Righter Monthly Review

June 2014


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Editor 2

The Difference Between A Father And A Daddy by Brad Carver 4

To Die For bt Tim Whealton 5

Poem for Leo by Stbil Austin Skakle 7

Wednesday is Paw Paw Day by J. G. Booker 8

Thrift Shop Love by Laura Alston 9

Daddy Watcher by Sybil Austin Skakle

Boots by Elizabeth Miccio

The Girl in the Box Series - reviewed by Judy Jacobs

First English Printing Press by Randy Bittle

Obituary-Eleanor Drew

Repairing a Race Boat by Dave Whitford

Say What!

Hammer Spade and the Midnight Treader – Serialized book

Sertorius and His Legend, from Plutarch to Wordsworth

Lovers Tea Party by Michael Warren

Strawberry Cobbler by P. L. Almanza

Time Traveler- reviewed by Elizabeth Silance Ballard

Don't Tell Everybody-It's a Secret! By Diana Goldsmith

Gossip by Ariana Mangum

Blue Taurus by by Lance Haworth






A guy in Canada has come up with a viable plan to reduce Muslim terrorism. He proposes that, after terrorists are caught, sew them, or if they’re already dead, their remains, into pig carcasses and launch them into earth orbit. That way they won’t get their 72 virgins. All their buddies back here on earth can watch them pass overhead and hopefully mend the error of their ways. Beats what we’re doing now. Probably cheaper too. Bad outcome for the pigs but, hey, progress always comes at a cost.

A comment I saw about guilt mongering reminded me of something I read somewhere about a Christian, heterosexual man who had a wife, children and a job. The strange thing was he felt no guilt about it. In fact he was reasonably happy. His children didn’t even suffer from ADHD. I bet there are a lot more of them than the social scientists and politicians know about. I’m sure some government agency is working feverishly to fix that problem.

The media never misses a chance to belittle normal working folks. Their opinion is we’re at fault for all the problems in the world today. TV shows depict working men as bungling, comical, fools rescued from their follies by their wives, girlfriends, or some hunky gay dude.

Kind of strange attitude, really. Back when working folks were in charge, most Americans had paying jobs. Maintaining employment for American workers was a goal. American companies did not try to ship jobs overseas. And we won wars. The country wasn’t bankrupt and we put men on the moon.

In addition, the no frills elementary and high school curriculum was designed to prepare students for real jobs. In those benighted times, our schools taught us to read and write. We studied the essential five subjects; English, history, chemistry, biology and math. I don’t have a college education. I have never met a practical math problem I couldn’t solve and I can write a reasonably decent sentence.

Today, the nation is bankrupt. We’re bankrupt because tax receipts are down and the government has all these government workers and benefits to pay. Tax receipts are down because less than half of all working-age people have commercial jobs. Today there are more people receiving a government check than work for private, tax-paying businesses. The reason for this is government tax policies encouraged businesses to export our jobs to foreign countries, where labor is cheap. These foreign workers make cheap stuff and ship it to the US where we buy it with borrowed money. This is not a template for long-term national success. They even try to spin it to make it like they’re doing us a favor because we don’t have to work.

The government has contracted space travel to our enemy. Because our enemy does things like take over small, poorly run countries, our government retaliates by doing wimpy things to annoy them. Like sanctions and un-friending them on Facebook. Meanwhile, we have astronauts in orbit who can only return to earth in our enemy’s space vehicle. I would be worried if I was up there. Just think. All those drones and GPS devices work from satellites and the US government has to contract their maintenance out to our enemy.

I had what is described today as a blighted childhood. No television, no running water, in fact no electricity at home until I was 13. No telephone at all while I lived at home.  My grammar school was primitive. Although it had electric lights, it didn’t have bathrooms. We had outdoor privies and a well with a hand operated pump in the front yard of the school for water. Some families nearby used that well for their water. I’m sure county governments today would put a stop to that.

Imagine the scene today where the investigative TV reporter from station WXYZ sees a woman pumping water into a bucket using the school pump.

“Ma’am, aren’t you using the school’s pump?”

“Yeah, I is.”

“Do you have permission from the county school board to use the school pump to pump water into your bucket?”

“Naw, I don’t. I ain’t never asked.”

“Then why are you using that pump.”

“‘Cause I ain’t got no well or spring.”

“Has it occurred to you that you are stealing county water.”


“It’s not your water, is it?”

“Hadn’t thought ‘bout whose water it was. But I reckon it is the Lord’s water.”

“The Lord’s water?”

“Yeah. The Bible says that the Lord made the earth and everything in it and gave it to us to use.”

“What about the county pump?”

“My cousin, Ivey Crawley, dug the well and gave that pump to the school.”

The reporter scratches his head and ends the interview with, “Now you have it folks. Water at Hollister School is there for anybody to use.”

First, second and third grades at that school were taught in one room by Miss Harrison. There were five in my class, including me and two of my cousins. Fourth and fifth grades were combined, too. One of my mom’s pretty cousins, Miss Miriam Anna Clark taught these. I couldn’t get away with anything at school. The six and seventh grades were also combined. I got sent to the big school seventeen miles away at Aurelian Springs for eighth grade. The high school counted about 100 students. My class had 27. No bleachers at the football field. No seats in the basketball gym. But we had a carpenter and welding shop.

But, I’m not complaining. We got a first class education. All of the students in my class graduated. That was what really counted. We didn’t know we were poor and the school had austere facilities. We will have our 62nd class reunion on the 21st of this month. Most of us are still around and H. T. Hawkins acts just like he did over 60 years ago. If you go, you will meet, in one room, more independent-minded folks than you would normally meet in a year.

As a matter of fact, if you had told us we were poor back then we would have disagreed. In those days it was not considered a social badge of honor to be poor. That change in attitudes came because politicians couldn’t figure out how to make lazy voters rich. So they hit on the idea of telling them that their disadvantage was a badge of honor. The poor, lazy voters, being also ignorant, swallowed that line, too.


Gene Alston


The Difference Between A Father And A Daddy

Brad Carver


Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him daddy!  -Lydia Maria Child,


Most people don’t realize there is a difference between being a daddy and a father. You can be in the same room with your father and be worlds apart. If you’re in the same room with your daddy, it’s you and your daddy in that room together.

A father comes home and asks his son, “how’d you do in school today?’ A daddy knows. A daddy knows how his son did in school, where he went after school and who he went with, because a daddy is involved in his son’s life.

A father tells his son to go outside and play. A daddy goes outside and plays with his son.

A father never says, “I love you.” He doesn’t even know how to say it. He can’t even get the words out of his mouth. A daddy tells his son he loves him every day. And he means it. And his son can tell he means it. He can feel it.

Now I talk about a daddy and his son because I have two sons. But it also applies to a daddy and his daughter. The point is you need to be a daddy, not a father. Anybody can be a father. It takes a man to be a daddy. I want to be a daddy.

A daddy and his sons do things together. A son knows he can tell his daddy anything. He can trust his daddy. He can confide in him. To a son, his daddy is his best friend. That’s what my sons are to me, my best friends. I love being with them and doing things with them.

We go to the park and play all the time. We go on nature hikes in the woods, we go camping; we do things together all the time. It’s wonderful.

I can remember those good times the next day. Something I didn’t do in my old life, because I was either too drunk or too stoned out. Debra, Austin, Carson, and Jesus changed all that.

To show you the kind of friends I used to have, I got drunk one night, passed out at a bar in Norfolk, VA. I woke up day later in a hotel room in Phoenix, AZ. I have no idea how I got there.

Lord, sometimes I miss those days. But I don’t miss them so much that I want to give up what I have now to go back to them. I have sons now.

Nothing I did back then was as wonderful as what I have now. I never felt back then the way I feel now.

Today I am surrounded by love from both sides. It’s the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had. There is no word in the dictionary to describe this feeling.

It’s a feeling that only a daddy can feel. A father doesn’t feel this way. And boy, are they missing out.

I love being a daddy. I can’t say that enough. You will probably read that line a few more times in this book. It feels so good to write it. I love being a daddy. Yes. Now I know how my daddy felt.

A father says he has to make more money now, he has to work harder, he has another mouth to feed, another body to clothe, another kid to put through school. The difference between this and a daddy is a daddy doesn’t see it as something he has to do; it’s something he wants to do.


From Daddyhood, available from Righter Books, Amazon and Amazon Kindle



To Die For

Tim Whealton


It would be just another trip to Ocracoke if it wasn't for the things that have happened in my world recently. A week before I had scattered the ashes of my beautiful wife on the waters of Cedar Island Bay. We were two days from our 23rd anniversary when she got her angel wings. It was a stretch of time filled with good, bad, wonderful, hardship and plenty. In short it was life lived wide open without time to catch your breath. She just wouldn't tolerate anything less.

Everyone seemed to think it would be a good idea for me to take a few days and go to Ocracoke. One lady told me, “Ocracoke is a great place to heal.” While I had to agree with her I really didn't plan this to be a healing trip. I did it to spend time with my daughter Susan and her family. Especially my grandchildren, Jamie age 12 and Arabella age 5. Ocracoke is a true island destination and you have to come by boat. For me that means a ferry ride.

No way to count up the number of times I have waited to board the 2 1/2 hour ferry that runs from Cedar Island to Ocracoke. Sometimes I'm in my truck, sometimes pulling a boat and many times just on my bicycle. Ocracoke is small enough you can have a great visit without a car but I like to bring my dog Sammy so I drove the truck on this trip. Some people tell me they would go to Ocracoke more often if it wasn't for the long ferry ride, but I think they miss the point of going to an island. The ferry ride is what makes Ocracoke a place separated from the rest of the world. It has always been a  special place and having my family there makes it feel like coming home when I come for a visit.

I am blessed beyond description to have 3 daughters. A man might secretly want his baby to be born a boy but by the time he gets gray hair he will know the value of a daughter. His son will come “borrow” his stuff and never have time to return it but his daughter will actually care for him. My daughter Susan is what they call an “Ococker.” She went to Ocracoke as a teenager and never left. She is smart in business, devoted to her family, fun loving and resourceful. If you looked up the word “Mom,” you might see her picture. She is also as ruthless as a rabid she-bear when it is time to defend her young. Her home is the only place I stay where I would not feel the need to get up if there was a home invasion during the night. Probably not a big worry anyway since there is a full grown Great Dane named Gator running loose in the yard at night!

As I drove on the ferry I thought about how Paula hated to ride in my truck. She could never get comfortable in the cab. I once asked her if she wanted to put her head in my lap to sleep while on the ferry.

