SPARK http://getsparked.org get together | get creative | get sparked! Wed, 09 Oct 2019 20:09:27 -0700 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3 MM Panas and JoAnn Moore http://getsparked.org/spark42/mmpanas-and-joann-moore-2 http://getsparked.org/spark42/mmpanas-and-joann-moore-2#respond Wed, 09 Oct 2019 16:15:44 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17432

MM Panas
“Let Things Happen”

Response

Both Sides Now
By JoAnn Moore
Inspiration piece

The season has shifted again.
The afternoon sun sets quickly:
nature prepares for its darkness.

It was about this time last year
when you started calling—
and eleven days before you left me
a message and I called back,
hopeful for what once was.

I remember the first time
I held each of my children,
discovered the softness of my mother’s skin
three weeks before she died,
heard my son say, when reading one of my poems,
…………..You got this one right,
saw the magnificence of the Pacific,
felt life leave my dog,
hoped that one day I would be closer to myself,
that I believed in you,
and realized all memory is selective.

 

 

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Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to
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JoAnn Moore and MM Panas http://getsparked.org/spark42/joann-moore-and-mm-panas-4 http://getsparked.org/spark42/joann-moore-and-mm-panas-4#respond Wed, 09 Oct 2019 15:44:30 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17492

MM Panas
“Take Me for a Ride”
Inspiration piece

Reverberations
By JoAnn Moore
Response

Rivers amble
sunshafts streak
leaves rustle
fog wisps escape.

Stellers’ dart
moss shimmer
squirrels scutter
children shriek.

Colors rouse
hearts alight
redwoods soar
the sky dances with song.

 

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Robert Haydon Jonesand Matthew Levine http://getsparked.org/spark42/robert-haydon-jonesand-matthew-levine-4 http://getsparked.org/spark42/robert-haydon-jonesand-matthew-levine-4#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2019 19:14:52 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17466

Matthew Levine
“Central Park, Fall”
Inspiration piece

The Next Stop
By Robert Haydon Jones
Response

Looking back from 68 years away, Jimmy O’Hara could not figure why he had elected to stay on the train that morning at the suburban stop for his prep school and had gotten out at the next stop, at the grimy, industrial city of Bridgeport.

Jimmy took the train every weekday two stops back and forth to prep school. It was a fixed routine.

Jimmy was 13. What had he been thinking he was going to do on a weekday morning in Bridgeport? From 68 years in the future, Jimmy had no idea.

In fact, Jimmy couldn’t recall anything of what he did in the station before he met Jerry.

Jerry, a slim, pleasant looking negro in his mid-forties, had come up to him and asked if he was lost. Did he need help? Jimmy said he was okay. Jerry said he was glad that was the case. Would Jimmy like a coffee?

Jimmy remembered they walked just a couple of blocks to Jerry’s apartment. It was up three flights of steep stairs. Jerry made coffee. It was very sweet. It tasted pretty good.

Jerry had served in the Army during the War. He had finished up in Korea. He asked Jimmy how he was doing.

Jimmy talked to him about how he played football and baseball. He had been a star in his first year at his very famous prep school in Massachusetts — but his father had gotten sick – and now Jimmy had to go to school close to home.

He didn’t like it. His new school was too big – plus they didn’t pay much attention to sports programs for younger athletes.

Jerry asked Jimmy if he would like to drink some beer and Jimmy said, “Sure.” Jerry poured out the beer and cautioned Jimmy to go easy. “We don’t want you going home, three sheets to the wind,” he said.

The beer was cold and it tasted good. Jimmy liked it. He was a little dizzy. Then Jerry asked him if he ever smoked and Jimmy said he snuck a smoke once in a while.

Jerry told him he would make them a very special cigarette. He took papers and rolled a cigarette like Jimmy’s grandfather used to. He mixed brown and green tobacco.

He lit it up. After a few puffs, he passed it to Jimmy. He puffed and coughed. Jerry smiled. “Go easy,” he said. “This is a marijuana combo. Easy does it.”

Jimmy took a few more puffs. Almost immediately, he felt himself start to float. Jerry turned on some music and it was wonderful. He could hear Jerry talking to him in a voice that came from far, far away.

He slept for a while. When he woke up, he was lying there in his underpants. Jerry was telling him he deserved love and attention. Jerry promised he would give Jimmy all the love he would ever need. Then Jerry gently pushed his penis into Jimmy’s butt. It didn’t hurt. Jimmy went back to sleep.

When Jimmy woke up, Jerry was cleaning Jimmy’s butt with warm water. Then he helped Jimmy get his underpants and trousers back on. Jerry asked Jimmy what time the train he took back home departed. Jimmy told him. It would leave in just 45 minutes. Jimmy had been there for nearly six hours!

Jimmy was very, very thirsty. Jerry gave him three or four glasses of water. He suggested to Jimmy that they could remain close friends. He wanted to continue to give Jimmy the close support he knew he needed so much.

Jimmy gave Jerry his phone number. Jerry wrote his phone number on a card. Jimmy put the card in his wallet. As they walked to the railroad station, Jerry suggested Jimmy keep their friendship private. Jimmy agreed he would.

Jimmy arrived home that day just as usual. No one said anything. He had dinner with his family and then took a hot shower. He was exhausted. Fortunately the next day was a Saturday and he slept late.

After breakfast, he was in the bathroom when the phone rang. His mother told him someone named Jerry had called. He would call back. Was it about sports? He sounded older.

