Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Editor's Corner

June 2011

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. -Aristotle, philosopher (384-322 BCE)

Yes, definitely June. Scorching 100+ temps here in our western Texas neighborhood, which is of course, still triggering wild fires, especially when the wind gusts go above 30mph, as they frequently do. Perfect month for a vacation, right? So, naturally, the prices at the pump have already escalated and promise to reach even higher. None the less, travel is on the agenda for many, and we applaud those with the backbone to follow their plan regardless of the oil barons. After all, June is THE wedding month of the year, and many will be heading off on their honeymoon, or second honeymoon, be that as it may. Why discourage them from that dream?

Getting to this month's contents, we lead with one article, the true tale of someone often believed to be only a nursery rhyme character. You will love the truth revealed by Eric Shackle in "Was Little Miss Muffet a Local Girl?" He also brings us up to date on some recent events in "Eric Shackle's Column."

Gerard Meister returns with his column "Thinking Out Loud," and that delights your editor. His humor can't be equaled. Many look forward to Leo C. Helmer's light hearted recipes, for the story as much as the recipe itself, which is "Chocolate Chip Pancakes" in "Cookin' With Leo."

Thomas F. O'Neill enlightens us on his current occupation as a teacher in China. The more we learn, the more we realize how much alike we all are, so don't miss "Introspective." Peg Jones had a painful experience which she shares and also reveals how the angels helped her process her feelings about it in "Angel Whispers."

Mattie Lennon brings us some insight into Ireland's "Listowel Writers' Week" in "Irish Eyes." A playwright himself, he takes us behind the scenes.

LC Van Savage has returned to our pages and brings us "Consider This" with a touching tale. She also is showing one of her whimsical poems, "The Berries." Some may not know that she has published one volume of poetry, unless they read her bio. The bio's should be checked out for all the authors and is easily found by clicking on their byline.

John I. Blair has poetry for all seasons. His bird watching leads to an awareness of all forms and phases of life, upon which he is able to touch that one point of uniqueness and wrap it into his poetry. His poems for June are: "Gecko," "Cuckoo," "Arietta," "On Rainy Nights," "Arkansas River Valley," and "Summer Afternoon," which echoes our thoughts on heat.

M. Jay Mansfield's poems for this issue are: "Can't You See," "5 a.m., " "Worship (it's the way I am)," "There Is," and "Venom." Welcome back Jay aka FireEagle. Bruce Clifford shares these poems: "Things Since Then," and "It's Hard to Say." Thank you, Bruce, we know it's a busy season for you.

June Hogue who has been published in pencilstubs before, looks back on how "In Flanders Fields: The Memorial Day Poem" marked a turning point in her family, And
Denise Sebastian brings us another of her romantic short stories she calls 'trysts.' You will find "A Walk on the Edge" rather dreamlike - did it happen, or not?

The continuing story by Mark Crocker, "Rabbo Tales," adds Chapter 10, "Tears" of this adult fantasy, with the main character becoming more adept each chapter.

We will be combining the July and August issues into one, to be released the first of July. Your editor will have eye surgery during each of those two months, so authors are urged to send in early, and plentifully by June 24th. See you then!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.
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Was Little Miss Muffet a Local Girl?

This story was first posted in 2001, in the Brookmans Park (London) newsletter.

Dr. Thomas Muffet, who lived in Brookmans Park in the 16th century, would have been delighted to see a news item featured on this website of his old hometown. Under the headline Rare hornet found in Brookmans Park, it says "A hornet seldom seen in England has been captured in Brookmans Park. A resident living in Woodlands spotted the large insect flying around his kitchen."

The website also shows a page of colour photographs of local insects, most of which he would have recognised, for he was a famous entomologist, who wrote The Theatre of Insects, the first scientific catalogue of British native species.

Many Brookmans Park residents believe the good doctor, who lived from 1553 to 1604, was the father of Little Miss Muffet, and that he had composed the cute little nursery rhyme which millions of children around the world have recited since his day:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider, who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

One theory suggests that his daughter Patience was Little Miss Muffet, but as the oldest printed version of the rhyme is dated 1805, that seems unlikely. Muffet had no children of his own; and the two stepdaughters from his second marriage to a widow named Catherine Brown would probably have been Little Miss Browns.

In that case, the doctor would have written Little Miss Brown / Went to Town...

A second theory was that Little Miss Muffet referred to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), who was said to have been frightened by John Knox (1505-1572), Scottish religious reformer. The rhyme might then have been Along came John Knox / That wily old fox.. The 1812 edition of Songs for the Nursery has a rhyme telling us that Little Mary Ester sat upon a tester. Thirty years later, Halliwell's 1842 collection included Little Miss Mopsey sat in a shopsey.

Curds and whey, the dish Little Miss Muffet enjoyed was none other than junket, a custard-like food made of sweetened milk, which is better-known in Britain than in America. It got its name because it was taken to market in little reed baskets called jonquettes (from Latin joncus, reed.) Jonquil has a similar derivation.
These days, junket describes a politician's luxury trip charged to the taxpayers. That use of the word dates back to 1814, when a picnic basket was known as a junket basket. The politicians were having a picnic at public expense. Curds and whey was also an old name for cottage cheese, the curds being lumpy and the whey milky.

There's doubt too, as to what sort of tuffet Little Miss Muffet sat on. It could have been either a low three-legged stool or a small mound of grass-covered earth. You can buy the former kind today from dozens of furniture suppliers advertising them on the internet.

The Little Miss Muffet mystery was revived last week (June 2001) in the London Times, in an article headed Riddle of Dr Moufet's vanishing mole kricket. Mark Henderson, the newspaper's science correspondent, and Mia Jarlov wrote:

"The mole cricket (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa) was named in 1634 by the entomologist Thomas Moufet (from whom Little Miss Muffet got her name) in The Theatre of Insects, the first scientific catalogue of British native species. The name comes from the spade-like front legs with which it makes underground burrows similar to miniature molehills.

"Dr Moufet wrote: 'If we make names, we may call it Gryllotalpa; a Mole kricket, a Kricket because it makes the same shrill noyse which a Kricket doth towards night; a Mole, because it digs the earth continually. It is an insect ugly to sight and monstrous.'"

Researchers from the Natural History Museum, English Nature and London Zoo have asked the public to help compile a national census of mole crickets, known in Britain since the 16th century but sighted only four times in the last 25 years.

Dr Muffet didn't spend all his time studying insects. In 1595 he wrote in Health's Improvement: "[Sweet potatoes] nourish mightily...engendering much flesh, blood, and seed, but withal encreasing wind and lust."

You can't believe everything you read on the internet, but one website tells us that in those days, doctors in England used spiders as medicine. "To treat a fever, a doctor would roll a spider in bread crumbs and feed it to the patient," it asserts. "Dr. Thomas Muffet admired spiders so much, he kept them as pets and let them have the run of his house. His daughter, Patience Muffet, did not share her father's love of spiders.”

Another site says "Miss Muffet was a really little girl. Her father, Dr. Thomas Muffet, was a medical doctor and an expert on spiders. He believed that eating mashed spiders was a cure for the common cold. It was said that Miss Muffet ate her share of mashed spiders."

Yet another site says "Miss Muffet was a 16th century little girl whose name was Patience. Her father, Dr. Thomas Muffet (possibly Moffett or Moufet), an entomologist who died in 1604, wrote The Silkworms and their flies 'lively described in verse.' Patience did not share her father's love of bugs. One morning while eating breakfast, one of her father's bugs appeared. She leapt up spilling the curds and whey and ran out of the house."

The U.S. website Planet Proctor tells an even better story. "This once-famous 16th century naturalist got the notion that spiders were not only beautiful but therapeutic," it claims. "He turned a bunch of them loose in his house and when his little daughter got sick, he emptied a sackful of them on her head and body, thinking they would make her well. They didn't. She was terrified. The father was Thomas Muffet, the daughter the real-life Little Miss Muffet."

Planet Proctor promotes famous U.S. film and TV personality Phil Proctor, who supplies a voice for such animated series as Rugrats and The Tick and is featured in the Rugrats movie. He won praise in the summer of 1998 for his voice work as the drunken monkey in the Eddie Murphy movie Dr. Dolittle. By a happy coincidence, Phil and David Ossman also lend their voices to the Disney/Pixar animated movie A Bug's Life.

Back to Little Miss Muffet: In 1893, American poet Guy Wetmore Carryl (1873-1904) composed an engaging poem, which deserves to be reprinted here. It's full of clever rhymes reminiscent of W.S. Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, who wrote, in the Lord Chancellor's song from Iolanthe, “When you're lying awake, with a dismal headache"

The Embarrassing Episode of Little Miss Muffet
By Guy Wetmore Carryl

Little Miss Muffet discovered a tuffet,
(Which never occurred to the rest of us)
And, as 'twas a June day, and just about noonday,
She wanted to eat - like the rest of us:
Her diet was whey, and I hasten to say
It is wholesome and people grow fat on it.
The spot being lonely, the lady not only
Discovered the tuffet, but sat on it.

