More Than Meets the Eye


WRITING PROMPT: Write a story or poem that includes all three of these elements: a new job, an enemy, and a secret room.

There were simply no jobs available. I had applied everywhere. Walmart, Target, FoodLion. I had even put in applications to Hardee’s and McDonald’s. I needed summer money and I didn’t care where I had to work to get it.

Being just a junior in high school had its limitations on what kind of job you can pursue in the suburbs. My country cousins all have jobs mowing lawns or are working on a neighboring farm with cattle or hay in the fields. Here in the suburbs, the lawns are cared for by specialists. Even the pets have unionized pet-walkers.

This was my third day here at Aunt Harriet’s- it was her turn to keep me for the summer- and it felt as if I would be trapped in this small, basement apartment for the entire summer. Don’t get me wrong. Aunt Harriet is wonderful (for a spunky, 75-year-old aunt who stays up to write half of the night, sleeps half of the day, and putters around in her immense backyard with her garden the remainder of the time).

And I understood why my parents wanted me to ‘experience other places’ before I went away to college- They put it… “to get in touch with living on my own.”

But it felt as if the world was out to get me. The entire summer: no friends… no car… no pocket money. Thanks’ Mom and Dad; this is going to be a great experience.


That was Aunt Harriet. That is how she always enters my room.

“Are you ready to start this morning or do you want to walk around and see the town one more day?”

“Start what?”

“Your summer job. Didn’t your folks explain why I needed you here so badly this summer?”

“Aunt Harriet, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“My gardens. This is the year I have planned to thin them all and pot the plantings for reselling. The Newburg Gardening Society will be here in three weeks and we have to have the entire garden thinned, all the differing specimens correctly labeled, and my entire gardens redesigned and mulched. The proceeds from my prized specimens are going to be donated to the local United Way.”

“I don’t know anything about gardening.”

“Oh, you don’t have to… I’ll teach you. Right now I just need your muscles and sweat. I can’t get around for as long a periods as I used to.”

“Sure, Aunt Harriet. If that is all you need… My sweat is for sale.”

“Great! Start getting the tools out of the old shed in the back of my lawn. Here’s a list of what you need.”

“Aunty, you didn’t have to provide pictures to match.” I chuckled as I looked at the intricate, yet child-like, drawings.

“Well, you are the one that said you knew nothing. I take no chances.”

Walking through the gardens to get to the work shed, I was amazed at the variety of plants surrounding me. Everything was immaculately groomed, but in such a carefree manner. I could not see a single sprout of a weed rearing its ugly head. Keeping this garden in this impeccable a manner was a great deal of work. To maintain this garden, Aunt Harriet got around a whole lot better than she claimed, I was sure.

Releasing the deadbolt from the door to the workshop, I found the light switch at the side and I began to locate all the tools that Aunty requested. I placed them, one at a time, in her huge red wheelbarrow- just like in her drawing.

Her garden shed was as carefully and efficiently organized as her gardens. Everything was in its rightful place. The small tools were all hanging over the workbenches to the right. The larger tools were positioned on the wall to the left. And the stacks of soils and accruemental nutrients needed to supplement her soil were positioned in the back.

Being a bit of a science geek, I walked over to all the supplements just to see what Aunty was using to facilitate the growth in this fabulous garden. Four bags of Scott’s Turf-Builder, an entire stack of Miracle-Gro Soils, one stack containing only bags of lime with bags of peat moss stacked atop, four bags of vermiculite and four bags of gypsum. The last stack, on the far left. was made up of something called Extreme Nature’s Soil Supplements. Aunty had quite a collection of chemically-infused nutrients for her soil. Good thing that I knew she was just an old-lady gardener.

Just as I was turning to leave, I noticed a light shining from beyond the back wall. I would have assumed it was just a small crack in a fissure of the wall, but the emitting light was pulsating like a blue strobe.

Stepping closer to get my eye at the fissure in the wall I heard another “Ah-hum… Ah-hum…”

It was Aunty. “Well, it certainly didn’t take you long to find my secrets.”

She was smiling… I think.

“Guess it would have helped if I had turned off the receivers last night.”

Aunt Harriet slide her arm around me- pushing me behind her. She stoically walked to the fissure, pressed three times and a door suddenly opened.

“Aunty…” was all I could say.

