Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Editor's Corner

May 2012

"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."--Mark Twain

Birthday time in your editor's family: after great grandson Chess on the 4th, a veritable parade of dear ones celebrate throughout May. The cooking editor has a different kind of celebration treat ("Cookin' With Leo") and it sounds yummy. So sending wishes out to him and his daughter, many grandchildren, etc.

May is also when we observe Memorial Day and John Blair mentions it in his "Always Looking -" column. Other columns are LC Van Savage's "Consider This" which has her bearing down on pronunciation, and Eric Shackle's column on "Walt Whitman's Newspapers;" Mattie tickles our funny bone with "Irish Eyes" while Thomas F. O'Neill has a more serious look at crime here and there. Peg Jones relates an incident of angel intervention for her personally in "Angel Whispers."

This issue also features a dozen poems, beginning with a tribute by Bud Lemire, "My Friend John." Bud Lemire is expanding his photographic expertise and shares many pics of the water fowl in his area. The water scenes at various times of the day are so beautiful, we are taking this opportunity to show one here at the bottom of our column. Thank you, Bud.

John Blair's poems are: "O Night Without A Moon," "Ripples," "Mist," "I've Never Seen A Moor," "Keys," and "Song of The Lark." Bruce Clifford's five poems begin with "Don't Mind Me." Others by him are: "God Like," "It's Bringing Me Down," "Walking into The Sun," and "What Are We Doing Here."

We are pleased to welcome a new author, Patricia Stalcup, with the short story "True North," a moving experience.

Mark Crocker adds Part B of the fantasy "Rabbo Tales II, Chapter 4 - Names" with sophisticated main character, Rabbo.

See you in June.

Click on Mary E. Adair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.This issue appears in the ezine at www.pencilstubs.com and also in the blog www.pencilstubs.net with the capability of adding comments at the latter.
We invite you to become a fan of our publication at FaceBook.
Photograph by Bud Lemire in Escanaba

My Friend John

I met you in the Escanaba Taxi several years ago
That was the beginning because one day I'd know
The caring man man with the humorous side
An intelligent guy who held a smile so wide

When we played dice, and you joined in the game
With your presence, it just wasn't the same
You'd sing a song, with each shake you took
Then we'd all stop and take a look
You weren't afraid to take chances on every turn
It's just like life, because that's how we learn

I remember one night I played the TV Themes for Tony and you
You were guessing the classics, there was so much you knew
I saw you playing Scrabble alone late at night
I'd stop in to say hello and see if everything was alright
You spent many nights playing Hangman with me
On your turn you always had a special category

You were coughing a lot and falling down
The smiling face was now wearing a frown
I recall one night when you fell from your chair
You were lost in your thoughts that you would share

I knew you've been thinking of your life here
Yet somehow you always seemed to conquer your fear
You fought every challenge that came your way
I'll remember you John, as I do every day

Life can be painful, and we each have a choice
When making decisions, wait, do I hear a voice?
“It's alright little pilgrim, I have no more pain”
I know it was John Hyry, yet it sounded like John Wayne
He sits with Angels in the Heavenly place
I see images of him with a smiling face

©April 5, 2012 Bud Lemire

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

True North

Corner of Carpenter Road and Kansas Avenue
Modesto, California

Monday, February 28, 2005
Upon arriving at the bus stop after work today, I noticed an unkempt man sitting under the pavilion. His hair was long and unstyled and his beard was growing wild. He wore a pair of beat-up, dirty, old jeans and a shirt from which the color faded long ago. Once-white tennis shoes looked as though he found them in a dumpster somewhere and no socks finished off the look.

I took a seat on the bench outside the pavilion. Just as I seated myself, he looked over at me, smiled and said, “Hello,” as though he thought he knew me. I could tell by the gentleness in his eyes and the tone of his voice that he was harmless. He got up, walked around the enclosure and sat next to me. He spoke as though I was his lifelong friend, telling me how thirty years ago he registered for the U.S. Marines right from this very town. He told me how much the town developed since then and how all the new buildings, streets and cars took over this once only orchard-and-cow town.

He told me about a truck he once owned, said it was just like the one sitting at the red light at the corner and how he thought it might actually be his. But he figured they installed that sliding window in the back themselves. Then he said, "Man, it’s a shame someone would steal a man’s truck from him while he's inside the church." I saw tears flood his eyes while he gazed at that old truck. He went on about how he slept in that truck. How the padlocks on the doors were installed by him and that there couldn’t possibly be another one like it anywhere. After the truck drove away, he said that he reported it stolen to the police, but they had no records of him ever owning one.

He shrugged his shoulders and started going on about the two tall evergreen trees that were planted side-by-side across the way and how he always used to carry his compass with him. He discovered that whenever he saw those types of trees they were always growing in pairs and no matter where they were, his compass would always read due north. I could only assume what he meant by this, after all, if he were to approach the trees from the other direction, he’d be headed south. But he told me that if I were to start walking right toward the center of those two trees, I’d end up in Alaska, I couldn't get lost. He went on about a trip he made to Alaska. About all the trees just like that pair that he found on his way there and how they were also planted due north (I began thinking of him as “Alaska,” true north. Couldn’t get lost; Always know where you’re going).

He spoke of a time that he and some other handicapped fellows went to San Francisco. They protested the way bus drivers would just open the door and let people on. Sometimes they’d get on the wrong bus, so they created a rule just because of him and his comrades who joined him there that day. Now drivers have to pull up to the stop and yell out the door what bus it is or where it’s headed (Couldn’t get lost; always know where you’re going).

“Which bus are you waiting on?” he asked.

“The 36.”

"Okay, there’s your bus.”

I looked down the street and saw it was the 26 instead. When it arrived at the stop, he kept talking and smiling, so I stopped him and asked, “Hey, did you need to catch the 26?”

“No,” he said. He smiled, got up with his cane and started walking toward the corner. “Can’t get lost, I know where I’m going.”

A corner he’d never reach…

The poor man dropped and, before I could get to him, he took his last breath.

(According to his compass his eyes were fixed true north, as though his last vision in life was the Rose Line setting directly between those two trees and aiming straight towards heaven; “Alaska” was never lost at all.)
©Patricia Stalcup

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

Cookin' With Leo

Birthday Goodies for Your Cooking Editor
And His Family

Ok, so May is the Birth month of most of the members of your famous recipe writer’s family. Mary, your editor of Pencil Stubs, has a birthday on the 8th. Ten days later on the 18th, it’s my birthday and my daughter’s. That was a great birthday present for dad since daughter was born on his birthday about 30 years later. Her mom’s was easy to remember too, although not in May, it was December 31st. But getting back to May, all sort of assorted cousins, nephews, nieces, and such have birthdays this month. So here is a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all us’ns with May birthdays. And here is some goodies to celebrate with, I’ll call ‘em
Cinnamon/Apple Crispies.
Here’s what ya need:
  • 10 medium size tart apples (peel and slice real thin) and I like this with them green Granny Smiths but some like red Rome Beauty’s.
  • 2 Cups Original Bisquick™ mix
  • 2 Cups brown sugar, packed down
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ Cup firm butter
And here’s what ya do next:
    1. Heat oven to 375°
    2. Use 13x9-inch pan, don’t grease it, and scatter apples evenly in it
    3. Stir next 3 ingredients together in a bowl then cut in butter til crumbly.
    4. Sprinkle bowl mixture over apples and bake uncovered.
    5. Check in about 35 minutes if apples are getting tender, if not cook a bit more.
(Tastes great while still warm to top with ice cream.)

This treat is safer than a cake with all them candles, ya heah?

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

Eric Shackle's Column

Walt Whitman's Western Newspapers

Famous American poet Walt Whitman, who once edited New York's Brooklyn Eagle, wrote in his book November Boughs (1888): "Among the far-west newspapers have been, or are, The Fairplay (Colorado) Flume, The Solid Muldoon, of Ouray, The Tombstone Epitaph, of Nevada, The Jimplecute, of Texas, and The Bazoo, of Sedalia, Missouri."
Checking the internet, we find that three of those newspapers are still in business. Walt was only 19 , when he was made editor-in-chief of The Long Islander,which went broke within a year of its founding. Whitman refused to give up, and within a few years he became editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Five years later, in 1848, he was fired again, because of his outspoken support for absolition of slavery. Undeterred, Whitman immediately set out for New Orleans to visit his brother Jeff.
While there, he became an editor for the New Orleans Crescent, but returned to Brooklyn within a few months to become editor of The Brooklyn Times. At the same time he worked for the arts-oriented periodical, the Democratic Review.
What has become of those far-west newspapers Whitman mentioned? Let's visit them, one at a time.

