Thursday, December 1, 2011

Editor's Corner

By Mary E. Adair

December 2011

Language is the armoury of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests. -Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic, and philosopher (1772-1834)

Yes, December is playing its little tricks, holding onto warm nights and warmer days, then zapping one with a sudden cold front and dropping temperatures a resounding 30 to 50 degrees in a matter of hours only to embrace the midday following with sunshine and sweat. Who are we to beg different behavior when our own tends to fluctuate with the breeze or lack there of. Perhaps it is because it simply does not seem like Winter has arrived.

Nonetheless, it will soon be Christmas and Hannuka and then in pops a new year (along with the birthday of one of our columnists, LC.) So instead of adding our most frequently seen poem by yours truly for this season the link is here: "Tiny Miracle."

Besides LC's column, "Consider This," Leo C. Helmer has "Cooking With Leo," Peg Jones has "Angel Whispers," "Eric Shackle's Column" by himself discusses the words people believe to have no rhymes, Thomas F. O'Neill in "Introspective" tells about Christmas in China; Carolyn Evans reveals her experience with "Sunfish Meditation," in "Etcetera." Mattie Lennon of Dublin does "Irish Eyes," and John I. Blair encourages family reunions in "Always Looking -."

We welcome one new poet, the Telephone Man, and yes, we know who it is and though he prefers anonimity, you will want to read "God's Mirror." Wendy Shepard Kaplan returns with "The House That Holds My Dreams," and Bruce Clifford shows four of his poems, "Half The World Seems To Be Crazy," "The Looking Glass," "Such Simplicity," and "The Ribbon People." M. Jay Mansfield sent in five for this month, "On The Outside," "Cloudy," "If I Don't Make It," "Thank You My Friends," and "Things Change."

John I. Blair's six poems are, "Assenath And Her Mother," "Cardinals At Twilight," "In This Bite of Time," "Oh Cedar," "Mid November," and "Once More The Moon." Mark Crocker does a tribute poem, "To My Best Friend," and the one story is his, "A Rabbo Christmas Tale."

Enjoy the refreshing contents and we'll see you in January.

If you haven't 'liked' us on FaceBook, now is the time to do so and become a fan of our publication at FaceBook.

Click on Mary E. Adair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Cooking With Leo

By Leocthasme

Some Stuff From Crown Royal®

Ok, so I thought I would dedicate this short column to my Grandson who just returned from his last tour of duty in Iraq this past year and is now connected with the staff teaching ROTC at the University of Oregon in Eugene. I know we enjoy sipping a bit of Crown Royal on occasion; I like it and he likes it too. Since it’s pretty hard to send a bottle of Crown Royal all the way from Texas to Oregon, I thought I’d just send some neat recipes using it and let you buy your own bottle. So here are some outstanding recipes direct from Crown Royal so you can pick out one and make it and have it and have one for your Granddad too. Merry Christmas!

How to make Simple Syrup:

For about 1 quart, you need 3 Cups Sugar dissolved in 3 Cups of Water. This must be heated To-a-Boil, but do NOT boil. Cut the heat as soon as it begins to boil. A wooden spoon is needed to stir all the sugar into the water until it is perfectly clear, reheating if necessary. So, if it is still cloudy looking, bring it to a boil again. Must be brought to a boil to clear…must be clear. This will keep in the ice box or on the back of the bar for months.

Special Crown Recipes:

  • Crown Royal® Collide TW - With a rich blend of vanilla and orange notes, the Crown Royal Collide recipe is sure to stir the senses and satisfy your palate.
    Crown Royal® - 1 oz.
    Grand Marnier Liqueur® - .25 oz.
    Navan Liqueur® - .25 oz.
    Lemon Lime Soda - Splash
    Orange Bitters - 1-3 dashes

    Shake and serve on the rocks; garnish with an orange slice.

  • Crown Royal Italian - Perhaps you’re looking for something a little more continental. Try the Crown Royal Italian. Delizioso!
    Crown Royal® - 1.25 oz.
    Grapefruit Juice - .5 oz.
    Bitters Liqueur - .25 oz.
    Simple Syrup - .25 oz.

    Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain it into a chilled martini glass.

  • Crown Royal® Reserve Red TW - With syrup, raspberry liqueur, and lemon juice mixed with the whisky, the Red truly has a once in a lifetime taste that goes with those once-in-a-lifetime occasions.
    Crown Royal Reserve® - 1.25 oz.
    Raspberry Liqueur - .5 oz.
    Simple Syrup - .25 oz.
    Lemon Juice - .25 oz.

    Shake with the ice in the shaker, and serve on the rocks.

  • Crown Royal® The Big "One Six" TW - Mix anise liqueur with Crown Royal Cask No. 16, and what you have is a rich, elegant drink known as The Big "One-Six."
    Crown Royal Cask No. 16® - 1.5 oz.
    Simple Syrup - .25 oz.
    Anise flavored Liqueur - 1 teaspoon
    Bitters - 1-3 dashes

    Stir ingredients in rocks glass with ice. Strain into another rocks glass that is rinsed with absinthe (anise-flavored liqueur). Serve it in the absinthe-rinsed glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

    Crown Classics:

  • Crown Royal® Perfect Manhattan TW - It’s a little sweet, a little dry and just a little bitter. A Perfect Manhattan is the cocktail for the sophisticated drinkers who like to think with their tongues. And when it comes to recipes, tongues know best.
    Crown Royal XR® - 1 oz.
    Sweet Vermouth - .25 oz.
    Dry Vermouth - .25 oz.
    Bitters - 1-3 dashes

    Combine ingredients in a shaker. Stir and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cherry.

    Crown Originals:

  • Crown Royal® Flush TW - In gambling they say, “Go big or go home.” So it’s a good thing this Crown Royal®Flush doesn’t come with any other risk except for you wanting another round. With just the right amount of sweetness and Crown, you can enjoy it as either a drink or a shot.
    Crown Royal® - 1.25 oz.
    Peach Schnapps - .5 oz.
    Cranberry Juice - 2-3 oz.

    Combine all the ingredients in a shaker of ice. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass or into a shot glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

    Crown Recipes for the Holidays:

  • Crown Royal® Spiked Apple Cider TW - It's the perfect fall party punch. Nothing says fall quite like cider, and nothing says party quite like "spiked." So grab some friends and get together, and enjoy those good times with some cider.
    Crown Royal® - 1.5 cups
    Apple Cider - 8 cups

    Combine Crown Royal and apple cider in a large pot and heat until warm. Pour into eight heat-proof mugs and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Serves 8 people.

    Merry Christmas to my Grandson and Family in Oregon.

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

    By Mattie Lennon


    Some time ago a Donegal man was admitted to Letterkenny hospital with injuries received when he was assaulted by a Fianna Fail canvasser. It prompted the news headline, “TAMMANY HALL/DONEGAL. COINCIDENCE?” You don’t often hear the Democratic Party Political Machine discussed in Tir Conaill.

    But why would you? They have their own famous hall . . . in Leghowney. Where is Leghowney? According to a local publication it’s,

    “ A Townland outside Donegal. Green hills and bumpy roads wind across it from Clogher to Aughlim and on up the 'Whinney Lane'; the streets have no names but every house is known - from Boyles' to Cassidy's, Hone's and a few other delightful neighbours. The craic fills the air in Leghowney's local, thriving community centre that brought the first National Sheep Racing event to Ireland ...”

    (The townland is now firmly on the map but it's worth noting that when William Bulfin's " Rambles in Erin" was published in 1907 an irate reader in Leghowney wrote to the Editor of the Barnesmore Bugle complaining that, while Mr.Bulfin wrote in glowing terms about about Ballyshannon, Mountcharles and Frossas he, " . . . failed to give one mention to Leghowney .”)in 2008 (with a little help from a Monsieur Looson n'est-ce pas?). Let friends know that Leghowney should be kept a well-known secret - known to some and left unspoilt by others.

    In 1932 the Leghowney Flute Band was formed and its Home at that time was a Barn belonging to Edward Travers in Finadoose. This premises was used for band practice meetings and to store the instruments. It was also the headquarters of the local Fianna Fail organisation.

    Barns and schools were the only venues for the functions i.e. dances and concerts, which was the only entertainment at that time.

    At the time house dances were also a very important part of the Local Community. In every house there was an instrument: a fiddle, an accordion, mouth organ or tin whistle. Wasn’t it immortalized by the poet?;

    On the white wall flickered the spluttering lamp
    And lit the shadowy kitchen,
    The sanded floor,
    The girls by the painted dresser.......
    These on the settle, those on the table; the turf
    Sent up faint smoke and faint in the chimney light
    From the frost-fed stars trembled and died
    ....the girls wide-eyed
    Their loose hair flying,
    Danced to the shuttle of lilted music weaving
    Into the measure the light and heavy foot.

    The Free State government introduced the House Dance Act of 1935 which banned dances , dancers and musicians. You had to get a licence to hold a dance even in your own house. They came up with a moral argument against dancing and ….if you don’t mind . . a sanitary facilities argument. But as one commentator said, at the time, “the Government don’t care if you make your water down the chimney as long as they get their money.” BUT A breach of the law could result in a court appearance and penalty.

    With a big population of young people around the area and most of them able to play music, they were able to entertain. It was talked about at these house parties that a Dance Hall should be build in the Leghowney area.

    A final decision was taken at a meeting in Edward Travers Barn in January 1937, that a hall would be built and a committee was set up, a site acquired in Aughlim in Ned Gillespie’s field and for some unknown reason this site was not built on. The location was to be changed to a field belonging to Edward Murphy.

    Building work started June of 1937 and the famous Leghowney Hall was opened on the 11th of November 1937. The proceeds on the night was 19 pounds 17 shillings and six pence. The site for the Hall cost 5 pounds and the structure of tin and timber cost 400 pounds, two melodians for 2 pounds and they are still dancing in Leghowney 75 years later and after a major refurbishment it will accommodate and entertain for another 75 years.

