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Leaving a Mark
By Abha Iyengar

     On the days she bleeds, Suman likes to wear these absolutely white salwars. Pristine, virgin white. She doesn't care if the white salwar stains a little. Sometimes, it will stain the chair she is sitting on.
     She doesn't care about that, it's almost as if she has left her mark behind, a stain that says she is alive. She is noticed.
     When Suman was growing up she felt mostly ignored. And when her periods began, she had to hide away in shame, to pull herself within herself, not be seen, pretend these days did not exist in her calendar, suffer the pain and bleeding quietly, unobtrusively.
     When she had first been incarcerated like that, sent to a small shed at the back of the house, at the age of thirteen, she had felt something like shock. She had not been given any reason for this, except being told by her mother that on these days she was dirty, and had to stay away from everyone. She was untouchable.
     The shock had turned to numbness, then mere acceptance, then plain gratitude to have time off from the housework. She began to enjoy the quiet, the idea of being alone. She soon began to stretch the time she spent there, began to pretend that her periods took longer than the three days, longer than they actually were. No one questioned it, for women never wanted to stay away from the noise and action of the family, feeling wanted only when in the midst of chores to be done. The days of periods made them feel that they had entered times of continuous darkness, of continuous separation from their husbands, their family life and the only meaning granted them. And they wanted the sun and light to soak their bones with life, their husband's arms to tell them that they were needed, perhaps even loved.
     Suman would lie on the mud-packed floor, smelling of cow dung, for it had been a cowshed once, when the family had cows. Now they had no cows, only young girls like her growing up, who did not hold the worth of cows, they merely added to the weight of woes on the head of the family.
     She would lie on the floor and dream of being anywhere but where she was, doing anything but what she was doing.

     When Suman was married at sixteen, she thought, perhaps her dreams had been answered. But she soon found that things were worse, she was expected to do even more chores than she had done in her family home, eat much less, listen to more abuse.
     When she could, in between the various chores she did, she would watch the boys of the house play, for this house had boys her age, growing up big and sturdy, and no girls. Suman wondered if they had something like periods, if they also spent a few days of the month in a dark room, not talking with anyone, not seeing anyone, without movement, listless, inert, and inept. From the look on their faces, full of a strange confidence she had never experienced; she thought they did not.
     When she had her first period here, she was sent to the shed at the back of the house, a darker place than she had earlier known. It had no window, no light, and she was slipped in the food and water early each morning, and that was all.
     The shed was an uncomfortable place, dank, dark, annoying, cloying, but a place she could call her own, where she could be with herself, as she had been before, in her own home in her village. All that was now distant and far away, from where no one came visiting, and no enquiries were made about her wellbeing. She had been born, looked after and married, written off by the family to which she belonged, their hands washed clean, for they had done their duty and done it well. No one need ask for more.
     Nothing had really changed; life was no brighter than the darkness of the shed. But she learnt to turn the dark to light, the confined space into a space from where she flew wherever her heart took her.
     It was during these three days of confinement, which she stretched to five, by telling her mother-in-law that her periods were heavy, had been from the beginning; that she spent her time reading. She had furtively ferreted in a book, which she read during the day when some light was available through the chinks in the wooden slats. She would creep close to a corner which gave the most light, she had even tried to widen a chink but her hands had bled in the attempt. So much bleeding, she had thought wryly. And then she had begun to write; another book and pencil ferreted within the folds of her salwar and brought to the shed. In the writing, she had found happiness, for as she wrote she cried sometimes, she laughed sometimes, and sometimes she just slept, the book held close to her like a friend she had never had.
     In those five days Suman wrote all that she could to make her live the next twenty-five days through, till the days came again. And she knew this was the time she had to cherish and make her own, and so what was regarded as a curse for others, became for her a blessing.
     She had begun to wear the whitest of white salwars on those days, to let people know that she was bleeding, for the stains to show, so that people would never question her going to the shed. That was at the beginning.

     Now, the reasons are different. Though free of the other encumbrances of life, this is what keeps her going. She doesn't mind if she leaves a stain behind on the chair, because she has left a mark of being herself, being alive and young, because now she is older. It may not be long before this bleeding ends. Maybe she would get another kind of freedom later, but she does not know.
     For most of those five days, though now she does not have anyone else in the big house living with her, noticing anything about her, she wears her white salwar. And shuts herself in the small shed, for that and only that is the place, where she can sit and write.

