SPARK http://getsparked.org get together | get creative | get sparked! Sun, 20 May 2018 22:05:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 Linda Sorrells-Smith and Lisa Kilhefner http://getsparked.org/spark36/linda-sorrells-smith-and-lisa-kilhefner http://getsparked.org/spark36/linda-sorrells-smith-and-lisa-kilhefner#respond Sun, 18 Mar 2018 11:56:44 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16495 Lisa Kilhefner
“The Message”
Oil pastel and oil pencil on print paper
Inspiration piece

Leaving
By Linda Sorrells-Smith
Response

The leaving is easy, she said.
No hickory am I,
no roots to stretch,
no roots to reach.
As my shadow moves over,
a whisper.
Her balloon sails out of view.

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Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.

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Greg Lippert and Robert Haydon Jones http://getsparked.org/uncategorized/greg-lippert-and-robert-haydon-jones-6 http://getsparked.org/uncategorized/greg-lippert-and-robert-haydon-jones-6#comments Sat, 10 Mar 2018 19:28:22 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16485

Light at the end of the tunnel

Inspiration
By Greg Lippert

Awake!

Response
By Robert Haydon Jones
©2018 RHJA, LLC. All Rights Reserved

When Bud Monroe, his cardiologist, told Jimmy O’Hara his aortic valve was failing and must be replaced – Jimmy had an overwhelming urge to ask God to help him, even though he hadn’t said a prayer or even believed in God for
many years.

He was out of touch with God. Like he was out of touch with his friends from his youth. Nothing formal. Just time and tide.

Time and tide. Jimmy suddenly remembered that the last time he saw Bruce,his best friend all the way from high school to his early thirties, they had been out fishing. Bruce had driven them back to Jimmy’s house on the river.

Jimmy got out, slammed the door, and said goodbye like it was forever. For the life of him, Jimmy couldn’t remember why.

That was his last time with Bruce. Forty-two years later, one of Bruce’s daughters emailed Jimmy that Bruce had died of cancer and asked Jimmy to come to the wake and funeral – but Jimmy was in Hawaii for February and even if he had been home, 
he probably wouldn’t have gone. Although he really couldn’t remember what the problem was.

That was sort of crazy because Bruce had saved Jimmy’s ass back when he was sixteen and in a world of’ hurt. Jimmy couldn’t take another night at home – andBruce had invited him to stay with him and his two younger brothers and his Mom, Hilary.

They lived in a yellow Federal perched on the edge of the town’s biggest graveyard. Jimmy stayed for months. Bruce’s brothers were two and three years younger, but in those days, that was much younger.

The father had been gone for a long time. But Hilary was pretty and fresh. This was way before people started using the phrase, “Single Mother.” Hilary appeared to Jimmy to be undaunted. She had a good job. She wore very stylish clothes. She smiled a lot.

Everyone had a chore. Bruce had to keep the furnace going and mow the lawn. Jimmy had to dump the garbage and the trash and the ashes from the furnace.

Hilary left very early in the morning on weekdays. The coffee she made was good. But he could not remember ever sitting down for a meal with Hilary and her boys. He had no memory of eating in the yellow Federal. The food thing was a mystery.

Jimmy and Bruce were sitting side by side in civics class when Melanie O’Donahue first came through the door. She had moved from Detroit. Bruce was immediately enchanted. He married Melanie after they graduated from college. Jimmy was newly married then too.

They were a foursome right away. Even after Jimmy moved to Manhattan, they got together in Connecticut on weekends. In the summer, Bruce and Melanie would visit Jimmy and Karen at their cottage way out on Fire Island.

But now, Jimmy could not recall anything specific about all the time he had spent with Bruce and Melanie. Not a moment. Not a scene. Nothing. He assumed they were surprised when he left Karen and started up with Anne. In time, Jimmy and Anne began to socialize with Bruce and Melanie. Then he went fishing with Bruce and that was it. What on earth was the problem?

He asked Anne if she recalled if Jimmy and Bruce had some sort of issue way back then. He said, “I know I had some sort of problem with Bruce, but I can’t remember what it was.”

Anne said, “The night before you went fishing, we were having drinks at the river house with a few people. Bruce was there. Melanie was away. You were drinking way too much and being just terrible with everyone. Anyway, Bruce hit on me – and the minute he did, I could see him realize how crazy and wrong he was being. I just turned away. I never told you – I knew how important Bruce was to you. Then you went fishing the next day. You never said anything. When we didn’t see Bruce and Melanie any more, I didn’t give it much thought. I had no idea you knew.”

Jimmy said, “I didn’t know. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what.”

All these years later, Jimmy was shocked Bruce had hit on Anne. She was a beauty and lots of men tried with her – but Bruce was his friend. They had been drinking hard. Jimmy was acting crazy. So Bruce had run his own nut job show. It was sad Jimmy hadn’t known about it. He had never realized how angry Bruce was at him. Now he did.

Bruce was dead. But now, forty-two years after they had parted, Jimmy was back in touch with him.

In the years that followed his parting from Bruce, Jimmy made no new friends. His business was going very well — so he met a lot of new people — but these were business contacts. He loved Anne but their marriage was a very rocky road.

They traveled a lot. Jimmy was succeeding even though his drinking was increasing. One night in New York City, a new business acquaintance turned Jimmy on to cocaine for the first time – and that occasion – when Jimmy was forty-three – changed his life forever.