    Ecumenism was alive and well in Leghowney decades before the Good Friday Agreement. When the Orange Hall in Donegal Town was burned the Cully Pipe Band lost all their instruments. Who came to the rescue? The Leghowney Pipe Band loaned their instruments to the Orangemen.

    John Cassidy (local businessman and cousin of the well known author of the same name) says, “On the opening night music was supplied by local musicians and the big band was the Great Music of Paddy McCafferty's Band from Ballyboffey who entertained many a night until the mid 60s. Other great bands who played there in the 40s, 50s and early 60s were the Slieve Foy Leo and Baba Brennen, Steve McPelemy, Alex Glackin, The Haugheys (the lyrics donegal town), Willie Ponsonboy, The Keynotes and many more. Then we had the Skiffile Groups from Laghey and Donegal Town and of course we had our own local musicians Peter Travers, The McNamees, Hone Brothers Sean, Pat and Joe Kilpatrick”

    In November 2012 Leghowney Hall will be 75 years old but the good people in this area of south Donegal won’t wait for eleven months to celebrate. Celebrations start on New Year’s Day. 2012,in Leghowney will see drama, singing and all aspects of the performing arts. There may not be a spluttering lamp or painted dresser but you can bet there will be;

    “. . . the girls wide eyed

    Their loose hair flying . . .”

    Leghowney Drama Club is one of the oldest in the country. It was started, also, in 1937 and in the intervening years has earned for itself widespread distinction and prestige. The late Anew McMaster once said: "The preservation of the theatre has passed from the hands of the professional to the amateur." One need not look further than Leghowney to see how true this is.

    Also there has been a Famine-pot (a grim reminder of “black 47”) found in the area and it Will be unveiled in 2012. Details on;

    And what about the sheep racing? Forget about the Kentucky Derby, the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup and concentrate on the Donegal Hardware Handicap. Every year since 2008 Leghowney has held a Sheep Racing Day.

    After the 2011 event a Barnasmore farmer told me a story about how a ram from Clogher was leading by several lengths in a Steeplechase until he made a “ewe-turn.”

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


    By Thomas F. O'Neill

    Spreading a little Holiday Cheer

    The yuletide season is once again upon us with all the hustle and bustle of the mad shoppers. I for one didn’t participate in the frenzy of Black Friday like millions did in America and I never will.

    I am one of those people who simply enjoy the sharing and to give thanks for the special people in my life. That truly makes this time of year special for me especially here in Suzhou, China.

    I surely have plenty to be thankful for because throughout my life people have gone out of their way to be kind to me and the Chinese here are no exception. I once told my students in class when you care for others you are cared for and when you love others you are loved. This special season of giving should reveal our love for one another through kindness because loving kindness gives this special season its true meaning.

    The cities in China are all lit up now with Christmas lights and they are so beautifully displayed that also brings out the Christmas spirit in me. The Chinese also enjoy celebrating this special season with the lighting of bonfires. Some sing songs and dance around the large glowing fires. They set off large firework displays as well in the night sky. It is an ancient tradition that goes back thousands of years. It’s one of their ways of coming together as an entire community to celebrate their abundance and to be thankful for having one another in their lives. That is just one of the reasons I find this season so special here.

    The first time I participated in a Chinese Christmas festivity was two years ago and little children ran up to me wearing Christmas caps and yelling “Merry Christmas, Mr. Tom.” They then handed me a chocolate candy bar. I quickly pulled out my BlackBerry phone and tried to capture the moment on video. The Children playfully jumped up and down in front of my BlackBerry as I recorded them dancing around a bonfire. The children here are extremely affectionate and funny and they know how to pull on your heart strings. The adults here are also gracious especially when I participate in this festive season with them and I always have a great time with the kids.

    Here like in America Parents and children alike take great joy in Santa’s arrival on Christmas Day. I also enjoy seeing the young children’s faces light up at the sight of Santa the jolly old soul.

    There was a time though when I felt the season of giving was simply a common courtesy in order to receive and provide our significant others with material gifts.

    I now understand more clearly that this special season is for heartfelt acts of gratitude for having people in our lives. When keeping the true spirit of giving close to heart it enables us to give from the heart all year-round.

    The yuletide season should be a time when our love comes to call because that love gives this time of year its true meaning.

    What intrigues me about the Christmas season here in China is that the majority who celebrate this time of year are non-Christian. The Buddhists have embraced the season as a way of giving thanks.

    I have found over the years though that it's not the material gifts that count in life but rather it's the unrecognized, undetected, and unremembered acts of loving kindness that are our greatest gifts and achievements in life.

    If we truly want to see a world of loving and joyous people we must be loving and joyous towards the people in our own lives. That potential is part of our humanity. When we reach out and touch others we touch part of the humanity that is within us. When we enhance the life of another in need we in turn enhance our own lives.

    Objects gift-wrapped in shiny paper can be forgotten over time but kindness whispered to those in need will echo endlessly throughout the community. Those small acts of kindness resonate with the giver and the receiver because they are gifts from the heart. Such priceless gifts can never be measured monetarily though because how can you put a price on love?

    From my heart to yours I would like to wish all of you a very merry and joyous holiday season.

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

      U.S. voice mail: (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.

    The House That Holds My Dreams

    By Wendy Shepard-Kalan

    The house that holds my dreams
    Today and in the past
    From deep within its beams
    Memories that last

    Baby giggles echo through the halls
    My child's first steps on sweet little feet
    All held within these walls
    On our quiet little street

    Family dinners just us three
    Warmth that has only grown
    Such a part of me
    All my son has ever known

    1st Christmas turns to 12 th
    His future coming fast
    Trophies on his shelf
    I want these days to last

    My child is asleep
    The house is still
    feelings run so deep
    Staring from my windowsill

    The tree I planted is so tall
    The branches stretched out strong
    Tiny leaves starting to fall
    This is where I belong

    A husbands smile
    A gentle touch
    Knowing all the while
    We have so much

    Memories that last
    From deep within its beams
    Today and in the past
    In the house that holds my dreams

    ©11/30/11 Wendy Shepard-Kalan

    Click on Wendy Shepard-Kalan
    for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.


    By Caroline Evans

    Years and decades later
    when working, looking for the way
    I knew the sunfish showed me,
    that quiet sunny day.



    I formally learned the art of meditation in my twenties. I was a do-it-yourself-er, using books and a few visits to a Zen Center to guide me.

    I sat with eyes open, some times gently gazing toward a spot a couple yards away. Other times I watched a candle, counted breaths, observed the flow according to the teachers. With practice I got the knack and found their mind state.

    I had known it years before,
    but had not known it then.
    I had no name to give it,
    had let it drift away.

    As a little nipper in my grade school years I lived in then-rural Exeter, Rhode Island. We lived along a two-lane highway, but it was not busy. Maybe half a dozen families were our only nearby neighbors.

    We kids rode our bikes or walked along a dirt and gravel two-rut, one-lane path to a swimming spot on a small fishing pond called Barbers Pond.

    The dirt road was one or two miles long and touched the highway at each end. It paralleled the highway. A quarter mile of woods and wild-land stood between the two.

    A couple miles of graveled dirt road, with trees and brush on either side. It was a tunnel through the forest, the perfect youngsters' trail.

    One end of the dirt road was closest to our homes. It looked like a narrow driveway to the few who sped on down the highway. No one but we locals knew it was a public road.

    The fisherman's access was to the south, just off the highway pavement. A picnic grove with some wooden tables, stone picnic fireplaces and an unpaved boat launch under some nice big shade trees lured the few picnickers and fishermen away from our private swimming spot. The far end of our dirt road reconnected to the larger world there.

    The swimming spot was at a washed out embankment about halfway from either end. The washout's rounded gully ran about ten yards from the gravel road sloping pretty steeply to the pond, ten or fifteen feet lower than the road.

    Some unknown neighbor good guy had poured a dump truck load of sandy gravel to make a rough beach. There was a ten yard dock of logs and scrap wood standing at one side. The water was about a yard deep at the far end of the dock.

    My favorite mornings were when I was alone there. I went to swim a few hours after sunrise, well ahead of the small crew of neighbor kids who went there almost every hot day of the summer. We kids, when together, could be loud and rowdy. Some days I didn't feel like being noisy or rambunctious. And so I swam alone.

    I pedaled my Schwinn 3-speed down there, a towel, my swim fins, mask and snorkel in a pair of baskets across the back.

    I'd hide my bike across the road in a secret bushy hollow and stroll across the road. I'd make my way down shoreward dodging painful pointy stones upon the slope.

    I'd move, without splashing, into the water, spit in my mask and rub it round and rinse to keep the glass from fogging. Then I'd wade in waist deep, squat into the humus scented water, pull on my swim fins, stretch forward prone upon the surface and slowly prowl the edges of the pond.

    Sometimes I'd tow along some five or ten pound rocks on a scrap of broken styrofoam float and head out toward the middle. I'd use the little boulders for a gravity assisted dive to a mid depth thermocline.

    There was a distinct separation between the cold and the warm water. It was not a gradual change.

    Two fathoms thick was the layer of sunshine heated water. Turtles, plants and fish... and swimmers... liked this layer best.

    Two fathoms down and deeper lay murky water, cold and still and dark and spooky. Black-brown mud and coldness meant few living beings inhabited the world below.

    I would hold my breath, kick my way downward to lazily float in the sun-warmed, light-dimmed space just above that border.

    Facing down while hovering in the warmth of the upper layer I could stretch my arm and hand straight down and into the cold water below.

    Twisting like a submerged otter and rolling to my back I would lie there looking far far upwards to the surface.

    A few stray bubbles escaping from my snorkel, swam their way upwards, tiny, wiggling, silver balloons of air shrinking ever smaller as they left me.

    For those few moments, it did not seem entirely like water, more like infinite weightless space.

    The surface was another world away way up there. This weightless place was mine for as long as I held my breath.

    With practice I was able to stay down and laze mid-water for some few minutes and feel no panic. I'd gently fin my way toward the distant air when lungs suggested it was time to breathe.