The End
Top Dog
By Salvatore Buttaci

     He thought he heard Melanie's voice calling him out of his daydream. An old habit made Angelo turn his head. That sweetheart voice came back to him after these seven years. It made him cry now to think his mind would play such cruel tricks on him.
     From the kitchen he smelled the coffee brewing in the old Mr. Coffee machine he and Melanie had bought back when both had money and weekends were spent racing from store to store buying everything in sight. "Money to burn," she'd say. "We got it, don't we?" and Angelo would squint his eyes. "You bet we got it, and we'll have it for the next hundred years!"
     Money to burn? He wished now he had enough green to pay his rent for the past three months. The old broad upstairs had already threatened to boot his ass out or call the police. Angelo stayed clear of her, ducking behind whatever stood between the two of them, out on the street or in the building. Once she yelled to him. He pretended not to hear. Kept walking. No, the money had run out. Forget the next hundred years.
     Melanie was gone. He was still here trying to make it one day at a time.
     He poured the steaming coffee into the mug that read "Washington, D.C." and he remembered for a fleeting instant one more place the two of them had visited in their wild spree to burn their money. If he had bought a mug in every vacation city they'd visited and made love, where would he have found the room in this tiny dollhouse apartment? It was hard for him -- sad too! Not so long ago he and Melanie had lived in a fairy tale. They owned a palatial home. They had it all. He could still imagine her pretending to be lost in one of the twelve rooms. "Angelo, Honey, so where is the entertainment room?" and calling back to her, his projected voice muffled in his cupped hands so his words sounded as if they were coming from far away. "Every room's entertainment, Baby," he'd joked. Then he'd find her, take her in his arms. "Angelo," she'd say, and he'd kiss her again. "Angelo."
     Now he'd heard his name again. Her voice. Seven years. Where did they go? He'd spent all but the last six months of them in a smaller place than this. A one-room cage with cot and sink and toilet. Walls done in Early American Prison. Bars instead of wallpaper. Noise from other cells instead of the painful silence he had to endure now, living alone without her.
     "Angelo." He was certain it was her voice! He sipped his coffee. He tried not to question. He tapped his fingers on the wooden tabletop, then stopped because it was what she would do whenever she was nervous or worried or afraid.
     "What goes around, comes around." How many times had he heard that and laughed. "No karma for this boy." But the wheel came around and rolled over him like a runaway train. A wonder he survived. Half-survived. The better part of him, the love of his life, the beautiful Melanie had not. And whose fault was that? "Don't be too harsh on yourself," said friends, all the while gloating over his misfortune. Oh, he could tell that much. They were glad he toppled. They who had envied his good days now delighted in his fall. It was not his imagination. Who gave a damn whether Angelo Conte lived or died?
     "Angelo." His heart raced. Her voice again. Louder, clearer, no mistaking it was anyone but her. "Angelo." He poured the half-filled cup into the cluttered sink, listened for her voice again, and heard only the blood pounding through the veins in his forehead.
     He looked down and saw his hands trembling. Shaking like palsied hands unable to be stilled. "Angelo." He covered his ears, but his name would not go away. He pictured her carmine lips, the way she seductively moved them when she spoke. "You're a lip reader's dream, Baby," he'd tell her. "Every deaf guy in the world could fall in love with you!" He wished at this moment he were deaf too; he'd close his eyes and keep Melanie away. The reality of it all gnawed away inside him.
     Where did it all start? he wondered. Better yet, how did it all end? Life was good. Angelo, top dog in a world of dog-eat-dog. Money? No problem. He had made the right connections, done a few favors for the right people, and they had not forgotten him. In that very first year he had earned more than he could ever have imagined.
     That same year he met Melanie, a cousin of his new boss. He liked her enough to want to like more and more of her until finally on a wild Vegas night, the star lights in the sky almost as mind-boggling as the blinding marquee lights of all those gambling casinos on the strip, the two of them married. A risk he said he would never take. Marriage was not his style, but Vegas was the place to take risks. Angelo liked women too much; yet, Melanie was the most beautiful of all. She could be enough woman for him to close the black book on all those chapters of wild Casanoving. He remembered thinking to himself over one more martini, I'd better close the book. Melanie's cousin was Mr. Donato. He didn't want to upset Joe "Donuts." He was his winning ticket to la dolce vita. Why screw up. It had taken him years to climb out of hard times; he would not go back. No more have-not days when he either ate dinner or paid the electric bill. Those miserable years. Thanks, but no thanks. Mr. Donato had taken care of everything; he had even introduced him to Melanie. A fool who'd look that gift horse in the mouth deserved to have his teeth kicked in.
     Reminiscing hurt. What good did it do? The past was past. He had survived the nightmare of prison, scaring off the rest of them with sticks and what little sanity he had left, but in the end he'd made it. And when they opened the steel gates, he would not turn for one last look. Nightmares were meant to run from, not look back on. He was a free man now. Nowhere near the city he loved and missed, no money, no job, and no -- Melanie. Still, he was free.

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Many Fish to Fry
by Abha Iyengar
Reena Rajan leads a busy life as a part-time businesswoman and full-time housewife, when a fish and a private detective arrive, unannounced, on her Delhi doorstep. Over many cups of tea Reena and her unlikely accomplice Harinmoy Banerjee grapple to find answers to big city problems, to discover their place in the changing mix of old India and modern India, and to uncover the fishy goings-on next door in Flat No. 69, Seaside View Apartments. Can be ordered from Amazon.com or Lulu.

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Immortal Medusa  
by Barbara Louise Ungar
Immortal Medusa is a book of elegies-for father, friends, animals, weather-enlivened by humor and always accessible poetry. It considers both what passes away and what remains: the title poem, "Immortal Medusa," describes a jellyfish that can actually grow younger and theoretically live forever, which becomes an emblem for the enduring life force. The cover is a collage by Joseph Cornell, the great assemblage artist.

Killing the Dream
By Sharon Thompson

     'Write about what you know.' Meredith reads the advice again. 'This genre of crime fiction is one which suits you.' The paid critic of her latest manuscript had written, 'you seem to have a flair for the macabre.' Checking her inbox for the umpteenth time, still there are no life changing emails.
     Gazing into her cold coffee, Meredith drags her blonde hair from her face into a high ponytail. Pink lip gloss is left on the plain cup and her lips are puckered in thought, as she gazes out the café's window.
     'Refill?' the waitress with the bright green hair asks.
     'Please.' Meredith's desperation must have seeped into the air around her as the waitress says, 'tough work?'
     'Yes. I'm a writer.'
     In Meredith's head, she sees her father snigger, while he swings onto his tractor. As the waitress wipes the table, a fatherly voice lingers in her head, 'so instead of finding real work, you'll become a writer? Just like that?' his calloused fingers had clicked, 'you think that you'll become a best-selling author? Your mother god rest her, would be so worried about you. I'll fund one more year of this foolishness - then you must find a teaching job.'
     The waitress's black-rimmed eyes, squint at Meredith's laptop. 'What do you write?'
     'It varies.'
     'You published?'
     'Not just yet.'
     'My friends write vampire and Gothic stuff.' Her voice kind of chuckles with pride. 'Real good shit you know?'
     'Vampire stuff is good shit?'
     'Yeah. They drink blood and stuff. So they know what they write about. Real cool.'
     Meredith slurps her coffee and blood spurts from the waitress's abdomen. In Meredith's head the handle of a metal spoon jabs the black clad torso. The waitress smirks healthily though and slouches off in her fake Ugg boots.
     Meredith resumes typing. 'Write about what I know. I know I could kill her.' Meredith's mind talks, as the residue blood spatter on her keyboard seems real. 'I don't know about romance, so that's out. I don't know about science fiction… I've no intention of drinking blood…'
     In the toilet after another two coffees, Meredith is in a caffeine fuelled despair. Passing what she presumes is the store cupboard she overhears her waitress. 'She says she's a writer. Not published yet. Ha! She sits there all high and fucking mighty for hours on end. Sad bitch.'
     Meredith pushes the door forward with one finger. The creak of it reveals the smell of disinfectant, mops and also the waitress with a mobile phone stuck above her mass of earrings. There is a loud gasp, then the silence is deafening. Meredith's eyes are murderous.
     Following a flamboyant creature like the waitress for days, is easy for Meredith. Belfast students are predictable, so following her and her schedule is a piece of cake. Other than her few hours in University and the café, the waitress lounges on her grimy settee in a filthy flat nearby. Binoculars give Meredith knowledge that the girl is mostly alone or with drugged up friends, who don't pull their curtains.
     'When are you coming home?' Meredith's dad asks as she sits hacking handful of green, female hair off in her mind. 'Soon,' she answers dropping the phone into her Mulberry. The Mini Coupe's windows are steamed up and the burn of the rubber through sheer anger, is not noticed by many on the busy Belfast street.
     The avenue is winding and Clonture sits picturesquely, peaceful in the nest of mature trees two hour's drive away. Mixed farming is scattered in many immaculately kept barns and outhouses. The large farmhouse is homely but smells distinctly of sweaty feet and sheep.
     Throwing open the single-glazed sash windows, the drills in the fields look almost ruled straight. The photographic memories of her mother all over the old furniture, do make Meredith weepy, but she has work to do. The accumulation of items for her research and preparations for her next writing ideas have to be completed.

