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Every year shortly before spring, the Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co. catalog shows up on my doorstep. The cover is plastered with a WARNING label in big black letters informing me that if I don’t order now, this will be my last catalog. It also has coupons: $100 off with an order of $200 or more. Who can’t afford to save $100?

Being the good consumer that I am, I sit down with my catalog and start planning my garden for the summer. Have I ever successfully grown a garden? Nope. Will I be successful this year? Not likely. I start out with good intentions which quickly fade once the precious little seedlings sprout and are crowded out by weeds. Oh sure, the first dandelions pull out easily enough, but then life gets in the way, and by the time I remember to go outside and check the garden, the pesky invaders have turned into full-grown weeds and the precious Gurney’s seeds have all been choked to death. But I can grow a good weed!

I have even gone so far as to start the seedlings in the house weeks before planting them. I follow the instructions and spread the requisite number of seeds per square inch and make sure they have sunshine and warmth. They slowly break free from the soil and reach for the light. I wait until the last frost is past and transplant them outside, where they slowly die off and shrivel away.

Remembering past failures, I move on to the landscaping options in the catalog. Oh, what wonders will I find now? There’s the beautiful Rocketman Russian Sage, and the May Night Salvia guaranteed to lure butterflies and hummingbirds to my front yard. The sage is a “drought-tolerant choice,” which is a good thing, because the odds of me remembering to water them are slim. The Salvia is “very low maintenance” — also a good thing.

Unlike the garden seeds, the landscaping shrubs come as plants, so they are past the seedling stage, which increases the odds of them not dying due to their fragility. I sit down and plan out where I’m going to plant them. I add paving stones and containers to my list, because container plants are all the rage.

My husband walks in and sees me with my diagram and list of items I have to buy to make sure I’m not removed from the Gurney’s catalog mailing list. His eyes open wide when I ask him if we are able to get sand at the local hardware store so we can properly set the paving stones the way the catalog describes.

After being together nearly thirty years, he knows me well enough to slowly back out of the kitchen when I have my planting diagrams spread out over the kitchen table.

I yell at him, “But I have coupons!” He pretends not to hear, and the back-door slams shut as he rushes out of the house.

Oh, I’ll show him. We’ll have the most beautiful yard in the neighborhood, I think to myself.

I imagine the wondrous courtyard I’m going to have. Then I think about the time it’s going to take to dig, mow, weed, water, trim, and maintain. Maybe I need a five-year plan instead of a do- it-all-at-once plan. I look outside at the wintery yard. The wind is howling, and I see the mound of leaves I raked last fall, snow-covered and frozen, forgotten when I moved on to my next project.

Maybe I just need to buy a few containers and place them strategically around the outside of the house so people can ooh and aah at my wonderful green thumb. When I go out to check the mail, I see three containers with plants sitting on my front porch, the dirt frozen solid, dead branches sticking out above the snow.

The Gurney’s catalog gets tossed into the garbage can, along with the coupons and my drawings of where everything will go.

I think about how this little exercise relates to my life in general. I’m the first person to sign up for an empty spot that needs to be filled on the board, or the volunteer position for the organization that desperately needs more help.

I start out with big plans, full of ideas and diagrams. As the newness wears off and the work begins, I lose interest and find other things I need to do that are more important. I slowly let my interest die and the weeds come in and choke out my good intentions.

Perhaps next time I’ll sit back and think about it a little more before I jump in. Just like the endless opportunities to volunteer, the Gurney’s catalog is sure to show up again next spring.

Bio: Penny Devlin is a lifetime member of Writers' Village University where she started working toward her MFA in February of 2019. She has taken many writing classes over the years, including ones in creative nonfiction. She has been published in Village Square.

Mornings, I like to have a Kindle eBook open on the dining room table so I can read and look out into the backyard to see what might be happening. 

I live in a raised ranch with an attached two-car garage. My deck, which is off the kitchen and dining room, is built on the roof of the garage so it's anywhere from five to eight feet above the ground. It's accessible through a patio sliding door and by the exterior stairs. From where I sit at the dining room table, I'm facing east and looking out across the table and over the deck to the birdfeeders and the birdbath, and then outwards through my backyard trees to the horizon and the sky. 

One morning this past January, when the sun didn't rise until after 7:00 a.m. and the ground was covered with snow, I was reading a part in Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction in which he was talking about really paying attention to one's surroundings. He included an exercise to close the book and look carefully at everything around me.

I decided to do the exercise. I closed the cover on the Kindle and looked over my deck to a gray squirrel having breakfast at the green metal birdfeeder, and then beyond it into the winter-bare trees in my backyard where even the pines and spruces seemed nearly as empty as the maples and oaks. The sky was a bank of clouds, a layer of faded-indigo on the horizon, then upwards a flow of lilac-blue clouds, and above those a mound the color of sunlit-cream.