The Fairplay Flume has undergone more than a dozen changes to its masthead over the years. One of them was sub-titled The Paper With A Mission and Without A Muzzle.
Today the sub-title is The Park County Republican's Fairplay Flume.
Ten years ago, its then editor Robin Kepple told me "We understand The Flume acquired its name due to the vast amount of mining in Fairplay and Park County. A flume, as you probably know, is designed to channel water, logs, etc. from one place to another. In Fairplay's case, a flume was used to channel rocks, minerals and tailings from one place to another in the endless pursuit of gold.
"Some folks believe the name Flume was selected because the newspaper helps 'channel' information. I am not certain if this is really the reason for the name or not."
The Flume is now printed not in Fairplay, but in the nearby town of Bailey, which is also the home of the strangely-named Id-Ra-Ha-Je summer camps. That's shorthand for I'd Rather Have Jesus.
Today, the Flume's website says, "The Park County Republican and Fairplay Flume is published every Friday and is the official newspaper in Park County, Colorado.
"The Flume, established in 1879, is almost as old as the county it serves - Park County, Colorado, which was formed in 1861. Park County lies just west of Jefferson County, the westernmost and most mountainous of the seven counties that are typically used in defining metro Denver.
"Headquartered in Bailey, an unincorporated town in the northeastern part of the county, The Flume covers all areas of life in Park County, including business, politics, the courts, weather, crime, festivals, fires and more.
"At the core of the stories in The Flume are the residents themselves, now numbering more than 16,000 in a county that's 83 percent bigger than Rhode Island and nearly as big as Delaware." THE SOLID MULDOON
This newspaper was founded on September 5, 1879, and, through a series of name changes and merges, eventually became the present-day Durango Herald.
The newspaper didn't pull its punches. A local historian records that "David Day, a Medal of Honor winner for heroism at Vicksburg, had the distinction of having 42 libel suits pending at the same time [1900] for his raw and bitter articles in The Solid Muldoon newspaper of Ouray and Durango." Maybe that's why it went out of business.
The original Solid Muldoon was the name given to a mysterious "prehistoric human body" dug up near Beulah, Colorado, in 1877. The seven-and-a-half foot stone man was thought to be the "missing link" between apes and humans. "There can be no question about the genuineness of this piece of statuary" said the Denver Daily Times.
It was later revealed that George Hull, perpetrator of a previous hoax featuring the Cardiff Giant, had spent three years fashioning his second "petrified man", using mortar, rock dust, clay, plaster, ground bones, blood and meat. He kiln-fired the figure for many days and then buried it.
A few months later, as the celebration of Colorado's year-old statehood approached, the statue was "discovered" by William Conant, who had once worked for the legendary showman P.T. Barnum. News of the find quickly spread to Pueblo, Denver, and eventually to New York.
The statue was named the Solid Muldoon after William Muldoon, a famous wrestler and strongman who had been honored in a popular song. Displayed in New York, it attracted large crowds until an unpaid business associate of Hull revealed the hoax to the New York Tribune, and the statue was seen no more. Muldoon was chairman of the New York State Boxing Commission from 1921 to 1923.
Rudyard Kipling, a ballad and prose writer as famous in England as Whitman was in the United States, wrote a piece entitled The Solid Muldoon, one of seven short stories in his book The Soldiers Three, published in 1890.
The world-famous TOMBSTONE EPITAPH in Arizona, was founded on the Southwestern frontier on May 1, 1880 by John P. Clum, who proclaimed in the first issue No Tombstone is complete without an Epitaph. Souvenir editions detailing the O.K. Corral shootout can be bought from the Tombstone Epitaph Corp, whose shop displays old type cases and the original printing press.
A local historian wrote "Clum was the quintessential frontier administrator. As an Indian agent, he dealt with great Apaches warriors like Geronimo and Naiche, son of Cochise.
"As mayor and editor of the Tombstone Epitaph, Clum had much to do in helping to foment the high levels of tension in Tombstone. After the street fight and subsequent trial, Clum learned he was on a 'deathlist' made up by the cowboy gang.
"In December 1881, Clum narrowly escaped what he considered an assassination attempt when highwaymen attempted to rob the stagecoach he was in. Clum was a life-long friend of Wyatt Earp and was one of Earp's pallbearers at his funeral."
The original Tombstone Epitaph is published monthly as a national historic edition. It contains original articles about the old west written by western history writers.
A small local edition of the Epitaph is now published by students of the University of Arizona Department of Journalism. Its sub-title reads: 116 Years In The Town Too Tough To Die. No Tombstone Is Complete Without Its Epitaph.
The Texas weekly, the Jefferson Jimplecute, was founded as a daily in 1848, when Jefferson was a thriving Red River town. The "Jimp," as the locals call it, sells about 2400 copies. How did it get its name? No one knows. At one stage it displayed, beneath its masthead title, words which formed an acronym: Join Industry, Manufacturing, Planting, Labor, Energy (and) Capital (in) Unity Together Everlasting. However, a local history book says that that phrase first appeared long after the paper was founded.
Amber Cullen, managing editor of The Jimplecute, has just emailed me: "The editor in chief/ founder of the paper (name unknown) when piecing together the letters for the front page flag- with the old metal 'stamps' (the old way of printing) - he dropped the box of letters to the floor, and in a fit, he picked up a handful and jumbled them back in and Jimplecute was the name that arose.
The acronym did come later, and still runs on our pages today!"
Strangely, a second newspaper named Jimplecute was published in the small Georgia town of Spring Place (688 miles by road from Jefferson) from 1879 to 1903, but here again no one knows how it was named, or whether it had any connection with its Texan namesake.
This newspaper was published from 1881 to1895.
Walt Whitman - Slang in America
Durango Herald
Tombstone Epitaph
The Jimplecute, Jefferson,Texas
Posted Monday, 5 March 2012, From Sydney, Australia.

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

Always Looking –

Ancestor Worship

A practicing pagan of my acquaintance recently delivered a talk about ancestor worship that I attended. (I lead a more interesting life than you might have imagined. A little more, anyway.)

He made it clear that the phenomenon is far more complex than the stereotyped image of non-Western peoples burning joss sticks before portraits of their grandfathers, although that’s certainly one expression of ancestor worship. The fact is, ancestor worship in some form appears to be ingrained in humankind throughout history and across all cultures.

                                   altar with joss sticks

Keep in mind that “worship” is a term covering a very broad range of behaviors, ranging from outright religious intensity through varying degrees of devotion to simply honoring. But all of these include remembering and various forms of ritual.

Our speaker was ethnic Mexican (born in the United States) and had grown up with a variety of specifically Mexican customs concerning how to behave toward the dead. One of many he mentioned was the custom of turning off car radios while driving past cemeteries, out of respect. Another, more well-known, was the annual holiday of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead at the beginning of November, on which families picnic festively in cemeteries, often at night, and offer food and drink to their deceased family members (among other customs).
Day of the Dead celebration
In my own family culture, definitively non-Mexican, we instead observe the annual holiday of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, at the end of May, when families gather in cemeteries in daylight hours to clean graves, leave flowers, and visit with other family members. It also is a rather festive occasion, given to chattering groups of people who see each other only once a year on this day, catching up on news and talking about those who have died. Usually no food at the cemetery, but often meals shared elsewhere at homes or restaurants.
Memorial Day gathering in an American cemetery
As times change and people in most countries have dispersed to big cities from the small towns and villages where they have lived for generations, both of these holidays have mutated into other expressions. One currently ever more popular expression is the study of family history, or genealogy. There’s even a hit TV show, Who Do You Think You Are? devoted to this interest. Some date the start of this new popularity of genealogy to the famous 1970s TV miniseries Roots, which I remember fondly as being quite involving, even gripping. And which planted the seed in many minds that all of us, in fact, have roots that are worth knowing because they are the source of much of what makes us unique individuals. And these roots are our ancestors’ lives.
Roots poster
Our speaker also spent a bit of time talking about the sometimes troubling issue of ancestors who were not good people, or who did things that were not admirable. These also are part of our roots. And just as any religion worth honoring recognizes the complexity of existence as including all shades of good and evil, so does ancestor worship recognize the existence of “rotten roots” if you will, and give us some guidance as to how to deal with these in our own lives.

