RPG Digest

July 2020


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Thanks to all these talented writers who have contributed to every issue of RPG Digest with such enthusiasm.


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Table of Contents

The Backyard Apple Tree by Laura Alston. 3

Freedom by E. B. Alston. 3

London’s Café Royal – Then and Now by Rita Berman. 5

That Nineties Summer by Peggy Ellis. 7

Train Travel Across Canada by Sybil Austin Skakle. 13

Father’s Day 2020 by Tim Whealton. 13

Philosophers of the Century ... 16

Food for Thought by Diana Goldsmith. 17

Postcards from the Road, pt. 4 by John Burns. 18

Toddlers by Sybil Austin Skakle. 26

Gideon Branch Alston III by E. B. Alston. 27

Independence Day Jokes by Kids. 28

Different Perspectives by E. B. Alston. 29

Time by Marry Williamson. 29

Analyzing Sunday by Randy Bittle. 30

The Gift Best Given by Edward Di Gangi – Reviewed by Rita Berman. 31

No Act of Love Goes Unpunished (Part II) by Howard A Goodman. 32

Hammer Spade and the  Four Horsemen. 34

My Environmental Journey by Carol A. Rados. 37

More 21st Century Weird Stuff 39

Prayer Meeting. 39

Why Men Shouldn’t Write Advice Columns. 40

My Tomato Plant by Sybil Austin Skakle. 41

Little Red Riding Hood by E. B. Alston. 42

Life in Moccasin Gap by Brad Carver. 44

Progress by E. B. Alston. 46

The Diary of Samuel Pepys. 47

Contributors. 50




The Backyard Apple Tree

 Laura Alston


The old apple tree that stood in the backyard

Was a source of many of my childhood memories.

That tree had a very special branch that I loved,

And where I sat upon on hot summer days.


Its leaves made a colorful carpet on the ground

Where  I liked to sit upon on cool fall afternoons.

I would sort the leaves by color and size sometimes,

Then grab handfuls of them to toss into the air.


In winter, the apple tree stood stark and bare

Except for snow that adorned its branches.

It looked sad and lonely standing there,

Straining upwards toward the winter sun.


In spring, it was dressed in lovely blossoms

Along with new green leaves.

This made a lovely picture for me

Which I carried each day in my head.


That old apple tree is gone now,

But it still lingers in my mind.

I place it among other childhood memories

Where I go sometimes to visit.




E. B. Alston


Jefferson defined freedom this way, “If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my purse, what you do is your business.”

The United States has moved considerable distance from the Jeffersonian point of view and the change has accelerated by leaps and bounds since 2000. Sad to say, neither we, nor our descendants, will ever again see true freedom in this country. Totalitarianism is on the horizon and it advances relentlessly toward meddling in every aspect of our lives.

I don’t like to be pessimistic and there is no pessimistic literature worth reading. So, as a reminder of what we’re missing this Fourth of July, I have collected excerpts from famous speeches from glorious bygone days.

In 532 AD, Roman Emperor Justinian was facing a revolt and his prospects were not thought to be good. Taking the advice of his councilors, he was preparing to flee Constantinople. Ships were waiting in the harbor to transport him and Empress Theodora to safety in Thrace.

As the panicked Emperor made for the door, the Empress rose from her throne and said, “My lords, the present occasion is too serious to allow me to follow the convention that a woman should not speak in a man’s council. Those whose interests are threatened by extreme danger should think only of the wisest course of action, not of conventions.

“In my opinion, flight is not the right course, even if it should bring us to safety. It is impossible for a person, having been born into this world, not to die, but it is intolerable to be a fugitive. May I never be deprived of this purple robe, and may I never see the day when those who meet me do not call me empress.

“If you wish to save yourself, my lord, there is no difficulty. We are rich; over there is the sea, and yonder are the ships. Yet reflect for a moment whether, when you have once escaped to a place of security, you would not gladly exchange such safety for death. As for me, I agree with the adage that the royal purple is the noblest shroud.”

As a result of this brief speech, her husband changed his mind about fleeing. Instead, he rallied his troops and allies and led them to victory over the insurgents.



This is the conclusion of Daniel Webster’s speech at the dedication of the Bunker Hill Memorial on June 17, 1825

Let the sacred obligations which have devolved on this generation and on us, sink deep into our hearts. There are daily droppings from among us who established our liberty and our government. The great trust now descends into new hands. Let us apply ourselves to that which is presented to us as our appropriate object. We can win no laurels in a war for independence. Earlier and worthier men have gathered them all. Nor are there places beside Solon, and Alfred, and other founders of states. Our fathers have filled them. But there remains to us a great duty of defense and preservation; and there is opened to us also a noble pursuit to which the spirit of the times strongly invites us.

“Our proper business is improvement. Let our age be the age of improvement. In a day of peace let us advance the arts of peace and the works of peace. Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote its great interests, and see whether we also in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered. Let us cultivate a true spirit of union and harmony. In pursuing the great objectives which our condition points out to us, let us act under a settled conviction, and an habitual feeling that these twenty-four states are one country. Let our conceptions be enlarged to the circle of our duties. Let us extend our ideas over the whole of the vast field in which we are called to act. Let our object be our country. And by the blessing of God may that country itself become a vast and splendid monument, not of oppression and terror, but of wisdom and peace, and of liberty, upon which the world may gaze with admiration, forever.”



General Douglas McArthur had a remarkable way with words. He was also never at a loss for the most apt reply. A critic asked him if he loved war. The General replied, “No one who has seen combat loves war. Combat causes one to love peace all the more ardently. But once the decision has been made to go to war, war must be waged to win, to win at all costs, no matter what the sacrifice, until the enemy is defeated and their urge to make war is no more.”

His most memorable speech was his farewell speech at West Point May 12, 1962. This is the conclusion.

“You are the lever which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation’s destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds.

“The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: duty, honor, country.

“This does not mean you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of philosophers: ‘Only the dead have seen the end of war.’

“The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished—tone and tints. They have gone glimmering through the dreams that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen, then, but with thirsty ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll.

“In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful, mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory, I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: duty, honor, country.

“Today marks me final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the corps, and the corps.

“I bid you farewell.”


Happy Fourth of July

Gene Alston




London’s Café Royal – Then and Now

By Rita Berman


A French wine merchant, Daniel Nicholas Thevenon, fled to England in 1863 to avoid creditors. He and his wife Celestine arrived with just five pounds in cash.  He changed his name to Daniel Nichols and by 1865 had created Café Royal a dining room and bar that became the meeting place for princes and celebrities, writers, artists, and statesmen. Situated at the southern end of Regent Street in London the Café Royal was said to have the best wine cellar in the world after Daniel Nichols had his cousin Eugene Delacoste from Burgundy join him.

For more than a century it was London’s place to see and be seen at. The Café was the scene of a famous meeting on 14 March 1895 when Frank Harris advised Oscar Wilde to drop his charge of criminal libel against the Marquis of Queensberry, father of Lord Alfred Douglas, “Bosie”.

Bosie was 16 years younger than Wilde, but at age 24 was not an innocent, having had homosexual relations with several boys while at Oxford. He sent Wilde poems and they became committed to each other.  Bosie was a reckless and unmanageable individual. His temper was ferocious. Possibly he took after his father the Marquis who was an unstable character and prone to rages. The Marquis didn’t like the attachment between Wilde and his son.

After spotting Wilde and Douglas lunching at the Café Royal the Marquis wrote to his son that he must cease his intimacy with Wilde or he would disown him.  He was determined to break up the relationship between Wilde and his son. The Marquis then attempted to disrupt the opening night performance of The Importance of Being Earnest.

A few days later he left a calling card for Wilde at a London club.  It was addressed for “Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite” (his spelling error). Wilde took this as an accusation and was provoked to suing for libel in 1895. Most of his friends were against him suing, but Bosie urged him to do it. Queensberry was acquitted, and Wilde was subsequently tried, convicted and imprisoned.

In subsequent years the Café was patronized by Virginia Woolf, James Whistler, Augustus John, Winston Churchill, Noel Coward, Brigitte Bardot, Max Beerbohm, George Bernard Shaw, Jacob Epstein, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, and Muhammad Ali. This is the place where D. H. Lawrence is said to have kissed his friend John Middleton Murry, the husband of Katherine Mansfield.  Royal visitors included the Prince of Wales, who later abdicated as Edward VIII to marry Mrs. Simpson, and the Duke of York, who later became George VI.

The Café Royal was still a highly popular expensive eatery in 1960 when my husband and I took my parents to lunch there.  The four of us were surrounded by five waiters, the wine steward and the bus boy. The menu was in French, fortunately the language I studied at school.  The food was too fancy for my father – he told the head waiter he wanted “Tomato soup, and chips.” (Not potato chips but what we in the States call French fries.)  The waiter sniffed and said, with a French accent, “the Café Royal doesn’t serve chips,” but dad got his tomato soup which probably was out of a can. I don’t remember what I ate – possibly frogs legs which were my favorite in that period of my life.  Nor do I recall the cost of the meal, but having five waiters fawning over us was uncomfortable. And that was the first and last time I ate at the famous Café Royal where Wilde and Bosie dined.

But Princes Diana went there for lunch, as did Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Brigitte Bardon and Mahammad Ali, David Bowie, Lawrence Olivier, Ivor Novello, and other prominent personalities. From 1951 the Café Royal was the home of the National Sporting Club. In 1972 David Locke bought it. In December 2008 it was closed for the building to be transformed into a five-star hotel with 160 rooms and historic suites. The contents of the cellar, fittings and furniture, photographs, Venetian chandeliers from the Napoleon suite and even the original boxing ring used for the black tie boxing matches were sold at auction, some of the lots going for ten times more than anticipated.

For three years the site underwent restoration and redevelopment.  The original building is a Grade II listed property, and now has a 21st century style, 160 contemporary guestrooms and historic suites, dining rooms and bars, a private members club, ballroom and a spa and gym. It was a massive undertaking and the hotel opened in December 2012.

Until the coronavirus restrictions are lifted the Hotel Café Royal is not serving afternoon tea in the Oscar Wilde Lounge.  This room was restored back to its original Louis XVI detailing. In 2019 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth the Queen of Afternoon Teas menu was created. At a cost of 55 pounds per person this includes Cheshire cheese and asparagus tart followed by dainty sandwiches of rare roast Angus beef, and curried chicken and raisins, scones and clotted cream, Victorian sponge, and raspberry compote. A choice of 25 tea blends is served. In the past a live pianist has played in the background. 



That Nineties Summer

Peggy Lovelace Ellis


The writer chuckled with satisfaction as the plain white envelope with block print slid through the mail slot. It’s her turn to wonder, her turn to feel helpless.

* * *

“What a great day to be alive!” Shelby Randall’s laughter followed her as she strolled along the asphalt, greeting passersby with a cheerful nod. No blue Monday this week.

Her job as bookkeeper at Dillon’s hardware store was finished for the day. After being cooped up inside, she relished being outdoors, always her favorite place to be. Fluffy clouds drifted across blue skies, a balmy breeze ruffled the newly opened leaves on the maples that marched along the roadway. Even after nearly five years in Crawfordville, she cherished springtime in the North Carolina mountains. She’d never stayed this long in one place and hadn’t expected to settle here either. It had been just one more stopgap in a lifetime of them.

At forty-seven, she was comfortable in her skin. She always had been although there had been some hazy moments in her life. Still, it was good to feel settled. Life couldn’t be better.

Pulling open the mailbox at the end of her driveway, she hummed as she shuffled through a stack of mail. Junk as always. She had been many things to many people, but the name Shelby Randall didn’t exist in any address book.

“Ah, what’s this?” she wondered aloud as she entered the wood framed house that had become home. A plain white envelope addressed to her in bold block print stood out among the advertisements.

She settled into the sagging leather chair that dominated the living room and propped her feet on an equally worn ottoman. Inside the envelope was a single, folded page from a lined tablet.

            Do you remember the summer of 1995? Did

            you really think you had covered your tracks?

You didn’t. I’m coming after you.

She frowned at the postmark. Boston. Was it ’95 when she spent the summer in the northeast? It must have been.

Her thoughts slipped back in time and she again heard the burglar alarm blasting as the rock slammed through the pawnshop window. When she crawled through the window, there he stood, a little pipsqueak of a man with rimless spectacles perched on the end of his nose. She almost regretted jabbing the knife into his belly. It was his fault. He shouldn’t have threatened her.

She’d barely had time to grab a few rings before she heard the sirens. Escape was possible only because she sprinted through alleys, sometimes blinded by the long blonde hair that whipped around her face. Her college days of running track had saved her skin that night, as it had many times before and since. A brief smile crossed her face. Those rings had kept her in good pot for weeks. Who could ask for more?

But why write a letter after all these years? Surely, that six-inch knife hadn’t done much damage. Besides, how could he know her name? This name?

It was probably somebody’s idea of a practical joke. Somebody who thought she was too stand-offish maybe – for the most part she kept to herself – and who had friends in Boston. She dropped the letter into the wastebasket. Life was too good to let it bother her. She settled down to watch an evening of Cold Case File reruns. She never tired of seeing criminals get caught, and, in fact, their stupidity usually made her laugh.

Late the next day, Shelby finished punching figures into the calculator and hit the total key. Good. The columns balanced, always a satisfying way to end a workday.

Outside the hardware store, she stretched her aching neck muscles. An ominous cloud peeked above the horizon in the western sky. Farmers would appreciate some rain, but it only gave her a nagging headache.

She started homeward, her long stride easily covering the few blocks to her driveway. There, she pulled another bunch of advertisements from the mail. And another plain white envelope with her name and address in block print.

She frowned. Two days in a row? Somebody must have too much time on his hands. She ignored the fleeting unease that nibbled at the edges of her mind.

Inside the living room, she dropped into the leather chair and peered at the dim postmark. Fishkill, New York.

            Did you actually believe I wouldn’t identify

            you someday? There’s no statute of limitations

for what you did. You won’t escape justice.

I’ll see to that in my own way.

Her heart lurched, then slowly settled into its regular rhythm.

She remembered Fishkill as a small town with a small bank. It had been easy to strike up a conversation with the security guard at the bar across the street and just as easy to get him talking about his job. It had been harder to steal the key from his jacket pocket after he’d bragged about it being the key to great riches. She’d excused herself to go to the ladies’ room, and then ran half a block, made a duplicate, and slipped the original back into his pocket before he’d finished his beer.

The rest had been easy, too, but to no avail. Not one dime had been left lying loose. Didn’t those people even keep coffee money in their desks?

She gripped the letter in one white-knuckled fist as she remembered the security guard with suspenders holding up his baggy jeans. Had the elderly man been badly hurt? Surely, she’d only stunned him with his nightstick. Besides, it was his fault. He shouldn’t have altered his routine that night after she’d spent several nights watching through a back alley window.

She gazed at the envelope in puzzlement. Maybe this wasn’t a practical joke at all. Yet how could any one person know about both the burglary at the pawnshop in Boston and the attempted bank robbery in Fishkill?

