THE GIFTED NURSE

by Andrea McKinnie

Claudia Monroe was walking down the corridor of one of the finest hospitals in the country. Healing Hands Medical Center accepted only the best of the best to be a part of their team. Claudia recalled the day that she received her letter in the mail. She had just come in from clinicals. The wind was howling and the rain was coming down like arrows. The thunder had been so loud that at times she caught herself ducking. As she thought about this now she chuckled, but that day it hadn’t been so funny. Outside of the monstrous thunderstorm, there had not been anything else unusual about that day. Actually, it was kind of ironic when she considered the twist of events. Her entire nursing class had been in an ill mood all day long due to the weather. Then when she arrived home and retrieved the mail, she literally leaped for joy. She stood outside for at least ten minutes repetitively reading her acceptance letter over and over. In fact she still had it memorized.

Dear Miss Monroe:

            We are pleased to inform you that your application for hire has been approved. However,            we do require that you come in and meet with our board. You will be interviewed and            based on your answers, you will be placed in the department of our choosing.

            Looking forward to working with you,

            The Board of Healing Hands

            President, Gloria Freeman, MD

She spent half the night trying to dry the letter out from the soaking it took from her disengagement of reality. When she finally realized that she had been standing in the rain reading the letter, she ran inside like a cat being chased by a dog. Yes, that day still brought excitement to her. It was a beautiful ending to a stormy day.

Now she was walking down the corridor taking in every tiny detail. She saw a plump, middle aged nurse holding the hand of a little boy. The boy could not have been more than five years old. The nurse had pepper colored hair and  ringlet curls with silver streaks. She was dressed in the most crisp red pair of scrubs. Claudia was sure that that lady got them professionally cleaned. The nurse was telling the little boy that his father would be out to take him back to see his mother in about five minutes. The nurse was so tender with the little boy. She had now sat down on the floor with him and they were coloring some lonely looking flower on a piece of white paper. That’s why Claudia loved this place. Healing Hands Medical Center had a reputation for being loving and caring. There genuine love could be felt and seen by anyone who walked through the doors. It was like no other hospital she’d ever known. It was not very big and it did not pay a lot of money, but the atmosphere was peaceful, soothing, and filled with love. Here at this hospital the staff met before each shift and took a small moment to pray before beginning their day. They spent time with their patients. They didn’t push their duties off onto other people. They each took responsibility for their share of the work. They worked together as a team. They showed love and compassion. That’s the type of place that Claudia wanted to be.

Claudia gave herself one more look over. She had chosen to wear a navy blue suit with a turquoise broach. She thought the hint of color would show that she could be adventurous. She had decided to wear her hair down that day, but now she was reconsidering the idea. Her long black, wavy tresses flowed beautifully, but she didn’t want them to be distracting. Maybe I should put them up she thought to herself. However, when she had reached into her purse for a couple of bobby pins she had this intense popping sound that occurred in the left side of her head. She couldn’t really describe it, but it was enough to disturb her. She looked at her watch: 12:17 p.m. I don’t have much time. I guess my hair will have to stay down.

She gathered her things together and continued to walk down the corridor. Then the popping happened again. The popping was loud, but not painful. Actually she couldn’t feel it at all. It was enough to make her feel like something was wrong though. She immediately whispered a prayer. Dear Lord: Whatever is wrong, please help the situation. If someone is considering suicide then stop them. If someone is threatening a stroke, then heal them. Please Lord, send help. In Jesus name, Amen.

Claudia didn’t know what was wrong and she doesn’t even really know why she felt like she needed to pray, but it was better than doing nothing at all. When she finally found the receptionist’s desk, she heard a loud wailing sound. She saw nurses and doctors running towards the end of the hall that she had just come from. One nurse had grabbed the crash cart. Doctors and nurses both were barking orders at someone about everything. Claudia heard someone yell, “Clear, all Clear!”, and just like that it was over. Heads were bowed and a few people kneeled with their heads bowed. Claudia had gotten close enough to realize what had happened. Right there in the same place that she had seen him earlier, lay the little boy. His little body was limp and now turning colors. He looked peaceful, but he was so young. She asked the nurse who she had seen sitting with him earlier what had happened. The nurse, whose name tag read Elnor Shaw, RN, told her that the little boy had started complaining about his head. The nurse told her that it was about 12:17 p.m. She said that she remembered the time because she had looked down at her watch in order to keep up with his complaints. The nurse told her that it all happened so suddenly. She said she remembered him saying, “Nurse Shaw, my head’s still hurting, but it’s okay, this nice man said that he would take care of me. He said that he was sent to take me home.” Then Joshua closed his eyes.

The nurse was now crying full, uncontrollable sobs. Claudia herself had noted that her face was now wet. She doesn’t even know when the tears began to flow. Then Claudia stopped breathing for about 5 seconds.