Among my ancestors are some who were brave, hardworking, loyal, loving people. And some who owned slaves and/or killed people from motives that included avarice. Sometimes these are one and the same people. I can’t honor them without also recognizing their faults. Our heroes may have had feet of clay. That doesn’t mean they are not, for all that, still heroes. That’s part of the classical notion of human tragedy, all all-too-familiar concept. Thomas Jefferson has a temple in his honor in Washington and a huge granite carving on Mount Rushmore. He also owned slaves and fathered illegitimate children. These are not facts that cancel each other out – the tension between them is eternal. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln – all of our great people, people whom we “worship,” were complex, imperfect human beings who were, nonetheless, noble in very meaningful ways. Our personal ancestors, while probably not “noble” to the same degree, were similarly complex, and similarly merit our honoring – our “worship” in that sense. Remembering who they were, we learn something important about who we are.
Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC
And of course this doesn’t just include literal ancestors. It includes everyone who ever existed who in some way influenced our own lives – a vast host of invisible people whom we will never meet, yet whom we should not forget, nor neglect. As individuals we are not alone and never were.

So the next time you hear someone mention the practice of ancestor worship, don’t just absently dismiss the concept out of hand as ridiculous or primitive. Check it out – you may just be a participant yourself; and it’s not necessarily a stupid or ignorant thing to do.

Click on John I. Blair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Angel Whispers

Angel help at Dairy Queen

This past weekend, I was with my husband, at Dairy Queen ice cream stand on our way to our destination, last Friday night. I enjoyed the ice cream, even though it was not what I had asked for size wise. I asked for a mini but received a medium size ice cream. Apparently my husband wasn’t totally listening to me, when I said I wanted a mini ice cream. I managed to eat all of the ice cream, as I enjoyed every spoonful of the Butterfinger blizzard. We got up from our chairs and started to walk back to our car. I walked ahead of my husband, and as I was walking down the walk to the car, I missed two very low steps. As I was doing this, I dropped my pocket book and a sandal on my left foot came off. I kept walking at a very fast speed, very awkwardly, like a toddler with flailing arms, like someone was holding me up, or I was trying to catch my balance.
    I finally did stop, with my husband behind me trying to catch up to me. He never caught up to me. I realized, that I had not fallen, or twisted an ankle, or hurt my legs, in any way. My poor husband finally caught up with me and asked me, “Peg are you ok?
    He said,” I couldn’t catch up to you in time..
    I told him I was fine and I also said, “I am quite surprised, I didn’t fall on my knees.”
    He said, “Thank God, you could have really hurt yourself if you had fallen on the concrete.”
    To be honest, after I had calmed down I felt that I was truly carried by my guides and by my angels. It was as if they were on each side of me, holding me up from falling down, really hard on my knees, on the cement.
    We were going on a couples retreat for the weekend. When we arrived at the retreat house, I realized that I was feeling a lot of pain, and my muscles in lower back, and the left side of my body was becoming very painful.
    I was able to get some ibuprofen, and this helped a lot. When I went to bed, that night, I was feeling a really lot of discomfort and pain, throughout my body I was reading a new book before I went to bed that night . The name of the book was called Wishes Fulfilled by Dr Wayne Dyer. It spoke of self healing and some ways you can do it if you wanted explore this. Dr Dyer also spoke about the importance of positive energy and thoughts toward self healing. By this time, the pain had gotten to be quite bad, so I started to do the self healing affirmations and intentions. I said these affirmations over and over in my mind. When I woke up that next morning, I felt wonderful. The pain had been lifted except for some muscle pulls in lower calves. I felt this was due to being made to not fall at the ice cream place… I was so happy to have woken up that morning and not feel the aches pains I had been feeling the night before. I felt very much awake and very energetic too. It was really wonderful.
    I asked the angels about this and some other people to..The angels said we did help you up dear, because we wanted you to attend the retreat, pain free. If we didn’t help you in maintaining your balance, you would have not been able to attend the retreat. You would have had to go to the ER, that night. We wanted to show you that we were there for you that night by making sure you did not injure yourself.
In looking back to that night at Dairy Queen, my angels and my guides were with me that entire time, when I had lost my balance…
I am very grateful to my angels for their support and love for me at that time.

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


I noticed quickly when I moved to Suzhou, China that crime is relatively low here, especially, violent crime; it’s mostly due to gun ownership being banned in China.

China has four times the population of America with far less criminals. Many sociologists say the social stigma of being labeled a thief and a harsh prison sentence is a deterrent from committing the crimes in China in the first place.

I also noticed that China doesn’t have the number of drug crimes that America is plagued with. Most crimes in America are drug related but China isn’t overwhelmed with those issues.

My students in my cultural diversity class here in Suzhou are fascinated by the availability of weapons in America. Their perception of gun ownership in the U.S. is greatly influenced by the world media coverage of America’s high crime rate.

Many of my students see the U.S. as a gun toting society with its citizenry hell bent on getting their way with gun in hand. Violent films and news broadcasts give the impression that America is a dark and dangerous place to live or visit. I tell my students that most Americans are not criminals waiting for an opportunity to rob or steal.

The right to bear arms is not something you will find in China. That is certainly a good thing and it makes for great conversations in my classes here. I tell my students that you have to practice common sense when it comes to personal property especially in America because thefts do take place. But not everyone in the U.S. walks around with weapons in order to protect themselves and their property. One of my students said “guns are like toys for most Americans,” and she went on to say, “the weapons they own is a sign of their immaturity and insecurities.”

I told my students in class that “in times of struggle gun owners are usually killed by their own weapon.” I then went on to say “and there are more guns in America than people.” My students always laugh at those statements and the statements are always followed up with many insightful comments by my students.

I find the Chinese here to be relatively honest, nonviolent, and on the most part helpful. I never worry about my personal belongings being stolen because from my own personal experiences I never had anything stolen here. I never have to lock my apartment door because I know when I return everything will be there as I left it.

In 2009 an American couple left an unwanted shirt in their Hotel room in Shanghai. A Hotel employee showed up at the Shanghai train station on his own to return the shirt to them. They tried to give the Hotel employee a tip for his trouble but he refused to take it. That experience left a huge impression on that couple and it was something they never experienced before. They said to me “experiences like that are not something you can easily describe to a person because China’s culture is not something that can easily be expressed in words it is something you have to experience.”

China however is not free from crime because the country does have its share of criminal organizations. Criminals here ignore intellectual property rights and they illegally copy popular products such as BlackBerry phones, various brand name wristwatches, computer operating systems, and brand name clothes. You can buy a fake Rolex watch that looks like the real deal, and fake brand name smartphones on China’s city streets. Counterfeit currency is another criminal enterprise here in China. The China Government has to constantly come up with ways to make it more difficult for criminals to print fake currency.

The Shanghai Daily Newspaper ran a story about a pickpocket ring in the Northern city of Xinjiang and the elaborate distractions the criminals come up with in order to pick your pocket. It was News because of the boldness of the criminals.
In the Chinese City of Fujian an illegal smuggling operation of human cargo was shutdown in 2008 and the criminals were given long prison sentences. Some of the people who were smuggled out of China illegally found themselves in various U.S. cities forced into prostitution.

There were about 270 cities in China last year that saw a huge rise in Cell Phone thefts. The reselling of stolen phones has become a huge criminal enterprise as well and the tracking of stolen phones is almost nonexistent in China. The cell phone companies in America can turn a stolen phone off and make it impossible for a thief to us a stolen phone. China either doesn’t have or is unwilling to use that technology to curb the theft of cell phones.

I’m not able to adequately describe the cultural differences between America and China nor can I explain why crime is so much higher in the U.S. There is however something deeply ingrained in China’s culture that sets them apart from much of the problems that is currently plaguing our western societies. I believe greed is destroying our American culture and the U.S. is also losing touch with its core values and principles that led to its greatness.

One of the values I learned from my Grandfather if you are kind and respectful others will be kind and respectful in return. That insight is also ingrained in China’s culture and it is also something we can all learn from through experience and practice. I didn’t have to travel halfway around the world to be kind hearted and respectful towards those around me. It was something that was already instilled in me from my Grandfather at a very young age.

I also discovered over the years that what you give to others is returned to you in greater fold and that is something I have experienced firsthand. I always tell my students our self-worth is not determined by our material possessions. Our self-worth is ultimately determined by what we give to others. The Chinese seem to understand that better than your average American.

Our American Founding Fathers believed in Life, Liberty, and a pursuit of happiness but in order to find the happiness we seek we must first have the life and liberty to bring happiness to others.

The happiness I was seeking was already within me but I didn’t discover that happiness until I brought it to others. I think that is why I enjoy the company of my students and why they enjoy my company. My students want to learn all they can about the American culture and at the same time I am gaining tremendous insights about China’s culture and its rich traditions.