A large black bird flew down from a branch and then straight through the branches to my neighbor's yard. I was wearing my computer glasses and it was far enough away that I wasn't sure whether or not it was a wild turkey. Then another one flew, and a third and a fourth, from different branches in different trees across my backyard, flying first heavily downward, the way I've seen wild turkeys fly before, and then flapping their way through the branches. I started counting them. Twenty. I'd last seen the flock of wild turkeys in my yard a week or so ago and counted twenty-four of them.

Every once in a great while, I've watched the wild turkeys march down my driveway and into the backyard a half hour before sunset, and then fly upwards into the trees, land on a branch, and then hop their way higher and higher until I could no longer see them.

The last time I saw a flock of wild turkeys leaving their nighttime roosts was a winter morning five years ago when I happened to be looking out the window over my kitchen sink at the sunrise. That time, some flew downward to the ground, tripped and caught their balance, and came running toward the back of my garage where they'd find sunflower seeds below the birdfeeders. Others flew from the pines in my neighbor's yard and over her fence. I saw a few lift themselves to fly up to my snow-covered roof where some of them thump-landed, and a few tripped over the edge of the roof and scratched to retrieve their footing.

I hadn't seen this January morning's wild turkeys bedding down the previous night. These started leaving their roosts at ten minutes to eight, and within a few minutes they'd flown over into my neighbor's backyard where I couldn't see them for all my trees. I didn't see them during the day so my yard wasn't on their hunting-for-food rounds this time around.

It was entirely happenstance that I saw the wild turkeys leave their roosts on two different winter mornings. I've found, though, that every dozenth or thousandth time I look into my yard, I'll happen upon a wildlife story.

-=-
The photo looks across the deck into my backyard trees and shows a few wild turkeys on the ground on a February 2020 morning.

Bio: Brigitte Whiting lives in Maine and often uses settings and experiences from her backyard in her writing. She has completed the Nonfiction MFA at WVU and is working toward her MFA Certificate in Fiction. She has been published in Village Square and Literary Yard.

Go to work every day. Do your job. Do it well. Always learning, getting better every day. Soaking in the letters that become words, that lead to success.

Meetings, instructions, to-do lists, directions — the words start to drown like a river of brown muddy water rushing through a gulley. Flash floods brought into the valleys by heavy spring rains. A flash flood of words. Gasping for air, bobbing along on the massive tumble of letters.

It starts as a trickle. Dad has cancer. Terminal. Plans, letters, research. More words. More letters. Finances, doctors, funerals. Burial, estate, inheritance. Even more words.

A period of peace. The flood recedes to a trickle. Breathe. Fresh and precious air. Take a vacation. No worries. All is well.

The words start rolling in again. Mom’s sick. Hospitals. Questions. Doctors. More words. Big words. Cholangiocarcinoma. More directions. More doctors. Again? The words blur. The water muddies. It rises quickly.

Doctors, emergency rooms, hospital beds. Medications. Lots of medications. Lots and lots of words. Pamphlets. Instructions. Directions. Special diets. Chemotherapy.

No more chemo.

Hospice. Rolling beds. Catheters. Doing things you never thought you’d have the strength to do — but you do them anyway. Big words. Lots of letters.

Keep swimming. Head above water. Gasp for air.

Funeral plans. Burial. One step forward, two steps back.

The words and letters are all jumbled. They make no sense. Can’t breathe. Gasping for breath. The words are all gone now. Just a blur. A pile of jumbled words…a heap of letters.

Slowly, learn to breathe again. The letters unjumble and start to make words. The muddy waters dissipate. The green grass slowly starts peeking through the mud. The letters make sense. The words form sentences.

It’s time to rebuild. To enjoy the fresh air. The clean water. Read the books. Learn the words. Move on. It’s time.

Bio: Penny Devlin is a longtime member of WVU where she is working toward her MFA in nonfiction. As a passionate reader, she has an overactive imagination and the ability to daydream her way through any situation.

A book club I’m part of recently discussed The Ruins by Scott Smith. It’s not a book I would have finished reading based on the first 50 pages, but sticking with it afforded me insight into what a narrative voice can do. The story is about a group of young tourists who venture into an off-map area of an archeological dig in Mexico. They find themselves trapped, unable to move on because of guardsmen on horseback threatening them with arrows if they move down the path or retreat back. They are stuck there. Their problems increase when the vines around them gradually take on characteristics of mandrakes, drinking their bodily fluids and eventually speaking in human voices.