She grappled with that question while she zapped frozen lasagna in the microwave and methodically shoveled it into her mouth. No answer came. Her fingers pressed the muscle that jumped in her temple. Three aspirin and a night’s sleep ought to take care of her headache.

A distant rumble of thunder woke her at dawn, and she considered keeping her throbbing head at home, but she couldn’t. It was Wednesday, the day she must face the auditor. Everything was in order, of course. She wasn’t stupid.

With the auditor satisfied, she made her excuses and left work early. Striding home under the darkening sky, she cringed with every roll of thunder.

Her footsteps slowed as she neared her driveway. Holding her breath, she eyed the mailbox. Surely not another one.

She was wrong. It was there – the plain white envelope, the block print, postmarked Richmond, Virginia.

The frantic barking of a dog running down the road galvanized her into action, and she ran indoors. Maybe she’d wait until after supper to read it. No, she would deal with it now. Still she hesitated, the envelope clutched in her shaking hand. This is ridiculous. Open it!

            Your day of judgment is at hand. Are you

            ready? I’m coming after you.

The words jumped off the paper, darted through her widened eyes, and burned themselves into her brain. This made three, she reflected when her brain started functioning again. Should she call the police? No, they’d ask questions she didn’t want to answer. She’d never seen the inside of a jail and didn’t intend to start now.

She thought back to that long ago summer when she’d left the northeast traveling south. Had she stopped in Richmond? Yes, she had.

Her old MG speeding through the quiet neighborhood . . . the Golden Retriever . . . the thud when she dodged the terrified child. It wasn’t her fault. It was either hit the dog or hit the child. What choice did she have?

She had washed the blood off the car that night using the hose at an empty house several miles away. The following morning, she had deliberately run the car into a muddy ditch. The mechanic hadn’t raised an eyebrow, but she’d had to hock a ring to pay the costs.

A chill crawled up her spine. Someone was retracing her steps of that ’90s summer. Who? Why that particular summer and those particular towns? She had left her mark behind in several places during those halcyon summer days, as well as other summers and winters.

The questions gave sharp little bites around the edges of her mind, bites that grew sharper throughout the long night. Clutching her throbbing head, she listened to the ominous sound of thunder coming closer, ever closer. No way could she go to work. She called the store, then swallowed more aspirin – what she wouldn’t give for something stronger – and went to bed, but not to sleep.

She wished the storm would break and get it over with, then at least her headache would go away. She rolled out of bed and paced the floor, the threatening words of the letters battering her brain with each step. Her heart seemed to bounce around, climbing into her throat, thudding into her belly. Had the mail come yet?

She slid the squeaky dead bolt and eased open the door. Was someone hiding behind the shrubs, ready to grab her when she stepped outside? She slammed the door, her breath coming in short gasps. When she stopped shaking, she walked from room to room, peering through the blinds. She couldn’t see anybody, so maybe if she hurried . . .

The wind left a low moaning sound when it passed through the trees. Death rode on this kind of wind. She shoved the thought away and searched the mailbox. At first, she thought it was empty, but she groped all the way to the back. There it was.

The plain white envelope. The block print. The postmark: Charlotte. Oh so close.

She shuffled back to the house, the letter stretched as far ahead as her arm would reach. She was hardly aware of locking the door before she walked, stiff-legged, into the kitchen. Perched on the edge of a ladder-back chair, she stared at the envelope for an eternity. Or was it only seconds?

With deliberate care, she tapped the letter into one end of the envelope, then, bit by tiny bit, she tore off the other end and slowly extracted and unfolded the single sheet of lined paper.

            The grim reaper is upon you!

She dropped the paper on the table. A cobra coiled to strike wouldn’t have been more deadly.

Charlotte. But it wasn’t murder, not really. It was a drug deal gone wrong. If she had lain there in the puddle of blood, he wouldn’t have cared. He would’ve left her there, like she left him.

She thought she’d covered her tracks over the years, even changed her name and her lifestyle many times. Still, someone had found her, had caught up with her at last. Depression hovered like a cloud around her slumped shoulders. Which one was it, she wondered, and fought the numbness that settled in her brain.


The pawnshop owner?

The bank security guard?

The dog’s owner?

The drug dealer?


* * *

He was gaining on her, a meat cleaver clutched in his fist, a look of evil on his face. She put on a burst of speed and watched the pawnbroker fall behind. She didn’t have time to relax though. Ahead of her, the bank guard swung a baseball bat that brushed her hair as she ducked into the security of the MG. Her foot pushed the accelerator to the floorboard even as her hands pushed the steering wheel to go faster. She gasped in horror when a dog splattered against the windshield. Leaving the car in gear, she flung herself into the street and ran. Heart pounding, lungs pumping, her steps lagged as the man with blood spurting from a hole in his chest grabbed her long blonde hair. One yank and he had her in his grasp.

A scream woke her, jerking her upright at the kitchen table where she had sprawled through the night, too numb to propel herself up the stairs to bed.

She glanced frantically around, but there was no one there. Her breathing slowed, but the nightmare clung to the edges of her mind like long thin fingers of fog.

She hadn’t meant to hurt anybody, she whimpered to whatever gods might be listening. If they’d left her alone, everything would have been okay. It was their fault, every bit of it, she assured those gods. She was the one suffering though. Not fair, she ranted. Not fair at all.

Shudders rolled down her spine matching the rolls of thunder that made her grip her throbbing head. She had to do payroll today, then it was time to move on. After collecting her paycheck, she would clear her safety deposit box, and hit the road once more. She looked at the refrigerator, but didn’t open it. She didn’t remember when she last ate, but the thought of food made sour bile rise in her throat.

Staring out the window at a world that had turned metallic gray, she waited for the mail. This mind-numbing suspense had to stop. Apparently, her urgency traveled on the rising wind because the mail van rounded the curve and slowed.

It didn’t stop. The mail van didn’t stop! Or had she turned away? Or blinked? She set her teeth against the bile that threatened to overflow. As soon as the van rounded a curve out of sight, she hurried to the box and thrust her hand inside. Nothing.

She slid her hand over every inch, all the way to the rear and back again. Up the sides and across the top. No plain white envelope with block print.

Giddy with relief, she laughed hysterically and ran back to the house. Electricity filled the air and flickering blue light lit the gray sky, but neither disturbed her happiness. Sinking into the old leather chair, she laid her head against its back. Why had she been so worried? Somebody had been playing tricks on her, that was all. Nobody from her past could possibly find her in this small out-of-the-way town. In relief, her eyelids closed and she dozed.

She bolted upright. Thunder? No. Somebody pounded on the door. It was a neighbor, she assured herself as she stood on trembling legs with her hand on the knob. Or someone with car trouble needing to use the phone. Or someone caught in the rain and needing shelter. All perfectly innocent.

Don’t be a fool, she muttered, and flung open the door.

“I’ve come, Mother dear.”

Stung by the biting sarcasm, Shelby Randall stared in disbelief. Is this what those letters were all about? Not the pawnbroker, not the security guard, not the dog owner, not the drug dealer. It was only this thin young woman calling her mother. Shelby slumped with relief. All her fears had been for nothing. All the gut-wrenching terror she’d gone through this week had been for nothing. All she had to do was explain and this nightmare would be over.

She didn’t have the chance.

“Goodbye, Mother dear.”

A loud clap of thunder broke directly overhead as the young woman drew her hand from the pocket of her bedraggled raincoat, and fired a .38 slug into Shelby Randall’s heart. She nodded in satisfaction while blood seeped through her mother’s blouse. She stepped across the crumpled body and went in search of a phone.

“She had it coming,” the woman told the police chief a short while later in Shelby Randall’s living room.

“Had it coming? Maybe you’d better explain that.” In all his years in police work, Mike Williams had never seen a murderer so calm, so matter-of-fact as this young woman lounging in an ancient, sagging leather chair.

“She gave me away. Didn’t want a baby messing up her life. Left me with strangers. Strangers who beat me. Made a slave out of me.” The choppy sentences notwithstanding, she spoke in even tones. “So, you see, it was her own fault. And it’s not like I didn’t give her fair warning because I did.”

“Fair warning,” he repeated after her, a ballpoint gripped in his fingers. “In what way did you warn her?”

She told him about the letters. “She could’ve left town. Wouldn’t have done any good, though, and I guess she knew it. I would’ve followed her to the ends of the earth.”

“Let me get this straight.” Williams checked his notes. “You mailed four letters, one day apart. Right? Boston, somewhere in New York, Richmond, and Charlotte. Did you search for your mother in those cities?”

“No, I just happened to stop there.” A sly smile crossed the young woman’s face. “I thumbed, and dallied along the way.”

“But why four letters? Why not simply come?”

“I wanted her in terror when I found her.”

The policeman made a note on the pad in front of him. “Can you be sure you found the right Shelby Randall? Both are common names. How did you find her?”

“When the woman who raised me died a few weeks ago, I found papers in her safety deposit box. They included the name of my mother and my birthplace. Finding Shelby Randall was simple after that. There’s only one other woman with that name listed in phone books in this state. She’s too young, so I came here. Funny thing is, I lived a few miles from here, Asheville, until I was seven.”

“But she could have married, or moved away.”

“She didn’t.”

“Did you ask her? If she’d given a child for adoption, I mean.”

“I didn’t need to ask.” Her confidence was supreme. “She was my mother all right.”

“Impossible!” The medical examiner strode through the open doorway and repeated himself. “Impossible. Shelby Randall was a man.”





Train Travel Across Canada

Sybil Austin Skakle


Rocking a night and day,

Crossing Canada,

Travelers, like ants,

Search for crumbs

To appease hunger,

For moisture for thirst,

Grown insistent, while 

They travel by train. 

Satisfied, they return

to tiny compartments,

to repeat their run

again, and again

Until Van Courver.  




Father’s Day 2020

Tim Whealton

I started this message with a favorite resource of mine. It’s a book called “The Dictionary of Thought.” It has the quotes of famous men through the ages on thousands of topics. Since its father’s day I wanted some good quotes about fathers. Small problem, no thoughts about fathers! Over two pages about Mothers. Most Dads are okay with that, they toil in the background doing what needs to be done. After one of my friends died in his 40s his children were looking at the family pictures and noticed he wasn’t in the pictures. Finally they figured out he was always the one taking the picture. Just like a Dad, glad to be there and make things better for his family.

As Christian men we have been given an example to follow when it comes to being a father. It’s our father in Heaven. Love, patience, kindness, wisdom and every good thing are displayed in Him.

It is the story of an artist. He created his masterpiece and we call it the Universe. He always was above all things. He always will be above all things. His creation was perfect in every way until sin. He must have been tempted to destroy it and start over but he didn’t. Instead he started to restore his creation. The Bible is the written record of this restoration. A restoration of a world that will become a place where everything is God’s will. Like our prayer says “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

How many of us have heard of Abraham? His story begins in Genesis 12. God told him his name would be known. Pretty amazing for someone who wasn’t a king, conqueror or explorer that lived almost 4,000 years ago. When God makes a bargain with someone, you can count on it. 

I have been disturbed by the story of Abraham for many years. I talked with preachers and teachers but I just didn’t get it. They wanted to tell me Abraham’s story in a way that showed him as deserving of God’s blessing but I didn’t see it. They talked of his faith but I saw his sins. Bottom line was if I was a juror and Abraham was brought to trial I would have to give him the death penalty! How can a person that flawed be our father figure? Finally I took the advice of a trusted Christian friend and studied the scripture for myself. Just like he said, it was right there in the Word! Through prayer God finally opened my eyes about Abraham. The message wasn’t about a man, it’s about God!

Bible study will reveal interesting things about the God we worship. One of his favorites is the way he uses underdogs. You would think the great creator would create a rich, powerful, almost perfect person to be his spokesman but over and over we see just the opposite. Who did he pick to free the Israelites? A king with a powerful army? No, just a man. Not even a good man. Moses was a murderer on the run and had trouble speaking. When his people were facing an overwhelming enemy he selected Gideon. Gideon was a coward with no experience in battle. He selected David to be king. He was the youngest son. A mere shepherd. David spilled innocent blood, lots of it.

 It’s clear that God likes to use underdogs. Question is why? It is so we can more easily see that it is God. If the strong man wins the fight we say so what. If the man with no strength wins we want to know how he did it. We know the strength had to come from somewhere. If it wasn’t the man then it must be from God.

It reminds me of when I was shooting. They said I must be a good gunsmith because I wasn’t that good a shot, must have been the gun.

In spite of the flaws of Abraham, he did two things right. He believed God and he trusted God. You believe with your mind. You trust when you take actions based on that belief. Belief is nothing without trust.

God said to Abram (God changed his name to Abraham, God liked to change names, it’s a big thing. ), move to another land. Abram trusted and started moving. Imagine telling your wife “Honey you need to pack, we are moving.” When she ask where, you say “I don’t know!” Wives are funny about stuff like that.

God made a covenant with Abraham. He said you trust me and I will bless your socks off. I will bless you and all your descendants. I will bless everybody through you.  We don’t make covenants much anymore but I did on Dec. 19th 2015! The old ceremony involved splitting an animal and walking between the two halves to say “If I break our agreement I hope worse comes to me than this animal.” (We just sign. Less messy!)

Another important feature about God shows up here. God’s blessings are always instrumental. They are always an instrument to be used to bless others. Abraham didn’t get blessed because he deserved it. He was blessed to bless others. To bless is to give enhanced life. Others could see God blessing Abraham and know God was real. They found they could connect with God in their life. As Abrahams blessing was carried on to his descendants the blessing spread across the world. It’s only natural. When people see something good the next thing they ask is “where did you get it? Can I get some too?” Thank Heaven (literally!) the answer is YES!

When Abraham did what he decided was right, he really made a mess of things. He lied about his wife and said she was his sister so he would gain favor and feel safe with the Egyptians. She ended up in Pharaoh’s harem for a while. Not exactly a good arrangement for her. When Pharaoh found out she was married she was kicked out of Egypt with her husband.

Then when she couldn’t conceive he agreed with his wife to take her Egyptian maid (Hagar) to have a child. God had told him he would have children with Sarah but he just couldn’t wait.  It worked and what came out of it?

Ishmael was Abraham’s son born with her. Sarah conceives with Abraham (100 years old) and births Isaac. Then Sarah despises the maid that birthed Ishmael and makes Abraham send her out with the child and one bottle of water into the wilderness. A death sentence for a woman alone.

God hears her cry and saves her and Ishmael. God says Ishmael will be blessed with 12 sons and be a mighty nation. He says he will be wild like a donkey and against every man. One guess what religion came out of Ishmael.

In spite of Abraham’s poor judgement when he decided on his own he did one thing right. He trusted God and did what God said. That alone assured him of his place in history and fulfilled the meaning of the name God gave him. Abraham means exalted father.

Maybe the part of the story I have struggled with the most is the story of Isaac being used as a sacrifice. (Sending a woman and a child into the desert alone didn’t impress me either!) What if Abraham had done it? Would we see him as doing the right thing? I don’t want to admire any person that would murder or take part in a human sacrifice.