Jerry called Jimmy four or five times that day. He missed Jimmy. Was he okay? When could they meet again? Jimmy got more and more nervous with each call. He had lots of brothers and sisters. There were a lot of extensions in the house. He asked Jerry to please cool down. Jerry got very angry at that.

Was Jimmy ashamed to have a negro as a friend? Was he angry that Jerry had given him special comfort? Jerry said all that on a call late that Saturday afternoon and Jimmy’s dad heard it all on an extension in the master bedroom.

Jimmy’s dad confronted him right away. Jimmy tried to say it was no big deal but his dad cut him off. “James,” he bellowed. “Don’t lie to me. I just listened in on you on an extension. I heard it all. Tell me everything. All I want to do is to help you.”

Jimmy told his dad pretty much everything. When he was done, his father gave him a long hug. Then his dad took a pen and a pad and worked with Jimmy to create a detailed chronology of Jimmy’s day with Jerry. Jimmy also gave his dad the card Jerry had given him with his contact info.

Then his Dad called the Bridgeport Police and arranged to meet with detectives to lodge a complaint

Jimmy was surprised his dad had called the police. His dad told him they must. Otherwise, Jerry would be free to prey on other boys. It made Jimmy feel funny. He had been “preyed on.” Like a rabbit by a wolf.

They drove up to Bridgeport the next day after Sunday mass. The police station was out of the old days. They sat in a conference room with a myriad of cigarette burn marks on just about every surface. A pleasant young detective named Gianetti took a statement from Jimmy.

Jimmy’s dad then turned in the card with Jerry’s contact info. Jimmy later learned that the police used the phone number to get Jerry’s address.

That was the start of a long, long process. It was October. Jerry pleaded not guilty, so his trial in Bridgeport Superior Court did not take place until the middle of April.

Jimmy had to write out his complaint at least a dozen times more. He had to go to the doctor. His butt showed only very slight damage but he had to take shots and pills to ward of the potential of venereal disease. The doctor was very unfriendly.

Then the prosecutor interviewed Jimmy. At first, he seemed to attack Jimmy. He kind of implied that Jimmy often did things with men that Jerry was accused of. Jimmy was shocked.

“No way,” he said. “I never did anything like that before.”

That was true. But in a way it was untrue. Jimmy had compared penises with three friends a few times on pajama parties. Twice they had rubbed their penises against each other’s penis.

Anyway, he convinced the prosecutor. He explained they had to be sure Jimmy was legit. That’s why he had pushed him. Jerry would claim he was making it up.

It turned out the prosecutor had real good news. The detectives were talking to two other boys around Jimmy’s age who Jerry had molested. Plus Jerry had been discharged from the Army for bad conduct.

In March, a month before the trial, Jimmy was interviewed by two detectives and then a psychologist at the State Police barracks. Then he waited in another room.

Jimmy could hear the sound of their voices as they discussed him– but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. Then one of them said in a loud voice that Jimmy could hear, “There’s nothing wrong with this boy that a little love wouldn’t cure.”

The days moved on and Jimmy had a nice Christmas and his mother had another baby girl. A week before the trial, Jimmy went to the courthouse and an assistant prosecutor rehearsed him on what a cross examination would be like.

Jimmy wore a sport coat and tie for the trial. The big courthouse was crowded. The morning was used up by preliminaries. Jerry chose to be tried by the Judge.

They read out the charges and then the time came for Jimmy to testify. The Prosecutor had him read out the statement he had written months back. Then Jerry’s defense attorney questioned Jimmy.

He said he had noticed Jimmy was reading a book as he waited. Jimmy replied it was a short story collection he was reading as homework. The attorney then suggested that Jimmy had a very powerful imagination. That his accusations were stories Jimmy had made up to shield himself from the consequences of playing hooky.

Jimmy replied he couldn’t have made the stories up. He had never before been drugged by a marijuana cigarette. He had never before had anyone mess with his butt. The court erupted in laughter.

Jerry was found guilty. The judge sentenced him to three to five years in prison.

Jimmy went on with his life. His father regained his health. The next year, Jimmy returned to the prestigious prep school and excelled in sports. But he got into trouble for drinking and brawling. Finally, years later, in January of his Sixth Form year, he was expelled.

Jimmy tried not to think about Jerry but he couldn’t help it. He knew prison could be really tough on an offender who messed with kids.

The fact was that except for that time on the phone when he had gotten so furious with Jimmy, Jerry hadn’t been all that bad. He hadn’t killed Jimmy. Through all the years, Jimmy has always been grateful for that.

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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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Matthew Levine andRobert Haydon Jones http://getsparked.org/spark42/matthew-levine-androbert-haydon-jones-4 http://getsparked.org/spark42/matthew-levine-androbert-haydon-jones-4#comments Thu, 19 Sep 2019 19:04:18 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17463

Matthew Levine
“The Decision”
Response

Not Solitary
By Robert Haydon Jones
Inspiration piece

Sarah Moran, a willowy, red haired, beauty in her early-forties, fainted and fell face down on her eggs over-easy at the country club after church on a gorgeous Sunday morning in mid-June.

Terry Moran, her husband, hesitated for just a second before he took action. The humor of it confused Terry. It was terrifying and funny. It was a merry joke. It was a ghastly happening.

He scurried around the table and placed his hands on Sarah’s ears. He raised her head. Her face was all smeared with running egg yolk. Her eyes had rolled back. Terror kicked Terry hard in the pit of his stomach. Then Sarah opened her green eyes and looked at him quizzically. She was puzzled. How did she get here?