    Some warm sunny mornings I had the whole thirty acre pond to myself. No anglers, no canoes, no tourists, no neighbors. Just the fish and birds and turtles worked the pond.

    Tufts of pond plants barely waved in the tiny currents that moved along the gently sloping bottom. Trees and brush crowded the shore leaning over the water. Birds enjoyed the branches, sometimes singing, sometimes flitting overhead.

    One swim remembered fondly found me slowly, gently snorkeling the edge of the pond, a few yards out from shore, gazing downward to see what lived in the couple feet of water. I easily pushed through clumps of reeds and lily-pads spaced about a foot apart.

    I spotted a shallow, foot-wide bowl swept out of the sand.
    It was a tiny crater of gravel lined with pebbles.
    A six inch sunfish had exposed the underlying gravel by finning away the overlying sand.

    I slowed my forward motion, drifted to a stop and let my fin tips drop to lightly touch the sand as a gentle anchor. I hovered with my face a couple dozen inches above the sunfish's nest. This nest is where her eggs were, gluey strands between the pebbles.

    I slowly, gently breathed through my snorkel.
    My displacement changed as my lungs filled and emptied.

    I gently rose and settled, cycling in time with my breath.
    Ripples from my bobbing cast moving bands of light and dark across sand the color of last autumn's straw .

    The sunfish quietly circled her nest unconcerned by me.
    She felt no threat, it seems she sensed I was no danger.
    Perhaps she thought a drifting log had grounded,
    bobbing with the ripples.

    I rested there hearing my breath moving through the j-shaped tube, quietly watching the sunfish as my back skin air-dried in the dappled morning sun.

    Like a piece of driftwood, I simply floated watching.

    There was no time but now then.
    No past or future moved my thoughts.
    Simply there, a hunk of human driftwood.

    Driftwood with some eyes, though,
    that watched a little sunfish.

    Moments passed uncounted
    I knew no sense of time then.
    Moments were but one now.

    No words at all came to me,
    none were there to think or speak.

    I floated, breathed and did not think but noticed.
    I was someplace elsewhere, wordless.

    Too soon a sense of time came back, though.
    Mind's internal chatter slowly started up again.

    I moved along and left her, the little sunfish
    prowling round and round the warm shallows
    round her gravel spot, her nest upon the bottom.

    I made my way to shore then,
    walked up the slope and toweled off
    and then I pedaled home.

    Or so I thought back then.

      I knew the sunfish showed me,
      that quiet sunny day.
      I'd met the buddha swimming
      and then I swam away.

    Posted by Caroline at 11:14 PM, Sunday, May 2, 2010, in: her blog, Etcetera by Carolyn

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

    Always Looking - Family Reunions

    Always Looking -

    By John I. Blair

    Family Reunions

    This is the season of family reunions – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa. The season above all others when kinfolk get together face to face to share companionship, show off new babies, see how much older children have grown in the past 12 months, see how much older we all have gotten, eat copious quantities of good food, and tell stories. My family has been having reunions for as many years as we can count.

    photo of circa 1938 Blair family reunion in Oklahoma.

    You’ll never have a better opportunity to gather anecdotal stories about family history – especially recent history – and to add to the family’s precious collection of photographs. Or to update your information on your family as it is right now – data that becomes the heart of family histories in the future.

    The Saturday after Thanksgiving at our house we invited over all of the next generation, and the one after that, who could attend – a total in our small local branch of the Blairs of nine adults and ten children, from three generations. In our modest and furniture-crowded house it was delicious bedlam for four hours. Confronted with more small children than they had ever seen in their sheltered lives, our three cats reacted with understandable anxiety. Georgie hid out in the bedroom all evening; Zander darted from behind one piece of furniture to behind another; and Gracie climbed into my lap and snuggled close for security. A couple of times I almost sympathized, as the house reverberated with the joyous shrieks of a generation of children who definitely haven’t been raised to be seen, not heard. But we loved it. Such a life-affirming experience for a couple who spend way too much time by ourselves or with other old folk!

    The star of the show was our new grandniece, T.R. Her momma felt comfortable enough to let several others hold T.R., including our six-year-old granddaughter -- who looked like T.R. was far, far better than a dolly. T.R. is the latest in a line of new babies introduced at these reunions, and possibly the last, as the family roster appears to be pretty much filled up by now.

    After the pizza had been delivered and consumed, the story telling, which had already started, got into full gear. And cameras were flashing like a convention of paparazzi at a movie premier. Two of the most important activities at a family reunion these, as I mentioned earlier. And it doesn’t even matter if most of the stories have been told before, often several times. This is a form of oral lore that’s been practiced by humans for millennia. Find stories to tell, then tell them repeatedly to younger generations to keep memories alive. As I’ve related in past columns, my family has some stories that have been passed down in this way for more than 150 years. Whether they are strictly factual or not, they have achieved the status of being “true” for our family. And their details have led me more than once to uncovering documentable family history by pointing the way to where to look and what to look for.

    Of course the really old stories are obviously treasures. Great-great Grandma Catharine hired by the Indians as a midwife; Great-Grandpa Walkup and his purchase of 40 horses as traveling capital for a move to Oklahoma Territory and him feeding them free in a farmer’s field that they “accidentally” got into along the road. Lately I’ve added a couple more tales from my gleanings in genealogy – the four orphans from Cornwall, the inheritance and the bunion joint; Captain Piggott and the ferryboat; Daniel Boone adopted by the Shawnee.

    What’s important to listen for in tales told at modern family reunions is relatively new stories that have the makings of timeless family lore. Today one of my nephews related the story of my father, dressed in a Tyrolean hat and a windbreaker and wielding a hand-carved walking stick, leading a group of people on a trek along the route of the old Santa Fe Trail through a small portion of the Kansas Flint Hills grasslands. He’d had his picture taken by a press photographer along for the walk. The photo, and the story, not only show Dad at a time when he was still in his prime, but also capture a bit of his character as a knowledgeable leader who worked with a Boy Scout troop for years in an unofficial capacity as “expert” on field lore such as how to cook over a campfire, how to identify trees and birds and animals, how to make a whistle from a willow branch. Now his grandchildren have that story, and are telling it to his great-grandchildren, keeping a bit of him alive in memories.

    photo of Dad Blair hiking the Santa Fe Trail in the 1960s.

    I especially like the stories that have one or more photographs or physical items associated with them. The combination of words and images really brings people to life. But my point is, somebody at every family reunion . . . and it might as well be you . . . should preserve these old stories in a more retrievable format than somebody’s memory. For example, if my Great-Aunt Lee hadn’t told the story of Walkup and his horses, and the story of Catharine and her work with the Indians, at a family reunion and her daughter written it down on the spot, then transcribed it into a document that she then shared with other family members, both stories would almost certainly have been lost by now.

    You don’t have to be a skilled writer to do this – just try to copy down the story as closely as possible to how it’s told. Use a recording device if possible, so you can transcribe at leisure. Get permission to record of course, but don’t stick a microphone in your source’s face – that can put some people off, make them nervous. With modern equipment, small and unobtrusive, that has become much easier.

    And if you think it’s appropriate, take photos of the storyteller – I’d love to have one of Great Aunt Lee telling her stories.

    Of course the traditional way to preserve these is in pamphlet format, easy to do with modern computers and printers. The more adventurous might want to make home videos as well, but these are a bit harder to share and more perishable. And be sure to ask for permission to share photos and videos (and in some cases names).

    Here’s a little bit of family lore I just heard from my 98-year-old Aunt Mary and shared at our latest reunion, now written down for the first time: When my mother turned 21 and was eligible to vote, it was 1930. Women had only had the right to vote since 1920. Her father encouraged her to exercise her right, and even gave her a list of candidates running in the election, but she noticed that it had only the names of the Democrats. When she asked who was running on the Republican ticket, Grandpa said “Oh, they’re not worth bothering about.”

    photo of Ruth Percy – Mom Blair – circa 1930 and old enough to vote.

    In our historically Republican family (which includes a few Democrat nonconformists like me) that’s an especially funny – and telling – story, which reveals something about history in general, family history and Grandpa Percy in particular. It’s well worth recording and preserving. (Mom voted Republican pretty much the rest of her life, by the way.)

    Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

    Eric Shackle's Column

    By Eric Shackle

    These words DO have rhymes!

    Frustrated poets sometimes claim that no words rhyme with purple, silver, orange and month. Rubbish! There ARE words that rhyme with them. Let's deal with them one at a time.

    Hurple and curple rhyme with purple. Hurple is a scottish word, meaning to hobble, or walk with a limp, and curple is a strap under the girth of a horse's saddle to stop the saddle shifting forward.

    Burple was a drink mix packed in an expandable accordion-like plastic container. Kids could poke a hole in the cap to convert the container into a squirt gun

    Discussing his family name, Trevar Chilver says "The Oxford English Dictionary lists chilver as an Old English noun meaning a ewe lamb, often referred to as a 'chilver lamb'."

    There's a Chilver Street in the London (UK) borough of Greenwich. So a poet could write:

      Jewellers sell gold and silver,
      In the street that bears the name of Chilver.

    The Urban Dictionary says that in the fashion world gilver is a color that is a mix of metallic gold and silver; pilver is a noun meaning the feeling one has after staying awake far too late doing nothing productive and knowing all the while that one is doing nothing productive, and a quilver is a mob of angry squirrels that may or may not be a part of a larger plot to take over the world. Pilver and Quilver are surnames.

    Elizabeth Millicent (Sally) Chilver (b. 1914) a London Daily News journalist 1945-47, became a distinguished political scientist and anthropologist. The British Library of Political and Economic Science says she studied "the anthropology of the Cameroon grasslands... covering subjects including matrilineal society, witchcraft, magic and divination, with notes on the authors by Chilver; working notes on the Kingdom of Bum in the north-west province of Cameroon."

    That's right: the Kingdom of Bum. We thought that must be a spoof. Not so. Take a look at the Kingdom of Bum, and Fonfuka and Lagabum websites. Fascinating!