Here is what I came to realize.

1. We don’t know the mind of Abraham. Did he trust God so much that he knew in his heart God would provide a substitute?

2. God is the only one to be admired in this story. God is the Father to be emulated. The story is to open our minds to something unthinkable, the sacrifice of our child for someone else.

3. This story wasn’t written by Christians. It points to the role of Christ, but was written long before Jesus. It was written by people who still deny he was the Messiah. What could be a more convincing story to make us realize how much God loves us?


Abraham’s son Isaac has Jacob and Esau. Jacob (God changed his name to Israel) has 12 sons and from this dysfunctional family the nation of Israel is born. God selects this nation to be a nation of priest. They will be his special people that will show the world the path to God. Their story is amazing as they go from captivity to rulers of the Promised Land by following God’s will, and endure incredible hardship when they do it their way. It all seems good for a while. They build a fabulous temple and become a center for worship. But they lose their identity again and become like the people around them. Then they are conquered by first the Greeks and then the Romans. They go into periods of captivity at home and then are carried to Babylon.

They wait and wait for a Messiah that was promised to deliver them. Then after their greatness is so far in the past it is only a story, an angel comes to a young girl and says “Mary, God has a plan and the world will be blessed through you!”

In God’s big story, the entire Old Testament leads to the birth of our savior. While it sets the stage for the story of Jesus it also reveals much about our relationship with God.

No matter who or what you are or have been, God can use you to accomplish great works.

You have to believe and then you have to trust. It’s called obedience.

What God gives will give you enhanced life for sure, but its fulfillment, and passing it on to others will be up to you.

You will be pushed way out of your “comfort zone” into your “growth zone” when you trust God but God will be with you always.



P.S. Don’t let me or anyone else tell you what’s in the Bible. Read it for yourself and ask God to help you see the truth.

Philosophers of the Century ...

   ~ Jean Kerr...

The only reason they say 'Women and children first' is to test the strength of the lifeboats.

  ~ Prince Philip...    
When a man opens a car door for his wife, it's either a new car or a new wife.

  ~ Harrison Ford...    
Wood burns faster when you have to cut and chop it yourself.

   ~ Spike Milligan...    
The best cure for Sea Sickness, is to sit under a tree.

  ~ Jean Rostand...    
Kill one man and you're a murderer, kill a million and you're a conqueror

  ~ WH Auden...    
We are here on earth to do good unto others. What the others are here for, I have no idea.

  ~ Jonathan Katz...    
In hotel rooms, I worry. I can't be the only guy who sits on the furniture naked.

  ~ Johnny Carson...    
If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.  


  ~ Steve Martin..    
Hollywood must be the only place on earth where you can be fired by a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a baseball cap.

  ~ Jimmy Durante...    
Home cooking. Where many a man thinks his wife is.


.   ~ George Roberts.    
The first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone.

  ~ Jonathan Winters...    
If God had intended us to fly he would have made it easier to get to the airport.


  ~ Robert Benchley...
I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it.



 ~ John Glenn...
As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind - every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.

  ~ David Letterman...    
America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.

  ~ Howard Hughes...    
I'm not a paranoid, deranged millionaire. Dammit, I'm a billionaire.


   ~ Old Italian proverb..    
After the game, the King and the pawn go into the same box.



Food for Thought

Diana Goldsmith


Sausages, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, beans, fried bread, tomatoes with hot buttered toast and marmalade, together with a pot of freshly brewed coffee. Thoughts of this kept me going while I stood looking at the other mountain tops with their sharp pointed peaks seemingly sliced off by the red tinted clouds.The dawn air was cold but I did manage to briefly take a photo of the view.

The smell of cooked lamb together with onions, sliced orange- red sweet carrots and creamy buttery mashed potatoes with a crispy forked crust and dark green cabbage all drizzled with a thick brown rich lamb gravy -Shepherd's pie of course! This brings thoughts of dank foggy nights and long journeys home to this supper.

Steamed steak and kidney pudding in a blue and white striped basin with a greaseproof and muslin cover held in place by string, steaming above a large pan of rapidly boiling water,  on the stove. Thoughts of this man- food for a young boy footballer!

Hard -boiled egg sandwiches made with new pre -sliced bread with cos lettuce leaves and tomatoes and a packet of crisps with the salt wrapped in a twist of dark blue paper, together with thick slices of mum's rich fruit cake and an apple, all washed down with a cup of tea made with the water boiled on a primus stove and the milk kept in a thermos flask to keep it cool. Thoughts of happy childhood summer days on West Wittering beach in the 50's.

Scrag end of lamb boiled in a runny gravy with rock -hard, boiled potatoes and soggy anaemic cabbage was 'cave man ' stew at our secondary school However we were cheered by thoughts of gypsy (treacle) tart or chocolate shortbread with pink custard for pudding. However sometimes we had despairing thoughts if it was "stodge" otherwise known as a heavy steamed pudding. Sometimes it was inedible lumpy rice or tapioca affectionately known as frog's spawn!

Bath, Chelsea and iced buns together with jam doughnuts give me thoughts of college morning coffee breaks. These  were provided for those who lived in "halls" probably because the  meals provided were inadequate.

"Vesta" dried ready meals like Chicken Chow Mein with crispy noodles was all the range and a quick meal to cook for your friends.

However going out for a meal with my parents meant rump steak with salad, followed by vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce.

Thoughts of a bowl of  Bircher muesli full of  strawberries topped with whipped cream and served with brown bread and butter, was our supper after church, while living in Basel, Switzerland in '61.




Postcards from the Road, pt. 4

John Burns

“Lately is occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.” From Truckin’ recorded by the Grateful Dead on the album American Beauty. Released: 1970.


Postcard #16 Every trip begins at the beginning

The first step is sometimes nothing more than an idea, a suggestion. At the end of summer break, before returning to school, after my friend Reno had returned from summer school, he proposes a trip. To Canada. He met a girl. Her family has a house in Ontario on the shores of beautiful Lake Couchiching. In Canada. We’re going to hitchhike to Canada. To see this girl. Summer school girl.

Why not? Summer is almost gone and I’ve worked enough. I’m game.


Postcard #17 Semper fi, seriously

We pack our stuff and head out. In no time flat we’ve got a ride. Two hippies hitching to Canada.

And we hit a jackpot. Marines. Marines on leave and in a hurry. The best kind of ride to get for covering a lot of distance fast. You see, Camp Lejeune Marines and Fort Bragg Soldiers generally need to cram in a lot of driving in a very short time to get to where they’re going on leave. And these guys are booking. Seriously booking.

What a sight this must be to the casual observer driving by. Three Marines and two hippies traveling together. Jarheads and Pot Heads.  In 1972 you’d probably think we would be at loggerheads, but they’ve got the fast car, and they’re sharing their weed, and we’re all listening to the music we love.

It’s a good time. These guys haven’t been to Vietnam yet and are not likely to go. America is quickly demobilizing troops from that little adventure in southeast Asia, and, as these guys are newly minted Marines, they are unlikely to go. Who knows, with the coming reduction in force they may be civilians before they know it. Things are looking up.

They ultimately turn the car in a different direction than we are going and we watch them speed off.  Thanks for the ride. And the tunes.


Postcard #18 Butch and Sundance

We’re crossing a bridge on the interstate. Walking. Not the smartest move to make, but we need to get across to the on-ramp to catch traffic going our way. When a car slams to a stop right in the middle of the road and a kid leans out shouting, “Get in. Get in.” Not to argue, we get in and the car speeds off with a screech of tires.

Up front there is a lot of laughing, and hooting. The kid in the passenger seat can hardly control himself. He’s jumping up and down, waving his arms, and laughing at the top of his voice. The driver, we notice, is equally excited and seems to be a bit younger.

“Hey man, where you going?” Canada. “Damn. Let’s go. We’ll take you there.” I’m not too sure about this. The car is moving really fast, passing everything on the road. Neither of the two occupants of the front seat look old enough to legally drive. Laughing and hollering.

“Whatcha gonna do in Canada? You avoiding the draft?” No, nothing like that. Where are you guys going? “Nowhere. Anywhere. We’re running away from home.” Questions. “We stole our grandpa’s car and we’re never coming back.” More questions. Who are you guys. “I’m fourteen and he’s” indicating the driver, “fifteen. He’s my cousin” Questions. “We took all the money from Mama’s purse.”

The driving, while pretty bad before, starts getting worse. Shifting lanes, overtaking other cars, passing everything on the road. 

Questions. Cops? Worried about cops? “Nah, Grandpa won’t even come home until dark. Mama works late”  More hootin and hollerin. Driving fast.

About this time the car makes a noise. Clunk. “Whatzit? What’s that noise? Did you hear that?” In the back I can smell radiator fluid. They’ve popped a hose or the radiator’s gone south.

Better pull over before you blow the engine. I can see the heat gauge. Totally in the red. You need to get off the road. And, unexpectedly, they listen to me. The kid behind the wheel crosses a lane of traffic perilously close to the front of a semi and tears up an exit ramp.

He coasts to a stop at the top of the hill and the car dies. There’s a service station just across the road. The wild ride is over. The driver cannot start the car. Steam is rising out from under the hood. Very hot liquid is spewing onto the road. Something’s busted.

“Aw shit! What are we going to do?” We helped them push the car across the road into the service station lot and left them there. Turned our backs to them and headed back to the highway.


Postcard #19 Baby Head

God, it was a beautiful day, Late summer in the foot hills of the mountains. Blue sky, thumbs out waiting for the next ride. In the distance we see an aging coupe slowing. It’s a big car, a lead sled, plenty of room for two hitchers northbound. It pulls onto the side of the road and flings gravel as it stops.

The passenger doors opens and out steps a woman in a long flowered dress holding a baby in her arms. An Earth Mother. Hippie lady. Smiling she invites us into the car, “Get in. We’re headed north.”

She’s standing by a two-door car and, as we approached, she turned to push forward the seat.

It was then that we heard it. We all heard it. Earth Mother, Earth Father, and two hitchhikers on the side of the road. We heard a solid ka-thunk, like a cantaloupe being dropped on concrete.

And it hits us all, instantly. Each of us understood, the mother most of all, that the “thunk” was the sound of her baby’s head coming into sudden and sharp contact with the car’s frame.

Time stood still there on the edge of the highway that day. We all knew what was coming. A storm was about to break, fierce and sudden. And in that brief, silent moment that preceeded the tempest we were washed with a fear of what was about to happen.

The storm broke over us howling, screaming, crying out in rage and pain. That baby was hurting and he was telling the whole world. Perhaps the entire universe.

Reno and I were speechless figuring somehow that we were to blame for the catastrophe. The agony. Mom, imagine Mom’s burden, Mom had soundly whacked her baby’s head against hard, cold metal. Mom’s face carried the pain of the ages. The regret of forever.

She held open the door, her baby howling, and we got into the back. We all rode in silence except for baby. No amount of cooing, cuddling, kissing or smiling would satisfy him. There was no chance of conversation. The rage of the baby endured.

Later, by the road looking for our next ride, Reno and I could still hear that baby scream.


Postcard #20 A Little Ditty bout Jack & Diane

We make it to West Virginia, Reno and I. Thankfully.  Making progress. Going places. Standing across from a Tastee Freez when a souped up car stops. Engine rumbling. Growling. Visibly vibrating with horsepower. Lots of it.

Up front are two kids, a couple, just about our age. Probably younger. Say sixteen. No more. West Virginians. Mountain folk out for a fast, very fast, drive to the Tastee Freez. Going no place fast.

We squeeze in the back. Captives. Up front everyone is lovey dovey. Jack and Diane are in love. In the back I can’t decide if it’s cute or creepy. She’s all over him. He’s all over her. And he’s driving.

Which brings us to the problem. Jack is showing off for Diane. Or he’s trying to scare the living bejezus out of the two hippies in the back. Driving like a maniac by my standards on narrow, twisting West Virginia roads. “We’ll take you as far as the Turnpike,” he says. Assuming we survive. Diane snuggles closer, starts tonguing his ear.

Jack’s got his hand on the stick shift, or Diane’s thigh. Diane’s got her hand on his stickshift. It is hard to tell from the back seat. Things are moving faster in the front seat. And on the highway.

Speeding down mountain roads, careening around curves, going fast fast fast.

Jack and Diane. They’re so close it is hard to tell that they are two people. Teenagers in love. Going fast fast fast.

In the back, well, we’re being thrown around at each curve, each time we pull out to pass a car or truck on a blind curve. Jack’s in charge. He’s the man. Diane is loving every minute of it. She’s all over him. It’s a wonder he can drive.

I think I’m turning a little green. The rolling back and forth. Jerking in and out of traffic. The moments of terror are getting a little too frequent. Reno seems to be digging it. He’s in the groove, probably wishing he was driving this crazy road. Fast fast fast.

At some point, as we neared the Turnpike entrance Jack and Diane decided that they needed to take their party somewhere private. A cheap motel, in the back seat behind a barn somewhere, who knows? And they drop us off.

By now Diane is pretty much sitting in Jack’s lap. He turns his car, growling, rumbling, back the way they came. He’s in a hurry. Something’s on his mind.

We walk down the road toward the Turnpike.


Postcard #21 Big Yellow Taxi

Day was quickly turning to night there at the Turnpike entrance when, of all things, a cab pulls to the side of the road. I wonder what he wants. We can’t afford a cab.

A passenger in the front leans out and says, “If you don’t say a fuckin’ thing we’ll give you a ride to Charleston.” That’s about ninety miles. We can’t refuse.

So we pile into the back of the cab and shut our traps. We don’t say a thing. Up front there’s the driver and his passenger talking among themselves. They’ve got a Bottle of Vodka, passing it back and forth. Driver and passenger. Bottle of vodka. We sit and listen.

And we learn a thing or two. Passenger owns the cab company. He likes to drink, but his wife, the good woman that she is, doesn’t let him drink at home. So he rides the road, drinking. But not drinking alone, he’s got his buddy, the driver. They’re drinking. Vodka straight from the bottle.

Somewhere down the road. In the proverbial middle of nowhere, perhaps just past Camp Creek, or maybe Ghent, the passenger, bottle in hand, turns to me and says, “You want a slug of this?” Thrusting the bottle in my face. I see the vodka sloshing around under the glass.

Sure, I’d love a slug of the vodka straight from the bottle, but in no uncertain terms I’ve been told to keep my yap shut. If I want to ride. What to do? What to do?

Yea. Sure man, I’ll have a hit. Taking my chance. Going out on a limb. I take the bottle, swallow, passenger nods to Reno and I pass the bottle over. And, suddenly, we’re all friends. And the cab is still driving through the night. It’s a party. The bottle’s being passed around, we’re all talking, they’re asking us “Where ya headed? Whatever for?” And we spill the beans. Canada. Couchiching. Girl.

They think it’s hilarious or we’re crazy. And the bottle goes round and round.

