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Co-Pilot
By John Tavares

     After his co-pilot was killed in a crash landing while transporting a patient from Fort Severn, a First Nations community on the shores of Hudson's Bay, Armstrong decided to accept a position as pilot in Thunder Bay. Flying air ambulance out of Sioux Lookout was not the experience he required. Flying commuter airline aircraft out of Thunder Bay would improve his chances of joining an Air Canada crew and flying a new 777 jet in their growing fleet in the upcoming years.
     Faye expressed dismay about his latest change of mind and mood. She had been asking him about mysterious telephone calls she received in the middle of the night, with women's voices in the background, speaking Oji-Cree, calling late from what sounded like a bar. When she inquired, he hurtled the cordless telephone, so she did not press with queries. After he surprised her with a move to a small town in a remote part of Northwestern Ontario, she wondered if having a baby with Armstrong, whose father had named him after the first astronaut on the moon, was such a good idea. At first, he seemed devoted, but she could not persuade him to get married. He hardly every stayed at home anyway, eating at the local Chinese restaurant, the Tim Hortons, drinking at the Legion Hall and the bar and grille. She was even beginning to think it incredible she moved from Toronto to Sioux Lookout for this man in the first place.
     "I'm not sure I like the sound of Sioux Lookout. They don't even have a Walmart."
     "The Walmart is a hundred nautical miles away in Dryden. Most respectable people-"
     "What are you talking about, respectable people?"
     "Everybody who owns a car shops in Dryden."
     "We have to drive over an hour to shop for two liters of milk and a loaf of bread?"
     Armstrong stared at her intently, even coldly, as if he was on a final approach to the airport landing strip on a reservation in the middle of sleet, rain, and thunder. "There is a grocery store in Sioux Lookout, but the prices are high and there isn't much of a selection."
     "So you're trying to tell me we need to shop in Dryden for cheaper prices and better selection of groceries when you're never home to eat dinner anyway?"
     Armstrong glared at her. These scowls were starting to leave her depressed. "You don't mean you're getting tired of Sioux Lookout?"
     "It feels like that; I wasn't expecting when I moved here I'm be living on an Indian reservation." Immediately, Faye regretted what she said.
     "It's a lively place. It has the cultural and political life of a city ten times its size." Having heard that message numerous times, she thought those words should have served as a warning, but instead they succeeded in luring her to a place she later considered God forsaken. When he returned home on a weekend, she reminded him she had just graduated from university. She still wanted to pursue a second degree in education and reminded him she had abandoned a career in teaching to be his stay at home mom. She had only to study an academic year, two semesters, at Lakehead University for her consecutive education degree. Then she would possess a license to teach at any public school in Ontario, but she put that plan on indefinite hold to move to Sioux Lookout and pursue his career and ambitions and now have his baby.
     "Our baby," he interjected.
     Usually around this time, he was drinking beer and then he drank straight shots of whiskey. She wondered aloud how he managed to stay sober enough to pilot an aircraft, an air ambulance. As soon as she mentioned his drinking and flying in conjunction, he grew angry, accused her of trying to ruin his aviation career. He demanded to know whom she was talking to and grabbed her by the wrists. The fierce look in his eyes and the crazed expression on his face, the intensity of his emotion and the rage she somehow provoked she found most frightening.
     "That's the look of a killer, an A-10 pilot before he fires cannon and rockets into a convoy of Iraqi tanks, a B-52 bomber pilot before he drops his payload on Viet Cong around Khe Sanh."
     Then he would start slamming the doors and windows, breaking the glass panes. After he hacked into her e-mail account and read a message she sent to her father, he smashed her computer monitor during the subsequent outburst. When she mentioned something that did not agree with him during a long distance telephone call she had with her mother she inadvertently triggered another outburst. If she had realized he was eavesdropping on the cordless extension phone while he sat on the stairwell outside the house, she wouldn't have even called her mother, but that conversation cost her desktop computer when his fist smashed the tower. She was forced to spend more money to replace the expensive electronics, but this time Faye decided she'd obtain something mobile, a tablet, in case she needed to leave in a hurry. Then he went to start a fire in the basement woodstove for warmth, after he was drinking beer and straight shots of whiskey. His efforts to start a fire caused smoke to fill the basement and rooms upstairs, so the carbon monoxide and smoke detector started chirping crazily and loudly. She could not help thinking he had filled the house with smoke deliberately and told him so, provoking more rage and smoke. Afterwards, she worried about smoke in the clothing and furniture, to say nothing of their lungs.

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The Body
By Sylvester P. Barzey

     It was just lying there in the middle of the floor. Just lying there, cold, bloody, and lifeless. I stood as far away from it as I could. The fire place casted its over-sized shadow on the wall, the darkness took us over. The four of us were lost in it, lost in the moment that was now our lives. Slowly we all started picturing our futures go out the window. We were going to a big house, just not the one we all dreamed about. There wasn't going to be a nice house with two kids, a wife, and a little pug. I ran my hand over my face in hopes to clear the madness away. Ashley closed her eyes, she kept them closed for a while and then opened them as if she were trying to wake from some bad nightmare. Yet, the sadness just washed over her face when her eyes still saw it laying there, taunting her.
     She didn't want this, none of us did. I watched as she started to walk closer to it. I wanted to call out to her, I wanted to stop her, but my voice was long gone along with my dreams. She got down on her knees next to it. Her shadow fused with the dark madness that was taking over the room. She looked at it, for what I felt like was a life time. I wondered what she was thinking, I was sure it was the same thoughts that ran through my mind. A load of 'Whys' and 'How comes' I wanted to know why this happened to us, how come we couldn't stop this? But we were beyond those questions. We were in a moment where only two paths could be seen through the darkness; the path that was bright and lighted by the hope in our souls, and then there was the other path. Ashley turned her head back towards us and softly let out, "We have to get rid of it."
     We all looked at each other. The thought had ran through all our minds. She was just the first to step up and take the bullets that followed that cold, heartless statement. "Get rid of it?" I cried out, her head just turned back towards the fireplace. "What do you wanna do? Just toss it on the side of some road?" It was an easy and smooth ride on my high horse. Being up there let me feel like I wasn't a part of the madness, that I was better than it. It gave me hope. Ashley ran her fingers through her hair and closed her eyes, "So what should we do Sylvester? Call the police?" I wanted to scream 'Yes! Yes we should call the police and take what's coming to us, face our fate.' I wanted to say it, but I was scared. It's a fact that I'm still ashamed to admit today. Ashley stood up and walked over towards me "We can call them and go right to jail." She looked over at Michael and then her eyes went towards Angel who was crying in the corner. Then, once again, they came back towards me.
     They overtook me much like the dark madness overtook the room. I just looked at her and then Michael stepped forward and I watched as his shadow was swallowed by the darkness. "She's right, we have to get rid of it. This is our lives we're talking about Sylvester. I don't wanna go to jail." I put my hands on my head and let out a slow sigh. I turned towards Angel, "And what about you?" I asked. She looked at us through the tears, but she saw us more clearly than we could see each other. She saw the darkness that had casted down from the walls and onto our souls. She stood up and started walking towards the phone in the dining room. I nodded, part of me was happy that one of us was still human, one of us was still a part of this moral world. Once again I had hope, even with all the fear that surrounded me I still had hope that we would not fall into the madness.
     Then she returned with some garbage bags and some tape. "We can put it in these." She let the words fall from her lips and fill the room, and just like that all hope died.
     It laid there in the middle of the floor. Just lying there, cold, bloody, and lifeless.  
    