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
    Email: introspective7@hotmail.com
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link: http://thomasfoneill.blogspot.com

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

Irish Eyes

In The Handles of The Plough . . .

In the present climate the word “redundancy” crops up a lot. It wasn’t always so. In my young days you’d seldom hear the word.
Jimmy Norton worked for Wicklow County Council and when one particular road-widening project was completed Jimmy became redundant. Needless to say Jimmy didn’t use the word “redundant”. He ‘ d be more likely to throw in n a few expletives and say, “The councils doesn’t want me any more.”
When he was let go he didn’t upskill, as they would say nowadays. But he was in a position to get further employment. He was the owner of a few basic tools such as a hammer and chisel and a trowel. When I say he had a trowel I must point out that he wasn’t a bricklayer. He could do a bit of rough (sometimes dog-rough) building. There would be no point in telling Jimmy that you wanted Flemish bond, stretcher bond or Diamond Diaper pattern. And he wouldn’t be over familiar with the Pythagoras Theorem. But he could put one stone on top of the other and keep the resulting structure parallel with the perpendicular . . .more or less.
One day he was building a gate pier for a strong farmer beside Lacken school. He was smoking Velvan Plug tobacco in his clay pipe and the smell of the smoke wafted into the school where the Master (Hickey was his name) was at the blackboard.
The smell of the smoke brough a longing on the Master; he being a pipe-smoker himself. When he could stick it no longer he searched every pocket he had. Jacket, trousers waistcoat . . .but wasn’t he after leaving the house without his pipe. Addiction is a terrible thing and there was nothing for it only to take positive action.
He went out to Jimmy who was a former pupil. When Jimmy saw the Master approaching he took the pipe out of his mouth. You must remember that this was at a time when the Schoolmaster was held in high esteem. Little did he know what the Masters request would be. “Will you give me a few pulls out of your pipe” says the Master. O’ Coorse I will Master” says the astonished Jimmy, handing Master Hickey the clay pipe. The Master took out a big white handkerchief and he wiped an’ wiped an’ wiped the shank of the pipe and then he wiped it again. He smoked away for a good while and he handed the pipe back to Jimmy. And what did Jimmy do? He put the pipe up on the gate pier. He gave it a tip of the trowel and he cut about an inch off the shank. I’m telling you this by way of illustration, to emphasise that although Jimmy Norton was an ordinary, humble man like myself he was very particular about what he’d put in his mouth. It was in the winter of the same year that Jimmy got a job with a neighbour of ours the Swank Lennon; no relation. The Swank had a small farm, big talk and a desire for the sort of prestige that having a “workman” would, he believed, give him.
He had a fine Clydesdale horse (called Dan) and he put Jimmy ploughing with a swing plough. Did you ever get a belt of a swing-plough ? Now, you could get into a row in the roughest part of the roughest town in this country and you wouldn’t get a belt of a swing-plough. But where would you get a belt of a swing plough? Well, I’ll tell you. If you were ploughing in mountainy, stony ground you would be a prime candidate for a belt of a swing-plough. If the sock of the plough hits a subterranean stone the handles of the plough will rapidly jump skyward and if you don’t know your job you’ll end up with broken ribs, a dislocated jaw or God knows what other injuries. The Gospel tells us that ,”He who turns round in the handles of the plough is not worthy of Salvation.” But if Saint Luke was ploughing in Kylebeg or Ballinastockan he’d know something about turning around in the handles of the plough.
Jimmy was ploughing away when the plough hit a stone. He avoided injury but when he got the plough back into position and gave Dan his instructions . . “ Hup gee up . . up outa that . . “ there wasn’t a stir out of the Clydesdale. The Swank , who was walking around in “a supervisory capacity” came over. “Will you get that horse moving or what I am I paying you for” says the Swank. Jimmy tried again but to no avail. “Go up there and catch him by the head” says the Swank as he got between the handles. Jimmy obeyed and went to the horse’s head. I forgot to tell you that Jimmy prefaced nearly ever statement with, “What I mane to say.” “What I mane to say, Paddy” says he (Paddy was the Swank’s name.) “What I mane to say Paddy” , this horse’ ll go nowhere for he can’t see where he’s goin’. The eyes is after been turned around in his head from the belt agin’ the stone.” The Swank took a look and sure enough the horse’s eyes were inside out. Not in the best of humour now the Swank told him to go and call Roe, the Vet from Naas.
Jimmy made his way to Lacken and asked the Postmistress, Mrs Burke to, “ring the Vit.”
When Michael Roe arrived he parked on the road, took off his shoes, put on a pair of green wellingtons and a rubber apron and picked his steps, like a turkey-cock, in stubbles across the ploughed field. He checked at the horses head , opened his bag and took out a length of hose about three feet long . . .it would be a topper if you wanted to rob petrol to go to a dance on a Saturday night. He told Jimmy to hold the horse’s head and got the Swank to hold his tail.
The vetenery surgeon deftly inserted the hose under the horse’s tail. He put it in five or six inches.
“Now” he shouts to Jimmy , “ I’m going to blow into this. You put up your hands in front of the horse’s eyes. Because If I blow too hard God only knows where the eyes will go. And needless to say I won’t, then , be in a position to suck.” The Vet blew and Jimmy “reported back” that the eyes were now facing the right way. The Vet extracted the hose, put it in his bag and extracted three Guineas from the Swank.
Work re-commenced and Jimmy and the Clydesdale ploughed away without further incident . But . . .a couple of days later they were ploughing in the “five-acre field”. There were about three and a half acres in the field but the Swank called it “the five acre field . . I told you what he was like.
Then what happened ? Yes. You’ve guessed it the plough hit another stone. The Swank was over like a shot. An inspection revealed that the optical hemispheres of the animal were once again reversed. “I’ll go for Roe” says Jimmy. ” You’ll go for no Roe” says the Swank.” Here’s my pen-knife, go down to the barn , cut the hose off the knapsack sprayer and bring it up to me.” Jimmy did as instructed.
When he returned with the hose the Swank started giving instruction like he had heard the vet do.
He was almost word perfect. “Hold the horse’s Head.” “ When I blow” you do such and such.
If you didn’t know him you’d nearly think he was after going to Vetenary college. But . . .when it came to putting the hose into the appropriate body cavity of the horse it was a different story. Now, in fairness the vet had plenty of practice at such a procedure and I’m sure that the tube he had was purpose made. Sort rubber, tapered and God knows what. But, eventually, the Swank got the hose inserted. He gave a final instruction to Jimmy and he started to blow.
Do you think the horse’s eyes turned? Indeed they didn’t. If the Swank was blowing since it would have no effect on the horse’s eyes. After a lot of blowing he called up to Jimmy . “You’re a smoker and ye have better wind than me. I’ll hold the horse’s head and you come back here and blow." The Swank took up his position at the horse’s head, and Jimmy went to his rear . . and . . pulled out the piece of hose pipe and attempted to put in the other end. The Swank let a roar at him and started effin and blindin by the new time. “What do you mean taking that out” says he “after the job I had putting it in?”
“What I mean to say Paddy” says Jimmy “sure you don’t think I’m got to put the same end into me mouth that you had in your gob.”