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Doggie Dreams
By Gary Beck

     Winter had quietly departed and spring was shedding bright light in dark places. I started performing my silent clown show on the first weekend of spring, despite the chill, at 72nd Street and Central Park West. I made more money for the three shows on Saturday and three on Sunday then I had the year before. It was just about the same amount as my salary as an adjunct instructor at Gotham University School of the Arts, teaching drama.
     The clown show income was vital, since I would only be teaching two classes for Continuing Adult Education this summer. The money was slated for the development of my new play, 'Unravelings'. My theater department chairman, Ernest the 'emoter', had offered me two additional courses, but that would have meant working four nights a week, so I gratefully declined. I wanted to work on revisions of my full-length play, which just had two readings at the end of March. I had also started a new play, title undetermined, length probably three acts.
     Ernest took my refusal graciously, a pleasant surprise, since he didn't appreciate my frequent caustic comments and was usually curt in our meetings. But a sea change had come over him since he found out my advanced Shakespeare class urged me to let us do a staged reading of Hamlet, with lights and costumes, I asked Ernest if we could do the reading in one of Gotham U.'s 99 seat, fully equipped theaters. Quel surpris! Ernest had readily agreed, which was out of character for him. He generally denied any of my requests summarily.
     I had explained to the class the complexities of making period costumes, which disappointed them. But they got very excited when I suggested doing what was now shaping up to be a type of performance, wearing black tops and tights, a traditional format of low-budget Shakespeare productions. Once they stopped cheering, I told them the real problem. If we did the reading seated, there was no need for lights and costumes. This brought a moan of despair.
     "However, if you don't want to read from chairs, the show must be blocked, and entrances and exits must be rehearsed."
     There was a moment of silence, then Juno Franklin, a bright, aggressive lesbian, and my favorite student, yelled:
     "Right on, Mr. K. Let's do it," followed by supportive yells from the rest of the class.
     I wasn't sure if they understood what would be required, so at the risk of dampening their enthusiasm, I told them bluntly:
     "It'll take a lot more time to prepare for that kind of performance then we have in class. At least four to six hours a week, depending on progress. Are you willing to give that extra time?"
     Juno stood up and faced the class. "I'm willing. How about the rest of you?"
     One by one the hands went up, until only two students hadn't volunteered.
     Juno had started to say something to them, but I cut her off.
     "This is not a compulsory part of the course. It won't affect your grade if you don't participate in the performance, but I will expect you to work on the project during class time."
     One of the two, Leila, a shy, sweet girl, a frequent target of the junior lesbians, started to say why she couldn't….
     I held up my hand. "There's no need to explain and there's no prejudice. The same goes for the rest of you. I will be volunteering for the extra time, so if you're not ready for the commitment, please let me know."
     Juno had asked politely: "Can we talk it over without you for a few minutes?"
     I got up and walked out, already staging the play in my head. I loved Hamlet and knew I wasn't ready to direct a full production. But this was a perfect chance to work on the greatest play in the English language. When I went back in, everyone made the commitment.
     We had started reading Hamlet in January and by early April it was clear that the enthusiasm of the class would make the project worthwhile. Juno, who was determined to play Hamlet, was making a good case for herself. She had readily grasped the concept of not using her voice in an artificial masculine way, but still needed work seeing herself as a great prince, without contrived mannerisms. Leila, who had originally declined to participate, joined the production and was reading Ophelia. She and Juno had discovered some kind of chemistry that made their scenes sparkle.    

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The Secrets Of Yashire: Emerging From The Shadows  
by Diamante Lavendar
The Secrets Of Yashire:  Emerging From The Shadows is a young adult fantasy adventure that occurs within the framework of a young girl's subconscious mind. Against her will, the main character, Brianna,  finds herself thrown into the land known as Yashire and is forced to deal with circumstances that are threatening Yashire's existence. Only after she helps the creatures in Yashire will she awaken to the truth of her situation.

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The New Now
by Ava Bird
The New Now is an exploration of the Feminine. This compelling, yet sensitive book of poetry and prose will not only shock you, but also tempt you to lament for the unspoken voice that rises up within you. Ava Bird's prose consists of honesty flavored with cries of injustice, the language used is not for the weak-hearted. Her targeted rants are obsessed with blatant Feminism, while allowing shadows of vulnerability (mixed with rage) to flicker throughout. As you follow the path, you are carried off to the absurd, twisted with humor. At the same time, you witness tinges of sadness. Ava Bird scoffs at the man-made system set before us to follow. However, we are left smirking from her amusing observations of sexism and the decay of society.