There were hundreds of small lights- a multitudes of colors blinking everywhere along the desks and shelves of the back wall. As I turned, the wall to my left was an enclosed armory: boxes and boxes of shells along the lower shelves, a row of semi-automatic weapons lined to center encasement, and a multitude of pistols – all shapes and sizes- were delicately affixed to the wall in clear, holding compartments.

“Sit down, Alfred,” Aunty said pointing to a small, circular conference area of comfortable-looking, cushioned chairs on the right.  “I think it is time we talked.”

I sat.

NOTE: I might use this one as a first writing assignment from which to bounce ideas for the opening of school?

Written for Creative Writing Now: Be a Writer Now class

Whistler’s Mother by James McNeill Whistler

Just to Wettin’ Your Whistle(er)

The A-Z Blogging Challenge: 2015

The smells were magnificence. Gran-mama had baked Dad’s favorite cookies this afternoon and the kitchen was still radiant with the aromas from the warm cinnamon-spice cookies cooling on the racks at the far end of the kitchen counter.

Holiday visits with Gran-mama were the best. There was always something afoot in the kitchen. And Papa was always busy with the animals that they still nursed on their small farmette.

Even though Gran-mama and Papa were in their early seventies, life for them had not changed that much, Instead of the ‘home on the range’ that Dad loved telling us about when the family were swapping stories, Gran-mama and Papa lived on a self-sufficient six-acre farmette. Papa said that he would rather die than give up his chickens his cow and his Farmall. And that was probably true.

“Mandy, you get the wet ingredients out of the icebox. Andy, check in the pantry and get all the dry ones.”

“The top shelf, Andy. Grab that large glass bowl. Mandy, get my spatula from the drainer and dry it good.”

Gran-mama controlled her kitchen help as a captain commanded his ship. She was in her element here. The only thing that made Gran-mama happier than cookin’ was “cookin’ with the young’ns”… That was what she would always tell Mom when Mom would complain about the messes we would sometimes make while we were helping Gran-mama.

“Don’t be askin’ me how much. What do you think a recipe’s for.”

It was great at Gran-mama’s. We got to do all the work. She liked givin’ the orders. Even the one day that Andy tilted the flour mixture too far off the edge of the table and he was covered in cookie mix, and so was the kitchen, Gran-mama just laughed and laughed. Then she order us around… explaining how to clean up this cotton-pickin’ mess.

Soon the cookie mix was ready “to sit and collect its thoughts”. That’s what Gran-mama called it. The dough had to be kept in the refrigerator for one hour before we could continue with the cookies.

“Time to go help, Papa.”

Papa was out finishing the feeding of the chickens, collecting the evening eggs, and milking Betsy. Betsy was Papa’s pride and joy. She was a beautiful two-year-old, caramel-colored Jersey. She loved being rubbed, and if you weren’t careful as you were petting her, she would give you an ear-full of slime. Thanks for a great rubbing.

“You want to do the milkin’ today, Andy?” Papa asked. I knew that he would never ask me.  The last time I tried to milk Betsy, she stepped on me. I have been afraid to sit under her to milk since then.

Papa said I needed to get over it.. But Gran-mama sided with me. “When is that girl ever going to have to milk a cow nowadays? Use some sense, Alfred.”

Gran-mama expected obedience in the barn from Papa just like In her kitchen. Gran-mama would have made a great war general!

“Use that warm towel in the sink there. Clean her udder good, son.”

“I know, Papa.”

Andy would have never sassed Gran-mama like that. I heard a disgruntled huff from behind me. So did Andy. He went silent and decided to just obey.

After cleaning the udder, arranging the stainless steel bucket, and the three obligatory test squirts, Andy set off to work. Betsy appreciated the relief she felt from the evening’s milking. She stood calmly and munched her grains while Andy completed his tasks.

Carrying the bucket into the kitchen to the sink, was Andy’s job. I helped Andy strain the fresh milk into Gran-mama’s gallon pickle jars. She always keeps two chilled pickle jars just waiting to be filled on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.

We carefully strained the milk using a coffee-filter and a large funnel. You don’t ever want to find floaters in your freshly chilled milk!

Finally the best part of making peanut butter cookies had arrived. It was time for the spoons and forks parade. Andy commandeered the spoon and placed dollop-sized balls of dough evenly spaced on the cookie sheets. I got to use to fork and press in crisscrossing railroad tracks unto each cookie. Gran-mama placed the trays into the preheated oven. In nine more minutes… paradise.

Man-o-man. There’s nothing better than a trip to Gran-mama’s for warm cookies and ice cold milk.