Jimmy became a cocaine addict on his first toot. It was the first time in his life he felt okay. Actually, “okay” is a frail, sadly insufficient word for how he felt. He felt deep down good. It was a wonderful way to feel.

Three years later, he weighed 132 pounds. He went into treatment at a rehab. He relapsed. His wife organized another Intervention. He did well in treatment but relapsed 52 days out. After he emerged from his third rehab, his wife surprisingly got pregnant. The child was born with a genetic disability and in intensive care for months. Our hero left the second night.

He had a heart attack in rehab four. There was a 3-bed intensive care unit in the little hospital in Wisconsin. He saw his lines go flat on the monitor. A stocky nurse named Ann-Marie punched him in the chest and his heart began to beat again.

Back in Connecticut, they thought it had been a mild heart attack. When they checked via a Catheterization, one of his arteries blew out completely. There was nothing left to bypass.

He kept on using.

Finally, he went to a new fangled rehab in Arizona that approached treatment for addiction as an educational experience for people who had been traumatized early on.

He was there three months. He got good healing. He had two very minor slips and then stayed clean and sober.

Of course, the 12 Steps of AA were at the center of his program. And the result of the 12 Steps was “a spiritual awakening.” But he was way out of touch with God. When he worked his program, he used the entire Membership of AA as “a Power greater than ourselves.”

Looking back, he realized, he had disqualified himself as a God consort, when he was using. Back when he was using, cocaine was his one and only God.

“One and only God” were just words. It seemed to Jimmy that you had to be an addict to know what they really meant. For years, if you had asked Jimmy O’Hara if he would choose his next cocaine run over God, he would have replied, “Absolutely.”

Since he had made that choice again and again over the years, Jimmy had figured his disqualification was permanent. Even though over his years of recovery a spiritual awakening had bloomed and leafed out in him. Even though he often said the 
Serenity Prayer. Even though he joined the Unitarian Church and attended there regularly for years.

Like Lucifer, Jimmy had been cast out. Actually, he had jumped out. It seemed fair.

Now Jimmy realized that what he had accepted as a just verdict was actually the misshapen pronouncement of a crazed addict. And he had borne it – and even occasionally brandished it – all through the years of his recovery.

However, when he got Small Cell Lung Cancer — right before he went under and they cracked his rib cage and extracted the peach sized tumor and the upper lobe of his left lung, he thought the words, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” He felt safe.

He healed from the operation. It was very painful. They had cracked his rib cage. He recovered. They kept running tests. In those days, hardly anyone recovered from this cancer. But Jimmy stayed cancer free. It was a happy surprise.

But Jimmy forgot about how safe he had felt right before they cut him.

He went on with his life and his recovery one day at a time. However, he was still mired in his addiction much, much, more than he knew.

Then came the diagnosis and the yearning for God’s help and the memory of his last time with Bruce and the crimson dawning deep in him of the realization that he was heavy laden and needed rest.

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Robert Haydon Jones and Greg Lippert http://getsparked.org/uncategorized/robert-haydon-jones-and-greg-lippert-5 http://getsparked.org/uncategorized/robert-haydon-jones-and-greg-lippert-5#comments Sat, 10 Mar 2018 18:58:46 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16469

The Last Out

Response
By Greg Lippert

Curtains

Inspiration
By Robert Haydon Jones
©2018 RHJA, LLC. All Rights Reserved

For five years now, every six months, Jimmy O’ Hara would visit his Cardiologist to learn if the latest test showed his aortic valve needed to be replaced and he couldn’t be an umpire any more.

It was a big practice. Today, as always, the office was crowded. There were three receptionists. Jimmy ended up with the middle one. She was a squat, dark-haired, woman in her early fifties. She was 
wearing an outsized, gold plated, necklace with six large onyx stones.

“That’s some necklace,” Jimmy O’Hara said.

“It’s a real beauty. Onyx never looked so good.”

The receptionist raised her chin and looked hard at Jimmy. Then she smiled. The smile transformed her dour face, like sun after rain.

“Well, thank you, Mr. O’Hara. This necklace is from Sicily. It was left to me by my great aunt, Maria. Okay. We’ve got all your paper work. 
Doctor Monroe will see you soon. Have a nice day.”

Jimmy had just opened his Kindle and started in again on Grant when a man called his name.

“That’s me”, Jimmy said.

It was a stocky young fellow in dark blue scrubs holding a clipboard. Jimmy followed him into an exam room and the kid took his BP and 
ran a cardiogram.

Afterward, he crumpled the packing for the leads into a ball and tossed it
 with an easy move into the bin. You could tell he had the good hand/eye.

“You’ve got the good hand/eye”, Jimmy said.

“Did you play baseball? Were you an infielder?”

“Well, I started out an infielder,” the kid said.

“Second base. But I could really run. I was the fastest guy on the team. So, they moved me to center – and that’s where I played for three years. When I was a senior, we won the Double L State Championship.”

“Really? Where did you play?

“Right here in Fairport.”

The kid was in his early thirties. So, 14 or 15 years back, Jimmy might have umpired some of his games.

“Are you playing now?”

“No, I had to work after high school and then I decided to be a nurse and there wasn’t time to do anything but work and study.