Last Chance
By Alice Baburek

     The meeting was long and tiresome. He fidgeted in the high, leathered-back chair. His mind wandered away-far away from his family obligations and this stinking place to where the warm sun glistened on the rolling waves along a sandy shore.
     "…and I know everyone is waiting patiently to hear about this year's bonuses," stated the hefty man shoved into a gray pinstriped suit. "Due to the fact that there was a dramatic drop in sales, it has been decided by corporate to suspend the bonuses this year." Grumbling filled the stuffy conference room. "Now, now, to ease the pain a bit, we are distributing a $100 Visa gift card to each manager. Thank you for your attention."
     Tim Haller snapped back to reality. Great! No bonus. He was counting on it to pay off a couple of credit card bills. His wife, Kathy, would be extremely upset. But then again, when it came to the lack of money, when wasn't she upset?
     Few people remained inching their way out of the room. Tim rubbed his burning, red eyes. Across the table, young and eager Josh Helmet adjusted his stylish tie then flashed his pearly whites.
     "What are you grinning about?" mumbled Tim. Sometimes happy people annoyed him. Especially when they were just about to hand him bad news.
     Josh abruptly got up. He leaned both hands on the table. "I wanted to let you in on a secret." He moved in a little closer. "I'll be living the good life soon-settled a million dollar contract in California. You know, I just might transfer out there. Weather is beautiful, women gorgeous and available, surfing at night, golden beaches, aah that's the life…right, Timmy boy?"
     Tim raised his middle finger. "I think you got me confused with someone who gives a crap. Go gloat about your success to some other shmuck who sucks ass like you," he growled. And with that said, he stood up and pushed back the chair hard against the wall.
     "Okay, okay, simmer down now, can't help it if you have a ball and chain…or wait…two balls and a short, thick chain," chuckled Josh as he stepped out of the room, leaving Tim alone.
     "Damn," whispered Tim. He felt drained-drained of life. Josh was right. It seemed the last two years his life had spiraled down the toilet. Two small kids and a wife who never gave him a moment of peace. The only time it was quiet and serene was when everyone was fast asleep for the night. Sometimes he laid awake on purpose just to hear the silence. Sure, he loved them-loved them all. But what if …if only he never got married and hadn't had two kids right out of the gate. If only money came easy without working so hard…would his life be so different? More rewarding? Exciting? He let out a huge sigh.
     The meeting had lasted well beyond quitting time. He straightened the mess on his desk then walked silently to the elevators. The large office complex was extremely quiet even for 7:00 at night. Tim glanced down the empty hallway as he waited for the heavy metal doors to slide open.
     Ding! A second later they swished to the side and Tim stepped in. A familiar melody echoed inside the steel paneled walls. He quickly pushed the "garage" button. The creaking elevator responded to his request. He closed his weary eyes. What would life be like without his overbearing family? He definitely could see himself relaxing in the warm sun, with a tall, ice-cold drink in his hand. His toned, bronzed body settling in on a cushioned wicker lounge chair just a few feet from the lapsing ocean waves. Beautiful, sexy women strolling along the beach, glancing his way, checking out his manhood straining against the tight speedo. He smiled.
     Unexpectedly, the elevator jarred to a halt. Tim's eyes flew open wide as his daydreaming came to a screeching halt. The emergency bell emanated a whiney warning sound, hurting his ears. Tim frantically pushed the "help" button over and over again. Nothing. Suddenly, the piercing noise stopped. Beads of sweat lined his brow. His breathing now settled into low, shallow breaths. Dare he move? The aged elevator creaked and moaned in protest. Slowly, Tim looked up as if he could see what was about to happen. The rusted steel cables pulled and resisted restraint.
     "No!" he shouted. His stomach lurched. All at once, the wired mesh of unstable lines snapped. Instantly, the safety shelves slid into place. The entire elevator jolted to an abrupt halt. "Thank heavens," mumbled Tim. His chest felt tight. Then as he reached for the emergency phone, the rusted bolts cracked, releasing the heavy metal tomb.

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Benny & Penny
By Lily Murphy

     Benny would come home from work at the chicken factory and lay down maybe six or twelve beers before laying his fists into his wife.
     Benny was a funny guy and made everyone laugh down at The Olive bar with his tall tales and outrageous jokes. He had the habit of lighting up that dark dive bar with his stories and infect the other bar flies with his infectious laugh.
     Everyone loved Benny but sometimes too much booze rubbed him up the wrong way and it was usually his wife Penny who bore the brunt of it.
     Penny came from a large working class family from the other side of the country. She left the family abode before she had time to leave her adolescence.
     Penny couldn't bear the thought of staying in the same house where one Wednesday after school she found her father hanging from a tree in the back garden. A note in his breast pocket simply scribbled 'Please don't cry for me.' Penny never disobeyed her father so even in death she did as he had ordered and she didn't cry.
     Penny left home, left her still grieving mother, left her five brothers and ended up in Benny's home town.
     It was the first bus she got in the morning which took her to that foul old town Benny called home, a town bursting to the seams with lost opportunities and roughed up dreams defiled, a town on the scenic route for people who like to take the dark path in life.
     Penny ended up in Benny's local boozer The Olive bar where she would sit on the same stool at the same time every night and drink the same drink, double bourbon with a small dash of soda.
     Penny could put away her whiskey well. It was her way of crying without shedding any tears.
     Benny observed her from the other end of the bar for the first few nights. He knew she wasn't just there out of boredom because her face told of some heartache or loss and it took him some more nights to muster up the courage to go talk to her.
     Benny wasn't the type who would offer a shoulder to cry on, Benny wasn't at one with his or anyone else's emotions. Penny didn't stir anyone's curiosity in The Olive bar, it's the kind of place that plays host the types who care only about the next drink but Benny took notice of Penny when no one else did.
     Within a year they were married and renting a one bedroom apartment paid out of Benny's meagre wage packet from the chicken factory outside town.
     In the early days of the marriage Benny would joke to Penny about their threadbare existence, he would tell her that they were so poor they didn't have a pot to piss in or even a window to throw it out of but they were happy none the less.
     Benny knew all too well they were living a squalid life but he didn't flaunt it to his fellow drinkers, he liked to keep up the appearance that he was solid but in reality Benny was soiled with a paltry life, one he shared with Penny.
     Penny tried her hand at hair dressing but it was a short lived occupation. She gave up and reserved herself for the life of the home maker wife.
     Penny wasn't yet thirty and could have done a lot more to live a better life but her decision was made, she had married Benny and would live with him in a rundown apartment in a rundown town.
     Penny found a strange yet uneasy contentment swirling around in that town which resembled nothing more than a vulgar pot of shit. Swirling around with all the losers, the boozers, the crack heads, the psychotics, the thieves, the sexual deviants, the misfits, the lost.
     Years rolled by for Benny and Penny yet their great thirst for alcohol never waned and neither did their appetite for destruction.
     Together they made for the perfect boozing couple. Between them they consumed bath tubs of booze and spilled buckets of blood.
     Penny could put away copious amounts of Bourbon while Benny couldn't drink much Bourbon at all. Benny was a beer man and he could drink it from morning 'till night and still walk in a straight line. After all, he had a large gut which drooped over his belt buckle thus enabling him to carry gallons of beer in that barrel of a belly he had. It was a mystery where Penny put her whiskey because she had the most miserable figure you could ever see.

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The Hitting Game  
by Michael Laskey
'This is a most welcome full collection by a strikingly distinctive poet who has already published a prize-winning pamphlet. The poems are simultaneously flamboyant and unsettling, inventive and grounded, witty and vulnerable. Irresistibly intriguing investigations of 'what…will make it/ever so briefly alright being us'. Michael Laskey. The Hitting Game, was highly commended in the Forward Poetry Prize and a poem included in the Faber and Faber anthology this year. Visit Michael Laskey's website for further books and information.