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


Consider This

Words Words Words—Say them Right or Don’t Say Them

I do not presume to be any pacesetter when it comes to the use of proper English. Or even proper American. I manage to routinely ravage our language with the best of them. I swoon when I hear how dreadfully I despoil our lovely language when I'm unaware a tape recorder is running and the sly scamp who hid the thing under my favorite chair plays the tape back for me. Oh my. It’s embarrassing. I even frequently hyperventilate when I read my columns a month later. I ask forgiveness of my readers, listeners and whatevers for my linguistic butchery.
Having thus declared my mea culpas, I shall ergo list here a short but succinct batch of certain words in our lexicon that are constantly violated, but which seem to have become the norm anyway.
I begin with the time-honored "etc." Etc. is short for et cetera, and it comes from the Latin meaning "and other things." It's used by writers a lot when they've tired of doing boring research, so they simply hang the tiny all-purpose, hard-working "etc." at the end of the page, then stretch, yawn and write "The End." Etc. covers much ground and is a very forgiving abbreviation. But it's not in the writing of etc. to which I object. It is the pronunciation. Why do people insist on saying "EK-settera?" There is definitely no "k" in there anywhere. On his talk show, Geraldo Rivera says it all the time. (I certainly have never tuned him in --someone told me that.)
But, one hears ek-settera everywhere and one yearns to shout "ETT-cetera, ETT-cetera!" But one doesn't. Shouting, I've been taught, is frightfully vulgar.
Next on the list is the title given to the individual who sells buildings or lands to buyers for a slice of the take. These sellers of your home are too often referred to as a "REE-lih-tors." They are not REE-lih-tors. This hard-earned title has not got three syllables, but only two, and they are "reel," (you know, like that thing hanging off the handle of a fishing pole the line is wound around,) and "tor," (like the pointed top of a rocky mountain.) Realtor. Smooth and flowing, the tip of the tongue moving only once during that utterance, not twice. Ah, but then even realtors proudly say they're ree-lih-tors. I know what you're thinking; if they don't care, why should I? Good question. I have no idea.
Here's another, perhaps a bit more biological than the others. It's that very muscular and cartilaginous structure at the upper part of the vertebrate trachea in which the vocal chords are located and without which I would be unable to bore you by carping on these popular mispronunciations. It is the ever popular LARR-nix. No. This poor maligned human protoplasmic gizmo seems never to be permitted a decent pronunciation. It is never, ever a LARR-nix. It is pronounced LAR-inx. Yes. Larynx. Do not go to the doctor with a complaint about your ulcerated LARR-nix or you may be asked if you think it's spread to your er-SOFFer-gist. Will you know?
Most of us are married. And some, at least those of us savvy enough to have hitched-up with a spouse of means, have considered designing a contract that perhaps one day we'll need when the marriage has gone south and the greedy SOB is hankering after Aunt Mildred's inheritance. It is called the NUP-chew-ull agreement. Right? Wrong. Everyone calls it that--even highly educated lawpersons on the tube who proudly discuss that very same type of contract they'd created for a celeb. It is not a NUP-chew-ull agreement. It is pronounced NUP-chill. Or, if you want to sound very Ph.D.-ish, you could sneak in an infinitesimal "ee" in there and say NUP-chee-ill. But hardly anyone ever does that. At least hardly anyone who's in the Right Circles. Just keep it at the simple NUP-chill. Nuptial. (And by the way, never sign one. Pre or post.)
And another, which is not exactly a mispronunciation. It’s when people say “there is” when they’re talking plural. For example, one hears people say “There’s a whole lot of tigers out there in the bush, so be careful.” Wrong. It is not “there IS a lot of tigers” but instead one should say “there ARE a lot of tigers”. A bunch of tigers? “Are.” One tiger? “Is.”
And please, can we ever stop saying “IRregardless”? There never should be an IR in front of “regardless.” Yes, I know it’s heard all the time but irregardless of that fact, it’s not correct. Lose the IR. And that big brick thing sticking out of the tops of our roofs? Folks, it really is not a chimBley. Lose the B. And we should not go to the thee-AY-ter, nor attend the theaRter but we ought to go to the theater. And about axing; is that felling a tree? Or is it about asking a question? I think the latter.
And please, don’t go rushing out for a nice, expensive eXpresso. No. If you must have one, ask for an “espresso,” OK? Much classier. And please, please stop saying “supposeBly.” There’s never, ever a “B” in “supposedly.”
And dear readers, unless something is seriously wrong with your hands, I’m begging you to stop saying you’ll “feel badly” when something untoward happens to you or a loved one. Feel bad, feel bad, feel bad. Lose the ly.
There are lots more out there, but I'll end with that all-time favorite of catastrophic human-made toy of total annihilation, the familiar, comfortable and beloved old NOOK-yoo-lur bomb. You know--the one which, in a blink, can turn us to instant puffs of seared lint a-blowin' in the wind into forever. Surely you've read about it. But, it is certainly not NOOK-yoo-lur. Something that serious must never be pronounced incorrectly. It is NOOK-lee-yur. Say it. NOOK-lee-yur. Say it again, because one day when an angry finger is moving nervously toward a certain Red Button and the finger's owner is perhaps a graduate of Oxford and is a stickler for correct pronunciation, and we say soothingly, "Say there, King Jbdzlmxxyr, don't let's be hasty here. I know you're feeling acrimonious and you want to castigate the whole world, but think about it; if you send out that old NOOK-yoo-lur bomb of yours, why then, you'll die too, doncha know that, Kingthing?"
King Jbdzlmxxyr might then very well think, "Ah, if this American swine can't be bothered to learn to pronounce it NOOK- lee-yur, he does not deserve to live. Die, infidel dog!" Press. Blam.
So you see, keeping in mind all potential national emergencies, remember that you just never know when someone might take umbrage at poor pronunciation and react unfavorably. I've always said it's best we always do whatever we can to placate the enemy, no matter what. So when you're chatting with someone whose world opinions may differ from yours, make sure you converse using correct pronunciation at all times. You just never know.

Click on LC Van Savage for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
See her on MPBN, Saturday mornings at 10:30 on “incredibleMAINE.”
Email: lcvansavage@newmainetimes.org
Author's website www.storybowls.com


I have a box
So full of keys
I cannot see the bottom,
Flat keys, round keys,
Short keys, long keys,
Big and small keys;
And none of these
Fits any lock of mine.

Yet each year
I add more and get
Strange reassurance
To have them,
Believing some day
One will loose
A lock that I have lost
But hope to find again.

©2002 John I. Blair

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What Are We Doing Here

What are we doing here
Where are we going now
What are we heading for
Where is the exit door

Why don't you love me the way you did all those tears ago
Now it's hard for me to believe in you since you've hurt me so
Why are things so different like they fell from out of the blue
This time I know I've had enough, I've had enough of you

I wish it wasn't true, but now it's time I'm rid of you
It was once so promising, but now I have seen the light
The pain you have put me through stays with me day and night
This time I know I have had enough, I've had enough of you

Now you're gone and all of this life will carry on
It's time for me, there's no more we
I finally did see all that I could be
After all these years, there will be no more tears

What are we doing here
Where are we going now
What are we headed for
Should we try just once more

©4/12/12 Bruce Clifford

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

I’ve Never Seen A Moor

    I’ve never seen a moor.
    I’ve never worn a kilt.
    I’ve never been to Scotland.
    But Blair is my family name
    And Blair and Scotland are the same.
    So when I hear the bagpipes wail
    There in my mind seems a memory
    Of running through the rugged heath
    Down into a misty vale,
    A long sword in my strong right hand,
    Bent on slaying the foe beneath,
    Then standing on a windy tor,
    Mourning kinsmen, torn by woe.
©2002 John I. Blair

Click on John I. Blair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Walking Into The Sun

Walking into the sun
Like the battles before
Translucent fixtures on my mind
Is there a remedy at shore

Reaching out across this place
Like a memory I never knew
Organic crystals of the mind
It gets me every time
And I don't know what to do

Walking into the sun
Could there be more
Is something better in store
The simple things are now a chore

Reaching out across this place
Like a memory I longed to save
Pieces of stardust play with my mind
It takes me down each and every time
And I never know what to do

4/12/12 Bruce Clifford

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I praise that my life has had the grace
Of dazzling sun and crystal skies,
Fresh prairie winds and open space.

But my fathers for ten thousand years
On murky moors and stony coasts
Guarded their doors from misty fears.

I think their ghosts are in my soul
Beyond repair and bring despair
On days when I am less than whole.

©2002 John I. Blair

Click on John I. Blair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

It's Bringing Me Down

Do you mind if I sit all alone
Would it bother you If I turned off my phone
My head hurts, my mind aches
These are the days I can't get any breaks
It's bringing me down

Here I am at home on my own
The feelings are raw
Since you walked out that door
These are the days I can't get any breaks
It's bringing me down

So take your time
Show me a sign
Maybe one day
We will find our way out of this place

The cracks are showing as I sit alone
Does it bother you now when I hold my own
My head hurts, my mind aches
These are the days I wish I had what it takes
It's bringing me down

©4/12/12 Bruce Clifford

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

O Night Without A Moon

O Night without a moon,
When I step outside into your gloom
Until my eyes and brain adjust
I hesitate to leave the known,

Afraid of things I cannot see,
Forgetting for the moment
All my other senses
Still are with me.

Loosed from the easy dominance
Of sight, they bloom,
Ears receiving owl cries,
Nose the rose perfume,

Skin the splintered surface
Of the deck rail I am grasping;
And merely moments later
When my pupils dilate wide

A vision of the world appears
Combining sequined skies
And the afterglow produced
By its seven billion pulsing lives.