At no point was I personally afraid during the reading of this book, yet this is a good specimen of contemporary horror. Here are some qualities of the book which I laud in the horror genre:
•    A slow burn.
•    Misfortune meted out in proportion to vice and stupidity, and the age-old warning that sacred spaces should not be disturbed.
•    An antagonist who does not communicate. This is extremely difficult to pull off, and arguably The Ruins does not pull it off, but think of the great horror villains who don’t speak: Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and the alien invaders from Independence Day.
•    A progression of the enemy’s power which increases exponentially. At first the vines seem to move toward things, then they laugh, then they speak, and then and then! This offers an incline of tension which is dastardly fun to take part in.
Though the elements of good horror are here, something is missing, something that could have been awesome: the use of Negative Space.

Negative Space
This is a term I’m working on applying to writing, not just visual art. It’s the space between objects, or in written stories, it’s the space between events which can be underlined by the setting. In horror, negative space is where tension blooms, the pacing between action beats where the reader is given a chance to feel afraid.

To illustrate, on the morning of September 11, 2001 I was on a highway in Connecticut. I was driving to New York City when the first plane struck the World Trade Center. The news report on the radio said so. Here’s a rundown of the facts and my acceptance of them:
1.    First tower struck.
2.    That’s bad. I hope no one got hurt. People in The City tend to begin the workday late, and they stay late into the night with their Yankee work ethic. But what about the custodians?
3.    Second tower struck.
4.    My mind is stalling, like a car trying to get up a snowy hill in winter.
5.    How could this happen?
6.    What does it mean?
7.    This must be an act of war. On my country and my faith.

There is more to the story: my inability to place a phone call, the abject lack of information on the radio, the sheer not-knowing of the situation that increased with every minute.

The horror didn’t hit me at first, and the experience was made worse by my lack of access to a TV. We live in a time when we need to see video footage to prove something happened. Without it, acceptance of the truth becomes all the more challenging. Note that I chose to be naïve at the first tower’s hit. I tried to convince myself that no one had been hurt, eventually coming around to the probability that only a few had been hurt, all the while attempting to mitigate a new reality I couldn’t accept. I carried that mitigation through the entire day. The real problem was with the second tower strike. Something beyond my understanding of the world was happening. I had decided to say a prayer with the first strike, but I could delay it until I was off the road and in a private space. But the immediacy of the second strike increased the urgency of my need to pray.

Point 4 is where negative space fills my recollection of the story. This is where horror grew. I had just been reading about Mother Mary as the patron of the Americas, and the fact that no international war had devastated the land under her protection (with the exception of Hawaii, a geographically separate land). Faced with new data filling my head, everything turned upside down, and I couldn’t make sense of it.

This negative space occupies our lives any time we’re presented with loss. The death of a loved one, or even a romantic break-up. There’s always that moment when you cannot accept it. Narrative conventions require that characters must be given a trigger to come to a new idea, but in reality, this suspended time requires no trigger — realization simply coalesces. Fiction is not reportage in the sense of recording how things happen; fiction distills and inserts auxiliary untruths in order to convey meaning. If I told this story as outlined above, it would not capture its meaning. Sometimes neophyte writers design poorly written plots where characters make decisions out of the blue because they wish to show how things happen in the Real World, but fiction is about crafting secondary worlds that tell stories better than any Real-World accounting ever could.

The problem with The Ruins, and this is no strike against the author since the composition itself is flawless, is how the progression of the vine’s abilities are laid out deductively, instead of inductively. There is no final surprise, because the progression of the vines’ abilities is patterned in a predictable way. This is a double-edged sword, really, because the best stories give away their endings from the start. Horror requires some surprises, and The Ruins does not deliver many.

So how can writers address or use this negative space?

There are a few ways. First, we can broaden the pacing in order to give the readers a chance to comprehend the situation. This is like the pause after a comedian’s joke to let it add up in the minds of the audience. This is not to say we should add fluff in these spaces, but it is a good point to let the characters reflect or notice other things about their surroundings (things which relate directly to the ending of the story).

Second, we can draw out the moment between epiphanies to examine physiological changes in the characters. Are they breathing? Are they doing something mindless and dangerous?

Third, we can consider what must happen next in order to shift into the correct gear to move forward. One of the things The Ruins avoids is explaining plans, almost to the point that the whole narrative feels like a dream. Instead of a discussion on what to do next, there are arguments on what can be done followed by personal discord, followed by someone taking action without offering a reason. I found myself going back to see where I missed transitions, but I didn’t miss anything. There are no transitions, which gives the story a dreamlike quality aiming to be a nightmare.