Terry used a plush cloth napkin to clean her up. She had fainted he told her. There was nothing to worry about. It was nothing more than the random peril of going too long on an empty stomach.

Before long, staff had cleared and cleaned the table. Terry re-ordered Sarah’s eggs. They had a nice breakfast. Yet, within the year, Terry would look back on this day as the start point of a cascade of cerebral events that eventually would steal his wonderful wife from him and the entire world.

Meeting Sarah had been the high point of Terry’s life. She sat next to him at a fund raising dinner at the Cathedral, which was his home parish. Sarah was 15 years his junior, and astonishingly beautiful. She was very intelligent and a good listener. She wore a wedding band – but she was a widow. Her husband, an Annapolis grad and a Marine Corps fighter pilot, had crashed into the sea off Vietnam. They had been married for just two months.

Terry had also been a Marine Corps fighter pilot years back after Princeton. He had flown over the same waters in which Sarah’s husband had perished. The moment he saw her, Terry was certain he would marry Sarah.

Years later, Sarah told their two children she had been swept away. “I never had a chance,” she said.

Their marriage had been joyous. Friends remarked that their honeymoon had never stopped.

Money was not a concern. Terry had invented components that enabled a break through in the government’s ability to read messages that foreign powers were certain were secure. He had patented his inventions and bought up other smaller companies with similar advanced technology. His company was worth plenty.

Sarah was the only child and heir of the co-founders of the leading thermal equipment company for laboratories world wide. Her parents loved their grandchildren and the family.

It turned out Sarah had a fairly rare genetic disease that triggered cerebral incidents on a regular basis that injured her brain a little each and every time and within a year or so, would grind out her memory and personality.

It was hell on earth. They traipsed from specialist to specialist. First they looked for a different diagnosis. Then they sought a treatment that would arrest the deadly progression.

Within two months, Terry was doing the traipsing on his lonesome. Sarah had steadily dwindled. She slept a lot. She developed a passion for sweets. She gained weight.

Sarah detached from Terry and the world. She could not focus on their life. Terry brought in a full time nursing attendant and installed Sarah in a newly designed bedroom and treatment suite on the third floor. Sarah liked it. Then came the day when she did not know who Terry was.

Terry fought valiantly against the ghastly progression of the disease in the woman he so loved. For quite some time he blamed himself. Again and again, he remembered he had almost giggled when Sarah collapsed face down in her eggs over-easy, at the Country Club. It connected him. He felt responsible.

Then a thoughtful doctor at Columbia Presbyterian brought him into his office, sat him down and told him there was nothing Terry or anyone else could do. Sarah was being obliterated because a small part of her genetic formula had been fouled up.

Terry immediately wept. A flood of tears burst out of him. The good doctor consoled him but from then on, he was pretty much on his own. Great gouts of grief continuously wracked him.

His love, his wife, his lover, his, long time, trusted companion was gone. Sarah had always helped him work through every crisis in the past. Now she was the crisis. All he could do was honor her as best he could and take the pain.

His happiness with Sarah had seduced him and made him sloppy. He took the good days for granted. Sarah had normal pregnancies. The two children were okay at birth and had gone on to be splendid kids. His son had just been awarded a PHD in fine art at Harvard. His daughter was a rising force in filmmaking.

Most of all, he had taken Sarah for granted. He was still crazy in love with her and her with him. They loved having sex. They loved making love. He ran business issues by her and she asked his advice on everything from art to cupcakes.

They were enchanted with each other and with life. They went full throttle at everything. In the course of a study for her book club, Sarah got interested in William and Mary. Terry soon joined her in a full immersion in their reign.

They went on to publish a popular book on The Declaration of Right, which had later integrated into the English Constitution.

Now Sarah dwindled and Terry kept watch. He did not take a mistress or become an alcoholic or a drug addict. He did throw himself into exercise. After a time, his trainer told him he was a beast. Terry couldn’t abide being a gaunt 57-year-old. He took to meditation. It worked. He was able to bear the unbearable.

Elizabeth Attenborough was a near neighbor. She had been widowed two years back when her husband, Maurice, had suddenly been ravaged by leukemia. He had succumbed to the disease in less than two months. There were two
children in their late twenties.

Terry literally bumped into Elizabeth at Whole Foods five months after Sarah’s first attack. He had not seen her since Maurice’s funeral. She asked how Sarah was and Terry told her. They wept on each other’s shoulder.

They were inseparable ever since. Like Terry, Elizabeth had thought the good time would last forever and she had often blundered through it. She had a lust for life and as she aged, she grew increasingly insecure. So, she had a serious affair, which was very enjoyable until she realized it was really very stupid.

Fortunately, her lover loved her and the end was smooth. As far as she knew, Mark, her husband, never found out. Even so, as he died, she was sure she had killed him. Then he was dead and she was a 52 year-old widow with two grown children, a great body and a huge fortune.

Elizabeth and Terry worked hard every day on doing right by Sarah even though they were now forever linked to each other by an unspoken promise. They loved each other vastly right away.

Elizabeth and Sarah knew each other well in the past, but when Elizabeth joined Terry and Sarah at table for lunch one day, Sarah did not acknowledge her. This was the day after Sarah did not recognize Terry.

That night Terry and Elizabeth had sex for the first time and then slept together in her bed. Each of them understood how incredibly lucky they were to be together. The task at hand was to do right by the gift.

The first question was Sarah. Her diagnosis was stark. She would suffer mini strokes on a regular basis and diminish in personality and presence every time she did. She was 42 and in relatively good health. She could live at least forty more years.