Author Note: My apologies for the title of this piece. I just could not resist.

*** Also, my original intention for the letter “H” had been Heath Care Worker… Once the flash fiction piece started coming to life… it ended up being a story about a fully-in-charge homemaker.

Written for The A-Z Blogging Challenge: 2015. Requirements: Each day during the month of April a new blog is written based on a consecutive letters of the alphabet. The theme of my challenge is Alternative Aspirations for Picasso. 

“A” Is for an Astronomer: Alternative Aspirations for Picasso The Starr Night Vincent van Gogh
The Starr Night
Vincent van Gogh


The A-Z Blogging Challenge: 2015

It was the last night of the Bear Dance. Ahiga had been looking forward to being recognized as a full member of his tribe on this night for weeks: a man of the tribe.

The men and boys, in their ceremonial refinements, had pranced and capered and frolicked the night away. Dancing to release all the pent up tensions and energies from a harsh winter’s imprisonment. Rejoicing in the dreams and pleasures that a new spring would bring their tribal families.

This last night, they cavorted until exhaustion and celebration could be no more.

At the conclusion of the Bear Dance it was customary for each father would turn to face his son – at his son’s appointed time. They would walk to the cedar fire and lay their plumes down together.

This was when Father was supposed to recognize Ahiga as an equal…  But Father had just turned and walked alone. He then walked back to Ahiga’s mother at the wickiup.

Ahiga meet Mother’s eyes. They spoke regret and resignation. It would not happen this year.

Auiga knew his selection would have been early. He was only eleven winters. But he had already been triumphant in several skirmishes with fierce desert intruders.

All within him had spoken… tonight was his night.

This was not to be.

Rumor had spread the last night of the Dance that a band of Navajo were traveling three days from their site. They were to be escorting many magic dogs, if the rumor held truth. Ahiga would have his day. His naming would not happen at a mere dance… His naming would happen as a warrior in battle.

Ahiga quietly entered the family wickiup, removed his celebration regalia and donned his skins. He silently packed his small kit. He would only need traveling provisions for two nights.

As soon as his absence was noticed, shadow-hunters would be dispatched. He would not have much time, nor did he have the skills, to elude them. The son of a future chief does not have the freedoms to wander as other boys. But Ahiga was sure two days would be enough.

Ahiga left the camp on furtive feet.

As the second moon closed in, Ahiga found a welcoming shelter in a brush-covered overhang near the riverbed. Taking no chances of his presence being revealed, he set no fire. The last of his shredded dried jack rabbit was all he had to silence the rumblings of his stomach. He had not taken time to hunt. Stealth was of utmost necessity. He was sure, that by now, his father would have shadow-walkers on his trail … someone to seek his return.

The stars twinkled brilliantly through the underbrush which concealed him. He could see The Bear. Silently praying for wisdom and strength, Ahiga rolled over for his last night on the run. He continued to gaze at The Bear until his eyes could no longer be opened.  Tomorrow would be it. He would either return victorious was a man, or his father’s shadow-hunters would find him.

“Wheee… eeeee….” There was rustling. Someone was at the river’s edge.

Peering out, Ahiga was surprised to see a young, Navajo warrior watering three, fine magic dogs.

The Great Spirit had answered.

His destiny was now his for the taking.

He would not be returning home barefooted as a boy. He would be riding home as a warrior.

Essential History:

The Ute are a Native American tribe in the mid-western regions of the United States. The Bear Dance is an authentic celebration for the Ute. It is a harbinger of spring.

Ahiga is a Navajo name meaning warrior or he fights.

A wickiup is a conical tepee that is very mobile.

Written for The A-Z Blogging Challenge: 2015. Requirements: Each day during the month of April a new blog is written based on a consecutive letters of the alphabet. The theme of my challenge is Alternative Aspirations for Picasso. 




I Walk the Line

Have you got a code you live by? What are the principles or set of values you actively apply in your life?

What code do I live life by… Actually, I have always been attracted to the ‘Code of the West’: A man’s word was his bond…. Hard work was the way for advancement… The teamwork of neighbors helping neighbors overcame nature’s fury.

But now, most of that code is looked down upon or even outlawed.

So, today… I think I have one main code: What is the purpose? This code is probably broken into three separate entities:

  • A spiritual facet- the Truths through which I choose to live life
  • A social facet – the people with whom I choose to adjoin my friendships
  • A personal facet – the principles upon which I choose to set and align my feet

The Spiritual Facet:

These would be the Truths from which I would choose to not back down.