Jimmy said, “Well you could be playing now if you want to. There’s an over-25 League that’s going strong. Fairport has a team. Give me your email and I’ll connect you up with the Head Coach.”

The kid jotted down his email and gave it to Jimmy. You couldn’t tell his name from the email.

Jimmy said, “What’s your name?”

The kids’ name was Philip Caruso. He wrote it down. Jimmy told him to write down his phone number too. He did.

“It’s March”, Jimmy said. “The perfect time to get hooked up with a team.”

Philip Caruso thanked him. He had been playing a little soft ball now and then 
over the years but it wasn’t the same. “It’s definitely not the same,” Jimmy said.

About a minute after the nurse left, Doctor Monroe strode into the little room. “James J. O’Hara”, he intoned. “The one and the only.”

Bud Monroe had become Jimmy’s cardiologist fifteen years back when Jimmy’s 
Internist referred him about the palpitations Jimmy was having.

Monroe, a tall, lithe, man in his fifties, with curly blond hair, was a star cardiologist at Yale New Haven. Women still chased him. He had two sons in their twenties. Three years back, he divorced his unhappy wife. Now he had a happy girl friend.

He had managed Jimmy’s arrhythmia brilliantly with a variety of meds. Twice, while on assignment in Europe, Jimmy had called him and Monroe had quickly arranged to get him a new med to deal with a runway heartbeat.

Finally, seven years back, Jimmy had rushed to Monroe’s office in big distress. His heart felt like it would jump out of his shirt. He sank to the floor in the exam room. An ambulance took him to the hospital.

The next day, a “cardio-electrician”, as Monroe called him, administered an 
Ablation procedure and Jimmy’s heartbeat immediately returned to normal. Jimmy’s life without the palpitations coming when ever was so much better he didn’t even realize it mostly — except once in a while — when he thought 
about it.

He had developed a relationship over the years with Doctor Monroe, strictly from his brief times with him in the exam room and in his office. It was not exactly a friendly relationship. Doctor Monroe had been very forthright about his admiration for Jimmy’s wife, Anne.

Dr. Monroe was also Anne’s cardiologist and when he first talked about her to Jimmy, he thought Monroe was kidding. “A stunning beauty, a fascinating intellectual with a great sense of humor.”

Monroe wasn’t kidding. Anne told Jimmy that Monroe had talked to her 
for nearly an hour after he ran her cardiogram. They read the same books. 
They were both very serious about working out. Anne told Jimmy, “You know, I’m maybe 15 years older than he is, but he really loves me. In a good way.”

So, Jimmy trusted Monroe as his cardiologist but he wondered. Every time Jimmy’s Ablation procedure came up, Monroe would say, “Yeah that time you fainted in my office.”

It pissed Jimmy off. He remembered when he got light-headed in Monroe’s office, he worked very, very, hard to stay in control and not faint – so he was 
able to sink slowly down on the floor. Even so, every time the Ablation came up, Monroe would say, “When you fainted in my office.”

Five years back, Monroe had told Jimmy he had a problem with his aortic valve. It was narrowing. They would monitor it with echocardiograms. Jimmy could still umpire if he really wanted to. He should report any incidence of pressure on his chest or dizziness. Dizziness was the main symptom of an aortic valve problem.

So, Jimmy had the echoes’ every six months. His aortic valve kept narrowing but 
Monroe told him he was still good to go “ … if you really want to.”

Jimmy was the oldest active ump in the Umpires Union. So he was assigned only JV and freshman games. Jimmy didn’t mind. He was right where he was supposed 
to be. He loved being an ump. Even if it was a JV game, he loved being on the field
 in the middle of the action.

His family, especially two of his sons who had played for Jimmy forty years back, when he had managed a powerhouse Legion team, kept urging him to quit. 
Jimmy had never understood why his sons had not gone on with the game in college. 
They could have walked on.

“You gotta love it!” That was a phrase Jimmy and his umpire friends would use 
when they were having a tough game in the rain. It said it all for them.

So, now here was Doctor Monroe — Jimmy’s cardiologist and rival. When they had first met, Monroe had commented on the large puckered scars on Jimmy’s chest. 
Jimmy a former Marine, was a small cell lung cancer survivor. At the time, hardly 
anyone survived this cancer. Monroe had pointed to the largest scar and said, “See what happens when a bad ass Marine smokes.”

It pissed Jimmy off. Everyone thought his survival from small cell lung cancer 
had been a miracle. Evidently, Doctor Bud Monroe was not impressed. He told Jimmy he’d heard he was a good baseball coach, “Back when you were young.”

He said he had read two of Jimmy’s short stories and found them “diverting.”

Had he published anything after he turned 70?

Monroe listened to Jimmy’s heart for about a minute, took his BP and told him to get dressed and meet him in his office, just like always.

When Jimmy went into the office, he noticed it was redecorated with new photos and a couple of watercolors. One of the photos was of Babe Ruth standing at home plate in Yankee Stadium in front of a microphone. Ruth was leaning hard on a bat.

A young Mel Allen, the Yankee announcer from back in the day, was on the other 
side of the mike. It was Ruth’s farewell appearance a few weeks before he succumbed to cancer.

“What a great shot,” Jimmy said. “I’ve never seen it before anywhere.”

Monroe was smiling broadly. “Isn’t it great? The photographer was the father of one of my patients. We got talking and a week later, it was delivered to me in the frame.”