In typical Paula fashion she answered, “No, fool! If I got my head caught between your belly and the steering wheel they would have to use the ‘jaws of life’ to get me out.”

Once the ferry is underway the people exit their cars and I look at all the couples. I realize that if I had a rose for every time something reminds me of Paula in a day that the 50 car ferry could be decorated like a float in the Rose Bowl Parade.

After a long couple of hours the ferry finally docks at Ocracoke and I get the signal to drive off. I'm soon in front of the worst looking hotel on the island. Paula called it Nasty Ed's. It was the first place we stayed as a couple. We knew it wasn't the best, but when we stayed it was more important that it was cheap and had a stove. We didn't have any extra money back then so we brought deer meat from home and cooked our meals. We talked about how good it was to keep our spirits up. We didn't have a boat but I brought a canoe on the top of my Chevy Blazer and we went exploring on the coastal creeks. It was cold and Paula was bundled up like the Michelin radial man but she seemed to have fun finding old corks and a decoy washed up on the shore.

The next time we stayed at Nasty Ed's, I had a boat. It was Mother's day weekend and it was cold and blowing. After freezing a couple of hours in the boat Paula wanted to go warm up in the motel bed so I tied up the boat at the motel pier. Paula went to the room and I stayed to clean some fish at the end of the dock. Suddenly a boat left the dock next door at full speed. The harbor is a no wake zone so I watched with interest as they went to a large sailboat anchored in the harbor. When I saw them pull a man from the water they hollered “call 911” and headed straight for the dock I was on. The man was dark blue and not breathing when I got in their boat. We moved him to the dock and started CPR. Paula was awakened to the sound of the ambulance and looked out to see people performing CPR on the dock where only I was standing a few minutes earlier. She ran to the pier and pushed her way through the crowd. There were so many people on the dock she couldn't see me but I saw her and the look of panic on her face. When she finally saw me she hugged me and wouldn't let go.

When I asked if she was scared she said, “Yes, you had all our money in your wallet!”

That was pure Paula.

As I drove around Ocracoke, I passed many houses we had rented. Ocracoke was always our first choice for family vacations. We would rent a house for a week and take the kids, dog and any friends they wanted. They learned about sunburn, mosquitoes, biting flies, fish hooks and the importance of inviting the right person when staying a week. I knew they were growing up when I had been passing the Coast Guard Station alone in my boat each day and just they waved at me. When my teenage daughter was on the boat wearing her bikini, they ran to the dock and launched in pursuit.

When I stopped they said, “Sir we need to board your boat.”

I told them I knew what they wanted to board. I made sure they knew I was in the military and the team captain for the combat rifle team.

On this beautiful day I drove down to the boat ramp and looked out over the water. It was calm and the water was sparkling. I remembered a day when it wasn't. A storm came up unexpectedly when I was trying to load my boat on the trailer. The waves were breaking. The ramp was lined with granite boulders. The wind was blowing over 30 and the only help I had was Paula. I threw a rope to her standing on the dock because the wind was blowing the back of the boat towards the rocks. The rope landed next to her feet. I yelled for her to grab the rope!

She looked down at the rope at her feet and said “Don't you holler at me!”

She explained to me later that I would have to say the three little words she wanted to hear before I would get anything from her.

I said “I love you?”

She replied, “No, that’s not it. Say, please Miss Paula.”

I passed memory after memory as I drove around Ocracoke. Houses we had rented, motels we had stayed, restaurants where we had dined and shops we had searched for bargains. As I drove down Howard Street I remembered the wolf hound. We were shopping. While walking down Howard Street, I heard a deep bark.

Paula said, “Oh God no!”

She was ahead of me several steps and a very big dog was running straight toward her. When I say large I mean it was Great Dane size but with wire hair that looked oily and matted. She stood frozen with fear. I jumped in front and positioned myself between her and the giant dog. Instinctively I reached for a weapon, but the only thing I had was a pair of cable splicer's scissors. Maybe it was a gut feeling or maybe just desperation but when the dog was ten feet away I pushed out my hands and said. “NO!” in as deep and loud a command voice as I could muster.

The dog stopped and then walked forward and put his head under my arm so I could pet him. Paula was shaking and didn't want to shop anymore. Later she told me she had been attacked and bitten by a Pit Bull years ago. She was impressed that I would go in front of her when the dog was about to attack.

One time an old black man told me, “If you don't never find nothing you would die for, you ain't lived much of a life.”

I finally got to my daughter's home and got to spend time with my grandchildren. Arabella seemed to command most of my time. She is 5 years old and this is always the best age for play. For 3 days we played on the trampoline, got ice cream, rode the golf cart, played mermaid, saw the ponies and went to the beach. On the last day we sat on the beach and played in the sand. When a young puppy got off his lease and came to make friends I remembered the big dog on Howard Street. I looked into Arabella's green eyes and realized how richly blessed my life still is. I still have things I would die for.



Poem for Leo

Sybil Austin Skakle


We met in a pizza parlor

Introduced by a mutual friend.

We talked as new acquaintances

And shared some coffee with them

Expecting him at a revue

Overlooked him though he had come

A second time he approached me

And asked me to attend a play.

September 9, 2001, we dated

And traveled many miles from then

I saw a young man he had been

In the way he liked to drive fast

He explained his restiveness thus:

“…To know what is over the hill

And what’s around the next corner.”

While I, a more sedate lady,

Enjoyed my secure abode

He planned theater dates for us

Shakespeare’s “A Mid Summer’s Night Dream”

Musical talents we faulted

Words and emotions so foreign

He followed back roads and wide ones

Excursions to rivers, lakes, parks

The weather improved and warmed

He adopted my unkempt yard

Measured the bounds of my acre

Assaulted ivy and bamboo

So grateful I felt that I cooed:

“You must really care about me.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” he replied,

“Ma’am, I have designs on your soil.”

Turns out, he’s a thwarted gardener

Who longs for his acreage and home.



Wednesday is Paw Paw Day

BY J. G. Booker


Wednesday is Paw Paw Day.  Every Wednesday my Paw Paw comes to my house to pick me up. 

He gets there just when the sun comes up.     

 He talks to my Mommy, gets my stuff together and then off we go to

Paw Paw’s house.

Paw Paw drives real slow and plays the same song over and over on the radio.  It is a Reggae song.The words are “Don’t Worry, Cos’ Every Little Thing will be all right.”  Sometimes Paw Paw even sings, and calls out to me.

I just smile and babble back.

My name is Dorothy Mayse Martin.  Paw Paw calls me Maisie or little Stinky or Tinky.  I will just call him Paw Paw.  He is way too cool to call Grandfather.  I am not quite half a year old yet.

Arriving at Paw Paw’s house I see his three dogs, Missy, Pixie, and Fergie. 

Paw Paw has nicknames for them too, like Snoot, Scoot and Poot.



Paw Paw is so funny.  I just smile at him. When we hang out at Paw Paw’s house he feeds and changes me.  He hugs and kisses me all day long. I just smile at him.

Mid-morning Meemaw comes over.  She is my Mommy’s, Mommy’s, Mom – that is my Great Grandmother. 

Meemaw helps to give me a bottle and then we go on strolls. I have so much fun sitting in the stroller.  I smile at everyone. Later on in the day, my Gammie comes home. Snoot, Scoot and Poot get so excited.  And so do I.  Paw Paw used to get excited but now Gammie just passes by him and comes to me.  She gives me kisses and hugs. Gammie is so nice.  I smile at her.   She takes me for another stroll.  Paw Paw Day is so much fun. When it is almost dinner time we get ready to go back to my Mommy and Daddy’s house.  When I see my Mommy I feel so happy I gurgle and smile at her.  And I know next Wednesday will be Paw Paw Day again.                             


*At six months old, Maisie doesn’t yet speak, so her grandfather has described the day that they both enjoy.



Thrift Shop Love

Laura A. Alston


They met one day at the downtown thrift shop

Where they were often known to stop.

Among the clothes and bric-a-brac

Love fully developed, just like that.


They talked and shopped and looked around

To see what curious objects could be found.

But if the truth could be known and told.

They were only interested in each other, not the clothes.


She waited to hear if he would ask her out.

But he hesitated and shyly looked about.

So they did not go out that day at all.

Eagerly she waited, hoping he would call.


Why am I waiting for the phone to ring? she thought.

I am going to give him a call instead.

She knew that it was a brand new day

In which women often asked men out anyway.


When she called her thrift shop love on the phone

She was glad to find out that he was home.

He accepted her invitation for a date,

And six months later they shared wedding cake.



Daddy Watcher

Sybil Austin Skakle


He didn't talk much. Sometimes at supper table he'd begin to reminisce, turn his dark eyes to me and ask:  “You remember him (or her) don't you?”

I hated having to say:  “No, Daddy!  I don't remember!”

A faded tattoo of a sailing ship on his thin chest spoke of his short stint in U.S. Navy.

Crippled at nineteen by ankylosing spondylitis, inflammation of the vertebra, which bent his spine into a scythe-like shape, his visions and ambitions made him daring, providing for a wife and five offspring.

With twenty-five dollars and a used Daisy barber chair he began his 50 year business career cutting hair.

After the store closed nights, he'd sit reading newspaper or books he loved in his chair, his kingdom.

On Sunday evening we'd gather around the radio - Chase Sanborn Hour, Manhattan Merry Go Round, Mr. Anthony. Once we read Anne of Green Gables as a family.

An important presence in his benevolent silence, he heard our exchanges- rarely joined our activities as Mama did. Except a jigsaw puzzle could pry him from his place, keep him absorbed, with us, for hours.

He slept late, while others kept his store, after congestive heart failure dictated more rest, except when he had building project underway, then he'd get up early, eager to be on site to supervise. Many came with questions that he, propped high on pillows, answered from his bed.

He knew the ways of wood and engines, once dreamed how to repair a pesky motor, awoke and fixed it.

He built three boats:  RAMONA, SYBIL, another dubbed BLUE MUD- for its bright, azure interior- which Mama wanted named JOMARSHA for Josephine, Marjorie and Shanklin, the other children.

He oversaw building: Gooseville Gun Club; Hatteras Girls Club, acquiring a dredge to build its site; Massoletti's Cottage; Austin Theater; Durant Motor Court; and actively participated himself in some phases of remodeling and expansion of Austin's General Merchandise Store and our living quarters into five apartments.

Secretary-Treasurer for inactive Woodmen of the World Lodge - they'd come to his store office to pay insurance year after year.  Or to have him write to claim a member's death benefit.

