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I had been in Oz for a few months when I received an emergency call to come back to South Africa. Every émigré who leaves elderly parents dreads this call.

 

But this was worse than death. Our family lawyer called me to attend a meeting at the retirement Centre where the Chairman wanted to expel my parents for bad behavior.

 

“I am finished!” I said to my best friend Marilyn who fetched me from the airport and was driving me to the Centre. “I don’t know if it's a tragedy, a comedy, or a farce.”

 

Josh and I had checked out the place before we and the kids had left. I had the sole responsibility for the care of my parents since the death of my twin sister. I was filled with anxiety for their health and guilt for abandoning them. I just wanted them to be safe, happy and together.

 

Instead of being an Old Age Home, it was called A New Age Centre. There were well- designed apartments and fantastic communal facilities. In addition to the three B’s, Bridge, Bowls and Bible studies, they had beautiful grounds and swimming pools. It was like the Garden of Eden – with a Frail Care Wing.

 

During our visit, we saw a lecture in progress in the auditorium. We were soothed by the sea of heads in a hundred shades of grey and blue. After the lecture, I spoke to a resident, probably an octogenarian who was accompanied by a younger man.

 

“This is my boyfriend, Solly,” she said, “We both love it here.”

 

When I asked her age, she replied, “That number has been discontinued. Age is not a number but a state of mind. “

 

I later discovered that she was 93.

 

The place was perfect for my parents who had both retired. My father Barney was almost 75. He had run his own Pharmacy dispensing medicines and humour with equal facility.

My mother Judith was 72 and had been an Art teacher at the Technical College. I explained the New Age concept to them, but they refused to move to an old age home – whatever it was called.

 

Barney needed a knee op but didn’t want to have it. He was becoming irritable and immobile.

 

My mother said, “Becky, you may as well order a wheelchair for your father because not much is working from the waist down anyway.”

 

He retaliated, “Not much of you is working anymore either, especially from the neck up.”

 

Unfortunately, this was true. Judith was becoming forgetful, depressed, and refusing to eat. She had not only lost weight but also her sense of purpose.

 

But after visiting the Centre they agreed to leave their rambling, old house. What appealed to them was the motto – Life begins at 70. I cashed in one of my dad’s policies and chose a garden apartment in the New Age Centre.

 

I was helping them to pack and it was painful.

 

My mother sighed and said, “I love these shoes, but the heels are very high. If I wore them now, I would probably break my neck.”

 

“Couldn’t you wear them just once more?” my father asked, deadpan.

 

My mother looked tearful, but I had to laugh. My father still had a wicked sense of humour.

 

At the Reception desk, a group of women were ogling my father. Although he was leaning on his cane, he still looked good, tall, elegantly grey with a prominent nose, and a small beard hiding a double chin.

 

Their interest waned when my mother arrived and held his arm possessively. They had a close relationship despite the few skirmishes.

 

“Another Darby and Joan,” one of the women muttered to her friend as they moved off.

 

My mother looked disconsolate in flat shoes and in a dress which was now much too large. It was upsetting to me because she had always looked smart when she taught at the Tech. We had the same build so before I emigrated, I gave her a suitcase of my good clothes. I encouraged her to cut and dye her hair. Her face was unwrinkled and her good features could be drastically improved if she got rid of the sulky, downturned mouth and the lackluster expression in her green eyes.

 

My parents refused to get cell phones or learn to use a computer. They did not want to become 'Skype Grandparents'. In addition to the occasional phone calls, my dad sent me a monthly postcard. January was Eat, meet and excrete. February was Forgive and forgetmostly forget. In March he wrote What was was. They were settling down and they were adjusting to the situation.

 

Then everything changed. In April, he decided to have the knee operation.

 

It was July, a delicious crisp Granny-Smith day in Johannesburg, when I arrived at the Centre. Lawrence, our lawyer was waiting for me outside the Boardroom.

 

When I saw my parents, it was a flashback from a movie. They both looked fantastic. My mother was wearing her break-neck high heels and the purple suit I had worn for my son’s bar mitzvah. Her hair had an auburn tinge and was stylishly short. My father rushed to hug me no longer using a cane. I realized how much I had missed him as the mascara streaked down my cheeks. I had always been his special little girl.

 

The reunion was cut short by the arrival of the Chairman of the Board with three Board members. They sat under the Motto, Life begins at 70, and called their star witness, the

Matron of the rehab centre. She was plump, in her 50’s with years of experience observing human foibles. She had total recall and gave her evidence with gusto.

 

“After the knee operation, we fetched Barney from the hospital. Judith had a surprise for him and was going to meet him in the lounge but she was delayed. A group of women crowded around Barney in his wheelchair, wishing him a speedy recovery. He enjoyed being the centre of attention. He did not notice that Judith had arrived wearing a tight knitted dress and a bright red tint.