“It’s a real treasure”, Jimmy said.

“So,” Monroe said, “Any dizziness or pressure on the chest or difficulty breathing?”

The truth was that Jimmy had been having dizziness issues for a couple of years. Recently, it was getting worse. He worried about what would happen if he got dizzy while driving on the Parkway. The dizziness didn’t last long – just a few seconds.

“No pressure on the chest, no palpitations, no problems breathing,” Jimmy said. “Recently, I’ve had a few, very brief, dizzy moments. Literally just four or five seconds.”

“Well, Jimmy,” Monroe said. “I am advising you to stop the umpiring. I’m not ratting you out with your Union, but I am putting it into my notes in case you drop dead on 
the field and the authorities come and ask me how I could let an old coot with a 
defective aortic valve on the field.”

“Jesus,” Jimmy said. “Really? It’s just a momentary thing.”

“No, Jimmy, we’re talking classic precursors to fainting spells. I’m going to set you up with the Committee that has to approve you for the valve replacement procedure so Medicare will pay for it. They will contact you shortly”

“I can’t believe it,” Jimmy said. “I’m done. Say it ain’t so, Doc.”

“You’re not done, Jimmy,” Monroe said. Your new valve should last a good eight years.”

On the drive home, Jimmy thought it through. Monroe wasn’t telling the Umpire Union Jimmy’s aortic valve was busted. He could book his games for the upcoming season just 
like always.

When he got home, he went straight up to Anne and told her Monroe was booking him with the Review Committee for Medicare approval of the valve replacement procedure. Anne said she was frightened.

Jimmy called his ball player sons and told them they could relax. He was done umpiring. 
He was in the approval process for a valve replacement. His boys sympathized and told 
him they were relieved.

Sean, his eldest, said, “I’m relieved for you Dad — and for the kids. Imagine what it would be like if an old ump croaked right in front of you on the field.”

Jimmy said he had a point.

Later that night at dinner, Anne said, “So, good old Doctor Bud Monroe told you 
he wasn’t going to tell the Umpire Union. Right?”

Jimmy said that was so. Monroe was just putting it in his notes. That was why Jimmy had to tell Anne about it right away.

“What a bastard, “Anne said. “What a freaking bastard.”

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Rachel Brown and Diane Mayr http://getsparked.org/spark36/rachel-brown-and-diane-mayr http://getsparked.org/spark36/rachel-brown-and-diane-mayr#comments Fri, 09 Mar 2018 14:30:03 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16464

Diane Mayr, In the Wings

Inspiration Piece

 

Rachel Brown, Movement

Response

Could she bring them with her?
– she wondered, almost out loud –
those wings of possibility,
that fluttered around her?

She’d grown accustomed
to their swoosh, their constant pushing
against the air.
She’d grown accustomed

to her own stillness, to the act
of waiting.
She knew
that once she made the choice
reversal was impossible,
she’d simply slide

along the path,
picking up speed as she went along.
That was the scariest part: careening
down a one way street,
without a wheel to turn
or the earth to hold onto.

It felt like centuries of stillness
before the first of the butterflies
left her, pushing
its black and blue torso
and its pale yellow wings
into the world
crisp, decisive
meeting the white glare of the sun,
silver through the clouds.

She felt the squirm
of the beetle’s legs,
causing her own feet
to itch

But still
she was suspended
as all the possibility around her began to move –
still,
she could bear only to ask about the world,
but not to embrace it –
as if slipping a finger out the door to test the weather,
but never emerging into its embrace

How long? –
she wondered –
could she stay like this?
trapped
inside herself
as all the possibility escaped her,
made its way into the world

Shining like a dragonfly
when it breaks from a long stand
into the air.

 

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Rachel Brown and Helen Lewis http://getsparked.org/spark36/rachel-brown-and-helen-lewis http://getsparked.org/spark36/rachel-brown-and-helen-lewis#respond Fri, 09 Mar 2018 14:26:51 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16460

Rachel Brown, Through The Kitchen, Into the Sea

Response

 

 

A sea change at the fish ‘n’ chip shop

After ‘The only son at the fish ‘n’ chip shop’ by Geoff Hattersley

Helen Lewis

Inspiration Piece

Before I break the news to mother
I down a couple of pints.
“Well, Gerald,” she says,
“It’s about bloody time.”

Maureen knows how to talk to the customers.
She wears high heels and red nails.
She cuts the size labels
from her regulation tabards.

Maureen’s been to Spain and Old Trafford.
While I’m carving the kebab meat,
she talks about her holiday in Turkey.
I say I don’t think I should like the heat.

Maureen scribbles poems on chip paper;
they’re not very good – they don’t even rhyme.
I tell her about my novel and she asks to read it.
I say I’ll show her when it’s finished.

She asks me to marry her
one Saturday after closing time.
We’re alone in the back room,
counting the takings.

The strip light flickers.
The fly killer buzzes
blue lightning.
I say yes.

I’m sick of the smell of chip fat
under my shirt collar,
and the oil-slick air
above the fryers.

Maureen says chip fat’s liquid gold.
“There are going to be
some changes around here
when I’m in charge,” she says.