When empty the bottle goes out the passenger’s window and the conversation dies down. It’s quiet in the cab. The passenger up front seems in a funk. Pensive. A lot of thinking going on.  Heavy pondering. We’re still headed toward Charleston.

At some point in the silence, perhaps because the bottle’s empty and miles behind us, the passenger, The Boss, tells his driver to turn around. “Take me home.”

“You know we can’t leave them out here.” Passenger insists, “I want to go home now. Forget Charleston. Turn around.” He’s the Boss.

And there’s no way to turn around. “We’ll have to go to the travel plaza to turn around.” That’s ok. We’ll go to the travel plaza. They’ll drop us off there.

It’s a few more miles down the road riding in heavy silence. Lights up ahead. The travel plaza.

Driver pulls into the plaza, parks under the lights and gets out to stretch his legs. The Boss remains in the car. I think he’s napping. Maybe the vodka has gotten to him. We climb out of the cab. “He does this all the time. Sometimes we get to Charleston and he stays with his sister. Usually, we get almost there and he wants to go home to sleep it off.” That’s ok, we’re fine.  We’ll catch another ride. “I feel really bad about this. Leaving you here. Not much traffic this late. Too late to catch a ride. I feel bad. Here take this.” He pulls his hand out of his pocket with a small roll of bills. “Get yourself something to eat.” No man, we can’t take that. “Yes you can. It’s his money. Take it.” And we do.

The cabbie returns to his ride and drives off back the way he came.

It’s getting late, we’re hungry so we head into the plaza restaurant and have dinner. Chili and apple pie for me. My road food of choice. Afterwards we take a look at the road. It is deserted and very dark. West Virginia has gone to sleep it seems, so we go off into the woods behind the plaza, pitch our little tent and spend the night.

Tomorrow is another day. Another ride.


Postcard #22 Nomads

It’s morning. Another beautiful day. Another meal, breakfast, using money from The Boss. Standing in the travel plaza when an old station wagon pulls in to the gas pumps. A guy and two girls get out. He’s pumping gas, they are toilet bound.

Reno and I walk down the access ramp toward the Turnpike, but before we get out on the road the station wagon lumbers wheezing to a stop beside us. “You looking for a ride?” It’s one of the girls leaning out the back window. “We’re headed for Michigan.”

 Michigan, being in the general direction we are going sounds good. The rear door opens, girl slides over just enough for me to get in. Reno runs around to the other side of the car. Our packs go into the back and off we go. Northward.

Girl says to me, “We’re going to Michigan to pick apples. Why don’t you come with us. We could have fun.” Up front they’re in agreement. “We could have fun. Pick apples in Michigan and then on to the next job.”

We give them our standard story. Canada, Couchiching, Girl. But they don’t buy it. “We could all have fun following the work.” Not my thing. College will be calling soon, but the girl in the back has glommed on to me. Seriously. Leaning on me, touching my arm, smiling, telling me how much fun they have as migrant workers. Traveling around the country. She won’t leave me alone. I think she wants to have my babies, and we’ve just met.

So we politely play along. I’m amazed. It’s usually Reno who attracts the girls. I’m a bit flustered. He’s the chick magnet, not me. And by now, the girl beside me is already picking out our china pattern. This is odd and new to me. But we play along. Harmless fun.

An hour or so passes. We learn everything, everything about migrant agricultural labor. And picking apples in Michigan.

 We make Charleston and follow an Army convoy through town northward. At every corner there’s guys in uniform directing their vehicles along the path which is our path toward Michigan and toward Canada.

By the time we reach the intersection of I-79 with I-77 my soon-to-be wife has picked out the names of our children. I’m going to be a father. Three kids so far. Maybe more. Give her time.

Not going to happen. This is where we get out. Finally.

 I-77 takes them to the land of the MacIntosh, the Jonathan, and the Golden Delicious. I-79 takes us to Canada.

As I’m pulling my pack out of the back of the station wagon the driver says to me, “Hey, dude, you really don’t know what you are missing.” And he gives me a sly wink before he drives off.


Postcard #23 SSN man

The car stopped down the highway. Reno gets to it before I’m halfway there. The driver has gotten out and is talking to him at the rear of the car. For some reason, known only to himself, he wants to see our social security cards. Gotta have it before we get a ride.

Mine’s in a safe deposit box back home. But we both have our student IDs which use our SSN as an ID number. This satisfies him. He’ll give us a ride.

Strange. Reno jumps into the backseat of the car leaving me in front with this character. He drives and as he drives he’s mumbling. I’m not following a thing that he is saying. Mumble, mumble, mumble. I catch the odd word. He’s kinda scary actually. I’m pressed against the door as far from him as I can get.

Reno. He’s in the back. Watching. I know what he’s up to. He keeps a knife in his boot and I’m the bait if the driver tries anything funny. Lucky me.

We ride for a while. Man keeps on mumbling about what exactly? Just random words. I catch fragments. Seems he’s got some beef with social security.  Or maybe Roosevelt. FDR. Or both. I keep quiet. Pressed against the door.

Reno and I are both relieved when we get out. I’m happy to no longer be the bait.


Postcard #24 Halter Top or Whatever in the World Became of Sweet Jane.

Oh wow! A girl in a VW bug is stopping. Putt-putt-putt. I’m too tall for the back so I get the shotgun seat. Oh wow! She’s gorgeous, and friendly. Blonde college student picking up two strange guys on the road. This is wonderful.

She’s got an odd way of sitting in her seat. Leaning forward. Her back not touching the seat. She’s wearning a halter top and the seat is probably sticky in the heat. And she’s paying attention to me. We’re talking to me about this and that. School. Hitchhiking. What have you.

Reno, cramped in the back of the Beetle with two backpacks might as well be in another car. So it is just this blonde and me. Sometimes the light shines on me.

She’s Jane. A student at a college in Ohio returning to school. She’s not going far until she turns off our course, but it’s wonderful. I’m in love. With Jane. Life on the Road is rich today.

And, it is over before I know it. She’s turning here, we’re going there. Off she goes. Putt-putt-putt-putt-putt. Oh wow.


Postcard #25 Grandmother

Your grandmother picked us up somewhere outside Morgantown. Or it might have been my grandmother. She was somebody’s grandmother. She was David’s grandma.

She picked us up because we reminded her of David. And she told us everything about him. From cradle to grave quite literally.

He was a wonderful child. Spirited. Happy. Filled with life. Good student, loved his parents, loved his grandma. Football. Basketball.  Headed for a journeyman’s position as a machinist. David graduated from high school a few years back and was quickly snatched up by the draft. The U.S. Army. Big Green. Shuffeled off to southeast Asia. Vietnam.

David came home in a box with a flag draped over it. We reminded her so much of David that she wanted to talk to us. She wanted to talk to David.

We told her that we were headed to Canada. “Don’t come home. Stay there. Don’t let them get you.” Those were her words as dropped us off.


Postcard #26 Dave

Somewhere south of Erie we get let out at a huge Spaghetti Junction. Maybe two of more interstates intersecting. It’s big and busy. Confusing.

Across the road is a red Mustang. As red as it can be without being illegal Mustang. Driver is hanging out the window, motioning us over. “Hey, I’m Dave. Where you guys headed?” Canada, Dave. “Well, you buy the beer and I’ll take you where ever you’re going.” Magic words. Music to our ears.

Dave does some fancy driving to find beer and we buy. Off we go to Canada.

I’m in the backseat this time. It’s crowded there. Full of loose clothes, a suitcase and lots of cash. Moolah just tossed in the back. Coins. Folding money. Lots of it. I sorta scoop it out of the way and throw empty beer cans on the floor.

Dave’s story. Married in Ohio. One child. Nasty separation. He got custody. Ex-wife crossed county lines and took his child. The law’s no help, Dave’s fed up, so he cashes out their joint accounts, throws his clothes and the money into his beloved Mustang and is headed to Canada to look for work. He’s a master plumber. Shows us his credentials. No plan to return to Ohio. Screw the wife. Screw ‘em all. Driving fast to a new life.

After a while the talk up front turns to cars. Saying words I don’t recognize. Another language. The language of cars.  I’m not car guy. “Detroit Walkers.” “Cummings.” “Headers.” Speed. That I understand. It’s a really fast car. Dave’s cruising at about ninety. Steady. We’re all drinking beer.

And it happens again. I have to pee, but Dave’s not stopping. He’s got motive to keep moving.  More beer. More driving. I’m dying in the back about to pop. And finally he stops. He’s got to go now. When we get back to the car Dave turns to me, “You want to drive?” Yowza. Do I? Yes I do.

So we tear out of the parking lot and scream onto the Interstate. I’ve never driven a car this fast. Dave says, “Faster.” I drive faster. Faster than I’ve ever driven before. And it feels good. Real good. “Faster,” he says.


Postcard 27 Crossing the border with Dave

The bright red Mustang drove right up to the Canadian border and stopped. Dave driving. Customs guy eyeballs us good. Two hippies and Dave. He’s not a hippie. He’s the anti-hippie. Clean cut. “America, Love It Or Leave It” looking guy. Somethings not right with this picture. Fishy.

Customs guy pulls us over and into an office we go. The third degree. “Why are you entering Canada?” And, to his credit he’s right to be concerned. We might be draft dodgers. But our story is we’re on vacation. Two hippies and Dave. Buds. And we stick to it. Dave doesn’t want any trouble. He’s looking to stay, find a job, start a new life.  Mostly Customs focuses on me and Reno. We’re suspicious.

We stick to the story. Dave sticks to the story. And finally, Mr. Canada Customs Man turns to Reno, points to Dave and asks, “What’s his name?” Dave. “No, his full name?” And Reno knows. Miracle of miracle. I didn’t know it, but Reno knows it. He’d read Dave’s diploma from trade school. And his union documents. Well done Reno.

That clinches it for us. Customs lets us enter Canada. “Have a nice day, eh.”

And it’s different now. No hurry.  The impossibly red Mustang can take a breather. Enjoy the drive.

Still, we reach Lake Couchiching by day’s end. Dave drops us off at the home of The Girl and squeals his tires as he drives off. Spitting gravel. Leaves big black marks on the pavement. Gone off to his new life.


Postcard #28   Nothing Bad or Noteworthy Happens in Canada

We had made good time. Two days to Canada and The Girl.

Nearby bar. Some beer drinking. Molsons, eh?

Lake Couchiching. Some boat rides. I try to learn to ski and fail miserably. Twice. First time, Rebecca, The Girl, the reason for our trip mind you, forgets to take up slack in the tow rope and yanks me out of the water. Ow! That hurt, but I’m game for try number two. Second time slack is taken out of the line, Rebecca throws the throttle and I’m up, I’m skiing, and the boat suddenly runs out of gas in the middle of the lake. I sink like a rock.

Reno and The Girl keep slipping away. Somewhere else. I’m left with her seven or eight little brothers. I’m the entertainment.

Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.


Postcard #29 Peace Bridge

Our holiday ended and we returned the way we came. We snag a ride back to Toronto,  then back down the QEW  (Squeeze Left. Stay Exactly in Your Lane) to the Peace Bridge where we are singled out for further scrutiny. Business as usual. Welcome to the United States.

Reno and I are separated. Mr. U.S. Customs man must think I’m smuggling drugs.  Little does he know I smoked it all floating in a boat on Lake Couchiching. But I’m told to empty my pack and each item, from stiff, grotty undershorts to my sleeping bag is gone over with a fine tooth comb. They even unpack the little tent, check my shoes, pat me down in a very personal way several times and they find nothing. Because there’s nothing to find.

“Welcome to America.” And they leave me to repack everything in my bag. Oh joy.  The stiff, grotty undershorts go into the pack first.

Back on the road we immediately get a ride in a van which stinks heavily of weed and is full of hippies who have just crossed the border unmolested. Go figure.

The van drops us off at the entrance to the New York Thruway. We’re headed south. Going home.


Postcard #30 A Novel Idea

Standing by the road, thumbs out. For hours. Nobody’s going south. For hours. Nobody. The few who stop are going to the airport. But not south.

A banks’s time and temperature sign, just down the road, reminds me, over and over again just how long it’s been. Going nowhere.

Cars stop infrequently. On their way to the airport.

You know, sometimes you just need to chill and listen to what the world is saying to you. Look for the signs and finally see them. Go to the airport. Go to the airport.

And I say, why not. In my shoe, hidden under my foot I’ve stashed away a credit card. Had it since my early teens. A leftover from my yard care business. Credit card at thirteen. So why not use it?

Go to the airport and fly home. A novel idea. Its better than spending any more time on the side of the road in Buffalo. Winter’s coming. Lake effect. Frozen.

Reno and I talk it over. We’ll wait and see. But no one going south stops. We finally surrender and take a ride to the airport.


Postcard #31 The Road Not Usually Taken

There’s no hitchhiking at a busy airport even on a slow day. You pays your money, you fly. The Road becomes airborne.

We get the last flight out to La Guardia with an overnight wait and then the first flight of the day to take us home. Easy Peasy. Plastic pays the fare. Magic.

It’s 1972. And, for some reason, people hi-jack airplanes and take them to Cuba. Not a place a rational person would go, but the airlines are concerned nonetheless. I buy us two tickets, we walk to the waiting area. There’s a sign telling me  that all “weapons” must be declared. What a simple, innocent time. Declare your weapon and all is well.

So, I ask myself, is the Swiss Army knife in my pocket a weapon? And I don’t know, so I ask an airline employee. Which was the wrong thing to do.  From behind hidden doors a man appears and hustles me off. To a room. Alone.

The Air Marshall. Wow, it’s crossing the border again. Déjà vu. Examine my luggage, examine me. Questions, questions, questions. Fine tooth comb comes out. And ultimately it is determined that Reno and I are no threat to national or airline security. They let me go.

Boarding the plane the Air Marshall delivers my Swiss Army Knife, with fifteen handy tools, to the waiting pilot who breaks out laughing at the sight of it. I’m a desperado. “I’ll return this’” holding my pocket knife, “when we land.” He chuckles. And he did, minus the toothpick.

We had a wide-bodied jet all to ourselves for the quick trip to the Big Apple. The pilot says, “I hope you had a good flight.” And he’s still laughing when he returns the pocket knife to me. Minus the toothpick.


Postcard #32 It’s a Party all the way Home

It’s late August. We are flying home on the first jet out of Laguardia packed with a wild, wild party. Everyone’s going to Miami. High spirits. Lotsa liquor passing around.  Free liquor. Going to the national convention of the Republican Party. Off to nominate Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Everyone’s in a good mood. A very, very good mood.

I’m in a good mood. Reno’s in a good mood. A hundred or so Republicans are in a good mood. We’re all in a good mood. It’s a party.

And we’re invited. Woo hoo!

The plane makes a stop in my hometown and I get back home early enough in the day that to spend an afternoon at the lake with my family. Nobody in the family asks about my trip. I don’t think they’ve missed me.

Time to go back to school.




Sybil Austin Skakle


These days, you and I toddle

Like babies learning to walk.