The unseen negative space
We don’t notice when a headache goes away.
One of the most interesting techniques of The Ruins is its complete lack of scientific explanation for how the vines are able to make sounds. It’s something the reader simply accepts. I didn’t notice that I hadn’t noticed it until the vines took on more sophisticated abilities to produce sound. This is brilliantly done. Things are scary when the unknown is unknowable. This is also why ageless philosophical questions are so stimulating. Contemplating fractals or infinity can thrust us into a suspended moment of negative space, entranced by our inability to understand.

Praxis
An Exercise in Negative Spacing
Recall a specific moment when evidence was presented to you that shifted the way you operate in the world.
1.    Make a list of your discursive thoughts, and be as granular as possible. How did one thought lead to the next? Where did you stall? What notions did you dismiss and why? What was your emotional response to each fragmented thought?
2.    Go over the list and number it if it’s out of chronological order.
3.    Circle the moment of stalling, and the most impactful keywords surrounding it in the rest of the list.
4.    Reflect on the conclusion you drew, and how it changed you. Write out what you glean from it.

Bonus exercise for writers: grab your current work-in-progress.  Identify the turning points and reflect on the Negative Spaces between them.  Can they be expanded?  Are they too expansive in relation to the overall pacing?  Are they there at all?

Negative Space is essential for presenting a complete piece of fiction.  It pulls the mind away from the surface and allows readers to digest the story.  Just as the eye is transported across a canvas via negative space, so too can readers move through turning points with the vehicle of literary negative space.

Bio: Sarah Yasin is a writing workshop leader and retreat facilitator in the state of Maine.  She has pieces in various literary journals, including Lydwine Journal, Glass, and the Mad Scientist Journal. Visit her author page at Amazon.


On our homeschool adventure today, we dreamed aloud of the places we would travel to if we could. My kids and I agree: Ireland and Scotland are our top two places to visit. We played music from Spotify and sang aloud to the merry tunes of the Irish.

That somehow led us to talking about other places to travel to, and Canada came into the conversation. Memories flooded in of the summer after my eighth-grade year when my daddy loaded us up and we took a road trip. Yep, from our tiny town of Maxton, North Carolina.

That summer we drove all the way to Canada, listening to Marty Robbins the whole way.

I know every single lyric to “El Paso,” and will sing along with the best of ‘em.

“Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl.”

Daddy had no plans. We had no hotel reservations because he wanted to ride like the wind. That made it really difficult when we rolled into town at the same time of the Dental Convention — yes, teeth. Dentists must have these meetings. I am witness. We just had his atlas and the greatest hits of Marty Robbins, an aggravating brother who complained at every stop, and me with my books piled at my feet on the floorboard.

When we made it to Canada, we stayed a whole of three hours. Yes, this is a true story. I do write fiction, but this, my friends, is real. My daddy was frustrated when he discovered everyone around us was speaking French.

I can clearly see us walking around in a shiny, underground mall that I honestly thought looked like something from a sci-fi world. The clothes on the mannequins didn’t look like my yard sale finds. My daddy quickly realized we were out of place, and we made our way back to the surface.

As we walked down the street back to the car, he gave me just a few minutes to run into a small used bookstore that seemed as if it were planted on that very street just for me to walk into. A few minutes later, out I walked with a gently used copy of The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I think by this point my mom must have been so frazzled she didn’t even question my book choice.

That trip holds a lot of memories for me. Like accidentally cracking my mom’s nose while we slept. The Hell’s Angels at the Motel 6. Stopping in New York only to eat at a Western Sizzler when there were so many wonderful city foods to try! Salt-and-pepper shaker stops in each state to finish up my momma’s collection. And through all the memories, this one hit me today — to tell my children about how I carried away a book I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to read at age twelve otherwise. Thank you, Canada, and all those 1980s French-speaking people. My love of horror was born.

Now, when my kids play Red Dead on their gaming system, they know “El Paso.” They travel along dirt paths, riding horses on a screen. I know the good ol’ days spent in a gray classic Caprice, windows rolled down, and “One night a wild young cowboy came in,” and then I turn back around again to ride the roads home.

Bio: Jen Lowry is a Literacy Coach and English teacher in North Carolina. She has published eleven books and is a podcaster. She helps other authors pursue their publishing goals. Jen loves her blended family of seven, UFC, and pajamas. Author website: jenlowrywrites.com

My Car, My Friend

by

Leona Pence

Tony Spencer applied the first coat of wax to his prized possession, a 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix. Oh, sure, it had flaws, like a smashed door and a dragging muffler, but the interior was a beaut. It had bright-red bucket seats with a gleaming silver gear mount between...

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Brother Bastion

by

Linda Murray

The rain that had pelted the high mountain jungle all morning stopped abruptly, and the sun gradually dissolved the lingering clouds. Insects hummed again, birds burst forth in joyous song and flowers lifted their dripping heads, spreading their petals wide to receive the sun’s bright blessing. The People, ...