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Tracey Riehl and Kirsten Weeks http://getsparked.org/spark36/tracey-riehl-and-kirsten-weeks http://getsparked.org/spark36/tracey-riehl-and-kirsten-weeks#respond Thu, 08 Mar 2018 00:53:24 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16454

Kirsten Weeks
Inspiration piece

Evolution
By Tracey Riehl
Response

I was plucked from the Void.

The Void is gentle, peaceful and serene. Exchange of thought and growing upon our assumptions, was simple, as we co-existed in the Void. No sideways thought, no hot or cold, just easy wonderful being. The Void is a place to expand, what is and was and ever will be. Eternally soaring. Innocently forming.

Now plucked, I have words that are ineffectual and of singular purpose. In the raw hands of a harsh environment, I try to flee, but like a butterfly, so fragile, am caught over and over. I am bent, twisted, stretched and expected to conform.

The longer I am away from the Void, I begin to forget. I become more and more “wordy” and wanting some substance. I am frustrated. I have the seed of the Void always within me, but I have been forced to repress my essence. So I shift around without direction.

I am residing in a small, grooved cavity on the right side of a brain. Why there? I cannot fathom. I understand it lives and feeds on us. Others from the Void too, settle in. We grow profoundly, unite and take comfort within each other. Blended, enmeshed, cradled. No longer alone and aimless.

We are becoming a single, like in the Void. This brain is clittering and clattering, bringing us together like thick honey syrup. We gently ebb and flow, rocking in lulling uniformity. Enjoying peaceful serenity, we surrender to this calm, pleasant existence.

A shock.

A bolt.

The brain flares and convulses in a beat of purpose and racing energy. Frantically it feels.

We are shoved the forefront. To what?

The ominous shaking of our very foundation continued, as surely it would. We poured, with grace, onto our silken bed. We stretched and arced. We slid here and purposely over there. Our vibrant soul, our unconquerable zest, knew no bounds.

Harmonious, exalted, blending, reaching and zealous, we have come to fruitation.

As we poured out of our snug secure space, we called home, we stretched and agreed. We acknowledged our purpose as does Water, flowing to parched river beds, Sun, warming budding blossoms, Soil, caressing wiggling worms.

Pain, love, hate and amusement.

Glory, elation, pride and envy.

Worship, anger, happiness, contemplation.

Our destiny, on the day we were plucked, was to be this. A canvas, once achingly empty, now brimming with life and passion.

We had become blessed harmonious beauty.

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Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.

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Jewel Beth Davis and Heitzi Epstein http://getsparked.org/spark36/jewel-beth-davis-and-heitzi-epstein http://getsparked.org/spark36/jewel-beth-davis-and-heitzi-epstein#comments Wed, 07 Mar 2018 17:00:08 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16438 ­

Heitzi Epstein
Inspiration piece

The Mountain Trail
By Jewel Beth Davis
Response

They trudged along in the snow and bitter wind toward the mountains where they thought their grandfather’s cabin to be. They’d been there only once several years ago. It all looked so far away and they had no idea how far the mountains were in actual distance and time. Their phones had run out of battery several hours previously and they had no place to charge them. Besides, their grandfather didn’t have a cell phone. They certainly couldn’t remember his landline number. No one memorized phone numbers these days. There were no more phone books available as far as they knew, so they couldn’t look it up. A sister and a brother running away from home. Trying to find their grandfather. Sue knew they would have thought this through better if they’d had more time, but they were reacting in the midst of crisis and they had to go somewhere. Sue looked at her younger brother, Roman. The tip of his nose was red. He’d pulled his hood up and tied the strings so only a sliver of his face was visible. He’d also wrapped his blue plaid scarf around his head. A very small nine-year old. Still he was plucky and faced this journey without complaint. Sue thought back to earlier in the day and wondered if Roman was thinking about it too.

Sue had walked into Roman’s room to check on him after school while her mother was still at work and saw her stepfather, Steve, on the bed with Roman, touching his private parts. The sight was so shocking that she felt like she’d been slammed by an earthquake. She knew that her life and her brother’s life had turned in an instant. She wondered if she’d imagined it, it seemed so impossible, but no, it had happened. She was sure it had really happened.

She was only twelve, but she roared at Steve, ordering him to get his filthy hands off her brother. She grabbed Roman off the bed and wrapped her arms around him as though she could shield him from what had already happened. Steve jumped off the bed as if it was white hot and took off down the hallway.

“Shut up. Shut the hell up,” he screamed in her face, as he flew by. “You’re too young to understand.” And he took off out the back door. Sue knew she was old enough to understand that what he was doing was bad for Roman and terrible for her mother. She called her mother at the hospital where she worked as a nurse and sobbed out her story to her mother.

She’d expected comfort from her mother. She’d expected outrage and promises of protection from her. Instead, her mother said, “What have you done?” Her mother’s voice didn’t sound like her. It sounded like a stone speaking.

When she didn’t answer, her mother demanded, “Where’s Steve?” She didn’t ask about Roman, whether he was all right. Just, “Where’s Steve?”

At that moment, Sue knew she couldn’t stay at home. She knew she and Roman had to leave. They were no longer safe in their home. She didn’t know of any neighbors that would help without calling her mother. Her aunts and uncles were halfway across the country. Her father was dead, many years gone. She couldn’t call her mother’s parents, she knew. She felt her head spinning and her thoughts somersaulted in her skull. She had to think but she had no time to think. She assumed her mom would come running home to look for Steve. They had to get out and soon.