The End


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Bright Red Devil 
by Ralph Bland
Set in 2010 Nashville, Tennessee, Bright Red Devil chronicles eight months in the life of Jake Maynor. Once the city's foremost radio disc jockey, he has in a decade descended to the depths of occupational ruin and moral decay. Jake now searches for peace while confronting his personal demons and finding his way to a world without drama and turbulence. Along this path he deals with floods, lust, disgust with himself and the world around him, death, and a reoccurring case of unrequited love. Wandering through his existence while trying to right the wrongs of his colorful past, Jake watches his beloved Music City USA change and turn into something as strange and mysterious as himself. Growing older and weirder at all stops, he is forced to attempt to grow up at long last, one of those frightening things he never thought he'd have to do. Available through Mirador Press and Amazon.com. Visit my website ralphbland.com

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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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Jupiter Works on Commission  
by Jack Phillips Lowe
If the Smithsonian Institution and Disneyland were to have a baby, then Jupiter Works on Commission by Jack Phillips Lowe would be it. With both funny poems and serious, thought-provoking poems, it’s chock-full of enough head-scratchers to impress your college philosophy professor, and enough knee-slappers to make you forget your kid’s tuition bill. You can have everything…at least in poetry. Jupiter Works on Commission (Middle Island Press, 2015) is 57 pages of narrative poetry about the smiles, trials and tribulations of working (and not working) in America today. Special guest appearances are made by Elvis Presley, the ancient Roman god Jupiter and superhero Captain Nitro! Copies are available NOW from Middle Island Press  for $9.00 each, plus $2.50 shipping/handling at: middleislandpress.com.

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The Freelancer 
by Brenda Hasse
The renowned mercenary, Lord William, is hired to kill the Lord of Wildenham, but delays his obligation after encountering the lord's beautiful daughter, Lady Christine. Meanwhile, Harlan is given the task of killing Wildenham's lord. He demands Lady Christine's hand in marriage as payment. As the race against time begins, who will kill the Lord of Wildenham and claim Lady Christine for their own?

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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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There have been many requests to
bring back WritingRaw's cult classic

"really BAD Shakespeare"
The Dead I Have Left Behind
By Andrew Lee-Hart

     There was a gorilla in her bed. Thick black hair, and heavy limbs. He was at rest now, snoring slightly after his exertions of earlier. She had always liked him in his apelike sort of way; hirsute he had a confident masculinity that Rebecca found attractive but did not entirely trust. He swaggered as he pushed trollies about the supermarket where they both worked, and when he had taken her in his arms in the pub garden last night; it was as if he were asking for a kiss but knew all along that it would be granted.
     He was a gentile of course, and although he was not the first goy she had taken to her bed, she always had a feeling of consorting with aliens whenever she did so. With their uncircumcised penises these young men looked rather childish and silly. But it was not just that; they were just different did not have the same background, the same understanding. She suspected that Gary would just smash through any problems and misunderstandings with his heavy paws, not even aware that they were there.
     He had been a good lover, she supposed, but rather too good, as if he had it all down pat. And there had been an unmistakable look of triumph as she shuddered and gave a slight scream in ecstasy, which was all that she was going to give him. But it had been a while and she had missed the intimacy, and the passion. And afterwards as she helped him reach his climax she felt more tenderly towards him, and had kissed him passionately and looked at him almost with love as he swiftly fell asleep.
     He smelt of a rather pleasant aftershave, designed to disguise his animal odours she supposed. A few of them had agreed to go to the pub after their evening shift, and Gary had shifted her into a corner; caged her with no possibility of escape. It was a warm July evening and they were outside. The pub was close to Leicester Cathedral, from which sounds of singing escaped. After a rather intense conversation with Gary she had looked up and realised that the others had gone and then he was kissing her; his thick tongue investigating every part of her mouth, dominating it and overriding her feeble defences.
     But now at three in the morning she wondered how long he would stay. It was Saturday now and she was off work, and had things to do. She did not mind a slow breakfast, feeding him bananas, and possibly another grapple on the bed as a way of saying goodbye, but after that she wanted him to go so she could get on with her chores, and hopefully do some of her art.
****
     "When she said/ "Don't waste your words, they're just lies"/ I cried she was deaf"
     She stood in her studio painting, whilst Bob Dylan's album Blonde on Blonde played quietly in the background. It was a Thursday morning and she had two days off from the supermarket. The studio was one she shared with a couple of friends she had met when studying art. It was not far from Leicester city centre and about half an hour's walk from her flat. It was light, and warm from the offices that surrounded it.
     Walking through Leicester on the way to the studio, Rebecca often felt inspired; the bright colours worn by many of the inhabitants, the big sweets like play-doh on glass shelves and the smell of the various spices from the numerous Indian restaurants. She could not imagine that her art would thrive in any other place, certainly not in England. She loved Leicester and never wanted to leave.
     Her latest picture was a market scene; rather abstract, with swirls of yellows and greens and even some silver and gold. She knew the basic idea of how it would look but always allowed for inspiration as she painted. She could hear the noise of the people buying things; bargaining, sharing a joke. And there were the smells of food and humanity. For a few moment as it was if she were inside her picture; immersed in the sounds, intense odours and movement.
     She had a break and thought of Gary whilst drinking some Earl Grey. As she had hoped he had left reasonably quickly that Saturday morning after devouring some toast. Fortunately she did not have much food in or she suspected that he would have stayed longer. That had taken place almost three weeks ago, they had met at the supermarket since, and had been friendly and affectionate with each other, without either of them hinting that they should meet up again; and that was how it should be she supposed, and how she wanted it.
     She flicked some aqua marine paint at the painting and watched it drip slightly, and then rubbed it. She had often overdone her paintings in the past, and had learnt to leave well alone. She realised that she had come to this stage. She would look at it properly later, but for the time being, she put it in her corner of the gallery with the rest of her canvases, facing the wall. Her friends Jenny and Angela both enjoyed discussing their ongoing work, but Rebecca was much more reticent, even when the picture was finished and on a wall. She lay on the floor and listened to Dylan singing about that sad eyed lady with her Arabian drum, before gathering her stuff together and leaving the studio, forgetting to lock the door behind her as usual.
****
     "I like to see it lap the miles/ And lick the valleys up," the Emily Dickinson lines came unbidden into her head.
     "He devours me", she thought. "He eats me alive, so that not even my bones are spared." His head between her legs, she could feel his tongue inside her, taking her very essence away from her. Was there nothing of her that was not secret from him? She gripped his thick hair tightly, not caring if it hurt him. And eventually she gave herself up to him, and shuddered and screamed not caring who heard, or what they thought.

