SPARK get together | get creative | get sparked! Tue, 25 Jun 2019 21:41:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Robert Haydon Jones and Greg Lippert Wed, 19 Jun 2019 18:21:57 +0000

Greg Lippert
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They

The Derby
By Robert Haydon Jones

Jimmy O’Hara had bet more than fifty Kentucky Derbies from afar. However, he had never seen a Derby in person at Churchill Downs in Louisville Kentucky.

So, when John, a much younger friend of his, mentioned he had been invited to the Derby by a college classmate, recently appointed as the Official Derby Host, Jimmy had urged John to accept – and to ask if he could also bring Jimmy along.

Jimmy was thrilled when John’s friend told them to come ahead. Of course, they should also attend the Oaks, the Derby for fillies and mares held on Friday. So, he sent four free passes for a special section of the Club House right on the finish line reserved for Owners and Trainers and celebrities. Food and drink would be provided. Normally, the admission price each day was $880.

John drove them out to Louisville in a new Bentley he had borrowed from an uncle. They came in by way of West Virginia. They followed the river courses. Then they took the old roads that had been cut through mountains.  It rained heavy every mile of the way.


When Jimmy was 19, he went to a track and it took him down hard. The problem was he came away thinking he was lucky. He won some money. He got caught up in the crowd roars coming around the turn and all the way down the stretch to the wire. He would be yelling too. But he really couldn’t hear his own voice.

The roar began on the turn, then surged and surged again the last 70 yards to the wire. Jimmy would be yelling hard — caught in the roar and buffeted by it until it disappeared. If Jimmy was still connected in the silent aftermath, he definitely felt like a winner. The chances were good he would also get to cash a ticket.

The deadly part of it was that he was convinced he was lucky. He had soon realized that he was, at best, an average handicapper. But even so, now and again, he would cash a ticket for a huge win. These monstrous payouts were the luck. They were the proof.

Being a lucky man changed everything for Jimmy. It was a force other people felt in him. His clients and his mates at the Agency felt it. Woman felt it. His family felt it. Jimmy felt it more than anyone. He attended the races frequently. Then he bet daily with bookmakers. Even away from it, he felt he was still connected to the roar and still worthy of the proof.

Once he won $15,000 from two other regulars on the finish line at Belmont. They were sure their horse had beaten Jimmy’s in a three-horse blanket finish. Jimmy said it was a 3-way dead heat. That was virtually impossible and so the two regulars bet Jimmy he was wrong. He was right.

Once he shared a cab from Belmont back to the city with a beautiful woman whom he had known for several years as part of the crowd he mixed with at New York tracks. Pat was the mistress of a nasty gangster who loved the horses.

Jimmy was stuck in a rough patch. His wife was unhappy. He was very, very unhappy. Pat asked him in for a drink. They talked for hours. She treated him with such tenderness and compassion that he felt centered again.

The next day an insane drifter followed Pat home to the lobby of her apartment building and cut off Pat’s head with a huge carving knife. Jimmy didn’t hear about it until weeks later. He was in England for a shoot of several new commercials for British Travel.

Jimmy kept on with the horses. His luck rescued him time and again. A bookmaker paid him $63,000 on a three-horse parlay and Jimmy spread the cash out on his bed for his wife to see and count. He told the wife that the money was hers – to do with whatever she felt like. She never again complained about his gambling.

The fact was that even with the $63,000, Jimmy was way down at the track. Way down. But he sure didn’t feel like a loser. He felt lucky. Of course, the bookies knew better.

Jimmy stayed with the horses for years. Then one April morning as he got ready to bet the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct a gentle voice inside of him suggested he take a pass. He did not bet that day. He paid off his bookies. From then on, he played the Triple Crown races and the Breeders Cup contests like a civilian. The fact was he had become a civilian.

One year, he had two long-shot winners in the Derby and the Belmont but he wasn’t tempted. He was a genuine civilian. The lucky pulse inside him was gone – and people close to him like his wife were sad about that. But there was another pulse in its place and Jimmy felt blessed by a miracle.


They met Jerome Henderson, John’s friend, at a special gate to the Paddock. It was Friday, but the crowd was surging and raucous. Two of Jerome’s assistants, burly men, clearly uncomfortable in ties and coats, guided them through. They took a freight elevator, wended through a huge room jammed with food and liquor supplies and finally, up two flights of back stairs. Then Jerome opened a door and they stepped into the Club House and the celebrity sanctuary.