Their first thought was an extended sneak. But it was so obviously not the way to go, that they immediately forgave themselves and went all out for full disclosure.

First, Terry had Sarah declared incompetent. Then he set up three carefully detailed Trusts to serve and protect Sarah. He named himself and Elizabeth as Trustees. He had intended to also name the children as Trustees but they rebelled at the plan. So Terry retained his trusted Family Attorney as the third Trustee.

Terry then divorced Sarah. His children and Elizabeth’s children threatened a nasty, drawn out scandal. But nothing happened. There was no publicity.

A week after the divorce, Terry and Elizabeth were married by a Justice of the Peace.

Elizabeth sold her house. Then Terry and Elizabeth purchased a beautiful property on the river six miles away. Elizabeth and Terry and Sarah moved in. Ample suites were allocated for each of the four children, but as of this writing, none of the children have joined them.

That is a sad fact. Nevertheless, Terry and Elizabeth are very hopeful everything will work out some day.

“Our children are in great pain”, Terry says. “We know all about that. They lost a beloved parent. We lost the love of our life. Our hope is soon they will realize our new union is a miracle driven by love and they too will rejoice.”

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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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Tisha Carter and Kate Gilronan http://getsparked.org/spark42/tisha-carter-and-kate-gilronan http://getsparked.org/spark42/tisha-carter-and-kate-gilronan#respond Wed, 18 Sep 2019 20:44:55 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17456

Tisha Carter
“leaving 7 suns of cypress”
Mixed media
Response

 

Dickman Bold
By Kate Gilronan
Inspiration piece

We join our valiant hero kilovairs in the outer ring as he dauntlessly pursues galactic renegades. Dickman Bold, courageous conqueror of the cosmos, hastens through the asteroid field, closing in on his prey. Just as things look up for Bold, he is struck from his flank by a hurdling chunk of space refuge. Dickman Bold’s spacecraft plummets towards the lethal, jagged surface of space rock. Is this the end of Dickman Bold, galactic guru?

Firing up his retro-rockets, Bold’s spacecraft slows its lethal voyage. Conquering his mutinous controls Dickman rights the craft into its previous position. Drats! The outlaw scum have eluded Dickman Bold. But this is of little concern to our fearless fighter, for he knows that while evil-doers exist, they will always be pursued by the overwhelming forces of good and squashed like the proverbial insect.

About-facing his crumpling craft, Bold directs his route back to the earthly order from which he came. Once at the marshal space station on the third moon, Bold cold docks his impaired spacecraft. Expeditious repairs are pending, for the cosmic connoisseur’s next virtuous enterprise is in pursuit of the terrible Uckman Goo.

A lunar communication has called for Bold’s boundless bravery.

Dickman Bold, Help! The future of life as we know it lies in your hands! The villainous Uckman Goo has horrendously captured the entire Solar Committee and taken them to his evil-Mecca, planet Quaregon. Goo’s intentions are to use gelatal-goo cloning to replicate the committee with un-human goo and have his copied cronies elect him chancellor of the Solar Committee. This power would make Uckman Goo unstoppable! Dickman Bold, Space Marshal extraordinaire, the world is in your hands! Go forth, bold one, and good luck!

Putting aside the caustic conclusion of this crusade, Dickman Bold grabs his pember ray and makes for his spiffy spacecraft. Bold’s desperate gambit: to fearlessly fly undetected under Uckman Goo’s lunar radar and land just micromers outside of Goo’s fortress.  Plan set, our valiant hero blasts off for Uckman’s unknown. Once into deep space, Bold hits hyper-speed to hasten his journey.

The marble-size planet Quaregon is now visible, and Bold slows his enclosure.  The heroic hero careens through Quaregon’s rock rings swerving left, right, up, and down. The amazing Bold pilots around each pebbly projectile, through the rings and deep into the napalmic alien atmosphere. Oh no! A fiery flash of fatality-flare slices through the blackness before bold. Our hero is under attack… what now?! Is this the end?!  Stay tuned to see what happens to Dickman Bold, space Spartan of the universe!

Continuing where we last left off, our sporting spaceman was bearing down on the unkind Uckman Goo’s planet Quaregon and suddenly came under attack. Now we join Bold in a time of apprehension…

Each deadly death-beam threatens the safety of our hero. Taking fultrons from his rocket power and adding it to the diminishing shields, Bold adds security to his endangered vessel. With much grace and guts Bold is able to touch down on the toxic planet but lands too close to Uckman Goo’s sinful stronghold. This means Goo’s cohorts will be onto to Bold in no time flat. Adjusting his pember ray gun to molecularize, Dickman Bold, vegan vegetarian, leaves his trusty spacecraft and treks onwards with his mighty mission.

Upon the hour, Bold reaches the fortification and with immense caution continues on.  Our noble champion lurks in the shadows tuning in on each cry for help and proceeds towards the dark innards of the Goo’s dwelling. Suddenly, a slippery sentry spots Bolds! No fear, however, strikes through Dickman Bolds brave body; with lightening speed Bold removes his crushing cannon: “Eat potent pember death slime-ball!” Zap! The once formidable foe now lies as an oozing putrid puddle steaming with regret. Pushing onwards with a pursuing pace Dickman Bold, Martian madman, reaches Uckman Goo’s chamber door.

Entering with care, Bold is greeted by the undulating Uckman Goo.  “Bold, we’ve been expecting you.  Won’t you join us and watch as I take over the universe?”

