Thursday, February 2, 2012

Editor's Corner

By Mary E. Adair

February 2012

Words form the thread on which we string our experiences. -Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)

Fewer compositions but more words it seems in this issue, the first of the new volume 15. January and February still sulk in cold and/or changeable weather which apparently leaves some authors at a loss to find words while others have minds that abound with them. This editor would strike a medium between those for this column.

Check out "Irish Eyes" by Mattie Lennon who shares his newest play; "Consider This" by LC Van Savage wherein she devotes her entire space to an epic style poem, written in couplets, but displayed line by line, a little love story for a snuggle indoors day; "Introspective" by Thomas F. O'Neill commiserating with the worries concerning social security and its future as it affects the direct future of so many; and "Eric Shackle's Column" that reveals some fascinating history on crosswords along with a link that's up to date.

"Angel Whispers" by Peg Jones and "Cooking With Leo" by Leo C. Helmer (who's been under the weather) didn't materialize, nor did a column by Caroline Evans or John I. Blair. We hope to see them active next issue.

Blair did submit his half dozen in the poetry section, and they run the gamut from cat fancies to googling from space, all with his inimitable clever turn of words. Bruce Clifford has three songlike poems so sing along with him this February. Wendy Shepard-Kalan shares five of her reflective poems as she spins out thoughts in gossamer images.

Two articles appear this month, one from our Eric Shackle who lists one letter named places, a surprising number of them, it seems. M. Jay Mansfield's "Bending Point" details a real life crisis in his family and follows through to a good working solution.

Mark Crocker's second book of Rabbo adds the second chapter, "Winter" and includes some of Rabbo's poetry as well.

See you in March.

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A Life Not Yet Done

By Wendy Shepard-Kalan

When I get the news I think of those
Who have stood here before
Heart so heavy holding back tears
Wanting to run for the door
So many fears
Nothing new...only to me
My mind races
All the things I wanted to see
All the places...
My family how can I go
Heartbreak now that I know...

My Life is not perfect I guess,
But now I see it's a gift for sure
In all it's mess
I want it more
Those who have lost the battle and died
All they have wished for
I know they tried
But what a chore

Cancer is evil here on earth
Taking from anyone
For all their worth
A life not yet done.

I wish I could hold their hands In mine
And bring them back to today
life and death a fragile line
I guess I'll just sit here... and pray.

©2012 Wendy Shepard-Kalan
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bending Point

By M. Jay Mansfield

Our family is a normal little family. There is nothing too extreme nor too bold in our lives. I had a fairly stable job of eighteen years. Often I was completely overwhelmed. I struggled to run a store that had been set-up to fail. For ten years I had managed to make it prosperous. The challenges of hard work and managing my diabetes often took a physical and mental toll on me. But I persisted in the day to day grind. Smiling, when anyone would say they didn’t know how I managed. I always wondered how I could keep it up with everything that was going on.

To be successful took long hours. Often, my eating and sleeping patterns were altered. My blood sugars would swing back and forth. This played havoc on my health. The irregular sugars placed stress on my kidneys. The stress on my kidneys affected the fluid and muscles in my legs. Daily, as I climbed stairs and pulled wire at work, I wanted to quit. My eye sight ranged from well to horrible. Eventually my entire circulatory system suffered. I had recently fought through the recovery process of having had several small strokes.

Like many mothers my wife always worried if any of the kids would suffer with diabetes. She had often brought it up over the past six years. So I wanted to shrug it off when she asked, “don’t you think Egan has been going to the bathroom a lot?” I sat there too tired to move let alone think. I told her, “He’s been drinking soda all day it’s nothing”. But as I usually did, I got out my test meter so that she could check his sugar. It was in those next few moments that I realized all of the times that I thought I couldn’t take much more, I was wrong. The meter read five hundred and two. I was hung between terror and guilt. Every bit of the pain I had gone through the past thirty three years, I saw hung on my son’s shoulders. How could I with my faulty genes ever have done this to such a beautiful child. I allowed myself a minute to go outside out of his sight to cry.

Then, immediately, I took up the mantle of being a dad and started handling the situation. I called who needed to be called so that no one was left hanging at work. We called the friends and family that we would need to help us with my other son Petey. We loaded the car and head towards Chesapeake, knowing the best health care was north of us. We spent hours in Chesapeake General as they started IV’s of fluid and insulin to bring his sugar down. The nurses were constantly monitoring his heart rate. Chesapeake started preparing him for transport to Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters and all Egan wanted was to go home. We constantly reassured him that everything was going to be alright.

The whole time my head was spinning. There were so many things to do. There would be so many complications to every aspect of his and our life. The constant checking of blood sugar, as he played soccer, would be a chore. So many things we would have to keep up with just to take a trip into town, not to mention school trips. Extra food and supplies would have to be nearby and added to our normal routines.

Every doctor that came and went took a small bit of fear from us. But ever looming was the question of how is he going to handle all of this disease. My questions were quickly answered. The nurses would explain to him what he needed to do. He would smile and tell the nurses how he helped me. The nurses first explained what blood sugars were normal and what was dangerous or out of the target range. The nurses wanted him to be able to draw up his own insulin before he was released. Egan amazed the nurses when he not only was able to prepare the needle, but at 6 years old, he gave his own injection. Every task they set for him to learn we worked on and he excelled beyond what the nurse expected. At times the “daddy I don’t want to be a diabetic” would wrench my heart. But, sometimes, he would smile and tell his mom he was going to do something with daddy because we were alike. The bond between us was different perhaps stronger, but, definitely different. We rapidly showed the nurses what they needed to see: the ability to measure insulin and compensate for both his carbohydrate intake and his blood glucose level.

Egan was released two days early because of his hard work. We loaded up the car and headed home weary and hopeful. A long hard week was behind us and we were now prepared to tackle the rest of our lives again. All Egan was worried about was not missing his first football practice. We only stopped for lunch and for him to change clothes. After a week in the hospital he ran out on to the field as if nothing that big had happened.

I’ve watched him go through many of the same emotions that I have. Often it overwhelms him. I can see it in his eyes that he wonders why he has diabetes and sometimes he wants to give up, but he refuses. I am glad, that of all the things we share, we share the ability to continue on no matter what, we forge ahead. ©2-11-11 MJMansfield

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Consider This

By LC Van Savage

The Steeplejack

Anyone could see she loved that man up high
But he did not look down at her, that guy up in the sky.
But I knew that she loved him. I truly understood
As I watched that pretty girl in our neighborhood.
She was small and lithesome, and tended toward pink dresses
Her hair was long and yellow. (In olden days, "silk tresses.")
It was summer then; the young girl wore no shoes
Sun breezes tossed her hair and lit her eyes with druse.