He owned the nets and boat, BLUE MUD, older brother Monroe and another fished. Sitting by chimney in the store, he sometimes tied nets- fascination to me.

He owned a freight boat, Cathleen that carried fish to Elizabeth City, North Carolina; that transported freight back to Hatteras village and which his youngest brother Horton captained for several years. Once Uncle Nacie's daughter Ruby and I took that boat trip with a giant sea turtle we tended with water all the way from Hatteras to Elizabeth City.  Daddy was there to receive us when we arrived aboard the Cathleen. Our charge, the turtle? It became someone's soup!

He tended Sunday dinner while we went to church. I worried about his soul- gave him my St.John’s Gospel Mrs. Charlotte Ballance awarded me for learning the Beatitudes.

But, so I'd not lose my church school attendance pin, he drove to Oregon Inlet and we slept all night in the car to catch Sunday morning's first ferry.

Once years later he told me of his conversion experience and his disillusionment: the revivalist liked boys.

“Had I been able, I'd like to have been a doctor,” I once heard him say. He had only had four school years.

“Pappy” to his grandchildren and Daddy to his own, I never doubted his love he never spoke. Hadn't he painted a white doll black because his four year old kept requesting he bring her a black baby from Elizabeth City?

I remember his tolerance and loyalty over all the years, his reliable strength and availability to his eight siblings, to his family and his friends.

Thirteen of us filled the house that 1948 summer. He piled bowls high with ice cream from the store each night as we gathered in the living room, eating all his ice cream profit and more!

We knew by whom he was his expectation for us: be honest, respectable, respectful, hardworking, helpful and kind to others.

Watching the fluid flow into his veins at Albermarle Hospital, Elizabeth City, I prayed it would become the communion body and blood of Christ.

I believe a merciful God came with others came to take him HOME. Sunday, October 7, 1962.

“Sometimes he seems so close to me, I feel I can speak to him,” sister Jo said one February on his birth date, as we shared our gratitude for our lightweight patriarch, who looms large in our lives and memories.

Andrew Shanklin Austin - February 20, 1889- October 7, 1962


From: Searchings –rocks revelations rainbows-  pg. 31; Xlibris Corporation, copyright 2001.     ISBN#0-7388-5863




Elizabeth Miccio



Watching the snow-covered yard

That slopes down to the garden

Willing to melt

…but it is not!

Rats said the cat.

Cats need boots, she thought


They do NOT like water!

Birds are lucky

They can fly

AND they can be OUTSIDE!

Rats said the cat.


I wish I could fly but…


Water is to drink

NOT to walk in

Unless you are a DUCK!


Rats said the cat.


Liz won’t let me

Outside in the snow

Because I get “STUCK”

In a snowy picket fence

And couldn’t get loose!


I was sounding

Like a big major


AND she holds that

Against ME!

Can you believe it!



What I really know


Rats said the cat.





The Girl in the Box Series

Books one-two-three

By Robert Crane

Reviewed by Judy Jacobs



An intriguing title was all it took to make me pick up The Girl in the Box Series.  It took a while to realize that the title is somewhat misleading.  There is a girl and there was a box, but that is about the extent of the interaction of the two. 

The series is a hybrid between KatnIss Everdeen of the Hunger Games and the Harry Potter Series.  The heroine of these books is Sienna Nealon who is a meta; a super human with unique abilities. These powers do not manifest until about the age of eighteen. Sienna, herself, did not know she was such a creature until she was abandoned by her mother (after seventeen years of constant care) and then seven days later, abducted by an organization called the Directorate.   The Directorate’s purpose is to track down rogue metas and other villains and make the world a safer place for all creatures.

It depends on what you are looking for whether or not you will enjoy these books.   If you like lots of fighting and lots of weird powers (one guy could sprout snakes from his shoulder blades) this book is for you.  The extraordinary ability of metas and villains begets some unique battle strategies. (One man’s specialty is making tornadoes.)The Directorate is a well-funded organization with lots of resources at its disposal.  This vehicle is the backdrop for most of the fighting.  What this book does not have is character development.  Sienna started out with a sharp tongue and a snotty attitude and that is the way she stayed.  Her fellow compadres were equally flat.  None of them grew, there was no sense of teamwork, and outside of fighting there was no underling story line to hold the books together and move things forward.  Sienna is the main target for most of the villains, but the reader is never told why she is so important.  Sienna herself never even ponders this situation, her sudden transformation from regular person to meta, or her mother’s abandonment. 

Despite these drawbacks, one keeps reading because the author drops just enough hints to make the reader think he is going to reveal some of the answers to Sienna’s past in the next paragraph or so.  There are nine stories in the series.  Who know, maybe the answer lies in the future.




First English Printing Press

Randy Bittle


My childhood imagination gobbled up the derring-do exploits in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.  I also fed my young mind with the chivalric adventures of King Arthur and stories about the Knights of the Round Table.  Recently I sought to rejuvenate my aging mind by rereading these wonderful works of literature.  Both were found at Amazon, in digital format for the Kindle, for 99 cents apiece.  Having thoroughly enjoyed The Three Musketeers, I am now beginning to read the King Arthur tales.

This collection of stories about Arthur and the Knights is adapted and modernized from the original version printed in the late 1400’s by William Caxton, who obtained and revised the stories following initial editor Sir Thomas Malory’s death.  Caxton’s preface, which credited Malory for his work, is included in my Kindle edition giving an air of authenticity to the collection.  A glossary is also included to help with some of the antiquated words.  I studied Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Middle English when I was in college and find it enchanting to read this version of the Arthurian stories.

Fascinated with the style and information in Caxton’s preface, I looked him up on Wikipedia.  He was the first to bring the printing press to England, setting up his model near Westminster, in London, in 1476.  The first work known to be printed by him was Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  He translated several works into English and began a trend early on to print and distribute books in English vernacular.  At a time when Latin was the prevalent written language of educated people across Europe, approximately 80 percent of Caxton’s books were printed in English.  He was supported, but not dependent on, members of the English nobility and gentry.

William Caxton set a precedent in English printing that 125 years later led to William Shakespeare’s classic dramatic works and the King James Bible.  Once begun, written English flourished.  In the 1700’s, it was the predominate language used in newspapers throughout Britain and the American colonies.  Today, 525 years after the first English printing press, modernized selections from Caxton’s initial printing of the Canterbury Tales are often required reading in high school and college.  I am looking forward to reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, especially with my increased awareness of the earliest printing of the collection.



Obituary-Eleanor Drew

Excerpted from TLS

Eleanor Drew, the English Actress who was born Nellie Darlison died March 31. She was 91. She played and sang the part of “Jane” in Salad Days by Julian Slade & Dorothy Reynolds at the Bristol Old Vic (1954) and at the Vaudeville Theatre, London. Salad Days ran for nearly 2,300 performances; excerpts were chosen for one of the two Royal Variety Performances to be staged in 1955; and Drew joined Lena Horne, Ethel Merman and George Jessel in being presented to the Queen. The plot of Salad Days is strange to say the least. Jane, played by Drew, and her young husband Timothy are persuaded by a tramp to look after his piano. Then they learned that, once it started playing, everyone who heard it wanted to dance. Drew made a record of four of its most popular songs, We Said We Wouldn’t Look Back, I Sit in the Sun, Oh! Look at Me and It’s Easy to Sing. London’s most famous actress at the time was not a society matron. She was a vivacious common girl who quit school at 16 to become a singer. She worked at a munitions factory during World War II and spent all of her money on singing lessons. Her first real singing job was a radio show called Music While You Work. She developed a cut-glass aristocratic accent, wowing her audiences with her auburn hair and sparkling eyes. She was never ashamed of her lowly background and never considered that it was a disgrace to be born poor. Salad Days was her only theatrical success and the show’s record-breaking success was her only musical career. She sang for the rest of her life, but not professionally. She ran an antique shop for a while. Then she successfully ran a hotel in Wales. It was favored by London show business types who wanted a break in their hectic theatrical lives that Miss Drew had already left behind her, lightly, gracefully and decisively. Salute!  Excerpted from TLS


Repairing a Race Boat

Dave Whitford


Last spring I built a new boat. It was my first one ever, a bucket-list project. It came out okay, but I partway cheated by ordering a frame-and-stringer kit from boat builder, Darrell Sorensen, in Chowchilla, California. The result was an eleven-foot 1956-vintage Foo-Ling racing runabout, contemporary with the two 1950s-vintage Mercury outboard racing engines that I’ve restored. 

I ordered the kit for two main reasons: 1) I then had no proper saws for ripping long lumber or putting the notches in the cross frames, and 2) I had no access on the East Coast to the premium aircraft-grade Sitka spruce for the long stringers that establish the boat’s longitudinal shape. I’ve since rectified the saw problem by acquiring both a reconditioned table saw and a small band saw, so now I could easily (?) build a new boat from scratch.

I thought of doing so in December as winter boredom set in. I drew several designs for a fast fourteen-foot runabout. One design incorporated a hydroplane step in the bottom to decrease wetted surface and increase planing speed. Another had an air-tunnel bottom. I modeled the frame designs to scale with cardboard pieces to represent the frame components. Gluing these together ensured that each frame design would work full scale.

Then one day Sherry sagely asked, “Where do you plan to store any new boat?”

H-m-mmm … I pondered. “Good question,” I finally responded. “And I don’t have an equally good answer.”

I’d already concocted storage space under tarps below our back deck for Foo-Ling’s trailer, and that was the only possible space available for any new boat. And Foo-Ling hangs from the garage ceiling over my car. So this storage question queered my idea of building a new boat.

”Well, I guess I could repair my old hydroplane instead,” I told her. “Not as much fun as building something new, but a worthwhile project anyway. And I probably have enough plywood and stuff left over from building Foo-Ling not to need to buy any new material.”

That was the genesis of my present project. After building a roll-around work stand on which to put the twelve-foot hydroplane, I enlisted help from two neighbor guys to get the old boat out from down cellar, where it was leaning on edge against a wall. That was on Saturday, 5 April. The boat leaned against that cellar wall ever since we moved into this new house in September 2001. I’ve been storing the boat at three different houses since my last race in late October, 1986.

Why my delay in starting the repair? Until I got the Foo-Ling building experience under my belt, I wasn’t yet qualified to repair a boat. Whenever my boat got hurt during the twenty-six years that I raced, I went screaming off into the wilderness in search of someone to fix the damage. As I suspected, I found that repair is harder and more time consuming than building something new.