“Goo you’re dreadful days are numbered.  Release the Solar Committee and I’ll proceed punishing you with greater mercy!”  Our hero, flying through the air, fires a blast at the gangrenous Goo. But no! The shot is ineffective; striking goo squarely on the thorax the shot has passed directly through the globular mess. Drats! A headshot must be the lethal load. Taking aim once more from behind close cover Dickman Bold launches another lethal lash, but Goo, surprisingly, is too quick. Dodging Bold’s audacious attempt, Goo slithers his slimy self to a control center and begins to lower the captive Solar Committee into a vat of venomous green goo.

Time is running out, Bold must save the committee. Relinquishing his hiding, Bold bolts forward and takes a stoic swing at Uckman, followed by another blow to the fatty flank. Each strike is moot; Bold’s fierce fists merely sink deeper and deeper into the globular Goo. Just as things look hopeless for our noble space-knight, Goo makes his mistake. As Bold beats away at Goo’s blubbery body, Goo is forced backwards towards the toxic tank of gelatal-goo behind. With one last blast, Uckman Goo flutters over the edge and into the heinous heap below. Uckman Goo lets out a deafening cry and then gradually gives way to death’s icy fingers.

Dickman Bold stopped the Solar Committee’s deadly deploy and frees them from their restraints. Behind the steady lead of our commanding conqueror, the Solar Committee is lead to safety and rendezvous with a transport for the liberated legislatures. Once more Dickman Bold, lunar legend, has saved the universe. Blasting off in his reliable rocket ship, Bold races away leaving the seven setting suns of Cyprus behind him.

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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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Rusty Lynn and Channie Greenberg http://getsparked.org/spark42/rusty-lynn-and-channie-greenberg http://getsparked.org/spark42/rusty-lynn-and-channie-greenberg#respond Wed, 11 Sep 2019 20:05:27 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17477

Rusty Lynn
“If Memory Serves”
Response

Summer of 1971
By Channie Greenberg
Inspiration piece

They arrived at dusk. The mother carried in a sleeping child, while the father dragged a wheeled suitcase behind him.

We pressed our faces against our living room window.

Three little girls followed their parents and baby into the house. The tallest and the shortest of the three had dark hair, whereas the one in the middle was blond.

The next morning, my sister and I went over to greet our new neighbors. The middle sister answered the door.

Tami and I introduced ourselves. The new girl said little.

Back home, we supposed, to ourselves, that the middle child was slightly older than me and slightly younger than Tami. Conversely, we said nothing to each other about the light in her eyes seeming bruised.

****

Over the next few months, Alexia and I became friends. We walked around the local mall together. We gathered sour apples from the woodlands, a block away, which had once been an orchard. We also fought.

I had insisted that close friends need no pinky promises or drops of exchanged blood to become confidants. Contrariwise, Alexia had maintained that some experiences ought not to go beyond the threshold of their owners’ lips.

I felt rejected.

She felt coerced.

At the height of our dispute, we didn’t talk to each other for two entire days. During each of those twenty-four hour spans, I pressed my face against my living room window, but refused to walk across our lawn to visit.

Nonetheless, the third day after our falling out was Alexia’s tenth birthday party. I put aside my resentment to share vanilla cake with sprinkles and pin the tail on the donkey with her and her family.

A bowl of overly sweet strawberry ice cream and a game of alphabet tag later, I couldn’t wait to show my best friend the baby bird, which I had rescued. Sadly, instead of observing its antics, we prepared its burial.

Sometime after we had made peace, Alexia came to my house in tears. Her parents had called her and her sisters into her father’s den and had told them with sparse words that their family was moving, again.

I didn’t want to ever let go of her when I heard that news. I was supposed to be able to talk to her about boys in a few years. Alexia already more than surpassed Tami as someone to whom to whisper while cocooned in sleeping bags in our backyard.

She and I never caught jarfuls of lightening bugs, or surreptitiously plucked the roses from my mother’s bushes. We did, nonetheless, gossip together about Sue Ellen Jones’ disappearance from our classroom, and about our fourth grade instructor, Mrs. Donaldson. What’s more, once, we two snuck a dab of my mother’s lipstick. It felt impossible that I would be promoted to middle school without my second self.

All the same, her family would not be remaining in our neighborhood. In fact, Alexia’s father had said that they might need to move before their house sale.

When the moving van came, I hurried to Alexia’s house with my gift. Inside of a shoebox, I had stuck my prettiest rock, a fawn-speckled bit of siltstone that I had found when poking around behind the dugout at the local park. I had told my mother that I was walking the two blocks between our house and the park to use the playground, but I had defiantly snooped for treasures, instead.

Alongside of that rock was a note that I had written with my precious, purple pen. Colored ink, outside of blue or back, or teachers’ red, was rare in those days. I used that implement sparingly.

Finally, I had laid one of the pin feathers, from the baby bird that we had buried together, next to the rock. I hoped that Alexia would like my offerings.

Alexia covered me with kisses. She told me that she’d save opening the box for when she settled in her new home and felt lonely all over again. Sisters were great, but they were not soul mates.

Meanwhile, Alexia’s younger sister kept an eye on the family’s toddler. Her older sister packed apples and egg salad sandwiches into a cooler.

Alexia hugged me, waved, and then returned to collecting the needed Triple-A maps. Afterwards, she counted the pillows being packed into the car; one was needed for each child.

Too soon, both the van and the car drove away.

The Internet did not exist, then. Besides, ten year-olds make crummy pen pals. Not surprisingly, Alexia and I lost touch.