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Maya: Initiate 39
by Mr. Ben
The story explores the plight of Maya taking a journey through life - coming from a broken home since her mother left, ending up with the dreaded juvenile cult, the Alternative Lifestyle Club, popularly known as the ALC, and then growing up into a standup woman. What happened between the period when Maya was under the watchful eyes of a broken home and when she became a standup woman? Order on Amazon Paperback, Amazon Kindle, or through Barnes and Noble

The Troubled Fetus
By Kristopher Miller

     The Fetus floats happily in its mother's womb. Its future has yet to be written in a best-selling autobiography that would be part of a media mogul's book club. Ahead of it was a road full of possibilities ranging from the path of a politician or a path of a prostitute.
     The Fetus continues to float happily and without a single ounce of worry until the male spirit of its future self-manifests in the womb.
     The Male Spirit smiles at the Fetus. "Hello there," he says. "How are you doing, future me?"
     The Fetus quivers at the sight of the Male Spirit. "Uh, who are you?"
     "I am yourself in a few decades, little Fetus," says the Male Spirit. "As a man, especially if your parents are white, you will have all sorts of doors open to you."
     "Actually, I think my parents are of two different races," the Fetus replies.
     The Male Spirit shakes his head. "Wow, okay. I guess that changes things then, huh?"
     "What do you mean?" the Fetus asks in a nervous tenor.
     "As a man of two different races, you are more likely to be profiled by the police and the government. You don't have to do anything illegal to have them stop and investigate you. You will most likely be stopped by police for just taking a walk."
     Another voice, a female's voice, pops in. "Things would be worse if you were a biracial woman on the streets." The Female Spirit manifests in the womb. "You would not just be pulled over but you would also probably be raped on the spot as well."
     The Fetus shakes in fear even more. "Who are you?" it asks.
     "I am the female version of yourself in a few decades," the Female Spirit replies.
     The Male Spirit snorts and says, "You do not want to be her, Fetus. You do not want to suffer menstruation or child birth, do you?"
     The Fetus shakes even more and utters "Huh?"
     The Female Spirit laughs. "Right, I was expecting you to say that. Speaking of child birth, how else is she, the fetus, going to come out to the outside world?"
     The Fetus says, "You're both making me nervous."
     But both the Male Spirit and the Female Spirit ignore the Fetus.
     The Male Spirit says, "Well, if Mr. Fetus were you, then people would constantly wage war on whether you had the right to expel this little guy from your body."
     The Female Spirit sighs. "You are as bad as a right-wing radio host asshole who bellows on the air that women are sluts for using birth control or for exercising our right to fuck anyone we want! When the Fetus is born, she will have to deal with a ton of contradictory bullshit regarding how she wants to express her sexuality. Hell, if you slept with any woman you wanted, you would not be shamed at all!"
     The Male Spirit holds out his hands. "Now, listen here. If the Fetus is born as a man, he will have to deal with prejudice if he does not sleep with women. If he does not have sex with any woman, he would be considered gay. And him being considered gay would somehow be worse than being a Adolf Hitler!"
     The Fetus squirms in fear. "Please, stop arguing," it pleads. "Both of you stop!"
     The Male Spirit and Female Spirit continue to ignore the Fetus' pleas.
     The Female Spirit clenches her fists and shrieks "Yeah?! If she does not have sex, then she would be called a prude or a dyke! Both men and women will hate her for not fucking them! She will have no say about whatever the hell she wants to do with her body! She won't even walk topless like a man can without being harassed because old white men think society is stuck in the Puritan era!"
     The Male Spirit just scoffs at her. "Oh come on, you are making it like he will have the harder life. If he were born as a woman, that is."
     "Try dealing with PMS. Try dealing with child birth. You said it yourself while trying to convince this thing between us not to be a woman."
     The Male Spirit looks like he has been slapped across the face. "Now look-"
     The Female Spirit keeps talking. "You also said that if the fetus were born white and a man, more doors would open up. But the fetus can't choose to be a woman or a man. She depends on biology for gender determination, dumbass."
     The Fetus cries, "Please just stop arguing, both of you! I can't take this anymore!"
     The Male Spirit shoots back with "Then if it is not biology's fault, then it is society's fault!"
     The Female Spirit crosses her arms. "Then society needs to change, doesn't it? Given that the fetus can't choose her gender, race, and sexual orientation."
     "Society can't change by itself!" the Male Spirit shouts back. "When the Fetus grows up, he will have to learn to fight for itself, regardless how it will be born-"
     Both the Male Spirit and the Female Spirit look at the source of the sound. Both their eyes widen in horror as they dissipate after seeing that the Fetus strangled itself with its umbilical cord when they were busy arguing.