A rivulet gabbled beside her and babbled,
As rivulets always are thought to do,
And dragon flies sported around and cavorted,
As poets say dragon flies ought to do;
When, glancing aside for a moment, she spied
A horrible sight that brought fear to her,
A hideous spider was sitting beside her,
And most unavoidably near to her!

Albeit unsightly, this creature politely, said:
"Madam, I earnestly vow to you,
I'm penitent that I did not bring my hat.
I should otherwise certainly bow to you."
Thought anxious to please, he was so ill at ease
That he lost all his sense of propriety,
And grew so inept that he clumsily stept
In her plate - which is barred in Society.

This curious error completed her terror;
She shuddered, and growing much paler, not
Only left tuffet, but dealt him a buffet
Which doubled him up in a sailor knot.
It should be explained that at this he was pained:
He cried: "I have vexed you, no doubt of it!
Your fists's like a truncheon." "You're still in my luncheon,"
Was all that she answered. "Get out of it!"

And the Moral is this: Be it madam or miss
To whom you have something to say,
You are only absurd when you get in the curd
But you're rude when you get in the whey.

Footnote: There's an enchanting painting of Little Miss Muffet by Scott Gustafson on the Internet. The caption reads, "There are so many light and interesting touches in this beautifully colored and bordered work. She sits in a formal garden of the 18th century, next to her faithful King Charles Spaniel. A suave little spider has come to 'sit down beside her' but perhaps this Miss Muffet will not be frightened away. Scott says: 'The sheet music at her feet is a Tarantella, a popular dance of the period that, according to folklore, when danced wards off the effects of the venomous bite of a tarantula. Whether or not that's true I don't know, but it was a nice musical tie-in to the spidery theme I was painting.'"

Cookin' With Leo

By Leocthasme

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Well now, here is somethin' fer all you younguns, what never heard of Betty Crocker®, whoever, an all her sweet little grandma style goodies what dates back to the radio days of yesteryear, before TV that is, whenever..Way back somewhere about 1930 when radio was the only thing what ma could listen to while she was doing dishes, washing clothes, mopping the floors, and in general working her tail off for all the kids and her ol' man, while they were at school and he was at work, if there was work, maybe he got on a WPA crew and made about two bits a hour. Hell, that was good money back then, my first job paid 20 cents a hour. So times were tough as whenever Republicans rule the roost. Let's face it they just don't like us po' folks gettin' ahead. They just like rich folks gettin' richer, was the same then as now. Taft, Harding, an' Hoover done made them rich richer and when rich folks get money they usually salt it away. What ever makes them politicians think it ever trickles down? What maybe trickles down is the loose change what might fall out of their deep pockets.

Well anyway, let's get back to our dear sweet original grandma Betty, she was on some of them radio shows what mom could listen to and she was spoutin' off about this new, easy to do , biscuit mix, just add a bit of water, milk, an egg or two and presto, you had biscuits, pancakes, waffles and pie crust, and much more if'n you got creative, whatever. So, let's go check out this nice big recipe book what came from Betty Crocker®'s Original scrumptious mixin's an' toss up a batch of Pancakes what's got chocolate chips in 'em.

Here is what you need:

    2 cups original Betty's Bisquick®
    1 cup milk
    2 eggs
    � cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

That was easy wasn't it?
Ok, let's do it:

In a mixing bowl mix together the Bisquick®, milk, and eggs until well blended, now stir in the chocolate chips. Brush a nonstick griddle with a bit of butter or oil and heat to 350º's Farenheit. For each pancake pour about a bit less than ½ cup of batter into the heated pan Cook until edges are dry then flip over to finish to a golden brown. Serve 'em up hot with some butter melted on top and cover with some maple syrup.

Enjoy Betty's Recipes An'
Take Care Now, Ya' heah!

Click on Leocthasme for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

How Do You Pronounce Lyreacrompane?

We’ve had visits from Queen Elizabeth, David Cameron and Barack Obama but now it’s time for the highlight of my social calendar. By the time you read this I expect to be at Listowel Writers’ Week. It’s been opened, this year, by Jimmy Deenihan T.D. who is now Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaelic Affairs.

At the first Writers’ Week in 1971 Bryan McMahon advised that, for its continued growth, it, was important that the organisers should not forget their roots and should foster a democratic spirit. Or as he put it, “Keep one foot in the cow dung.” His advice was taken on board; one thing you won’t find , at Writers’ Week, is a snob. I have many happy memories of Writers’ Week. One in particular stands out.

It was the Wednesday after Writers’ Week in the mid eighties. I went into Lynche’s Coffee Shop in Listowel with my wife and young son. There was one other customer there; a talkative Kerryman, with a lived-in face, smoking a Meerschaum pipe. The soft tweed hat, good quality casual apparel and general demeanour spelled cosmopolitan.

The voice I recognised from Radio Eireann. I had fallen in love with the compositions of Sean McCarthy, singer, songwriter and raconteur when first I heard an off-key rendition of Red Haired Mary after- hours in a West Wicklow pub Now, having met the man face to face I wanted to do something to further promote his work.

I compiled and presented a programme, The Songs of Sean McCarthy which was broadcast by RTE Radio One. In the course of research I learned that he left home at 14 and walked to Limerick to join the Irish army. He was, of course, turned down.

He was later conscripted into the British army and became, in his own words, a “reluctant soldier.”

He ran the Crubeen Club, at Clapton Junction, in London, worked on building sites, sang, told stories and wrote 164 songs. And when he got married, aged 48, he described himself as a “Happily-married bachelor.”

I unearthed the stories behind the now familiar songs, most of them sad. (Euin McColl once asked him, ”why does somebody have to die in all your songs.?”)

In Shame Love In Shame was written to try and rid himself of the anger brought about by society’s attitude to a tragedy in his own family.

The inspiration for John O’ Halloran was a chance meeting with an old toil-worn Kerryman in the Mother Redcap in Camden Town.

"The Key Above The Door", Encompasses the titles of the works of Maurice Walshe with whom Sean shared a profound sense of place. Maurice said " A place acquires an entity of its own, an entity that is the essence of all the life and thoughts and grief's and joys that have gone before." And Sean was in total agreement with that sentiment.

Shanagolden, written in a Manhatten high-rise apartment was a story heard in a Limerick field 25 years before.

Researching the life, times and work of the man who described himself as, “a Kerry bogman, who couldn’t spell, typed with one finger and had no idea where commas went,” created a mountain of source-material.

So, through a mixture of ignorance, arrogance and a genuine desire to see the life and works of Sean McCarthy portrayed on the stage I wrote a play called And All his Songs Were Sad. If I were to say, “ It lay in a drawer for years,” that would sound plausible . .. if clichéd. The truth is I sent the script to countless theatre companies . . .until . . . I got an email from the Pantagleize Theatre Company in Fort Worth, Texas to say they were putting on the World Premier of “my play” to launch their European Master Series on 20th March 2010 and later they ran it from September 16th to October 03rd..

My script, including stage directions, must have been all right, because I only got one trans- Atlantic phone-call during rehearsals. It was from Richard Blake, the Technical Director; a Texan actor had asked him how to pronounce “Lyreacrompane.”

See pic Below: Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaelic Affairs.

Click on Mattie Lennon for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.


By Thomas F. O'Neill

The future looks brighter from Suzhou, China

I have been teaching in Suzhou, China for two years now and my fourth semester is now coming to an end. In all my classes I have students that stand out from the rest. It’s mostly due to the questions they ask or their sense of humor. It reminds me of my college days before most of my students were born. I had the same curiosities and thirst for knowledge that I am witnessing in my students.

I find however that many students in China seem more sophisticated than I was at their age. They are not shy about pulling out an iPhone in the middle of a classroom debate in order to back up the facts to their side of the argument. They seem to be putting their technological gizmos to good use and today’s technology is progressing education in leaps and bounds.

Religion comes up quite often in my classes and it’s always a hot button issue. In the beginning of each semester a new student will ask what my religious beliefs are. I always tell them that I was born and raised Roman Catholic. Several students will then bless themselves to evoke a laugh either from me or their fellow students.

I tell my students that I am no longer a practicing Catholic but I’m always open and honest about my spirituality. I was surprised at first about how knowledgeable they are about the current problems facing the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. They always bring up the decline of the Churches influence in the world.

Students always ask me if I’m an atheist and my response is usually - Life and god are one and the same to me and that I can't separate my life from the life of others.

A young female student said, “so you are a Buddhist.”

I told her I don’t have religious beliefs and I tried to the best of my ability to explain that we are simply sharing god's life. I experience my existence and the existence of all things as the subtle altruistic outreach of god’s love. I went on to say that I have a deep intuitive awareness of my spirituality and the spirituality that is within others

“But that is religion,” a male student said with frustration in his voice.

I don’t believe in religion I told the class once again. I cannot contain god in religious beliefs, buildings, creeds, dogmas, or religious institutions because god transcends all religion. The love that is within us cannot be contained in our beliefs or faith in what god ought to be in our lives. God is the eternal sustenance that sustains us and all things. God is the essence of our eternal love which transcends all human beliefs and faith.

“How can you say that when there are such atrocities throughout the world? If what you believe were to be true than we would all be living in paradise,” another male student said.