I said "Why do you watch him every single day?"
She stared at me and finally said "I have to find a way.
"But, I don't know you, never met you. So why do you ask?"
"Oh please," I said, "forgive me, but every day I've passed,
"I see you watching him up there and I wonder why."
I really had to know why she stared up at his sky.
The sweet girl dropped her eyelids then and I could see a tear
Slide slowly down upon her cheek, crystal-like and clear.
She looked at me and tried to smile and started in to speak
But choked a bit and when she spoke, her voice was soft and meek.
"I follow him to all his jobs with hopes he'll notice me
"But he's so high and I'm so low and I can't make him see
"That I'm down here awaiting him. And he just passes by
"When he comes down. I try to speak, but all I do is sigh."
I looked up at the man she loved, and wondered how she could
Fancy this odd steeplejack. What if he were no good?
Even from my viewpoint I saw this young man clear
He was a comely lad, a man who had no fear
Of soaring heights and sun and gales and birds and bees and rain
I thought "to do that job up there, he's got to be insane!"
His hair was yellow, just like hers, his muscles thick and taut
His legs were long, tanned arms were strong, he was a juggernaut.
I looked back at the sweet young girl. She smiled way up at him
And I could tell she thought he was one of the seraphim.
I heard some music from on high, strange and sweet and pure
I looked to see the source of it and then I knew for sure.
It floated from that boy above, for taped to his platform
He had a radio there for him, his music was skyborn.
And as it played he hummed along, his voice was deep and mellow
And sometimes he would sing some words; his voice was like a cello.
The tanned young man swung back and forth, he wore an old straw hat
He transformed that old steeple with paint and love there at.
He loved his job and it was clear he had great love for spires
And churches too. So this boy was the one they always hired
To do the job. He could be trusted always to fulfill
His obligations for that job for which he had such skill.
The days passed on, the steeplejack continued with his job
The sweet young girl continued too, to watch her dear heartthrob.
Then late one day as his job slowed, the young man by mistake
Cut the tape which held his radio. He knew that it would break
When it fell down onto the street. That radio would smash.
And then his source of music would just be only trash.
He watched it fall down toward the street and saw it spin and whirl
But then to his great horror, it landed on the girl.
It hit her head and knocked her down. The steeplejack screamed "No!"
Then he rappelled down to her side and shouted "Someone! Go!
"Please! Call an ambulance for this lovely wounded lass!
"My radio has killed her. I think her brains are bashed."
He then knelt down beside her and pulled her body close
And stared at her unconscious face and thought "she is the most
"Lovely creature I have seen. Where has she been til now?"
And then he heard the sirens wail, and finally did allow
The men to come and pick her up and put her on the stretcher.
And one kind medic said to him, "Don't worry son, I'll betcha
"She'll be fine. I've seen much worse. We'll take the best of care.
"You want to come and ride with her? We think it's only fair,
"Since 'cause of you she got this way, so you should really go
"To hospital with her. You'll see it through, I know."
The steeplejack's name was Tom, the young girl's name was June
And hat pushed back, he held her hand and soft began to croon.
His voice, just like it was on high, was hushed and sweet and mellow
And June responded slightly to that voice so like a cello.
The steeplejack sat by her sickbed every day
And gently held her hand and each day he would pray.
He'd also sing to June, she slept her coma through.
And as she had before, he thought he saw her move.
"I'm sorry, dear sweet June," Tom whispered through his tears
"I've only just found out you've loved me for some years.
"A woman told me that. She said you always stood
"Below me as I worked. Who knew? The likelihood
"Of someone sweet like you watching me each day
"I just could not believe. I don't know what to say!
"Oh June, you've loved me long while I was high above
"I never saw you there. I never felt your love.
"I never looked below. The sky is where I thrive,
"I love it way up there. It's where I feel alive!
"I paint and fix the steeples, and play my music too
"What better life than that? But now, dear June, there's you.
"Seeing you each day, knowing why you're here
"Makes me think that I must always keep you near.
"I wish you'd spoken out when I came down each eve
"But I know that you're shy, and young and so naive.
"I pray that you will wake, my darling little girl
"There is so much to say, my head is all a-whirl.
"To see you sleeping there makes my heart ache with pain
"It's my fault that you're here, I couldn't pre-ordain
"That this could really happen, but now because it has
"I think I've finally found my love. I'm happy! But alas,
"You can't wake up and I don't know if you will ever see me
"Or if we'll speak or love or play, or if you'll e'er redeem me."
He lay his head down by her side and wept some more that night
And slept a while and then stood up and reached to shut the light.
"Tom?" he heard, the sound was soft, but still it shocked him deep.
And "Tom?" again, and Tom stood still. He felt his sore heart beat.
"Is it you? Are you back?" the young man nearly wept.
Her eyes were wide, her lips a-smile. He stared, could not accept
That June awoke and spoke to him. Then joy spread through his soul!
"Yes, I'm back" she grinned at him. Her hair was marigold.
Her eyes were blue, like skies in fall, her lips were bright and pink
Her body full, her face just glowed. All Tom could do was blink.
And finally, when his breath came back, he said "You are my life.
"I know how you have waited, June, so now, please, be my wife!"
And pretty June stared up at him, his face was very near.
Her heart was full, she said to him "Oh Tom, my darling dear,
"May I go to the sky with you?" she asked her startled swain
"To the steeples with me, dear? In wind and sun and rain?"
"Yes my darling," June said clear. "Please do teach me how
"To fix the steeples, just like you, to be together now
"And every day. We'll work together up there in the sky!"
"Well, yes!" he laughed, "I can do that. Together! You and I
"Up atop the world we two, what a team indeed!"
June grinned at Tom and said, "I have one other need."
"What's that, beloved June," said Tom. "Your wish is my desire."
"I want," she said, "for us to marry while swinging from a spire.
"I want for us to marry in a sunset's wondrous glow
"And wave to all our cherished friends cheering us below.
"While roped to a great steeple, I want to say our vows
"And we will use old fashioned words like `promise, thee's and thou's.'"
"I want," said June, "the two of us to wed while in the air
"Can you find a preacher who'd marry us up there?"
"Oh yes!" laughed Tom. "I've just the man. He'll do the job for sure."
"Oh Tom!" sighed June, "I really could not ever ask for more.
"Oh June, my June," cried Tom, "Imagine! Married close to God!
"But June, you haven't answered me!" Tom said with mournful nod.
"We've all these plans and I'm so thrilled, by you have not agreed
"To marry me my darling girl, oh June, say yes, I plead!"
She'd waited for this dear young man, her steeplejack, forever
And now he was right here with her, planning life together.
"Dear Tom," she smiled, "I've loved you long, so surely you can guess
"Marry you? Who loves the sky? Oh yes, dear Tom. Oh yes."

©LC Van Savage

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What'll I Do with the Night

By Wendy Shepard-Kalan

In the morning things might look better In the light of the dawn
When the night is all gone
Such a sad little sight
What'll I do with the night...

I can't see in the dark of the night
Waiting for the dawns sweet light
Feelings... the pain
Going insane
I needed you so
Why would you go

Our days were so sweet
The love easy to feel
Nights oh the heat
It had to be real...

When I had the dream of you
It was all so brand new
My life was complete
how can I accept defeat
You say it's not me
Then how could this be
I don't want to fight
But what'll I do with the night

When we were in love
I was on top
I could rise above
No one could stop
The love that we shared
I thought that you cared...

In the morning things might look better in the light of the dawn
When the night is all gone
Such a sad little sight
What'll I do with the night...

©2012 Wendy Shepard-Kalan
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Places named A, B, D, E, I, O, Q, U, Y.

Everyone knows a city that's usually called LA, but there are scads of places around the world with even shorter names.

Incidentally, Los Angeles is really an abbreviation of its full name: El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the River Porciuncula).

Here's a list of places with single-letter names:
Å, a village in Andøy municipality, Nordland, Norway
Å, a village in Moskenes municipality, Nordland, Norway
Å, a village in Meldal municipality, Sør-Trøndelag, Norway
Å, a village in Åfjord municipality, Sør-Trøndelag, Norway
Å, a village in Ibestad municipality, Troms, Norway
Å, a village in Lavangen municipality, Troms, Norway
Å, a village in Tranøy municipality, Troms, Norway
Å, a place in Funen, Denmark.
Å, a village in Norrköping municipality, Östergötland, Sweden
B, a village in central Ohio, United States
D, a river in Oregon, United States
Ά, an ecologic hippie community in Buenos Aires, Argentina
E, a mountain in Hokkaidō, Japan
E, a river in the Highlands of Scotland
I, a town in Shandong Sheng, Dongshan county of Fujian province, China
O, several farms in Norway
Ô, a castle near Mortrée, France
O, a river in Devon, England
Ö, a village in Sweden.
Ø, a hill in Jutland, Denmark.
Q, a village in Massachusetts, United States
U, a place in Panama
Ú, a place in Madagascar
Y, a settlement in Alaska, United States
Y, a commune in the department of Somme, France

And here's a story about just one of those places, a tiny village in France, not far from Paris, that's called Y (its 86 inhabitants pronounce it as E, and call themselves Ypsiloniens or Ypsiloniennes).

Y is near the township of Ham ans Athies in the department of Somme, in Picardy. In World War I (1914-18), the Somme, on the Western Front, was a bloody battefield, where more than a million British, French and German troops were killed in two horrific encounters.

Famous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) mentioned Y in his book Der Rote Kampfflieger, published in 1917. An English language version was published in 1918 as The Red Battle Flyer, and today he's remembered as the Red Baron.

"We went on a shooting expedition on the twentieth of April," he wrote. "We came home very late and lost Schäfer on the way. Of course everyone hoped that he would come to land before dark. It struck nine, it struck ten, but no Schäfer was visible.

"His benzine could not last so long. Consequently, he had landed somewhere, for no one was willing to admit that he had been shot down. No one dared to mention the possibility. Still, everyone was afraid for him.

"The ubiquitous telephone was set in motion in order to find out whether a flying man had come down anywhere. Nobody could give us information. No Division and no Brigade had seen anything of him. We felt very uncomfortable. At last we went to bed. All of us were perfectly convinced that he would turn up in the end.

"At two o'clock, after midnight, I was suddenly awakened. The telephone orderly, beaming with pleasure, reported to me: 'Schäfer is in the Village of Y, and would like to be fetched home.'"


Pictures of A and Y.

Posted From Sydney, Australia, at 16:00 Thursday, 12 January 2012

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

My Son

By Wendy Shepard-Kalan

Silken gold glistens atop your head
I want to hug you but I laugh instead
Silly faces and messy places
Such a loud home my son how you've grown
The day I first held you and fell in love
I thanked God and all above
The world felt so right
As I held you that first night
12 years have flown by fast
I want every moment to last

My son my love
My precious gift from up above

Life is a gift I know
As I watch you grow
You are so special smart and funny
My sweet little snuggle bunny
Too big for mom to follow around
I know you can hold your ground
I want to guard your path smooth the way
Always be a part of your day
I taught you what I could
I just wish you everything good

My son my love
My precious gift from up above

©2012 Wendy Shepard-Kalan

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The Window

By Wendy Shepard-Kalan

I wish there were a window I could step through
In the mist of the dawn
that would lead me to you
From my front lawn
I would run To see your face
In some new magical place
We would laugh and talk
Holding hands while we walk
Time wouldn't care
When we had so much to share
A place of wonder with colors so bright
Dressed in a mystical light

The window when I needed sleep
Would stay open just for me
This secret I would keep
The window only I could see
When my work was done
When I needed you
In the morning sun
I would step through

The past doesn't fade
In this place of delight
Where we have played
And Everything's right
When I close my eyes
I see the window I could step through
In the mist of the dawn
That would lead me to you
From my front lawn

©12/3/11 Wendy Shepard-Kalan
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Until I Meet My Fate

By Wendy Shepard-Kalan

Do you realize life is a gift Everyday
Do you see the sunrise and breathe in the air
As you go through and make your way
Or do you feel it's too hard to bear
Daily pains
Rough roads to travel
Heavy rains
Things unravel...
It's not promised as you go to bed
That in the dawn you'll lift your head
Each day is new
So much to see
So much to do
Don't you agree...
I don't know an ants path or a butterflies flight
I want to learn I think I might
Life is fragile gone for some too fast
The wonders of this world are great
Every moment I wish would last
Until I meet my fate
©2012 Wendy Shepard-Kalan
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Gracie Takes It Easy

By John I. Blair

While we watch Springsteen on TV
You couch in comfort
On the bed’s edge,

Cool stare at the darkness
Outside the window screen,
Ears pricked just a bit

At some sub-audible sound
That might be rats, bats,
Other cats in the night.

