crust mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or 9-inch springform pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

To make the pecans:

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans, sugar, and salt. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the pecans are toasted and the sugar sticks to them (about 7 or 8 minutes). Set aside to cool.

If desired, set aside some of the pecans for garnish. Once cooled, roughly chop the remaining pecans.


To make the filling:

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until thoroughly combined and smooth.

In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to whip the cream until soft peaks form.

Fold about a third of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Spread the filling evenly in the cooled crust. Garnish as desired. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving (overnight is even better).


Cook’s notes –

*A note about the crust: Shortbread crusts can be temperamental. Be sure your butter is cold and that you’ve measured the ingredients accurately. Avoid dark pans. Don’t over bake.



Carrot Cake Cheesecake


carrot cake cheesecake 1.pngINGREDIENTS:

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups shredded carrots



2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 large eggs

1/4 cup sour cream

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream



1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 cups powdered sugar

1 cup chopped pecans



Prepare the cheesecake layer first. This can be done early in the day, or the night before. If freezing the cheesecake, can be stored 1-2 weeks in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a large roasting pan, add 1 inch of water to the pan. Place it on the lower 2/3 of the oven! Allow it to preheat in the oven.

Prepare 9-inch springform pan by wrapping bottom of pan (outside) with double layer of foil. Line bottom (inside) with a circle of parchment paper.

Beat cream cheese with granulated sugar for 2-3 minutes until creamy. Add in salt and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in sour cream and heavy cream, until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Pour into prepared 9-inch springform pan. Place pan in center of preheated roasting pan in the oven, making sure to be careful not to spill water.

Bake cheesecake for 45 minutes. Turn oven off and let cheesecake sit in oven for an additional 30 minutes. Remove and cool completely on counter.

When cooled, remove outside portion of the springform pan and place into the freezer for several hours or overnight. I put it in freezer for about 2 hours. If using within 24 hours, feel free to just refrigerate cheesecake!



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. I use Wilton Bake even strips to ensure nice, even cakes. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs until blended. Add in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Beat for about 2 minutes. Add in shredded carrots. Pour into prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack for ten minutes. The remove from pans and cool completely.



In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and butter. Beat with whisk attachment for 3 minutes. Add in sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream. Beat for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Fold in chopped pecans.

To assemble the cake, layer one layer of carrot cake. Add the cheesecake then top with second layer of carrot cake. Spread on the frosting, first on sides then on top!

Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.

Creamy Homemade Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies


This recipe for brownies is a heavenly combination of chocolate and creamy cheesecake. A box brownie mix with an easy cheesecake topping.

Cooking time: 35 mins

Yield: 24 servings


1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup white sugar



Prepare the brownie mix as directed by manufacturer.

Preheat oven to temperature indicated on box.

Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, egg and sugar until smooth.

Dollop the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter. Swirl together using a knife or skewer.

Bake according to manufacturer's instructions. Brownies will be done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool in the pan, then cut into bars and serve.



If you want your brownies thicker, use a 8x8 inch glass or baking pan. It will take extra time to cook them through but they were well worth the wait.

It tastes even better after you've let it refrigerate overnight.


Creamy Homemade Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies


chocolate chesecake.jpgThis recipe for brownies is a heavenly combination of chocolate and creamy cheesecake. A box brownie mix with an easy cheesecake topping.

Cooking time: 35 mins

Yield: 24 servings


1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup white sugar



Prepare the brownie mix as directed by manufacturer.

Preheat oven to temperature indicated on box.

Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, egg and sugar until smooth.

Dollop the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter. Swirl together using a knife or skewer.

Bake according to manufacturer's instructions. Brownies will be done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool in the pan, then cut into bars and serve.



If you want your brownies thicker, use a 8x8 inch glass or baking pan. It will take extra time to cook them through but they were well worth the wait.

It tastes even better after you've let it refrigerate overnight.



How the Internet Started According to the Bible

Author Unknown

Thanks to Sherry Whitford for sending it.

Please do not Google or check this with Snopes. They will lie to you. Trust me!

In ancient Israel, it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a healthy young wife by the name of Dorothy.   And Dot Com was a comely woman, large of breast, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot

And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?"

And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply said, "How, dear?"

And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. The sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."  

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums.  And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.  

To prevent neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew.  It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures - Hebrew to the People (HTTP).  

And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung.  They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.  And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. Indeed he did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drum heads and drumsticks.