****

Yesterday, when I was shopping with two of my grandsons, I saw a family with three little girls. The oldest helped herself to boxes of sugary cereal. The youngest hoisted a cantaloupe into their mother’s cart. The middle child, though, had eyes that seemed like they were filled with bruised light. She carefully placed a package of tissues among the other possessions.

 

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Channie Greenberg and Rusty Lynn http://getsparked.org/spark42/channie-greenberg-and-rusty-lynn http://getsparked.org/spark42/channie-greenberg-and-rusty-lynn#respond Wed, 11 Sep 2019 19:28:12 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17480

Rusty Lynn
“A Bloomin’ Flower Icon”
Inspiration piece

Cultivar
By Channie Greenberg
Response

Following the apocalypse, when the moon was no longer regarded as a commodious prison, but was lauded as the lone alternative to living on the deadened Earth, Luna’s residents reevaluated their housing priorities. Collectively, they decided it was better to live among the first penile colony’s descendants than on the moon’s more heterogeneous, yet more highly contaminated, shadowy half; The Plague had followed the immigrants.

So, local transfer laws notwithstanding, large numbers of people tried to move from the moon’s Dark Side to its Bright Side. Few succeeded. Those who were able to change places of residence, ultimately, were no safer from The Blight than were the individuals they had left behind. Mere years after a storm of paperwork had glutted the moon’s resettlement offices, and after uncharacteristic overcrowding had compromised the Bright Side, the Dreadful Disease, which cared nothing about location or social strata, fully poisoned the “elite” side of Earth’s only natural satellite.

First, panic persisted. Thereafter, increasing numbers of lunar citizens, on both hemispheres, realized that despite their lack of a remedy for The Epidemic, most of them survived and the majority of them enjoyed improved health. Of the small per cent of citizens that remained stricken, just a very tiny number died. The persons that remained infected simply failed to shed The Germ or simply produced one inconclusive blood workup after another.

Conjointly, the Bright Side and the Dark Side administrations warehoused those contaminated individuals. They placed them in Dark Side sanatoria, where only inmates, who were willing to pay exorbitant sums, were given the orchid treatment known to speed healing.

Bethanny was among the Bright Siders listed for displacement to the Dark Side, but not among the persons receiving the foremost care. Moreover, she was rare in that she managed to avoid being institutionalized; she arrived on the Dark Side not as a prisoner of The Plague, but as a sponsored refugee. Her organic chemistry professor, the one with whom she had long since taken a correspondence course, had offered her “lodger” status.

That same teacher cautioned Bethanny to reveal nothing to anyone about the glitch in the government’s software that had confused the young Bright Sider with another citizen by the same name. Accordingly, although Bethanny’s wounds oozed and her lungs were marred by much scar tissue, she was eventually able to be hired by a Dark Side greenhouse to plant, to prune, and to control weeds, in a building housing the healing orchids.

As a youngster, Bethanny had saved up her allotments of unstructured minutes until she had had enough time banked to visit her community’s library. There, she had delved into all available public materials on fertilizing, on cultivating, and on mulching. Bethanny meant to gain an understanding of green allies and had fancied eventually living in the Verte Nursery District of the Dark Side.

She was fascinated with landscape design and installation, especially as pertaining to Terrascaping. In her esteem, the cultivars of ancestral plants, and the vestiges of Earthly mores, ought not to be the province of a handful of politicians; all lunar citizens needed and deserved both the green things and the ethical configurations that were their Earthly heritage. Bright and Dark, tutored and less-educated, well-to-do and poor, all of Luna’s people ought to be able to come together to reap agricultural bounty and to build social accord. Whether or not her fellow citizens found a cure for The Plague, they still ought to seek a cure for their various social lues. Table grapes and fat oats, voting rights and freedom of speech, alike, belonged to all of Luna’s denizens.

As she grew into adulthood, Bethanny became both more idealistic as well as more focused on her studies. She enrolled in a biopharmacy program, while pursuing both a minor in biochemistry and a certificate in first aid. In her free time, she studied policy making and the oratory of coercion. She dabbled, too, in interpersonal communication theory and in the history of Luna’s social movements.

Prior to being stricken by The Scourge, she had amassed enough tributes to become a Luna-certified herbalist. She had, by the same token, been admitted to Luna’s Green Ideas Party and had become one of its delegates to the moon’s Electoral College. Catching The Malignancy, though, permanently prevented her from receiving her medicinal permit and exiled her from politics. In brief, Bethany lacked the wherewithal to contemplate Earth-type edible and fiber plants. She equally had no energy to protest with activists. Necessarily, she single-mindedly tried to survive.

Thus, after relocating to the Dark Side, Bethany took advantage of her mentor’s network to learn more about plant growth plus to learn more about local group actions. Very limited information had been downloaded onto public vinicultural forums and even less had been made available on sites devoted to redemptive or revolutionary rhetoric. Fortunately, the professor’s university access included points of entry into the entire system, which, in turn, enabled Bethanny to glean the best ideas about the science of farming and about contemporary cases of insurgence. Because of her advisor, she was able to gain admission to many parliamentary data arrays. Thus empowered, Bethanny developed stratagem for fighting wilt and despotism, and for overcoming both botanical and municipal troubles with graft.

Bethanny encouraged her sponsor to publish those ideas in her sponsor’s name – the moon’s elites might heed a scholar in instances in which they would never attend to the notions of a known evacuee. Cultural norms wouldn’t change just because Bethany had an insight or seven about how to use alliums to heal other plants or about how to use tiny pieces of wire to hold together budding scions. Society would not stand still in anticipation civil resistance that a welfare recipient deemed therapeutic.