No excitement here,
Just alert, pert,
An implication you might pounce

If life requires; or not.
For after all, the bed is soft,
Your people warm.

Tuna crunchies might appear.

©2011 John I. Blair

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Gracie Takes It Down Court

By John I. Blair

Solid as a tree
She stalks through the door,
Bats the ball in front of her
Where she wants to go,

Bounces it off the baseboard
Fast as eye can see,
Hurtles down the hall
And scores against my toe.

Flopped there on the floor
She looks at me and mews
As though to ask (if cats could talk)
“Gimme another throw?”

©2008 John I. Blair

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False Economy

By John I. Blair

If I shop around
I’ll just buy something else
I do not need,

A beverage urn,
A case of puppy chow,
Three-pack of fine French wine.

Each visit to the Hypermart
Exposes me to more temptations,
Suckers my frugality.

What I should wish
Would be a
Minimiser Mart

With Spartan aisles
I might stroll without regret
Past sparsely furnished shelves.

Sometimes we need protection from ourselves.

©2011 John I. Blair

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By John I. Blair

Living with numbers
Marks the times in which I move,
Not who I am.

I know my SSN, BP,
My LDL and HDL,
My street address, my phone and ZIP.

If asked, these all come quickly to my lip;
But if you wish to know my soul,
Watch what I do, learn what I love.

©2011 John I. Blair

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By John I. Blair

Steve Allen once said
“If you pray for rain
Long enough,
It eventually does fall . . .
The same thing happens
In the absence of prayers.”

It’s hard to call him wrong;
The logic of his thought
Seems irrefutable . . .
But those who pray
At least achieve the gain
Of opening a dialog.

©2011 John I. Blair

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By Thomas F. O'Neill

When I sat down to write this column I was interrupted by a phone call from a friend of mine who retired ten years ago in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. A decade ago he thought his retirement savings in the U. S. was a sure thing in terms of sustaining him through his twilight years. He is not that confident now due to America’s economy and he is worrying about the decision he made to retire at the age of 72. His fear is he will outlive his retirement savings if he lives into his 90s. He will then be left with only his social security benefits. How will he handle the rising cost of inflation or the possibility of higher taxes down the road.

Social Security is not his golden parachute toward a comfortable retirement after working for 38 years.

Many other senior citizens are fearful of the uncertain economy and the devaluing of their investments. The only thing I could do was reassure my friend that times will get better and that the American economy is slowly rebounding.

In the back of my mind I was fearful for him though I would hate to see him relying solely on social security in his 90s but that doesn’t have to be the case. I told him that many senior citizens continue to reinvest their savings in mutual funds well into their twilight years.

In 2005, I did investment planning for a living in Pennsylvania but unfortunately I didn’t get rich doing it. I did however enjoy meeting and talking to the people I was helping. I helped quite a few people in the Pennsylvania coal region prepare for their retirement but I was pretty shocked at the level of poverty in Schuylkill County.

In my hometown of Shenandoah, in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region many have hardly any savings. What shocked me the most was the number of people receiving welfare or a disability check. I wanted to help those people too but under State Law I couldn’t. I would have lost my state license if I invested some of their money into a mutual fund. Some of those people became angry and yelled that they’re being discriminated against. I always made the mistake of forgetting to ask what their source of income was before making my sales pitch. The economy was much stronger than too and 25% of your salary invested wisely over a 20 year period could yield a nice return and the same is true with our current economy.

Our path in life is paved by the choices we make and here in China where I am now working and living the average Chinese person saves or invests 25% of their income. They prepare wisely for their retirement beginning from the day they start their first job. Their investments can go a long way especially now with China’s booming economy.

The state of the U.S. economy comes up quite a bit in my Cultural Diversity class here in Suzhou, China. I tell my students that the slow growth to a full recovery from the great recession of 2008 is being hampered by various factors including the devaluation of the American dollar. In other words the U. S. dollar is quite weak now.

One reason for this is our National debt - over 14 trillion and counting. Our American government is also printing more money to pay off loans it owes to foreign governments. The printing of that extra currency and the fear that the U. S. may default on its loans is having a negative impact on the value of the U. S. dollar as well.

The dollar's value can also be measured by exchange rates, Treasury notes, and the amount of dollars held by foreign countries. These three measurements usually are in sync with each other. No matter how you measure it, though, the dollar is losing value over the long-term.

Foreign investors diversifying their portfolios with more non-dollar denominated assets is also a sign of a weak economy and fear of a very slow economic recovery in the U.S.

You can easily measure the value of the U. S. dollar by its exchange rate by comparing its value to other currencies. The exchange rates allow you to determine how much of one currency you can exchange for another. These rates change every day because currencies are traded on the foreign exchange market, known as ‘forex.’ A currency's ‘forex’ value depends on a lot of factors, including Central Bank interest rates, the country's debt levels, and the strength of its economy. Most countries allow their currencies to be determined by the ‘forex’ market this is known as a flexible exchange rate.

Currently the European ‘Euro,’ the British Pound, the Australian dollar, and the Canadian dollar are all stronger than our U. S. dollar. This can be one way of measuring the United States economic strength or weakness on a global scale.

The value of the American dollar can also be measured by the demand for U.S. Treasury notes. The Treasury Department sells notes for a fixed interest rate and face value. Investors bid at a Treasury auction for more or less than the face value, and can resell them on a secondary market. High demand means investors pay more than face value, and accept a lower yield. Low demand means investors pay less than face value and receive a higher yield. That's why a high yield means low dollar demand - until the yield goes high enough to trigger renewed dollar demand.

The value of the dollar, whether measured by exchange rates or Treasury yields, is still undermined by the over $14 trillion U. S. debt. The U.S. government is releasing more and more treasury notes to offset its debt crises.

Foreign Currency Reserves of American dollars is also a way to measure the value of our U. S. currency. The U. S. dollar is held by foreign governments who have an excess of dollars. They hold our currency in foreign currency reserves when the value is high. The excess happens when countries, such as Japan and China, export more than they import. As the dollar declines, the value of their reserves also decline. As a result, they are less willing to hold dollars in reserve. They diversify into other currencies, such as the euro or even the Chinese Yuan. This reduces demand for the dollar, putting further downward pressure on its value.

There was a record $3.28 trillion in foreign government reserves held in dollars last year (2011). This represents 60% of total measurable reserves. In 2008, however, dollars comprised 67% of reserves and the percentage of dollars is continuing to slowly decline. This means that foreign governments are slowly moving their currency reserves out of dollars. In fact, the value of euros held in reserves increased from $393 billion to $1.45 trillion during this same time period. Although it increased rapidly, it is still less than half the amount held in dollars.

The devaluing of the U.S. dollar may however have a positive affect with the U.S. economy in terms of exports. When the dollar declines, it makes U.S. produced goods cheaper and more competitive on the global market compared to foreign produced goods. This helps increase U.S. exports, boosting economic growth.

However, it also leads to higher oil prices since oil is priced in dollars. Whenever the dollar declines, oil producing countries raise the price of oil to maintain profit margins in their local currency. For example, the dollar is worth 3.75 Saudi riyals. Let's say a barrel of oil is worth $100, which makes it worth 375 Saudi riyals. If the dollar declines 20% against the euro, two things happen.

First, the value of a barrel of oil has declined 20% to the Saudis.

Second, the value of the riyal, which is fixed to the dollar, has also declined 20% against the euro. To purchase French pastries, the Saudis must now pay more than they did before the dollar declined. To avoid this, the Saudis raise the price of oil, which they do by threatening to limit supply. You notice this when you pay more for gas each week.

The growing U. S. debt weighs in the back of the minds of foreign investors. That's why they may continue to gradually move out of dollar-denominated investments - slowly, so they don't diminish the value of their existing holdings. The best protection for an individual investor is a well-diversified portfolio that includes foreign mutual funds.

That is one reason I started investing 25% of my salary here in China. The Chinese currency although artificially devalued by the Chinese government is still slowly increasing in value. For example, in 2007 a U. S. dollar in China could buy you 10.00 Yuan in Chinese currency but now in 2012 the value of the dollar will only get you 6.31 Yuan. What that means is the value of the Chinese currency is increasing globally and the value of the dollar is decreasing globally.

My investments over the past 4 years have been made in China’s financial markets in Shanghai. There is a vast amount of wealth being generated in Shanghai, due to its booming economy. China will soon allow U.S. companies that do business with mainland China to advertise on the Shanghai stock exchange. The result will be higher profits for the U. S. companies and other foreign companies that do business with mainland China. China’s overall goal though is to make Shanghai the financial center of the world by 2020. Hopefully, I will still be living and working here in Suzhou, China with a little wiser and smarter investment.

My students here seem so much smarter than I was at their age not only do they have a thirst for knowledge but they understand the importance of its proper application not only to enhance their own lives but their Nation as a whole.

I tell my students that today’s wise investments whether they are monetary investments or investments in learning those wise choices are mere prologues toward a brighter future.

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:

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Eric Shackle Column

By Eric Shackle

Crossword Puzzle's Dual Solutions

Crossword puzzles, the world's most popular word game, are older than you may think.The first example appeared on September 14, 1890, in the Italian magazine Il Secolo Illustrato della Domenica.

It was designed by Giuseppe Airoldi and titled "Per passare il tempo" ("To pass the time"). Airoldi's puzzle was a four-by-four grid with no shaded squares, but it included horizontal and vertical clues.

Arthur Wynne, the English-born New York journalist who invented the crossword puzzle in its present form in 1913, would be astonished to see how computers are being used to generate today's cryptic crosswords, and amazed at the way in which addicts are challenged to solve crosswords on the Internet. A few websites even offer cash prizes.