And Dot did say, "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others." And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel, or eBay as it came to be known.  He said, "We need a name that reflects what we are."

And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators." 

"YAHOO," said Abraham. And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.

Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside. It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).

That is how it all began. And that's the truth. I would not make this stuff up.




Why, How?


Why do peanuts float in a regular coke and sink in a diet coke? Go ahead and try it.


I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes. 


Can you cry under water?


How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?


Why do you have to "put your two cents in"... but it’s only a "penny for your thoughts"?  Where's that extra penny going?  (taxes)


Once you're in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?


What disease did cured ham actually have?


How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?


Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby" when babies wake up like every two hours?


If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?


Why are you IN a movie, but you’re ON TV?


Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?


Why do doctors leave the room while you change?  They're going to see you naked anyway.


Why is “bra" singular and "panties" plural?


Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?


Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?


If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can’t he fix a hole in a boat?


If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?


If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?


Why do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?


Why did you just try singing the two songs above?


Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?


How did the man who made the first clock know what time it was?


“No one ever finds life worth living - one has to make it worth living.”– Winston Churchill


“Today is life--the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.” – Dale Carnegie


​“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell


“Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.”
– Vivian Komori


It's interesting to note that the word "anger" is only one letter short of "danger."


Volunteers are unpaid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.


Don't let aging get you down. It's too hard to get back up.


We can't choose how we feel, but we can choose what to do about it.


“I am glad Dudley Moore’s success hasn’t changed him. He’s still selfish, vain and greedy. In other words, a fully rounded human being.” Peter Cook


A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks


I've learned.... That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I've learned.... That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

I've learned.... That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

I've learned.... That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. I've learned.... That we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I've learned.... That money doesn't buy class.

I've learned.... That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I've learned... That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I've learned.... To ignore the truth does not change the truth. Plato

I've learned.... That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

I've learned.... That love, not time, heals all wounds.





Fle`ur Adcock: For a Five-Year Old: is the author of ten books of poetry and a collected edition of her work, Poems1960-2000, was published by Bloodaxe in 2000. Recipient of a Cholmondeley Award in 1976 and a New Zealand National Book Award in 1984, she was awarded an OBE in 1996.


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.


Rita Berman: D. H. Lawrence and His Sexually Explicit Work; was born in London, England and now lives in Mebane, N.C. Her business, travel, and writing advice articles have been published in more than 500 diverse newspapers and magazines in the United States and Gt. Britain. Her reference book, The A-Z of Writing and Selling,  was a Writer's Digest Book Club selection for September 1981.  Her other books, available on Amazon.com are Still Hopping, Still Hoping, (2012), The Dating Adventures of a Widow, (2013), The Key, (2014), Parallel Lives, (2016), Ariana Mangum's Books and Columns (2017),and Military Wives and Widows Tell Their Stories, (2018).


Randy Bittle: Thought Expriments regarding the Mind; 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: How It All Started; 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


Diana Goldsmith: The Day When Everything Changed; 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.


Peggy Lovelace Ellis, Natters of a Nomad, 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.


Howard A Goodman: No Act of Love Goes Unpunished;A veteran of corporate society his entire working life, Goodman 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, Goodman considers himself a Southern author of sorts. In contrast to those who spin tales about being growing up dirt-poor on a tobacco farm, Goodman’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 New Southerners. His challenge was to introduce drama, tension, and pathos to a world commonplace in every aspect—one in which nearly any reader can envision living and working. He writes within the self-professed genre of Contemporary Gentlemen’s Romance—mature, professional men in search of legitimate relationships with women upon the stage of gritty, unglorified corporate workplaces. He considers it a bit ironic that this genre appears to have found more of a following among women readers. Goodman resides with his wife in Cary, North Carolina.


Sybil Austin Skakle:  Nine Eleven and Agape’; grew up in Hatteras, NC, born January 10, 1926, was a hospital pharmacist for 23 years, has published poetry, Searchings, 2001; a memoir, Confessions of an Outer Banks Filly, 2002; another memoir Valley of the Shadow, 2009. Her work has appeared in periodicals and numerous poetry and prose anthologies, four of which were published by The Chapel Hill Writers’ Discussion Group. She has been a member of Friday Noon Poets for more than thirty years.    


Marry Williamson: Wisteria House; 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: A Day off to Remember: 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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[1] Tyger, Tyger by William Blake (1757-1827)