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Time Drains Away
By William Quincy Belle

     Peter lay on the floor propped up against a kitchen cabinet. He stared across the room through the door to the hallway. It was quiet. The man had left.
     The man had left him to his fate. He could have phoned for help. It wouldn't have mattered, but the man was afraid. Peter tried to understand why the man would be afraid however, the question seemed immaterial now. The pool of blood was not growing as fast as it had been, but it was still widening on the kitchen tiles. How much time did he have? How much blood could the human body lose before the loss of consciousness and death?
     This was an unexpected turn of events. He had hoped to spend a quiet evening in. He had picked up a spy novel this past weekend at the library and right from the beginning, the story had captured his imagination. The action adventure of this globetrotting spy was anything but the quiet uneventful life he led. What an odd surprise to have that action show up in real life when he came home after work to find an armed intruder in his home. And what an unfortunate surprise to have said intruder panic and shoot him in the abdomen.
     He looked at the blood. It was a dark shade of red. Wasn't it supposed to be a brighter red? How was he going to clean this mess up? He held his right hand over his stomach. Was this an instinctive gesture to press on his injury to stop the bleeding? It didn't work well. Blood soaked the lower part of his shirt. The stain went down on his pants and there was a small pool of the red liquid spreading out from his body.
     How odd. Even though he had been shot, even though there was all this blood, he didn't feel pain. He felt discomfort but no real pain. Was he in shock? What was shock? What a curious predicament. This had never happened to him so he had no idea of what to do. He didn't know what the experience would be like. This was it. This was what being shot was. How odd.
     Was the man gone? Then again, was it a man? He seemed to be young, maybe a teenager. He was shocked to see someone standing in the kitchen. It would seem that whoever he was, he couldn't have been a professional thief. Would a professional have been so surprised? Would a professional have fired? A professional would have done a better job of planning a robbery to avoid any such confrontation with a homeowner. Does anybody want to go from robbery to murder?
     He thought he should try to call for help. Now he was alone and didn't have to worry about the robber coming back to shoot him again. But could he move? He felt weak and lightheaded. Once again, it was odd he didn't feel pain so much as a certain discomfort. He always thought from the television shows that anyone would be in agony after being shot.
     Putting his unbloodied hand on the floor to brace himself, he moved his legs. A stabbing pain came up out of his abdomen. He let out a gasp and froze; his eyes squeezed shut. Time stopped. He relaxed back against the cabinet. He wasn't going anywhere. Even though he had only been feeling discomfort not pain, he knew he was hurt and hurt badly. Whatever that bullet had done inside him, moving made matters worse. Even if he could move, how was he going to call for help?
     Peter had come home after work and unlocked the front door. Stepping inside the front door, he bent down to pick up the mail that the postman had shoved through the mail slot. He shut the door and walked across the living room to the kitchen. He had just finished setting the few pieces of mail on the counter when the young man walked through the door on the opposite side of the kitchen. He was carrying a gun. Their eyes locked and Peter saw the look of utter surprise on the man's face. There was a bang followed by a sharp pain in Peter's abdomen. He automatically grabbed his stomach and looked down. Blood was oozing out of him. He thought he would faint. He had to sit down.
     Still holding onto his stomach, he slumped down onto the floor. He sat on the tiles with his back up against a kitchen cabinet. All his energy had drained out of him. He held his blood soaked hand up. This was surreal. He had been shot.
     Peter looked at the man. He still had a look of surprise on his face. Had he meant to shoot him? Was it an accident? At this stage of the game, did it matter? The results were the same.
     Peter's voice sounded in a whisper. "Help."
     The man did nothing. He was frozen on the spot. He stared at Peter with wide eyes unsure of what to do. Peter had seen him. Peter was a witness. On top of it, he had shot Peter. This was not adding up to be a slam-dunk, in and out smash and grab. This had gotten really, really complicated.
     "Help."
     The man looked around the room. He saw a wall mounted telephone beside the kitchen table. Taking two steps to the phone, he set his gun on the table, picked up the receiver and unplugged the cord. He picked up the gun, turned and headed back from where he came. From the door, he glanced back at Peter and disappeared. Peter heard a few noises he thought were the backdoor being opened and closed. It was silent.
     How long had he sat there? Five minutes? Ten minutes? He couldn't say. He didn't have a real sense of time. Besides, he felt lightheaded and that made him confused. He tried to shake this stupor off because he realised he had to do something. He wasn't sure what, but he couldn't stay sitting on the floor. It seemed as though he would not stop bleeding so he needed to get help.
     He looked up at the wall-mounted telephone. The cord hung down from the main unit. The thief had taken the receiver. He didn't want Peter phoning the police. Never mind the police, did it not dawn on him that Peter couldn't phone for help? Now what was he going to do?
     There was an extension in the den. Could he crawl that far? Could he attempt to walk? Trying to get up before was painful but he had to try something. However, if the robber had taken the receiver of the phone in the kitchen, how did Peter know whether he had not done the same to the phone in the office? Maybe he didn't think Peter could move.
     It occurred to Peter that nobody would find him for days. Years ago, the household had been a bustling social center with children, friends of children, and other neighbourhood parents. There never seemed to be a time when the house was empty. Now with children gone, now that Peter was a widower, the house was more than quiet; it was empty. Previously, he would have been found in hours if not minutes. Now, he would be lucky if he were found in days. He had to do something. He had to get to the den.
     Peter took a deep breath. He didn't feel lightheaded as much as dizzy. Focus, Peter, focus. He rolled to one side and attempted to get up on all fours. It was painful but he thought he could put up with it. He crawled a step. He looked down. His bloodied hand had left a big print on the tiles. No matter. He could clean this up later. He moved one arm and one knee forward to take another step. His head was swimming now. Was he going to pass out?
     He moved into the hall. He winced with every movement. Blood was dripping onto the floor but he ignored it focusing on taking one step at a time, on putting one foot in front of the other. He shook his head. The dizziness was getting worse. Was he going to make it? He shook his head again then...
     Peter lost consciousness and collapsed on the floor. A pervasive silence filled the house as his breathing slowed and became shallower. Somewhere in the den, a souvenir clock from Disneyworld chimed the hour.