Wynne's invention attracts millions of devotees, and has boosted the sales of newspapers, magazines, dictionaries, notepads, pencils, and erasers for for almost a century.

Wynne had the job of creating puzzles for the New York World's eight-page Fun section when the editor asked him to invent a new word game.

He recalled a puzzle from his childhood called Magic Squares, in which a given group of words had to be arranged so their letters would read the same way across and down. He designed a larger and more complex grid, and provided a clue for each word.

The New York World published Wynne's first Word-cross puzzle on December 21, 1913 as one of the Fun section's "mental exercises." It was diamond-shaped, with easy clues. It was an instant winner, soon adopted by other newspapers.

Wynne experimented with different shapes, including a circle, before settling on the rectangle. The word-cross became known as a cross-word, and as with many hyphenated words, the hyphen was eventually dropped.

By 1923, crosswords were being published in most of the leading American newspapers, and the craze soon reached England. Before long, almost all the dailies in the United States and Britain had a crossword feature of some kind.

Crossword fever swept both nations. The puzzles were so popular in the 1920s that songs were written about them, with such titles as Cross Word Puzzle Blues, Cross Word Mamma You Puzzle Me (But Papa's Gonna Figure You Out), Since Ma's Gone Crazy Over Cross Word Puzzles, and Cross Words Between Sweetie and Me (with ukulele accompaniment).

Surprisingly,The New York Times was the only American major daily newspaper to refuse to include such puzzles (it had also shunned comic strips). However, in 1924 its editor wrote: "All ages, both sexes, highbrows and lowbrows, at all times and in all places, even in restaurants and in subways, pore over the diagrams."

Eighteen years later, the New York Times' Sunday edition printed its first crossword, and in September 1950 the puzzle became a daily feature as well. Since then, the New York Times has become "the standard of excellence in American puzzling."

Today, crosswords are found in almost every country using the Roman alphabet, and in many languages. They are regarded as both a pastime and an interesting means of improving the vocabulary.

Crossword clues make use of spelling puns, spoken puns, and accidental letter sequences in words and phrases, so anyone able to solve a crossword puzzle in a second language can certainly claim fluency.

In the 1992 US presidential election campaign, Will Shortz, who was then and at 61 still is crossword editor of the New York Times, visited the then candidate Bill Clinton's Manhattan hotel room, with a specially-constructed puzzle.

They chatted for a few minutes about crosswords when Clinton noticed the puzzle, clicked on his watch timer and started solving the puzzle. However, he was soon disturbed by an urgent phone call.

"So he clicks off his watch timer and goes over to the telephone," Shortz recalled later, "and he's talking animatedly and a few minutes into the call I hear his timer click on again and I look over and, in astonishment, I see, while he's talking on the phone, he's continuing to solve the puzzle."

When Clinton finished the call, Shortz checked the puzzle for accuracy. "It was absolutely perfect and he had finished it in six minutes and 54 seconds," said Shortz. "Whatever else you can say about Bill Clinton, he's a very talented crossword solver."

One of the most controversial puzzles appeared in the New York Times on the presidential election day in 1996. The clue to the middle answer across the grid was "Lead story in tomorrow's newspaper".

The answer appeared to be CLINTON ELECTED. Because of intentional ambiguity in the crossing clues, however, the answer could also have been BOB DOLE ELECTED. Either answer fitted. For example, the crossing clue Black Halloween animal could have been either BAT or CAT, with the C for CLINTON or the B the start of BOB DOLE.

Shortz said: "It was the most amazing crossword I've ever seen. As soon as it appeared, my telephone started ringing. Most people said 'How dare you presume that Clinton will win!' And the people who filled in BOB DOLE thought we'd made a whopper of a mistake!"

Shortz wrote the Riddler's puzzles for the 1995 film Batman Forever. He is the only man in the world to have a degree in enigmatology. He designed the course himself at Indiana University in the early 1970s.

In London, the first Times Crossword Championship took place in 1970, attracting 20,000 entries. It was won by Roy Dean, a diplomat. Eight years later, in America, 161 contestants competed in the first annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut.

The 35th will be held in New York from March 16 to 18, 2012. Solvers tackle eight original crosswords created and edited specially for this event. Scoring is based on accuracy and speed. Prizes are awarded in more than 20 categories, including a $5,000 grand prize. Evening games, guest speakers, "and a wine and cheese reception allow solvers to meet each other in a relaxed and entertaining atmosphere."

Finally, here's a great piece of crossword trivia: the world's largest crossword was published in 1982 by Robert Turcot of Quebec, Canada. It offered 12,489 clues across and 13,125 down. A few determined cruciverbalists are still trying to fill in its 82,951 squares.

Video. What the hell is 14 down?
Online crossword.

Posted Monday, 16 January 2012 by Eric Shackle at 15:54 From Sydney, Australia.

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Author's Blog.

Googlemap Dreaming In Lawrence, Kansas

By John I. Blair

One mouse click at a time
I’ve been wandering down the streets
Where I spent a host of happy hours
Half a hundred years ago
When I was a young collegian
And life seemed grand and free.

To see, frozen in some recent summer’s
Scorching Kansas heat,
The same long rows of bungalows,
Cottages and gingerbread
Confections I goggled at
(And lived in) then stimulates,

Stirs up memories of endless walks
Down miles of brick-built pavements
Beneath now-vanished elms,
My prairie sensibilities
Stunned by the extravagance
Of carpentry and tree.

Long lifetimes later
I am reassured, relieved,
That some things evidently
Persevere, or are preserved
By love and tons of paint,
(Wishing that would work for me).

©2011 John I. Blair

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Don't Ask Why

I'm in for the round up
It's time for the pick me up
A vision, a reason, and a cure
and the need for so much more

I'm on for the lift off
It's the memory of the fade out
The climate, the seasons and chores
and the need for so much more

Everyday when we see it through
We reach the point of what we say and do
All the years passed and so afraid am I
Quiet the tears and reach for the sky
Don't ask why

I'm here for the hold out
It's the message to live or die
A word, and poem and a glancing stare
Just close your eyes and we'll be there

Everyday when we see it through
We reach the point of what we say and do
All the years passed and so afraid am I
Quiet the tears and reach for the sky
Don't ask why

Just close your eyes and we'll be there
Don't ask why

©1/29/12 Bruce Clifford ©
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I Never Felt Like This

I've never felt like this
On the fingertips
Dying for what I miss
I never felt like this

I never walked in my sleep
I never contemplated the counting of sheep
I never traveled through time
I never co-existed with another kind
It's messing with my mind

I never tried to evaporate
I never took the chance to mess with cosmic fate
I never counted down the time
I never overreacted to what's on the other side

I've never felt like this
As if I don't exist
All the chemicals and mist
I never felt like this

©1/6/12 Bruce Clifford
Click on Bruce Clifford for bio and list of other works published
by Pencil Stubs Online.

I Never Seem to Get Enough of You

I never seem to get enough of you
It doesn't matter what we say or do
In the end we make the old the new
I never seem to get enough of you

I never seem to get enough of us
It doesn't matter if we have nothing to discuss
In the end we are the only ones we can trust
I never seem to get enough of us

All the months and years go by
The days and weeks that we let slide
And all at once our worlds collide
I never want to end

I never seem to get enough of you
It doesn't matter if we have nothing to do
In a lifetime with all that we've been through
I never seem to get enough of
I never seem to get enough of
I never seem to get enough of you

©1/1/12 Bruce Clifford

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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Hi all,
How is 2012 going for you? You know that occasionally I inflict my feeble efforts at playwriting on you. Well., I’m at it again but this time you’ll be delighted to know that it is a short one-act, monologue play.

All the persons and situations are the product of my imagination and don’t reflect any real people or actual happenings. And the fact that I worked for almost forty years with Dublin Bus is purely coincidental.


(A one-act monologue play)

SET: A small security hut on right side of stage. With a “window” opening at the front and a door opening at the right. A middle-aged Bus Inspector, in uniform is seated in the hut, his head and shoulders visible through the “window” opening. He is holding a two-way radio in his hand.

There is a backdrop on which is projected a picture of a modern office-block which metamorphoses into an image of the old Theatre Royal and back again, at the appropriate time.

* * *** * *

BUS INSPECTOR; Bus Control to all drivers. Exercise caution as you are approaching Galloping Green, I’m told there’s fog on the road there.

(DISGUISED MALE VOICE ON RADIO): Is that on the way into town or the way out?

BUS INSPECTOR (leaving down handset): Smart-ass. I’m supposed to stand out there on the road doing this job, you know. In all weathers. It’s just that I’m well got with the head security man, here at Hawkin’s House (a Corkman) and he lets me use this hut. One of my superiors, a “Customer Service Manager” came in and caught me here one day. I was eatin’ a sandwich and he reported me to my Divisional Manager. ‘Said I was drinking tea. Just shows you the way he was fed as a young lad when he doesn’t know the difference between two slices of bread and a cup of tea. I was only in here for three minutes when he caught me. So I nicknamed him “the three-minute man”. I passed on the sobriquet to my subordinates, without elaboration or explanation. And it took on the desired connotation.

That’s nearly a month ago and I haven’t seen him since. But he could appear anytime. He might be here this morning. He’s like that. Goes underground for ages and then suddenly re-appears. Like a dose of syphilis that wasn’t caught in time. You won’t see him if it’s raining though. There are four species that don’t like getting wet; asses, cats, corner-boys and Customer Service Managers..