So I’m taking my sweet time, doping out each step cautiously so as not to mess up. The demolition phase is history, Now things are going back together.  So far, so good!

Next up is fully refinishing and painting the boat. Where Buddy Smith, the builder, painted the boat red, white, and blue in 1978, I’ll re-paint the center of the foredeck and the hardware in Hunter Green, same color as on Foo-Ling. The sponson decks and back-deck striping will be in rich Regal Red. This paint scheme will lend color continuity to my growing collection of vintage race boats. And my same E-7 racing number will also go onto the hydroplane.

When I get the boat all done, I’ll need to overhaul the methanol-burning 75-horse outboard engine that I used to race. With any luck, I could take a new 90 mile-an-hour ride before summer’s over.





Say What!


These United States

“A tractor-trailer overturned on U.S. 129 in Gainesville, Ga., ‘the poultry capital of the world,’ back in January. None of the drivers involved in the accident were hurt, but avian passengers in the trailer were killed, and Sarah Segal has asked the Georgia Department of Transportation for permission to build a ten-foot-tall tombstone in their honor. The monument would read, ‘In memory of the dozens of terrified chickens who died as a result of a truck crash. Go Vegan.’ It would include an image of a chicken. PETA supports her initiative. Monty Python could not be reached for comment.” National Review March 24, 2014


New product for those who have everything: The oPhone is a new phone that promises to allow one to send scents via a mobile phone. People have been speculating for a long time about the possibility of transmitting smells in the same way that we do sounds and images. But, personally, I've never understood the appeal of the idea. Beyond a small group of people such as perfume makers, how often do most people need, or want to share, smells long-distance?  Get yours at www.onotes.com


Arthur “Turkey” Gehrke of Watertown, Wis., had an odd habit. Every November he would go to bed and stay there until the following April. He told the press, “I hibernate and don't get into trouble; while I may miss some fun, I also miss a lot of disagreeable things.” He also said, “If more folks went to bed all winter, there wouldn't be so much trouble and confusion in the world.” Strangely, his business didn't suffer because of his sleep habits. He owned a bar named the Turkey's Roost. He hired a temporary bartender to replace him during his hibernation, and the publicity because of his hibernating actually attracted extra business. Gehrke began his habit of hibernating in 1913 and continued it until his death in 1942. Wisconsin State Journal.


And for those women who think they have everything:


Put Downs

The governor Wisconsin has been ridiculed in the press for being a college dropout. Being a college dropout does not seem much of a handicap outside academia and government. Here’s an incomplete list of famous dropouts. Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Mark Zukerberg (Facebook), Michael Dell (Dell), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Matt Mullenweg (Wordpress), Arash Ferdowski (DropBox), Daniel Ek (Spotify). Not to mention Walt Disney, Bill Cosby, Al Pacino, Ralph Lauren, Lady Gaga, Tom Hanks, Ted Turner, Elton John, and David Geffen. Then there are literary giants such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Charles Dickens, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and Jack London, some of whom never finished high school. Now that I think about it, Aristotle, Archimedes of Syracuse and Plato didn’t have college degrees, nor did Julius Caesar. Abraham Lincoln taught himself by the light of a fireplace. Jesus had no formal schooling at all.


Hashtag Diplomacy: “President Obama was widely criticized for not supporting the (Iranian) demonstrators, but the administration was working behind the lines to ensure that that the revolution was not tainted by American influence. Declassified papers revealed that a stealth branch of the administration’s Social Media Headquarters had set up 47,000 fake Facebook accounts for the express purpose of ‘liking’ photos of Iranian students being beaten by the regime.” Hashtag Diplomancy by James Lileks, NR May 19, 2014


Complete and Finished  ... No dictionary has ever been able to define the difference between “complete” and “finished.” However, in a linguistic conference, held in London England, and attended by some of the best linguists in the world, Samsundar Balgobin, a Guyanese was the clever winner. His final challenge was ​ his answer to the following question: “Some say there is no difference between ‘complete’ and ‘finished.’ Please explain the difference in a way that is easy to understand. His response was: “When you marry the right woman, you are ‘complete.’ If you marry the wrong woman, you are ‘finished.’ And, when the right woman catches you with the wrong woman, you are ‘completely finished’.” His answer received a five minute standing ovation. Submitted by Ray Dean.


Ad in San Francisco: Hook Up Truck. Bringing safe sex to the Bay area, its the Hook Up Truck!


The World

Two French brothers with the surname, Assassin, recently obtained the necessary permission from the high functionary, called the Keeper of the Seals, to change their name to one less offensive. After mature reflection, they decided to change their name to Berge. Now that it is too late to alter it, they have discovered, to their intense annoyance, that their new name happens, by a singular coincidence, to be that of the chief assistant to M. Deibler, the public executioner, who will, in all probability, succeed to M. Deibler's gruesome business.


Drunk Logic: Wendy Simpson, 25, explaining her DUI arrest during a March incident in Almondbury, England, pointed out that she had just minutes earlier walked to a McDonald’s for a late-night meal because she knew she was too inebriated to drive. However, the dining room was closed, and she was refused service at the drive-thru window because she was on foot, and, she said, the only option left for her was to go home, get her car, and return to the drive-thru. On the way back, she was arrested. Daily Mail (London), 3-20-2014


England’s Stockport magistrates’ court levied an equivalent-$13,000 fine in March against Lorraine White, 41, who runs a part-time service as a dominatrix (chaining up and whipping “bad” men) in a “sex dungeon.” Her business is apparently perfectly legal; the citation was for violating fire codes because inspectors could not see how a client, being properly disciplined (handcuffed and chained), might escape the dungeon in the event of fire. Manchester Evening News, 3-13-2014



Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.“ Groucho Marx


Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.” H. L. Mencken

If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.“ Thomas Merton


Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” Marylyn Monroe


Politics have no relation to morals.” Niccolo Machiavelli


Conversation would be vastly improved by the constant use of four simple words: I do not know.” Andre Maurois

         “If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that      the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly. Thomas Sowell


If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands. Douglas Adams

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius

        “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. John Adams


Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. Judy Garland


Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself. Khalil Gibran


Hammer Spade and the Midnight Treader

E. B. Alston

Chapter Eleven


Everybody wants to help me rescue Alonia. I’m beginning to feel like Helen of Troy’s husband must have felt when a thousand Greek ships set out for Troy.



Evgeni called the afternoon of the third day. “Glei is a big time drug lord.”

“I figured that,” I replied. “He told me he was in the same business Tuazon was in.

“I think I know where he’s headed.”


“He’s got a retreat about six hundred miles up the Amazon River.”

“What kind of place?”

“It looks like a medieval castle on an island in the middle of the Amazon River.”

“What are the coordinates?”

“Latitude 0.1 degrees, 59 minutes and 92 seconds; longitude 54 degrees, 0.5 minutes and 40 seconds.”

“That’s right on the equator.”

“Its a few miles upstream from Paraná.”

“Is that a town or a fish?”

Evgeni laughed. “Both. The fish are everywhere. The town is a place with people who have avoided getting eaten by the fish.”

“We’ll Google it and try to get a good look at the place.”

“I can get off.”

“Come on. If we’ve got to get inside a castle, I’ll need all the help I can get.”

“I’ll turn in my request tomorrow. Should I come to Atlanta?”

“Yeah.” I gave him Phoebus’s address. “Thanks, Evgeni.”

“I need a break, Hammer. I really like you fellows and I want to help.”

“When can you arrive?”

“In about four days.”

“We’ll see you then.”



Dave and Jack were pleased about Evgeni. Clare had called Jack to say that she would arrive tomorrow.

We located Glei’s medieval castle on Google Earth. Evgeni was right. It looked like something you’d see along the Rhine River in Germany. It was on a low hill on an island in the Amazon River. The walls looked like concrete. The hill dropped off sharply along the outside of the wall. The island was mostly bare except for some underbrush to the west and north. It could possibly provide cover on a moonlit night. You couldn’t sneak up on them during daylight.

“We’ll leave for Brazil the day after Evgeni arrives,” Phoebus told us.

“That’s the day after Glei’s next call,” I said.

“How are we traveling?” Dave asked.

“On my yacht,” Phoebus replied.

“What’s it called?” Jack asked.

“The Olympus.”

Why was I not surprised? “Will we have room for everybody?”

“Yes, I’m taking Steele, and my brother, Reginald.”

“This will take a lot of planning,” I said.

“Yes, I agree. I’ll handle transportation,” Phoebus replied. “You and your team develop a plan to get inside the castle. Get whatever you need. It’ll be easier to take it inside Brazil on the Olympus.

Jack checked off the people. “You, me, Dave, Evgeni, Sir Burton, Mandla, Clare, Horace, Tom and, maybe Jerry. Dave, do you think Wubesh’s pop would loan us a couple of those 1919 Brownings?”

“I’ll check,” Dave replied. “Ammo?”

“We can get ammo,” I replied.

“You know, we need somebody to get all this stuff together. Who do we know that is a logistics expert?”

Dave and Tom both answered, “Don Stringfellow.”

“Who’s he?” I asked.

“Let me tell you about Don,” Dave said. “We had a thousand workers in Saudi Arabia sitting on their duffs waiting to dig the trench for a big telephone cable. The factory was late delivering the cable to port and it missed the boat. The next ship wouldn’t sail for five weeks.”

“What did he do?” Jack asked.

“He chartered a 747 and in six trips had all the cable in Saudi Arabia.”

“Didn’t that cost a lot?”

“A thousand workers doing nothing and eating everything in sight cost $200,000 a day.”

“How much for the 747?”

“$96,000 a round trip. And it carried enough cable for four days’ work.”

Phoebus laughed. “I like Mr. Stringfellow already.”

“You think he’ll come?” I asked.

“Don’s more bored than I was,” Tom replied.

“Call him,” I said. “Jack, I want you and Tom to fly out to Brazil tonight. Rent a plane and check Glei’s place out tomorrow.”

“Good idea. I was thinking the same thing,” Jack replied. “We’ll leave right away.”

“What do you want me to do?” Dave asked.

“You and I have got to develop a plan. All this help has got to know what they are supposed to do.”

“I’d rather go with Jack,” Dave grumbled.

“Dave, I want you here.”

“Whatever you say, General,” he replied sarcastically.

Jerry called to say he’d arrive the next day.

“Where’s the Olympus docked?” I asked Phoebus.


Tom volunteered to call Don. Sir Burton called to say that he and Mandla would arrive about the same time as Evgeni.