©2012 John I. Blair

Click on John I. Blair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

God Like

I feel like I'm always fighting
Trying to keep us alive
It's a fire that's always burning
I have no understanding as to why

Maybe it's because you're god like
And the air you breathe
You're god like
In this world we believe

I tried to never let you down
It gets so hard when the enemy is near
Beyond the songs there's a heavenly sound
These are the words I will whisper in your ear

You are god like
And the air you breath
You are god like
Sing to me a melody

You are god like
In the face of the truth
You are god like
There's so much love in you

When I breathe my heart feels lighter
The colors of the world seem brighter
Next to you I know it's true
And these are the words I will whisper in your ear

©4/5/12 Bruce Clifford

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

Song Of The Lark

A woodland bird, a thrush or vireo,
Sings hushed by choice
As if in need of subtle sounds
To filter out between the leafy pages
Without revealing where they’re perched
Lest fox or bobcat spy.

Mockingbirds and robins
And others of their kind, less shy,
Flaunt bursts of melody
From elevated stages,
Treetops, poles, antennas,
Visible, yet clearly out of reach.

But larks live on the prairie
With neither thicket depths
Nor lofty vantage points. Instead
They fly on wings of song,
Flinging their sharp-sweet notes
Beneath the sky

As if the uncaged wind had taken voice.

©2012 John I. Blair

Click on John I. Blair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Don't Mind Me

Don't mind me if I seem empty
Don't mind me at all
Remember me when I was full of life
Before I fell to the floor

Don't mind me If things are no longer simple
Don't mind me anymore
Remember me when I was full of laughter
Before you walked out that door
Don't mind me

Don't mind me, it's not what I intended it to be
Life was supposed to be carefree
Remember me when I was full of promise
Before you stepped on my heart
Don't mind me

Don't mind me, it's hard for you to see
This heartache has changed me
I don't remember how I used to be
Before you broke all your promises
Don't mind me

Don't mind me and my heart in little tiny pieces
Continue on your way, it wasn't meant for you to stay
Don't mind me, my heart will find a new start

©4/5/12 Bruce Clifford

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


The ripples in the pool
Spread around me like an aura.

They radiate in all directions
And magnify my actions.

What sort of ripples
Am I creating with my life?

Do they look as beautiful,
Glistening, pure, transparent?

©2006 John I. Blair

Click on John I. Blair for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Rabbo II-Chapter 4, Part B