    In his amusing book "Adventures of a Verbivore" US language expert and best-selling author Richard Lederer wrote: "It's not true that no words rhyme with orange... There was a man -- I'm not kidding -- named Henry Honeychurch Gorringe. He was a naval commander who in the mid-nineteenth century oversaw the transport of Cleopatra's Needle to New York's Central Park. Pouncing on this event, the poet Arthur Guiterman wrote:

      In Sparkhill buried lies a man of mark
      Who brought the Obelisk to Central Park,
      Redoubtable Commander H. H. Gorringe,
      Whose name supplies the long-sought rhyme for orange.

    And a hill in South Wales is called "The Blorange"

    How about oneth (pronounced wunth)? Discussing Dodie Smith's book The Hundred and One Dalmatians, a reviewer wrote: "This is the original novel, published in 1956, from which the movie adaptations were made--poorly... How many people know who the actual 101th dalmatian was?"

    And on a genealogy site, we found this message, posted on February 29, 2004, from Kevin Oneth: "I am a descendent of Adam Oneth." Another read " I am looking to connect with descendants of John and Rebecca Alspaugh Oneth."

    Of course, there are hundreds of stories read by seven-year-olds with missing front teeth, which begin Oneth upon a time.

    W.S. Gilbert, a world-class rhymester, claimed in an open letter to The Graphic in 1887: 'It has long been supposed that there is no rhyme to 'month.' There is a rhyme to it--not any lisping version of such words as 'once' 'dunce,' etc., but a legitimate word in everyday use... 'millionth' as the best rhyme to 'month,' and I have the authority of the greatest poets in the English language for treating it as a tri-syllable, if I feel disposed to do so.'

    One of our favorite rhymes is:

      Shake, shake the ketchup bottle,
      First none'll come, and then a lot'll.

    No, the famous U.S. humorist Ogden Nash (1902-1971) was NOT the author of that immortal couplet, although many people claim he was. (He DID write Candy / is dandy / But liquor / is quicker.)

    One website, noting that August 19 was the anniversary of Nash's birthday, gave this circumstantial but misleading account: "One summer afternoon in 1930, he jotted down a little nonsense poem and sent it to The New Yorker. The magazine bought it, and asked for more. Nash moved to Baltimore and for the next 40 years made his living entirely off of poems like:

      You shake and shake the ketchup bottle,
      nothing comes, and then a lot'll.

    According to Nash's grand-daughter, Frances R. Smith of Baltimore, Maryland (and she should know) what he actually wrote was:

      The Catsup Bottle
      First a little
      Then a lottle

    (Catsup is another American word for ketchup. Brits and Aussies call it tomato sauce.

    Then, in 1949, another US humorist, Richard Willard Armour (1906-1989), seems to have gleefully seized on Nash's rhyme, and produced the couplet that many people enjoy reciting to this day.

    Armour was a master of the comical one-liner. Here are three of his wisecracks:

    • Middle age is the time of life / that a man first notices in his wife.
    • It's all right to hold a conversation, but you should let go of it now and then.
    • A rumor is one thing that gets thicker instead of thinner as it is spread.

    Apart from lot'll, it's not difficult to find a suitable rhyme for bottle. We can think of throttle, wattle, dottle (a plug of tobacco remaining in a pipe after a smoke), glottal and mottle.

    Ogden Nash found a rhyme for parsley by slightly changing the spelling of ghastly. He wrote "Parsley / is gharstly."

    Posted by Eric Shackle at 20:21 Saturday, 12 November 2011, in Sydney, Australia, in his blog: http:/www/
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    Angel Whispers

    By Peg Jones

    Five keys to Angelic Empowerment

    From the time, I was a young child, I knew about Angels. My mom would read us stories about our angels and we would have long discussions about our Guardian Angels. I believe at that time, I was very close to my angels, as I realize now, I would speak to them often and I also believe that I saw them. As I grew older, the conversations and visions of angels went away. I didn’t really think of the angels, till I was about 38 years old, when I went to a seminar about angels. For the next ten years, I would receive Angels as gifts, from family members, students and friends.

    Eight years has passed since the angels have come back to my life. It has been a wonderful journey and I want to share with you the five keys to empowerment, which I have experienced in working with my angels.

    • 1. The angels will never say anything that is negative to you. They always have positive messages to say to you. So if you feel you have heard something that is negative know that you aren’t speaking to your angels.
    • 2. Your angels can help you with a vision you may have for yourself. You just have to ask them for help. They believe and respect your freewill, so they would never interfere with whether or not you would like them to help you.
    • 3. Our angels help us with creativity. I was always fairly creative with arts and crafts. However I always had the opinion that I wasn’t able to write essays etc, or write poetry in anyway. Since my interest in angels, I have been writing poetry and I have been writing for two ezines. I have learned to write healing meditations and I have also learned to write messages from my angels. I have a lot more confidence in my writing and now I am starting to do some painting. My angels have really helped me with my confidence in writing and I thank them for their patience and help.
    • 4. Our angels give us signs that they are around us. There may be a song on the radio or on television that came on at exactly the time you had needed it to be on. You could be in a conversation and someone says something to you that you had just thought about the other day. You are at the bookstore and a book pops out at you or it drops to the floor. You pick up the book and it was exactly what you needed to look at. You hear your name called and you don’t see anyone near you. Or you could be reading something in a book or a magazine and it was something you truly needed to hear at that particular time.
    • 5. The angels will empower us to be our true self. They will help us to see the truth of who you truly are. They introduce you to people who may be in your life a short period or a long period. They will help you find the opportunities that are in your best interest. They will never force or nag, but they do encourage us to try different things so that we know and understand, life has no limits and that we can manifest whatever we truly would like to manifest for ourselves.

    I asked my angels if there was anything else I should write for this article. This is what they told me. They wanted to remind me that their messages for us are from pure love and that they want us to feel comfortable that they only work in a place of pure love. They want you to know that when you go to your heart place a place of peace and love, this is where you will find them.

    They say a way to find this heart place is through meditation, to help you feel centered and grounded. When you get to the heart place, know that angels will be there and they will be waiting for you, so that they can show you the love there. They say that peace is also there and that with love and peace there is no need for worry and upset. Trusting your angels, and knowing they are messengers for God, you will be delightfully satisfied that there is a lot of love when it comes to feeling empowered from your angels.

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    Consider This

    By LC Van Savage

    Butter Knives from Hell

    It’s happened to all of us. We’ve all received hideous gifts from well meaning people, (right; more on that bit of chicanery later) which we’d never think of using even if the barrel of a big, cocked gun were pressed at our skulls. But what can you do when you find yourself opening what turns out to be a truly ghastly gift, so gawdawful your heart collapses in your chest, your eyeballs turn to granite marbles, your very breath leaves your body, and the loving gift-givers are standing before you with expectant, joyful smiles?

    You act. That’s what you do. We all have unplumbed depths of Thespian agilities we didn’t know we possessed until that one terrible moment of truth. We gasp. We gush. Our eyebrows go up in wildly happy surprise. We stutter with joy and look into the faces of the givers with such grateful adoration they are completely convinced we are thrilled to our very marrow by their fabulous, beautiful and totally unexpected gift.

    Ah, but if we could look into the minds of those spurious givers, we’d know their smiles do not come because they’re experiencing the joy of giving. Instead their smiles come from exhaled relief, because now finally, they are rid of that cursed thing which is now our gift, that awful thing they’d been given less than a year back. They are free of this terrible offering that’s obviously been passed through many, many hands. Now someone else can be revolted by it.

    For us it was butter knives. At least I think that’s what they were. My husband “Mongo” and I had recently moved into our new home in New Jersey and were giving a house-warming party. We’d expressly written “no gifts!” on all invitations, and we meant it. We just wanted to be with our new friends, and that was all. And all of those new friends honored our wishes and came to the party giftless. Except for one couple. They decided to disrespect our wishes and bring a gift anyway. It was elaborately wrapped and when we tried to thank them as quietly as possible, they loudly insisted we open the box to see what they’d bestowed upon us.

    Trying to do it with as little fanfare as possible and desperately attempting to send a signal to all the other guests that I really didn’t approve of this couple’s blatantly disregarding our “no gifts!” edict without actually letting the givers know I was doing that (stay with me here,) I softly tore off the wrapping paper trying to keep the sound of that as quiet as I could. The box inside was red and I knew immediately it had seen lots of other owners; the corners were worn, the genuine imitation leather was torn and frayed on the bottom and there was a small stain on the top someone had clearly tried to scrub off. But being the gracious lady I am, I ignored all those visual clues that I was being scammed and pulled up the lid. There inside, nestled in their red, fitted, faux velvet openings lay six of the most horrible looking butter knives ever created. The handles were as thick as a wrestler’s thumb, and made of imitation ivory or bone and I was grateful for their fakeness since it would have filled me with searing guilt if an animal had died to give up its tusks or bones to make handles for those dreadful scimitars. The greyish handles were deeply carved in all sorts of strange and unrelated shapes; sunbursts, stars, deer, birds, triangles, and the edges of all those peculiar carvings were sharp and painful to the touch, thus gripping them would require some amount of courage had the butter been hard. The knives' shafts were thin as string, imitation gold (flaking off) and about four inches long and all of this ended in a mini-machete, a small, flaking gold, curved and dull knife with a curled end. And there were etchings on those short, fat blades too, words in some language carved in strange, unidentifiable hieroglyphs. Those horrid little butter daggers were just simply awful, but what could I do? I gushed and grinned and blathered something about “never using them except on the most special of occasions!” Ugh. Yeah, like maybe the anniversary of Mussolini’s birth.

    But the time came when I would be able to unload those horrid little lancets. I’d waited long for the opportunity. The people who’d given them to us had moved so there was no danger they’d find out. I hauled them out and spruced up the red box as well as I could, wrapped it beautifully and handed it beamingly to an old teacher being honored for his fiftieth year of teaching. Forty years before he used to make me walk home in the middle of geography class to retrieve homework I’d usually not done but told him I’d forgotten to bring in. It was really hard trying to get that homework done properly in the freezing cold, holding it against my knee so I could write in the answers while I was running back to.