Many of those atrocities were committed in the name of religion, I said. It all comes down to beliefs and free will. Evil is the result of a perversion of the human will. We are all free to think and do as we please but for every action there is a reaction. The consequences of those actions whether they are good or bad will always come back to us.

I may not be a religious person but I am spiritual in nature. I told the class, my spirituality is what I experience with each second, minute, and day. I try my best to explain that my spirituality is not something I believe in or have faith in. It’s something I experience and come to know within me. It’s simply life itself because I experience it as a living being. We are not set apart from god because god is the intimate and eternal life that is within us and around us.

Questions and debates on whether there is an afterlife always come up in my class as well. I always tell my students that I’m not an expert on death but rather an apprentice in life. With each second, minute, and day I am learning how to live. I like to think of humanity as our significant other. We may come into the world as separate human beings but humanity is never truly apart from us. When we reach out and touch others, we touch part of the humanity that is within us. When we open ourselves up to love others, we in turn allow ourselves to be loved. When we care for others, we allow ourselves to be cared for. We are not just human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey. We need others in order to learn and grow not only in knowledge but in greater self-awareness.

“America is a Christian Nation,” a male student said, “so I’m sure many people in America don’t think like you.”

When it comes to the reality of life, I said - there are only two opposing views. One view is - there are no miracles in life and the other view is - life is a miracle. It is within these two opposing views that I have chosen to live my life. We are the hands of god -- one hand is used to build a better life for ourselves and the other hand is used to build a better life for others. I do not seek to be understood by words alone because I believe it is best to teach by example.

“In China many don’t believe in Religion,” a female student said, “but many believe in Karma. When you do good - goodness is returned to you.”

I have experienced that in my own life, I said. A truly spiritual person does not seek conformity from others by imposing their will or beliefs on others. A person with a deep spiritual understanding will bring about positive change in the world by becoming the change that they would like to see in others.

“That is an idealistic way of thinking,” another female student said, “but there are so many problems in the world.”

If the world has become a dark place then it is our responsibility to become the light so that others can see more clearly, I said. Positive change cannot come about by forcing or imposing our way of life on others but rather it is achieved by living our life as we would want others to live their life; in doing so others will embrace and emulate our way of life.

“Religion in America has a tendency to impose their ways on to others,” a male student said, “the slaughter of the American Indians, your previous wars in Vietnam, Korea, and now your wars in Afghanistan and Iraqi. Isn’t that an example of a Religious Nation imposing its will and beliefs on other Nations?”

Yes, I can see many of America’s mistakes throughout history, I said. That is why it is best to live your individual lives as genuinely and authentically as possible. We are all spiritual by nature and by nature we are all uniquely endowed with extraordinary gifts and talents. The more self-aware we become the more aware we become of all we have to offer. We must also learn from History so that past atrocities’ will not be repeated.

“Average is a dominant gene trait” a female student said jokingly, “the problems of the world are caused by average people’s short sightedness. The world’s spiritual problems will always be beyond your pay grade no matter how far the value of the U.S. dollar drops.” That statement got a huge laugh from the class.

She then asked me, “Where do you find your inspiration?”

My inspiration comes mostly from my quite time and the interaction from my students, I said. The thought of knowing I am where I’m supposed to be and doing what I’m doing can be an inspiration as well.

I like to remind people that when the mind draws a blank to the world’s riddles it turns to the soul for answers for the soul knows what the mind seeks. Some people may call that intuition. I suppose my intuition and the gift of the imagination are my greatest abilities in expressing to others my perspective on life.

The class than quickly turned to the state of the global economy and the current cultural issues facing the world. The death of Osama Bin Laden became a resent hot topic in my classes as well.

Every semester I tell my students when it comes to life what we learn in the classroom will not define our lives. But rather how well we live our lives in communion with others will in the end define our true character and our true worth.

My students are brighter and more informed than I was at their age and that is a good thing. They have vast amounts of knowledge at their fingertips with their iPhones and various other gizmos. The questions they ask in class also reflect their curiosity about the deeper dimensions to life, their future, their nation’s future, and the future of the world and that is certainly a good thing.

Always with love from Suzhou, China,
Thomas F O’Neill

    Phone: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

    Click on Thomas F. O'Neill for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Consider This

By LC Van Savage

The Golden Girl

It was the l950's and all parents worried about it. After all, everyone now knew that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had caught it and had never walked again without heavy, painful braces on his legs and human props at his sides. If someone of his stature could have contracted Poliomyelitis, then it follows that no one could be safe. FDR died in 1945, and not of Polio but still, people were frightened.

Belle was the one. Nobody knew why. She'd swum in the same pools as all the other kids, gone to the same public places like movies and museums, picnics, playgrounds and dances. But Belle caught it, and no one else did.

She was well-named, was Belle. Tall and golden, and so intelligent it astonished everyone who chatted with her. Her hair was long and straight, thick, the color of tall grasses in the fall, and her eyes, widely spaced, took on the color of whatever sky Belle stood beneath.

She was one of those multi-gifted youngsters, so good at so many pursuits her parents frequently worried idly that she may never be able to settle on only one thing once she was finished college and ready to go out into the world. Their relief would have been great had they been able to read the future and see their beloved daughter would one day author 3 best sellers on important subjects, one written completely in French, and that she would teach at a fine and famous university.

Belle could play the piano perfectly without bothering to learn to read music. She won every school contest she ever entered--math, spelling, debate, writing, art, and so excelled at sports she never knew the meaning of junior varsity. Coaches chose her immediately for every team; schoolmates chose her immediately as captain.

And Belle was loved, which amazed, because it is the general rule that perfect golden girls are strictly disliked by their green-orbed contemporaries. But not Belle.

She had dozens of swains vying for her attentions, and so grateful for any glance or smile from her. These young boys all but fell to pieces when she agreed pleasantly to go to a dance or a movie with them.

And then, quite suddenly, Belle vanished one young spring and everyone wondered why and soon, everyone knew why. There were hushed conversations on phones and at gatherings on which Belle's friends eavesdropped, and they came away in great fear and terror of the iron lungs the adults whispered about.

Was Belle in one? Could she never breathe by herself again? Was she lying there silently on her back, staring up at the world in a tilted mirror? Would she never run or play or dance again? It was too horrible to think about so they would not think about it.

And they heard the word "therapy" a lot then in those quiet conversations they hid to listen to. A new word for them, and ominous sounding. They also heard the words "pain," and "paralysis" and "massages" and that quite soon there would be a vaccination or something, like all the kids got for Smallpox and which left a round, pearly scar on their upper arms or thighs.

Belle's young friends could not know then that she would one day walk, although her leg would have a terrible twist and bend to it and without a sturdy cane, she could go nowhere. They could not know their beloved friend would delightedly work that cane to great advantage all her adult life when she wanted a seat on a bus or a train, or when she chose to brandish it wildly above her head when she wanted to cross a crowded roadway, and she’d laugh delightedly when the cars screeched to a stop.

And then the word finally came that Belle was coming home for Christmas, two years after she'd gotten "sick." She would be in a wheelchair, they said. You mustn't stare, they said. Try not to notice, they insisted. Not to notice?

The kids were afraid. What could they say to Belle? Would she be very different? Scarred? Deformed? Twisted? Contagious?

Belle would come to the annual neighborhood Open House Christmas party, a huge affair. Everyone went.

The party began and people arrived. It was festive, a happy occasion, but all everyone spoke of was Belle's arrival. The pine-scented air was charged with tension.

"She's here." Everyone turned, their Christmas punch cups held in the space in front of them, the napkins soggy and shredding. They could hear thumps and mechanical scrapes coming from the front hall.

Belle's skinny, shrunken knees came in first, and then the rest of her. She sat in her wheelchair looking very small and flat, like a paper doll. A sprig of holly was in her now-short golden hair.

She looked up slowly into the tense faces of the people there in that big room, her blue eyes stopping at each person for an instant. And then Belle grinned broadly. "Merry Christmas, everyone," she said. "And my, how tall you've all grown."

Click on LC Van Savage for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Angel Whispers

By Peg Jones

Dear God and to my Angels too,

Yesterday I had the privilege of going for a mammogram. I was up early that morning. I got ready for the day, and then went to drive to the hospital, where the mammogram was to happen. I got to the test office, sat down, and waited my turn.. My name was called and I had some paperwork to fill out… One of the parts of the paperwork, was a cancer risk assessment. I filled it out, to the best of my ability and then returned the paperwork, to the desk. I was finally called in to change into a Johnny to prepare for the test. I was called in to the area, where that machine was located. I went in a little nervous, but I really was fine, for the most part.

As the technician was preparing me for the test, and moving the machine and my body parts, to her specifications, she was finally ready to take the picture. I couldn’t help but notice how truly painful this was for me. Each picture and movement became painful as I was being put into all kinds of different movements and direction. Finally at one point I was put into a position where the movement of the machine causes such excruciating pain, that I screamed out in pain very loudly. It hurt so much.

The technician said, “I didn’t move it that much.”

I said, coming close to tears,”oh yes you did’ I was so upset, I was shaking…

The technician then said, “You have two more slides to do.”