We hold onto one another’s arms

To steady ourselves and the other

Lest, in kissing one another

We take the other to the ground

And fall upon our faces.

We have farther to fall and

Our bones are old and brittle

We must be careful, cautious.

Our legs will not grow stronger

Nor our gait become more firm.

What can old toddlers foresee?

Helplessness, diapers, and death?

Hopefully, a new celestial body

Gideon Branch Alston III

E. B. Alston


We called him G. B. He was my cousin and was nine years older than me. I think he lied about his age and volunteered when he was 17. He was an infantry scout in General George Patton’s Third Army. The only war story he ever told was when he was scouting behind the German line and was spotted by a German patrol. In his successful escape, he threw away his M-1 Garand rifle. The Army deducted the price of the rifle, which cost the government $85.00 from his pay. I think they might have given him a break because he said cost him a month’s pay, which was $54.00 plus $8.00 Combat pay. To put it in perspective, a gallon of gasoline back then was 19 cents.


From the Third Army Historical Record


After a period of consolidation, Third Army was ready to go on the offensive again. However, the Germans then launched their last great offensive of the war – the Battle of the Bulge. This battle was an attempt to repeat the decisive breakthrough of 1940. However, in 1944, the Germans were doomed to failure. Their own logistical problems surfaced, and they ground to a halt. Nevertheless, they had broken the U.S. front, and it took a great effort to reduce the resulting salient. In one of the great moves of the war, General George Patton turned the Third Army's axis of advance through ninety degrees and set it upon the south of the German forces. The German salient was reduced by the end of January 1945, and the remainder of the process of closing up to the Rhine could be completed. Some vicious fighting took place, but by April there was but one great natural barrier between Third Army and the heart of Germany. Unlike in 1918, the crossing of the Rhine was opposed. However, the bridgehead was won, and Third Army embarked on another great eastward dash. It reached Austria and in May liberated the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camps complex. Its forces ended up in Czechoslovakia, the furthest east of any American units.

The Third Army After Action report of May 1945 states that the Third Army captured 765,483 prisoners of war, with an additional 515,205 of the enemy already held in corps and divisional level POW cages processed between 9 May and 13 May 1945, for a total of 1,280,688 POWs, and that, additionally, Third Army forces killed 144,500 enemy soldiers and wounded 386,200, for a total of 1,811,388 in enemy losses. 

The Third Army suffered 16,596 killed, 96,241 wounded, and 26,809 missing in action for a total of 139,646 casualties according to the After Action Report of May 1945.  The ratio of German troop deaths to American deaths in the Third Army operating area was 1.75 to 1.




Independence Day Jokes by Kids.


Here are the top ten 4th of July jokes sent in by kids (and one grownup) from all over the country.


10) What’s red, white, blue, and green?
A patriotic turtle!
From Jessica, age 7, Abilene, TX


9) What did one flag say to the other flag?
Nothing. It just waved!
From Eloise, age 9, Charlottesville, VA


8) Why did Paul Revere ride his horse from Boston to Lexington?
Because the horse was too heavy to carry!
From Betty, age 9, CT


7) How is a healthy person like the United States?
They both have good constitutions!
From Tom P., age 8, KY


6) What dance was very popular in 1776?
From Rachel, age 8, Long Beach, CA


5) What would you get if you crossed George Washington with cattle feed?
The Fodder of Our Country!
From Marie K., age 12, Dallas, TX


4) Teacher: “Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?”
Student: “On the bottom!”
From Christy, age 14, Denver, CO


3) Did you hear the one about the Liberty Bell?
Yeah, it cracked me up!
From Tom P., age 8, KY


2) What did King George think of the American colonists?
He thought they were revolting!
From Scott, age 11, Colorado


1) Do they have a 4th of July in England?
Yes. That’s how they get from the 3rd to the 5th.
From Big Al, a grownup, Frankfort, KY.


Courtesy of www.JokesByKids.com.

Different Perspectives

E. B. Alston


Over coffee she told me, "I feel bad."

How could SHE ever "feel bad"?

Dark hair. Brown eyes,

Red sweater, pleated white skirt, heels.


Just seeing her walk by

Makes me feel good.

She might be sick.

But she certainly wouldn't feel bad!


Copyright GA/84




Marry Williamson


Time waits for no man. So the saying goes. Except it did for Colin and his friends. One day, a fine day in June, their time literally stopped. They had rented a large cabin in South Wales. In a small village in Pembrokeshire. Four of them, George, Tom. John and Colin had driven down from London the day before. They were going to be joined in the afternoon by Peter and Andrew and Peter’s dog, a large labrador called Oscar. The holiday started well. The first thing they did when they arrived in the village was stocking up on supplies in the local village shop, the “One Stop”.

Bread, milk, cheese, eggs, bacon and coffee. They spent the evening in the one and only pub in the village “The Lamb and Flag” eating a hearty meal and having a few drinks. They were the only customers in the place and the landlord joined them for a few drinks together with the owner of the One Stop. The next morning they made themselves a large breakfast before setting out on a walk armed with some sandwiches and a couple of flasks of coffee.  They were soon out of the village. At the end of the park they climbed over the stile and followed the signs through the woods to the beach. Almost immediately the path forked. There were no signs to say which path they should follow to the beach or where the other path leads to. There was, however, a large oak tree on the crossroad. After some initial disagreement as to which fork to take, they decided on the left hand path. “We can always turn round if it is not going anywhere. Walk back to the oak tree and take the other path. Easy.”

After half an hour it became evident that the path they had chosen was going nowhere so they turned round. They had been walking for about three quarters of an hour when John said: “shouldn’t we have come to that oak tree?” They looked at one another and after another 10 minutes George said: “Look this is crazy. We have not strayed off this path and we cannot have mislaid a big oak tree. Let’s have a rest and a coffee.” They sat down at the side of the path and speculated on what to do. The path stretched out in front of them and behind them. They had not seen any sign of life since they left the village and climbed over the stile. The question now was, what to do. Turn round again or carry on?

Meanwhile, back in the village, Peter, Andrew and the dog had arrived at the cabin in the afternoon as arranged and found the place empty. Their friend’s car was on the drive. There were breakfast dishes, neatly washed up and left to drain in the kitchen. Their friend’s things were in the bedrooms but there were no signs of George, Tom, John or Colin. They unpacked, made themselves a sandwich and a coffee and settled down to wait. They phoned their friend’s mobiles but all their phones went straight to voice mail. At around five o’clock they became worried and went to the One Stop. The answer to their question was: “No, haven’t seen anybody. Nobody has been in here”. On being shown the carrier bag that the men had found in the cabin, the reply was: “Must have been another One Stop”. They went to the pub to be met with hostility and a shrug. As the evening wore on they became seriously worried and suspecting something had happened to their friends phoned 999. The police said that a missing person was not a missing person until 24 hours had passed and to ring back tomorrow if they had not turned up.

The four friends, meanwhile, having finished their snacks and coffee had decided to walk on since there seemed not much else to do. They tried to phone for help but there was no signal. Then Colin mentioned how quiet it was an how there did not seem to be any noise, not even any bird song.

That freaked them all out. They got up and started to walk.  The path stretching out in front of them, featureless, quiet and eerie. All of a sudden there was a noise. A helicopter overhead and the sound of dogs barking. Two policemen with dogs materialised as if out of thin air. “Found them. Over here” they shouted and there were Andrew, Peter and Oscar. “Thank God. Where have you been all night. We were so worried.” “All night? What do you mean, all night?  We have only been a few hours. You two are early. We thought you would not be here till later.”

Nobody could explain it. Time really had stood still. The weird thing was that the landlord of the Lamb and Flag and the owner of the One Stop kept insisting that they had never seen the foursome before. Even confronted with the car on the drive, the remains of breakfast and the items of shopping clearly coming from the One Stop in the cabin.

The next day all six of them and Oscar climbed over the stile and onto the path, accompanied by the sound of birds, the rustling of small animals in the undergrowth and the sound of the wind in the trees. They got to the fork in the road and the big oak tree and decided to take the righthand path. Just in case.



Analyzing Sunday

Randy Bittle


Thinking is a way of life for a philosopher.  Nothing is too abstract or obscure to be examined by a thinking mind.  The other day, a slow, lazy day, I stumbled upon the Sunday problem.  I thought about it, and thought about it, and I still have no satisfactory solution that holds for everyone.  In the end, as I hope to demonstrate, the Sunday problem is an issue best explained by my theory of realativity, which I described in last month’s essay titled “Real-ativity.”

Sunday is the end of the week, right?  Or is it the beginning of the week?  This is where the problem arises.  Calendars have Sunday on the left side, at the beginning, of the row of columns that denote the days of the week.  Likewise, my seven-day pillbox starts with Sunday on the left side, the first day of the week.  All my life I have considered Sunday as the end of the week with Monday being the first day of the week.

I guess my unconscious reasoning for making Monday the first day of the week is based on the fact that the work week, or school week, begins on Monday.  Sunday is the last day before the next work week gets started.  That makes sense to me, but why do calendars and pillboxes start with Sunday as the first day of the week?

Further consideration of the problem revealed to me that it could be Saturday is the end of the week and Monday is the beginning of the week, leaving Sunday as a stand-alone bonus day that neither begins or ends the week.  I could live with this solution to the Sunday problem.  Sunday, for many a day of worship, would be a bonus day signifying neither the beginning or the end of the week.  We could all use a bonus day of rest in our busy lives.

Here is how my theory of realativity applies to the final analysis of whether Sunday is the first or last day of the week.  Realativity states that perceived human reality depends on the internal state of mind of the individual person.  Some people like hot peppers and some do not.  It is realative.  And so it is with the solution of the Sunday problem.  Each individual person must decide whether Sunday begins or ends the week for them.  The option for Sunday as a bonus day is also available.

To each his own opinion, in true realative fashion.  To my knowledge, there is no independently conclusive right or wrong solution.  Unsolvable problems such as this one delight philosophers, who are seldom bored.  Thinking about anything and everything is a wonderful way to kill extra time when you think you have nothing to do.



The Gift Best Given

Author Edward Di Gangi

Review by Rita Berman, bermanrita@bellsouth.net


Edward Di Gangi was sixty-seven years old in 2017 and vaguely remembered being told as a young child that he was adopted, but no details were given. Raised in a loving family with aunts and uncles nearby, it is only after opening an envelope in family papers that in 2017 he writes down the name of Genevieve Irene Knorowski and begins a three-year search for his birth mother. She was born in 1925 and at the age of 17 had left her family in Queens, New York to join an ice skating revue in Canada. On learning that she was no longer alive, Edward continues his journey with the aid of Ancestry.com and on-line search engines.

This well-written, heart-warming book is part memoir about his search and part his recreation of his birth mother’s intriguing life as a famous ice skater. Much of this information came from photographs and details found in a box of her memorabilia that a stranger, Tobey Olson, purchased at an auction one day, and gave to Edward when she learned of his search.

Since adoption records that once been sealed were now open Edward eventually meets both his paternal and maternal biological brothers, as well as various cousins who gave him Knorowski family photographs and information about Genevieve’s later marriage to Ted Meza in 1955 and the birth of two sons. In recreating her story Edward admits while the words may not be her very own the timeline is accurate and the places are authentic.

The book title, The Gift Best Given, comes from a conversation Genevieve may have had in which she said, “the best gift is not the one you receive but the one you give to another.” By giving her child up for adoption to the Di Gangi couple many lives were impacted, and Edward’s persistent search is now a book well worth reading.   

First paperback edition May 2020 by Beddington Court Press

ISBN 978-1-7347572-0-0-0 paperback.




No Act of Love Goes Unpunished (Part II)

Fiction by Howard A. Goodman


In a theater half filled with moviegoers Shirley Schechter found an aisle seat on the tenth row from the front. Shirley sat down, locating a cup holder in the armrest to park her trophy sized tub of buttered popcorn and Diet Coke. She shrugged her coat from her shoulders, letting it settle against the backrest. The first of a cavalcade of trailers for coming attractions began to play. Shirley stared at the screen. She had never been discriminating as to the movies she chose to see since Harold had died—been killed less than three months earlier in the freakish accident involving a tractor-trailer. Shirley just wanted to be entertained.

By day Harold had been an indexer, a type of writer who specialized in creating cross-references and indexes required by highly technical books prior to their publication. It was the kind of job that most would find excruciatingly boring. Yet Harold possessed the patience and thrived on the attention to detail to be able to handle it well. By night, however, Harold had been a writer in the most artistic sense, striving diligently to create his vision of the Great American Novel.

In his loft he pecked away at the word processor of his computer, first outlining the general scope of the story he wanted to tell, then creating several chapters: the first to introduce his characters, then several more chapters that began to shape the substance of his tale. He already had a title in mind, one that he’d mentioned to Shirley, though she paid little attention. The task that now lay ahead of him was to sew the remainder of the chapters in a way that would tie his story seamlessly together.

Shirley, his second wife, was a woman he had instantly found attractive and had decided to marry, even though she was not of his faith. At their age, what the hell did that matter? It wasn’t like they would have to face the issue of having to decide in which religion to raise the kids. Their five kids— three his, two hers—were all grown, gone, old enough to have kids of their own. Unlike with his first wife Harold pursued Shirley to please himself, not his parents. But their marriage had proven to be less than ideal.


“You call yourself a writer, Harold?” Shirley barked at him, spontaneously poking her head into his loft on the way to her bedroom. “For all the time you spend banging words into your computer you never made a single dime. Some Jew you are.”

Harold twisted his neck sharply from the monitor, recoiling from the stinging blow of Shirley’s remark. To him her words were a validation of his long held suspicion that she never give a shit about his avocation, which he had tried repeatedly to share with her, stir her interest, yet to which she had never lent an ear. Unless of course there was the promise of fame and fortune. Harold was livid, about to fire back at his shiksa wife with, ‘Is that what this is all about? Money? Now who’s being the Jew?’

But he thought the better of allowing those words to escape his lips. Even under emotional strain he remained rational enough to realize no good would ever come of it. Beside, he had only himself to blame for leaving open the door to his loft, actually a spare bedroom, fomenting an invitation for Shirley to barge in on him. And he was certain the shrapnel his remark would have inflicted would never heal. There was no convincing Shirley of anything other than what she chose to believe. Yet in spite of all of this Harold truly loved Shirley, yet he remained unable to convince her that she needed to mend her ways. That night Harold slept in the single bed in his loft. This was not the first time. Or even the fourth.

Eventually, Harold gave up, acquiesced, deciding never again to try to share with Shirley anything about what he was creating upstairs in his loft. Never again to force his passion on someone who was not willing to accept it. He soon discovered that not doing so was surprisingly easy. Shirley never showed the slightest interest about what he wrote; never questioned him. And working clandestinely, he soon discovered, had a side benefit. The cloak of secrecy provided him with a strange energy, which infused him with the strength to persist in his endeavors as a writer.