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

    God's Mirror

    By Telephone Man

    I asked the Lord to save my Soul
    And give me Grace
    Yet I thought the Lord
    Did not hear me.
    I asked the Lord again
    To come into my Soul and guide me.

    The Lord entered my Soul
    In the form of the Holy Spirit
    To let me see beyond myself.

    The Lord led me to His mirror,
    I saw myself in my human body
    And I saw the Light of my Soul
    Shining bright like a shining Star,
    But yet I saw my Guardian Angel
    Helping me to guard my Soul
    Against earthly materials
    And not sin against the Almighty God.

    The Holy Spirit keeps my Soul
    Clean and shiny,
    And guides me so I will not follow
    Fallen Angels of this World.

    © 2010 The Telephone Man

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    Things Change

    By M. Jay Mansfield

    Things change, times change
    But I am who I am and that will never change

    Situations change and needs change
    But I am who I am whether it`s good or insane

    The few that I love I will always love
    No Demon nor angel can change my mind

    The one that I love will always be loved
    No matter what pain problem or amount of time

    There are things that change and things that don`t
    Things that should change and then there is me that won`t

    Stripped down or dressed up
    Hated feared or loved

    I am who I said I was and I always will be
    Things change but my heart does not

    Things change but they do not over ride what I know
    Things change my heart may stop but it is not one of these things

    On it goes till it goes no more Loving my Love
    Things change and I am so glad I am not one of them

    ©10-30-2011 MJMansfield

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    On The Outside

    By M. Jay Mansfield

    Again I sit on the outside looking in
    I see the most beautiful heart breaking site
    My face pressed flat upon the screen

    Once again I am clawing at the door
    The mutt begging to come in
    scratching till my paw is bloody and raw

    I would take that little space next to the heat
    Wouldn’t even have to be directly there
    I would be so quiet and neat

    If was allowed to be in there
    I would protect and warn
    I would show loyal loving care

    Here I sit on the outside
    Maybe they will rub my head
    When they yell I will hide

    Out of the way I would be
    If only they would let me in
    What a friend I would be

    But for now I’ll wait with hope
    Maybe some day I’ll be back in
    Next to the hearth’s healthy smoke

    Loyal loving friend on the outside
    I hope someday to be let in
    For now my tears I will hide

    I just don’t want to be left…outside..

    ©10-27-2011 MJMansfield

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    By M. Jay Mansfield

    It`s partly cloudy with 100% chance of falling for you
    My heart beats wildly it`s too late you see
    I knew I would and long ago you knew it too
    No matter what it is we thought I`d be
    It was always gonna be me falling for you

    it`s a beautiful cloudy day
    and through it all here I stand
    and they say I should be on my way
    but the truth is I am still the same man
    and so here it is I`ll stay

    soaking up each sweet ray
    Your love shining gently on me
    tomorrow today and yesterday
    that sweetness in your eyes I can always see
    I will always beside you stand or lay

    It`s Partly cloudy and I fell 100% for you
    your gentle touches on my soul
    But you knew I would because you felt it too
    sometimes it scares you to be so bold
    But no matter what the problem the Love is true

    It`s partly cloudy and I fell for you
    wrapped in your sweet embrace
    I Love you and there is nothing else I`d rather do
    looking into your beautiful face
    because you feel it and I feel it too

    ©11-8-2011 MJMansfield

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    Thank You My Friends

    By M. Jay Mansfield

    The Chat Room Poem

    So many times I write of those that let me down
    So many happy days I've had
    Let's flip that around
    Let's not utter one more word of sad

    I could play connect the dots in this room
    Going from sweet heart to sweet heart
    And hug each and everyone of you
    Except Mogave to whom I would tip my hat

    Though our blood is not the same
    And we may be decades apart each way
    Our spirits travel along the same plains
    And we come together each day

    I am so honored to have met and to know
    So I am writing this meager poem
    as a feeble attempt to show
    that I am so happy that we can share this humble glorious home

    Oh yes this is at times a wacky ride
    and sometimes I curl up in the corner
    I know really with you I do not have to hide
    And loving you and each new soul is such an honor

    So this is the way an eagle says thanks
    To all of you because you matter to me
    from river bank to river bank
    from sea to strange sea

    I Love my friends this is what I came to say
    Now smile each and everyone smile
    lay down your burdens let's play
    and now each jest is layered in love all the while

    ©11-3-2011 MJMansfield

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    If I don't Make it

    By M. Jay Mansfield

    If I died tonight
    Would you still think of me tomorrow
    Would you remember all the sweet things that we said
    And forgive all the bad ways that I did

    If I was struck
    Would you remember the tears I cried while missing you
    Would you look back and see all those smiles you've given me
    Could you remember that I Love you

    You think me silly because I beg
    If we do not talk a day
    Do you realize the terror
    That fills my heart when you are away

    If my body gave way
    And the me I am was gone
    Would you hold my hand
    And walk me home

    Because it means the world right now
    Will you listen to my words
    Listen to each heart felt stutter
    Listen and know Today I love you Even More

    ©10-28-2011 MJMansfield

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    Assenath And Her Mother

    By John I. Blair

    Assenath "Sena" Piggott Patterson was my great-great-great grandmother, Frances James Ballew Piggott Collard, my great-great-great-great grandmother. Both were born in the 18th century and lived well into the 19th century, on the Illinois-Missouri frontier where America ended at the Mississippi River until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. I wrote this poem for their memorial pages on Find A Grave. Frances had been born to wealthy parents in Maryland but was abandoned, with several children, on the wild frontier by her first husband. The story of her life and how she survived to wed two more times, have several more children, and live to a ripe old age, honored in her community, is quite a saga.

    Sena, when she bore you
    Frances was forty, old for frontier folk,
    Honed by weather and by work
    To craggy angles, leather skin.

    Mother of ten, to three men wife,
    She was anything but frail
    (And would live to eighty-two).

    But she had been a lady once,
    Banished from a gentle world
    For marrying a handsome wretch
    Who ran off and abandoned her
    In Illinois.

    Thrown upon the mercy
    Of Mississippi River French,
    She and her children lived from door to door,
    Barn to barn,
    Until the Captain took her in,
    Seeing perhaps a mother
    For his own orphans at the fort.

    I think he truly loved her, by and by;
    Certain it is they lived together,
    Bearing another four without a priest;
    Certain it is he raised them all the same.

    They wed before your birth,
    Giving you a shame-free home.

    I wonder what you thought
    About your mother,
    About the stories neighbors told
    When they believed you couldn’t hear.

    From what I’ve read about her
    I think Frances set your mind at rest,
    Letting you know she built her life on love,
    Foolish at first, defiant then,
    But finally serene,
    And always true.

    ©2011 John I. Blair

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    Oh Cedar

    By John I. Blair

    I have always loved the smell of pencils being sharpened, at least if they're made of cedar wood.

    Tell me . . .
    Do schoolrooms still smell
    Of chalk dust, paste
    And cedar shavings?

    Or is this another
    Memory of mine
    That’s been laid waste?

    I know the smell will yet include
    That scent of little children
    So loved by witches, wolves
    And things that wait in wardrobes.

    But in the schoolroom of my mind
    I somehow felt
    Safe from harm
    Bell to bell.

    It was the cedar incense
    Cast the charm.

    So I’ll take my number twos,
    My number ones,
    Ticonderogas, Empires, Staedtlers,
    Fabers, Monarchs, Dixons,
    And sharpen them to needle tips

    In hopes the fragrance
    Thus produced
    Still keeps the imps of hell
    Out in the hall.

    ©2011 John I. Blair

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    In This Bite of Time

    By John I. Blair

    Sometimes time seems truly to stand still.

    A finch, midflight to the feeder,
    Stops in the sunlit air
    Outside the window.

    The bubbled stream of water
    Stands like a classic column
    In the enameled sink.

    A single syllable
    From the announcer’s mouth
    Sounds a note not yet a word.

    Your eyes
    Brimmed with tears
    Still have not looked away.

    ©2011 John I. Blair

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    Cardinals at Twilight

    By John I. Blair

    Cardinals are always the last birds to visit feeders in the evening, and usually the first in the morning.

    I love the sight
    Of cardinals at twilight,
    Flying to the feeders
    One last time in the dusk
    And tinking softly each to each
    Like a team of red-clad ushers
    Opening the theater of night.

    ©2011 John I. Blair

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    Once More The Moon

    By John I. Blair

    The Moon has always been a part of human life, once worshipped, then studied by scientists and portrayed by artists. Of late we spend less and less time outdoors, transfixed instead by TV screens and computer monitors.

    Once more the Moon
    Has made its circuit
    Of the Earth; at dusk
    Its bold and sturdy face
    Behind the eastward trees.

    This grandfather
    Spools yarns
    About its stately gleam
    To wide-eyed little girls
    Whose hands I hold
    While walking
    From the drive.

    When I was as old as they
    Singers crooned
    Songs that invoked its name;
    Even further back
    Night wolves howled
    At its glowing shape.

    I think it feels
    Neglected now, forgotten
    By us who used to worship
    But have since forsaken it
    For stories told
    By pixellated moons In air-conditioned rooms.

    ©2011 John I. Blair

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    Mid November

    By John I. Blair

    Autumn has come to Texas.

    This mid-November day
    Just three leaves remain
    On the ash tree by my drive
    That last week glowed
    In golden glory.

    The rest have gone
    To fill the gutter underneath
    And spread across the lawn
    Like fabulous confetti
    From a grand parade.

    In the clear dawn
    A crow flaps by,
    Its real agenda
    I should guess
    To join a raucous flock;

    But I let my mind imagine
    It’s off to tell the trees
    On down the block
    That still retain their leaves
    Autumn’s here.