Part B

Rabbo awoke to the bright sun light streaming in though the bedroom window almost blinding him with the bright light.
Rabbo was about to slip out of his body when he heard giggling and Athena’s bed thumbing against the wall. So he lay still not wanting to bother Athena while she had fun. Then Rabbo remembered that Bastet was not at the house anymore so he turned and looked at the bed.
On the bed were Wenna and Merryn jumping up and down. They bounced up and down their blond hair floating out in a golden halo. As they jumped up and down they seemed to go higher and higher with each jump.
Rabbo started to get worried that they would end up falling off the bed and hurting themselves so he sat up and was about to say something when the door opened and Athena stood in the doorway.
Athena walked over grabbed the twins around the waist and dragged them down and kissing them playfully.
Wenna wrinkled her nose and looked at Athena. “You smell funny mommy”.
Merryn looked at Athena and put her hands on her hips. “Naughty mommy no cloths” and with that Merryn leaped on Athena and rolled around on her giggling wildly.
Athena slipped off the bed grabbed both Merryn and Wenna and walked out of her bedroom to the bathroom.
Rabbo slipped of the window sill and hopped down to the bathroom to clean his teeth. But once in the bathroom he was stopped from cleaning his teeth by Wenna who splashed him with hot water.
So Rabbo hopped up on the edge of the bathtub and splashed Wenna back.
Merryn grabbed Rabbo and pulled him into the bathtub with a loud splash. She then started to try and wash him as he swam around in circles.
Athena who was standing under the shower head washing herself watched as the twins tried at first to wash Rabbo and then each other.
Rabbo climbed out of the bathtub looked over at Athena as she showered and the slipped back into the bathtub and swam over to Wenna.
Athena stepped out of the shower and dried herself before she reached down picked Rabbo up and dried him. She then grabbed one of the twins dried her off and sent her to her room to get dressed. Then she grabbed the other twin and dried her before sending her off to get dressed as well.
“How do you tell them apart” asked Rabbo referring to the twins.
“Wenna has longer legs like her father and her hair is darker. Merryn’s nose is more button like and more like my nose” said Athena.
Rabbo went down to the kitchen where he found Merwyn cooking breakfast.
“Merwyn last night you celebrated the twins naming themselves. Why did they not have names before” asked Rabbo.
Merwyn looked thoughtful for a moment “it was believed on Sirius by certain groups that when a child was born its spirit was not attached until it had a name. But as the spirit came from the other world it already had a name from that world. So they would wait until the child named its self. Much as the twins named themselves. Hmm I see by the look on your face you don’t understand. Let’s say I was to die. Where does my spirit go? Well it goes to another life in what we call the other world. It’s the same as this one apart from it’s not on the same plain of being as the one you and I are currently on. When you are born there you have the name that you had in the life you just left. Now sometimes you are born into the other world as a different gender than the one you had in your last life so that you can understand what it’s like to be a different gender. When that happens you have a gender name change. Lets say in the other woman Athena was a man her name would be a male version of Athena. Something like Arthur or if I was reborn in female form I would be something like Umm Merline. So when you are born into this world you spirit picks the name closest to the name you had in the other world if there is a gender change. Now if there is no gender change you keep the same name. So if Wenna was Wenna in the other world she would be Wenna here in our world. I am confusing you Rabbo? Anyway when the spirit starts to wake up it remembers its name. Now let’s say we used the same custom the people on this planet do and give a name to a child it would confuse a child. But here as they don’t have the same abilities we do and that they have not advanced that far on the spiritual level it does not matter but in about five thousand years it might? That is if they make it to that point. Once that happens things might change. Does that answer your question”?
“Umm I think I understand. This other world do you remember your life there” asked Rabbo.
“Some believe that we do and that in our dreams our life in the other world talks to us about our life in the other world and what we learnt. Others don’t. Some such as myself believe how we act in this life affects us in the next. Let’s say I was someone like Toner who wanted to enslave those that did not have the mental abilities that he and others like him had myself included. Well in the other world those that he had killed or fought against him and his followers would enslave him. Which if you ask me is wrong as it does not stop the cycle of hurting each other. I believe that we have to break that cycle and stop hurting each other and work together. I once had a group of friends that once believed very much as I still do but the war changed them only I was too busy fighting for what I believed in and did not see what that fighting was doing to them. Nor did I see what a few of them were turning into. When you see such horrors as they did you can’t help but become hardened to it. And after a while it does not bother you and you start to do the same things to those you are fighting against that they did to you or your friends. And slowly you become like them” Merwyn paused lost in thought.
Rabbo was about to ask another question when Merwyn spoke so softly that Rabbo almost did not hear him.
“I had to fight if I had just stayed teaching I would not have lived up to the very thing I preached and when I die I will have to face those that I killed. Was I right or wrong to preach what I did and send so many to their deaths and to kill so many in battle. I even had to kill some of my own men so that others could live. I asked them if they would die to save their friends and they said “yes” but I killed them by my order. At times I think I am no better than Toner” the tone in Merwyn's voice was so sad and hopeless. “What I did was it right or wrong”?
“Dad stop that” said Athena standing at the bottom of the stairs with one twin on each hip.
Merwyn looked at Athena and smiled weakly. He placed the cooked breakfast on the table and sat down.
“Dad you did the right thing” said Athena with a hard tone in her voice.
“Did I? Sirius is gone and is dead. Did any of it matter”?
“Dad stop that. You did what you had to do. You did what was right and just” said Athena in more of a pleading tone of voice.
“Darling I wish I could make it stop. I hear them in my sleep. I see them in the woods. I see them in the faces of the people in Athens. I wish I could make it stop and forget it all” said Merwyn in such a soft voice that even Rabbo had to strain to hear.
“Dad I need you. That’s why I took on the role I did. I love you dad and need you to stay here. You can’t start fading on me” then very softly Athena said “I need you here for our children”.
Merwyn stood up picked up his uneaten breakfast and walked over to the cool storage room without saying a word.
Athena looked at the twins who though the whole entire discussion had sat very still and had not said a word.
Merwyn walked out of the cool storage room and went upstairs.
Athena turned to her breakfast and started to eat. At the same time she fed the twins who where spreading food around the table.
“Rabbo when I finish eating and the twins have had their fill I will need you to look after them. There is another book my mom wrote for me when she was first sick. It’s in a box under my bed. Get it and start reading into the twins so that it keeps them busy. If they start to get tired let them nap in the living room”.
“Ok” said Rabbo still very worried about Athena’s comment about Merwyn fading. He was about to ask when Athena gave him a look that he had come to understand as “I have things to do and I don’t want to talk”.
“Please eat your breakfast properly Wenna and you to Merryn” said Athena.
“Sowe mommy” said both twins.
Rabbo finished his breakfast first and rode upstairs and located the box with the book in it under the bed. He pulled the book gentle out and then rode back downstairs.
As he hopped back into the kitchen he saw Athena standing with her hands on her hips explaining to the twins that Rabbo was going to be in charge “And if you give him any trouble I will spank your little butts so you can’t sit down for a week. So behave”
“Yes mommy” said the twins.
Rabbo hopped into the living room and put a couple of fresh logs on the fire. He then sat in Athena’s chair and pulled the book onto his lap using his feet to rest the book against.
Athena brought the twins in and told them to sit down and listen to the story that Rabbo was going to read them.
Rabbo started to read the story which was about two sisters that lived by a delta in a land that was hot. The first chapter was how the older girl who had been without a sister found out that her mother was going to have a baby and how excited she was about having a little sister or brothers. It went on though the whole pregnancy telling the story how the little girl looked forward to the baby coming.
At first Rabbo thought that it was about Isis and Bastet and based on their lives but when Rabbo started the second chapter he realized that it was more wishful thinking of a young woman that wanted a younger sister or brother and was in fact an only child.
After about an hour and thirty minutes the twins started to get bored so Rabbo thought it would be a great idea to go outside and play in the snow with the twins.
Outside it was still cold but Rabbo made sure that the twins put on the thick boots made with the fur that had bushed out of him in the summer months when it was hot. He then made them put on their thick winter pants as well as a jacket and gloves.
Rabbo lead the twins outside and told them that they were to make big snow rabbits and that he would sit on the stump and model for them.
The twins thought it was great fun building snow rabbits and they soon got very good and making huge rabbits that soon dotted the snow covered lawn.
Rabbo checked them often making sure that they were warm and after they had built the fourth giant rabbit he thought it best that they all go inside and have something warm to drink and that a nap for the twins and himself was a good idea.
So he lead the twins back in and made them warm milk and sent them into the living room with a cookie each that had been in a jar on the counter.
Rabbo went into the living room and placed a couple of logs on the fire as it had burnt low while they were outside. He then returned to the kitchen to get his milk.
Athena walked down the stairs wearing just a pair of white stockings she walked over to the storage room that the wine was kept in and got a skin of wine. As Athena turned around she saw Rabbo getting his milk.
“Hope you are giving warm milk to the twins too” asked Athena. “Are they being good”?
“Oh they have been very good. We built giant rabbits on the lawn and I read to them until my throat was sore” answered Rabbo. “How is Merwyn”?
“Better” laughed Athena. “I think that living here reminds him of home sometimes and as much as he loves it here it can depress him”.
Rabbo noticed that Athena had a blush around her cheeks throat and that her lips seemed fuller than normal and very red.
“You ok” asked Rabbo. “You seem very hot”.
“I am great” giggled Athena.
Athena then turned around and walked back up the stairs giggling to herself.
Rabbo hopped back into the living room and sat down to drink his milk and to watch the twins eat their cookie and drink their milk.
When they had finished they yawned so Rabbo told them to lay on the couch and take a nap.
Rabbo got a blanket and placed it over the twins then hopped up on the couch and curled up next to their feet so he could keep any eye on them. But after a while Rabbo found that his eyes were too heavy to keep open so he dozed off.
Rabbo woke with a start and looked around. The twins were still asleep and snoring softly. He was not sure what had woken him up so he listened and hear a faint thumbing sound coming from the back of the house. As he listened it stopped and then started again changing tempo.
Rabbo slipped off the couch and hopped into the kitchen where the rabbit kittens where chasing around after each other. Mischief was sitting cleaning Rabbo’s mother’s ears while Cat was sitting on the back of Merwyn's chair watching the rabbit kittens chasing around.
Rabbo hopped back into the living room just as both twins where waking up so he grabbed the book and started to read again.
It was about forty five minutes later when Athena came walking into the living room wearing her cheeky robe and stockings.
“Rabbo what would you like for dinner” asked Athena.
“I wants homlet” said Wenna.
“With eece” said Merryn.
“I was asking Rabbo not you two” said Athena in a soft gentle voice.
“Omelet sounds good” said Rabbo winking at the twins.
Athena left the living room and went into the kitchen where she started making cheese omelets for dinner.
It was about dinner time when Merwyn came down the stairs to join them for dinner.
Rabbo had to admit that Merwyn did look better and whatever Athena had done to him made him look a lot more cheerful than he had at breakfast.
At dinner the talk was light but it was clear that there was a lot of talking going on between Merwyn and Athena on the private mode.
“It is going to be clear the next few days I would like to see how Helena is doing” said Athena.
“It might be nice to have her and her daughter here for a few days. It would give you female company” said Merwyn almost laughing.
Athena started to laugh so hard that she almost choked on her omelet. Then she looked at Merwyn smiled shyly.
“How is Helena” asked Rabbo.
“Last time I looked in on her she was busy counseling a grieving mother. Who has lost her son” said Athena.