Shirley fully expected to be entertained by each of the movies she attended, to have something to fill her emptiness. More often, though, she ending up disappointed in their story lines, and in herself for not researching them beforehand. However, she had chosen to see this particular film because there was something distantly familiar about one aspect of it. Its title pecked at her repeatedly. “The Two Lonely People.” Was it just her imagination, or had she heard those words before?

The theater lights dimmed slowly for the start of the main feature. The opening credits began to appear unceremoniously, accompanied by a piano solo of what promised to be a haunting musical score. On the screen a man and a woman, both appearing to be in their sixties, sat across from each other at a round kitchen table, quietly eating their evening meals, not gazing at each other, not even glimpsing. Conversation between the two was noticeably absent. Estranged. The man and the woman appeared little more than statues of stone. Eventually, the man stood up from his chair, placed his dishes and utensils in the dishwasher, then plodded slowly off to the left of the screen without ever uttering a single word to the woman.

Now afforded a better view of the kitchen table, Shirley realized it looked exactly like the one in her kitchen, the one she and Harold had shared. Same for the chairs. And the dishwasher. Even the layout of the kitchen. A strange anxiety began to swell up in her. A lone credit, detached in time from the previous ones, faded in near the bottom right of the screen. At first Shirley merely glimpsed it. Seconds later, suddenly grasping what it said, her eyes widened in shock and her jaw dropped—an assemblage of words she never in a millennium expected she’d ever come face-to-face with. Words she was not prepared to see.

Words she had denied. Shirley bolted forward. Her eyes fixed to the screen, Shirley twisted in her seat, grabbed for her purse, groped inside for a tissue. Two. She knew that two tissues weren’t going to be nearly enough. Together with the napkins she’d helped herself to at the concession stand, she began to dab at her surging tears. Now Shirley stared squarely at the lone credit, thrusting her arm forward, hand outstretched, determined to touch the words with the tips of her fingers. To somehow pluck them from the screen, clutch them against her bosom in a frenzied attempt to make them an indelible part of her.

Screenplay adapted from the novel by Harold Schechter

But the words on the screen didn’t care. They didn’t linger. Not for anyone in the theater. Not even for Shirley Schechter.



Dear Readers, with this story, the serialization of my book, “Grown Men in Love,” is complete. I hope you enjoyed the twelve tales.




Hammer Spade and the Four Horsemen

Chapter Sixteen

Dinner was served under a tent the courtyard. Twelve cushions were arranged the floor in a circle around a low revolving table. The drink was beer made from the pods of locust trees. Jim tasted it first and said it was very refreshing. There were twenty-seven plates and dishes of finger food and a big bowl on the table before them containing the main entrée, boiled mutton and rice.

“If Aama Tahar offers you the choicest morsel,” Dave whispered to Jim, “reluctantly decline and suggest that Cleopatra and Cheriet deserve the honor more than you.”

“What’s it gonna be?” Jim asked.

“You’ll see,” Dave replied.

Aama Tahar had drafted seven of his high officials to fill out the table in order to achieve the required twelve diners. They were already in place when Dave and Jim were escorted to their seats. One of the local diners was the man who first met them at the gate.

Aama Tahar entered after they had taken their seats and took the cushion directly across from Jim and Dave. Then, with great fanfare, twelve young girls, dressed in colorful robes entered in single file and performed an elaborate ceremonial dance. After the dance was finished, the dancers formed a line from the entrance to the cushion beside Aama Tahar.

A trumpet sounded.

Dave looked at Jim. “What in the heck was that for?”

As if to answer Dave’s question, Cleopatra flowed into the courtyard dressed in a clingy royal purple robe and took her seat on Aama Tahar’s right. Aama Tahar’s eyes followed her every move and he gave her a delighted smile when she took her place beside him.

Cleopatra looked every bit as ravishing as the ancient Queen of Egypt must have been, although eyewitness reports at the time said that the original Cleopatra was not outstandingly pretty, but she “possessed a vivacity of mind and body” that made her the most desirable woman of her age.

“Cleopatra didn’t bring that thing she’s wearing,” Jim said.

“Naw, she didn’t. Aama Tahar must have told her to wear it.” Dave replied.

“She don’t seem to mind wearing it,” Jim whispered back “She acts like she’s after something from Aama Tahar,”.

“She’ll get it wearing that rig,” Dave replied.

Aama Tahar rose and solemnly welcomed his guests to his humble table and thanked the lovely Queen Cleopatra for gracing them with her presence. After he sat down, he reached into the bowl of mutton and rice, felt around until he found what he wanted, pulled it out and presented the morsel to Cleopatra. Her jaw dropped and her eyes got big when she saw a boiled sheep’s eye staring at her. Then, in an admirable recovery, she plucked the morsel from Aama Tahar’s hand and downed it with one swallow. The guests clapped in appreciation as she smiled. Aama Tahar stuck his hand into the bowl again, fished out the other eye and popped it into his mouth to cheers and applause.

“I’m glad he didn’t consider me an honored guest,” Jim whispered.

“It ain’t so bad,” Dave replied.

“Have you eaten one?”

“Yeah, in Somalia a couple of years back.”

Flat breads were on the table to serve as plates and the guests began to choose what they wanted to eat as the table rotated around. The conversation became a babble of native voices but Dave noticed that Cheriet did not join in.

“What’s wrong?” Dave asked him.

“I do not like this,” Cheriet replied. “This is all a show for something else and I do not know what it is.”

“Is Cleopatra in trouble?” Jim asked.

“I don’t think so because Aama Tahar is enraptured of her. But she may get us into trouble.”

“Aama Tahar doesn’t believe she’s the real Cleopatra, does he?” Dave asked.

“Aama Tahar has modern sensibilities. This is a game with him.”

“Is he educated?” Dave asked.

“He graduated from Oxford.”

“Then why in the world is he out here?” Jim wanted to know.

“He was the heir to the throne. It was his duty.”

“So he’s worldly enough to appreciate Cleopatra.”

“And weird enough,” Cheriet replied. “Aama Tahar is a strange man.”

“Does he speak English?” Dave asked.

Cheriet nodded.

The meal lasted until midnight and became mildly rowdy after the date wine was served. Dave thought the subdued rowdiness was because Aama Tahar rigidly enforced his people’s behavior.

Cleopatra was a big hit with him and she was playing it up pretty heavy for a poor young Mormon missionary marooned by circumstances in an Arab country. Cleopatra looked very sexy in her purple outfit.

On their way back to their quarters, Jim wondered if Cheriet was right.

“I think so,” Dave replied, “and we had better watch our step.”

“You got that right,” Jim agreed.



They were awakened at seven the next morning and told that breakfast would be served in the courtyard in forty-five minutes. They were to dress in the robes placed in their rooms while they slept.

It was a groggy, hung-over crowd that wandered into the courtyard at eight. Some of the tribesmen were in bad shape. There were the now familiar flatbread plates and a collection of fruit, dried figs, fresh dates, fried and hardboiled eggs, coffee and milk on the revolving table. Cleopatra was dressed in another robe when she entered without fanfare and took her seat beside Aama Tahar.

Aama Tahar welcomed them and commented that guests were rare in his kingdom and the celebration would continue.

“Eat up,” he said. “We have miles to go before we dine again.”

“Dave, what are we here for?” Jim asked.

“We are on a military and diplomatic mission of extreme importance,” Dave replied sarcastically.

“Yeah, right. I almost forgot.”

Cheriet was still uncomfortable and nervous.

After breakfast, the seven tribesmen and the visitors were marched outside the walls to a camel corral where twelve camels were saddled and ready.

“We will visit a most lovely oasis today,” Aama Tahar announced, “where we will have a picnic lunch, bathe in the clearest water in a warm spring and return before nightfall.”

“Have you ever ridden a camel, Dave?” Jim asked.

“Not yet.”

The camel drivers made the camels kneel to be mounted. After the riders had crawled on top of their camel, the camel lurched up.

Aama Tahar had seen to it that Cleopatra rode in style. Hers was a white camel wearing a fancy saddle with tassels.

“The man is after our little Mormon girl,” Jim observed dryly.

A hundred yards into the trip, Dave whispered to Jim that he would be very sore at the end of the day.

They traveled northeast along a dry riverbed for many miles through mountainous terrain where every rock precipice looked like a monument. It was dry, hot, dusty and beautiful to see. Dave wondered if they might be the first Americans to see this gorgeous, multicolored landscape.

When the oasis came into sight, the lush greenery stood out in sharp contrast to the surrounding dry drabness. Aama Tahar’s servants were waiting for them under a sky blue canopy with carpet on the ground, cushions to sit on and cool drinks for the thirsty camel riders.

After a meal of dried figs, dates and mutton sandwiches on flatbread, two women servants escorted Cleopatra away from the men.

While Cleopatra was gone, a juggler and a magician entertained them until Cleopatra was escorted back, looking very refreshed from her warm spring bath.

She came over to Dave, Jim and Cheriet.

“It was wonderful,” she said.

“Are you okay?” Dave asked.

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Aama Tahar is hooked on you,” Dave replied.

“I think that’s a good thing, don’t you?”

“I’m not sure. What if he decides to keep you?”

“I doubt that. He’s a very civilized man. He went to Oxford.”

“But he’s king of an uncivilized, unassimilated tribe older than the Phoenicians,” Dave pointed out.

“I speak the language and I survived almost a year in Tamanghasset with little money and no friends. I can handle myself.”

“But he might have something up his sleeve,” Dave reminded her.

“So, he might,” she replied tartly. “So what?”

She walked away and took her place on the cushion beside Aama Tahar. He smiled at her as she approached and ordered a servant to fetch her something cool to drink.

Then a servant escorted the men to a beautiful, spring-fed pool that could have been in the Garden of Eden. Dave and Jim stood awestruck on the bank of a beautiful, clear pool shaded by heavily laden date palms, with lush grass on the bank and a white pebbled bottom. The water was twenty feet deep on the far side, but it was clear enough to see surface irregularities on individual pebbles.

The men stripped off their sweaty robes and jumped into the refreshing water that washed away the dust, sweat and aches from their bodies.



It was dark by the time they returned to Aama Tahar’s stronghold.


Hogar Mountains-algeria b-w.jpg

Mount Tahat-The Ahaggar Mountains

 Courtesy of Google Earth



My Environmental Journey

Carol Rados


Over the past few years I have made numerous changes in my lifestyle and choices.  I subscribe to a website called mightynest.com.  They feature healthy green products for the home and family.  I’m sharing a few in the hopes that others will think and consider how their decisions that are made daily may be changed to improve the environment. 

            I have made these changes in my cleaning routines:

            In my laundry, I use Tide Free and Gentle that is available at my Walmart.  I use this because it is powder and packaged in a cardboard box (no plastic) that I can recycle.  The measuring cup is made from recycled plastic and can also be recycled.  I also use Charlie’s soap in the liquid form. This is a laundry detergent that is better for the environment.  It is available at my local Food Lion on the “Local products” because it is a North Carolina company.    I no longer use bleach in my laundry.  Currently I use Hydrogen Peroxide with everything, but I am going to try a new Oxygen product soon. 

 In my dryer, I use 3 wool balls.  I no longer use

fabric softener or dryer sheets.

To clean our tile shower, I use an e-cloth and water.  I do not use any cleaning chemicals. 

Plastic is not allowed in my dishwasher.  I hand wash my plastic items to reuse or recycle.

            Garbage is a big deal for me. I have made lots of changes in this area.

 Everything in my garbage is looked at to see if it can be recycled.  If a plastic bag is dirty, I wash it in the sink and then recycle or reuse it.  I do not put my garbage in plastic bags.  I use large compostable paper bags that I get at Food Lion.( Another option is to use compostable bags that are available on Amazon as well as  Food Lion ).  I empty my garbage into the large paper bags.  If I don’t have much garbage, I can use a free paper bag from grocery stores.  Pet poop is picked up with a compostable bag and discarded in the garbage.

Composting is done with all peelings, stems, and any spoiled produce. 

I clean & recycle Styrofoam containers at Publix.

Keurig cups are taken apart and I put the coffee grounds in the garden and the filters in the compost bin.

            Several changes in regards to food and food storage have been made.

            When I bake items in the oven, I use parchment paper, not aluminum foil.  I wrap my sweet potatoes in parchment paper, and bake them in the oven.  I use parchment paper as a liner when I am baking.

Smuckers Natural peanut butter has less sugar and is in a glass container.  I also use Organic Asian Ginger salad dressing which is in a glass bottle.  I prefer salad dressing that is sold in glass containers.

Freshpaper is a product from Mighty Nest, and it is helping keep my produce fresh longer.

            Plastic to glass for my food storage containers is a priority for me.  I use a lot of small glass containers, and I have been saving small glass containers to reuse.  If they do not have a top, for the covering I use waxed paper with a rubber band.  I also use waxed paper or bees wax wrappers instead of plastic wrap.

Now I use glass mixing bowls. I use a glass container for my items that I save for the compost bin as well as the container that I use to carry water outside for my pet.

Replacing my plastic measuring cups with metal measuring cups is a goal.  I now have a metal colander and metal measuring spoons.

In my purse I carry a paper bag with three waxed paper bags that I can use for takeout items when I eat at a restaurant and have more food than I care to eat.

            When I shop at the Farmers Market, I use my own bags. I like to get vegetables and fruit there.  I buy carrots there, and cut them up for snacking.   In my general shopping I look for products that are not packaged in plastic and take my own bags. 

            I use a reusable Corksicle metal cup and fill it with water from my refrigerator or if I’m traveling, I use water from water fountains.  I almost never use beverages or water in plastic bottles.  At home I use glasses or cups.

            I have made lots of changes in personal items:

When I wash my hands I use Method hand soap that offers refill packages that last a long time.  When I dry my hands I use a cotton hand towel rather than a paper towel.  I add the soiled towels to my wash with any laundry load that I am washing.

Cloth napkins that can be washed are used rather than paper napkins.

            My toilet paper and paper towels are made from recycled paper. 

            My shampoo and conditioner that comes like a bar of soap and is packaged in paper board.  My body soap is wrapped in paper board or a paper bag as I sometimes get it at the Farmer’s Market.  Through Mighty Nest, I have found a deodorant that is in paper board.

            Facial serum and facial moisturizers are in glass containers that I can clean and recycle. Through Mighty Nest, I have found a cream deodorant that is in a glass container.  I use dental floss that is made from silk and is compostable.  It is dispensed from a glass container and I buy refills. 

            Sheer Energy stockings are my choice because they do not use any plastic in their packaging.

            I have started using handkerchiefs for many things that I used to use Kleenex.  I wash the handkerchiefs with my regular laundry.

            Swisspers is a 100% cotton makeup removal wipe.  It  is made in Gastonia, NC.  I purchased it at Publix.

            We have a heat pump water heater that can be turned down when we are away.  We have a new heat pump for heating and cooling.  We have a new washing machine and dryer.  These save electricity. We use LED light bulbs.  We installed weather tight windows years ago. Our electric bill is reasonable.