I thought in terror OMG ! I went through process like a robot…. Just wanting to get this over with. She finished and said I could get changed… So I changed as fast as I possibly could muster up…

As I opened the curtain, the technician said “Let’s go over the Risk Assessment.” We went over the risk assessment and I could finally leave. I was so relieved to leave the torture chamber.. Holy Heck.. That was horrible… I kept thinking that this test was invented by a sadistic man who hated women. I felt so violated and a bit angry too.

As I was driving home I kept thinking there is a better way to get tested for breast cancer….. I found out later there is something called thermography. It’s more powerful and much less painful. I later found out that thermography is used only if something has been found in the breast first…

So then I got to thinking that it’s a bit unfair that not everyone can get themography initially. I have heard so many times that spots or lumps are not always spotted on the regular mammogram tests.. That a lot goes unsuspected.

I am pretty sure it has to do with the insurance companies and how they decide which patients will receive the thermography test and who won’t receive it.

Since I was so upset about this test, I asked my angels what I am supposed to learn from this procedure and this is what I heard:

“As far back as 50 years ago, many women were dying of breast cancer, because technology had not developed any type of standard evaluation . Today there is a standard and there is a lot of education concerning women and breast cancer. It’s not perfect and you pointed that out very clearly. There is a lot of testing going on, in many labs, of how to do the best for women who are receiving mammograms. We feel that there will be improvements. Consider yourself lucky that you live in an area of the world where detection of breast cancer is a yearly occurrence. There are so many areas of the world that there isn’t any sort of testing for detection of breast cancer. Yes, it’s painful at times, but it is individual because of body size and type. In the big picture of your daily life, it is but a few minutes, in which you may have to endure some pain. There are improvements being made each day and soon you may find out about them. We don’t know when or how, but we do know there is research going on.

The mammogram is saving many lives and this you have known, this is a fact. There are people in your life who have been tested and have had a diagnosis of breast cancer. They are alive today because of the mammogram. Even if this test is difficult for you to endure, know that it is a life saver and the mammogram is helping many today and it is also saving YOUR life...”

I believe the angels gave me a royal telling off in a kind and loving way. They have asked me to be grateful; reminded me that there are parts of the world where this test is not present. I believe they are correct in saying this. I am definitely grateful that I live where I live, and also I am grateful for what the universe has provided for me. What sort of things are you grateful for today in your life…. I have said this a few times I think in articles, and that is to make a list of what you are grateful each day for a month. Start with a list of ten things each day, for a week then increase by 2 each week. You will be amazed what there is to be grateful for in your life.

I wish you all a happy June and the rest of this summer, 2011.

Click on Peg Jones for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

There Is

By M. Jay Mansfield

There is want
And there is need
There is have
And there is greed

Somewhere in the middle
Is all the things you are to me
Somewhere out there
Is all the things that we can be

There is hunger
And those of us that feed
There is fear
And those of us that bleed

Somewhere in the middle
Is where we become complete
Somewhere out there
Is where we come to be

There is love
And a cure that must share
There is us
And all of our cares

Somewhere in the middle
Is where our hearts took a chance
Somewhere out there
Is where we learned to dance.

©5-28-11 MJMansfield

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On Rainy Nights

By John I. Blair

On rainy nights
When everything reminds
How much we’re made of water

I want to run
Into the dark yard
Naked in my skin.

There, with the raindrops
Falling on my hair,
Rolling down my thirsty hide,

I could drink up all the wetness,
Remoisturize, restore
My shrinking, wrinkled self,

Or maybe liquefy
And melt into my mother Earth
Where I belong.

But having felt that
I always make the coward’s choice
And stay inside.

©2009 John I. Blair

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The Berries

By LC Van Savage

I saw this kid asleep at the switch
Next to his car, parked in a ditch.
The back was open and this young male
Had a sign on his lap, "Strawberries 4 Sale."
I needed some berries but had not the heart
To awaken this lad to sell me a quart.
His mouth hung open and I very much feared
His young tongue would soon be sorely sun-seared.
But I did not wish to wake the young guy
And so I drove off with an eye to the sky.
I saw some dark clouds gather up there
And thought, "Oh good, now I won't have to care
"Because that boy will now sleep in shade
"His tongue won't burn, my fears are allayed."
After some hours I found I was done
And began to make my home return run.
"Maybe," I thought, "that boy's now awake
"And I can buy berries to put in my cake!"
I got in my car. It started to rain
My lovely warm day then started to wane.
I could hardly see, the rain was so thick
The windshield was fogged, the roads were quite slick.
The boy was still there, next to his car
It looked like he'd sold not one berry thus far.
He sat there asleep, the sign on his lap
He seemed to be taking the very same nap.
His clothing was drenched, his hair was too
Of his being soaked, he had not one clue.
His mouth still hung open I saw with a frown,
Well, his tongue wouldn't burn; now I feared he would drown.

© LC Van Savage

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Email LC at
See her on the Telly award winning incredibleMAINE, MPBN,
10:30 AM Saturdays


By M. Jay Mansfield

Venom coursing through his veins
Every glint of sunlight blinding….
The horrible injection started it
That pact ever binding….

I looked into her eyes
Satiny deep brown growing yellow
I wanted to run into her arms
Pulled by a force that wouldn’t let go

I needed to be there
Her long skinny fingers traced my spine
Long before she ever touched me
I knew that she was mine

I wrapped her in my arms
Her soft hungry heat burned my skin
She knew I wanted to devour her
And she buried herself deep in

The beast in me let me down
I never even growled
I threw all my defenses down
I gave all I had to give

The sweet venom took me
Destroying my will
Rebuilding and empowering me
I knew I would always be hers

©5-8-11 MJMansfield

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Eric Shackle's Column

Death of a Truly Colorful Character

BBC News last month reported the death of Jean-Baptiste("Buster") Martin, a truly colorful character. I first wrote about him two years ago. That story is posted as a story, Will Buster Martin (102) Compete in Sydney Games?
"A London man who claimed to be the world's oldest marathon runner has died," said the BBC.
"Buster Martin said he was 101 when he ran the London Marathon in 2008.
"He was still working as a van cleaner at Pimlico Plumbers. His boss Charlie Mullins said: 'Buster sadly passed away last night at the age of 104.'
"Mr Martin was not awarded the Guinness World Record as the oldest person to complete a marathon after being unable to verify his age.
"He features in a film by American documentary-maker Mark Wexler being released in the US in May, called How to Live Forever.
"In a blog entry on London firm Pimlico Plumbers' website, managing director Charlie Mullins wrote: 'I can't believe it, only yesterday afternoon was he in the canteen knocking back one of Buster's beers, and now today he is gone. Buster certainly enjoyed life and was living life to the full right up until the end.'
"Several months after his marathon run, Mr Martin claimed to have been issued a passport with a date of birth verifying his age, after there were suggestions that he was 'only' 94.
"Guinness World Records were still not able to verify the record because of the absence of a birth certificate.
"Pimlico Plumbers said that Mr Martin completed the 2008 marathon in just under ten hours, and he raised £20,000 for charity.
"A biography on the website for the film that features Mr Martin, described him as 'Britain's oldest working man' and said he enjoyed 'a beer or two and 20 cigarettes daily.'"
Thursday, 26 May 2011
Posted at 23:08 by ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia.

Update on Treasure Hunters

Treasure Hunters in Palau
Tuesday, 10 May 2011
From ERIC SHACKLE in Sydney, Australia.
Australian adventurer Don McIntyre and his team of treasure hunters have reached Palau, one of the most remote places on earth. It's an island nation in the Pacific, about 500 miles (800 km) east of the Philippines, and 2000 miles (3200 km) south of Tokyo.
"If you have to be stuck somewhere, Palau is just the ticket," McIntyre says in his blog.
"Unfortunately it is a little more expensive than the Philippines. But the people are great."
In April 2008 McIntyre launched his new15.2m steel, 40 tonne ice strengthened expedition motor-sailer "ICE", following a three year, 50,000 man hour build in China. This new adventure ship is capable of going anywhere, has a 5000-mile range under power, carries comprehensive dive gear and its own Polaris Amphib flying boat for filming and exploration.
McIntyre intends to fly back to Australia on May 17, before taking off from Pelau on the first leg of the exciting voyage to Tonga.
You can follow the voyage by checking out the BlueTreasure blog.

Update on World Class Whistlers

Is Luke or Zach world's best whistler?
Sydney CEO Luke Janssen's claim to be the world's best whistler is being challenged by Zach Wade, a young student in the Missouri School of Journalism.
You can hear both of them on YouTube.
Which TV channel will be first to organise a world championship between the pair?
Luke Janssen is CEO and founder of TigerSpike, a technology driven personal media company. He took part in the 2004 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
You can hear (and see) his remarkable whistling style in this video:Luke Janssen.
And here at Zach Wade performs.

Click on Eric Shackle for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Summer Afternoon

By John I. Blair

The air’s like body heat.
All around, green leaves,
A tease of flowers.

Fat doves preen in trees
And sparrows dart to ground
From nesting spots.