The End


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~after earth~ 
by Tom Sterner
~after earth~ is the third chronicle in the saga, Madman Chronicles: The Warrior. Andrew Corn transitioned from a career in professional football to soldier in a time in his life when he believed in choices, that they existed and he was empowered to make them. He laughs at the memory, sitting deep in the earth, literally laying low. It has fallen to him to bring After Earth online, to create a place of refuge & lure his lifelong friend, Wulf and his Lords of the Dragon into the earth. Andrew, "the Hood", Corn, taps the chromium plate amplifier in the hollow of his throat. He taps out the initiating sequence on the keyboard with his other hand. "Wulf still believes in choices," he says aloud. A  golden sphere rises from the floor of the labyrinth, glowing and warming its tunnel earth surround. Sure would like to get laid in there, Hood muses. "Andrew Corn," welcome to After Earth," a female computer voice speaks from the sphere. "I am programmed to receive you." Hood stands up and enters the sphere.


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The Truth
By Kyle Summerall

December 8th: 11:34 p.m.
     I'd had just enough beer to get me thinking and not enough left to get me to stop. I leave the room dark and the curtains pulled as I watch the shadows pass along the strand of light that shows under the door. Collin had talked about family earlier when I left the precinct, quoting daddy. Those who spoke of family, like my dad often did, didn't know shit about it beyond the spelling. They'd just seen what family looked like back home where everyone had a cheating ace up their sleeves and were more than able to slide cold steel between a brother's ribs rather than ask for something. Things were the way they were because blood and water ran the same channels in the Mississippi Delta back then. That's why it doesn't surprise me when a shadow swallows the light at the foot of the motel's door. What comes next though, takes me off guard.
    
December 5th: 2:29 p.m.
     I hang up the phone and sit. After decades of wondering, I didn't have to anymore. My secret is about to become the worlds and I am ready to share it. It had been one of those moments, not one of the first memories that comes to mind growing up, but one of those defining events that shaped who I am, who I knew my daddy to be, and what I thought of the world beyond the flats. I wonder if they'd called my brother first, or if the sheriff is talking to him now? I set the phone down, and wait for him to call.
     Melody comes into the room and I tell her like I'd been wanting to tell someone since it happened but even now, there is something about family that makes me keep it to myself. "You remember that uncle I told you 'bout? The one that up and disappeared?"
     She nods and tell her that they found him and that I am being called back there. She asks why, and I lie because I know the truth ain't out there yet and the only people that know either know too much or haven't figured it out yet. That's when my phone rings and Collin's name lights up on the screen.
    
December 7th: 9:00 a.m.
     To think, after all it took to get across this damn line, I'd be coming back willingly. I pull into a diner that Collin asked me to meet him at over the phone. What used to be Harleys, a long, silver trailer with what looked like space windows that bubbled away from the building is gone, replaced by a building meant to look old.
     He's standing there by the tailgate of daddy's blue Ford, his eyes on me the whole way. I recognize the truck before I do him. He don't look like daddy anymore. When daddy was pushing drugs small time through the back alleys in the delta and even when he'd paid his part enough to get to places like Georgia and the west side of Louisiana, he never once used. He was built like a Pitbull after a few hard years of beatings, starvings, and fights. His father had made him mean so that's what daddy did to us. It was clear that Collin didn't have our father's ability to abstain from the crystal. He'd gone from that Pitbull to a lanky mutt that carried with him a look of unpredictability that makes me wish I hadn't come back. If anything, I knew that when you had a Pit on a roll, the one dog that'd normally come along and end it would be the one with that same mangy look Collin looks at me with.
     He moves his jaw side to side like a cow chewing cud before spitting a line of tar onto the concrete. "Damn ner took a killn' to get r back here," he says with a laugh. He comes up on me and hugs me. It might as well be a stranger.
     I get the joke, but don't bother with it so I just look back at the truck. All the spots that I remember rusting from way back are either the size of my fist and black as coal or corroded through all together.
     "Come'n and let's get r a bite," he says before leading me inside.
     He's on his third cigarette before the coffee even comes and when that one burns down to the filter, he takes another from the pack of Lucky Strikes and leans over the table. "You believe they fon't that SOB three miles for where we buried him?"
     I check the corners of my eyes for anyone listening, "River flooded not too long ago didn't it? That surprise you?"
     He raises an eyebrow and grins something awful. Uneven grooves cut deep and black into his gums where most of his teeth used to be and the ones left stand out as a wet green. "Reckon not. Weird to think they'd come straight fer us though, ain't it?"
     "No."
     "Well shit, ain't our land no more."
     "He was family though," I say.
     He sits back and stretches. The black and white stubble running down from his ears to his shirt collar folds with the loose skin and makes me feel an itch.
     "Nahh man, I smell something and it ain't good fer nun of us."
     I drink the last of the burned coffee, "What the hell you got to worry about. Daddy's dead. Why can't we just tell them the truth?"
     Collin starts smacking on his gums and his eyes fall under the shadows of his brow, "Bullshit we can."
     "We were kids," I say cutting him off. "Hell, it was so long ago that even if daddy were still alive they may not have been able to make it stick."
     "You talkin' like you's wearing a badge, boy."
     I roll my eyes seeing this now, the way my dad and his brother used to go at it, every bit of it built on childish wants. "And you're suggesting we hide secrets that were never ours to begin with."
     "I made a promise to deddy that'll never talk 'bout it. It's 'bout more than what was. It's all 'bout what is now. This is our name." Collin swallows hard on something, "It's all we got left. It's all my kids got."