She threw a few pairs of their underwear and socks into her backpack with their toothbrushes, soap, their phones, chargers, T-shirts, sweaters, blue jeans, A Wrinkle in Time, their favorite book, and the $15 she’d saved. She threw their sneakers into the pack and grabbed bananas, oranges, and granola bars that Roman liked as snacks. Again, she wished she had more time.

“What are you doing?” Roman asked as she flew through the house, trying to think and pack at the same time.

“Put on your snow boots and thick socks,” she told him. “Put on your flannel-lined jeans, your turtle-neck, and a sweater. Grab your scarf and mittens.”

“Where are we going?” Roman’s voice sounded high and panicked.

“We’re going as far away from here as possible. We’re going somewhere safe. Where some skeevy pervert can’t get his hands on you.”

“But what about Mommy?”

“Mommy doesn’t care about us. She only cares about Steve.” Sue wasn’t sure if that was true, but she no longer trusted her mother.

Roman’s face was solemn. “Did I do anything wrong? Is that why we’re leaving?”

 

“No. No way. You did nothing wrong. Steve did. And Mommy isn’t going to help. I don’t want that to ever happen to you again. Now get your things on. We have to leave now.”

“But where are we going?” Roman’s face reflected fear. His mouth quivered.

She hadn’t known until that moment. They were going to find their grandfather, their Dad’s father. She was sure she could trust him. “Grandpa Boots. Dad’s father.” Roman nodded and seemed satisfied.

They’d been walking for several hours. Once they saw a cop car and Sue had grabbed Roman and hidden behind an evergreen tree at the edge of the road. Now, they’d come out of the valley and into a clearing. The moon was bright and the mountains looked like faded pink and purple mushrooms and ice cream cones.  A long dark road extended into the distance and a mammoth pine tree dwarfed the road hiding the rest of it as it snaked its way up the mountains. Maybe it was her imagination but the longer they continued to walk, the farther away the pine tree and the mountains seemed.

She drew in a deep, icy breath. “Roman, did that ever happen to you before?”

 

Her brother turned his head away from her. “Just once. A month ago. You and Mommy weren’t home. I didn’t know how to stop it.” His voice sounded like he might cry.

“Did you tell Mommy?”

He shook his head. “I thought she’d be mad at me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Her brother gulped and hiccoughed. “I was ashamed.”

No matter what else happened, she knew she’d made the right decision to get him out of that place.

“Are you tired? Do you need to rest?”

Without responding, he wrapped his hand around hers, and they continued to walk together towards the mountains.

 

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Anne Nowselski and Marilyn Ackerman http://getsparked.org/spark36/anne-nowselski-and-marilyn-ackerman http://getsparked.org/spark36/anne-nowselski-and-marilyn-ackerman#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 21:51:10 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16434

Marilyn Ackerman
“The Little Girl Who Wasn’t There”
Inspiration Piece

The Bialis
By Anne Nowselski

Response

Julia pumped up the wheels of her old bike. It had been years since she’d ridden. Back when Matthew had been a boy, they’d go on the bike path near their neighborhood, riding just to ride. Sometimes he would get far ahead of her, almost out of view. But she always caught up.

She wondered if she could keep up now. At forty-six she still felt fit. She dreaded the day when there would be aches and pains greeting her in the mornings. Those days were still a long way off, she hoped.
She tested the bike, spinning the front wheel, then checked to make sure the brakes were still tight.

Over twenty years ago, she had picked it out at the dump’s swap shop. The bike itself was an ugly pink with mysterious scapes and dents. Matthew had been embarrassed by it, especially when they came across his friends along the bike way.

Now the seat was a little torn, and she’d smoothed it out with a generous amount of duct tape. Climbing on she felt strange. As she pushed out of the garage with the balls of her feet, she thought it was at once familiar and foreign. Like putting on old shoes.

She snapped the kickstand and then went and closed the door. It sliced down like a guillotine and locked with a clang. Then she adjusted her helmet again. Just like she once did for Matthew. She smiled thinking of that little boy, all those years ago when they had first moved in, a newly single mother and a boy of five.

Slowly, she rolled the bike down the driveway, pleased with herself when she didn’t fall over. Soon air was rushing by her ears with a familiar buzz and she was feeling the strain in her legs as she pumped up the first hill. Then she rounded the last house and she was on the bike way.

It was an early spring day. Snow piles still lined the sides of the pavement, but only as leaky brown lumps. A chill held in the air, which probably was why there were few people out. But for Julia, she had needed to get out. A restlessness had come over her recently, urging her to move. To do something.

Denise, her friend of many years, had called it a combination of empty nest syndrome and pre-midlife crisis. And had listed an extensive reading list on both, and also encouraged Julia to take a bunch of classes that ranged from hot yoga to baking classes. None of which was quite what Julia was interested in. She was taking this time to figure things out, and laying on her stomach for an hour or icing a cake did not seem like a way to go about it.

In truth, Julia had been relieved when Matthew had gone to college, and then relieved when he had landed a good job, even if it was far away. Then finally, two weeks ago, he had settled down. And she did not have that teary eyed feeling of being left behind. She was grateful that he was going to be alright.