Sometimes THE REAL TRUTH in one’s life is not what (the belief) you would die for… What one would die for is actually a one-and-done deal. I think the far harder TRUTH is the one from which you will choose to LIVE YOUR LIFE to achieve. This one (this Truth) is about the things you are willing to allow the putting aside of self: self-sacrifice over self-gratification and self-successes. This shows the real makings of the man– not the one-and-done deals.

The Social Facet:

These are the relationships that one has acquired in the world. Who are the people that you call “friends”? For this facet to be a facet for positive growth in your life, one has to have a real definition of friendship. Too many people have a totally mutilated and often harmful definitions of “friendship”. They have taken the politically correct view of ‘we are all equal and the same’ and then have allowed unworthy influences to infiltrate their lives. These infiltrations will cause havoc in one’s life! There is a major and important difference between “acquaintances”, “contacts”, “followers” , “Facebook whatever’s”, “associates”, “colleagues”, and “friends”.

RESPECT is owed to all of these categories of relationships. But there are only a few individuals one should deem worthy enough that one should qualify them …from any of these groups… to be one’s “friends”.

The Personal Facet:

This is where FRIENDS are residing. When you look at your “friends” you can see yourself. (Be sure you truly like what you see!) That friend possesses the things that you admire. That is why you spend time with them. That friend is sharpening you and changing you into the person who will soon become. (Just because you, personally, do not believe this statement does not make the statement false…)

The Personal Facet is where one’s TRUTH is walked out in the world. This is where one genuinely, and with great faithfulness, has to walk out one’s life. Here- in this facet of your world- one finds the things that makes life worth the effort. Here are where life’s rewards are found. Those untouchable, unfathomable successes in life. The ones that really count.

Some people try to live a life grounded in the spiritual realms. If one is living life in the spiritual… one has no real roots on the ground to cause change in the world.

Some people try to live a life grounded in the social realm. Living one’s life to address social statements just for the sake of social justice is worthless. There are way too many two-faced people in the world: this is what I will stand and proclaim into a camera as a ‘truth’ by which all men shall live in this world- just don’t look at how I live. (Movie stars and political hacks are great at living in this world… but check out where their feet live life! You will be crushed and separated from these people. They truly only care for the words they speak- their image. Not for change in their world. They work for only hypothetical change that does not have any bearings on their personal world— Just for change in your world.

FEW PEOPLE WORK FOR CHARGE IN THEIR WORLD: WHERE THEY HAVE PLANTED THEIR FEET. But here – in your own personal realm of influence- this is where your social justice is most valued. This is where you walk out inequalities. This is where hurts are healed and the imprisoned are freed. In your personal world… you can make a difference. Having a plan to walk out Truth in the world where one really sets one’s feet… Now that is a life worth living.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Walk the Line.”

Burning Down The House


Burning Down the House

Your home is on fire. Grab five items (assume all people and animals are safe). What did you grab?

The mist was falling all around. Some of it was from the heavens. Some was backwash from an errant hose.

Thank God, I had checked the batteries in the detector on the first of the month… it least I was alive and could complain about the mist.

Redkey, my six-month-old Cocker Spaniel, was wrapping his leash around my left ankle as the firemen continued to put down heavy spray upon the back rooms of my house. It didn’t really matter. I was out … and so was the dog.

When I was awaken by the barking of Redkey in my ear and the horrendous blaring squeal of the alarm, I realized instantly what was happening. I had often wondered what would go through one’s mind if one was awakened by a fire. This morning, I no longer had to wonder.

Quickly grabbing my robe and sliding on slippers, I exited the bedroom through the back window- Redkey tucked under my left arm.  I tied Redkey to his awaiting yard leash and surveyed the smoke billowing from the window and side door of my house.

I was far calmer than I thought one should be under the circumstances.

The fire, for whatever reason, seemed to be concentrated to the one side of my house, so I did what every red-blooded man (idiot) would do. I realized that by the time the firefighters arrived, there might be nothing left of my house. Now was the time to act. So I did.

Quickly climbing back into my bedroom window, I scrutinized what lay around my bed and dresser. My laptop was still in Rhapsody mode: tonight it was cycling and recycling through the hits of Brahms as I had slept. Closing the lid on the laptop, I hastily stuffed the notebook into its carrying case that was setting on the rocker by the bed. In the case were all my files from my college classes and flash drives which contained copies of most of my photographs.