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The Tale of the Heavenly Music Room
By Stephen Weinstock
  
     Two souls were walking down the Path of Heaven. They walked by an iridescent stream. They enjoyed each other's company and breathed in the fragrant air. And they looked for something -- an event, an activity, a destination.
     The two souls were musicians, though not necessarily in their previous lifetimes, but deep down within their beings. Perhaps they were looking for fellow musicians, a band, or a concert. Their searching turned to yearning.
     "Where are we going?" one soul asked as they walked by a tree with beautifully shaped branches. "It's all very pretty, but I want to be in Heaven, not just see it. I mean I'll take this, sure, but only for a short stint."
     'Stint' continued walking, while the other soul stopped at a lush garden full of citrus trees and hanging vines. "Look at all this beauty," the other soul said. "Stop and smell the loquats."
     'Loquat' hurried to catch up to Stint, who had started up the next hill on the Path of Heaven. "Slow down," Loquat said, "you've got to relax."
     "I am," Stint answered. "I have. But is this it -- forever?"
     They crested the hill. The road sloped back down into a small vale, and then climbed back up another hill out of sight. In the vale, at the bottom of the hill, stood a small building. It was simple in design, white adobe with red tile roof, and only had tiny windows. It appeared to be a large storage hut or other utilitarian building. When they approached it, Stint wanted to see what was inside.
     The door was unlocked, but closed by itself after they entered. Inside they found one large room. The two musicians stood in awe for a few moments.
     Finally, Loquat said, "Heaven must be getting whatever you want."
     "I doubt it's exactly like that," Stint said. "But I am impressed."
     All around them in the room was a great variety of beautiful musical instruments. There were instruments immediately familiar to them, wood, bronze, and bamboo mallet instruments, flutes and horns of various lengths and coiled shapes. There were instruments from the future that we might recognize: a majestic Bösendorfer grand piano, a set of pitched drums, violins, and cellos. And there were many other instruments from times and places long past or faraway. A triangular harp stood seductively in one corner. Shiny tubular devices with different coils, valves, and odd shapes hung on the walls. Every instrument looked brand new, with polished woods of dark and subtle hues, or brilliant metals that glistened even in a room with small windows.
     The two musicians grinned childishly at each other and stumbled around the room in a daze. They lightly touched different surfaces and picked up the odd piece to examine it.
     Approaching the Bösendorfer, Stint imagined the most scintillating sound. It was a passage from some virtuosic concerto, full of sparkling runs and arpeggios. The delighted soul had never before heard music quite like it, but Stint knew that it was the sound that could only be made by this instrument. Loquat fingered the strings on an elegantly decorated guitar, and heard wild and haunting music from a nomadic camp. Amazed by their fortune, the two souls pulled each other over to various instruments, excited for the other to hear what they were hearing.
     "How matchless the sounds are that these instruments could play," Loquat said.
     "I am humbled," Stint said. "It will be a blissful eternity to hear all these musics and learn how to play them. It will be difficult, it will stretch our minds and ears and fingers."
     "But we have all the time in the world," Loquat said.
     "Let's get started!" Stint said, particularly anxious to try the piano. Stint pulled out the piano bench and tested it carefully before sitting down. As the soul quieted down, the music coming into Stint's head ceased. Gingerly, Stint pressed one of the keys.
     Nothing happened.
     Stint tried it with more force. Still nothing. Fingers pressed different keys, new combinations, up and down the keyboard, but no sound. Impatient, Stint looked under the keyboard, around the side of the instrument, and finally understood to lift the lid and look inside. Pressing a key again, Stint marveled at the action of the piano, how the hammers jutted up into the air when a key was struck. Why no sound?
     "Look at this one," Loquat said, standing across the room next to a smaller grand piano, a Japanese model. Loquat lifted the lid and looked under. Stint approached, also disappeared under the lid, and immediately recognized the problem.
     "There are no strings in the other one," Stint said.
     "No strings?"
     "No. When you press a key, it pushes up a hammer that then must strike a string. That makes the sound. Look, I'll show you on this one."
     Stint saw that the keyboard lid on the smaller piano was closed, and opened it.
     "There's no keys on this one! What's going on?"
     "Don't worry," Loquat said, "there's plenty more toys. Let it go."
     Stint was unconvinced, but Loquat went over to the alluring harp in the corner and plucked a string, but it pulled out from the frame. Other strings broke, some withered to dust.
     Stint ran up and pulled a horn down from its peg on the wall. Examining it, the soul found the start of the tube and blew. The sound was a constricted breath. Stint looked at its companions on the wall, tried again, then reported to Loquat:
     "No mouthpiece on this one. The others won't fit it. That one's melted shut at the end. This one's full of cracks and holes."
     The two musician-souls eyed one another, peered suspiciously around the room, and then frenetically ran to each instrument to discover its unique, disturbing fault. Everyone was worthless, completely incapable of making a sound, or flawed beyond repair. Even if an instrument was reparable, there were no tools or materials to fix it.

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Tesla And Twain 
by Debbie Elliott
This novel is set between 1890-1912 & is based upon the lives of two of the most famous people of that time: Nikola Tesla, the infamous inventor & the author Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). In real life these two people knew each other & were friends, and the novel expands on that relationship. Nikola & Sam collaborate on various exploits that include Nikola’s attempts at developing wireless messages, electrical energy from lightening storms, creating flying machines & a new weapon called a ray gun, to name just a few. This book is a fictional tale of their friendship, an adventure with Tesla's experiments & Mr Twain's humour.

_______________
The Damned Generation
By Maurice Connolly

The sun it now shines on the green fields of France,
There's a warm summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance,
And look how the sun shines from under the trees,
There's no guns, no barbed wire, there's no guns firing now.
         