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Standard Police Report

by

Frank Richards

Standard Police Report - Inventory of Possessions - Portbou, Catalonia, Republic of Spain

27 Sep. 1940

Location: Hotel De Francia


Noted contents of subject’s hotel room as follows:


- a large steamer trunk containing books in various foreign languages, for example, Les Fleurs du mal, ...

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Starburst

by

Brigitte Whiting

We sat, you and I, alongside the lake, watching the sky spread above us in an immense starburst, the Milky Way threaded through its center, seeming to beckon us to follow it.

"A reverse inkblot," you said.

I thought, no, no, nothing as mundane as that, but all...

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There Are No More Pets in My House

by

Enza Vynn-Cara

 

There is death in my house.

“It's gone to a better place,” she says. "Now flush it down the toilet and wash your hands. Breakfast is ready."

Like that, she cans Juju, our goldfish. She did the same with Didi, Ma’s parrot, ...

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Revenge of the Fishy

by

Leona Pence & Tom Whitehead

 

 

 

Tom Whitehead: (In the deep husky Marlboro movie guys voice) HEEEEEEEEEEEER FISHY, FISHY, FISHY!

It was an early Saturday morning. He thought it was just another day of fishing, then all of a sudden out of nowhere he...

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Temp-Tation

by

Leona Pence

 

 

David Porter watched his wife and two sons as they played on the monkey bars at the park. He smiled in contentment as peals of laughter rang out. Two short weeks ago, he’d been in danger of losing his family.

...

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Free Range Souls

by

Enza Vynn-Cara

Samael and Malachi, two brothers working for different bosses, sit on the fence dangling their booted feet each on their side of the divide. One pair of boots is caked in white droppings; the other scrubbed clean. It’s like a dare. Trespassing? Not quite. ...

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Einaudi

by

Luann Lewis



An elderly woman shuffled up the sidewalk and took a seat on the bench across the way from me. I watched her slow steps and noticed her feet stuck in matted slippers and her swollen discolored ankles. Breathing a sigh of relief, I felt grateful...

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Campfire

by

Brigitte Whiting


We sat around a campfire in the backyard that evening, our parents and us four kids, aged four to fifteen. Dan, the oldest at nineteen, was in the Army serving somewhere that Mother didn't want to tell us. "You don't need to worry," she said. "I'll...

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Jack and the Beanstalk

by

Albert Orjuela

The global wealth distribution has been heavily off balance, the scales of capitalism have plunged so far into disproportion they will fall before they will be fair again.  Jack and his widowed mother have economically crammed a century of mourning into an egregious year but failed...

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Lost and Found

by

Brigitte Whiting

Smelled: a gamey odor downstairs in the basement. Searched for its source but couldn’t find it.

Found: one dead mouse with reddish-brown legs and a white underbelly in the basement bathroom. A deer mouse. Picked it up with tongs, took it outdoors, and tossed...

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One Hundred Yards

by

McCord Chapman

 

 

A deep sigh came just as Jason was pulling off the highway onto Route 11. He was close and could feel his back tingling as if his whole spine had suddenly fallen asleep. This happened every time he headed into a small town, no...

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Yearning - F2k WINNER!

by

Noel



Trish pushed her hair to the side to show off her sparkling diamond earrings. “Alvin just got these for me. I didn’t even have to drop a hint.”

Heather leaned forward for a better look. “Oh Trish, they’re beautiful. And LuAnn, did I see you drive up in a new...

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Flamenco

by

Cedar White

We’re late, of course. Won last-minute tickets to a concert at the Greek, the Gipsy Kings, but now parking is impossible. Ten years of driving in LA and the traffic makes me want to move to, I don’t know, Kansas. Then my date points to a...

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Marbles

by

Brigitte Whiting

 I had plans for that summer and everything changed because of the marbles. But I’m way ahead of myself.

My brothers, Jeff and Mick, hung around Farmer Tom’s place, feeding chickens and riding on the tractor with him, watching while he milked his yellow cow, Bess. I’d...

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Ruler of the House

by

Luann Lewis

We never should have bought this old house.  We sunk all our savings into it plus we took on a mortgage so huge that at this point I would have to pay out money just to get rid of the place.

 

I hate the sounds...

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Abe, the Teenage Hypnotist from Planet Garfunkel

by

Albert Orjuela

You’re hearing a voice, but no one else hears a sound. It’s a deep distant whisper, soft, safe, and inviting: the words of which you can’t yet make out. The harder you listen, the softer it gets; softer and softer, deeper and deeper. The more you listen to it here, ...