Hose in hand I spray
The rows of pots
Along the path:

Rosemary, sweet basil,
Peppermint, parsley, thyme,
And scores more –

Each a covenant I keep,
Each a fragrant promise
To my heart

That life goes on,

That love goes on.

©2008 John I. Blair

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By John I. Blair

For me the Milky Way
And songs of wooden birds

Before I was grown
I spent a quiet weekend
At a country house
Where the long hall held
An old and ornate clock,
Crusted with cunning carvings.

After supper, late,
To clear my nose of gravy fumes,
I walked out in the black night
And there beheld a glowing net
Thrown from one horizon to the other
That had been hidden
From my city-blinded eyes.

I froze for half an hour,
Dreaming a dream of stars and cold,
Then came back to cacophonies
Of gongs and cuckoo calls.

©2009 John I. Blair

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Can't You See

By M. Jay Mansfield

Can't you see I'm in love with her
No matter what she does it's gonna be alright
No matter when she does it
Gonna be there no matter what.

Can't you see what she does to me
Burning me deep in my soul
Every touch that set's me free
Every smile that I hold

Can't you see what she is to me
Never again will I be alone
Every touch makes me feel
my poor heart now has a happy home

Can’t you see the change in me
Suddenly I care again
Every second counts it seems
In my face it’s clearly seen

Can’t you see that it is we
With her hand in mine
Every touch it sets me free
My heart is hers, sip the wine

Can’t you see, my soul it breathes
Taking in her every scent
Finally my love runs free
My wage of my heart is well spent

©5-29-11 MJMansfield

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Thinking Out Loud

All the health gurus say that people my age (early eighties) should get out more often. “Do something!” they say, even if it’s only to go shopping. Well okay, but what those young whippersnappers don’t understand is what it takes guys of that certain age to get out of the house. For instance here’s my checklist of things I can’t leave the house without:
    1. My glasses, reading, driving and very dark sun glasses (because my right eye has some nerve damage and can’t cope with bright sunlight).
    2. A peaked cap for my problems with overhead lights (even in the movies I have to wear a cap).
    3. My cane, in case I have to get out of the car to walk a bit.
    4. My cell phone in case of emergencies.
    5. My hearing aid, if I want to hear whoever is calling me.
    6. Bottled water and a snack in case I get stuck somewhere without a 7/11 or a Starbucks nearby. (Okay, so I’m paranoid about this, remember even paranoids have some real enemies.)
    7. My wallet (credit card and driver’s license).
    8. And most importantly, my wife.
But sometimes my better half is busy – a manicure, a bridge game, etc. – and can’t spare the time. Okay, so I go it alone, which doesn’t happen too often, but when it does I usually forget one or more of the following items:
  • A One, two or three pairs of my glasses.
  • B My peaked cap.
  • C My cane.
  • D My cell phone.
  • E My hearing aid.
  • F Bottled water and a nosh
  • G My wallet.
So the last time I went solo my wife asked me when I got back how it went with the shopping (I was supped to go to Wal Mart)? I told her I got to the store all right, but forgot my cane so I decided to come home.
“Why didn’t you call me? I saw that you took your phone with you and I was home early.”
“Yes, I know darling, but I forgot my reading glasses and kept dialing a wrong number.”
“Well, next time you’ll remember to take your reading glasses,” she said, pointedly.
“That’s true, but then I might forget the phone,” I laughed.
“That’s true too, “she said. “What would you like for dinner?”

Click on Gerard Meister for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Worship (it's the way I am)

By M. Jay Mansfield

There are so many things I have been
Conqueror, soldier, slave
There are so many things I wish I was...
Rich, faster , stronger, cooler

But here I am and I know what I am
what I am is
I'm a servant and a lover and a friend
it's What I am

So many things I have done with these hands
Pound, break, shatter, maim, shove
Now I have so many things I'd rather do...
Caress, stroke, hold gently, build a love

Now here I stand with all my faults
What I am is..
I'm a lover, a friend and enthralled by you
I know what I am

I'm in love with you it's what I am
I'm loving you with all of me
I'm in love with you it's what I am
Glad to lay at your feet and just be

I want to worship you with all of me
What I am is everything
I want to be there so you can see
What I am is here for you

What I am is loving you
it's what I do
What I am is loving you

©5-16-11 MJMansfield

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By John I. Blair

Most of us
Hear tunes
In our heads.

If we’re lucky
They soothe,
They change.

Last year
Strong music
Filled my mind,

Grieg’s Arietta,
Tart, sad notes
I’d learned to play

Just before
You found pain
In hospital beds.

One tone five times
Started the piece,
Pounding my brain;

Then, down a step,
Five more,
And a questioning refrain,

Always sounding
– Incomplete.

Then you came home
And what had been a dirge
Transformed to an anthem!

Like life, I think –
A song with no answer
But a true heart.

©2008 John I. Blair

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By John I. Blair

Man the deck!
The gecko is about
Its feckless route
With a what-the-heck
Attitude and an
Outstretched neck.
It runs its reckless
Way and is not there
At beck and call.
No Hyde or Jekyll
It will by second
Nature peck at every
Bug to check
Which ones it likes the best
And skip the rest.

© 2002 John I. Blair

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In Flanders Fields: The Memorial Day Poem

Our Own Story
When my oldest son, Rex, was in the 3rd grade he had a lovely teacher whom he adored. Having a July birthday, Rex was one of the youngest, (if not the youngest, in 3rd grade that year) and I had already had my doubts about his maturity level for moving on from 3rd to 4th grade but his lovely, kind and loving 3rd grade teacher persuaded me that, after all, he knew the material in 3rd and should be given the chance to move on. Rex was a very gentle, quiet, kind and tenderhearted little boy who got along with everyone---but he was a daydreamer, extremely slow with fine motor skills so completion of written work was difficult for him. Orally, he did well. At home, I supervised his work and was insistent that he complete the work and stay on task. He knew better than to test Mother! So the next school year …we began the 4th grade…
He was assigned to a 4th grade teacher (that I was so hoping he would not get!) who was a very poor teacher in my estimation, and very impatient with children! She was the proverbial “old maid, school teacher type”… demanding and severe with her students , but she had been in the system for several years and would stay, of course.
At the end of the first 6 weeks his teacher told me that Rex was really very slow to do his work. I explained that I had tested him and knew that his fine motor skills were slow and he simply could not work faster even IF he stayed on task. She was one of the old school teachers who did not believe in students being evaluated or referred for special help of any kind…no concessions could be made! She had no concept of learning problems---students were either “dumb or smart and that was all there was to it!” As a fellow teacher at that school, she did not argue with me but as time went by I could tell that she thought that Rex was capable of 4th grade work and that he was just either lazy or obstinate, but I knew better!
My husband and I discussed it and I said, Rex is quite immature in comparison to the other 4th graders and I think that possibly holding him back would do him a world of good. Shortly thereafter, his teacher assigned the students the task of memorizing the poem IN FLANDERS FIELDS.
When Rex brought the assignment home my first reaction was “This is such an adult poem—too emotionally loaded and mature for a 4th grader…much less for Rex!”
So, I thought I had better go over it with him first---and try to prepare him for it.
We read it and I explained it in simple terms but I could tell that he was on the verge of tears.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row,That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved,
and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
So, as soon as Rex began to read it to me he said “Mommy, why did those men have to die?” There were big tears in his eyes and line by line I went through the poem with him and explained what it meant. Rex just could not understand why so many had to die---having had no experience with death or war these were very emotionally threatening thoughts to him. He could not get past that first line without weeping and again, when we got to the next lines highlighted in red, he just “fell-apart”.and could not go on. Although he quickly memorized the poem, he really did not understand it and certainly was not ready to deal with it emotionally.
His teacher had given the class 3 days in which to memorize the poem and the test was to consist of each student individually standing up in front of the class and reciting the poem! It would count heavily on their 6 weeks grade in the class. Rex tried so hard—he wanted so much to do well, but emotionally he could not say it aloud without breaking down and crying. My heart ached for him…this super sensitive child did not need to be made to do public speaking of this nature at his age! He could write the poem from memory…why not be allowed to do that! But the teacher was insistent that this was her requirement and Rex must do it. At the end of the 3rd school day Rex came to my room in tears and told me that he could not say it. I marched down to that teacher’s room hoping to help her understand the stress that it place one Rex emotionally. The first thing the teacher said was “He gets an ‘F’ today because he did not say his poem!” I tried to explain to her that he could write it for her…he had it memorized---but asking him to stand up in front of a group and say it without emotionally falling apart was unfair to a very sensitive child. She cattily said “He may not pass this year ! He doesn’t complete his work on time and of course, today—he simply failed the test! He does not deserve any special consideration!” My decision was made…with sudden resolve I looked at her and said: It does not matter—I am going to hold him back anyway so I do not care if he never completes another task again in your classroom this year…he can do 4th grade over next year—but NOT under YOUR tutelage ! I do not want him to be ostracized or criticized by you or anyone else for not doing his work—he will repeat the 4th grade next year!” She answered “Well, it is not necessary—he could do it if he wanted to!” and I responded “You just keep on believing that---but he WILL repeat 4th grade next year because I am holding him back!
That evening my husband and I sat down with Rex and explained to him that we did not feel his teacher had been fair to him and we wanted, more than anything else, for him to be happy in school, so we had decided that we were going to let him repeat 4th grade and the rest of the school year we would not worry a bit about whether or not he completed ALL of his work ---we just wanted him to do the best he could and that was that! You have never seen such a look of relief as was on that little face. I think Rex knew that he could not compete with the older students. Perhaps Mommy and Daddy had sheltered him so much because he was such a sweet and sensitive child…but we were going to have to let him grow up!
Just before the end of the school year, as luck would have it, I was told that I would be assigned to the Jr. High level for the next school year and an elementary school just happened to be across the school yard from that Jr. High. I knew the principal well and he allowed me to choose the teacher I wanted for Rex—someone who was very gentle with children. He repeated 4th grade under a very gentle teacher who was somewhat grandmotherly with the kids and Rex began to feel more relaxed about school and to improve in work completion and task performance with fear of severe reprimands. It was time to move on to 5th grade! I requested a special teacher for him --Sally Grantvedt--…someone I had known a long time and knew her teaching skills well! Sally was loud, demanding, creative and very innovative! Just what Rex needs now, I thought…someone to push him when he needs a push, someone to inspire the creativity I saw in him and someone who could be gentle as a dove when need be! That was Sally Grantvedt as I knew her and it was the turning point for Rex. He simply blossomed under Sally’s teaching and did very well with no further problems throughout his academic career! After 45 years Sally was and still is his acclaimed all time favorite teacher! But even today, when I read IN FLANDERS’ FIELDS, there is a dull ache in my heart as I recall a little boy who could not relate to the horrors of war and the sadness of death as he tried to repeat “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow…between the crosses row on row…..”
It is with gratitude that I give to Sally Grantvedt the credit for inspiring a young boy to become an achiever , an enthusiastic writer and, in time a successful Attorney.
June Hogue