I was in a weird frame of mind. We were so busy planning Alonia’s rescue that I hadn’t had time to think, let alone worry, about her. We had to come up with a plan that would work.

So little time. So far away. So many thousands of details and if we missed one, the woman I loved might die. 




Chapter Twelve


Alonia had been at sea for four days. They were now steaming south and she thought they were off the Brazilian coast. The routine aboard the Midnight Treader was mind numbing. For Alonia’s mental health she had to be careful what she dwelt upon. She spent a lot of time thinking about Hammer. She knew he loved her and he was the type of man who would keep his emotions in check at a time like this.

Phoebus was like that too. In many ways Hammer and Phoebus complimented each other. Hammer was better at dealing with the nitty-gritty work than Phoebus. She knew that Hammer was planning her rescue every waking moment.

Sometimes she worried for Hammer’s safety. Her life would become meaningless if he lost his life trying to save hers.

Alonia’s captivity was of the velvet kind. Her stateroom was spacious and comfortable and the food was five-star. The clothes they furnished her were of the same style and quality as her own clothes.

She had seen a man that she took to be Mr. Glei outside her porthole. He was impeccably dressed and those around him gave deference as if he was the man in charge.

Glei was short and small framed. Alonia was a head taller than he was. Hammer and Phoebus would look like mountains beside him. Maybe Glei compensated for being short by being mean.

Alonia was taken to the upper deck with the hood on once a day for exercise. She pretended that she was unaware of her surroundings while they lead her about. A couple of times she made steps without guidance that would have indicated to clever, observant people that she was aware of her surroundings. But Glei’s people were not that smart which was good news as far as getting rescued. She hoped when they reached their destination, she would be in a place on land where she could escape.

The telephone rang in Alonia’s stateroom. “May I visit you?” Glei’s voice said.

“Sure,” she replied. Maybe he would tell her where they were going.

“Place the hood on.”


She did as he asked. The buzzer sounded and the cord tightened around her neck. She realized that he could strangle her with this mechanism if he wished.

The door opened and Glei entered. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Lockheart.”

“Good afternoon,” Alonia replied.

“Since we’re spending a few days together, may I call you Alonia?”


“Then you may call me Miguel.”

“Okay, Miguel. What’s on your mind today?”

Such an arrogant woman, he thought. “I thought we might get better acquainted.”


“Yes. You are my guest and a good host is expected to be congenial with his guests.”

She thought to cut this farce off but decided to play his little game and see where it would go. “Congeniality is much preferable to conflict.”

“Relax my dear; you do not need to be so guarded.”

“Sorry. I must try to forget that I’m a prisoner.”

“One must make the best of one’s circumstances, my dear.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“Alonia, I’ve spent quite a bit of time watching the surveillance cameras in your cabin.”

“I suspected that I was being watched.”

“Twenty-four hours a day.”

“That must be boring for your people.”

“Actually, watching you is quite enjoyable. You are an exceedingly lovely woman. Your fame as a model is well deserved. You are the most photogenic and alluring woman I have ever seen.”

“So you’re getting your jollies by looking at me.”

“Art in any form is pleasurable and a lovely woman is the highest form of art.”

“Where are you taking me?”

“I have a cozy little retreat a few hundred miles up the Amazon River.”


“It is secure from any intruder who might think to rescue you and if you try to leave me, your only avenue of escape is populated by piranhas. The river is full of them.”

“So you’ve thought of everything?”

“My dear, I did not achieve my present success by poor planning.”

“Kidnapping me was not a sudden whim. How long have you been planning this?”

“This is the result of two years of planning and rehearsals.”

“Miguel, what is it that you really want?”

He looked at her a moment, then looked out the porthole and stared into the distance.

“You are a magnificent prize. If your brother is not agreeable to my terms, I still have you and I believe that in time you would come to appreciate my finer qualities.”

She was astounded.

He continued. “You see, I win either way. If Phoebus caves in, I will get a business advantage over my rivals. If he doesn’t, I get to keep the loveliest woman in the world.”

The little creep was in love with her. Alonia was glad she was wearing the hood.

Then he added in a coarse voice, “If your lover somehow finds you and tries to rescue you, the piranhas will feast and my rival for your affection will be out of the way forever.”

She thought to say that he was grossly underestimating Hammer Spade but thought better of it. There was no advantage in telling him what he was up against.

“You certainly seem to have all the bases covered,” she said.

“Yes, my dear, I have.” His voice hardened. “But I must tell you that your lover has more connections than I thought he had. Cuban military surveillance aircraft have been shadowing us for two days.”

She smiled under the hood. Hammer was coming!  



Sertorius and His Legend, from Plutarch to Wordsworth

Excerpted and adapted from To the Fortunate Isles by Martin Murphy in TLS March 28, 2014


Plutarch's Life of Sertorius is the closest thing to an adven­ture book for boys written by a Greek or Roman writer. Sertorius (C.126-73BC), a combination of T. E. Lawrence and Indiana Jones, first distinguished himself in the campaign waged against Teutonic invaders by the Roman general Marius. After the Romans suffered a crushing defeat at Orange, in 105BC, Sertorius escaped capture by swimming the Rhone River in full armor. He then volunteered his services as an undercover spy, “disguised himself in Celtic dress, mastered as many of the common phrases of the language as he was likely to need for a simple conversation,” en­tered the enemy camp and returned to base with the information needed for a suc­cessful counter-attack. His loss of an eye in a later campaign in Italy further enhanced his by now legendary reputation. Plutarch noted the coincidence that the most warlike of general, and those who have achieved most by a combination of cunning and natural ability, were one-eyed men; Philip of Macedon, Antigonus, Hannibal, and the subject of this Life, Sertorius. Sertorius was more chaste towards women than Phillip, more loyal to his friends than Antigonus and more merciful to his enemies than Hannibal. None of his rivals surpassed him in intelligence, but every one of them did so in good fortune 

It was in Spain that Sertorius made his reputation. His hopes of advancement were dashed when Marius' adversary, Sulla, made himself as Dictator of Rome. He planned to make Spain the seat of a government in exile, and springboard for recovery of Roman liberty, but to do that, he had first to fight off a naval and land attack against him by Sulla. After a storm wrecked Sertorius’ fleet off Ibiza, he made for Cadiz where, according to Plutarch, he fell in with some sailors who had recently returned from islands in Atlantic thought to be the Elysian fields and the abode of the blessed made famous by Homer in the Odyssey. After hearing their tales, “He was seized with an overwhelming desire to settle in these islands and live peace there, safe from tyranny an wars.” It was not to be: his followers were eager for the spoils of war.

Sertorius' powers of leadership enabled him to build up a force of Spanish tribesmen who proved to be than a match for Sulla's generals. His mastery as a tactician was matched by his ability to secure the devotion of his followers. In Plutarch's words, he “employed ingenious devices to beguile and charm the people, the chief of which was the affair of the Fawn.” The fawn, which had been given to him as a present, became his constant companion, and, playing on native superstition, he declared it to be Diana's messenger and an oracle of di­vine guidance. Stage-managed appearances of the fawn at moments of crisis helped to con­vince his men that their leader was more than a mere mortal.

Militarily, Sertorius outwitted his opponents by avoiding pitched battles and adopting the guerrilla tactics of surprise, speed and elusiveness. He even outwitted Pompey, the last and most talented of his opponents, in the field. Polit­ically he won the hearts and minds of his follow­ers by satisfying their love of glitter and display. At Osca (now Huesca, in Aragon) he estab­lished an elite school where Spanish boys learned Latin and Greek and competed for prizes awarded by himself. There, too, he set up a Senate composed of refugees from Rome.

But Osca was no substitute for Rome, and, as Plutarch put it, Sertorius “was above all a man who loved his country, and longed to return home from exile.” Luck was not on his side. Like Caesar after him, he was assassinated by a rival.

Plutarch, a perceptive judge of character, suggests that Sertorius was essentially a mild- tempered man whose natural inclination was for a life of quiet but was driven to make war by circumstances. This was also the impression he made on Wordsworth, who was less interested in Sertorius the fighting man than in Sertorius the dreamer, weary of strife.



Simply English

By Simon Heffer

400 pages. Random House.

ISBN 978-1-84794-676-8


Reviewed by E. B. Alston

An A to Z of avoidable errors. The author says he wrote this book to complement Strictly English (2010). It is a guide to writing proper English sentences and avoiding vulgarities. In grammatical terms, howlers and catachreses, the uncertain language-user may learn that a muscle is part of the body but a mussel is a bivalve; that immolation is not death by fire but the sacrifice of a life. What a difference can a “s” make: A memoir is a biographical work that one writes of another, usually of someone known personally. Memoirs are autobiographical. There are also longer entries in which Heffer offers some more general guidelines; many would-be professional writers would do well to read and heed them. Under “Rules of good writing,” he quotes the Fowler brothers' five essential rules of “literary fun­damentalism” for choosing what words to use, such as, “Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched” and so on. He reminds us of George Orwell's advice, “Never use the passive where you can use the active” being one that ought to be branded over the door of every English Literature depart­ment in the country.

“Yet,” for example, is merely a “coordi­nating conjunction.” “But” falls into the same category; it is “not wrong” to begin a sentence with that word, he writes, “but it does suggest the previous one has finished at the wrong time.” However, there’s apparently nothing wrong with beginning a sentence with the word “however.” Whatever logic at work here, it is not explained.

“Meanwhile” is an Americanism, as opposed to “Meantime” in England. A “round robin,” is not a not “communication that is sent to many people,” but “one that is signed by a number of people in a circular pattern to disguise the order in which they had signed. He says “Akimbo,” should only apply to arms but has referred to legs in the comedy series The League of Gentlemen. None of this matches in style what Jeffery Meyers’ wrote about English socialite, Iris Murdoch. (She was) “enchantingly promiscuous, with sensuous lips, full breasts and soft rosy skin.” Now that is a memorable sentence!



Lovers Tea Party

Michael Warren


A tea party for lovers revels not in tea,

But in dreams of remembrance and things yet to be,

With each delicate sip,

Deeper into imagining we slip,

Like a graceful china tea pot,

Our pleasing romantic notion,

Is the vessel where our passions steep,

Distilling a steamy love potion,

Infusing magic from our most tender parts,

So when we drink from dainty cups,

We savor the nectar of our hearts.


 Strawberry Cobbler

by P. L. Almanza




2 tablespoons butter (I used any unsalted)


1 cup Bisquick mix


1/2 cup sugar


3/4 cup milk (I use carnation)


3 cups cut up strawberries



You can actually melt the butter anyway that you want to... but this is the way that Mama did it. I use the microwave... carefully!!

Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in an 8x8 baking dish in the oven at 375 degrees.

Mix Bisquick, sugar, and milk together.

After the butter is melted, remove the pan from the over and pour the batter in over the butter.

Spoon the fruit over the batter.  Don't stir it.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until done.


Great with ice-cream and coconut mixed...





Time Traveler

E. B. Alston.

Righter Books. 450 pages. Soft cover. $25.00


Reviewed by Elizabeth Silance Ballard


“Time Traveler” has now become my favorite book by E. B. Alston and I have read all of his books. This is one of those rare books which will capture the interest of both men and women; especially those who are proponents or even just wishful thinkers regarding time travel, those who are die hard civil war buffs, those who are interested in the life and times of our southern forbears, those who wonder about the possibilities and pitfalls of the freed slaves and those who truly enjoy a good love story. All of these areas of interest are skillfully woven together to produce a story as captivating as Gone With the Wind. 

Unless one has read about and studied the possibilities of time travel, the premise of a couple passing through a “portal” in a motel room into pre-civil war Georgia might seem a contrivance, a fantasy.  However, it is a well known fact that Einstein believed time travel was possible and Mr. Alston has also included theories by other scientists who apparently believed in this most unique of possible experiences.

Many U.S. citizens believe there are portals “out there” through which people pass and seldom return—the Bermuda (or Devil’s) Triangle being one of them. Many documentaries regarding this unique spot in the Atlantic specifically mention the possibility of a time travel portal.

Whether this is true or not, the possible experiences of a man from the year 2011 stepping into the year 1861 and contemplating his future is riveting. Does he want to stay in that era? Or shall he return to 2011 where his career is definitely lucrative and upwardly mobile? 

You will not want to put the book down. However, it is written in such a way that it is easy to pick back up and continue the story as if you had not been away for a while in the living of your own life. This might be because, from page 12 until page 450, you feel as if you, too, are living on a plantation in Georgia.

The author could easily have just written another historical novel and that story could have stood alone and been well received. How much better, though, when the main character has come from another time, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge!  A truly unique story.

I hesitate to say too much about the plot because I do not want to take away your own excitement and wonder as the story unfolds. Suffice it to say, this is a book which will stay with you long after you read it, and you will find yourself wondering, “What would I have done in that situation?”


Time Traveler is available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle



Don't Tell Everybody-It's a Secret!

Diana Goldsmith


The weather had improved. Spring was here, the clocks had gone forward and the sun was shining. In fact it was really warm, thought Maisie as she lay flat out on the mat by the patio doors. They were open and the rays played on her back and legs which were stretched out behind her as she rested on her front with her chin on her paws. She was thinking happily how lucky she was to have moved down to Somerset and to be in a one-dog only home where she could be the boss! Dorothy of course thought that she was  and sought to discipline Maisie but she would only do what she was told if given treats. However Maisie liked to watch her figure now she was a “mature” dog as she put it and so she nibbled on pieces of carrots instead.

Daisy too was stretched out next to Maisie and they looked like a pair of bookends except that she was larger and  didn't match Maisie but it was the way they both lay with nose to nose- asymmetrical book ends, perhaps Dorothy said to Janet.

“Did I tell you I had a visitor the other day?” asked Maisie.

“No. Who was that?”replied Daisy

“Well. Dorothy has a friend called Dinah who lives by the seaside. She hasn't got a dog herself, “Poor thing. Doesn't know what she's missing!”interjected Daisy.

“As I was saying”, carried on Maisie. She hasn't got a dog of her own because she lives in a flat but she often looks after her daughters' dogs. They have five dogs between the four of them which means that one daughter has two dogs.”

“I can work that out for myself, Maisie,” Daisy said curtly.

Ignoring that remark and turning over to sun her tummy, Maisie carried on.

“Dinah came around last Saturday with Archie who is her daughter Natalie's dog. Natalie and her family have returned to Australia. As dogs have to be crated they get sent on separately as freight and he had to wait for his flight which was later than theirs,” recountered Daisy.

Daisy turned over too and adopted her favourite dead dog pose that is lying on her back with her paws in the air.

Maisie moved and gave her a nudge which made her turn on her side. Daisy grunted but looked her friend in the eyes and decided she better listen before she got a nip to boot.

“Well you will never believe what Archie told me,” teased Maise and now Daisie's ears pricked up.

“Go on then,” she replied inquisitively.

“I don't know if I ought to because he did say it was a secret and I shouldn't to tell everyone but I suppose I can tell you as you are my best friend and anyway you won't meet him, unless you decide to emigrate!” Maise whispered into her friend’s ear.

“Hmm! Chance would be a fine thing,” she replied.

“But do get on with it, Maisie.” Daisie encouraged

“Well as I said he is Australian, “she drawled mimicking an Aussie twang,in fact he is an Australian sheep dog. They are much bigger than their British counter parts but then Australia is a huge country and their sheep farms are enormous as well and they have to run larger distances to round up the flocks.” Maisie continued.

“Archie told me that they are a well respected breed and that a special bond developed between dog and man. The bush rangers think that they train their dogs well but we know better that it is the dogs that train their masters. So they go on letting them think the reverse because it massages their egos!” Maisie said grinningly.

Archie told me that his family have been pets for quite a few generations but even he gets the urge to herd sheep if he sees them scattered about in a field. It's still in his genes. Daisie nudged Maisie and asked

“Come on, what is this great secret?”

“Sorry. I'm coming to that but I needed to give you a bit of background first.” Maisie replied.

“Have you heard of Ned Kelly?” enquired Maisie.

“Who is he, when he's at home?” laughed Daisie.

“He was a really famous Australian, in fact he's a legend. According to Archie he is the Australian equivalent of our Robin Hood.” explained Maisie, stopping for a moment to scratch her ear.

“You mean he stole from the rich to help the poor”, added her friend.

“Well not really he was hated by the law enforcers but seemed to have been framed by them. But Archie told me about one of his very distant relatives called Murphy way back in the mid 1800's in Beveredge, Victoria which is in Southern Australia. Murphy lived with a lovely God fearing family who had one son, Alfie who was a friend of young Ned Kelly. Well they used to go out like young lads did into the bush . This particular day Alfie and Ned together with Murphy went off with their tucker bags over their shoulders...”

“What is a tucker bag?” interrupted Daisie who was now sitting up, all ears

“Tucker bag is a bag in which they carry their tucker attached to a stick” replied Maisie now getting into the swing of things.

“What's tucker, Maisie?” Daisie asked.

“Stop interrupting me. I'm on a roll. Tucker is food. Archie explained the meaning of all these words to me and I'll try to translate for you,” Maisie went on.

“Alfie and Ned had been going quite a few hours and it was very hot when they decided they needed a drink. They eventually came upon a billabong- a watering hole. They thought that they would fill their billy cans with water so they could have some tea which they could heat up on a fire. However they saw a squatterman with a large bag on his back. They realised that he had got a jumbuck in it as it was moving and they could hear bleating coming from it and of course Murphy knew what was in the sack before they did and had started to bark and growl at the man.”.

“Oh, a sheep!” interrupted Daisie.

“Yes. Well done!” said Maisie sarcastically.”

“Now to continue,” she carried on, “Alfie was very angry with the man who had obviously done a bit of sheep rustling and Murphy growled and bared his teeth at him. But the swag man fought Alfie and pushed him into the billabong. In jumped Murphy and .pulled him out by his shirt. The swagman fled leaving the bag and Ned freed the sheep.

Alfie’s parents were so overjoyed when they heard the story of Ned's bravery that they awarded him  a green silk sash in recognition of his bravery . But it was Murphy who was the real hero and that's Archie's family secret which has been passed down generations. Archie said that in Australia Ned was a very misunderstood man who was shot by the law enforcers, but that all Aussies secretly admire him, as most were sent to Australia because they had broken the law in England so they believe that it was young Ned who saved his friend from drowning. But one day there will be a memorial to Murphy in Beveredge just like there is a statue of a dog in Bendego. Archie is going to continue his campaign when he gets back there but it has to be a secret until then in case the press get hold of it.” ended Maisie with a flourish of her paw.

“Very interesting, and it reminds me of a song I have heard called ‘Waltzing Matilda’, added Daisie.

“I wouldn't know about that. You'll have to ask Archie but he's in Australia now! “Maisie concluded, chuckling to herself.




From A Forgotten Landscape

By Ariana Mangum

May 1942


At church the next Sunday everyone talked of Angelo as they stood outside on the grass waiting for the service to begin. Mrs. Houghton and I joined the rest of the congregation in front of the church steps.

“Women shouldn’t come here alone during the week,” said Mr. Wickham. “It’s not safe.”

“It’s perfectly safe,” said Colonel Hollis, “this is an isolated inci­dent and nobody was hurt.”

Into our midst walked Roger Schmidt looking very elegant and aris­tocratic. He seldom came to church, but he was highly respected be­cause he was a financier at the Federal Reserve Bank. He was a member of the vestry and had kept our country church afloat during hard times.

“An Italian soldier in the churchyard,” he told us, “is highly irregu­lar.”

“Yes,” agreed Sally Anne, “but Doc and I are well able to look after ourselves. And Mr. Harris handled the situation.” She turned and walked into the church.

Roger Schmidt looked at us as if we smelt bad. He detested chil­dren and animals. Sometimes he was rude to Ben, our sexton, and hurt his feelings. Some of us at church thought he was a Nazi sympathizer and felt his motives were questionable.

“He admires Lindbergh too much,” Mrs. Carthage said in a whisper behind her straw fan, compliments of Bennett’s Funeral Home. “And he’s so pro-German that Roosevelt doesn’t want him in the Air Corps in spite of his ability to fly the Atlantic.”

“Lindy is pro-German?” I asked. “I didn’t know that.”

“He lived there and only came home when war looked inevitable. Keep an eye on Lindbergh; he’s not a good American.” Mrs. Carthage assured me.

I wondered how she knew so much about Charles Lindberg when she hated airplanes.

“Never get in one, Doc,” she told me once. “They are very danger­ous.”

“How many people have keys to the church?” Mr. Schmidt wanted to know.

“Only four, I think,” said Mr. Wickham. “The soldier didn’t break in. He was found in the summer house. It’s a one-time affair. We don’t need to change the locks.”

We watched Roger Schmidt enter the church and I drew a sigh of relief.