    ©2011 John I. Blair

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    The Ribbon People

    Be on your guard for the ribbon people
    For the ribbon people I swear
    Keep your head straight, keep your mind straight
    The ribbon people are everywhere

    Out in the distance
    Up with the silence
    Back in the shadows a voice we once knew
    The ribbon people are amongst me and you

    Try not to worry about the ribbon people
    Pay no attention if they come looking for you
    Keep your dreams intact until the enemy attacks
    The ribbon people, they know what to do

    Up in the hilltops
    Beyond redemption
    Back to the past I'm the boy I once knew
    The ribbon people are a part of me and you

    The ribbon people work in solitude
    The ribbon people can take the best of you
    The ribbon people came here from so far away
    The ribbon people are here forever and will stay

    Try not to worry about ribbon people
    Take a chance because they're a lot like you and me
    See your reflection as you carry out your wish
    The ribbon people are what was meant to be

    Be on your guard for the ribbon people
    The ribbon people are always so near
    Keep your head straight, feel your heartbreak
    The ribbon people really don't care

    ©11/11/11 Bruce Clifford

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    Half the World Seems to be Crazy

    Half the world seems to be crazy
    While the other half seems terminally insane
    The politicians have their own point of view
    While the shut in losers find other people to blame

    Half the world seems to be lonely
    While the other half can't seem to get things right
    The emotional chaos caused by a loaded gun
    Who as the time to cause so much pain for spite

    Half the world seems seems to be crazy
    Half the world seems seems to be crazy

    It's a complicated world we are living in
    Who to trust and who to let slide
    We might never know why insanity ran so deep
    Why would someone so strange want to die

    Half the world seems to be crazy
    While the other half seems to be lost in a fog
    Trying to read between the lines of hysteria
    One has to wonder if they have crawled out from under a rock

    Half the world seems seems to be crazy
    Half the world seems seems to be crazy

    Half the world seems seems to be crazy
    While the other half keeps their minds out deep in space
    The politicians have their own point of view
    While the other half is trying to fit in with the human race

    ©11/18/11 Bruce Clifford

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

    Such Simplicity

    I remember when life was as simple as a word
    I remember before all of this became a blur
    I remember how easy it used to be
    I remember how it was with you and me
    Such simplicity

    Do you remember running all over town
    The endless Sundays that no longer come around
    Do you remember being in another place in time
    It's still there waiting if you look deep inside your mind

    Such simplicity
    It's how we used to be
    Such simplify

    Once things become out of control
    Once the chaos takes it's hold
    It's never the same when simple things end
    It becomes less black and white and then you're no longer friends

    I remember when life was as easy as a kite
    I remember before the bottle and the fight
    I remember what is still inside you and me
    I remember all the things we used to see
    Such simplicity

    Do you remember the emotion and the view
    The spontaneous reaction to everything we knew
    Do you remember laughing and dancing to our song
    There was a time when nothing could ever go wrong

    Such simplicity
    It's how we used to be
    Such simplify

    ©11/23/11 Bruce Clifford

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

    The Looking Glass

    Can't you tell I'm a bit jaded
    If all was well that memory has faded
    You didn't give me a second chance
    You didn't give me another glance
    Can't you tell this is bringing me down

    Can't you see I'm empty and lonely
    What was meant to be is now far away
    You didn't care about my fragile state
    Now I'm afraid I know my fate
    It wouldn't take much to turn this around

    Why can't you give me the time of day
    Why can't you forget about yesterday
    Why can't you remember what we once had
    Why can't you see through the looking glass

    Can't you tell I'm a bit lost
    If all was well they're wouldn't be a cost
    You didn't give it another thought
    You didn't care about my broken heart
    Can't you see there is so much more to me

    Why can't you give me the time of day
    Why can't you forget about yesterday
    Why can't you remember what we once had
    Why can't you see through the looking glass

    Why can't you see all the good in me
    Why can't you remember how things used to be
    Why can't you open your heart to me
    Why can't you see what I can see
    The looking glass

    ©11/1/01 Bruce Clifford

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

    To My Best Friend

    By Mark Crocker

    I don’t think I have to say anything about this poem as it speaks it all. I lost my best friend that I have known for over twenty years. He was the grandfather to my daughter and now my world seems some what dimmer without him around.

    My best friend I miss you so.
    Words I should have said as you neared your end.
    Yet I did not say them.
    So now regret fills my heart.
    I knew you twenty-one years.
    You gave me advice when I needed it so.
    At times you were a shoulder to cry on.
    At other times a boot up the ass to get me moving.
    We laughed together as best friends do.
    We had our fights yet always remained friends.
    You were my best friend I ever had.
    I wish the battle with cancer you had won.
    But in the end you had to go.
    I know each day hurt so much.
    Yet you remained you until almost the end.
    I just wish I could of seen you one last time to say farewell.
    You were the best friend I ever had.
    I should have told you that I loved you so.
    Yet I did not want to face the facts.
    And now I wish I had said those simple words.
    I was closer to you than I am to my own father.
    You never judged me or put me down.
    And now that you are gone my heart has one less light to love.
    So I will say the words I should of said to you,
    Dearest and best friend,
    I miss you and love you.

    In memory of Skip Allen who passed from this world on
    Thursday 24th of November 2011.