But I was telling you about Hawkins House here. It’s the headquarters of the Department of Health and Education. It was built on the site of the old Theatre Royal. (Pointing towards backdrop which metamorphoses into image of the old Theatre Royal as he speaks)

    There once stood one of the finest Theatre i n the whole of Ireland, the Royal. With a splendid look from the outside and an interior to match. . With smartly dressed ushers standing at the doors in their wine coloured uniforms. Many renowned world stars of screen and stage appeared there over the years. One that springs to mind was a famous cowboy “Roy Rogers” and his horse called “Trigger.“ Bill Hailey and the Comets, of the “ one two three o’clock four o clock rock” fame.
    You could go to an afternoon matinee that consisted of a variety show followed by a movie, and the same show was performed again that evening. One of the highlights of the variety show was the famous Tommy Dando who was an organist who would appear coming up through the floor at the side of t he stage playing this gigantic Whurtzler organ much to the delight of the audience who would join in a sing -song with the words on a backdrop on the stage, no digital in those days.
    The Royal was famous for its female dance troop “The Royalettes”. This was a group of about thirty females performing dance routines to precision timing in their special dance costumes. Otherwise known as tiller girls. There was Noel Purcell, Mickser Reid, a dwarf (there was some smart spakes about Mickser's anatomy, I’m telling you).And of course the Royalties; a troupe of dancers also known as Tiller Girls. They were mini skirted before it was fashionable (The mini-shirt, not the dancing).
    They weren’t allowed to sit down between acts. They had to stand against a padded rail. So that they wouldn’t pucker their costumes. Some of them would be well puckered after the show, says you. Oh big changes.
    A beautiful building that was demolished to build this monstrosity (pointing to backdrop which slowly changes back to image of office-block). When I first came to Dublin the Theatre Royal was in full swing I first came to the city to work on the buildings. The money wasn’t great and the proceeds from the sale of scrap lead and anything else weighing less than a ton that wasn’t nailed down helped.

FIRST MALE VOICE OVER RADIO; Fourth Ballinteer to control. Over.

INSPECTOR; Receiving you. Over.

FIRST MALE VOICE ON RADIO; I’m running late and the fifth car is in front of me. Will I transfer my load on to him and turn? Over.

INSPECTOR; Hold on. Over. Control to five forty-eight A. Over.

SECOND MALE VOICE ON RADIO; Receiving you. Over.

INSPECTOR; The car ahead of you is behind you . Will you take his passengers. Over.


INSPECTOR; Back to fourth Ballinteer.

FIRST MALE VOICE ON RADIO; Receiving you. Over.

INSPECTOR; Transfer your load and cross over. Over. (Leaving down handset) Your time is not your own in this job. Where was I. . . Oh, yes, I was telling you about when I worked in the construction industry. Well I used to socialise with a number of Bus Conductors in Ranelagh and they always appeared to have money. And I was soon to learn what “making the rent” meant in busman’s parlance. It meant forgetting to issue a ticket for the fare tendered. And according to my informants it was a lucrative and widespread practice on certain routes. And stories of pelvic activities with female passengers cropped up too frequently to be all imaginings. At the time I was working for a mild mannered building contractor named Peter Ewing. He paid the rate (or slightly above it) and working conditions were good but I applied for a job on the buses. There was a television ad running at the time “wanted, two men to crew this Dublin bus”. I was called into CIE’s head office for an interview and came up with a suitable pack of lies in response to the question “why do you want to work for CIE?”.

    Next came the exam. This consisted of doing sums and writing an essay. I though I could manage the essay but I would nearly have to open my trousers to count to twenty-one.
    However my lack of mathematical prowess in the latter was more than compensated for by my dubious talent for reading upside down, sideways, or at any obtuse angle that presented itself. I sometimes tell people that I acquired this ability when I worked in a printer’s. This is a lie . . . it is a natural defect which, coupled with good sight, enabled me to cog from the fellow beside me, behind me or anywhere in the vicinity.
    My essay, “Why I want to be a Bus Conductor” was a not-quite Kavanesque account of snagging turnips in the frost, loading dung, picking stones and cutting thistles. And how, when the building trade would slow down, I didn’t want to go back to such menial agricultural tasks. If this document is extant today it would embarrass me (and that is not easily done).
    I passed the exam and when the Doctor, at the cursory, “medical” checked my lungs and counted my testicles I was in.
    After a week in the training school and a further week with a conductor I was let loose on the traveling public, with a bag and ticket machine. The minimum fare at the time was sixpence and a significant proportion of the traveling public were conscientious about the conservation of paper. On certain routes you would be offered five pence or even four pence with the immortal words “go ahead” or the less laconic would say “ spare the paper”.
    The drawback to this profitable and challenging exercise was that, if an Inspector boarded, you could be “booked” and end up in the Manager’s office accused of “making the rent”.
    A small percentage (and only a small percentage) of rent-makers was sacked. I survived. “Top Cat” was one of the most feared Cigiri. If “Top Cat” found anything wrong on a bus he would alight in the best of humour; humming a catchy tune. But if everything was ship-shape it was a grumpy and unsociable “Top Cat” that got off.
    The detection rate for rent-making was kept to a minimum by drivers “giving the Billy”. A bus coming in the opposite direction would flash the lights and give a coded signal to indicate where the Inspector was and who exactly it was. This information was then relayed to the rent-maker by his own driver who would flash the saloon-lights and/or rattle the gear lever and slam the cab door.
    When OPO, (one Person Operation) came into force it didn’t stop “rent-making” but it increased the detection rate. One driver, who had been caught a number of times, eventually had his employment terminated. At his dismissal the Garage Manager, sarcastically, remarked, “Well thank you for bringing back the bus anyway”. “Oh, no” says your man, “Thank your for the loan of it”.
    I eventually qualified as a driver. And then it was my turn to rattle the gear-lever etc. and warn drivers coming in the opposite direction in the appropriate manner. Each conductor had a pack of Emergency
    Tickets, for use in the event of a malfunction of the ticket machine. One old Inspector referring to one particular route said, “Every fucking ticket given out on this road is an emergency ticket”.
    Conductors from certain garages would hold a “rent-makers ball”. This was an annual get-together the venue for which would be kept secret from “outsiders”. The story may be acropical but it was said that on one such event a neighbour asked his wife, “what’s the noise from X . . s”? When told “They are holding a rent-makers ball” he is alleged to have said” Well. I wish to fuck they’d let it go”.
    When I was a conductor I was too busy trying to supplement my wages to chat up any commuting female who might be agreeable to gentle vibrations administered at regular intervals to the lower abdomen. Many of my colleagues expended a lot of energy through horizontal jogging. And one in particular described the phenomena of getting the occasional cailin ag iompar as, “an occupational hazard”.
    T.E. Hulme said that the steel staircase of the emergency exit at Picadilly Circus was the most uncomfortable place in which he had ever copulated. He mustn’t ever attempted to hide the baldy-miner on the back seat of a Bombardier bus.
    There was a conductor on the Seventy-six route who was renowned for his wit or in the parlance of the day “ he had words at will”. (It was he who said, when female drivers came into the job, that the cab should now be called “the box-office”.) One day going through Fettercairn he was taking a lot of stick from a mother with two kids. When he could take no more he asked, “Are they twins Missus?”. The enraged mother snapped, “how the f__ would they be twins, when one of them is eight an’ the other one is five; are ye stupi’ or wha’?” “No” says the conductor, “It’s just that I didn’t think anyone would ride you twice”.
    Many clinical, transport terms, became double entendres. “Transferring your load “, “pulling out on time” took on ambiguous meanings.
    And of course many bus-men had nicknames. One conductor was called BBC. It started out as Big Bum because of his elaborate posterior and was then abbreviated. To BB. And since C was the initial letter of his surname it was a natural progression to BBC. But wait ‘till I tell you. Didn’t his son join the Company so we had BBC1 and BBC2.
    Two Fifty was an Inspector who got the title because he had been given five pounds ,to give to a conductor, by a passenger who had been re-united with her lost property. But he decide that 50% would be adequate reward for the conductor and he held on to the other two pounds fifty. I suppose you could say it was to cover administration costs.
    Another, got the title “milk-bottle” because of his penchant for hiding in doorways. If he’d had any less between his ears it would have been necessary to water him every day. His genetic IQ came as no surprise to those of us who had “looked at the stud book”; pedigree is very important. His father was “out during the troubles” and , during the Civel War, himself and Tom McGovern were transporting a sack full of ammunition through the Wicklow mountains under cover of darkness. While crossing a make-shift bridge at Ballydonnell, a moonbeam betrayed them. They became silhouettes against the night sky and targets for the waiting Free-Staters . In McGovern’s case, self-preservation took precedence over national independenge and he promptly dropped to his knees to avail of what little cover there was. He shouted at his companion to do likewise and back came the reply, “I can’t I’m wearin’ me good trousers an’ it would be destroyed”.
    In the early days of Telefis Eireann, a man in Marino had left his T.V aerial down on the road while he tried to establish where Kippure was. Pressure from the wheels of a No. 24 bus driven, by Tom Murray, ensured that there would be no Tolka Row in that house for a while. The less than pleased DIY man pursued Tom to the terminus and informed him; “You are after breaking my television aerial”. Tom’s expletively prefaced truism; “...buses don’t fly” earned him the immortal nickname “The Jet” Murray.

FEMALE VOICE ON RADIO; Four-one- five- five to control. Over.

INSPECTOR; Receiving you, over.

FEMALE VOICE ON RADIO; I have a major problem. My near-side Indicator is only working intermittently, over.

INSPECTOR; I’ll get you a change of bus at the outer terminus, over. (Leaving down handset) I should have told her that it’s only meant to work intermittently. She’s always the same. She called me here one day to report that a male passenger was shouting, “masturbate, masturbate”. She was looking for an instruction as to what she should do. I gave her the only instruction that I could think of; “Chuck him off at the next stop”.