            As you can see, this is a work in progress and I expect to find new ideas and products as I continue to think about how products are packaged, and make every effort to use less plastic in my world.   




More 21st Century Weird Stuff


Remember the movie, Cherry 2000 where Melanie Griffith is hired to help David Andrews locate his android wife, played by Pamela Gidley.

Well, fiction has made that a reality. A Japanese company has issued some 3700 “marriage certificates” to men who have fallen in love with their animated hologram women that it produces and sells. The Gatebox devices sell for $1500.00, have artificial intelligence and can talk to their “digi-sexual” owners. Ahihiko Kondo, 36 , spent $19,000.00 on a 40 guest faux wedding for his device, Miku. Alas, his family missed out on the big day. “For mother, it wasn’t something to celebrate,” he admitted.



Prayer Meeting

Forefront Community Church prayer meeting June 10th 2020.

‘The New Normal’

Diana Goldsimth


           7:20 -7:30 Welcome.


The focus of the prayer meeting is ‘the New normal’. What will church life look like after the lockdown is lifted and we are able to meet? Do we just spring back to how we used to do things or have we learnt new ways through this time of physical family separation? How do we adapt to the changing rules about meeting?

To prepare our hearts and minds for this we will read together some verses. Please can you have the verse with your name next to it ready to read.

Hebrews 13:8 -A God that never changes - Annette

Romans 12:2 - Discern the will of God - Dave

Isaiah 43:19 - A new way - Di

Psalm 33:11 - A God for each generation - Martin


There are 2 prayer points the LT feel need prayer at this time, all with the background of ‘the new normal’.


Church services

 Life group/ Forefront centre. We need wisdom and intercession about returning to Life Groups, Sunday mornings and Forefront Centre? It is likely that the lockdown will be eased slowly.

What should Sunday morning services look like when we are allowed to meet again? the same as always? If not, what differences should be made?

What has God taught us about church life and family throughout this time?

How can we support local business owners , including church family with businesses? How will those who own businesses re-start, given the fears that many people have about going out (to hairdressers or cafes) or about having traders in (kitchens)?

How can we witness through the changing times?


Children and youth


The plans for the arrival of Racquel, (our mission inspired, trainee youth worker), are all still going ahead,, however it is likely her arrival date will be put back until later in the summer/autumn. She may also be subject to a time of quarantine. Prayers for her enthusiasm to come and the ability to do so safely.

School looks very different and is likely to continue to be different in September, as are a lot of youth work possibilities. Pray for the fruition of new (and old) opportunities for Racquel to be allowed into schools and organisations to meet and work with young people.

Pray for plans for our youth work. A big part of our flourishing vision this year was about the opportunities of sharing God with the children and young people of our town. Please pray that opportunities will continue to present themselves throughout this time of unusual life.

Please also pray for our young people, for the impact COVID-19 is having on their lives, future plans, and spiritual walk,

8:00 Thank you everyone for attending.


Seek God, Love Generously, Expect Transformation

Forefront Community Centre 42 Fore Street, Chard, Somerset, TA20 1QA




If suffering brings wisdom, I would wish to be less wise. William Butler Yeats


To the wise, life is a problem; to the fool, a solution. Marcus Aurelius

Why Men Shouldn’t Write Advice Columns

Sent by Steve Sanderson, Gilbert SC


Dear John,

I hope you can help me. The other day, I set off for work, leaving my husband in the house watching TV. My car stalled, and then it broke down about a mile down the road, and I had to walk back to get my husband’s help. When I got home, I couldn't believe my eyes. He was in our bedroom with the neighbor’s daughter!

I am 32, my husband is 34 and the neighbor’s daughter is 19. We have been married for 10 years. When I confronted him, he broke down and admitted they had been having an affair for the past six months. He won't go to counseling and I'm afraid I am I wreck and need advice urgently. Can you help me, please?


Sincerely, Sheila


Dear Sheila,

A car stalling after being driven a short distance can be caused by a variety of faults with the engine. Start by checking that there is no debris in the fuel line. If it is clear, check the vacuum pipes and hoses on the intake manifold and also check all grounding wires. If none of these approaches solves the problem, it could be that the fuel pump itself is faulty, causing low delivery pressure to the injectors.

I hope this helps.





My Tomato Plant

Sybil Austin Skakle


During the days of isolation and restrictions of the 2020 pandemic, buying additional food items became a problem. Knowing that Harris-Teeter would fill an order for me, which I could pick up without having to break the rules of Carol-Woods retirement community, I went Online and filled out an order. I understood from the instructions that I would not be able to pick up my order until the following Thursday. The following Thursday I called to add something to my order and was told that no order was found there for me. I knew I had made one, but the manager kept telling me: “We do not have an order for you.”

A bit riled, I went back Online to the Harris-Teeter site and discovered my error. My order was still visible. I had failed to hit the submit button. Mollified and anxious to acquire a large container of coffee, instead of the small aluminum packages available at Carol-Woods, I filled out a new order, making sure to submit it before I left their site. It was a Thursday and there were no time slots available until Friday, the next day, at 7:15 pm.

All day Friday, I anticipated my first experience with the drive through shopping line at Harris-Teeter. I had not driven my car in weeks. Would it start? Would my physical reflexes still be okay? The planned excursion, beyond the confines of my apartment and building, was a challenge and an adventure.   

I left earlier than I needed to arrive at Harris-Teeter in University Place to pick up my order. As I entered Sage Road, beyond the traffic light near Lowes Home Improvement, I decided I had time to go buy a tomato plant.  So, I turned into the shopping center and pulled around the back of their store, next to the fence where I saw the tomato plants. I saw the attendant, with an iPhone to his ear. I tried unsuccessfully to get his attention. After several minutes I opened the door of my blue Chrysler 200, reached for my trusted crutch, got out of the car, chose a plant and got back into the car. Still, I could not attract the attention of the attendant.

Pressed by time, I decided to go around to the front of Lowes. I backed the car around, went up the aisle and pulled around to the front of the garden area of the store. The attendant was nowhere in sight. Then I looked at my watch. I did not even have time to take that tomato plant back. So, I decided to take the tomato plant, call the store when I got home, and pay over the phone by my debit card. Feeling sheepish, I left for Harris -Teeter, reassuring myself that I was not stealing that tomato plant.

At Harris-Teeter, I picked up my groceries, delivered by a very accommodating young woman, who exchanged the container of coffee for a larger one than the one I ordered. Trying to pay the extra amount the larger container cost, she told me: “I checked with my manager. It is okay.”

Did I or did I not pay for the larger cannister of Folger’s coffee?  I pulled on through the slot and came home to celebrate purchases and new sense of well-being, bordering on exultation.

As soon as possible, I buried the tomato plant atop a bagful of compostable material: coffee grounds, orange peel, egg shells, etc. from my kitchen into the flowerbed, left of sliding glass doors. Still, I felt insecure, knowing I had taken that plant without paying for it. 

Next day, after several minutes of waiting and retrying, I managed to get the Lowes’ garden attendant on the telephone. He would not hear of my paying him over the telephone. “You will have to come to the store and pay for that plant. You took it without paying for it. It has to be accounted for and taken out of inventory.”

Then I tried the main store! Finally, I went Online, found a pictures of tomato plants, some in black pots and some in white pots. Mine was in a white pot and, I realized from the description, may not be the tomato I thought I was buying. Having found the price of my purloined tomato, I added tax, wrote a check and put it into an envelope my letter of explanation and mailed it to Lowes, attention, accountant. 

A few days later I received a phone call. A young woman from Lowes called to tell me the check and letter had been received. “It is okay,” she said.

“Thank you so much for letting me know. I so appreciate your call. Just be sure you take that tomato out of the inventory,” I said. 

My tomato plant has two small green tomatoes. However, they may be a cherry tomatoes rather than sandwich size. Believe me, I shall cherish any tomato that I find there. However, I am still mystified. That check for $4.71 I wrote to Lowes, is still not debited from my bank account.




The wise musicians are those who play what they can master. Duke Ellington


Little Red Riding Hood

E. B. Alston


I was driving east on I-85 seating the valves on my brand new red 2002 Thunderbird. As I approached exit 132 at Mt Hope Church Road I blew by this chick in a white Cavalier. I looked in my rear view mirror after I passed her and saw her car weaving and pull off the road.

            “Christ, did I scare the little chick that much? I was barely making 110 when I passed that little wimp car. I’d better check her out. I don’t want to upset any sweet thangs today.”

            So I got off at the next exit and drove down the service road past the Lucent and AT&T buildings. After I got back to Mt Hope Church Road, I went right and turned back onto the interstate. When I stopped behind the little car she was still sitting there and it looked like she had been crying. I got out and went to the driver’s side window.

            “Miss, are you alright?”

            She lowered the window about a millionth of an inch, “I’m okay. A mean old man in a big red car scared the crap out of me. I mean, he just came out of nowhere and flew by me like a red bat out of hell. In addition to scaring me, he was just totally inconsiderate about all those hydrocarbons his car was spewing out polluting the atmosphere and making the ozone hole bigger. I just despise thoughtless people like that, don’t you?”

            “Well, yeah, I guess so. You going to be alright?”

            She lowered her window four inches, “I’ll be alright. Thank you for caring about me. I really appreciate it, sir.”

“You’re welcome, Miss.”

“What’s your name, mister?”

            “I am P. Theodosius Wolfe. People call me Ted.”

            “Pleased to meet you, Ted.” She rolled her window all the way down. “I’m Little Red Riding Hood. People call me Red. It’s partly because that’s my name and partly because of my red hair. I’m on my way to Roxboro to visit my grandmother and take her some healthy snacks and bottled mineral water.”

            Man, did she ever have red hair! Long red hair that flowed about her head when she moved like shampoo commercials. And the greenest eyes! A woman like her can really make your hackles stand up I can tell you. I had to work hard to keep from baring my teeth. She got out of the car. Wow! Wow! Wow! A tight white sweater, tight black stretch pants. She smiled at me.

            “Thank you for stopping. You’re a sweet person. Why don’t you give me a call sometime and I’ll fix you a vegetarian meal.” She handed me her card.

            “Where’d you say you were going?”

            “To my grandmother’s in Roxboro. She lives at 610 North Main Street.”

            She shook my hand, got back into her car and drove away.

            Now, I’m thinking, these are the facts.

1) This luscious little sweet thang is on the way to see her old grandma.

2) After looking at her cute butt, them pretty knockers and that red hair my testosterone level is about to pop my cork.

 3) A wolf that can’t come up with a plan to get his way in this case ain’t worth the hair on his chinny, chin, chin.

4) I knew a shortcut to Roxboro.

I got back in my brand new red 2002 Thunderbird and seated them valves some more on the way to Roxboro.

When I got there, I parked my car in back of the house and came in through the unlocked back door. Granny heard me, and called to tell me she was in the downstairs bedroom. It was pretty dark in the bedroom because all the shades were pulled down. When she saw me she started to kick up a ruckus, so I tapped her lightly on the head and stuffed her into the bedroom closet. Then I rummaged through some drawers to find a gown. Since Granny was pretty chunky, I didn’t have any problem finding one that fit over my clothes. Then I settled in to wait. When Red finally showed up 45 minutes later, I was drinking Granny’s beer, eating chips and watching WWF reruns on the TV. The cute, luscious sweet thang bustled in, kissed my cheek and plopped down in the chair beside the bed.

“I brought you some healthy snacks and bottled mineral water, Grandma,” she said in her perky way.

Then she looked at me real close, “Grandma, you look a whole lot bigger than I remember.”

“Just more of me to love, darlin.”

“You’re drinking alcohol and eating unhealthy snacks, Grandma and you’re watching that stupid wrestling again.”

“I miss you so much darlin I just lose control.”

“You’re staring at me and your eyes look bigger than I remember.”

“The better to see you with my dear.”

“But, you’re staring at my chest, Grandma. Why are you looking at my chest?”

“Just thinking how cute they would be if I could just get a good look at them.”

“What’s gotten into you Grandma? You’re acting very funny and I don’t like it one bit.”

It was time to make my play! I threw off Granny’s gown and grabbed for the luscious little princess. But she was quick as a rabbit and scooted out the door and ran into the front yard yelling and screaming.

“Help! Help!” she yelled.

Some City of Roxboro Sanitation Workers were standing around a backhoe next to the curb. She ran up to them, still yelling and screaming.

“Help me! Help me!” she yelled, “A mean old Mr. Wolfe is trying to have forced carnal relations with me in Granny’s house.”

A sewer worker leaning on the tractor looking puzzled asked, “Say what?”

So, I was looking out the window at her trying to explain what “carnal relations” are to the sewer workers. Then I heard Granny bumping around in the closet and decided it was about time to get the hell out of Dodge. I sneaked out the back door, got into my brand new red 2002 Thunderbird and eased down the alley to the other street without being seen and hauled it back to Greensboro, seating them valves real good this time.

Man, she was cute! Every time I think about her, my hackles rise and I have a hard time keeping from baring my teeth.


Copyright 2003 by E. B. Alston




I'm not really wise. But I can be cranky. Andy Griffith


Life in Moccasin Gap

July 2011

Brad Caever


            Uncle Ralph was married to my daddy’s sister Emma. He owned the general store in Moccasin Gap and I used to work there when I got out of elementary school, which was right across the street. It was a beautiful school, looked like the old schools of the 40’s and 50’s looked and it was owned by John Long who also owned the cotton mill in Moccasin Gap. I always got paid with an oatmeal cookie, never money, but I was happy, that’s all that mattered.

            Next to the general store was the pharmacy. I don’t know why they called it that, Alvin Clayton who ran it didn’t have a pharmaceutical license and all he sold was aspirin. We just called it the Drug Store. It was more like a hangout for the school kids and the old guys to sit around and gossip and play checkers. I used to go there with my dad when he had a night off. It was usually open until around 8:30 PM which is late for Moccasin Gap. There was a pool table in the back room and that’s where the school kids hung out. The drug store was sort of like a poor man’s country club.

            I used to buy donuts and long john’s and a fountain drink. I remember every time I’d buy a donut, Alvin would tell me, “Save the hole and you will get a free donut.” I’d eat all around the hole and take it back to him. He’d say, “There’s still donut around the hole. All I want is the hole, not the donut.” I’d eat a little more and take it back to him, but still too much donut around the hole. I finally figured out, there is no way you can save the hole, because if you eat all the donut around it you won’t be able to see it. So I gave up and started eating honey buns instead.

            A lot of times during recess, me and a couple of other mischievous little boys, like Ronnie Dixon, would sneak across the street and get a fountain drink. We weren’t supposed to do it, but that’s what made it so cool. We were doing something we weren’t supposed to be doing and getting away with it. That’s gold to a twelve-year-old.

            Once during recess, Ronnie and I ran across the street to get a drink and when we came out of the drug store we saw the principal Mr. Weldon a huge man with an angry look on his face all the time, standing on the front porch of the school staring right across the street. We didn’t want him to see us, so we ducked behind a car and squatted down so we could be hidden from his view. We were squatting there, giggling, thinking we were getting away with something when the guy who drove the car got in it and pulled away. And there we were, squatting with drinks in hand and in plain view for everyone at school to see. Kids on the playground were laughing and pointing at us. It was humiliating. 