     Billy O'Neill had just turned nineteen. He was a fit, strong country youth who was born and reared near Ardfinnan, Co. Tipperary. This was a big day in his young life. After conducting his initial training in Clonmel he was allowed home the previous day to bid farewell to his family. The month was March and the year was 1915. Clonmel was the main Irish Depot of the Royal Irish Regiment. Tomorrow, with the rest of his battalion he will be on his way to Aldershot, in England. He found the excitement of the whole adventure overwhelming. Ken Ryan, from a small farm close to the village, had enlisted the same time as himself. Billy was walking down the narrow lane where he was to meet up with Ken. Both will then be transported to Clonmel by pony and trap, accompanied by ken's father, Sam.
     The previous evening Billy had spent a few hours with his young sweetheart, Maggie Keane. She was a soft hearted, doe-eyed, innocent girl. She said that she'd pray for him every day that he'd return safely to her. She gave him a special prayer, sealed in a little leather cover. She made him promise that he'd keep it with him always. It would protect him. They had walked down by the river, stood under a tree, kissed and embraced. He felt her soft tears against his cheeks. More tears as they kissed goodbye. She said she wouldn't go to see him off. She couldn't bear that part of it.
     Billy's mother, Annie, his father Pakie, and his five siblings joined him as he walked down the narrow lane. The family, like lots of families at that time, were extremely poor and dressed accordingly. Pakie worked as a farm labourer for very little wages. They felt proud of Billy, he looked such a fine cut of a lad in his smart uniform. They became aware of the pony and trap approaching in the distance.
     The mood changed. Tears welled up in Annie's eyes and she commenced to sob, as did the oldest girl, Brid. Pakie patted Billy on the shoulders a few times, turned round and walked back up the lane; he didn't want the others to see the tears run down his cheeks. The pony halted. Greetings were exchanged. Annie and Brid hugged Billy. The two boys said "Good-luck, Billy." The two little girls, with the pinched, hungry faces, wrapped their hands round Billy's legs, not wanting him to go.
     "Take care of yourself, Billy boy," Annie said, "and may God look after you."
     "It's all right, it's all right," Billy reassured them. "It'll be all over soon." He extricated the little ones' hands and heaved himself up to the sanctuary of the trap.
     Billy, too, was struggling to contain his emotions. But, on no account, could he cry in front of Ken or his father. Grown men didn't cry in public-especially soldiers.
     "Git up there Jilly," Sam said. "And good luck to you all."
     Jilly set off at a lively clip. All waved goodbye once more.
     "Parting is always hard," Sam said
     Billy looked back at the disheveled, ragged appearance of the warm, closely knit family he loved so much. By pony and trap was a lovely way to travel. Scenery could be appreciated and admired at leisure. Jilly, the beautiful roan pony knew this road well. Sam allowed her to travel at her own pace. He had a great fondness for the pony. Everyone had.
     "When will we travel this road again?" Ken pondered aloud.
     "Everyone says it should be over soon," Billy replied.
     "I'd say it will; it won't last too long more," Sam said with conviction. "The British Empire, France, Russia-too many big powers on the one side."
     "I hope it won't be over before we get there," Ken remarked eagerly. "I just can't wait."
     "We'll see a bit of the world. We'll have some great stories to tell when we get back," Billy stated with enthusiasm.
     "Learn to keep your heads down and don't be acting the heroes; that's my advice to you," Sam warned.
     Halfway to Clonmel they halted to give Jilly a brief rest. Sam had a nosebag of oats in the trap which he draped over the pony's head. She munched away on the oats. Ken opened a small parcel. He handed Billy a bottle of lemonade and took one himself. Sam accepted and uncorked a bottle of stout. Ken passed around some sandwiches. Billy thanked him, thinking to himself that this was a nice gesture.
     They eventually got to Clonmel and crossed the old bridge leading to the main section of the town. They heard rousing marching music and saw people standing on the footpaths. They pulled over to a little green patch-allowing Jilly to graze-and got out to have a look. The army was on parade and getting closer. Billy's nerves tingled with excitement. An officer, mounted on a grey horse led the parade, followed by a brass band, the colour party and the ranks of marching soldiers. It was an impressive and glorious sight. The onlookers applauded, clapping their hands. Perhaps it was orchestrated as a recruitment drive; whatever, it was a memory to cherish.
     Getting near their destination Billy said he'd hop out and allow Sam and Ken the opportunity to say their goodbyes in private. He thanked Sam, who in turn wished Billy the best of luck, telling him to look after himself. It wasn't long before the two friends were reunited and they entered the military barracks together. What an adventure awaited them! The significance of it all was taking time to register. Going overseas; going off to war. Wasn't it what the politicians and clergy were urging men like Billy to do. Go and fight for the freedom of small nations. Fight for little Catholic Belgium.
     On to Queenstown by rail and then by boat to Liverpool. Billy and Ken were fascinated by all the new things they were now experiencing. They were never on a ship before. A crewman warned them that there was always the danger of the ship being torpedoed. The German U-boats were creating havoc. Ken got seasick. "Christ I'm dying," he said, his face having turned green. Then the final trek of their journey, on to Aldershot. Ardfinnan seemed a long way off now. The masses of military men were everywhere, all preparing to embark for France. The war was on everyone's lips. Nobody spoke about anything else. Ken got a black eye; he had a fistfight with a Dubliner who called him a thick, ignorant, country bogman.

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The Greek
By Elaine Rosenberg Miller

     His narrow rib cage, emphasized by his bustier, reminded her of a twelve year old girl's.
     When he wasn't wearing a costume (the green velvet gown was his favorite) he wore jeans and a shirt.
     But it was the dress that made him come alive.
     It graced the sodden, snowy streets of the city where they attended university.
     The sun rarely shone in the winter months.
     The air seemed filled with smells of sulfur and wet wool.
     When it snowed, it snowed for hours, days. The white mass rose higher and higher, covering the cars and reaching the second stories of the old houses. Incongruously (for the weather was inhospitable for most of the year), many of the houses had wide porches. Those on the street where she lived were set back from the curb, isolated from each other.
     He was Greek.
     He came from an immigrant family downstate.
     I bet he doesn't wear those dresses at home, she mused. His father would kill him.
     She thought that he knew it as well and that it fueled his whirlwind behavior of exhibitions and entertainment.
     He was the first homosexual that she had ever met.
     The neighborhood where she grew up was filled with religious, somberly garbed men. One sect had side curls so long that they swung across their breast when they walked. When they viewed her coming down the street, they left the sidewalk and walked in the roadway, even though she was modestly dressed herself.
     At first, she thought, George is a hero.
     He has confronted his inner desires, she told herself. Quel courage! (Two years of college French and a summer abroad had equipped her to use the occasional Gallic phrase.)
     George was acerbic.
     (He's candid! Honest. Tells the truth!)
     He twitched.
     (Energetic.)
     He was engaged in frenzied activities.
     (He's adventuresome!)
     Was witty.
     He was mean.
     Sometimes, she felt that she had had her fill of him but then the motherly, nurturing side of her overcame her and she continued to spend time with him, accompany him to parties. Especially when he wore the emerald colored dress.
     When George wore the dress and his stubble was at its darkest and his curls, their wildest, she felt as if he were making a bold statement. Slight of build, clearly a man, he dared the world to say something to him, confront him.
     They never did.
     At home, she rarely opposed her domineering father or tried to communicate with her passive mother. She had long ago ceased seeking their approval. Yet, she knew that she carried them within her and being with George was an act of rebellion and rejection of their conformity.
     Then, one day, she decided to change George, to make him desire women.
     He's very masculine, she thought. He just hasn't met the right girl.
     She knew that he liked her. Despite the fact that he was rude to her, he kept returning. He had exhausted all his other friends, who eventually left him, including another young man who also wore a dress. He, though, failed to impress her as George had, with his Medusa-like coiffure and swarthy looks. He had just been a skinny boy with strangely clumping brown hair and uneven features.
     One day, George brought over a box of cupcakes.
     She was surprised. He rarely showed consideration.
     They talked or rather, she talked as he spit out short sentences and his shoulders rose and fell electrically.
     It was a gray day, yet somehow within her nondescript bedroom, it was cozy. She burned an almond scented candle and sat cross legged on her chenille bedspread.
     George smoked a cigarette.
     He rose and went to her bookshelf and withdrew a volume.
     In a soft, calm voice, he read a poem.
     Suddenly, he looked as handsome as a classic sculpture. His beautiful profile, his gallant head, bent over the book. His long, sensitive fingers followed the text.
     She lay back on her bed.
     He reached out and touched her hair strewn across the pillows.
     He leaned over and kissed her on the lips.
     She felt as if she were being kissed by a child.
     She moved over, as if to make room for him.
     Neither spoke.
     He lay alongside her.
     Her legs extended past his. She smiled.
     He turned to her.
     Slowly.
     He kissed her again.
     This time, with greater force.
     She knew that if she spoke, he would leave.
     She placed her hands between his legs.
     He shuddered.
     His kisses were harder and harder.
     She fumbled with his zipper.
     He placed his hands on her breast, her hips, exploring her woman's body, memorizing her anatomy.
     She touched, his warm, flush organ. She heard him groan.
     Suddenly, they heard a door slam.
     The others had come home.
     He rolled off her and jumped up, as light as a fairy, quickly fastening his pants.
     She sat up.
     "We're going to the club tonight. If you want to come," he said, over his shoulder, as he danced out of the room.
     "Sure," she said to his departing shadow.