 

"'Welcome home, Barney,' she said, kissing him on the cheek.

 

“He was momentarily at a loss for words. Speechless, he did not comment on her appearance.

 

"She had gone to a lot of trouble and felt hurt at his lack of response.’Sorry I am late but the hairdresser kept me for two hours.'

 

"He looked at her and said, 'Anyone who spends two hours at the hairdresser ought to have her head red.'

 

“His audience loved that comment but Judith was annoyed. When I wheeled Barney to the rehab centre, Judith walked off with her new friend, Seymour, an artist whose son had been a student of Judith’s at the Tech,” Matron said.

 

“When Barney returned to their apartment three weeks later, Judith was a new person. She and Seymour had set up an arts and crafts class for the residents. When she was busy teaching, Barney would tell jokes in the lounge. He couldn’t remember anyone’s names so he would call the women the first name that popped into his head like 'Citronella' or 'Margarita'. He called a woman with a pale complexion 'Human Frailty' and a Russian woman with a post-nasal drip 'Miss Putin'. As soon as he could run again, Barney started running after and flirting with every available woman.”

 

I was shocked. I was sitting between my parents, like a tennis net at Wimbledon. They had always been partners, on the same side but now they were opponents. They always had protected me but now I was feeling the sharp sting of their animosity. My father gave me a sheepish grin, which reeked of old goat.

 

But Matron was just getting warmed up. “What’s more Barney was encouraging the older inmates to revert to their second childhood. He taught them 'Hide and Seek' and 'Doctor Doctor'. He made friends with the Pharmacist and kept up a steady order of Viagra running up a huge bill at the Pharmacy. He offered gifts of Viagra to all who wanted it. He told them to relive their teenage years without fear of pregnancy or parental disapproval.

 

“Barney had a bit too much wine at dinner one night and threw a plate of spaghetti at Seymour who poured a bowl of soup into Barney’s lap. Food, crockery, and cutlery started flying and one of the waiters was hit in the leg.

 

“The resident gossip told the story to a journalist and the news hit the front pages of the Northern Gazette.”

 

Matron’s evidence was disturbed by a scuffle at the doorway.

 

Two security guards had forcibly removed a large package from a young-looking resident, who turned out to be the protesting Seymour. His face was red as he gestured to my mother.

 

The Chairman took the package and played his trump card by unveiling a large oil painting.

 

It was a nude in the style of Manet’s Olympia. Seymour had eliminated the maid and the cat but the confrontational stare of the nude was most disconcerting. My eyes scanned the piece from the high-heeled shoes to the pair of sparkling green eyes. It was my mother.

 

I felt my father’s anger and saw his face go purple with rage. My mother’s eyes were large pools of green above her bright pink cheeks.

 

Our attorney covered the painting when he saw how much it upset us all.

 

He took the floor. “We agree to settle the Pharmacy Bill and to pay for any damage caused in the dining room,” he conceded. “But I have studied the contract carefully and there are absolutely no grounds to expel my clients. In fact, they should be commended for upholding the Motto of the Centre. Moreover, the New Age Centre has not suffered damage. On the contrary, I have ascertained that the applications for admission to Centre have spiked since the publication of the article.”

 

After consultation with the other Board members, the Chairman was forced to accept the offer.

 

My parents excitedly tried to justify their actions to me.

 

Pleading exhaustion and jet lag, I tried to make my escape. I was stopped by our lawyer, who faced me with apprehension and apology.

 

Ungrateful for his help I attacked him. “Why did you have to drag me all the way from Australia to hear all this dirt?”

 

“I wanted you to hear firsthand what had happened. How else could I explain that your parents want a divorce?”

 

 


Author Bio: Gallerist—Founder of Natalie Knight Gallery, Hyde Park, South Africa www.knightgalleries.net 

Feature writer, playwright, art curator, editor, researcher and cultural historian. 

There’s no Sugar Left  - Play produced in 1981 

Publications include

Ndebele Images (1983)

Dungamanzi; Stirring Waters. 2007 -Tsonga/Shangaan culture 

The Big Picture- an Art-o-biography 2017 

Married, with children and great-grandchildren


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Why I’m Failing My Innovative Fiction Course

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Todd’s Miracle

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New Age Centre

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I had been in Oz for a few months when I received an emergency call to come back to South Africa. Every émigré who leaves elderly parents dreads this call.

 

But this was worse than death. Our family lawyer called me to attend a meeting...