    ©Saturday, November 26, 2011 Mark Crocker

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

    A Rabbo Christmas Tale

    Rabbo and Merwyn sat on a bench just to one side of the center of the village just outside the local guild hall and the local public house called the castle hotel.
    The moon was up and people were coming to the castle hotel to get together to drink and talk. At the back of the castle hotel was a large long room that was going to be hosting a dance later in the night and Rabbo was hoping that he and Merwyn would be able to go.
    As some of the people walked by they nodded to Merwyn and Rabbo but none stopped to talk to Merwyn as they were in a hurry to get out of the cold.
    From down the road Rabbo could hear faint singing coming from the local church that was half way down the hill and street. He sat and listened to the bright cheery voices of the choir as they sang cheerful Christmas corals.
    Across the street at one of the local shop Rabbo saw the owner turn the sign from open to closed.
    Do you think she will come” Rabbo asked on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode.
    As always I hope she does” answered Merwyn on the same mode. “But as always I think it’s unlikely that Athena will come. As like you and me she is very old”.
    Rabbo looked around and snuggled into Merwyn’s long coat more for comfort than warmth.
    I wish our abilities were not fading” Rabbo said.
    It’s the way of things. Remember you Athena and I are very old. I am well over four thousand nine hundred years old even for a Sirian that’s old. Soon it will be time and I will gladly fade” Merwyn said without any tone of sadness in his telepathic voice. “I would like to see my oldest daughter one last time before I fade. But well if I do I do. If not oh well it can’t be helped”.
    Rabbo nodded and wriggled even closer as he was starting to feel the bite of the cold winter night.
    Just then a man in his late thirties walked over and sat down next to Merwyn and Rabbo.
    “How are you tonight Mr. Merlin”?
    “I am well tonight. But these old bones are feeling the bite of this cold winters night. And my rabbit here is cold as well” Merwyn said. “How are Mary and Benjamin”?
    “Mary is good and Ben should be at home. Today was his last day at school before the Christmas break” said the man smiling with pride.
    “How are your step sons, in particular Mark” said Merwyn.
    “Mary heard from Mark yesterday. I think he is enjoying himself in America”.
    Can we go into the pub I am cold” said Rabbo on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode.
    Merwyn laughed softly and looked at the man “I think my rabbit is cold. Let’s go into the castle hotel Peter and I will buy you a pint” said Merwyn.
    “Go ahead Mr. Merlin and I will join you. Mary should be here soon as she said she would be back from Exeter at about 6pm” said Pete.
    Merwyn picked up Rabbo and gently put him into a large pocket in his jacket and reached for his walking stick.
    Slowly Merwyn walked from the bench towards the castle hotel being careful not to trip on the pot holes in the parking lot.
    Once at the door to the castle hotel Merwyn looked around to make sure no one was near and opened the door just ahead of him using his psychokinesis to do so. Once inside Merwyn walked slowly up to the bar and waited for the bartender to come over and pour him a pint of Whitbread’s best bitter.
    “Your usual” said the bartender already pouring Merwyn a pint.
    Merwyn nodded and reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet and put down three pounds on the bar.
    As Merwyn put the money down on the bar the bartender turned and picked up a small silver dish and poured about a quarter of a pint into the dish.
    “Mr. Merlin I will bring yours and your rabbit's drinks over. Would you like a snack or something to eat? I think Liz has carrots in the kitchen for your rabbit”?
    “Thank you that would be so kind of you. I am ok as I had lunch but I think my rabbit would like a small carrot. Maybe one that’s soft as his teeth are not what they use to be” said Merwyn smiling.
    Merwyn walked over to his normal spot by the fireplace and the couple who was sitting at his table stood up and moved to the next table.
    “You did not have to move” said Merwyn smiling at the pretty young woman.
    “That’s alright” said the young woman smiling back. “That is your normal spot and I would never take your chair”.
    Merwyn sat down and as he did so his knees creaked loudly making the young woman turn and look at Merwyn with a worried look.
    “If you need a ride home let me know and I will drive you back to Bowley meadows” said the young man next to the young lady.
    “Thank you” said Merwyn smiling.
    Just then the bartender walked over with Merwyn’s pint and the silver bowl with beer in it for Rabbo. The bartender had a small plate with a carrot on it and fresh carrot tops.
    Merwyn reached into his jacket and gently pulled Rabbo out of the pocket and placed him on the table next to the plate and silver bowl.
    Rabbo looked at the silver bowl and then the plate. “Do I have to act like a rabbit and lap up the beer and munch on the carrot while it’s still on the plate” said Rabbo again on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode.
    Yes” said Merwyn “as I have told you many times over the last few hundred years. People would take you away and dissect you because of your paws and the fact you can talk. We have to let them think you are just a normal rabbit”.
    Rabbo looked around and saw that the Christmas tree was up and that the last of the decorations had been hung giving the whole pub a very Christmas like feeling. On the jukebox very Christmas like music was being played while at the bar its self stood a group of young people drinking and talking loudly.
    Just as Rabbo finished looking around he saw Mary and Pete walking in followed by their young son who about thirteen years old.
    Mary looked over to the fireplace and walked over to Merwyn and Rabbo. “How many times have I told you Mr. Merlin that if you wanted to come up here I would drive you up here”?
    “I needed the walk” said Merwyn moving slightly so that Mary could sit down next to him.
    The young lad pulled up a chair and sat down across from Merwyn and close to Rabbo.
    Pete came walking over with a half pint of beer for Mary and a half pint of shandy for Ben and a pint for himself.
    “Oh leave him alone Mary. I think if Mr. Merlin felt he needed a ride he would ask” Pete said winking at Merwyn.
    While Merwyn, Pete and Mary talked Ben reached over and held part of the carrot top for Rabbo to eat.
    Rabbo sat up on his hind legs and gentle and very rabbit like started to nibble on the carrot tops that Ben was holding.
    “I wonder how old he is” said Ben looking at Pete.
    “I have no idea. But he has to be very old for a rabbit. Do you remember when you first met him”?
    “That was like ten years ago” said Ben.
    “So he has to be at lest ten years old right” said Pete smiling at his son.
    “Yes only he has to be older as he was old them” said Ben rubbing Rabbo’s ear.
    “How old is your rabbit” asked Pete.
    “Oh very old” said Merwyn smiling.
    “Yes but how old is very old” said Ben.
    “Older than you young man” said Merwyn smiling.
    “So he is like fourteen or fifteen” said Ben.
    “About that I think” said Merwyn sounding like he was thinking hard about it.
    Rabbo reached up with his paws and turned Bens hand so that he could nibble better at the last little bits of carrot top that Ben was holding.
    “You are having Christmas dinner with us” said Pete looking at Merwyn.
    “Oh that’s very kind of you Pete but I will have to decline” said Merwyn.
    “No you are having Christmas dinner with us and if you are worried about your daughter showing up we can leave a note on your door and she can join us” said Mary.
    “I still have to decline” said Merwyn looking at Rabbo.
    “We will put Moon in Ben’s room so that you can bring your rabbit” said Pete.
    “Moon would not hurt your rabbit” said Ben “beside I want to ask you things as I have a school project. We have just started doing the war”.
    “Oh which war” Merwyn asked.
    “Were you in the war” asked Ben.
    “I’ve been in a few wars” said Merwyn thoughtfully.
    “Oh which wars have you been in” asked Ben suddenly lighting up.
    “Too many” said Merwyn looking sad.
    “Darling maybe it would not be a good idea to ask Mr. Merlin about the war” said Mary looking at her son.
    Pete, Mary and Ben sat with Merwyn until he started to doze slightly.
    “I will drive Mr. Merlin home” said Mary to Pete. “Plus it’s getting late for Ben too”.
    “I think it's time we all left” said Pete looking around at the young people who were getting loud and drunk.
    About fifteen minutes later Mary pulled up in front of Merwyn house. She helped Merwyn out of the car while Ben carried the sleeping Rabbo gentle in his arms.
    “You are coming for Christmas dinner and that's final” said Mary smiling at Merwyn. “I don’t want you spending Christmas alone like you have done for the last five years since we took over running the retirement village”.
    “I guess I better be there then” Merwyn turned to Ben and looked at him. “So you want to hear all about the war? I take it you are studying the Great War”?
    “Um no world war two. But I will listen to you talk about world war one if you would like. Where you in that war” said Ben smiling.
    “Among others yes” said Merwyn turning and looking at Mary “Can Ben coming in for a while and I will answer his questions”.
    Mary nodded and Merwyn and Ben walked to the door of Merwyn’s home.
    It was Christmas Eve and for the first time in many years Merwyn had but up a Christmas tree and gone shopping to buy Christmas presents for Pete Mary and Ben.
    “I think you look better than you have in years” said Rabbo sitting under the Christmas tree sniffing it. “It’s dropping it's needles already”.
    “Thank you silly rabbit” said Merwyn sitting down to rest his knees. “You look better than you have in years too”.
    “Maybe she will come this year. I hope she will come home finally” said Rabbo with a hint of sadness in his voice.
    Rabbo turned to look at Merwyn and was not surprised to see Merwyn with his head thrown back sleeping in his chair.
    Rabbo hopped over and gentle hopped up into Merwyn’s lap and soon he joined Merwyn in sleep.
    Rabbo woke up to soft Christmas classical music playing on the radio.
    “Sorry I did not mean to wake you Rabbo” said Merwyn. “But you were so deep a sleep when I woke up”.
    “We seem to fall asleep a lot lately don’t we” said Rabbo.
    “It’s a sign of how old we are” answered Merwyn.
    “I feel every inch of my three thousand years. I hurt all over and I will be glad when I fade too” said Rabbo. “But not yet as if I faded at Christmas that would be sad. Beside I want to see at least one more summer”.
    “I know what you mean. But I don’t think you will fade away like I will” said Merwyn. “Beside I can’t go until you do as who would take care of you anyway”.
    Just then there was a soft knock at the door and Merwyn slipped Rabbo out of his lap and walked to the front door with his walking stick to steady him.
    Standing at the door with a tape recorder in his hand was Ben.
    “Afternoon Mr. Merlin” said Ben. “I brought my tape recorder so that we can tape what you tell me about world war one”.
    Merwyn looked at Ben and smiled “sit down and let me put the kettle on and we can have tea and talk”.
    Ben walked over to the chair that Rabbo was sitting in and gentle picked up Rabbo and put him in his lap. He put his tape recorder down on the side table and started to gently stroke Rabbo’s ears.
    “I bet you could tell me a thing or two” said Ben to Rabbo.
    Rabbo made a sound that almost sounded like laughter and then stuck out his tongue at Ben before blowing a raspberry.
    “Mr. Merlin I always thought that rabbits were kind of shy. But your rabbit seems very friendly” Ben said raising his voice so that Merwyn could hear him from the kitchen.
    “Rabbo is a very smart rabbit and very old” said Merwyn standing in the kitchen door way and leaning on his walking stick.
    “Oh really is that why he laughed at me” asked Ben.
    “Maybe? As I said he is very smart and very old” Merwyn answered thoughtfully.
    Merwyn turned back to the kitchen and got busy putting a very large tea pot up on a tray with two tea cups on saucers plus two side plates with angle cake and some rich tea biscuits. Once the kettle had boiled Merwyn poured a little hot water into the tea pot and swilled it around before pouring the hot water out and putting three tea bags into the tea pot and filling it with hot water. Lastly he put a small jug with milk in it next to the tea pot. He then slowly carried the tray into the living room and put the tray down on a low table that was between the two chairs.
    “It might be a good idea to put your recorder onto the table between us and turn it on” said Merwyn.
    Ben placed his tape recorder on the low table and looked at Merwyn who was leaning back in his chair clearly deep in thought.
    “You might want to turn it on. I hope you have brought plenty of tape and have strong batteries”.
    Ben nodded and reached down and pressed the play and record buttons on the tape deck.
    “Mr. Merlin talking about world war one recorded on December 24th 1990. So could you tell me about what you remember of the start of the First World War” Ben said smiling.
    “Well in July of 1914 I was in San Francisco in America” Merwyn said.
    “Oh you are American” asked Ben.
    “No I was there to help rebuild San Francisco after the great earthquake in 1906 and I had stayed on”.
    “You ever heard of a place called St Helena” asked Ben.
    “Yes they make wine there” said Merwyn.