The End

Stormy Weather: A Nautical Yarn
By Dan Boylan

     The old man sat in his stuffed armchair, gazing through the bay window at the river, far below. A late autumn squall was blowing up the estuary and a variety of sailboats, fishing smacks and coasters were making upstream for a safe mooring. He watched with interest as they vied for a berth, tied up and dropped and furled their sails.
     It was warm in the front room, logs crackled merrily in the grate and Emily had laid a woollen blanket across his legs. He glanced again at the barometer, as he had every few minutes all afternoon. 990 milli-bars and still falling; he grimaced.
     He could hear Emily softly humming in the kitchen and could smell the delicious aroma of fresh baked bread. What could she know of sailors out at sea in a force eight? What could she know of reefing the mains and gathering the tops'ls as the ship tossed from side to side, buffeted by powerful waves, pitched up and down on a sea of white water? What could anyone, who had never sailed the vast oceans, know of such perils?
     He glanced around the room again. A sailor's room, the walls festooned with pictures of sailing ships, marine charts, barometers, time-pieces, brass oil lamps and in the bay window, a huge brass telescope mounted on a hardwood tripod. Above the mantelpiece hung a large painting of The 'Princess Marie rounding the Cape of Good Hope'; her top gallants ripped loose and flying wild as she ran before a force eight...perhaps the Captain's most exciting and most memorable day's sailing.
     The floor was polished hardwood; the furnishings were high quality teak and mahogany from the Orient, the decorative rugs from Arabia. It was the home of a wealthy, self-made man and lovingly maintained by a wife who had stayed at home during his numerous voyages.
     A schooner hove into view, tall and elegant. He could tell from the way she sat upright and deep in the water that her hold was full of cargo. The crew scurried across her yards taking in her sails; she dropped anchor mid-channel and began to batten down the hatches. He brought the telescope to his eye and tried to read her name and home port but she lay beam on to him.
     He gazed across the river in the failing light and watched the stream of seamen, in small knots as they trudged up the stone steps towards The Mermaid. Oil lamps flickered in the tavern windows and he noticed the curl of smoke spiralling from the chimney before it was whipped away by the wind. He grinned inwardly as he imagined the sailor's delight at an unexpected chance to warm their bones, slake their thirst and eat a hot meal on solid ground. Later, he fancied there would be shanties and songs of girls left in distant ports drifting across the water. After dark as the ale flowed, there would be peals of laughter as they staggered back to their moorings. The memories of a thousand such adventures in a hundred ports across the world brought a rare smile to his lips.
     He shuffled into a more comfortable position and pulled the blanket up to his chest. His condition had deteriorated rapidly after he turned fifty, from the pain and stiffening in his hands to a crippling, debilitating arthritis, and his knees and hips were now gone. For a man who could scale that tallest masts and nimbly tie off knots and hitches, to an invalid unable to tie his own boot laces in a few short years.
     'A common enough ailment among seamen, Captain' the Doctor had said, 'no doubt the result of years of cold and wet conditions, poor diet and plain hard work. Most of your shipmates don't make old bones and those who live beyond forty are usually destined for the poor-house. You're comfortably off with a sea-chest full of Spanish doubloons, I'll wager. You've a good wife to care for you. Eat well, fresh vegetables and lots of fresh fruit. Take a grain of laudanum when the pain is bad. Enjoy your retirement, you've earned it!'
     Words that would return time after time to haunt him.....
     ....suddenly, there came a frantic hammering at the door and a raised voice edged with panic. Then a cold draught as the door was flung wide and the opening filled with the unmistakable frame Coxswain George Jackson, clad in oilskins and sou'wester, dripping with rainwater.
     "Skipper, Skipper, we need help, there's a small collier out on the reef....her cargo has shifted and she's badly listing to starboard. I've got a crew together but we need a skilled helmsman who can get us through the surf and onto the reef. I reckon you're the only man for the job, I know you're not in good shape but we'll carry you down to the cutter if we have to...."
     He rose with some difficulty, "I'll get my oilskins...."
     Then Emily appeared at the kitchen door and asked, "What all this fuss about?"
     "We need a good helmsman, Mistress, there's a ship in trouble out on the reef and the Captain's the best there is." The coxswain replied.
     "Now you just wait one minute Coxswain, my husband's a sick man, he can't...."
     But she was too late. The Coxswain had hoisted the Captain onto his shoulder and set off down the hill and into the raging storm.
     "Cast away!" The Captain called but his words were caught on the wind and went unheard. He signalled with his left hand and the oarsmen dipped their oars and heaved. He steered her into the leeside channel and they made good progress into the churning maelstrom.

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Petty Offenses and Crimes of the Heart  
by Mitchell Waldman
Petty Offenses and Crimes of the Heart includes stories of ordinary people engaged in ordinary lives until betrayals, accidents, and misfortune put the puzzles of their weak choices and unfair chance into stark relief, leaving them with a kind of clarity they may have been happier not to have. Threads of danger and emotional trauma run through the fourteen stories in this collection. In crime, love, marriage, or friendship, it's the little things that matter most. It's the small betrayals or mistakes that often result in our downfall.

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Rage Against the War Machine
by Ava Bird
Rage Against the War Machine assaults the dominant paradigm. Taking refuge in honest, yet abrasive verbiage, it withdraws from normalcy, reveling in an outsider’s view of what is expected from today’s society. Ava Bird’s consistent choice of words embodies the power of the feminine. She stands up for the rights of the underdog while mocking the staunch system created by “the Man.” Rage Against the War Machine reveals the dark side of capitalist patriarchal America, while still upholding the faith of what could be. Though the language is strong, this book protests with a brave and potent voice against the plight of the innocent. It compels change for the better!

The Mission
By Eileen Everitt

     It was late afternoon and the shadows were already creeping across the grass as the elderly lady approached the bench by the lake. A glance around satisfied her that only a very few stragglers were still in the park and they were slowly making their way towards the exit. "Soon be time for action girl. You know what you have to do, so just get on with it!" she muttered, settling herself on the familiar old wooden seat. Mary often spoke to herself in this way, living quite alone as she did. There were times when she found it helped to give herself a good talking to and this was certainly one of those times! Just thinking about what she was about to do caused her hands to start shaking. She had never thought in her wildest dreams she would commit murder, but that was exactly what she was about to do. Groping about in her bulging shopping bag Mary took out some slices of bread followed by a brown paper parcel which she placed on the bench beside her. The parcel was heavy and it was difficult to get a firm grip round it. This was only to be expected, since it contained a house brick found earlier on some waste ground close to her home. 
     As a regular visitor to the park, Mary was well known by old Fred, the park keeper, who would always greet her by name or with a wave.   "What would Fred think if he knew what I am going to do now?" she thought, "I'd better be quick about it!" She loved to feed the ducks and one duck in the group was a particular favorite. A rather scruffy brown duck she called Daffy. Daffy was always first to come and last to leave. "Well, he certainly will be this afternoon", Mary's mouth set in a firm line, all determination, for here sat a lady with a mission - and to achieve it Daffy had to die. He had to die because she was sure that nestling inside his fat little tummy was something very precious.  It was badly scratched and worn thin by constant wear, but it was still her most treasured possession. It was the wedding ring Charlie had placed on her finger long years ago. The next day he had left with his regiment for the battle fields of the Falklands, never to return.  Her finger was thinner now and as she sprinkled bread for the ducks that morning the ring must have slipped off. Too late she realized it was missing. Frantically she had searched amongst the grass with the enthusiastic help of Fred, but there was no sign of the precious ring. The only conclusion was that Daffy had swallowed it as he gobbled down the bread, so just before closing time here she was, back in the park.
     Excited by this late offering of food, the ducks came quickly. "Just like this morning" Mary thought, shifting her weight slightly to the front of the bench and sprinkling pieces of bread around her feet. The ducks were all very tame. She glanced around to check he was coming closer.  He was, but was still not close enough. Then he became braver. He waddled up, fully focused on the food. "Come on Daffy, come and see what I've got for you". He came. She launched herself off the front of the bench like a rocket. "Yes!" Mary was triumphant, spreading her hands firmly around his fat little body. She had him securely anchored to the grass and a quick glance around confirmed they were still quite alone. "I've got you now, my boy, I want my ring back."
     She groped along the bench until she felt the parcel. "Careful now girl, get a good grip". It was difficult to hold the duck securely with one hand and the brick with the other. To finish the job, she had to bring duck and brick together……  Muttering to herself "Don't look at his face, just don't look" and shifting her weight slightly, Mary took a deep breath, closed her eyes and raised the brick high enough to deliver the fatal blow, missing of course - by quite a large margin. The duck squawked and wriggled. Her attempts to hold him down caused him to expel an impressive amount of green porridge onto her skirt and over her knees. Shocked by the horrible mess, the poor lady naturally let go of her grip on the duck and, using the bench to steady herself, stood up to shake off as much slime as she could. Some of it stayed stuck on her skirt, despite her shaking.  "What a state I am in now!" she groaned "and I have to walk home like this!"  Then it didn't matter, it really didn't. She laughed out loud because there, stuck firmly on her skirt amongst the detritus from the lake, was the missing wedding ring. "Mission accomplished" she said and with a beaming smile made her way to the park gate.
The End