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50 Minutes

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Lessons In Plot: From Setup To Payoff

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By Joy Manné (the student) with Help and Encouragement from Karen Barr (the teacher)



From ‘The Road from Setup to Payoff’ by Karen Barr, (Writers Village University, MFA 250-261 Story Focus series based on the book by Lisa Cron)

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Meatloaf and Mashed Taters

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Talk-Back, Dear Lia, on FnF

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This essay is part of a Talk-Back series – I owe that title to Karen. A Talk-Back is my response to a chapter in a WVU textbook, my communication with its author.

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“Why the F--- Do I want to see a F—ing alligator jump up to eat a F—ing chicken hanging on a clothesline?”

 

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“Does he look at you?”

 

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Wild Roses Growing in the Ditch

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Louise E. Sawyer


It is a joy to hold a lovely scene, a delightful moment, in memory.
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Hazardous Happenings

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At some point, everything comes to an apex.  Status quo can only persist for so long before the natural balance of the universe calls for consumption, and then it all comes down to a choice.  That’s it, a lone decision that ultimately leads down a pathway to a higher level...

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Dealing with Rejection

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Backyard Neighbors

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I took an hour to walk outdoors in my yard, first to clip dead honeysuckle branches, pluck dandelions, and then to fill the birdbaths and feeders. And to ponder what to write about one of my backyard neighbors, the gray squirrel, Sciurus Carolineses. Its name is derived from the...

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Betrayal

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My four-year-old son has a friend over. I overhear my son’s friend tell my two-year-old daughter, “Gracie, you can’t come in here.” Then my son’s voice: “It’s okay, she can play with us. Here, Gracie,” he says, presumably handing her one of the toys they are playing with. My mama...

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The Weight of Emotions

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Angela Hess

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An Apology

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Brigitte Whiting

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Baby Precious

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Louise E. Sawyer

It was Christmas Day 1950 and my sixth birthday. Under the tree was an unusually long, large box with my name on it. I was excited to open it. I couldn’t wait. When I finally did, I was amazed to look upon the most gorgeous doll I’d...

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Downsizing

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M Clare Paris

 
I think about death quite a bit. Not morbidly, nor do I worry about what happens when one dies. Although I enjoy a spiritual life, I am also philosophical about the end of my life. If there is something else, it will be darned interesting. If there isn’t, ...

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Absent But Present

by

Louise E. Sawyer


My father, Thomas George Sawyer, was absent at my birth and absent the first seven months of my life.

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Gathering: A Contemplative Essay

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I'm always looking for ideas to use in writing: for that prompt at which I first gulp and then slowly retrieve some thread of an idea, for the poem I need for the Monday morning poetry group, for an essay that's due in two days.

I've heeded...

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Seasons in a Wild Turkey Hen's Life

by

Brigitte Whiting

Last spring, a wild turkey hen incubated her eggs for twenty-eight days. When they hatched, she scrambled to keep up with them. Poults to scientific literature. Babies to her. She didn't need to teach them to scratch for bugs—they came with that instinct. Nighttimes during their first four weeks, ...

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Lesson in Subtext

by

Joy Manné and Karen Barr

Roles

Teacher – Karen Barr

Student – Joy Manné

Teacher

WELCOME TO WEEK 8 OF SUBTEXT.

There is no word count, but the challenge is to get all ten types of subtext in as few words as possible. Here they are:

Show don’t...

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Teenage Escape Plan

by

Danielle Dayney

I woke to warm, gooey air smothering me even though the ceiling fan was spinning on high. Dangling lightpulls smacked and banged the glass globe with each rotation of the blades. The base of the fan swayed and groaned, ready to jump from its screws in the drywall any second.

...

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Miracle Baby

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Harry C. Hobbs

The mother and father watched as the sun rose on a cold morning in February 1945, wondering if their four-month-old son had lived through the night. Could miracles really happen? Perhaps this child they had wanted so badly wanted wasn’t meant to survive. His mother was a month past her...

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Ylva the Úlfr

by

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When I flew to California in September, the golden archipelago summer, verdant below and mazarine above, still held sway. Twenty-three days and eleven thousand two hundred and forty miles later, if you’d sat here with me on the back deck this afternoon--you’d know, too--autumn now envelopes Sweden in...

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Last Cigarette

by

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Under the shaky match’s sulfurous flame, the last Marlboro’s tip blazes brightly, dims and flares.

Broken, quivering...

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Writer's Prayer

by

Margaret Fieland

Bless my paper, bless my pen,
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Unmutable

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

She’s unmutable beauty in life and death.
Endearing spirit, smile warm as sunshine and everlasting.
From birth’s first...

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Spiders Are My Friends

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

From the breeze, I saw the glistening web.
The big, cozy spider stared out at me.
I wonder...

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Serial Killer

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

Hide behind an actor’s mask and prybar;
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Abduct, ...