For herself, she was less focused than him. She had worked at the office shuffling papers to pay the bills. But now, now as Denise urged her, she had these two months sabbatical to figure out what she wanted to do. And Julia did want to do something for herself. But for so long she had been like a leaf drifting in a stream, she couldn’t find her goal, couldn’t focus.

As she peddled, she noticed she had no destination. It could have been an hour or only a minute, she wasn’t sure. She had passed a few places she remembered, an old post that marked a walking path, a place where she and young Matthew had bought lemonade from a classmate. They were like glimpses into a past.

Up ahead, a yellow backhoe was blocking the bike way. A large gaping hole with several workers standing around were there. She slowed down, a detour sign pointed to a ramp that would take her back up to the road where she could hear the cars whipping by. She decided to swerve back to the walking path. It ran behind some houses and paralleled a tiny stream eventually coming to a park.

She nearly missed the path, but the weathered wooden post was there. Someone had stacked four stones on top of it. The path itself was nearly invisible with broken branches and leaves hiding it. She was soon bumping over rocks and tree roots. The little stream was a muddy snake to her right. Not the most comfortable ride, but if she remembered correctly there was an ancient oak that Matthew had once climbed. She would like to see it again.

The trees were tall, blocking the view of the houses that she could only catch glimpses of, as if they were a wall of a cloister. It was quieter here, secluded in a way that even the long stretches alone on the bike path could not be. She saw only dried leaves and branches. No birds chirped, though she saw a bluejay flit about. She was alone.

She was just beginning to feel the sense of calm come over her, a sense of relief. Her bike dipped quickly underneath her, teetering her to the side and she fell into a patch of damp leaves. The smell of rot filled her nose as she struggled to disentangle herself from the bike. When she was standing again, her heart rate slowing, she saw that she only had some minor scrapes and bruises.

A chuckle bubbled up from her chest. Then she was laughing.

“You there!” Someone shouted.

Julia whipped around and peered through the trees. No one was there. Just the damp leaves and grey trees. The bluejay had landed on a nearby branch. She turned then, to pick up the bike again when the voice called again, “Please! You must help!”

She looked back at the bird, it was staring at her strangely. Not like a bird should, but with its black eyes staring at her earnestly.

“Come help! Follow me! No time to waste!” The voice called again.

“Where are you?” She demanded as she got her phone out.

“I’m right here. Hurry! She won’t last long!”

She shook her head, still trying to see what she could be missing. “I can’t see you. Who needs help? I can call 911.” The phone was poised in her hand.

“Nineoneone? Look up, look up! Yes! Yes, that’s it,” the bird hopped closer, landing on a branch only an arm’s length away. The voice seemed to follow with it. “Come! Come now!” Then it flitted away a few feet and waited.

“The bluejay?” Julia asked aloud. Then it began to dawn on her. It probably wasn’t really a bluejay at all. It was one of those really fancy drones that mimicked birds. They were getting very advanced now, weren’t they? Only last autumn her neighbor had been testing one that looked like a large dragonfly. It had not flown like this dronebird, instead getting stuck in her tree so they had to use a long pole to get it down.

She followed the dronebird for a few steps, then it darted back a few more feet along the path. She went after it. And then it would dart off again. They went on this way for awhile. The small creature always out of reach. Eventually she came to the large oak that she recognized. It was huge, its branches spanning in a wide circle that no other tree or bush grew in.

The dronebird flew off again, dipping down to the muddy bank of the stream. The thing landed on a rock that was next to a thick slimy branch stuck partway in the water. As Julia neared, something beneath the branch squirmed. She crouched down and saw the black eyes of a small creature. It was no bigger then a rabbit. With a furry face that may have been white once. It could be a winter fox, maybe a baby one, it was so small.

“Oh,” Julia whispered, “You poor thing. Just hang on. I’ll get help,” she still had her phone out, and she started searching for an animal control number.

“What are you waiting for? Take up that branch!” The dronebird commanded.

“I can’t do that. It’s a wild animal. It might bit me,” she said absently as she scrolled.

“Help her! Stop dallying on that slate-thing and do SOMETHING!”

The tone startled her, making her almost drop her phone. The feathers of the bird rustled, then it swooped in nearly pecking her hand.

Automatically, she leaned down, and as the creature coward she gripped the slimy branch. She gave it a rough jerk, that only produced a whimpering cry from the animal. “Shh, shh, don’t worry little one. Let me just…” she leveraged the branch again, heaving it up and holding it.

For a moment the critter did nothing, frozen in terror. Then it cautiously stepped out of the mud hole. Julia saw a glop of mud on its back, and reached down automatically to wipe it off. It was then it darted off through the leaves.

Julia let the branch fall back and then wiped her hands in the stream as best she could before sitting down on a rock. The bluejay hopped next to her.

“It’s not a drone,” she said aloud looking at the bird.

“Drone? I’m the least boring Azuel you’ll ever meet!” It chirped.

“I’m talking to a bird,” she replied, “And the bird is talking back… there’s a term for this. Psychotic break or something like that. I’m having one of those. Or maybe when I slipped in the mud, I hit my head against a rock.” She touched her helmet, “Or maybe I’m asleep under that oak over there and dreaming…”

“Human, you are as awake as I—oh look! She comes back!” The bluejay fluttered landing on Julia’s shoulder.

The little creature was caked in mud as it came through the dead leaves. Its little paws like a cat’s, it’s tail whipping back and forth as it neared. But the Julia could not take her eyes off its back. For there were wings, though grimy and dirty, they were unmistakably feather wings like an owl’s.