Jerome soon had to depart to tend to his hosting duties but John and Jimmy were fine on their own. The food was magnificent. They wandered from enclave to enclave and helped themselves. On Friday, Jimmy had three winners including the victor in the Oaks. John cashed a hefty wager on a long-shot that covered all his expenses and then some.

They were handsome men who knew their way around – they blended in easily. Actually, there was a surfeit of beautiful women. The Second and Third wives were easy to identify. So, were the undefeated incumbents.

That night they had an early dinner at Jerome’s house. Pasta and red sauce and tasty shelled shrimp. Over cocktails, Mohamed Ali’s widow greeted Jimmy effusively. She told Jerome that Jimmy had helped Ali sparkle on TV.

Jerry Bailey, retired after years as one of the top jockeys, also gave Jimmy the big hello. “Long time, no see, Jimmy”, he said. “Way too long. I’ll never forget those good times we had on Fire Island.”

On Saturday, John and Jimmy got up early, checked out of their hotel and had a fabulous breakfast at a Waffle House. They drove out to Churchill Downs and were escorted back to the celebrity sanctuary in the Club House.

Once again, the food was amazing. The wives looked better than ever. They went easy on the races. Jimmy told John he was going “all in” on a long shot in the Derby. He was up $1,000 so far and he was going to bet $300 across the board on a 30-1 shot, Country House.

As the minutes blinked down to post time for the Derby, it began to rain hard again. Jimmy and John stood in plastic capes at the rail on the second floor of the Club House. The horses were in the gate.

The crowd began to yell for the race to start. The crowd roar went louder and louder and louder. Jimmy joined in, as loud as he could. He was astonished he was yelling for just a fraction of a second and then the gates sprang open.

Jimmy and John both yelled hard during the race. Their horses had a chance in deep stretch. But Maximum Security galloped to a three-length victory. So Jimmy got second and John third. They were looking at handsome payouts on these long-shots, but Jimmy was grousing.

“The winner was all over the place out there”, he told John. “He banged your horse really hard. But they have never taken down a winner in the Derby and they aren’t about to start now.”

Nearly 20 minutes later, the Stewards took Maximum Security all the way down to 17thplace and created a huge payout for Jimmy and a very handsome return for John.

The next day, when Jimmy got home, he spread the money out on the bed and his wife counted it twice.

“Let’s go to the Grand Canyon,” she said. “Let’s go in a couple of weeks.”

“Okay,” Jimmy said, “Let’s go for it.”

The Grand Canyon trip was #1 on their bucket list.

“Okay, for sure? What about the Preakness?”

“We’ll watch it on TV”, Jimmy said. He kissed his wife on the lips.

“I’m still a civilian honey. I’m just a lucky civilian.”


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Greg Lippert and Robert Haydon Jones Fri, 14 Jun 2019 18:02:34 +0000

Greg Lippert
Inspiration piece

By Robert Haydon Jones

Jimmy O’Hara was a couple of months shy of turning four when World War 11 began about three weeks before Christmas. At the time, Jimmy was very, very happy. He was playing underneath the kitchen table that afternoon while his brilliant, beautiful, mother began to ready Sunday dinner.

Jimmy and his Mom were listening to lovely music on the radio. Jimmy’s father was at the New York Yankee football game at the Polo Grounds.

Suddenly, the music stopped and a man said he was interrupting to announce that the Japanese had just bombed the American Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Soon, there were many more announcements.
It was all bad news.

Then Jimmy’s father came rushing in. The first thing he did was to put Jimmy in the playpen. Jimmy heard his father say he didn’t want to frighten him.

That summer, Jimmy was at the seashore with his mother and her family when the shocking news came that his cousin, Jay Lennon, a Marine, had been killed in the Solomon Islands.

It was hard to believe. Jay was a big strong man. He was the NCAA Heavyweight Boxing Champion. A sniper had wounded him and then his platoon had been overrun. The Japs had bayonetted him. Now, Jay’s mother, Aunt Eleanor, was a Gold Star Mother.