    I remember when I was driving I was working with a Clippie who was vertically challenged and she couldn’t reach the handle to change the scroll. (Do you remember the metal box that conductors carried the Ticket –machine in?) Anyway, says I to her, “Why don’t you stand on your box?”, “If I could do that “ says she “I’d be in a bleedin’ circus”.
    Then when the first female drivers arrived one of the lads said that the cab should no longer be described as such; he said it should now be called “the box office”.
    After I spent six years driving the powers that were decided that poacher makes the best Gamekeeper and they promoted me. Being a people-pleasing sort of bastard, booking drivers and conductors was not really my style.
    As an Inspector you would be sent out to do “dirty checks”. This involved hiding in the most obscure places on routes in an attempt to catch drivers, or more often conductors, off-side.
    Ambitious men who saw themselves as going places loved this.
    When first I came out an old, level headed, Inspector gave me a bit of advice pertaining to avoidance of tasks which one found unpalatable,
    “No matter what you’re sent to do make a bollocks of it and ten you won’t be sent again”.
    One evening, having checked a number sixty five bus full of mountainy people, in various stages of civilization, returning to their homes, I sat down on a vacant seat. In the seat opposite me were an elderly man and a pretty young girl. The man was eating an ice-cream cornet with rather delicious looking topping and he looked very ill-at-ease and uncomfortable. He was constantly crossing and un-crossing his legs and shifting in his seat. The young lady, in an obvious attempt to put him at his ease, looked at the topping on his ice-cream, asked, “ Crushed nuts?” “No” says yer man “I think it’s a touch of arthritis”.
    Wait ‘til I tell you about the time I was driving the staff-car behind a bus when I observed a “pavement hostess” was on her way to work and she was in a state of undress upstairs while changing into her street clothes
I called the driver on this yoke (indicating the handset). And told him to pull in at the next stop. As I boarded the bus and told the driver about the situation upstairs and that I was going upstairs to investigate I was overheard by a visually impaired male passenger. He wore very thick glasses but obviously had a acute auricular sense by way of compensation. As I mounted the stairs he jumped from his seat, hurridly wiped his spectacles with a handkerchief shouting, “wait for me”, wait for me”

* * *** * *

He is interrupted when several voices come on the radio in quick succession:
“The three minute man is in D’olier Street”.
“Five fourteen to Hawkins Street, enemy approaching”.
“Three minute man approaching”.
“First Ballinteer to control, get out of that hut, three-minute man, the egg-timer, in vicinity. . .”.

He hurriedly comes out of hut and stands centre stage holding the radio aloft. When he emerges he is seen to be wearing turned-down Wellingtons.

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

Rabbo II-Chapter 2

By Mark Crocker


    The village was about twenty houses with a large house in the center that was Bastet’s. There were large gardens for each house and the whole village was surrounded by a high stone wall with a walkway almost at the top of the wall there was a gate house at each end of the wall and towers dotted along the walls that over looked the village and surrounding area.
    Each house had running water and a sewer system that took the waste water out of the houses and out of the village to an area that was set up to treat the waste water. Also each house had black solar panels and small wind turbines on the roofs to generate power for the houses and the village.
    There was also a well in the village that supplied the village with water. And should anything happen the village was very capable of defending its self and out lasting any army that would lay siege to it. The total population of the village was two hundred men woman and children. But the available land inside the walls could hold four times that number and still be able to withstand a long siege if needs be.
    It had been a week since Bastet had left for her village and Rabbo and Athena had watched her on and off until Bastet had reached her village safely. Athena had become worried on the second day of Bastet’s trip down the coast when the clouds had become dark and the waves had started to get larger and larger. But other than the one storm the trip had been very uneventful for Bastet.
    Rabbo had been busy helping Merwyn harvest the last of the vegetables and making the house ready for winter. They had also hooked up the four cattle to a plow that Merwyn had built and they had plowed a large area and spread the manure from the cattle all over the ground. Shortly after they had spread the manure over the freshly plowed area the complaints from the warren started to arrive and the rabbits did not like the smell that came from all the fresh cattle manure.
    Rabbo had to explain to his sisters and brothers that it would make the harvest next year very big and that they could all eat very well. But now three days after the manure had been spread the smell had faded away and the warren was happy again.
    Rabbo awoke on his window sill and looked out of the window. He could see Cat sitting on Merwyn's wood chopping stump watching the rabbits from the warren. He could tell his own children from Athena’s room as they were bigger than the rest of the rabbits plus they tended to stay together and there was always one that would be sitting on his or her hind legs watching what was going on.
    Rabbo heard a soft yawn from Athena’s bed and he turned around to see a tiny foot sticking out from under the covers. So Rabbo slipped off his window sill hopped over to the tiny foot and sniffed it before he started batting at it. The foot quickly withdrew under the covers and was replaced by an arm that started to grope around for him. Then the arm withdrew and a pair of eyes peaked out from under the covers and looked at him.
    Then a blond little girl leaped out at Rabbo trying to grab him as she tumbled to the floor in a loud crash. Rabbo leaped over her and jumped on the little girl making sure that he did not dig his claws in before he leaped off of her and went and hid under the bed.
    There was a second crash and the other little girl sat on the floor looking a little confused about what had just happened. Rabbo was not sure how the other little girl had fallen out of bed or if she had been dragged out of bed by her sister. Rabbo backed further under the bed and watched and waited for the twins to move in and make a grab for him. But instead they sat on the floor looking at each other looking even more confused. Then they got up and walked off to the bathroom.
    Rabbo peaked out from under the bed and looked around.
    “Now there were some questions that needed answers to” Rabbo thought. “First off where was Athena? Secondly how had the twins snuck into Athena’s bedroom and thirdly why had they not given chase like they normally would. And lastly where was his mother who was still normally curled up at the foot of the bed”?
    Rabbo hopped out of the bedroom and saw the twins standing outside Merwyn's door waiting.
    The door opened and Athena walked out dressed in her short robe that Bastet had given her. She looked at the twins and pointed down the hallway to the stairs. The twins walked past Rabbo and went down the stairs. Athena turned around looked into Merwyn's room spoke softly for a moment and then walked down the hallway to her room.
    Rabbo hopped over to the elevator and rode down into the kitchen which was nice and warm. There Rabbo saw his mother sitting on the rug next to the fire place next to Cat who was lying on his back with his legs spread wide apart.
    The twins where standing on tip toes and looking out of the window talking softly in very hushed whispers. The kitchen windows were all steamed up so it was hard to see how much frost had happened over night.
    Athena walked down the stairs into the kitchen and looked over at her daughters standing at the window looking out. Athena was still dressed in her robe that Merwyn call her cheeky robe as it was short and when she knelt of bent over both cheeks could be seen. The robe its self had been a special gift from Bastet and Athena loved to wear it as it reminded her of Bastet and the love that they shared.
    Athena went into the cool storage room and came out with a jug of milk, cheese, butter and eggs. She placed the food on the counter top and started to make breakfast for the twins, Merwyn and herself.
    Rabbo got busy setting the table for breakfast so that when Merwyn came down the table would be ready to sit at and have breakfast. Rabbo knew that breakfast was important and that today the would need a good breakfast as they had a lot of work to do in the garden plus Merwyn wanted to finish the new storage shed that was going to be placed down near the warren so that the rabbits there could have access to it when there was snow on the ground.
    The rabbits under the instruction of Rabbo’s brothers and sisters had dug a long wide deep tunnel that not only acted as a tunnel to go back and forth though but also let warm air pass down into the warren by means of a forced air pump. But doing that it would mean that the warren would stay warm and there would be no repeat of the winter before where two rabbits had frozen in their burrow when they had been cut off from the rest of the warren when a small section had flooded.
    Rabbo had finished setting the table and hopped over to see what the twins were looking at though the window.
    What Rabbo saw was a thin coating of snow on the ground that just barely hid the grass and ground. Rabbo could also see rabbit tracks that came right up to the house and stopped at the door. So Rabbo hopped over to the door and opened it to see who was there. Sitting there was Mischief with her kittens who she was sheltering from the wind that had picked up.
    “Mischief why are you here” asked Rabbo as he left them in.
    “Big burrow you home, flooded and cold, I bring kittens here to warm check and feed” said Mischief “Father of me man talker check little soft eyes she not right”.
    Rabbo sniffed the smallest rabbit out of Mischief’s current litter and smelt that something was wrong with soft eyes. So Rabbo closed his eyes and looked at her inside and saw that she was very cold and that she had a blockage in her tummy. Rabbo tried to move the blockage but it would not move. But he did know what to do to warm someone back up when they were cold.
    “Athena I need a small steam tent for soft eyes as she is hypothermic” said Rabbo trying to keep the worry out of his voice. “Soft eyes also has something in her tummy I cannot move or make go away. Will you look please”?
    Athena walked over picked up soft eyes and looked inside her. She looked at Rabbo and walked out of the kitchen very quickly.
    “I am taking her to my med lab she needs surgery now. You take care of the twins and if they give you any lip or trouble use a mental lance on them to keep them in line. I know dad showed you how too” said Athena as she hurried out of the kitchen.
    The twins looked at Rabbo then the three young rabbit kittens and started to move towards the three rabbit kittens.
    “Please get back to the table and finish your breakfast” said Rabbo.
    “No” said both twins.
    “I won’t tell you again” said Rabbo.
    “NO” said the twins again. And this time they started to run towards the three scared rabbit kittens.
    Rabbo focused on both of them and fired a mental lance at each of them as Merwyn had instructed him how too. The lance was not too hard but just enough to make the twins understand that he meant business and that he was not messing around.
    The twins let out a squeal and dropped to their knees with their hands over their ears.
    Just then Merwyn came walking down the stairs and into the kitchen. He looked over at the twins who where crying more in anger than in pain.
    “Rabbo asked you to return to the table to finish your breakfast; are you sorry” said Merwyn.
    “Sowe Grampi” said the twins in one voice.
    “Say sorry to Rabbo” said Merwyn.
    “Sowe Wabbo” said the twins.
    The twins returned to the table and climbed up and then sat down in their raised up chairs so that they could sit at the table and eat their breakfast. They kept looking over at Rabbo being careful not to risk pushing his kindness and good will further.
    Merwyn helped himself to the eggs, cheese, bread, jam, butter and sausage that had been left in a warming pan by Athena. Merwyn joined the twins at the breakfast table and made sure that they did not get too much food on their cloths while at the same time eating his breakfast.
    “How is soft eyes?” Rabbo asked Athena on the private mode.
    “She will be ok. The growth in her stomach is being removed and I will take some blood so that I can have Isis test it to see what if anything is wrong” answered Athena on the same mode.
    Rabbo looked over at Mischief who was sitting by the fire with her three kittens and her grand mother Rabbo’s mother. Rabbo could see that Mischief kept looking towards the door that led to Athena and Merwyn's med lab. But she did not get up from by the fire where she was warming herself and her kittens. Every so often Mischief would push one of her kittens with her nose and move them either closer to the fire of further away depending on how warm the fur felt to her nose.
    Rabbo’s mother sat up stiffly and looked at her great grand children and sniffed them before she started to lick one of them clean. As she worked her way though each of her great grand children Rabbo could see that it was taking a lot out of her as she would stop for a moment take a deep breath and then continue cleaning. Mischief moved over to her grand mother and started to clean her taking care not to interrupt her while she cleaned great grand children.
    When Rabbo’s mother had finished cleaning, she stretched out on the rug, rolled on her back and the three rabbit kittens hopped on her tummy and snuggled into her fur to sleep.
    Mischief hopped over to the closed door to Athena and Merwyn's med lab and sat and waited for Athena and soft eyes. Rabbo who had finished supervising the twins hopped over and sat down next to his daughter and waited for Athena.
    “How much longer? Mischief is worried” said Rabbo to Athena.
    “Not much more to do. I am closing up her tummy right now. But soft eyes will have to stay here until she is better” answered Athena.
    “Soft eyes will be better soon. Athena is making her better. But soft eyes will have to stay here until she is better. It is too cold in the burrow for her and the thing in her tummy has been removed so she can eat now and not feel like she is full” Rabbo said to Mischief.
    “Soft eye stay here?” said Mischief.
    “Yes she stays here” said Rabbo.
    “I stay here too with her” said Mischief.
    “Can Mischief and her kittens stay here until soft eyes is better?” asked Rabbo on the general telepathic mode.
    “Pleasssssssse” said the twins.
    “Dad would that be ok?” asked Athena.
    “Yes that will be ok. We can let them sleep by the fire I will get Rabbo’s old hutch so that they feel like they are at home” answered Merwyn.
    “Why do I get the feeling we have house guests for the winter” muttered Merwyn as he got up from the table and went to clean the dishes in the sink.
    Rabbo looked over at Merwyn and was about to answer.
    “That’s a rhetorical question, Rabbo,” said Merwyn.
    “What’s rhetorical?” asked Rabbo.
    “It means it does not need an answer” replied Merwyn as he finished washing the breakfast dishes.
    Rabbo turned back to the twins who had returned to looking out the kitchen window. Rabbo hopped over and joined them at the window and he could see that the clouds were very heavy overhead and that it looked like it might snow later.
    Cat who had been a sleep though all the excitement opened his eyes and looked around at Rabbo’s mother, mischief the rabbit kittens and the twins. He gently and very lazily stretched, arching his back before he walked over to the kitchen door. He then stood up on his hind legs pulled down on the handle and let himself outside.
    “I hate snow on my paws. I hate cold on my pads. Why so cold” muttered Cat as he closed the door behind him.
    Merwyn looked at the back door “Cat really hates the snow. He always the same when we get out first snow fall”.
    “Yes I remember. He said the same thing last year when it snowed for the first time” said Rabbo.
    “Well I better get to work and finish the storage shed where we will keep the food for the warren. All I have to do is put in that forced air pump and hook it up and test it and make sure that the warm air is not too warm and that it can make it down into the warren. And after I have done that it’s just a matter of finishing the shed of which means making it is rodent free and we will be done”.
    Merwyn walked out of the house making sure before he left that the twins knew that Rabbo was in change until Athena was out of the med lab.
    Rabbo eyed the twins who had now steamed the window up totally with their hot breath as they pressed their faces against the window to get a better look at the snow. Rabbo tried to think of someway that he could entertain the two little hellions and finely came up with something that they would sit still and listen to.
    Rabbo hopped off to the library and returned with a small paper book that was filled with hand written poetry. Poetry that he had written himself.
    Painted pictures in the mind