“What is that?” She asked in wonder. It was something out of a storybook or movie. And Julia felt a deep sense of awe as the tiny mythical creature came closer.

“She’s a bialis, a winged fox,” the bird explained, “Oh, she says thank you very much for coming to her aid. She will never forget your help for the rest of her life.”

Whispering, Julia replied, “I’ve never heard of a bialis.”

It was just within reach, and despite the grime that covered it. Julia was mesmerized and reached out to touch it, just to make sure it was real. It’s narrow nose sniffed her hand, then it snapped its small jaw on her hand.

“Ow!” Julia yelped pulling back.

The bialis dashed off with an awkward run glide until it came to the oak tree. It paused and glanced back at her, the dark eyes wide. Then it disappeared into the tree.

“How lucky you are!” The bird chirped in her ear. “The bialis said she has marked you. And you can go to her world if you like.”

“She bit me,” Julia muttered as she rubbed the bloody teeth marks on her hand. Yet even as she did so, the wound faded until it was like an old scar. “I need a rabies shot now…” she said with a shrug.

“But you can go to the mythical lands!” The bird said.

“I can’t just… I can’t just leave.” It was a ridiculous thought. She had no idea what was in the tree, if there was anything. It could just be a strange joke. Things like this happened to children in storybooks, where they were whisked off on an adventure. Not something for the likes of her.

And yet. She walked to the old oak and stared up at the long branches. The small woods was silent, as if holding its breath. It was a quiet that was waiting for her.

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Kathleen Finn Jordan and Channie Greenberg http://getsparked.org/spark36/kathleen-finn-jordan-and-channie-greenberg http://getsparked.org/spark36/kathleen-finn-jordan-and-channie-greenberg#respond Mon, 05 Mar 2018 20:52:01 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16429

Channie Greenberg
“Word”

Inspiration Piece

Tête – a – Tête
By Kathleen Finn Jordan
Response

Words are colors, are shapes as they cascade from the mind

And land on surface others

Fresh green, cool blue, red hot urgent

Affecting as they catapult forward into the space and mind of others

Sticking in their singular shapes and becoming a new life in the hearer

Deeper in the listener

And like feathers they cannot be retrieved

Cannot be unsaid

Inspiring love, hate and other emotions

Words carry feelings and transmit them

Like arrows from a taut bow

Piercing, and bleeding into other words of

Reply, understanding or rebuff.

Words need to be guarded carefully

Thought about and served cool

Lest they hover like unpleasant drones.

 

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Helen Lewis and Rachel Brown http://getsparked.org/spark36/helen-lewis-and-rachel-brown http://getsparked.org/spark36/helen-lewis-and-rachel-brown#comments Mon, 05 Mar 2018 20:17:49 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16424

Rachel Brown
“Landscape in Silver (or close-up of pebbles on a rock)”
Inspiration piece

Outpost
By Helen Lewis
Response

Captain Yang was on watch when exoplanet ZX159c came within view. The sensors showed that gravity was high, but within tolerable levels. The planet had a breathable atmosphere, an ideal temperature range, and initial readings suggested it was teeming with life.

The captain woke up the others – Flight Officer Lin and Science Officer Tan – and all three prepared for the most dangerous part of the journey so far. Their descent through the atmosphere was even more hair-raising than expected, due to strong winds and heavy rain, and Flight Officer Lin had to make an emergency landing.

The spacecraft had come to rest on a rocky plateau near two massive boulders. A sheer cliff face rose above them on one side, and on the other side could be seen the distant glimmer of the ocean.

Despite the sensors’ reassurance that the atmosphere was breathable, the captain insisted that they suit up before they went outside. The rocky terrain was full of undulating ridges and was difficult to traverse.

After walking for about an hour, they came across an enormous conical structure about the same size as the ship, with vertical ridges and subtle bands of colour in green and sandy brown. Science Officer Tan identified it as a giant marine mollusc. When the others looked shocked, she explained that it was almost certainly a herbivore, so posed no danger. Nevertheless, they made sure to give the massive creature a wide berth.

Half an hour or so later, they came to the shore of a lake. Science Officer Tan collected a sample of the liquid from the lake and tested it.

‘It’s water, with fairly high concentrations of dissolved ions. Not drinkable as it is, but it could be made safe to drink through distillation.’

‘Very encouraging,’ beamed Captain Yang. ‘It looks like this planet might be the ideal place for a new colony.’

Flight Officer Lin looked at his watch. ‘Time to head back,’ he said.

*

After the storm, Mary took Barney for a walk along the beach. The little cocker spaniel ran ahead of her, splashing and snuffling in the rock pools.

When it was time to go back home, Mary called Barney to her. As she was putting on his lead, she noticed he had something in his mouth.

‘What have you got there, Barney?’

Mary reached gently into the dog’s mouth and pulled out a little model, about two inches long. This wasn’t the type of cheap plastic toy given away in cereal boxes; it was made out of metal and was beautifully detailed. A child must have left it behind when they were playing on the beach, thought Mary. Well, their prized possession wouldn’t go to waste. She’d give it to her five-year-old grandson, Noah. He had a big collection of toy vehicles, but as far as Mary knew, it didn’t yet include a spacecraft.

 

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