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A Night in Fontana

by

TJ Marshall

Brody Carlisle halted his horse on the crest of a shrub-covered hill, slapped his Stetson twice sending dust floating skyward, and after placing it back on his head, coaxed a swallow from his canteen.

To the west, the sun slid behind a scattering of tall pillar-like plateaus. Their...

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Full

by

Luann Lewis

Food. Globes of mashed potatoes glistening with a thin layer of gravy, plump slices of pie gushing with ruby red cherries–food wassensuous. It was sensuous before Abby even knew the meaning of the word.  Sparkling Christmas goodies enticed her as a child. She would sneak from her...

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The Decision

by

Brigitte Whiting

Stan stood on the sand, crumpled by how many people and birds running and sliding into it today. Now, it was getting dark, the last of the purple, streaky clouds turning black against a pale, gray sky.

Go or stay, just two choices.

He reached down...

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Swiftwater

by

Cedar White

10

Amos stood on a thick, muscular knoll on the shoulder of a dark river. He shivered, soaking wet from his silver hair to his leather shoes, and stared, disoriented, at the pines across the river. They seemed to stand with their backs to him. Amos felt...

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Minerva Shield

by

Frank Richards

In July the monsoon rains returned and with them came the little green frogs. Price Aurigena had first seen them in the summer of 1969 when he’d arrived in Korea and now, a year later, they were once again everywhere. Frogs sprang from the ground like exploding popcorn...

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Seinfeld Moment

by

Frank Richards

I have studied martial arts all my life: Karate, Judo, Kenpo Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, and Hsing-I, but as I've gotten older, I pretty much stick to Tai Chi. I used to study Tai Chi at a park in Washington, D.C. called Glen Echo Park. It's an old...

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Wedding Portrait – Life Portrait

by

Glennis Hobbs

July 20, 1942


Escorted by her eldest brother Neil, Annabell walks across the front lawn to meet Bill. her groom. She is dressed in a long gown of pink net overlying pink point d’esprit. A bandeau of artificial roses secures her pink net veil. She also...

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A River of Words

by

Penny Devlin

Go to work every day. Do your job. Do it well. Always learning, getting better every day. Soaking in the letters that become words, that lead to success.

Meetings, instructions, to-do lists, directions — the words start to drown like a river of brown muddy water rushing through...

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Canada, Marty, and The Exorcist

by

Jen Lowry

On our homeschool adventure today, we dreamed aloud of the places we would travel to if we could. My kids and I agree: Ireland and Scotland are our top two places to visit. We played music from Spotify and sang aloud to the merry tunes of the Irish.

...

Read more: Canada, Marty, and The Exorcist

 

 

 

Monarch Butterflies

by

Brigitte Whiting

I had no idea what milkweed looked like because I'd never seen it, but I'd always wanted it to grow in my yard so I could see the monarch butterflies.


For the longest time, I've hoped the patch of wonderfully fragrant plants with pale purple flowers growing...

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A Monarch Chrysalis

by

Brigitte Whiting

The monarch caterpillar couldn't decide where to turn itself into a chrysalis. He wandered across my front stoop so many times I was afraid I'd step on it so I stopped using the front door. One time, he'd be crawling up a post of the front railing. Another...

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Truth

by

Angela Hess

I am twisted, bent, and deformed on every side. Everyone trying to use me to serve their own purposes, to justify their own beliefs and actions. Their eyes constantly sliding away from my pure, unaltered form, too brilliant and painful to behold without their chosen filters to dim...

Read more: Truth

 

 

 

The Goldfinch

by

Brigitte Whiting

On a Monday afternoon, I carried a bucket of water outdoors to refill the birdbath. A male goldfinch jumped down from the bath’s rim, and hopped away as quickly as he could to creep beneath a nearby spruce branch. I thought how odd he was...

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Of Heroes and Holiness

by

Angela Hess

What does a hero look like?

 

George Bailey is a hero.

 

George Bailey dreamed of traveling the world.

 

George Bailey gave up his dreams to care for his family and community.

 

Rudy left his family...

Read more: Of Heroes and Holiness

 

 

 

My Desk

by

Luann Lewis

Another rejection letter and I feel like a loser. Yeah, I know, I’m not trying to make a living doing this. I even claim to be “writing for myself.” Butwe all want validation and, let’s face it, us writers want readers. So here I sit, ...

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My Mobile Space

by

Janet Harvey

 

In June, I will expect to find my special place in Townsville, Queensland. Last year it was in Darwin, Northern Territory, and today my place is in Hobart, Tasmania.

 

 

We live in a truck, a 2004 Isuzu 350NPR turbo automatic...