Click on June Hogue for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

5 a.m.

By M. Jay Mansfield

It’s 5 a.m. in the morning . but
I’m awake and struggling to get out
The web of your touches still cover me
Your last caress it made me shout

I’m lying in bed, scared I’ll move it, but
I know I can’t lie here and pretend
My heart is racing, and it would betray me
So I crawl out into the morning and begin

The touches they were in my head, but
This is the realest thing I’ve ever done
Her tender kisses beautifully haunting me
This love in my heart it can’t be undone

I wanted to live inside those eyes, but
My greedy soul made me want her all
Every move she made seemed perfect to me
Best dancer even sitting still at the ball

Her Sweet smell intoxicates, but
I had full control of what I was doing
Dark hair blocks my view making everything clear
Not walking to her, I would have to be running

Wide awake heart pumping so alive, but
I’m rushing back to sleep with a hope and a prayer
In my head, her voice calling to me, and I have to go
Hold on, baby, don’t forget me I’ll be right there

It’s 5 a.m. in the morning, but
I’m in love with a ghost in my head
Her sweet tanned hand still touching my face
I will be loving her even after I’m dead

©5-21-11 MJMansfield

Click on M. Jay Mansfield for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Arkansas River Valley

By John I. Blair

Some land seems naturally doomed:
In central Kansas, grassy hills
Fade westward to a plain

Where glaciers in a primal melt
Flushed three million acres flat –
So flat furrows feebly drain.

Pioneers whose fathers cursed
The stumps and rocks in eastern fields
Rejoiced. This soil surrendered fast.

They gave no mercy,
Cutting roads at every mile,
Blocking farms in rigid squares.

Now this, the winter wheat belt’s heart,
Still beats in bondage,
Like a prairie that’s entombed.

©2009 John I. Blair

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It's Hard to Say

By Bruce Clifford

It's hard to say
It makes no difference
Can't get away
From any of this resistance

If not by choice
Then there's no reason to scurry
When I hear your voice
Then I no longer worry

It's hard to say
What you're doing to me
The minute we stay
It's as if it were meant to be

With my head in the clouds
There is no time to hurry
When you're near me somehow
Then I no longer worry
I no longer worry

Take a look at our world
Remember how it was to be
If you think of me girl
One day we can be free

It's hard to say
It's not by choice
With each passing day
I still hear your voice

©5/6/11 Bruce Clifford

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Things Since Then

I can't place it
I can't defend it
Something I've known all of my life

I can't hide it
I can't defy it
One way or another where going to get things right

Things since then are memories
All the years and changes
Things since then have carried on

But I can never forget
Things since then

Bike riding down Osborne Avenue
All of the faces that I once knew
Found my pace down Canal Road
Heading down to Port with my pocket full of gold

Things since then are memories
All the years and changes
Things since then have carried on

But I can never regret
Things since then

Smiling faces with tears in their eyes
We never had the chance to say goodbye
Now we're here and we're not going away
The past will always remain

Things since then are memories
All the years and our laughter and pain

Things since then have carried on
How could we ever forget
Things since then

I can't place it
I can't pretend it wasn't real
I can't defend it
Not knowing what to feel

Things since then
Things since then

©5/27/11 Bruce Clifford

Click on Bruce Clifford for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

A Walk on the Edge

She began walking down the path to the water. It had been raining and everything was a vibrant green. She needed to just get away and think about her life. At this point in her life she wasn’t sure if the choices she had made have been the right choices. She was single and alone. She had never found that one true someone that made her whole.

She stepped down to the water and saw a small heard of white tail deer drinking from the creek. The green of the moss was so intensely beautiful and bright it reminded her of the green of fresh wet grass with the sun shining on it. It crawled over the rocks like a blanket of beauty. As she took in the amazing scenery she stepped into the water. The deer looked up and she stopped. As she watched the deer they began to drink again. She took one more step and lost her footing. She fell and began to float down the creek. The recent rains had brought on a more rapid flow than usual. She reached for a branch and missed. The water began to rise and became faster and faster. Her pulse was racing and she could barely breathe. She tried to swim towards the bank, but the water was moving too swiftly. She was exhausted from fighting to stay afloat.

One last ditch effort, she began swimming with all her might. She swam harder and harder and finally reached the shore. She collapsed to the ground.

She awoke in a strange room. She was in bed. As she looked around she saw a small cabin just right for one.

Where was she? Who had brought her here? All of these questions were going through her head. Across the room there was fire breathing warmth to the room. She looked around and saw a table, lanterns, everything that someone would need to live in this tiny cabin.

Where was the owner? She began to get out of bed and noticed she was in a man’s shirt. She wondered how she got into these clothes. As she stepped down on the floor the pain seeped through her body like a bolt of lightning. She fell back to the bed as the tears began to fall from her eyes.

She heard a sound from outside. Someone was coming. She scrambled back into the bed and under the covers. She lay there in anticipation of her hero.

He walked into the cabin with his hands full of wood. He laid the wood by the fire and looked over at his guest. She had long brown hair and soft pale skin. Her face was that of a porcelain doll. Her eyes were a vibrant green. She was like an angel laying there in his bed.

As she looked at him her heart began to pound. He was tall and broad like a man with power. Yet he had this refinement to him. His hair was swept back from his face. He had this mystery about him that drew her eyes, she could not look away. He was wearing buckskin chaps over jeans and a button up shirt.

He asked her how she was feeling. She replied her foot was in pain. They began to converse about how she got there. He had found her on the bank of the creek and brought her here. She was wet and cold so he changed her clothes and built a fire to warm her. He figured they would assess if anything was broken when she awoke.

He moved to her and asked to look at the leg that hurt. He gently grasped her leg putting his hand just under her knee. With his other hand he felt the bone around the ankle. She grimaced. He apologized for hurting her. She nodded, unable to focus or speak from the pain.

She said can we call for help. He responded that there were no phones and that the only way out was a full day’s hike. She had a cell phone, but must have lost it when she fell into the swollen creek. He told her that they could stay here until she was feeling better and he would help her hike out.

He propped her leg up on some pillows. He took a rag out of a pot of water. She flinched just a bit because it was hot. He then left her there and began fixing some food.

He made biscuits and stew for dinner. It was the best she had ever had, but she wasn’t sure if it was because she was so hungry. He sat at the end of the bed and began to ask questions about who she was, what she did. They both began to talk about what they did and how they ended up here. He is a doctor in town. She was a business executive in a computer company. As they kept talking they found that they were interested in the same things, enjoyed the same past times. It seemed unreal to her. Here was this amazing man that rescued her from the bank, could she believe the amazing feeling welling from her instincts or should she question it. Was it just the fact he rescued her and she was thankful? Only time would tell.

She slept through the night, but it was a restless sleep. Every time she moved her ankle would throb. He slept on the floor near the fire. She felt bad she'd taken his bed.
In the morning he offered her coffee and to cook her breakfast. He looked at the ankle again and it was still swollen. He shook his head and told her he thought it was broke. He would wrap it and it should be ok to move tomorrow. They would need to go to the hospital as soon as we got to town and he would put it in a cast so that the bone can properly heal.

He went about the cabin cleaning up from this morning’s meal. They talked the entire time. He went to the bed and helped her lean forward and put more pillows behind her so it was easier to sit up.