Whereas Bethany regretted her unearned herbalist certificate and still wished to serve among the workers making the plant-based Epidemic-countering injections, she appreciated being able to contribute to botanical research. Correspondingly, whereas she had reveled in being part of the public face of a political party, she was content to impact collective behavior from a distance.

Had Bethany’s patron not caught The Sickness from her, Bethany would not have sought work and would not have been discovered. Formulating from a terminal in her host’s house had been lonely, but useful.

In fact, as Bethany’s patron was being loaded onto a gurney, she bid Bethany to stay home. Had Bethany not tried to pay for orchid-based treatments for her teacher, she, too, might have survived.

With her defender in need of the expensive treatment, it seemed correct, to Bethany, to seek work at a greenhouse. The young one’s skill set and political ambitions directed her along that route. In balance, she lacked the vision needed to prepare immune-boosting tinctures. Orchids were culled at night. Bethany, like all expatriated Bright Siders, suffered from achromatopsia. She could not acutely discern among objects in dimly lit spaces nor could she accurately discern among ideologies in dimly lit societal convergences.

Additionally, Bethanny needed camouflage since she remained Sick. She tried to cover the facial flares she sustained from The Illness, with frequent trips, at odd points during her shifts, to the loo. She hoped her teammates would believe that her peculiar colorations were dirt, not antibody fragments, and that they would pay no notice to the social dogmata she unwittingly seemed to be sloughing.

When in the loo, Bethany fantasized about using her bare fingers to dig her fallen hair, and other bits of her fallen detritus, out of the bathroom drain. She daydreamt, too, about leading a peaceful protest down her town’s main street. As it were, she merely pushed the sink’s swill level and then pulled the cord that released a disinfectant wash. She merely envisioned being part of the cooptation of the government. Bethanny never touched the small pieces of her body that fell loose while she was working. She never messaged the other rebels of whom she was aware.

Upon returning to her work table, Bethanny would try to inhale the spicy fragrance of the beautiful orchids that she passed. She pretended to herself that she benefited from her minute time under the false sun that warmed those flowers’ heads. Although antinociceptive and cytotoxic in nature, those Orchidaceae and Rasna not only paid her workplace’s utilities, payroll, and more; they kept haves and have-nots apart.

Likewise, whenever Bethany recited, to herself, records of civil disobedience, she pretended that she had participated in those acts. She tried to envisage how it would feel to brazenly oppose unjust leaders.

It was ironic that the orchids, those sun lovers, had to be harvested at night. It was paradoxical that Bethanny, who needed their juices, could utilize none of their healing power. In parallel, it was incongruous that the antiestablishment regime was peaking while Bethany was locked up in a holding cell of anonymity. She was eager to help propagate the nonconforming movement’s ideas and supposed herself able to help synthesize the shifting of the moon’s governance.

Two years after she had begun working at the greenhouse, and more than a year after her professor had recovered and then had returned home, Bethanny was promoted. Although she still was not permitted to help make the orchid-based medicine, she was entrusted with horticultural-related tasks involving more skills than sweeping the floors and burning the trash.

Around the same time, someone in a clandestine political group had surreptitiously contacted her. Their communication came in the form of a chalked symbol on the doorpost of her sponsor’s home. A somewhat flagged Bethany became reinvigorated.

The problem was, the asylum seeker made a serious mistake. She continued to engage in her habituated lingering in the orchid chamber. Inevitably, her boss caught her loitering and maligned her for not running to tend to the plums and almonds to which she had been tasked. That overseer reprimanded Bethanny that young plants, lacking adequate pruning, fall over. Trellising is necessary, but insufficient, that superior continued, for growing spliced lives.

Bethany stood quietly. She neither cried out nor in any other way contradicted her employer. In social control, too, collective behaviors that failed to get lopped to manageable proportions seemed to grow strong, but proved to be frail. Historically, much unrest had easily been put down by sagacious existent powers that let opposing, charismatic leaders be subdued by those leaders’ followers. Selecting headship always dictated some manner or another of cutting away.

The boss stared at one of the “smudges” on Bethanny’s face. Next, she punched some numbers into her communicator and then hastily left the orchid room, saying nothing more to the girl from the other side.

After watching the manager recede into the depths of the horticultural complex, Bethanny looked out the greenhouse’s glass. Past the horizon, she could see Earth. It was neither in its full nor in its new stage, but in that ungainly phase known as “Half Earth.” Between Bethanny and her view stood town.

Townies sometimes roamed with silver-tipped knives in search of rehomed Bright Siders. In calling to mind the Bright Siders’ former, restrictive arrival policy and in remembering the panic that their ancestors had felt when they had been barred from the Bright Side’s “medical haven,” contemporary Dark Siders had no empathy for well-heeled transplants among them. What’s more, Dark Side police looked the other way when vigilantes eradicated Social Blight. It was whispered that not only plague victims and survivors, but also hapless demonstrators, were removed from Luna’s population by self-appointed players.

Except for Loretta, whom Bethanny suspected was preoccupied raising, trading, and sampling the sorts of weeds not officially grown under the glass, Bethanny’s peers hated both sorts of fugitives. She’d seen JoJo, Andrea, Dhaka, and Meer sharpen their personal weapons on the hothouse’s commercial stone. JoJo preferred a sickle, Andrea a dagger, Dhaka a Kama, and Meer a guandao. Although none of them ever spoke of flaying, of freezing or of burning their victims, when they boasted of their deeds, Bethany’s associates produced a head count.