“I better clean a pathway though the woods then” said Merwyn.
Dinner was finished and Athena and Merwyn sat and played games with the twins until it was time for them to go to bed.
The twins kissed Merwyn Rabbo and then Athena good night before they started the long climb up the stairs to their bedroom.
Athena watched very carefully to make sure they did not fall and to catch them if they did.
Athena turned back to Merwyn and refilled his wine glass before she stood up. “Let’s go to the living room and talk. The dishes can wait”
Rabbo sat down by the fire and was joined by mischief soft eyes and the rest of the rabbit kittens.
“Dad I was thinking that when Helena is here you should spend sometime alone with her. After all she likes you” said Athena slyly.
Merwyn laughed “she is confused. Not sure if I am human or a god. I can’t blame her really as we do seem to have god like powers to these people. Not that we are gods. Beside she has that whole oath issue about not taking a man into her bed. But you had plenty of fun with her”.
“Yes I did” said Athena blushing again. “But I know away around her oath not to take a man into her bed”.
“Oh aye” said Merwyn.
“Yes it all in the wording. Not to take a man into her bed. Well dad as you don’t sleep in a bed and if you did it would not be her bed. But as it is you sleep in that pile of cushions so it’s not really a bed” said Athena shyly.
Rabbo sat and listened as Athena laid out her plan for Helena and then pointed out that Helena had Sirian blood in her so it might be possible to get her pregnant and if anyone asked her she was pregnant by a god and that would explain anything that the child might be able to do.
Merwyn answered with the whole Ra issue and if he found out there could be some major problems as Ra would feel threatened and might move against them. Plus there was the issue of the few people on the forth planet and that it was very possible that they might head their way which would open up more problems.
As they sat talking more and more of the wine skin was drunk and it started to become clear that Athena was feeling drunk and playful.
Athena slipped off her robe complaining that she was getting hot. Then she stood up and started to dance slowly.
After she refilled her glass and took a breather from dancing she got up once more and started to dance again and almost tripped over Rabbo and landed in Merwyn's lap.
Rabbo now was feeling tired and did not want to be stepped on so he got up and shooed his children out of the living room and hopped over to his elevator and rode upstairs to Athena’s bedroom to sleep. He weakly climbed up on the window sill and lay down on his cushion to sleep.
Rabbo woke up once during the night when Merwyn carrying Athena came into the room and placed her in her bed.
Rabbo woke up to someone poking him with a finger and when he opened his eyes he said two pair of bright eyes looking at him so close that he almost jumped out of his fur.
“Shhh be quiet or you will wake up your mom” said Rabbo as softly as he could.
The twins giggled and lightly ran out of the bedroom hardly making a sound as they did.
Athena laid sprawled out on the bed snoring softly into her pillow.
As Rabbo hopped out of her bedroom Athena opened one eye and looked around to make sure she was now totally alone.
Athena sat up in bed and crossed her legs and focused on Bastet.
“Psst. Darling” said Athena on Bastet’s private mode.
“Yes my beloved” answered Bastet on the same mode.
“Did you listen yesterday morning when dad had his melt down”?
“I heard it. Is he really that bad” asked Bastet.
“Yes darling. But I think our plan is working” said Athena not sure if it really was working.
“I hope he did not pick up on your mistake”
“Which one” asked Athena?
“When you told him that you wanted him to stay for “our children” I just hope that he was too deep in thought to hear that” said Bastet in a worried tone. “Hold on a moment Solee is waking up”.
“I wish you had been here with us last night. I could have used an extra hand”
“I bet” laughed Bastet. “Did you suggest Helena like I said”?
“Yes and I hope she is willing. Besides dad is right I need a females touch too. Let’s hope that Helena will accept my way around her oath. The last time we tried she got scared at the last moment and well it did not work the way I wanted. But I got more than I bargained for”.
“Oh really! I though she had” said Bastet in surprise.
“Darling I love and miss you. I so wanted to snuggle with you and kiss you and be with you” said Athena.
“I know darling. Maybe this spring I will come? Or you could come here for a few weeks” said Bastet.
“I better get up and dressed. I should check on my twins”
“As should I” said Bastet.
“I love you my beloved” said Athena as she started to drop out of the link with Bastet.
“I love you to my heart” Bastet then gentle broke the link.
Athena opened her eyes and looked around for her robe but could not see it anywhere. Then she remembered that when she was play acting drunk she had taken it off and it was in the living room.
Athena had to hold herself back from skipping down the hallway and then down the stairs as she did not want to seem too happy. Yet inside the thought of Bastet possible coming to visit in the spring filled her with such joy that it was hard to contain.
In the kitchen she was surprised to see just Rabbo finishing his breakfast of nuts dried fruit and old dandelion leaves.
“Where is Merryn and Wenna”?
“Outside helping Merwyn move snow the last I saw they had cleared a pathway to the woods” said Rabbo between mouthfuls of food.
“Oh hope they are dressed warm” said Athena walking to the door and forgetting about getting her robe.
“Yes I made them dress up warm like I did yesterday” said Rabbo.
“Oh good”
Athena walked to the kitchen door opened it and walked out into the cold morning air totally naked.
Athena quickly stepped back in and looked at Rabbo and then laughed.
“Brrr it is so cold out there. Ok so I was stupid for a moment and forgot I was naked”.
Rabbo laughed as Athena walked over to the fireplace to warm back up after her brief trip outside into the cold morning air.
“Do I have to baby sit you too” snickered Rabbo.
Athena stuck her tongue out like a little girl as she rubbed her legs to get the blood flowing again.
Rabbo hopped down the pathway with Athena at his side wearing the cloak that Merwyn had gotten him almost two and a half years before.
The cloak was nice and warm and he was very glad of it as the pockets had carrots in it as well as a small knife.
Athena was dressed in thick heavy winter pants with a thick heavy sweater and a long white cloak with fur trim.
They both walked for about forty five minutes before they reached Merwyn and the twins who were about halfway though the woods clearing a pathway to the temple that Helena was at.
The twins were sitting together munching on a thick sandwich that Rabbo had packet in a small back pack that Merwyn had been using.
There also was canteen of water as well as a blanket extra pants, socks, gloves sweaters and a couple of more sandwich’s.
“Oh my you have done a lot so far” said Athena.
Merwyn turned and looked at both Rabbo and Athena and smiled before he turned back and lifted a huge section of snow that was about thirty feet by ten feet by three feet.
As Rabbo and Athena watched the huge section of snow lifted up and broke apart coming to land on either side of the pathway that Merwyn was making though the woods. Then another section of snow lifted up and did the same thing as Merwyn moved forward though the woods.
The twins got up having finished their sandwich and looked up at Athena.
“Mup pleassse” said Wenna. To make her point Wenna lifted her arms up to be picked up by Athena.
Merryn looked at Wenna and then at Athena before she walked down the pathway towards Merwyn. As she walked down the pathway Rabbo noticed that her boots did not seem to be really touching the ground.
“Umm Athena” said Rabbo not to sure of what he was seeing.
“Yes” said Athena.
“Merryn feet don’t seem to be touching the ground” stated Rabbo.
“What? Oh you are right” laughed Athena. “That takes strength and power at her age”.
“I think she is going to as powerful as her mother or grand mother” said Merwyn as he stopped working for a moment.
“You think so” said Athena smiling.
“I do and I think that if her mother was to put her mind to it she could be really powerful and do far more than she does” said Merwyn dryly.
Athena stuck out her tongue and looked at a hundred foot section of snow and blew a raspberry at the snow. The section of snow suddenly lifted up and blew apart scattering fresh snow on either side of the pathway.
Merwyn laughed and looked at Athena. “Show off”.
Athena smiled sweetly and started to clear a long pathway though the snow. Soon she had cleared a long section and was well past the meadow where Cat’s wild cat girl friend lived with her latest set of kittens.
Rabbo kept an eye open for the wild cat but it was clear that she was either in her den or staying away from where Athena and Merwyn were busy working.
The twins where getting cranky and tired so Athena stopped helping clear the pathway and turned and smiled at Merwyn.
“Dad I think I better get these two back to the house as they are cranky and it’s a long walk back to the hours. Would you like me to cook you something special”?
“That’s ok sweetheart I will keep going until I get to the temple” said Merwyn. He then turned to Rabbo. “You better get along home too as Athena could use a hand with those two cranky hellions”.
Athena placed each of the twins on one of her hips each and then levitated herself and started to float fast back down the pathway that had been cleared.
Rabbo had to run fast to keep up with Athena and the twins and by the time he got back to the house he was panting hard from the long fast run.
“How far was that” panted Rabbo.
“Oh about three to four miles” said Athena not even out of breath.
“And that took us how long to get back” asked Rabbo gasping for breath.
“Maybe twenty minutes at most” smiled Athena.
“And it took us about forty five minutes to walk to were Merwyn and the twins where which was what? Two miles” said Rabbo taking a deep breath.
“About that” smiles Athena as she opened the door and walked though the kitchen into the living and placed the nearly sleeping twins on the couch.
Rabbo went to the fire and put a log on the glowing embers and started to use the bellows to get the wood burning again.
Soon the fire was popping and hissing as the flames licked around the log that Rabbo had placed on the fire.
Rabbo looked over at the twins as Athena slipped their pants and jacket off so that they would not overheat while they were sleeping. She then placed a warm blanket over them then leaned down and kissed them gentle on the forehead as they drifted off to sleep.
Rabbo looked back at the twins and thought how lucky there where that they could sleep pretty much anyplace.
Rabbo hopped up onto the couch and snuggled next to the twin’s feet.
Rabbo awoke to a foot pushing gentle against his body and he could feel a toe nail digging into his fur and catching.
Looking around though sleepy eyes Rabbo noticed that the fire was burning low. So he slipped off the couch and hopped over and put another log on the fire.
As the log caught Rabbo saw Athena in her chair sowing a new long toga for one of the twins.
The toga was pale red with a bright blue trim around the edge. The waist was being pulled in so that belt loops could be added so that which ever of the twins would wear the toga it would fit well and comfortable.
Rabbo hopped into the kitten and his mother was sitting cleaning the rabbit kittens that lay in a heap by the kitchen fire. He also noticed the odor of bread and looked around and saw Athena huge bowl she used when baking bread.
Athena came walking in to the kitchen and went over and started kneading the bread dough before she put it in pans for a second proofing. She then walked over and had to step gentle over Rabbo’s mother and the rabbit kittens to check the temperature of the oven in the fire place.
Athena then stood back closed her eyes for a moment then looked down at Rabbo.
“Merwyn will be back soon. He is at the temple with Helena and I think they will be coming back here for the night” said Athena with a sly smile on her face.
“Are you going to make something special for her” asked Rabbo knowing that Athena would be.
“You know that answer. So why did you ask it” said Athena flatly.
Rabbo laughed and hopped into the living room where the twins were just starting to wake up after their nap.
It was just before dark when Merwyn Helena and Diana came walking up the pathway to the house.
Diana was riding on Merwyn's shoulders. Both Merwyn and Helena had back packs on that looked like they were very heavy.
As they entered the warmth of the house the twins squealed in delight at seeing the friend Diana who they had not seen since early fall.
The children were allowed to play until dinner time when they were seated at the table next to an adult that would keep an eye on then and help them eat.
Diana was a sweet little girl with long black hair that flowed down her back. Her skin was of an olive complexion and her brown eyes glowed with an inner light.
Dinner was fresh version with a red wine sauce, pasta and vegetables that had been frozen and then cooked.
By the time dinner was done the children where getting cranky and tired so Athena and Helena took them upstairs to be bathed and then to put them to bed.
Merwyn sat in the living room talking about the day’s actives when Athena walked in dressed in a short skirt with a tight halter top and white knee high stockings.
Athena turned and looked at the door way and said “Now for your pleasure here’s Helena”
Helena walked in shyly wearing a very short mini skirt and very tight halter top. She walked over to Merwyn and stood before him and bowed.
Athena came over bring wine goblets that had been left on the table. She refilled Helena’s and her goblet before they both sat down on the rug together.

Watch for Chapter 5 in June issue.
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