The Body in the Bath
By Lo-Arna Green

     Her eyes peer out over the top of the bath water. Because of the reflection, it appears she has two sets of eyes. I notice her mascara is untouched, no smudges. It seems as if her eyes haven't come into contact with the water, just the rest of her. Her clothes are on but torn. Apart from the fact she is dead she looks to be deep in a peaceful sleep. Who is she? And why is she in my bath, dead? I feel a chill settles into my bones. I am frozen; I can't tear my eyes away from this woman. It is obvious she met with foul play, but why and more curiously, why here?
     I can feel panic beginning to set in and override the numb feeling that had paralysed me from the moment I stepped foot into my bathroom. I don't even recognize this woman; much less know how she came to be in here. It feels so surreal, am I dreaming? I pinch my cheek hard, nope, not dreaming.
     I have no idea what to do and I feel as if my feet are stuck in quick sand, rather than the slightly damp, bitter bathroom tiles. It feels like an eternity passes before I walk out to the hall to call Corey. He is always so laid back that he is a relief to be around in a crisis. He'll know what to do and he won't arrest me for being a victim of circumstance.
     After I hang up the phone after his promise to be here as soon as possible, I walk slowly back into the bathroom. I have some sort of morbid need to stare at her, I can't even rationalise why or explain it to myself, but I feel like she shouldn't be alone. Someone should be with her; I hadn't told Corey what was wrong just that I needed him right away. We have always been close, he has always been there for me, and I hope he will be this time as well. I sink down slowly onto the cold bathroom floor and sit with my back against the wall, next to the door. I stare at the woman and try to guess her age. I suppose she looks around my age, slightly older, no more than mid-twenties. It's hard to tell when half her face is submerged. What happened to her? I study every inch of her face that I can see, every line, every spot, hoping somehow the answer will lie there, will jump out at me. She had been pretty and I feel an overwhelming sadness come over me, threatening to take over. Corey's heavy footsteps shake me out of my trance and I look expectantly up at the door.
     "What's going on here Carina?!" He shouts hysterically. He storms into the bathroom and takes in the dead girl; his back to me. He swears and jumps back as if he had been burnt. His leg hits my foot, but he doesn't react. He is looking at the dead girl intensely, his shoulders shake, his body jerks, sobs tear from his chest. I can't remember seeing Corey cry since the day his beloved dog had died when we were teenagers.
     "Corey, get it together. We have to move the body!" I shout a little louder than I intend, but truth be told this display of emotion is scratching at my nerves; I start to feel that something is horribly wrong. I want his attention, this experience has shaken me to the core and I am depending on Corey to be the strong one pulling me through this, not falling apart like he is. As he curls into a ball of misery I have to wonder, does he know this woman? I step forward to look closer at the face I have spent the past hour studying, perhaps I did miss something. My feet shuffle forward across the damp tiles that now look dirty from the dirt on Corey's shoes mixed with the water that escaped from the deadly bath. As I inch closer to the dead body in the bath, a growing horror settles in the pit of my stomach. As I stand close to the bath, my shins digging into the sharp and cold edge of the bath, blood coloured water escapes and splashes my stockings. I realise I do know who was in the bath; it is me.
     I turn to Corey and using all the energy I can gather, a bellow escapes my dead lips, his head snaps up. I think he can see me but after a moment he flops his head to his hands and continues his sobbing. I reach out to him and graze the back of his neck with my cold fingertips. He shivers but still doesn't look at me, can't see me. There is no place for me here now, I slowly turn back to my water grave and climb in, letting the water wash over and consume me.
The End
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Breaking The Silence
by Diamante Lavendar
Breaking The Silence, a women's fiction book, journeys with the main character, Joan, as she comes to terms with her past trials and tribulations of abuse and addiction.  She finds herself pregnant and on bed rest, so she writes in her journal to pass the time and to come to terms with the many losses that she has experienced. As she writes, she becomes aware of a spiritual presence that guides her and gives her understanding in how to heal.

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Theories, Ideas and Insights
by Andrew Vastag
This is a book of Vastagian theory. Although I maintain it is a book of theoretical philosophy, it still has a strong psychological and psychoanalytic foundation. The book essentially represents theories and I advocate that one should investigate these theories through scientific method. My aim with this book is to give people a new perspective and to inspire them to enhance their lives and their minds through techniques mentioned in the book that are available to all.