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A Red Squirrel's Narrative

by

Brigitte Whiting

This past summer and fall upturned me. The birdfeeder, usually so generous, abdicated her job, and I had to scrounge for food during the long wet season. My mother told me it was unusual to have such a rainy August and October. She would know. I was born...

Read more: A Red Squirrel's Narrative

 

 

 

Talk-Back, Dear Lia, on FnF

by

Joy Manné

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.

This Talk-Back is a response to the exercise in Lia Purpura’s chapter, ‘On Miniatures,’ (Flas...

Read more: Talk-Back, Dear Lia, on FnF

 

 

 

Reunion

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

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

 

The last time I hung out with my Uncle Dan is when I dragged him to Gatorland to do something touristic. ...

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A Fear of Broken Things

by

Angela Hess

“Does he look at you?”

 

My cousin’s innocent question triggers a flashing red warning light in my brain. My baby doesn’t look at me. I assumed he was too young still, but my cousin’s baby is only four days older than mine, and they are...

Read more: A Fear of Broken Things

 

 

 

Wild Roses Growing in the Ditch

by

Louise E. Sawyer


It is a joy to hold a lovely scene, a delightful moment, in memory.
~Marjolein Bastin

Frank was four and I was five and getting ready to start school when Dad and Mom moved us into a new house on Glasgow Avenue—a three-bedroom home that wasn't quite finished—in...

Read more: Wild Roses Growing in the Ditch

 

 

 

Hazardous Happenings

by

Albert Orjuela

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

by

Carolann Malley


Sending your writing out into the world can be scary whether you write poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. But, at some point, if you are a serious writer, you will do it. Getting a rejection letter back can be more devastating than asking a girl out as a teenager and...

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Backyard Neighbors

by

Brigitte Whiting


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

by

Angela Hess


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

by

Angela Hess

  I can hear my parents’ raised voices upstairs. They are fighting again. I turn on the sink faucet, letting the sound of the running water drown out their voices. I thrust my hands in the nearly scalding hot water and methodically scrub each dish in the sink...

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An Apology

by

Brigitte Whiting

   I'm sorry that I hadn't thought of how I would take care of a puppy. It had seemed like a good idea, accept the gift of a puppy from acquaintances. She had the coloring of a coyote and was named Brindle for those tawny markings. I'd...

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Baby Precious

by

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

by

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.

It was Christmas Eve 1944 at the two-story white house on Beechwood Drive-my Grannie’s house in Victoria, the capital city of British Colombia on Vancouver Island. Grannie Price, my...

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Gathering: A Contemplative Essay

by

Brigitte Whiting

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...

Read more: Gathering: A Contemplative Essay

 

 

 

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.

...

Read more: Teenage Escape Plan

 

 

 

Misinformation

by

Glenda (Glennis) Walker-Hobbs

it is a well-believed misconception
the only true poetry
is that which rhymes

the would-be poet seizes upon
...

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Invisible Presence

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh

He sat on the wooden bench directly outside the closed down Ace Hardware, across the street from...

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Summer Rain

by

Heather Lander

I’m wishing for the sound of rain upon the roof and down the glass
A rhythm from the...

Read more: Summer Rain

 

 

 

The Unborn

by

Sunbeams

Nature's Ballet........................
Seeds...... floating on a gentle breeze,
Some soared towards the blue sky, out of sight.
Some...

Read more: The Unborn

 

 

 

Death of My Dog

by

Sunbeams

Come lay with me,
the fire is beckoning.
Come feel its warmth and hear its sound.
Come lay...

Read more: Death of My Dog

 

 

 

Portrait of a Starving Cat

by

Glenda (Glennis) Walker-Hobbs

she disdains ordinary cat chow,
pesters humans for their food

she paws at the cookie tin,
flips the...

Read more: Portrait of a Starving Cat

 

 

 

I Remember

by

Glenda (Glennis) Walker-Hobbs

the bewilderment,
in the hollows of his eyes
shadows of the man
he used to be

I remember
...

Read more: I Remember

 

 

 

Inukshuk

by

Glenda (Glennis) Walker-Hobbs

what is this mysterious
stack of stones? a Shinto shrine?
a stone stick man designed by a child...

Read more: Inukshuk

 

 

 

I'm a Poet

by

Louise E. Sawyer

I’m a poet with a propensity
to write three morning pages,
observing my pen as it gallops
across...

Read more: I'm a Poet

 

 

 

It’s Not Easy Being Blue

by

Glenda (Glennis) Walker-Hobbs

my moods are ever changing
shades of blue
like my friends
the sea and sky

mornings after sleepless...

Read more: It’s Not Easy Being Blue

 

 

 

Animal Companions

by

Louise E. Sawyer

Neuron, my animal companion, bonded
to me, but when I brought Little Joy home,
Neuron became Little Joy’s...