Upon thinking of the salvation of my photographs, I opened the sliding doors to the closet and pulled down the carrying case with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III; it had been a Christmas present to myself.

Exiting the bedroom window one more time with both cases, the computer case and the camera case, I heard the wailing of the sirens of the trucks entering my subdivision. I quickly went to the back shed to stow my belongings, and went to stand beside Redkey to await my guests.

Somewhere mid-window, I had realized how stupid I had been to enter a burning building for a computer. Having stowed my belongings, I felt like a far more responsible and confident victim.

Smiling, I walked Redkey over to the firemen as they were disembarking the truck. Knowing the house was empty of all occupants, the rescue team auxiliary assisted me with warmth while Redkey and I reclined on the back gate of the squad truck… content to enjoy a reality show with me playing the lead. And of course Redkey.

Requirements: Your house is on fire. Name five things you would rescue. All pets and people are safe. My rescued items: Computer, Flash Drives, Camera, Accompanying Cases. I hope that this story will remain fictitious… or if not, I will not be that stupid. I guess I rescued a robe and slippers as well… but one should be properly attired when one greets guests.

Written for The Daily Post.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Burning Down the House.”


Circus clowns visit sick boy. CC photo Boston Public Library.
Circus clowns visit sick boy. CC photo Boston Public Library.

Nursing this Kilbeggan double-shot had not changed a thing. My only son, Breandan, was in Massachusetts General Hospital with a 103+ fever and not an answer to be found. Surrounded by icepacks, I couldn’t hold him. I could only touch his hand. Actually, I couldn’t even do that through the powdered latex gloves. It had been seven days since I had held him. We had been here at Massachusetts General for the last three days and I just couldn’t take any more. I left.

So here I am… 101 Brewski Street: Inside the bar at the hotel, getting ready to end three years of battling the demon.

He’s still so little. I clearly remember his first words: Mama, Da, and Coown. The last one was why I had left Ailene, my beautiful wife of six years, at the hospital. Breandan had had a restless night. For the last three hours he was murmuring in his feverish dreams: “Coown…. Coown…. Coown.”

He wanted that stupid, precious, mustard-yellow and burnt-orange clown that Maimeó Catherine, Ailene’s mother, had years earlier given him to entice him to take his first steps toward her. Once he had grasped that small, stuffed clown, it had not been out of his hands. We had to wash ‘coown’ while he was asleep so that the emotions did not overflow from his heart at being separated from this precious treasure.

“AA, huh?” a burly gentleman suddenly appeared beside of me on the next barstool. I must have looked puzzled because he said, “The best Irish whiskey in the house, but you are just caressing the glass. Can I ask?”

I suddenly was as Breandan without his ‘coown’. All of my emotions came gushing out. The years pursuing Ailene with her resisting because of my demons. Being free of the demon for four years. Withstanding every temptation because of my need to see the trust in Ailene’s eyes. Finally explaining that my son lay at Massachusetts General wanting his clown, and there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t find his clown.

The man listened. At least I think he did. He sat there with an calm understanding radiating from his eyes that only another AA could fathom. Then he said.  “You should go back. You need Ailene and Breadeen more than you need that drink.”  He was gone. I looked around through hazed eyes and he was nowhere to be found.

Three years was not something I wanted to throw away. Neither was the trust I cherished to see daily in Breadeen’s eyes and Aileenes’.  I slide my untouched double shot back to the bartender and with reddened eyes walked out onto the street. To any passerby, I probably was just another over-achieving imbibeler, staggering and red-eyed, and probably a tad ripe. But I knew they were wrong. I had faced the demon once again and side-stepped his challenge.

I hailed a cab and gave the address.  Drunk from exhaustion I stumbled into the foyer of the hospital and headed straight for the elevator. There were two other strangely dressed men waiting at the left ahead of me. The door opened and we entered together.

“What floor?” they asked.

“Five, Pediatrics,” I replied.

As the elevator rose, so did my spirits. I had overcome the demon once again. I was on my way to see Aileene. I was on my way to see my son.

The elevator door opened. I was slightly surprised that the three of us all exited onto the same floor. The hallway was packed. There must have been twenty people all standing around excitedly whispering back and forth. But that was not the strangest thing. Only three were in hospital dress. The rest were all attired as clowns?

I shook my head in wonderment. Maybe I had not just nursed my Kilbeggan?

(Written for Flash Fiction Friday)