The End
 
Cold Metal Wings
By Robert Klein Engler

     Again, in the elevator, there is the odor of piss and Pinesol. I notice it every time I visit my mother at Westhaven Nursing Home. Mother's health had been going from bad to worse, so my sister and I reluctantly put her in this nursing home six months ago. Now, I go visit her once a week and try to talk to her about what she used to do. I try to give back to her the memories that sickness and old age day by day take away. I feel like I'm doing the work of Penelope in reverse. What the days unravel, I try to weave back together on weekends.
     It was at Westhaven that I first asked my mother about the man by the window who sat alone looking at the sky.
     "Oh, that's Sergeant Rockwell," she said indifferently. She then advised me to stay away from him.
      "He's always angry," she added.
      I looked over to Rockwell and told mother he did not look angry to me, just old.
      "That, too," she said.
      When it was time to take my mother back to her room, I made a point of rolling her by the window where Rockwell sat. I stopped her wheelchair in front of the window and turned her so she looked out at the sky as well. Rockwell wore the light blue pajamas supplied by the nursing home and a darker blue robe with a few food stains on the front. His hair was thin and gray with a trace of being blond once, and his eyes glinted when I looked into them and nodded. There was a flash of recognition between us. I said "Hello," and he said the same. I noticed he had a small pink triangle pinned to the left lapel of his robe. I wondered where he got that pin and if my mother knew what it meant.
     When I got back to my mother's room I asked about the pink triangle. "I don't know," she said, "I think it's something to do with the war. He was in the Pacific during the war, just like your uncle. I heard him talking to one of the nurses about flying or something. I think he worked on airplanes. I didn't know they let people like him in the Navy."
*****
     All during the Second World War people listened to the radio for news of the battles, and for music to take their minds off the battles. They were wooden radios. Some were shaped like the vaults of a Gothic cathedral and sat atop a table under an embroidered doily. Others were large as cabinets and filled the corner of a room. They had names like "RCA Victor" and "Zenith." I liked the way the word "Zenith" began with a big letter "Z" that looked like a bolt of lightning. In those days nobody even imagined a radio or a TV could be made in Japan.
     Then, as now, people mostly liked love songs. Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers got their start in Minnesota and eventually broadcast love songs and dance music all over the country. Sergeant Rockwell remembered the armed forces radio playing the music of Welk along with songs by Kay Kaiser and the College of Musical Knowledge, while he drank beers in the NCO's club at Henderson Field. The love songs on the radio were food for his soul then. They were broadcast from New York City, across the country, to San Francisco and then to the troops in the Pacific. These songs were like ambrosia for gods who were likewise broken hearted but immortal.
      After they dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, Sergeant Rockwell told me he was discharged from the service. He couldn't find work at home after that, and stayed in his room in Detroit listening to the radio. Rockwell was twenty-eight, decorated, a veteran, but he had a broken heart and was gay, and thought he might never love again. He would lay on his bed, smoke Lucky Strikes and try to remember his lover Ensign "Splash" Jackson's eyes, his arms, and his warm taste. The problem was there wasn't even a grave to visit. Ensign Jackson went down in flames over the South Pacific and only his wingman knew for sure where his plane entered the water. Sergeant Rockwell hoped Ensign Jackso was transformed instantly to smoke. He hoped the translation from life to death was as easy as a kiss.
     The cigarette smoke curled up in the closed air of his bedroom in Detroit like clouds over Kansas, or clouds over the Coral Sea. Rockwell would lay back and try to remember this as Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers played their songs. Then the Andrew Sisters started to sing "Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me."
     "I made it home, others didn't, Sergeant Rockwell said. "There was no one waiting for me, no apple tree, no direction, nothing I wanted to do except listen to the radio and smoke cigarettes. I decided one day I would move to the West Coast. San Francisco seemed nice when I was there for a week while being discharged."
*****
     A few days later, I went to the hobby shop in my old neighborhood to buy a model of a Hellcat. My plan was to give the model plane to Sergeant Rockwell. I remember walking past this very same store as a boy. I would look in the window at all the miniature planes and go home to count my nickels and dimes. Which one would I be able to buy? Which one could I save enough money for? My paper route didn't give me very much to spend.
      As I approached the store I noticed the theater and candy store that used to stand on the corner of Sixty-third and Kedzie had been torn down and replaced by a modern, fast food restaurant. It was a bright red building, the type they would build in about a month or two, and most of the lot was given over to parking. There was just enough room for a few outdoor tables with red awnings where people ate their chicken sandwiches, sipped their Cokes, and watched the traffic go by. There also used to be a stationery store where the parking lot sits. My mother worked there as a clerk while I was in college. Now, the wide sky shines over a flat, black parking lot as if this were the only thing the earth under these cars ever held.
     Once I enter the hobby shop, I look over boxes of model planes. One box had a picture of the F6F on the ground. The plane was fully armed, with rockets and bombs. Another box, had a wonderful picture of a Hellcat flying with full armament in the red and cloudy dawn of the South Pacific. The cockpit was open and the pilot looked out at you with all the beauty and arrogance of one knowing what he can do best is exactly what he is doing now. His goggles were raised above his eyes and he smiled as I supposed Ensign Splash Jackson would smile. I bought this one for seven dollars, along with a tube of glue and some small jars of paint.