Her heart was racing. The way he touched her sent this electric current through her body. She smiled at him and he back at her. The chemistry was amazing she thought.

He explained he needed to go get more wood. He left the cabin and she began to wonder what she actually looked like. She got out of bed and moved to where there was a basin and mirror. She cleaned up and went back to bed. That was a feat on its own. She laid down on the bed and once again fell asleep.

As he entered the room with wood he noticed that she had fallen back to sleep. He sat there and just gazed at her. She looked like an angel laying there. Her hair fell just right around her face. His heart began to race. Who was this delicate amazing woman? Why did she make him feel this way? He could barely keep his composure. He wanted to reach over and kiss those soft lips. This wasn’t him he thought. He wanted to sit and watch his angel sleep, but was in anticipation of her awaking.

A knock came at the door. It was a group of people asking if he had seen a woman that was missing, it was her. He welcomed them in and said that she had a broken ankle.
All the noise in the room woke her up. She was glad to see some of her friends and family standing there. They had come to find her. All of a sudden she felt this sinking feeling in her gut. She didn’t want to go, but she knew she had to. She thanked him for taking such good care of her. Everyone helped her out to the quad and she went was whisked back to reality.

As the days went on all she could think about was her time with him. She remembered his laugh and how he would run his fingers through his hair as they talked. What did he have that held her to this time?

All she could think about was him. She knew his first name and that he was a doctor in a town around where they were. Which town? All she wanted to do was find him now. She began searching for him in each town. Nothing! What could she do?

He was staying in the cabin for awhile it was his time for relaxation, but he was unable to do so. He needed her. He wanted to look into those dreamy eyes and fall back into the fantasies he wanted with her. The way she laughed and would blush at the drop of a hat. What happened to him? He was staying here for a month and wondered how he would make it without her.

With no luck she tried for weeks to find him. She began to give up and just see this as a brief encounter with the most amazing man. Her ankle was healing and she was able to get around. She wanted to go back to the cabin, maybe he was there.

She was not sure she could find the cabin again. She drove to the mountains and rented a quad. She drove for hours trying to find her way back to the cabin. Her soul was sinking as the night started to fall until she saw it, the cabin.

She stopped just short of the cabin. She wanted to surprise him. She limped to the cabin and noticed the fishing boat was gone. He might not be here. Her heart began to rise to her throat.

God, please let him be here, she thought. She reached the door and opened it. No one was there. She would wait to see if he comes back. Time passed so slowly. She was anxious. Did she miss him? Is he gone?

It was dark now and there was no way she could drive out. She started a fire and fixed herself something to eat. He still was not back. She had to face the fact that he was gone. She stroked the fire and decided to go to bed and leave in the morning. She took her pants off and crawled into bed. She began to cry herself to sleep.

It was late, but he had had a good day of fishing. He laughed to himself as he thought about how tired he was. He sat the boat down and put his fishing gear next to the boat. He grabbed the fish and headed into the cabin.

Alarmed there was a fire burning, he looked around the room. In the soft light of the fire he saw her there. His heart began to race. She came back! He put the fish down and walked to the bed. He sat down on the edge and gently ran his hand along her face. She rustled a bit to the touch. She opened her eyes and smiled up at him. He gently bent down and brushed his lips to hers. ©2011 Denise Sebastian

Click on Denise Sebastian  for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Rabbo Tales - Chapter 10