Jimmy had been an expert reader since he was only four and a half. His ability was a gift but it was also a curse. He saw a lot. But no one really knew he was watching.

He had seen the first photos of American war dead in Life Magazine. The High Command had decided that the General Public was too insulated from the reality – and so they rescinded the prohibition that forbade the media from showing casualties.

Life Magazine ran a feature showing three GI’s lying dead face down at the shoreline of a small island near New Guinea. The bodies had been partially silted over. There were rents in their clothing where they had been struck by bullets. One of the fallen soldier’s legs was bent at an unnatural angle. Jimmy decided that probably he was dead when he fell and that was why his leg had bent that way.

That night before he went to sleep, Jimmy bent his left leg the same way. He wanted to honor the dead soldier. Jimmy slept with his leg bent that way for years and years. Even when he was in the Marines, when he went to sleep, Jimmy bent his leg that special way.

Jimmy’s Dad was offered a commission in the Marines, but his eyes were way too weak. He trained with the National Guard and did war work for the government as a Dollar-A-Year executive. Jimmy and his Mom were real glad his dad could stay at home.

The Nazis bombed England every day. A lot of people were killed. After a while, the English moved their children to the country away from the bombs.

Jimmy saw a picture from China where scores of mostly women and children were lying there all jumbled up right on the steps of a big building. They had been killed in an air raid It was very scary.

Uncle Jerry, his Mom’s younger brother, enlisted in the Army Air Force. He was very handsome and very kind to Jimmy. They used to take long walks to the lake together. The night before he left for training, Jerry played the piano and sang some of Jimmy’s favorites. The last song he sang was Tit Willow from the Mikado.

Jimmy saw a picture of a Japanese officer with a long sword. He was about to cut off the head of an Australian pilot.

Jimmy saw a picture of a Nazi who had burned up in North Africa when he was only half away out of his tank.

Jimmy saw a picture of an American bomber after it had crashed and burned. You could see the burned up body of an American crewman.

One day, Jimmy saw more than eighty ships at anchor in the Hudson River. They looked sleek and dangerous. They were getting ready for the Invasion.

Mr. Beachcroft, the brother of a neighbor, was in the Merchant Marine. He had just returned from Russia in March. He had been torpedoed twice on the Murmansk Run and had survived 16 days in an open lifeboat in February in the Arctic Sea. He gave Jimmy some interesting trinkets, which Jimmy still has.

Later that spring, Vivian Massey, his Mom’s dearest friend, was killed in an Airline crash. She and her husband were on an airliner that vanished on a flight over the Gulf of Mexico. No trace of the plane was ever found. His mom kept on hoping and praying for quite a while.

On D-Day, General Eisenhower spoke of the invasion as a great crusade. It was a very risky proposition. Ike said that he had confidence the Allies would prevail, but if they didn’t – he would accept the blame.

The allies did establish a beachhead but it came at a frightful cost. The day after the landing Jimmy went with his mother and grandmother to the church for a special service of Thanksgiving. The church was jammed. A lot of people wept.

Jimmy kept on following the war straight through to the end. He knew this War backwards and forwards.

When the old films came on TV during the 75th anniversary of the landings at Normandy on D-Day in 2019, Jimmy O’Hara knew them all by heart. In the first long shot from the beach of the first waves in, two men would be shot just off the water’s edge –- one of these soldiers would get right up and be shot again.

Next, several men would drag a drowning officer out of the water and up on the beach and save him. Right about here, they would cut to scores of American bodies bobbing off shore. There were a lot of dead fish strewn on the beach.

There would be shots of corpsmen working on the wounded on the LST’s ferrying them back out to the Hospital ships. Some of the wounded were dead.

Usually, the next scenes were of a crude wire enclosure crowded with Nazi troops who had surrendered. A few of these soldiers had bandaged wounds. All of the Nazi soldiers appeared to be relatively happy.

Jimmy and his wife and their close friends, Bob and Gay Sinclair, from La Jolla, visited the Normandy beaches 67 years after the landings. Jimmy hired a guide, a former member of the British Special Forces, to take them through.

Afterward, Bob and Jimmy stood at the upper reaches of the cemetery and looked out at the 9,387 graves. Mostly young men. Gone forever.

“We won the battle,” Jimmy said. “We won the war. Why am I overwhelmed by sorrow?”