    Sit and read these words and a picture I will build.
    See there form and hear there words as shapes take form
    As if by magic in your head things appear as they are read.
    Magic of the mind takes form in what is said.
    Now lets us start and the magic begins

    From a window a meadow is seen where bee’s in summer buzz.
    Dotted here and there trees stand tall for shade to give.
    The smell of wild flowers fills the air as birds chirp and sing.
    Gentle breezes though the grass does sing and summers joy for you to see.
    Yet this is not a summers meadow just a start for the magic to begin.

    The trees stand bare of leaf and huddle in the cold still air.
    The bees are gone and stillness is heard as the sky above holds its breath.
    The birds to a warmer place have gone, no long to sing and chirp.
    Gentle breezes has been replaced by the winters wolf that howls.
    Now the picture takes form as magic of words is read.

    Stillness fills the air about so loud that it hurts to hear.
    Gentle soft and white flakes appear.
    Drifting slowly in lazy spirals they drop large to coat the meadow
    From your window you are safe and warm, yet outside the meadow takes form
    Flakes of snow fall fast and hard coating all that summer did show.

    The winter wolf howls loud and the wind picks up what fall did drop.
    Flakes fly past your window as the wolf howls loud shaking the trees of the last of fall.
    Winters wolf brings forth a biting cold that digs deep to the bone.
    Howling loud and shaking at the door winters wolfs lets all know that winter is here.
    White flakes fall so fast that all is hidden as a curtain is closed.

    Though the curtain shapes are seem, but none can tell what is not seen
    Hard and fast flying by flakes that hide all that summer did dream
    Howling now in fury winters wolfs bangs at the door.
    All shakes as anger of the wolf fills the air as winter comes with its force.
    Loud it howls so none can hear.

    Time counts as the wolf howls loud, fills all with its cold bite.
    Pounding hard at the door it howls loud as its breath comes under that door.
    Shaking hard the door stands so that winters wolfs can not come near.
    Yet time passes by and winters wolf fury is spent.
    From your window the curtain is lifted and now the magic of words take form

    The meadow that once buzzed with summer bee’s in now nothing but a sea of white.
    Humps of grass hidden by drifts of snow blend into the carpet of white.
    Winters wolves has covered all with snow hiding all from sight.
    The tree’s wear the wolves white coat standing tall and proud as before.
    Now all is still as the wolf is spent not a sound is heard as quiet fills the air.

    Standing warm at your window you see all in your sight.
    See the painting pictured in your head.
    Hear the sounds that you just read and let joy of life fill your head.
    See in your minds eye all that was said and let it be as you just read.
    Feel the winters wolf bite and yet not be in dread.

    For the magic of words on paper is almost done.
    Fill your head with winters delight as pictures that once were formed fade.
    The magic is done and the words have been read.
    Yet still they are there no longer in dread.
    Now the magic is done and truth be told for I have started to write again.

The twins stood still with their eyes closed and their mouths open in totally wonderment of what Rabbo had just read to them.

    “More” said the twins in one voice.
    So Rabbo looked though his book for another poem that he thought the twins would like to hear.

Snow falls with a blanket of white.
Turning the land to a winters delight.
Soft and gentle cold and still.
Snow falls sing in the heart of delight.
Soft fluffy flakes of snow.
Gentle and cold that brings a glow.
Soft to the touch that fades away.
Soft and gentle is the snow.
Silent is the air as snow falls.
A heavy stillness that waits for more.
Flakes that fall from the sky.
Covering all that needs to be hid.
Pure white is each new flake.
Never the same shape of flake will fall again.
Each one is a gift to be held.
Each flake is as we are different from each other.
So let it snow and hide with each new flake.