    “My brother lives there”
    “Really” said Merwyn chuckling. “It’s a small world”.
    “So you were in San Francisco when war broke out” said Ben.
    Merwyn leaned forward looked at the tray and smiled at Ben “you might want to switch that thing off for a moment as I forgot something in the kitchen and Rabbo would never forgive me for forgetting his afternoon tea”.
    Merwyn stood up and slowly walked to the kitchen and returned with another tea cup and saucer. He then poured milk into the three cups and added tea. He handed one to Ben and then handed one to Rabbo.
    Rabbo slipped off Ben's lap and sat down on his hind legs and took hold of the saucer “Thanks” said Rabbo.
    Ben looked at Rabbo with his mouth wide open.
    “Please close your mouth young man” said Rabbo. “If this was summer you would catch flies”.
    “He talks” said Ben in total amazement.
    “Yes I talk” said Rabbo.
    “Please don’t tell anyone that Rabbo talks” said Merwyn with the tone of panic filling his voice.
    “Who would I tell” asked Ben. “Besides if I told someone they would never believe me that your rabbit talks. They would think that I was making it up so who would I tell”?
    “Yes good point. But still please don’t tell anyone” Merwyn said regaining control of his voice.
    For the next three hours Merwyn told Ben about what he had done in world war one and where he had been and what he had witnessed.
    At the end of the three hours Ben sat very quiet gently rubbing Rabbo’s fur.
    “Where is the bathroom” asked Ben
    Merwyn pointed down a short hallway “it’s on the left”.
    When Ben returned from using the bathroom Rabbo was curled up in Merwyn’s lap sleeping.
    Merwyn nodded to Ben and quietly said “You will have to pardon me young man but I am feeling kind of sleepy as well”.
    “Thank you for telling all about what you did in world war one” said Ben.
    “You will have to let yourself out but don’t worry about locking the door” said Merwyn as he closed his eyes.
    It was about six in the evening when there was a knock at the door. So Merwyn walked over leaning on his walking stick.
    Standing in the door way was Mary with a plate in one hand and a small bottle of whiskey in the other.
    “Merry Christmas” said Mary smiling.
    “Oh come in” said Merwyn smiling. “I just had dinner”
    Mary walked in and Merwyn walked her over to the chair next to the heater while he took the plate to the kitchen.
    On the plate was a slice of chocolate cake.
    Merwyn walked back into the living room with two glasses and sat down.
    Mary opened the bottle of whiskey and pour a little into each glass.
    “I want to thank you for having Ben over today and talking to him about the great war” Mary said smiling.
    “It was my pleasure” answered Merwyn as he sipped his glass.
    Rabbo came hopping into the living room from the bathroom and hopped over to Merwyn and sat at his feet and looked up.
    I am not going to make the same mistake I did this afternoon” said Rabbo on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode. “Could you pick me up?
    Merwyn reached down and picked Rabbo up and put him in his lap and gentle started to rub Rabbo just behind the ears.
    “I understand that he is called Rabbo” Mary said.
    Merwyn nodded and Rabbo turned and looked at Mary.
    “Oh he answers to his name” Mary said reaching over and gentle sliding her fingers along both ears. “I understand that you have been to America”?
    “Yes a few time” answered Merwyn nodding.
    “Ben said that you where there just after the 1906 earthquake”?
    “Yes that was the first time I was there. Last time I was there was in 1988 looking for my daughter Morgan” Merwyn said after a long pause.
    “Is she still alive” asked Mary.
    “I think so” said Merwyn sadly.
    “Do you have any other children” Mary asked carefully.
    “I did” Merwyn answered sadly. “But well it’s just me and Morgan left now”.
    “What about grand children or great grand children” Mary asked carefully.
    Merwyn laughed softly and looked carefully at Mary before he answered. “Yes I have grand children and great grand children and I think even great great grand children. But other than Morgan I have never been close to family since my wife passed. But that was a long time ago”.
    “Do you know where your grand children, great grand children are now” Mary asked leaning in.
    Merwyn smiled and looked thoughtfully at Mary. “It’s very kind of you to ask after them but I don’t wish them to see me like this. You are very sweet and kind. But you understand how people can be. I am old very old and well I don’t want to bother them as my end comes nearer. Soon I will be gone and I really don’t want them to see me like this”.
    “I know” said Mary sadly. “Just I thought you would like to have family at hand when it's time”.
    Merwyn raised his glass and took a sip. “When death comes for me it will come as a friend. I don’t fear death. In fact I am kind of looking forward to it”.
    “Lets not talk about death on Christmas eve” said Mary sipping her glass of whiskey.
    “Yes let's not. Just that Christmas can be a depressing time of year” said Merwyn nodding.
    “That’s why you are spending Christmas with Pete Ben and me” said Mary smiling.
    Rabbo stood up in Merwyn’s lap and hopped down gentle. He hopped over to Mary and stood on his hind legs and placed his forepaws on her knees.
    Mary reached down and picked Rabbo up gently and placed him in her lap and started to gentle stroke his fur. She moved her hand up and started to gently massage the base of his ears so that Rabbo closed his eyes and let out a soft moan of pleasure.
    Rabbo suddenly opened his eyes stood up on his hind legs and looked towards the front door.
    There was a knock at the door and Merwyn reached for his walking stick and stood up walking to the door.
    Outside was a group of people who started to sing Christmas carols.
    Mary walked over still holding Rabbo and she joined Merwyn at the door listening to the singers.
    Merwyn reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet and took out a twenty pound note and placed it in the donation jar that one of the singers was holding.
    “Merry Christmas” Merwyn said as the singers started to move on to the building next door to sing.
    Rabbo looked up the street towards Mary’s house and saw Ben and Pete walking down the street towards them.
    Soon Mary, Pete and Ben sat in Merwyn’s living room talking while Rabbo hopped from person to person who each made a fuss of him.
    But time passed too quickly and soon Mary, Pete and Ben left Rabbo and Merwyn as it had become late.
    “They are very nice people” said Rabbo once he and Merwyn were alone.
    “Yes very nice. I like them. So kind and nice” said Merwyn sitting back down and pouring himself a glass of whiskey.
    “Can I have a glass” said Rabbo looking over from the chair that Mary had been sitting in.
    Merwyn poured Rabbo a small glass of whiskey and then sat back in his chair.
    “It’s been over two hundred years since Athena or Morgan or whatever name she is using these days has been around for Christmas” Merwyn said sadly.
    “Yes but only one hundred and fifty years since we last saw here. Next to how long we have lived that’s nothing” said Rabbo as he took a sip on his whiskey.
    Rabbo started to cough a little and Merwyn laughed.
    “It’s been so long since I tasted whiskey” Rabbo said still coughing a little.
    Rabbo and Merwyn sat talking until Rabbo started yawning. So they both headed to the bedroom together to sleep.
    Rabbo woke up to the faint sound of the church bells ring in the far distances. As he lay on the bed in the dark he listened to them make peal after peal calling people to the early morning church services.
    It was still dark outside and Merwyn was snoring softly so Rabbo walked across the bed to the ramp and slowly hopped down the ramp and headed into the bathroom.
    After he had brushed his few remaining teeth he took care of his morning needs and hopped slowly into the kitchen.
    Hopping up the steps that were at the side of the kitchen counter that Merwyn had placed there so he could get up onto the counter top Rabbo picked up the kettle and filled it with water to make tea for himself and for Merwyn.
    Rabbo then hopped back down the steps and went to a little box that he had in the living room. He opened the box and looked at the items in there.
    In the box was a small picture frame with a hand drawn picture of Merwyn and Athena, a lock of Athena’s hair, a small bronze sword that Merwyn had given him thousands of years before and a book of poetry that Rabbo had written so long ago.
    Rabbo took the picture out and looked around for wrapping paper. Once he spotted wrapping paper Rabbo got busy and wrapped the picture and then placed it under the Christmas tree next to the three other Christmas present that Merwyn had got for Mary Pete and Ben.
    About an hour later Merwyn was sitting in his chair listening to the radio while drinking his third cup of tea of the morning.
    Rabbo sat in the chair opposite him munching on a fresh carrot top for his breakfast.
    “It’s a cold chilly morning out there” said Rabbo.
    “It’s that time of year. I used to like winters” said Merwyn looking out at the overcast sky.
    “I think we might get snow later” Rabbo mused as he followed Merwyn’s line of sight.
    About two hours later there was a knock at the door and when Merwyn answered the door Ben was standing there smiling.
    “I have come to get you” said Ben.
    “Did you go to church this morning” asked Merwyn.
    Ben just laughed and smiled. “It’s almost time to open the Christmas presents”.
    Rabbo hopped over to the tree with a large bag in his paws and put the four presents into the bag before dragging it over to Merwyn.
    But Ben reached down and picked up the large bag and smiled down at Rabbo.
    “How are you this morning” Ben said looking down at Rabbo.
    Rabbo looked up at Ben and smiled before he answered “Good I think. Other than my normal pains I feel good”.
    Once at Mary, Pete and Ben’s house Merwyn was handed a glass of cognac and Rabbo was given a bowl of beer.
    The bag with the Christmas presents were placed under the tree and they all sat talking but soon it became clear that Ben was getting impatient to open the Christmas presents so Pete moved over to the Christmas tree and pulled the first present out.
    “This one is from Mary and me to you, Mr. Merlin. Merry Christmas”.
    Merwyn took the present and tears started to well up in his eyes but after a few seconds he regained control of his emotions and with shaking hands he opened it.
    It was a hand knitted sweater with bright colors.
    “I hope it’s the right size” said Mary smiling.
    More presents were given out until only the bag was left.
    Pete reached into the bag and pulled out the first present that was inside the bag.
    “To Benjamin from Merwyn” Pete read.
    Mary looked at Merwyn. “Is that your real name”?
    “Yes” answered Merwyn.
    Ben opened the present and inside was a brand new top of the line CD player.
    The next present was to Mary and when she opened it, it was a gold and silver picture frame that felt very heavy.
    Mary looked at it carefully with a look of amazement on her face. “It’s real gold and silver”?
    Merwyn smiled and nodded. “I wish I had a picture of all your boys to put in it but sadly I don’t”.
    The next present was for Pete and when he opened it there was a large book bound in leather with gold and silver inlay.
    Pete reached into the bag one last time and pulled out the last present and looked at it carefully.
    “This one is for you Merwyn” said Pete looking a little puzzled.
    Pete hand it over and Merwyn who looked just as puzzled and held the present carefully turning it over until he saw the label. The label read “Merry Christmas from Rabbo”.
    Merwyn looked at Rabbo and slowly opened the present.
    Once Merwyn saw the picture tears started to stream down his cheeks without control.
    Mary rushed over to Merwyn and wrapped her arms around him to comfort him. As she did so she noticed the picture.
    Softly Mary asked “who is that with you in the picture? Is that Morgan”?
    “That’s my daughter” Merwyn said trying hard to regain his composure.
    It took about fifteen minutes and a cup of tea for Merwyn to regain his composure and when he had he was once again cheerful.
    It was about three hours later and Merwyn had helped Mary and Pete get Christmas dinner ready by peeling potatoes and carrots as they all sat in the kitchen talking there was a knock on the door. Pete looked at Mary “Do we have any guests coming”?
    “Not that I am aware of” Mary answered looking a little confused.
    Rabbo suddenly sat bolt upright and started to bang his hind leg hard on the ground.
    From the front door a woman’s voice was heard and suddenly all the color drained from Merwyn’s face.
    Rabbo bolted for the front door at such high speed that he almost tripped Pete over.
    Standing at the front door was a woman who looked like she was in her mid to late sixties wearing a long black cloak with a red hood that was up covering her face.
    “I am looking for Merwyn” said the woman from under the cloak.
    “Hi I am Peter” said Pete trying to see the face that was hidden from view under the hood.
    “Oh hello Rabbo” said the cloaked woman who knelt down and reached out to pick Rabbo up. “If you are here then Dad is here too”.
    Rabbo wriggled into her arms.
    “You better come in” said Pete “May I take your cloak”.
    “Thank you Peter” said the woman.
    Together Pete, Ben and the woman walked into the kitchen.
    “Hello Dad” said the woman.
    Merwyn just sat with his mouth wide open and looked at his daughter.
    “Merry Christmas, Dad”.
    Click on Mark Crocker for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.