A Christmas to Remember
By Ben Anthony

     Sean and Frances have been happily married and living in Oakland for close to twelve years. Their union produced a set of two lovely female twins-Tania and Juliana. A successful contemporary entrepreneur for years, Sean has always ensured that needs of the family are met. Frances, on the other hand, is a compliment of her husband. A caring housewife and an excellent store keeper, the total well-being of every member of the house has never fall off her shoulders, since her marriage to Sean and she has been a great asset to her manager for the past five years. Tania, Sean's look-alike, is the very jovial, yet down-to-earth type while Juliana, Frances' carbon copy, is rather reserved and would always chose to be alone, though related with her sister and parents.
     Though both liberal in general, Sean and his wife have painstakingly nurtured their lovely twin daughters, since the age of three, to learn how to stay calm in the midst of life's troubles and appreciate whatever that is given to them, regardless of size. This would come in handy in the future.
     The best of Sean and Frances had always been shown during the Christmas period. This had been a tradition for almost eight years: To them, Christmas preparation typically begins on Dec 1 of that year. All the paraphernalia of Christmas-Mistletoe, hampers, the Christmas interior and exterior decorators, the Christmas tree, Christmas lights, songs and Cheeses, Bunnies and a countless list would occupy their entire Oakland duplex. They would ensure her daughters' room had Christmas treatments-children versions of what was in their bedroom and living room. From December 23, countdown to the Christmas celebration would be alarmed. It was as comparable to the Track and Field drive-'On your mark…,' 'Get Ready…,' 'Go! '
     As with Sean and Frances, Tania and Juliana have so grown up with this orientation and gotten used to tradition that Dec. 1 is when Christmas begins. Celebrating the festive season with the rest of the Neighborhood at the Oakland City Square to see the Santa Claus, have fun, play with the 'Mary-go-round' facility at the Oakland Amusement Park was what Sean, Frances. Tania and Juliana were fond of doing. Visiting Santa Claus at the Park would start from Dec. 18 all through to Jan.3.
      At some point, however, they were confronted by a chronic turbulence that almost shut down completely their yuletide bliss…
     Sean's success attracted Ron, a friend and colleague of twenty years. He would always come to celebrate Christmas with Sean and his family. Through the years, "Ron" as Frances once observed, "has now become part of the family". But a time came when he needed the assistance of Sean. Ron requested that Sean borrowed him a sum of $120,000 to execute an oil business deal in Young Island and promised to pay five months later with an interest rate amounting to 55%! He requested for this amount on the 3rd of February and assured his bosom friend updates every two weeks. On grounds of trust and after discussing it with Frances, Sean took the risk; lending the money to him.
     What he thought would epitomize a ground-breaking business feat became tantamount to his insolvency! Two weeks later, Sean had nothing from Ron! Two months later, he still didn't hear anything! Before he could bleak his eyes, eleven months have gone buy…Ron's whereabouts in Young Island wasn't known! Sean had to close down his fast-growing T and T communication business to face the harsh reality he dreaded-poverty
     From the period that chronic turbulence began, Frances had been the one shouldering the entire responsibility of the family. She would be the one to pay for their daughters' tuition fees, utility bills, other miscellaneous expenses, and even Sean's daily up-keep. They both endured through life's thick and thin, complemented with the understanding of Tania and Juliana. Though they had cause to exchange words at each other, the strength of love between them kept the home in one peace.
     Unlike Sean and Frances, all through from Dec 1 to Dec 22, nothing happened. In fact, their Oakland building had been a residing graveyard. Life was taken away. Absolute silence had its way. Yet, they still endured until the countdown periods came Frances, Tania and Juliana couldn't stomach the pain any longer...
      Dec. 23, At their Oakland Residence…
     Time: 9:00AM
     At the living room, Sean was with his daughters getting set for breakfast while Frances was in the kitchen to dish out the plates of Swiss cheese, fried chicken and Hamburger
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Prisoners of War
By Marie Castronuovo Ascolese

     I first spoke to a real live junkie a few days after my ninth birthday. She was a skinny blond girl who walked barefoot and wore a purple headband. She probably wasn't more than 17 or 18 but her ashen skin and painfully thin appearance made her look much older. She lived with her mother in the large apartment building on the corner of my Brooklyn street. In the summer of '70 she had no siblings, her only brother having died in Viet Nam in the summer of '69.
     Her mother was a sad, pitiful woman who walked the streets talking to herself about her son; or maybe she was talking to her son, I could never figure that out. The girl, whose name I never knew, had friends. Lots of friends. All of them were like her: thin, slack-jawed junkies without shoes. Although junkies weren't any more frightening than older teenagers or twenty-something dropouts who had lost their way in life and found themselves hopelessly tangled in a tourniquet, to a nine-year-old, they were scary. And more than a little intriguing. My father, a conservative man who dressed in dark slacks, white, starch-pressed shirts and highly polished black leather shoes, warned me nightly about them.
     "When you see them coming down the street, get inside the gate fast. Don't even be in arms reach of them. They're nothing but trouble waiting to happen."
      He'd look at my mother and remind her "If the cops don't do something about these punks, I worry that some of the men on this block are going do something. I'm telling you there's gonna be trouble if this summer keeps going the way it's been going."
     The way the summer had been going was these junkies had been hanging out together on the street corners. All four street corners. Mostly, they sat on the ground in front of Abe's candy store. Abe wasn't happy about it. Customers were afraid to go into the candy store because no one wanted to walk through the group of junkies. Abe had tried nightly to get rid of the junkies by calling the cops, but they really liked Abe's corner and once the cops had driven off, they would come back.
     It was a Friday night in late June when Abe had had enough. Earlier, I'd heard him tell my dad he'd called the cops at least ten times that week to disperse the junkies, but the cops only came twice. It must've been a really busy summer for the cops too. Each time they came, they'd arrest one or two of the junkies. The rest of them would leave then. Abe's relief wouldn't last long, though, because by the end of the same night, those kids would be right back on his corner, less the few that had been arrested, and somehow they were louder. They'd carry large radios and play guitars and sing. Mostly, they'd just lean against Abe's brick wall and smoke or stare into space.
     This one Friday night though, Abe decided not to call the cops. He was an Auschwitz survivor with numbers tattooed on his arm. He'd told me once how he lost his mother, father and sister in the camps. Abe was tough. He'd survived the Holocaust; it would take more than a few junkies to intimidate him.
     It was around 9 pm and I was with my friends sitting on a stoop in the middle of the block. The older kids were playing Skelly in the street. Many of the adults were outside sitting on stoops or leaning across wrought-iron fences discussing their day at work or their day at home when we heard a loud banging coming from the direction of Abe's corner. Just about everyone ran toward the sound, some of the parents warning their kids to "get back home" as they sprinted past them en route to help Abe.
     My father yelled at me to turn around and go home, but I didn't. I stopped long enough for my father to think his words had an effect, then I ventured forth again, although at a much slower and cautious pace. I came within yards of the crowd that had formed near the edge of Abe's candy store and climbed a nearby stoop. Standing on the top landing, I could see over the crowd. Abe was holding two metal garbage can covers, clearly the source of the banging, and he was shaking his head and laughing.
     "That did it," he shouted to the crowd. "They sit out here in a stupor and walk around in a fog, but bang a few garbage cans and they find their legs!"
     Suddenly the crowd, who just seconds before were a pack of panicked parents, broke out in loud laugher. A few of the men patted Abe's back and the women shook their heads and sighed in relief as they turned back to their stoops and their front yards and their now slightly tense conversations. I ran as fast as I could to get back to where I knew my father would expect me to be waiting. I made it just in time, as he nodded his head at me in passing.

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