“That’s very beautiful” said Athena standing in the doorway to the med lab holding the sleeping soft eyes. “She will be ok. She just needs sleep and rest now”.
    Athena carried soft eyes over to the rug and placed her next to the other rabbit kittens that were snuggled a sleep next to their great grand mother.
    Athena walked over and looked down at Rabbo who still held his book in his paws. She reached down and rubbed Rabbo’s ears.
    “May I look at your book of your poems?” asked Athena.
    “Umm, well not really. I don’t feel ready for someone to look at my poems. Besides they are not very good and well I am not sure about someone seeing them” Rabbo said trying to hide his confusion.
    “I think they are very good indeed. Far better than I could write and far better than dad’s poetry” said Athena trying to reassure Rabbo.
    Rabbo looked at his book and then at Athena.
    “Look at how powerful that poem is and what it has done to my girls. See how they are standing still with eyes closed and a huge smile on their faces” said Athena.
    Athena walked out of the kitchen leaving Rabbo once again in charge of the twins while she got something from the library.
    Athena returned with a large hard covered book and sat down in one of the chairs by the fireplace. She then looked over at the twins and waited until they opened their eyes before she pointed to the chair on the other side of the fireplace.
    The twins quietly walked over to the chair climbed up in it and sat down facing Athena. Their feet did not even reach the end of the seat but that did not bother them as they knew that their mom was going to read to them.
    Rabbo hopped over, sat down on the rug ready to listen to Athena read. But instead Athena leaned down and handed Rabbo the book to read.
    As Rabbo read he used his voice to paint a mental picture in the heads of the twins so that the story would come alive for them. He used different voices for each of the characters in the story that he was reading from the book.
    The story itself was about a girl that lived in a huge house with her mom and dad. Her mom and dad were always to busy and often left the young girl alone with just her toys and the pets that they had around the house.
    As Rabbo got deeper and deeper into the story he started to realize that the story was written by the girl when she was older. After about an hour of reading Rabbo had to stop reading as his throat was dry and his voice was getting weak from all the reading out aloud. Athena brought over four wooden cups full of milk and a tray of cookies for them to eat.
    “Rabbo you bring the story alive. Did dad teach you to read like that?” asked Athena.
    Rabbo shook his head. “It seemed natural to read the story like that. Umm who wrote the story?”
    “Mom did” said Athena with pride. “It’s how she won a scholarship to go to college”.
    “It’s a wonderful story and so easy to read” said Rabbo.
    “I know. After mom left dad would read it to me. But never the way you did. I guess it was still painful for dad to read a book my mom wrote” said Athena sadly.
    The twins who had been sitting still while they had listened to Rabbo started to get restless. They shuffled in the chair and then kicked their legs and finally started to slide out of the chair.
    Rabbo’s mother looked up at the twins and moved around so that she was protecting the sleeping rabbit kittens. Mischief started to chatter at the twins as they looked down at the sleeping rabbit kittens and moved around next to her grand mother to also protect the rabbit kittens.
    “Mischief said not to come any closer,” Rabbo said to the twins.
    Athena stepped over the rabbits and picked up her two girls and carried them out of the kitchen. She took them upstairs to their room so that they could play, be loud, and not upset the rabbit kittens.

Rabbo was down at the shed that was close to the warren sitting talking with his brothers and sisters. Everything was ready for the big test of the forced air pump and it was hoped that on the first test it would work right.

    Big sister who had appointed herself head rabbit sat off to one side listening carefully as Rabbo explained that there was going to be nice warm blowing air and that he wanted someone down in the burrow that could make sure that the warm air was blowing into the warren.
    Big sister pointed to Boxer with her nose who nodded and then hopped down into the burrow. Then she nodded to Little Brother who then hopped down into the burrow. She then nodded to fat sister who also went into the burrow.
    Big sister then turned to Rabbo and said in rabbit “Ready for big test. Make burrow warm”.
    Rabbo turned to Merwyn and told him that they were ready to test the forced air pump.
    Merwyn turned on the pump and soon warm air was flowing down into the burrow.
    After about five minutes Rabbo heard a muffled sound of boxer saying something. Then he heard little brother say something and then fat sister say clearly “Warm heat in burrow”.
    Rabbo turned to Merwyn and told him that they had said that there was warm air flowing into the burrow.
    “If you want I can make it warmer for them. But when it gets cold there will be steam coming out of the burrow and that might give away the warren to things that hunt and eat rabbit” Merwyn stated.
    “No let’s keep it just warm, as if it’s too warm they won’t come out at all in the winter and that might not be good or healthy,” said Rabbo.
    “Good idea” said Merwyn.
    Rabbo felt something soft and cold land on his nose so he looked up and saw a few flakes of snow starting to fall.
    “Looks like we have got this finished just in time” said Rabbo.
    “Yes I think so too. We have just one last thing to do and let’s hope we can get it done before the snow starts to fall to heavy” said Merwyn.
    For the next three hours Merwyn and Rabbo worked hard and fast to make sure that the shed would be rodent free for the winter. As they looked outside they could see that the sky was now very heavy with the threat of snow and if they did not leave the shed now they might get snow on them on the way back to the house.
    When they arrived back at the house Athena was setting the table for dinner with the help of the twins. The kitchen smelt of fresh baked bread as well as of fresh cooking venison. It was clear that Athena had been busy all day cooking and looking after the children and the rabbits that where all sitting around the fire.
    Mischief was sitting on her hind legs talking to her kittens and from what Rabbo could hear she was explaining about the humans and that they would be spending a few sleeps at the house until soft eyes was better. She was also telling them not to play rough with soft eyes as she was not well. Mischief also explained that Cat was going to be around and that he would not hurt them and that their great grand mother had been safe with Cat so they would be safe too.
    After dinner Athena took the twins upstairs bathed them and got them dressed in their night clothes. She then brought them back down stairs and had Rabbo read to them by the fireplace until they started to get sleepy. She then carried them back upstairs to bed.
    Rabbo who was sipping on wine after getting parched from reading looked at Merwyn who had his eyes closed and was clearly off on an astral travel trip.
    After about thirty minutes Athena came back down stairs wearing her cheeky robe. Her hair was still wet and she smelt of fresh soap. She picked up her wine goblet that she had left on the window sill refilled it and sat back in the chair tucking her legs up under her.
    “Can I ask you a question?” said Rabbo on her private mode.
    “Sure” answered Athena on the same mode.
    “Is soft eyes going to be ok?” asked Rabbo trying to keep a worried tone out of his voice.
    “To be honest I don’t know. Isis is being slow with the test results. I truly hope she will be. But the growth in her stomach is not good. I think I should check the other kittens to make sure that they don’t have any growths in them either” said Athena sounding hopeful.
    “I wonder what Merwyn is watching” Rabbo asked Athena on her private mode.
    “I don’t know. But I wish he would get back I so want to talk to him” replied Athena.
    “What about” asked Rabbo
    “Something” said Athena coyly.
    “Something? That could be anything” said Rabbo.
    Rabbo and Athena talked for awhile and Rabbo noticed that Athena seemed flushed around the face a little and that her lips seemed to be really red like when she was with Bastet.
    “Have you talked to Bastet lately” Rabbo asked.
    “Yeah” replied Athena. “She is with Solee. I was just talking to her and she was telling me about what she and Solee were doing. It’s left me feeling umm well umm”.
    “Solee? Who is Solee” asked Rabbo.
    “Solee is the captain of her ship. You remember the young beautiful woman that is the captain of Bastet’s ship” said Athena.
    “Oh her! The one that made all the noise when you Bastet were in the room on the ship with her” asked Rabbo.
    “Yes her” laughed Athena.
    Just then Merwyn opened his eyes and looked around the room a little dazed. He stood up walked around the room and then looked out of the window.
    “Oh it’s snowing hard outside” said Merwyn. “I’m just glad that it’s nice and warm in here”.
    “Yeah it’s warm” said Athena with a soft laugh.
    Merwyn sat back down in his chair and looked at Athena and smiled then he looked over at Rabbo.
    “So Rabbo how are your grand kittens in the kitchen” asked Merwyn.
    “Ok, I think? But I am worried about soft eyes,” replied Rabbo.
    For the next hour Rabbo Merwyn and Athena talked about soft eyes and the other rabbit kittens in her litter and went over possible issues.
    Rabbo was not sure who the father was of the litter and when he went and asked Mischief who the father was of her litter she had answered “many”. When Rabbo told Athena and Merwyn the answer she had given him they both laughed and said that explains where the phrase came from and then laughed hard for a while longer.
    They talked for about an hour more before Rabbo felt sleepy and left Athena and Merwyn talking. Rabbo rode upstairs in his elevator and then hopped into Athena’s bedroom. He hopped up on the window sill and as about to pull the curtains too when he noticed the snow falling hard outside.
    The snow was coming down hard and it was impossible to see much more than the faint outlines of the buildings near the house. Rabbo just could just make out the shape of the oak tree that sat next to the lawn.
    As he watched he saw Athena run outside and take off her robe before she started dancing around in the snow. As she danced Rabbo noticed that she was making no tracks in the snow and that her feet seemed to be inches off the snow. Sudden she spiraled upward about ten feet and then floated back down to just a few inches off the snow. Athena then skipped back into the house still holding her robe in her hand.
    Rabbo sat and watched the snow falling hard and harder and soon his eyes started to become heavy. He fought the urge to sleep watching the snow get deeper and deeper.
    In the time that Rabbo had been watching the snow fall the chopping stump that Merwyn used had been covered with snow and a huge mound of snow had built up on top of the stump making a lump in the snow.
    Rabbo wondered how tall the stump was and guessed that it was about two feet high? So there had to be about two feet of snow so far and as far as he could see the snow showed no signs of stopping.
    Rabbo closed his eyes and instead of going to sleep he stepped out of his body and moved up above the house so that he could get a good look at the snow. Rabbo saw which way the clouds where moving and headed back along the storm going in the opposite direction of travel. Rabbo arrived at the trailing edge of the storm and saw the path of the snow that ran some fifty miles before it stopped being snow and had rained due to the lower elevation.
    The area that it had rained in was awash with water and the few houses in that area had been built well away from the path of any flood that might happen. But still the river that ran though the area was high and the fields were flooded.
    Rabbo turned back towards the house and traveled slowly looking at things along the way making sure that no one was hurt by the storm or trapped by the snow.
    As Rabbo arrived back at the house he noticed a bright glow from the living room. He was about to descend and coming in though the living room before he returned to his body when Merwyn spoke to him on the private mode.
    “Athena and I are having a private chat. Please don’t come in though the living room”.

Be sure to watch for the next chapter in the March issue.

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