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The Green Hay Pile

by

Louise E. Sawyer

mornings depend
upon

the green hay
pile

owned by cream cavy
Cocoa

beside black brother
Midnight

Photo was...

Read more: The Green Hay Pile

 

 

 

Thank You, My Tech Friend

by

Louise E. Sawyer




Thank you, my tech friend,
pretty with back dressed in rose gold
practical with front framed...

Read more: Thank You, My Tech Friend

 

 

 

What Is Not Said

by

Enza Vynn-Cara




Why do you speak and say nothing?
Say everything when you’re silent?
Am I to...

Read more: What Is Not Said

 

 

 

Ups and Downs

by

Enza Vynn-Cara




Up there
inside the tower
with the air filters on the roof
you watch the...

Read more: Ups and Downs

 

 

 

Telemarketers

by

Glenda (Glennis) Walker-Hobbs





those evil scourges of civilization
call morning, noon and night,
harass me every day
...

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Oceanography

by

Wynelda Ann Deaver





Ocean holds secrets close. Millions, trillion, gazillions of droplets mixed with millions, trillions and...

Read more: Oceanography

 

 

 

Mystery Man

by

Leona Pence



I once met a man from a far distant land, so handsome and charming...

Read more: Mystery Man

 

 

 

Minotaur

by

Joy Manné

 

Two children, girl and boy,

progeny of servants of King Minos,

...

Read more: Minotaur

 

 

 

Lullaby for a Lost Child

by

Glenda (Glennis) Walker-Hobbs




I

I feel you kick under my heart,
soon my special angel child,
I...

Read more: Lullaby for a Lost Child

 

 

 

Look Up

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh





Stand back and look up. Do you see it? Do you?
Alice's rabbit checking...

Read more: Look Up

 

 

 

I'll be a Poet

by

Glenda (Glennis) Walker-Hobbs





I’ll take my pen in hand

crystallize thoughts into ideas
paint magic with...

Read more: I'll be a Poet

 

 

 

Give Me The Wings Of An Angel

by

Leona Pence





Give me the wings of an angel
To lift me above worldly things
Give...

Read more: Give Me The Wings Of An Angel

 

 

 

Flashing Lights

by

Leona Pence




(My songwriting attempt)


I want to see all the lights upon a flashing...

Read more: Flashing Lights

 

 

 

Eidolon’s Wind Chimes

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh





I miss our disagreements, laughter and silent times.

Memories of listening to your...

Read more: Eidolon’s Wind Chimes

 

 

 

Don’t Piss Off (or on) a Yard Gnome

by

Leona Pence

Prose poem: This one was inspired by the poet’s dogs, Jax and Luna.


I cringed...

Read more: Don’t Piss Off (or on) a Yard Gnome

 

 

 

Do You Remember, AJ?

by

Glenda (Glennis) Walker-Hobbs





June 30, 1967, we met on Parliament Hill,
listened to the Centennial music gala,
...

Read more: Do You Remember, AJ?

 

 

 

Deacon Knox Young is Turning One!

by

Leona Pence



 

Everybody’s gonna have some fun.
Aunt Peggy, Uncle Kris, Sydney...

Read more: Deacon Knox Young is Turning One!

 

 

 

Daddy Dearest

by

Enza Vynn-Cara




Today, I saw you for the first time, without disguise, nestled in the corner where...

Read more: Daddy Dearest

 

 

 

Get Out the Penitentiary

by

Albert Orejuela

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Tulips or Three?

by

Albert Orjuela

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Rock and Roll

by

Albert Orjuela

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Garden of Hearts

by

Albert Orjuela

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Evil Eye-pad

by

Albert Orjuela

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Portrait of Solitude

by

Albert Orejuela

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Break Time

by

RJ Hembree

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Colors

by

Maggie Fieland

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Wild Horses with the Snow Covered Mountains

by

RJ Hembree

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Color Cubes

by

Maggie Fieland

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Rest

by

Albert Orjuela

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Camera Smile

by

RJ Hembree

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To Relax Wild Horses Before a Photo Shoot, I Find it Helpful to Tell a Couple of Jokes

by

RJ Hembree

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First Step

by

Karen Barr

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Orchid Alone

by

Albert Orjuela

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Veg 2

by

Maggie Fieland

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All Along the Watchtower

by

RJ Hembree

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Ham

by

Karen Barr

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Winter

by

Maggie Fieland

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Backlit Great White Egret

by

RJ Hembree

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White Lightning

by

Karen Barr

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Wild Horses

by

RJ Hembree

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Cow Gossip

by

Karen Barr

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Cooper's Town

by

Albert Orjuela

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