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Home is the Sailor from the Sea
By Tom Sheehan

     At the Rialto Saloon in Point of Interest, Nevada, after what was undoubtedly a difficult ride for most horsemen, Burl Edwards, a Navy veteran, had ridden from San Francisco just to lean on this bar before he headed home. Here he had had his last drink with his father, Sullivan Edwards, some eight or nine years earlier, in 1874, an unsettled adventurous spirit taking him off to sea. Now he was but ten miles from home after a trip nobody else in the room or in all of Nevada might have accomplished. It was not just the rough 500 miles from Mares Island Naval Base to Point of Interest, Nevada ... with some other interests en route. This sailor'd been farther and deeper into dangers, made tougher decisions that others' lives depended on, seen more of the top of the world than all the Rialto customers put together, and survived where none of them likely would have come out alive. Rough and ready was he, a sense of timing built into his make-up, and an innate ability to see what made some men tick in their roles in life.
     There were times that sense proved some men were lacking where others were heroic. Life in many places is accompanied by chance, and what else you might find around it. The young but experienced Edwards might have said, anytime he was back in America proper, "I've been there and seen most all of it," or what might sound like that.
     Perhaps it was an element of temperament and taste, or the devouring curiosity that comes with adventure, or a hunger for other and newer space, but Burl Edwards, armed with these attributes, was one tough dude, though he was not a dude; not in the least, and not because of the clothes he wore, or the manner he dressed in them. Something about him said, along with his actions, a full statement about himself: "I can make myself at home anyplace I drop the reins or serve my thirst. On my hip I carry a Navy Colt .44 revolver a dying shipmate gave me with his last breath, his very last breath, just an hour before I slipped his body off a huge icepack into Alaskan waters with a commensurate salute."
     Three of the Rialto's working women had immediately and with some admiration looked upon Burl Edwards as a stranger, and a new breeder type; he was a picture for them, clean-shaven, showing blond curls on his neck and at his collar, blue eyes that could open conversations from either side of a meeting of the sexes, long and rugged fingers showing a bit of foreign-earned music in their simple application of holding a glass, just the way some women might envision such a grace. The handsomeness of the man was very apparent to them, enough to make them stare dreamily at him, life being unsettled enough as it was in the daily grind.
     Burl Edwards, for sure, had raised all eyebrows at his entrance to the Rialto with the odd mixture of clothes on his rugged frame, salvaged from his navy career, over for good now that he was home, though his garb had not called for "all" the attention. He wore a Russian fur hat, an Eskimo sealskin vest and a pair of spurred boots bought from the widow of a man killed in a gunfight, and carried a rifle that had not been used for a thousand miles plus and for which he paid $10 in a used gun shop. The boots had been the best deal of all.
     He was comfortable with his clothes and gear though he was fully aware of the odd looks he was receiving. Such looks or passive curiosity, as it proved, did nothing for him, coming or going, and the whiskey at hand settled an old argument within him: anything out of the ordinary is unusual with some people his shipmates had dubbed "half-souls."
     The bartender said, as he poured another drink, "You sure enjoyed that drink, Mister, so the next one's on me. You passing through Point of Interest? I think a good drink is worth a little light conversation when all these other dudes are hard at messing up their day." He released a short harumph of a laugh. "My name's Max Gilbert and I own the place."
     "Then you've been here no more than eight or so years," Edwards said, much to Gilbert's delight.
     "You've been here before and you hit the time right almost on the minute hand. I'm coming up on five minutes to eight years owning the whole thing." His smile was still in place as he spread his arms after looking at his pocket watch.
     "You bought it from Silky Smithers. Is that right?"
     Edwards had the drink to his lips when Gilbert shook off the question by saying, "In a manner of speaking. I won it in a card game, a game that Silky should not have been in." No explanation followed, and Gilbert walked away as though a mystery should remain a mystery.
     Edwards, at that point, was a mystery to the bartender and to all the patrons in the saloon; he didn't recognize a single one of them though looks came furtive, sidelong, looking for some kind of information that might feed the general curiosity abounding in the room as though he was supposed to alleviate all their questions.
     He could have done that so easily. About eight years earlier he had wandered away from town and eventually ended up on the Jeannette, a bark-rigged wooden steamship he knew had been built in England in 1861. It was commissioned as the British gun vessel Pandora and was sold in 1875 for an Arctic voyage. A New York newspaper owner, James Bennett, eventually purchased the boat in 1878 and renamed her Jeannette. She was sailed from Europe under control of the U. S. Navy's Lieutenant George Delong who had planned with Bennett to use the ship to try to get to the North Pole. Under an agreement, the Navy provided officers and crew for the North Pole expedition, Bennett paying for all other expenses. The Jeanette was refitted at the Mare Island Navy Yard in San Francisco Bay with new boilers and other equipment, and the hull was heavily reinforced to withstand and navigate among Arctic icepacks, which constantly endangered ships in northern waters.
     In July, 1879 the Jeannette, under DeLong's command and according to her log book, sailed with four other Navy officers, twenty-three enlisted men, one being Burl Edwards, and three civilians. Visiting Alaska, she stopped at Unalaska and Saint Michael, where two Inuit dog drivers with their dogs and sleds joined the boat's complement. The Jeannette then called on an eastern Siberian port to refuel, went through the Bering Strait and headed for Wrangell Island in Alaskan waters. The ship was frozen in the icepack on September 6, 1879 but was carried the next twenty-two months by drifting ice for several hundred miles in a northwestward direction, until June 12, 1881. That day her hull was smashed open by the crush of ice and she sank the next day after all boats, equipment and provisions were off-loaded for a long journey on foot across ice to reach open water north of Siberia.

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Peeling Oranges
by James Lawless
Peeling Oranges tells the story of how Derek Foley, while sifting through his late father's diaries and his mother's correspondence with an IRA man, discovers that Patrick Foley, a diplomat in Franco's Spain, was not really his father. Derek's mother, who is ailing, is unwilling to discuss the past, forcing her son on a quest that will plunge him into the early history of Irish diplomacy, taking him to Spain and later to Northern Ireland, until he discovers who his real father was—with tragic consequences. Peeling Oranges is a novel full of personal and political intrigue, fraught with ideology, as it intersects the histories of two emergent nations—Ireland and Spain. It is also a beautiful and lyrically written love story of childhood sweethearts—the apolitical Derek and the passionate nationalist, Sinéad Ní Shúilleabháin.
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Postcards from the Line of Demarcation  
by Branch Isole
At various times in our lives we arrive at precipice points whether by choice or requirement and we look over the edge of our existence. When this Line of Demarcation becomes self evident, we are faced with our mortality, morality and soul filling humanity. How we respond in that moment of decision determines not only who we are, but who we will become in the next moment, and in all those to follow. All Branch Isole books and ebooks available at www.branchisole.com
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