By Mark Crocker


    Rabbo awoke to the sunlight shining on his face and warmth all over his body. He lay still enjoying the feeling and stilled his mind. He could here Athena breathing softly in her bed as she slept deeply after the long walk from the village.
    Rabbo withdrew his mind from his body until he felt himself free from all its feelings that were a normal part of daily living. He floated up gentle from his fur covered body so that he could look down and see his body laying still on the window sill. Looking around Athena’s room he saw her toga laying like a headless body on the floor where she had dropped it. At the end of the bed lay Cat with his body sprawled out taking up the lower half of one side of the bed. Next to Athena’s head sat his mother who was cleaning her paws and ears. He drifted out of Athena’s room passing though the door. He turned towards the back of the house away from the bathroom and the stairs and instead headed towards the back of the house were Merwyn's rooms were. He reached the door that would let him into Merwyn’s room and started to move forward into the door.
    Rabbo had never been into Merwyn’s room and he was curious to see what was in Merwyn's rooms. So curious that he rushed towards the door not noticing the strange red glow that surrounded the door and walls.
    Rabbo felt his astral body start to itch with such intensity that he backed up away from the door. He moved to one side of the door and tried to push though the wall and again his astral body started to itch. So again he backed up and moved back to the door. He had seen Athena just open the door and walk in many times. Yet the few times he had tried to open the door it had been locked. Maybe it was locked by what Athena called “a mental lock” a lock that had to be undone by the mind.
    Rabbo looked closely as the door knob and it looked all fuzzy as if it was so out of focus that it was just a blob.
    Rabbo moved back up the hallway all the way to the top of the stairs. Then he rushed down the hallway at the door with such speed that he did not feel the impact nor the repelling force that sent him spinning end over end out from the front of the house.
    He sat in mid air looking at the front of the house and wondered what kind of force was surrounding Merwyn's rooms.
    He looked around and noticed that he was about the same length from the house as the length of the hallway. He looked down at the ground and saw Merwyn standing below him and looking up at him with a sad look on his face. Merwyn pointed his finger at Rabbo in his astral form “My rooms are private please respect my privacy”.
    Rabbo moved away back towards the house and drifted into Athena’s bedroom where his body still lay in the sun. He sunk back into his body and brought his heart rate back up to normal before he opened his eyes. He lay in the sun letting the sun warm his body back up so that he would not be freezing from his astral trip. As Rabbo lay on the window sill on his cushion he heard Athena let out a soft moan and then she rolled over and opened her eyes to look right at Rabbo.
    “Did you sleep well” asked Athena with sleep still in her voice.
    “He’s been awake for a while and sneaking around in astral form,” said Merwyn who was sitting on the chair at Athena’s dresser.
    Rabbo looked surprised at Merwyn who had just seen standing in the garden. “How did” said Rabbo stuttering a little.
    “I walked up the stairs and came in though the door. Silly rabbit” said Merwyn. “You took your time getting your heart rate back to normal. And that’s good. So I had plenty of time to come up here”.
    Merwyn switched over to the private mode “My rooms are private and my private study is very private even Athena can’t go in there. And don’t ask why as that too is private.”
    “I just wanted to see” said Rabbo keeping the tone of disappointment out of his voice the best he could.
    “Come sleepy heads breakfast is ready and it’s late in the day. The sun has been up for hours and there is much to do as being away did not mean things just stopped happening here while we were away” said Merwyn. Merwyn stood up and walked around the edge of Athena’s bed leaned down kissed her on the forehead and left the room.
    Athena sat up slipped out of bed grabbed her robe and headed to the bathroom to freshen up before going down stairs to have breakfast. Rabbo followed Athena into the bathroom and looked up at her as she brushed her teeth clean.
    “Should I clean my teeth too” asked Rabbo.
    Athena looked down at Rabbo as she pushed the tooth brush back to reach her molars and nodded. “It would not hurt. After all you may live a very long time and taking care of your teeth is a good idea”.
    “What’s in Merwyn’s rooms” asked Rabbo on Athena’s private telepathic mode.
    “Not much really. No bed, no rugs. Just a couch and some pictures. Mostly of mom and me. A few of friends long gone and a picture that takes up the window of what was our home. There are a few cushions on the floor in the corner and I think that’s where dad sleeps? And as for dad’s study I have no idea. I have tried to peek but he has a shield there that I can get though so I have no idea,” answered Athena in the same private mode.
    Breakfast was fresh milk dandelion leaves and spinach for Rabbo and nuts grains fruit bread with fresh butter and milk for Athena.
    Merwyn came walking in from the garden with a bucket full of milk and a bucket full of carrots, radishes and young squash.
    “Think you need to make more butter, Athena.” said Merwyn.
    “I wonder how the battle went,” mused Athena.
    “Like all battles. Bloody messing with the dead and wounded littering the field. The wounded to be pitied more than the dead” said Merwyn his voice a monotone with out any signs of emotion.
    “Sorry dad I just did not mean,” Athena’s voice trailed off.
    “Did not mean to what! I’m sorry just I hate battles and wars and all that goes with it,” said Merwyn as he walked into the cool storage room.
    Athena turned to Rabbo and looked him up and down.
    Rabbo noticed that Athena seemed to be glowing a little around her eyes and head. Almost as if she had a halo around her eyes and head. Rabbo cocked his head to one side and looked closer at Athena seeing that it was more than just her eyes and head that was glowing slightly.
    “What are you looking at” said Athena looking back at Rabbo.
    “You are glowing all over.”
    “Oh yeah it’s the fetus in me making me do that,” stated Athena.
    “Really, if I recall from my studies that you should not start glowing until week 6 of your pregnancy” asked Rabbo.
    The glow faded away and Athena’s body looked normal as she sat in the chair eating her breakfast. Then as she reached for the milk jug to refill her glass she winced a little and then half stood up.
    Rabbo for some reason thought it best to talk on Athena’s private mode. “How far along are you?”
    “Almost 6 weeks. Damn you Rabbo you know we can’t lie on the private mode,” answered Athena in the same mode.
    “Really I did not know that. But that would mean you were pregnant when Bastet got here”.
    “Why do you think I asked her to come here silly rabbit”?
    “Your pregnancy is unplanned”?
    “No I planned it. I wanted this baby.”
    Rabbo looked at Athena hopped down from his chair and on his hind legs walked carefully around to where she was sitting. He placed a paw on her leg and the leaned in and opened her robe careful and looked at her stomach but did not see any difference.
    Athena stood up with her robe open so that Rabbo could see better. Her stomach bulged a little but was hardly noticeable.
    Athena then closed her robe and tired the belt before she sat back down and continued to eat the last of her breakfast.
    Rabbo hopped down the pathway towards the garden and the area that the wild rabbits had dug before Merwyn, Athena, Bastet, Cat and he had gone to the village. He was surprised to see that the area was much large than he remembered and wondered if the wild rabbits had been digging more garden.
    Rabbo could see Merwyn working on the vines that had small leaves sprouting from them. As he stood up on his hind legs he saw the wild rabbits down at the far end of the meadow gathered around something. So instead of working in the garden Rabbo hopped down to investigate what was going on? When he arrived he saw a rabbit’s body laying on the dirt and the other rabbits pushing the rabbit body with their noses.
    Rabbo hopped closer and saw that it was the very old female rabbit who had passed. He felt very sad that age had come upon her and that she had to pass away as she was so nice and friendly. Rabbo looked around and saw a patch of bare earth and started to dig a hole so that she could be placed in there as he felt that for one so old her body she not be taken and eaten but the wild things that would come.
    One of his sisters hopped over and looked at him.
    “Help dig,” Rabbo said in rabbit language.
    “Why,” said his sister.
    “Not let eaters eat she,” replied Rabbo.
    His sister turned to her sister and brothers “Help man talker dig”.
    All of his brothers and his sisters joined him in digging a deep hole so that they could put the old female rabbit in.
    “Psst Rabbo I have placed fresh cut grass on the pathway near you,” said Athena. “Use it to make her a bed so that she can sleep in eternity on a bed of fresh grass”.
    Rabbo turned to his brothers and sister “Bring she here and bed I make for her um time sleep.”
    Rabbo hopped up the pathway and saw that very close to the beginning of the pathway was a pile of very fresh grass with buttercup and dandelions mixed in with the grass. Rabbo gathered up the grass in his paws and hopped back down to where his brothers and sister were waiting with the body of the old female rabbit. Rabbo made a soft bed with the grass, buttercup and dandelions and then helped to place the old female rabbit into the hole.
    The other wild rabbits gathered around and looked down at the old female rabbit. To Rabbo it looked like she was sleeping in an opened burrow. His brothers and sister sat quietly and looked down and bowed their heads and made a soft low cheeping sound that sounded very mournful and sad. Rabbo started to push dirt back in and when the hole was half filled two of his brothers pushed a flat rock onto the hole.
    “So eaters no dig old one up,” said one of his sisters.
    The rest of the hole was filled and a low small mound of fresh dirt was all that now marked the passing of an old well loved rabbit. Rabbo looked around and saw a bunch of wild flowers floating a few feet away. The flowers floated over and landed on the mound of fresh dirt. Behind it came a flat stone with words carved into it.
    The words were simple and read “mother of the warren, mother of all”.
    The stone sunk into the low mound and stood upright so that the words could be read by any that passed by and could read them. Rabbo’s vision blurred and tears poured forth.
    Rabbo sat alone in the living room looking into the empty fire place. He wondered why things had to die and pass from this world. He wondered where they went when they passed from this world. He stared into the empty fire place not really seeing the brick work or the ashes in the fireplace.
    Rabbo just sat there feeling such sadness that an old female rabbit that seemed so sweet and wise had passed. He knew that she was not able to talk to him and now he would never see her face again. He wondered if she could have talked what she would have told him, what had she seen in her life. What things she must have done in her life. And now they were all gone.
    Then a thought entered his head. Was she his grand mother or great grand mother? A glimmer of hope suddenly popped up inside him. He could find out. But that would mean digging her up and testing her body and Rabbo though that would be very bad.
    Rabbo stared long and hard into the fireplace trying hard to understand why anything had to die. Rabbo in his sadness did not notice Athena come into living room and sit behind nor did he hear her left. When Merwyn came in Rabbo did not hear him either nor did he hear Cat.
    It was dark outside when Merwyn spoke. “Rabbo please come and eat”.
    Rabbo shook his head and continued to stare deep into the empty fireplace. Finally Rabbo came to the conclusion that most of the rabbits if not all the rabbits in the warren including his mother, brothers and sisters and even himself had some of the old female rabbit’s blood in them. In a way it comforted him a little to know that she was living on though all the other rabbits in the warren.
    Rabbo turned to get up and almost jumped out of his skin as Athena was sitting on the rug right behind him. So deep had his thoughts been that he had not seen her walk in or heard her or even felt her presence. And the fact that she was so close meant that Rabbo had been so focused inwardly that he had not noticed the passing of time.
    “Come eat I made you something special.” Athena reached down and picked Rabbo up gentle and walked into the kitchen.
    At the kitchen table was a single table setting with a white napkin a wine goblet and bowl of salad and some kind of cake. Athena poured Rabbo a goblet full of wine. “Drink it all. Pour it down that little red lane of yours”
    Rabbo poured back the wine and put the goblet down on the table and looked at Athena and tried to smile.
    Athena refilled his goblet and walked over to the kitchen cabinet that the wine glasses were kept in. she brought out two wine glasses and brought them to the table.
    Merwyn walked in from outside and walked up to the table. The candle on the table sprung to life.
    “I light this candle with my mind to show that one who is gone is still loved” Merwyn said.
    “I fill these goblets with wine the color of blood to signify that life is fluid” said Athena
    “I offer my love to a member of this family that has lost a loved one” said Merwyn.
    “I call on those that have passed to the other world to welcome the wise old female rabbit into their arms with love” said Athena.
    “May she rest and recover while she lives in the other world” said Merwyn.
    “Great great grand son of the wise old female rabbit what words will you speak in her honor” said Athena.
    Rabbo looked down at the table and thought “I knew you a short time, too short, yet in that few weeks I loved you as a grand son would love his grand mother. I will miss you with all my heart and being”. Then Rabbo started to sob uncontrollably.
    As Rabbo cried and sobbed a ghost like form took shape of a rabbit that floated just above the candle.
    “He manifested in his grief” whispered Athena.
    “He manifested in his grief” whispered Merwyn
    “She is truly blessed by love,” they said together.
    “Drink this, her blood so that her spirit fills us all,” said Athena.
    “Taste this, her blood so that we are blessed,” said Merwyn.
    Athena looked at Rabbo and smiled. “Pick up the wine goblet and drink. You must drink first,” she said on his private telepathic mode.
    Rabbo picked up his wine goblet and sipped the wine. But as he sipped the wine the ghost like form faded away. Athena picked up her goblet and took a very small sip so that he lips were wet with wine and very little wine slid down her throat. Merwyn was the last to pick up his goblet and drunk deeply.
    “What was that misty shape that appeared above the candle? Was that her come back. And why did she fade away” asked Rabbo.
    “In a manner of speaking she did come back for a brief moment, my dear Rabbo” said Merwyn. “You made her appear using your mind. In other words you manifested her from your mind as you remembered her. Deep grief will sometimes do that.”
    “It’s very powerful when that happens,” Athena added.
    Rabbo looked at his empty bowl and then at Athena and Merwyn “why did you not eat with me,” he asked sadly. “Was it because of my grief and pain”?
    “No dear rabbit” said Athena. “It’s because we eat at the normal time and it’s very late. In fact it is way past the middle of the night”.
    “Am I really her great great grand son” Rabbo asked.
    “Yes you are. I tested her blood a few months back when we talked about your mother possible coming from that warren. I was going to tell you but well things happened and we got to busy and it slipped my mind,” said Athena a little apologetically.
    Athena picked up the empty bowl poured the rest of her wine between Rabbo’s goblet and Merwyn’s goblet. The candle that had been half burnt before Merwyn lit it sputtered out.
    “And so she passes” said Athena and Merwyn together.
    Merwyn reached down and pulled Rabbo out of his chair and turned to Athena “My darling daughter it’s time that you went to bed”.
    Merwyn headed towards the stairs and went up to Athena’s bedroom. Athena followed along behind. Once they were in her bedroom Merwyn put Rabbo down at the foot of the bed and turned his back and looked out the window.
    Athena slipped her toga off and slipped into bed.
    “Dad snuggle with me like you use to do when I was younger. Tonight I feel like a little girl that’s very insecure.”
    Merwyn kicked his sandals off and lay down next to Athena above the covers. Rabbo wriggled between them and as Merwyn snuggled with Athena and Rabbo they both drifted off to sleep.

Watch for July-August's continuation of "Rabbo Tales."

Click on Mark Crocker for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.