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Resembled His First Love

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

All victims resembled his x -first love, Stephanie Brooks,
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Phrasical Subordination

by

Margaret Fieland

The main clause of the sentence names the thing you mainly do
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Passing Through

by

Margaret Fieland

Morning sun shimmers through gray clouds,
etches shadows on cracked sidewalk.
Empty beer cans surround broken fire hydrant.
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Library Book Group

by

Brigitte Whiting

I don't believe in Dracula,
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by

Gerardine Baugh

I doubt I am noticed, behind trees, that line of pond, in my front yard.
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Falling in Love

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My mother
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Ever Wonder About Ted Bundy?

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

I wonder how many others are like Ted Bundy.
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Dreamscape

by

Margaret Fieland

Dreams and nightmares roll around,
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Blueberry Jelly

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh

Blueberry jelly
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Dandelions

by

Brigitte Whiting


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TAN RENGA and NÎGUIN: : Japanese poetic forms for two or more writers

by

Carol Neillon Malley, Cynthia Reed and Sharon Ammerman

INTRODUCTION
During the recent MFA314 Japanese Poetic Forms class, WVU students had an opportunity to explore six forms...

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Dump The Core!

by

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A Prose Poem

It is just after ten at night. Michael changes the channel so Captain...

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The Guinea Pig’s Obsession

by

Louise E. Sawyer


I watch Joy munching on her cat grass, head down she gobbles without stopping. Down one row and up the...

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Tomcat Under Nine Antennas

by

Gerardine Baugh

I stretch out over the back of the couch, lounging soft, boneless skin, soft fur stretched so far...

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Words Done Gone

by

F. Michael LaRosa


F. Michael LaRosa wrote this piece for MFA376. He tells us, it is a blues song in prose that laments...

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A Dream: Must Have Been Something I Ate

by

Gerardine Baugh

A pickle meets the side of the barn. Ignoring the rats. With arms like tendrils, it sneaks its way...

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Stormy Weather

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs


Thunder rumbles, stops and starts again when lightning jags across charcoal coloured skies and splitsinto forks. Raindrops dance...

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Frenzy

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs


Norva hosts an open mic musical fundraiser two days after Christmas so that people who are home for Christmas can...

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Summer Solitude

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs

Summer, 4:00 a.m. and I step out onto my deck. An indigo dawn rises over the silvery mist that hides...

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A Prose Poem Is …

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs


To put it in simplest terms a prose poem is made up of sentences and paragraphs. The prose poet depends...

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Death of a Home

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs


The ghosts of yesteryear journey through my mind.

The white frame house stood sixty feet back from the road. ...

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I’m Called Midnight

by

Louise E. Sawyer


Two little guinea pig boys flew out of the hut and ran with joy around the cage. They popcorned, jumping...

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Stargazer

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

 A Poem in Free Verse

Stargazer, Rhode Island Red

So much like me,

Always...

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Eagles in Winter Storm "Stella"

by

Brigitte Whiting

A poem in free verse

Before the nor'easter "Stella" arrives here—

weather warnings have...

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Heads I Win

by

Joy Manné

A Chant in Free Verse

Bathed and blessed, in fine white cotton clad,

to...

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Do you wear shoes? Do they make a sound?

by

Gerardine Baugh

I looked up and saw it.  I would have missed it if I hadn’t looked up when I...

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Wakeful Nights

by

Catherine McArdle

A Sonnet

These midnight doubts have power to kill your peace

and numbing...

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Dragons

by

Judy Beaston

A Cinquain poem

 

 dragons

dance on night walls

swift runners, fire breathers

...

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Milky Way Bonaire

by

Miranda Mulders

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A Dark Welcome

by

Albert Orjuela

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The Big Rock Candy Mountain

by

RJ Hembree

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Fog in the Adirondacks

by

Albert Orjuela

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Smew

by

RJ Hembree

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Roadside Attractions

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Rock Formations at Point Lobos

by

RJ Hembree

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Hot Air in the Hudson Valley

by

Albert Orjuela

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Rock and Roll

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Take a Walk on the Wild Side

by

RJ Hembree

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Got Coffee?

by

Albert Orjuela

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Tracking a Tractor

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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One More for the Road

by

RJ Hembree

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Bella in High Key

by

Albert Orjuela

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Chickory

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Patterns in Nature

by

RJ Hembree

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Blowing Away

by

Albert Orjuela

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Morning Shot Great Blue Heron

by

RJ Hembree

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Close Up

by

RJ Hembree

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Watchful Budha

by

Gevera Bert Piedmont

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When the Killdeer Come to Town

by

RJ Hembree

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Green Heron

by

RJ Hembree

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Light as a Feather

by

Albert Orjuela

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Babysitting

by

RJ Hembree

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Happy Guy Here

by

RJ Hembree

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Bacon!

by

Albert Orjuela

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Ragdoll

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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