            What we got away with was a spanking. We didn’t get expelled. Actually we got two spankings, one from the principal and one from our parents. Back then it was okay for teachers to spank the children if they got out of hand. Try that today and you will get slapped with a lawsuit. My how times have changed! And you wonder what is wrong with children today. We never went across the street during recess again after that. Instead, my dad would bring the drinks across the street to us.

            Uncle Ralph was a pretty cool guy. He never had much to say and he was always nice to the kids. I remember women used to come in the general store with a list of groceries. They would give it to Uncle Ralph and he would get the groceries off the shelf, bag them and give them to the ladies while they patiently waited.

            One Sunday afternoon after church, Uncle Ralph took me and my cousin Lee to the Moccasin Gap Airport. Actually, it was just and old deserted cow pasture where small cub planes would take off and land. They had a couple of old wooden hangars there and Uncle Ralph knew one of the pilots. He asked him if he would mind taking all of us up in the plane.

            I had never been in a plane before so this was a treat for me and Lee, too. We went up in the air flying around and I asked Uncle Ralph, “What’s that small village down there?” Uncle Ralph said, “That’s Moccasin Gap.” I had no idea my hometown was so small. And what’s amazing is if you fly over it today it looks even smaller. My hometown, just like the old people in it, is actually shrinking.


E. B. Alston


A local Lasik surgery firm has been running ads about their surgical process for improving your vision. As ads of this type go, this one is ordinary in the fullest sense. It’s not nearly as bad as the drug ads. In the drug ads, if it’s for a non-prescription item, the theme is that its doctor recommended by an actor dressed up to look like a doctor. If it’s a prescription medication, the theme is go tell your stupid doctor to prescribe this medication for you so you’ll feel good all over and play cute games with your darling grandkids and go walking in the park with a good looking woman.

The comment in this eye surgery ad that tripped a question in my mind was that the eye doctor had performed over 2500 of these operations during the last year. The impression given is that he did them all.

Now the telephone company says that there are 2080 regular hours in a work year. This means that this guy did the surgeries in 24.5 minutes for each eye!

According to my way of thinking, it had to be much less than that because the medical business is paper intensive, with lots of paperwork that he had to do or at least approve. Surely he took some vacation. He might have been sick a couple of days. There had to be some kind of pre-operation meeting and examination.

I realize that he had several assistants to help him in preparing the patient and handling post-operative issues; but I bet this guy did the actual surgery in an average time less than thirty minutes!

I don’t want to know any more about this kind of eye surgery. Call me old-fashioned if you want to, but I don’t like to think of surgery on me as an industrial process.

A friend’s wife insisted on buying a new foreign car, (I won’t name the brand but its very popular), and it took him all afternoon to close the deal after they had agreed on a price. He was paying cash and threatened to walk out a couple times because he got so exasperated with their process.

 There used to be a fine, family-style restaurant in the Engelhard Hotel in Engelhard, North Carolina. Yes, there is a Hotel in Englehard. I lived there a couple of months in the late 1950s when I was on the telephone company line crew. It was so long ago that we still used open wire on crossarms. I was writing a scene in one of the Hammer Spade books that took place in the Englehard Hotel dining room. I called to find out if they still serve family style and if they still have oyster fritters on the breakfast menu. The nice lady said no, they had ordinary dining room tables now and they hadn’t served oyster fritters in years.

What is called “progress” is not necessarily an improvement.


The Diary of Samuel Pepys

1659-May 31 1669


March 18th, 1659. This day two soldiers were hanged in the Strand for their late mutiny at Somerset-house. 19th (Lord's day). To Mr. Gunning's, and heard an excellent sermon. Here I met with Mr. Moore, and went home with him to dinner, where he told me the discourse that happened between the
secluded members and the members of the House, before Monk last Friday. How the secluded said, that they did not intend by coming in to express revenge upon these men, but only to meet and dissolve themselves, and only to issue writs for a free Parliament. He told me how Hasselrigge was afraid to have the candle carried before him, for fear that the people seeing him,
would do him hurt; and that he was afraid to appear In the City. That there is great likelihood that the secluded members will come in, and so Mr. Crewe and my Lord are likely to be great men,
at which I was very glad. After dinner there was many secluded members come in to Mr. Crewe, which, it being the Lord's day, did make Mr. Moore believe that there was something extraordinary in the business.

20th. I went forth to Westminster Hall, where I met with Chetwind, Simons, and Gregory. [Mr. Gregory was, in 1672, Clerk of the Cheque at Chatham.] They told me how the Speaker Lenthall
do refuse to sign the writs for choice of new members in the place of the excluded; and by that means the writs could not go out to-day. In the evening Simons and I to the Coffee House, where I heard Mr. Harrington, and my Lord of Dorset and another Lord, talking of getting another place at the Cockpit, and they did believe it would come to something.


21st. In the morning I saw many soldiers going towards Westminster Hall, to admit the secluded members again. So I to Westminster Hall, and in Chancery I saw about twenty of them who had been at White Hall with General Monk, who came thither this morning, and made a speech to them, and recommended to them a Commonwealth, and against Charles Stuart. They came to the House and went in one after another, and at last the Speaker came, But it is very strange that this could be carried so private, that the other members of the House heard nothing of all this, till they found them in the House, insomuch that the soldiers that stood there to let in the secluded members they took for such as they had ordered to stand there to hinder their coming in. Mr.
Prynne came with an old basket-hilt sword on, and a great many shouts upon his going into the Hall. [William Prynne, the lawyer, well known by his voluminous publications, and the persecution which he endured. He was M.P. for Bath, 1660, and died 1669.] They sat till noon, and at their coming out Mr. Crewe saw me, and bid me come to his house and dine with him,
which I did; and he very joyful told me that; the House had made General Monk, General of all the Forces in England, Scotland, and Ireland; and that upon Monk's desire, for the service that Lawson had lately don  in pulling down the Committee of Safety, he had the command of the Sea for the time being. He advised me to send for my Lord forthwith, and told me that there is no question that, if he will, he may now be employed again; and that the House do intend to do nothing more than to issue writs, and to settle a foundation for a free Parliament. After dinner I went back to Westminster Hall with him in his coach. Here I met with Mr. Lock and Pursell, Master of Musique, [Matthew Locke and Henry Purcell, both celebrated Composers.] and went with them to the Coffee House, into a room next the water, by ourselves, where we spent an hour or two till Captain Taylor come and told us, that the House had voted the gates of the City to be made up again, and the members of the City that are in prison to be set at liberty; and that Sir G. Booth's case be brought into the House to-morrow. [Sir George Booth of Dunham Massey, Bart., created Baron Delamer; 1661, for his services in behalf of the King. Here we had variety of brave Italian; and Spanish songs, and a canon for eight voices, which Mr. Lock had lately made on these words: "Domine salvum fac Regem" Here out of the window it was a most pleasant sight to see the City from one end to the other with a glory about it, so high was the light of the bonfires, and so thick round the City, and the bells rang every where.


22nd. Walking in the Hall, I saw Major General Brown, [Richard Brown, a Major-General of the Parliament forces, Governor of Abingdon, and Member for London in the Long Parliament. He had been imprisoned by the Rump Faction.] who had a long time been banished by the Rump, but now with his beard overgrown, he comes abroad and sat in the House. To White Hall, where I met with Will. Simons and Mr. Mabbot at Marsh's, who told me how the House had this day voted that the gates of the City should be set up at the cost of the State. And that Major-General Brown's being proclaimed a traitor be made void, and several other things of that nature. I observed this day how abominably Barebone's windows are broke again last night.


23rd. Thursday, my birth-day, now twenty-seven years. To Westminster Hall, where, after the House rose, I met with Mr. Crewe, who told me that my Lord was chosen by 73 voices, to be
one of the Council of State, Mr. Pierpoint had the most, 101, [William Pierrepont, M.P. of Thoresby, second son to Robert, First Earl of Kingston, ob. 1677, aged 71. and himself the
next, 100.


24th. I rose very early, and taking horse at Scotland Yard, at Mr. Garthwayt's stable, I rode to Mr. Pierce's: we both mounted, and so set forth about seven of the clock; at Puckridge we baited, the way exceeding bad from Ware thither. Then up again and as far as Foulmer, within six miles of Cambridge, my mare being almost tired: here we lay at the Chequer. I lay with Mr. Pierce, who we left here the next morning upon his going to Hinchingbroke to speak with my Lord before his going to London, and we two come to Cambridge by eight o'clock in the morning. I
went to Magdalene College to Mr. Hill, with whom I found Mr. Zanchy, Burton and Hollins, and took leave on promise to sup with them. To the Three Tuns, where we drank pretty hard and many healths to the King, &c.: then we broke up and I and Mr. Zanchy went to Magdalene College, where a very handsome supper at Mr. Hill's chambers, I suppose upon a club among them, where I could find that there was nothing at all left of the old preciseness in their discourse, specially on Saturday nights. And Mr. Zanchy told me that there was no such thing now-a-days among them at any time.


26th. Found Mr. Pierce at our Inn, who told us he had lost his journey, for my Lord was gone from Hinchingbroke to London on Thursday last, at which I was a little put to a stand.


27th. Up by four o'clock: Mr. Blayton and I took horse and straight to Saffron Walden, where at the White Hart, we set up our horses, and took the master of the house to shew us Audly End
House, who took us on foot through the park, and so to the house, where the housekeeper shewed us all the house, in which the stateliness of the ceilings, chimney-pieces, and form of the
whole was exceedingly worth seeing. He took us into the cellar, where we drank most admirable drink, a health to the King. Here I played on my flageolette, there being an excellent echo. He shewed us excellent pictures, two especially, those of the four Evangelists and Henry VIII. In our going, my landlord carried us through a very old hospital or almshouse, where forty poor people
was maintained; a very old foundation; and over the chimney-piece was an inscription in brass: "Orate pro anima, Thomae Bird," &c. [The inscription and the bowl are still to be seen in the
almshouse.] They brought me a draft of their drink in a brown bowl, tipt with silver, which I drank off, and at the bottom was a picture of the Virgin with the child in her arms, done in
silver. So we took leave, the road pretty good, but the weather rainy to Eping.


28th. Up in the morning. Then to London through the forest, here we found the way good, but only in one path, which we kept as if we had rode through a kennel all the way. We found the
shops all shut, and the militia of the red regiment in arms at the old Exchange, among whom I found and spoke to Nich. Osborne, who told me that it was a thanksgiving-day through the City for the return of the Parliament. At Paul's I light, Mr. Blayton holding my horse, where I found Dr. Reynolds in the pulpit, and General Monk there, who was to have a great entertainment at
Grocers' Hall.


29th. To my office. Mr. Moore told me how my Lord is chosen General at Sea by the Council, and that it is thought that Monk will be joined with him therein. This day my Lord came to the
House, the first time since he come to town; but he had been at the Council before.


MARCH 1, 1659-60. I went to Mr. Crewe's, whither Mr. Thomas was newly come to town, being sent with Sir H. Yelverton, my old school-fellow at Paul's School, to bring the thanks of the county to General Monk for the return of the Parliament.


2nd. I went early to my Lord at Mr. Crewe's where I spoke to him. Here were a great many come to see him, as Secretary Thurloe, (John Thurloe, who had been Secretary of State to the two Protectors, but was never employed after the Restoration,” though the King solicited his services. Ob. 1668.] who is now by the Parliament chosen again Secretary of State. To Westminster Hall, where I saw Sir G. Booth at liberty. This day I hear the City militia is put into good posture, and it is thought that Monk will not be able to do any great matter against them now, if he had a mind. I understand that my Lord Lambert did yesterday send a letter to the Council, and that to-night he is to come and appear to the Council in person. Sir Arthur Haselrigge do not yet appear in the House. Great is the talk of a single person, and that it would now be Charles, George, or Richard again. For the last of which my Lord St. John is said to speak high. Great also is the dispute now in the House, in whose name the writs shall run for the next Parliament; and it is said that Mr. Prin, in open House, said, "In King Charles's."


 3rd. To Westminster Hall, where I found that my Lord was last night voted one of the Generals at Sea, and Monk the other. I met my Lord in the Hall, who bid me come to him at noon. After dinner I to Warwick House, in Holborne, to my Lord, where he dined with my Lord of Manchester, Sir Dudley North, my Lord Fiennes, and my Lord Barkley. Lord Manchester, the Parliamentary General, afterwards particularly instrumental in the King's Restoration, became Chamberlain of the Household, K.G., a Privy Counsellor, and Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. He died in 1671, having been five times married. Sir Dudley North, K.B., became the 4th Lord North, on the death of his father in 1666. Ob. 1677. John Fiennes, third son of William, 1st Viscount Say and Sele, and one of Oliver's Lords. George, 13th Lord Berkeley, created Earl Berkeley 1679. He was a Privy Counsellor, and had afterwards the management, of the Duke of York's family. Ob. 1698. I staid in the great hall, talking with some gentlemen there, till they all come out. Then I, by coach with my Lord, to Mr. Crewe's, in our way talking of publick things. He told me he feared there was new design hatching, as
if Monk had a mind to get into the saddle. Returning, met with Mr. Gifford who told me, as I hear from many, that things are in a very doubtful posture, some of the Parliament being willing to keep the power in their hands. After I had left him, I met with Tom Harper; he talked huge high that my Lord Protector would come in place again, which indeed is much discoursed of again, though I do not see it possible.





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


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


Rita Berman: 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: 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.


John Burns:  As a graduate student I could not afford to run the electric baseboard heater furnished by my landlord. Fortunately, my death was never recorded and I was able to earn my degree once I thawed out. “


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


Peggy Lovelace Ellis, has been a freelance editor for 48 years, and a published author for considerably less. Over the past 25 years, she has published regularly in such magazines as Good Old Days, Reminisce, Reminisce Extra, Rock and Gem, Aquarium, True Story, Splickety, Woman’s World, Highlights, and Righter Monthly/Quarterly Review. She publishes in the Divine Moments series, Merry Christmas Moments (November 2017) and The Right Words at the Right Time (forthcoming). She has compiled and edited three anthologies for her writers’ group: Challenges on the Home Front World War II (Chapel Hill Press, 2004), Lest the Colors Fade (Righter Books, 2008), and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories (Righter Books, 2010). Each contains her short fiction, memoirs, and research.


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


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


Carol Rados lives in Greenville NC with her husband.  She grew up in Hollister, NC.  She worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor for the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.  In December 2015 she retired.  Her interests are doing volunteer work as a member of the Service League of Greenville, participating in Life Long Learning classes through ECU, reading, water aerobics, playing Mahjong, and she is involved at Congregation Bayt Shalom, her synagogue. She is very interested in using less plastic, and doing other things to improve our environment.  She is the sister of Gene Alston, the publisher.


Sybil Austin Skakle: 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.    


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


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