The guide had a quick retort.

“Tis the true nature of the beast.”

Jimmy couldn’t say he was wrong.


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Jules Rolfe and Seth Leamer Thu, 06 Jun 2019 13:11:50 +0000

Seth Leamer
Still Still Life

Inspiration Piece

Faceless Independence
by Jules Rolfe


Daddy, I thought you created me to be small.
A small and faceless doll
to serve masters who only craved my silence.

Daddy, you created me to suffer
To stuff my light deep,
as if light itself was a mortal sin.

Daddy, when you lost your voice
You told me I was wrong.
You created me to shine.
To go so far from home, that I became your sun.

Daddy you said you created me
to go further, be better, burn brighter.
You created me not to be you.

Daddy, now that you are gone,
I see the part of me that is you.
And the parts that are not you and more.
I am faceless and
this light will not be silenced.


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Jenny Forrester and Jane Hulstrunk Wed, 05 Jun 2019 20:09:50 +0000

Jane Hulstrunk
Inspiration piece

Jenny Forrester

You should’ve seen me when I first bloomed. All the colors and the strength against the storm. I had it all.

And then time did as times does.

I regret nothing, though, the way I am now.

I’m not on display but still have so much to give, all that ultimate nurturing.

When you walk by, nose in the air, I smile, remembering the battles of wills, the way we banged heads in wind, wanting the sun and its people to see us but not wanting to be picked for their vases, claiming wildness and believing we were. You, with your nose, in the air, I know what you’re going to go through, and I wish you’d listen about it and move us flowers to some next level.

But it’s all just this. This cycling, this browning, this turning to other forms.

Do you see me? How I’m becoming a bird?

In the next wind, I’m going to soar.


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Seth Leamer and Jules Rolfe Tue, 04 Jun 2019 06:17:28 +0000
Seth Leamer
“Wayward Bound”
Acrylic 10″ x 16″

Feel Fetter (Found Poem)
By Jules Rolfe

Inspiration piece

System clear.
Conversation choices
Far is the same time next year

I repeat.

We both provide choices.
The A list: When we are somehow in agreement

Falling matter in the normal way.

You are empowered by the collective.
I feel the joint in my major physical sole.
I will not back off.

May time repeat.

Feel better.


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Holly Hinkle and Kathleen Finn Jordan Sun, 02 Jun 2019 23:42:19 +0000

Holly Hinkle
“Surfing the Internet, Drinking Coffee on a Dreary Rainy Morning”
Oil, 12″ x 12″

Slide Journey
By Kathleen Finn Jordan
Inspiration piece

Slide journey from the tawdry to the transcendental
Waking tired
rain-drenched and
darkness full
A post from Quemigny France of a lush garden
Sheltered me momentarily
Ambushed me dandelion wild into a new present moment
Chopin echoing from Alexa….. I snap photographs
of a happening terrace flower jeweled
in spite of the pounding rains of these days
The grammar of sounds contrapuntal launch a new mood
and – perhaps … a bit of writing
The center of paralysis punctured by bird song.



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Jay Young Gerard and Lisa Nielsen Sun, 02 Jun 2019 22:12:51 +0000

Jay Young Gerard
“Aerial: Take No Prisoners”

Reconciliation Baby
By Lisa Nielsen
Inspiration piece

A misshapen attempt at reconciliation
Brought you here
I can’t possibly tell you this, your existence
Borne of not being ready to die
Who needs that burden
Of proof that you are
I ask
To persist

If you believe in such things, you
were sent down to save me from myself.

I knew nothing but self destruction:
carving my veins along the grainy sidewalk
staring up into the broken light
to be saved

I can’t tell you the why
of your arrival already so tenuous
So tender
So maybe

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Lisa Nielsen and Jay Young Gerard Sun, 02 Jun 2019 22:09:07 +0000

Jay Young Gerard
“Another Door Opens”
Inspiration piece

One Door Closes
By Lisa Nielsen

Parched tobacco shreds crumble in my little fingers as I rummage through handbags, carefully translating loose change into future candy

I feel around in the dark.  I know this closet well.  The clothes layered with Chanel No. 5, the heels high, the pocketbooks bruised and cracked

The only lullaby is a man calling her name.  I will fall asleep on this leathery pile before they are done.