“Lindbergh’s a test pilot in the Pacific,” said Mrs. Houghton, “McArthur claims he’s a gift from heaven.”

“Still, I don’t know which is worse: Lindbergh or Roger Schmidt. I don’t like the idea of Nazis in America, much less in Virginia at our church.” Mrs. Carthage made a face and fluttered her fan.

“I hear a lot of financiers are pro-German. They want to make money rebuilding Europe after the war,” remarked Mr. Wickham as he followed behind us.

“Yes, I agree,” Colonel Hollis replied. “Standard Oil of New Jer­sey had strong links with the international German firm, I. G. Farben. Both are interested in petroleum technology. Allen Dulles, the brother of John Foster, who is in the government, was a lawyer for I. G. Farben here in the United States. Wars make strange bed fellows.”

“While young men are being slaughtered and the world’s nearly conquered by the Japs and German, some business men can think of nothing else but profits.”

“How disgusting,” Mr. Armstrong joined in. “It’s positively im­moral.”

“I agree,” said Mr. Wickham, “but that’s how things are. There is always someone after the money. It makes my blood run cold to think of it.”

I listened to this conversation as Mrs. Houghton and I entered the church. I wondered how men could think of rebuilding Europe when they hadn’t finished tearing it down yet. I didn’t understand how anyone could do such a thing. I didn’t like Mr. Schmidt and asked Mrs. Houghton to wait until he was seated so we could find a pew as far away as pos­sible. I felt Mrs. Houghton tug my arm as we slid into a front pew. She always preferred to sit in the front so she could see and hear the sermon. She lip read well, and usually got most of it. Mrs. Carthage followed us and sat on the end.

She had on a marvelous new spring hat - all flowers on a light straw. She even out-did Catherine Hollis this morning. I wondered if “Miss Sue” had made Mrs. Carthage’s hat. In fact, Miss Alvira, as she like to be called, looked elegant in her lavender dress with lace around the neck. Mrs. Hollis’s dress was blue and her hat was trimmed with roses. Still Mrs. Carthage took the prize for the best-dressed in my opin­ion.

Mrs. Houghton looked nice, too, in a Bamburg sheer, white back­ground with blue flowers. Her navy hat was neat, but very modest with only three daisies on it. She took off her white gloves and opened her prayer book and told me to do likewise.

I noticed Mr. Wickham entered the front pew on the other side of the isle and sat beside Roger Schmidt. I thought that strange after what Mr. Wickham had just said. Apparently, it didn’t chill his blood to sit beside a pro-German. Or just maybe there was some question before the vestry that needed another vote to approve it. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed that war made strange bedfellows.

Then I considered what Mrs. Carthage said about Lindy being pro-German. I hated to think he wasn’t a loyal American. “But if McArthur likes him, he must be all right,” I concluded.

I looked and saw Mrs. Armstrong smiling at me. She wore too much rouge. She dabbed it on in circles like a clown. Yet she was very sweet and a “devoted worker.” Mrs. Houghton said if anyone would go to heaven, it was Mrs. Armstrong.

Just then, always a few minutes late, Tom and Elizabeth Harris en­tered the church. She looked lovely in a pink flowered dress and a pink hat. She smiled at Mrs. Houghton and me. I smiled back. Tom Harris nodded politely at Mrs. Houghton and got into the pew behind us.

We sat beside the Reilly children who always smelled of wood smoke. They lived in a shack on the other side of the creek. They were poor and couldn’t afford coal, so they smelled of smoke and fatback. There were five of them. Mary was fourteen, and the youngest, Sarah, was three.

Mary was fun and good at games, but very shy. Mrs. Houghton quietly gave her some of my outgrown clothes. When Mary wore one of my dresses, Mrs. Houghton glared at me if I even hinted it was once mine. Today she had on my blue dress and my last year’s Sunday hat. The dress looked very nice on her, and so did the hat.

“I must guard my tongue,” I thought, “or I’ll be in trouble.”

Mrs. Taliaferro usually took the prize for elegance. I couldn’t see what she was wearing. Sally Anne looked very feminine, and Jean liked suits and skirts. Mrs. Taliaferro preferred softer clothes with flowers on them. Their spring hats this morning looked lovely from the side. They sat near the back behind us, and I only allowed myself a furtive glance because I knew Mrs. Houghton would make me turn and face the front.

“No,” I decided, “the prize today definitely belongs to Mrs. Carthage.”

The first hymn, “Amazing Grace,” had started when Miss Emma and Cary arrived out of breath and flustered. Their car had been giving them trouble and some days refused to start.

“That’s what you call, ‘fashionably late’,” whispered Mrs. Houghton, “except Miss Emma is usually on time.”

“Her car’s acting up,” I whispered back, “she needs a new one.”

I noticed Cary looked very smart in a new shirt and tie. I felt a catch in my throat as I knew he would be leaving soon for the Army Air Corps. This morning he appeared manly and grown up; it made me feel sad. I wanted us to remain children forever. I knew this couldn’t be, and once Cary left for the Air Corps, our lives would become different. He would become a man, and I would still be considered a child. Our paths would separate; only our memories would be the same of growing up in the country.

Roger Schmidt sang too loudly and brought me back to the present. I looked at him and wondered if he really represented something evil. Was he making money from the war? I asked myself. People did get rich from the wars; look at the carpet baggers in the South after the War Between the States. We looked on them as evil.

Then there were people like Father whose patriotism stood for some­thing good and upright. Since he fought in the First World War, I knew he would be one of the first to go overseas. When he went was secret, but it was to be in six or eight weeks. When would I see him again? There was no hope of saying goodbye except over the telephone. I knew he couldn’t come to Richmond, and I hadn’t a prayer of going to Florida.

“Kneel, Doc,” Mrs. Houghton tugged my sleeve; “stop daydream­ing. You are supposed to pray.”

I knelt as she bid me to. But Mr. Schmidt haunted me and intrigued me. I wondered how one found out about such people. Who did you ask and what happened to you if you got too close to their secrets?

I shivered. Then I prayed that God would keep me safe and keep Mr. Schmidt honest. At least, keep him from knowing I suspected him. Finally I prayed for Cary and Father and asked God to keep them safe and send them home again. That was enough praying, and I sat up on the pew. Lizzie hit the organ once more, and we stood up to sing, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

In front of the church, after the service, stood Mr. Harris with a small bunch of wild flowers in his hand.

“Doc,” he said as Mrs. Houghton and I came down the steps, “these are for you from Angelo. He asked me to give them to the ‘porcina signorina’.”

“Porcina Signorina?” I asked, “What does that mean?”

“Little miss,” translated Mrs. Harris who stood beside us. “Angelo wishes to thank you for rescuing him.”

“Oh,” I said, deeply touched by this simple gesture. “Tell him, thank you.”

“Come up and see him when you deliver the eggs on Saturday. He loves working in the dairy. Angelo’s worth two men,” Tom Harris said. We stood on the path between the church and the parking lot.

“I don’t know any Italian,” I confessed. “How do I write a note?”

“In English, of course,” replied Tom Harris.

“No,” I countered, “in Italian. I’ll ask Mrs. Taliaferro.”

We walked slowly towards the parking lot as Mr. Houghton turned into it. He hated to be kept waiting.

“Signorina?” Tom Harris winked at me. “A fourteen-year-old kid, a signorina.”

“Yes,” I replied, stopping and drawing myself up to my five feet, two inches. “I’m growing up and am not a kid any more. Angelo appre­ciates me. He thinks I’m special and sends me flowers.”

“Oh, Doc,” said Mrs. Houghton, taking my arm. “Don’t grow up too quickly. Stay just as you are awhile longer.”

I said nothing, but accepted the bunch of flowers: yellow butter cups, white daisies and iris of indigo blue.

“Tell Angelo his Signorina sends her compliments,” I smiled and followed Mrs. Houghton down the path to the car.




May 1942, Richmond, Va.

Dear Dad,

I need to ask you something serious. I’ve probably done something terribly wrong. I found an Italian prisoner in St. Mary’s churchyard. His name is Angelo, and he’s from Florence. He was fighting with Rommel in Africa, taken prisoner, and sent here to America. He worked for Mr. Brown in his dairy, and ran away because he didn’t like it. That’s when Sally Anne and I discovered him just after Easter. Now he works for Mr. Harris at his dairy, and has become my friend.

Is that succouring the enemy? Mr. Brown said I was a traitor, and you’d never be proud of me again. I couldn’t stand that. Please tell me I’ve not done wrong. Angelo is a far nicer person than Mr. Brown, and he’s done wonders on Tom Harris’s dairy farm. He loves and under­stands animals. I like Angelo, but I don’t know if I should.

Many years ago, (it seems like many years, but it’s not) you told me there are good Germans and bad Germans. Virginia was a bad German, but my grandmother’s people came from Manheim, Germany, and they are good Germans. It follows then that there are good Italians. Angelo is a good Italian even though he’s a prisoner of war. I expect you might look on this differently, but that’s my opinion. Love, Doc



Jacksonville, Florida May 1942


Dear Doc,

You’ve asked me a very ticklish question. One I really don’t wish to answer. I am not sure I would make Angelo my friend, but I am a soldier and Angelo is also a soldier on opposing sides. There is a con­flict of purpose between us. As a soldier, I am trying to get rid of the Hun and Italians and the pro-Nazi French and bring peace.

You are a sensitive young girl who likes people. You didn’t succour the enemy, just brought some people together who could work in har­mony. It sounds as if you did both Angelo and Mr. Harris a favour and got rid of a thorn in Mr. Brown’s side. I don’t call that succouring the enemy. I don’t consider you a traitor. You must be guided by your own conscience and not by mine. I see you’ve already made up your mind. Love, Dad



Summer Jokes


Q. Where does a ship go when it’s sick?

A. To the DOCK!

Q. Why do fish swim in salt water?

A, Because pepper makes them sneeze!

Q. What do whales like to put on their toast?

A. Jellyfish!

Q. What do you call witches who live on the beach?

A. Sandwitches!

Q. What does a shark eat for dinner?

a. Fish and ships



Blue Taurus

Lance Haworth


My name is Henry Smith. I realized something was wrong this morning when I was getting ready to leave for church. I went to get the car keys from the hallway table, but when I pulled the drawer open, there was nothing there. No keys. Perhaps I left them in the car? I walked down the hallway and through the mud room to the garage. Workbench, garden tools, bicycles and lawn-mower were all there as usual, except there was no car. The Ford Taurus was gone. My stomach knotted. What could have happened? I seemed to remember parking somewhere on the street last night in the semi-darkness, a flickering light, a stone barn-like building, a rain-slicked sidewalk – but where, where was that - and how did I manage to get home? 