When confronted by them with greetings or other courtesies, Bethanny had smiled and nodded. It remained true that to alter upsetting realities, those matters had to be brought to their actors’ attention. However, the girl from the Bright Side had had no wish to receive further notice by any of those self-styled enforcers. She analogously did not want to test whether or not they considered mere thoughts and unexpressed passions to be as much of a crime as participation in organizations poised to alter society. It was enough that she was atypically symptomatic with The Disease and with a wish for far-reaching reform. Even if Bethany was possessed of a gain-of-function mutation in both her body and in her personality, such things were best kept hidden.

In the end, her and her professor’s precautions made no difference. Shortly after Bethany’s employer made that special phone call, Bethanny was abducted. Before the Earth set that day, an ambulance came for her.

She pleaded with the medics to leave her alone and, instead, to hunt down the residents that took it upon themselves to be both soi-disant police and managers of the scarce orchids. She was an innocent.

Unluckily, the more she spoke, the more that the ambulance attendants’ eyes glazed over. They quoted that she was guilty of trespass, of impersonation, of attempted larceny, and of treason. They incarcerated her in a nearby hospital. There, Bethanny died.

Between the day of her capture and the day of her expiry, Bethany’s mentor had been forbidden, for unclear reasons, to import orchid-based balms and tinctures for her. Additionally, all records of Bethanny’s social contributions were expunged from the rulers’ computer.

Time passed. Bethanny’s erstwhile guardian published a few more works based on Bethanny’s biological and political findings. Subsequently, the woman built a small greenhouse on private land bordering the Bright Side. It is suspected that the professor spent her retirement participating in one of the multiplying undergrounds.

As for Bethanny’s co-workers, they continued to murder nonnatives, to assassinate dissidents and to tincture the invaluable orchids. Some of those horticulturists married and raised families. Bethanny’s boss continued to supervise the greenhouse. Forty years after Bethanny’s slaughter, that woman was felled by a heart attack.

No cure for The Plague was ever found. Dark Siders and Bright Siders never rebuilt a unified society. New generations of plague victims continued to be born in both literal and figurative locked wards.

 

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Diane Mayr and Kathleen Finn Jordan http://getsparked.org/spark42/diane-mayr-and-kathleen-finn-jordan http://getsparked.org/spark42/diane-mayr-and-kathleen-finn-jordan#respond Sun, 08 Sep 2019 15:34:05 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17447

Diane Mayr
“A Scheme of Green”

Response

Cabin Time
By Kathleen Finn Jordan

Inspiration piece

Opening the chalet door
The forest looms encircling all
And I
dot like in the scheme of green
Sluice into the waiting chair
Gasping at the view
Loved into a new consciousness
By brushed air in the overwhelming heat
graced, shaded, smiled upon by sycamores
Aware of the silenced once murmuring brook
Life giving spring water slurped up into the heat of the day
Ketamine still- eyes held fast on the trees
I watch and sit as early evening shadows slip into gaps
and dappled sunlight patches disappear
Leaves whisper in the breeze from the west
Chirping day birds yield their places
Woodpeckers cease their rhythmic patterns
Deer run deeper into the brush
And the night birds hovering in the highest levels of the trees
Begin their antiphonal chanting non stop til daybreak
And the beginning once again of the cycle of nature
here and very much now.

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Kathleen Finn Jordan and Diane Mayr http://getsparked.org/spark42/kathleen-finn-jordan-and-diane-mayr http://getsparked.org/spark42/kathleen-finn-jordan-and-diane-mayr#respond Sun, 08 Sep 2019 02:58:07 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17440

Diane Mayr
“All Night Long”
Inspiration piece

Cat Rap
By Kathleen Finn Jordan
Response

Grandma Pussycat in a straight-backed chair
Playing guitar meows fill the air
all night long since she’s nocturnally set
Meow to the rafters she’s a favorite pet.
She does not do tricks since that’s just too dog
She hunts in day whether rain or fog
Independent she is and able to prove
She’s on her own in a stealthy groove.
Her fans are many and her foes are too
But Grandma pussycat has more to do
Than puzzle out schemes or sit and stew
She sleeps, eats, purrs, she’s smart that’s true.
She lets you know what she likes to do
And if you’re cool she likes you too
But she must consent don’t pretend to know
She makes her choices and she’ll come or go
She remains her own counsel and if she wants to play
The guitar at night that will be the way.
Grandma Pussycat in a straight backed chair
Playing guitar as meows fill the air.

 

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Elizabeth Steinglass and Marilyn Ackerman http://getsparked.org/spark42/elizabeth-steinglass-and-marilyn-ackerman http://getsparked.org/spark42/elizabeth-steinglass-and-marilyn-ackerman#respond Sat, 07 Sep 2019 12:27:03 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17425

Marilyn Ackerman
Inspiration piece

What If?
By Elizabeth Steinglass
Response

What if the Earth
was small
as a beach ball,
light enough to toss and catch
and tuck in your lap?

What if it was
so small
a butterfly could hover
over continents?

What if we could see
our globe’s white poles dissolving
into pools of blue that nibble
at the edges of green and brown puzzle pieces,
smoke rising from pinpricks,
storms swirling above the surface,
all at once in front of us?

What if we
were as large as gods,
as wise as farmers?
What would we do
with this tossable ball
in our hands?

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