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Kathleen Finn Jordan and Holly Hinkle Sun, 02 Jun 2019 21:11:11 +0000

Holly Hinkle

Inspiration piece

Kathleen Finn Jordan

Response Piece

What anger in these eyes or
perhaps indignation
not a first world problem me thinks
her shoulders suggest an argument that is weighty
a purpose that has been deferred
an exhaustion that is mighty
and an accusation in the eyes that
transfix the beholder
the struggles of the many float in space around her and
settle in her frame, in her look, in her statement of being
She is an overwhelming question and dares the one who
stands before her to answer, to respond, to address
The question that is she.
Why are some so threatened in this world
Why is there rage or indignation in the eyes, exhaustion in the frame,
Accusation in the very existence of those
Who through no fault of their own come to a place
Of no recourse, no escape, no possibilities
I look and I feel that she is not in her house.

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Melisa Peterson Lewis and Channie Greenberg Fri, 31 May 2019 23:50:11 +0000

Channie Greenberg
Inspiration piece

Baby Bird
Melisa Peterson Lewis

Poppy’s hands cupped the naked baby bird as it rolled, unable to brace itself in her shifting grip. Her sisters became anxious with each wobble.

“Poppy! Don’t squeeze it.” Stella imagined Poppy’s fingers were squeezing the new treasure.

The baby bird had fallen from a nest nearby. They carried on about the best way to proceed, each hollering louder than the next. Poppy, the eldest at ten years old, was followed by her two younger sisters, Stella and Violet. Summer days left the three dirty girls covered in cuts, bruises, and poison ivy. More often than not, they could be found wielding a plastic bag filled with old cans or screws from their treasure hunts. This day was unique. They had a live specimen that surely loved them as much as they adored it.

Their hands fluttered about the tiny animal. Each girl was sure she knew the best way to care for the defenseless baby. Violet insisted they take the bird to their mom, Vanessa, who was resting on a lounge chair catching a tan. Poppy disagreed with Violet and reasoned they should keep it in the woods. She knew her mom would force them to leave the bird where they found it, but that would mean it would suffer alone in the dark.

Stella, sandwiched between her sisters, understood the natural order of the forest. The baby bird was pushed from the nest for a reason. It needed to be sacrificed to appease the balance in which mother nature intended.

“Poppy. The bird must be sick, that’s why it’s not in the nest. We need to leave it alone.” Stella reached over to take the bird from Poppy, who twisted away using her shoulder as a barricade.

Disputes could never be settled with subtle voices, and the wave of noise caught their mother’s attention. Begrudgingly, she peeled herself from the lounge chair to see what the fuss was about.

“Girls? What do you have there?” Coming from behind, she saw Poppy concealing something close to her chest, while Violet cried.

“Mom! Poppy found a baby bird and won’t let me hold it!” Violet’s tears streaked her face.

Vanessa saw the naked thing tucked in Poppy’s hand, and without thinking, reached over and shook her daughter’s wrist, causing the bird to tumble loose. It landed with a gentle crinkle of the leaves and rolled onto its back.

“It probably has mites!” Before Vanessa could regret what she had done, Poppy snapped to attention.

“Mom! You’re going to kill it!” Poppy reached down, but Vanessa was quicker and grabbed her arm, jerking her upright.

“This bird belongs to the forest sweetheart. It’s a wild animal. Come on, girls. Everyone out of the woods.” She held out her arms, trying to herd them away.

“But Mama! It will die out here!” Violet exploded from the inside out.

Stella turned red and snorted back a tear. Abandoning the tiny bird seemed harsh, even if she believed it was the right thing to do.

“Girls. I’m sorry. The bird isn’t in the nest for a reason. Look, it’s hardly moving. It’s going to die, no matter what.” Vanessa’s words didn’t match her desire to help the little thing, but she knew how difficult it was to keep a baby bird alive once it’s been tossed from the nest.

Poppy crossed her arms and stomped her foot. “Mom! This bird deserves a chance. There is no harm in keeping him in a box on the porch.”

Vanessa looked at her three girls and wondered how they’d grown so fast. Their determination warmed her over, and she gave them a nod of approval. Squeals of delight erupted, and Poppy gathered up the bird.