Henry, stay calm. I must try to remember. If I walked home last night, the car couldn't be far away. Maybe I left it in the little shopping center at the end of Kingston Street? Yes - the Thai restaurant next to the post office, where I ate dinner - that must be it. But why can't I remember?  And where is Alice?  When will she come back?  If only Alice were here, she'd know, Alice would help me. But Henry, there's still time to walk over and find the car, I'm early, only quarter past eight and the service doesn't start for more than an hour. I'll miss the choir rehearsal, but that can't be helped. Back to the coat closet, man! Cap, jacket, wallet. Spare keys from the kitchen. The old blue sedan must still be parked out there somewhere. It's not even worth stealing. Outside in the chill gray morning, I stride quickly down the driveway, shivering a little in the fine drizzle. When I was a boy in England they called this Manchester sunshine. Where the devil did I leave that car?

An overhead lamp, still lit, casts a flickering mercury-glow at the street corner. Down there beyond the bare trees, the lake's silver surface mirrors the clouds. Something's not quite right. I don't recognize that line of houses in washed-out yellows, pinks and greens on the ridge across the lake. I take the path down through the woods, but as I approach the lake the carpet of wet leaves deepens and I keep losing my way. I hear someone whistling, and the half-forgotten words of the song come to mind,

Poor Jud is dead

A candle lights his head

He's lyin' there so quiet and serene...

            An old man appears through the trees.  He's wearing a long black coat; its turned-up collar hides his face. He limps towards me, head down, swishing at the leaves with a white cane. I bid him good morning, but he passes by without looking up, still whistling.

They laid him out to rest

With his hands across his chest

His fingernails have never been so clean.

            I've lost the path. I head off through the trees until I come to the old, patched wooden boardwalk that stands among the reeds at the end of the lake. A young woman in a sky-blue slicker emerges from the mist. She stands at the end of the boardwalk holding a big gray wolfhound on a leash. As I approach, she turns to look out over the water, her straw-colored hair shining in the rain.

            “Good morning Henry,” she says, still facing the lake, and I say good morning, too, although I can't remember ever seeing her before. “It's up there, over the ridge,” she says. “You're late. Look in the barn. Don't forget now. Look in the barn.”

            The dog growls at me, teeth bared, and the woman pulls back hard on the leash. I hurry past them to end of the wooden walkway and follow a track leading up towards the ridge. Overhead, three turkey buzzards glide in the watery sky. I stop to catch my breath not far from the top and look back towards the lake. The boardwalk is empty, and there's no sign of anyone among the bare trees.  The woman and her dog have disappeared.

I'm puzzled, but I'm more concerned about the car, and there isn't really time to go back. I turn away and continue up over the ridge. I follow the track alongside a picket fence towards the pastel houses. The rain has stopped, and a pale light filters through the clouds.  The sun will break through soon.

Beyond the fence, half a dozen children, third or fourth graders in red shirts and black shorts, are playing soccer. They run gracefully, in slow motion. I see them shouting, yet I hear nothing - it's like a silent movie played at the wrong speed. A girl kicks the ball high in the air. It sails past me in a slow arc and disappears into the long grass on the far side of the track. Tear-streaked faces appear at the fence, and pleading hands reach between the rails. I stride into the grass and search to and fro for a minute or two, but the ball is lost. When I turn back, there are no children in sight.

The hell with it, Henry! I'm concerned about the time now, but my watch has stopped at eight twenty-five. It must be much later than that. I hurry on. The track leads between pink- and green-washed houses, and I emerge onto the street. Facing me is the Childrens Corner day care center that I  pass on my daily walk. To my right past a high wall overhung with ivy are two blue mailboxes, and beyond them a steep driveway that leads to the back of the post office. Five or six mail delivery trucks are parked at the top of the drive. Why haven't I ever noticed those pastel houses before?

A yellow school bus comes down the street. The woman in the sky-blue slicker is at the wheel. She honks the horn, slows the bus to walking pace, and leans out of the driver's window. 

“Up there, Henry!” she says, and points to the post office driveway. “Look in the barn, before it's too late!” A large, round clock mounted on the bus windshield tells me it's a quarter past nine. With a rush of panic I realize I'll be late for church if I don't find the car very soon. As the bus rolls away the big gray dog barks fiercely from the open rear window. I cross the street, and when I look back, the bus has vanished.

The old man in black is standing on the sidewalk opposite. He waves his white cane angrily, high in the air, and calls across the street to me,

“Prevolya na shchoordnye! Prevolya na shchoordnye! Yukraznich!!”

 He turns and limps away quickly, head down, following the track between the houses, poking from side to side with his cane. I watch until he's just a black silhouette on the skyline, and with a last flourish of the stick he disappears over the ridge.

Surely the lost Taurus must be somewhere nearby. Perhaps it's in the parking lot near the mail trucks? I walk quickly past the mailboxes and up the brick driveway. There's no sign of my old blue car, but behind the mail trucks there's a big, dilapidated stone barn with a slate roof. A door hangs broken on rusty hinges, propped closed by a couple of four-by-fours. High on the wall  I notice a curious sign painted in large gold letters on a faded black board:







I push aside the four-by-fours, and the door creaks part-way open. Stepping inside, I can just make out the shape of a car in the half-light. I push back on the door and a shaft of sunlight streams into the barn. Dust motes dance in the air, and dust lies thick on the planked floor. I catch my breath in astonishment. The car is spotless. It glows with a touch of silver in the soft light. But it's not a Ford Taurus. It's an open sports car, a venerable AC Bristol painted in British Racing Green, complete with wire wheels and gleaming wing mirrors, and a red 1971 Michigan license plate. It's the car my old friend Nathan drove in Detroit more than forty years ago, and his long white “Red Baron”air-ace's scarf is draped across the steering wheel.

But Nathan's AC Bristol was stolen and wrecked long before Alice and I left Detroit in 1980, and Nathan died of a heart attack in Buffalo, New York ten years ago at the age of sixty-three. As I stand transfixed, the dark green car fades slowly from view. Caught in the shaft of sunlight are only the dusty floorboards and a bare stone wall. Outside, black against the Carolina-blue sky, the three buzzards circle slowly. Somewhere close by, a church clock strikes ten.

Wait a minute. Think, Henry, think – surely there are no church clocks in our neighborhood? The stone barn is gone. The parking lot isn't there any more. I find myself at home again, and I'm searching for the car keys in the hallway table...

The puzzle drifts, and comes into focus. The pieces fit together. I understand.

For an eternity of Sunday mornings, the keys will be missing. The street light will flicker, I'll walk into the woods, the pastel houses won't seem quite right, and the old man with the cane will pass me by, whistling. The woman in blue will appear and reappear, the big wolfhound will growl, the children will play in graceful slow motion, and I'll search in vain for the ball in the wet grass. The old man will call to me in his incomprehensible language. I'll see the strange sign on the stone barn. The AC Bristol will gleam in the sun-shaft and fade slowly from sight amid the dust. The same three buzzards will circle overhead, and the church clock will strike ten again, and again, and again. There is no escape. Nothing will change. Alice will not come home. I'll never find the old blue Taurus, and I will always be late for church.









P.L. Almanza: Strawberry Cobbler; lives in Hamlet, North Carolina. She has been writing stories since she was four years old. Her first book, The EastSide Killers came out in April.

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: Thrift Shop Love; lives and writes in Henderson, North Carolina. Her first book, My Pet Rocky Renee, was published in 2010 and her second book, You Gave Me Wings was published in 2012.

Elizabeth Silance Ballard: Review of Time Traveler, is a magazine columnist and author of Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories and Kate’s Fan, co-author of Whoopin and Hollerin in Onslow County and Make a Difference through Compassion. Her newest book, Christmas Without Koyoko, was published in November 2009. Elizabeth writes a monthly column and is a senior editor of the magazine. She is Editor of The Tar Heel Star News.

Randy Bittle: First English Printing Press; is an independent philosopher living in Raleigh and currently working on a beginner’s book about modern philosophy.

J. G. Booker: Wednesday is Paw Paw Day; retired as Captain of the Carrboro Police Department, NC, several years ago, he now works part-time as an Orange County Deputy Sheriff, but never on Wednesdays.

Brad Carver: The Difference Between a Father and a Daddy, was a regular columnist until his death last year. His book, Daddyhood, was published in 2007. His last book, Life in Moccasin Gap was published posthumously in 2013. Brad was a humorist who lived in Semora, North Carolina. 

Diana Goldsmith: Don’t Tell Anybody-It’s a Secret; is a retired teacher in England.  She lives in Chard, Somerset.

Lance Haworth: Blue Taurus; retired from the National Science Foundation in Arlington, VA and moved to North Carolina in 2011. He has published more than 30 scientific papers of dubious literary merit. Lance and his wife Letitia live in Chapel Hill. Lance was born and educated in England. This is his first contribution to the magazine.

Judy Jacobs: Book Review: The Girl in the Box Series; is a literary critic, manuscript editor and associate editor of the magazine. She is a member of the St. Joseph Missouri Writers Guild and lives and writes in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Ariana Mangum: Gossip; is a retired English teacher and author of When the Goldenrod Sang in the Meadows, A Forgotten Landscape and Where the Butterflies Roam. Her new book, Shenandoah Promise, will be out this year.

Elizabeth Miccio: Boots; spent her early years in Westchester County, NY, and now lives in Greeley, CO, near her children and grandchildren. She is a graduate of Rocky Mountain School of Art. Later on the staff of Colorado Institute of Art, she became head of Media and taught life drawing. She is an artist and a poet. Her work includes both word and pictures of people and places she has visited. Her work has appeared in Lest the Colors Fade and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories.

Sybil Austin Skakle: Poem for Leo and Daddy Watcher; Sybil Austin Skakle, born in Hatteras, NC, 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.

Michael Warren: Lovers Tea Party; is the author of the novel The Estrangement of the Rain God, 2nd edition, published by Righter Books. He maintains his author web site at http//:www.tiliks.com. His first novel is the first of a tetraology, The Glory River Saga. He has just completed the second novel, The Cripple Goat.

Tim Whealton: To Die For; writes a regular column from New Bern, NC. He is the Program Head of the Gunsmithing program at Lenoir Community College. His book, According to Tim was published last year.

Dave Whitford: Repairing a Race Boat; is retired from IBM and now writes in Toano, Virginia.







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