Vanessa spoke loudly so the girls would listen. “Rules! The bird stays on the porch. He is your responsibility. No arguing when it’s time for anything that will pull you away from him.”

They agreed to her terms with smiles and clapping.

Stella ran into the house and brought out a shoebox stuffed with tissues. The girls built a nest and found a shady spot on the porch. Buddy, the old and nearly deaf family dog, waddled over. He sniffed the bird and walked away with little interest.

“Well, at least we know Buddy won’t bother the bird.” They all laughed.

“Girls, let’s leave the bird to settle in.” The request was met with whining. “Come on, march inside. You remember the rules?”

Rules? As soon as she okayed the bird coming home, everything else drowned in their enthusiasm.

Vanessa reminded them, “Wash your hands. You can recheck the bird after lunch.”

“Wait!” Poppy protested. “We didn’t name him yet.”

Vanessa forced a smile, knowing once the girls named the animal, it was officially a pet. Even if it entered the house for five minutes, it was now bound to the family.

“Jellybean!” Stella shouted.

Their family tradition was to name new pets after food. Before Jellybean, there was Pepperoni the turtle, Coco the bunny, and Taffy the lizard, to name a few. Each animal met its end within 24 hours.

“And so it will be. Jellybean. Okay, girls, let’s move.”

The girls ate their sandwiches, each thinking about their plans for Jellybean’s future. Lunch was interrupted by noise from outside. Vanessa cocked her head and raised a finger to tell the girls to hush. They stopped chewing and gave their attention. It sounded as if the hose was being turned on and off, or no, it was a car trying to start, or no—she wasn’t sure what it was.

Poppy jumped up from her seat and ran to the door. “Mom! Buddy is choking!”

“Oh, no!” Everyone ran to witness Buddy hunched forward and saliva dripping from his flapping lips. He heaved, but nothing came out. The girls cried, wondering what was wrong. Vanessa went outside and banged on his back as if he were a choking toddler. The dog moved away and found a spot in the yard he circled several times before lying down.

“Girls. Go inside. Everything will be okay.” She rubbed her hands on her bare thighs and got closer to the dog.

“Hey, Buddy. You okay?” She rubbed his back, and the tip of the dog’s tail gave a wiggle. She took that as a good sign until he tried to stand and couldn’t. The dog’s rib cage moved forward involuntarily. Wet sloshes and gurgling came from his belly.  He coughed, and when he did it again, he paused mid-gag. He staggered, legs buckling.

Vanessa dropped to her knees in front of the dog. She was of no help on the outside, so she pried open Buddy’s mouth and saw something blocking his airway. It looked like yesterday’s trash surrounded by thick drool. Furious the dog had been in the garbage again and fueled with fear, she reached her hand into his throat and grabbed ahold of the blockage. It was wet, hot, and knobby. Bracing one hand on the dog’s forehead she pulled herself free, the dog let out a yak, slipping the contents of his stomach onto her legs. She looked away, knowing the image of her lower half would make her throw up right along with Buddy.

The dog stood and shook himself off before walking away as if nothing happened. Her hand was clenched around the object that almost killed Buddy. Sticking out from between her thumb and index finger were the talons of a small bird.

She had to act fast. Checking behind her for the girls, she stood and walked towards her neighbor’s yard where she tossed the contents in her hand over the fence, flicking her hand again to remove more drool.

The skin on her thighs started to tighten from Buddy’s barf drying in the sun. She went to the hose and washed herself off. The cold water hurt, but it didn’t mask the pain she felt knowing she would have to tell her children Jellybean was gone.

Dripping and chilled, she turned to her front door to find her daughters embracing each other. They had witnessed the entire event. Vanessa shook her head, wishing she could erase it or come up with a quick and thoughtful explanation.

Poppy’s hand rested firmly on Violet’s shoulder, and with tight lips, she said, “Mom, that dang bird tried to kill Buddy!”

Vanessa eyed her daughters, who stood fearlessly. She thought about how quickly her children turned from saviors, unwilling to leave a flightless orphaned bird unattended, to seeing the bird as a predator who tried to take out the family dog.

Stella picked up the shoe box that the bird had occupied for less than 20 minutes and held it to her chest. Her lips trembled. “Mom, what will we bury since you threw the bird over the fence?”

“The box, baby. We’ll bury Jellybean’s box.”


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