Claudia exclaimed, “Oh no! Did you say 12:17 p.m.”

The nurse looked puzzled and replied, “Yes dear. It was that time exactly when his complaint began. Now…if you will excuse me, I must go find his father. He will be heartbroken. His wife is here on hospice care, but he had to leave unexpectedly to pick up their little girl. Normally, Joshua would have gone with him, but today he wanted to stay here with me.”

The nurse let out another sob and walked away. Claudia’s stomach had now began to hurt. Surely, the times were a coincidence. She did not even know the little boy. She had heard about other people having these type of encounters, but she had never experienced anything like this for herself.

Claudia staggered back towards the receptionist desk when she realized that she had lost track of time. She looked at her watch and noticed that it was now 1:07 p.m. “Oh no!” Claudia exclaimed. She was now thirty-seven minutes late for her interview. Surely, the board would understand. She immediately made herself speed up. She didn’t have time to check her make-up. She realized that she probably looked horrible. A tear-stained face and the queasiness of her stomach didn’t allow her to use her best smile, but she was trying her best. She reached the receptionist’s desk and gave her name. She apologized for her tardiness and made sure that the receptionist knew that she wasn’t in habit of being tardy. The receptionist gave her a bright smile and explained that her tardiness was not a problem today. She informed Claudia that she had seen her when she arrived earlier and also when she went down to see what had happened. She also told her that Dr. Gloria had been one of the people down there in the midst of the commotion. Claudia gasped in surprise. She hadn’t even considered that to be a possibility. The receptionist gave Claudia the option to reschedule or she could wait for Dr. Gloria to return. “She should be back in about one hour if you would like to wait. However, if you leave, it won’t be counted against you. We understand the effect this could have on you on the day of your interview.”

Claudia agreed to wait. She didn’t want to put this off and besides the hour would give her a chance to fix her make-up. She left the receptionist and went into the bathroom across the hall. The bathroom smelled of eucalyptus and peppermint. What an odd smell for a bathroom, but it seemed to make her senses more alert. She grabbed some paper towels, wet them and began to wipe her face. She took off as much of the make-up as she could. Then she reapplied it. I definitely need to invest in waterproof make-up she thought. She had never purchased any before because it was so expensive and she only wore make-up when the occasion called for it. Today was a day that she thought called for it, but she really didn’t feel like putting it on.

She couldn’t get the little boy out of her head. Seeing him holding the nurse’s hand. Seeing them both color that lonely flower. Then hearing about the story that the little boy had told the nurse right before he passed away. It was all too much to think about. Claudia now found herself crying uncontrollably. Claudia tried to regain control over her emotions.

How can you be a nurse if you can’t accept the inevitable she thought, but this situation had been so much more different.

She looked at her make-up and decided to just go without it. She cleaned her face and applied some lotion. Her eyes were now puffy and red. Her nose was red and she felt so horrible. She immediately thought of the little boy’s father. How will he feel when he finds out that his little boy is gone. She fell to her knees and began to cry out to God for the man to be comforted. She even prayed for the little’s boy sister and mother. The nurse had said that she was on hospice, but she didn’t say what was wrong or if she was conscious.

            Dear Lord,

            I know that you are working out something on the behalf of this family. They have lost a   young one today. They have lost a sweet innocent little boy. Help them to receive your            comfort. Help them to receive your peace. I know they will cry, mourn, and ask why, but l ead them into your peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Claudia got up off the floor and once again gathered her wits. She looked at her watch and realized that she had thirty minutes to spare. She found the cafeteria and got a cup of coffee. The cafeteria smelled like mountain fresh coffee mixed with cinnamon. There were long green plants mixed with deep red flowers of some sort hanging over each table. It was absolutely wonderful. The walls of the cafeteria were pure glass and the brightness of the sun hitting her face gave her a quick boost of energy. She looked around and noticed that there weren’t a lot of people in the cafeteria. However, she looked up and sitting at a small round table was Nurse Shaw. She was holding a brown mug with both hands. The steam was rising from the cup and going directly into the nurses face. Claudia wondered if she should go and check on the lady or if she should just leave her alone. Nurse Shaw turned around just at that moment as if she could hear Claudias’ thoughts. She gave Claudia a weak smile and nodded her head in a way to let Claudia know that she could come over.

TODAY

by Brianna Mason

 

Somewhere someone’s uncle is telling another terrible joke

And everyone is pretending it’s the first time they’ve heard it.

Grandma’s in the kitchen turning potatoes into everything

making sure everyone stays away from the kitchen.

All the adults are arguing over a game of monopoly.

The kids are running around in bathing suits without shoes.

There are at least eight dogs playing in the house

and someone forgot to bring the sunblock.

There’s Disney theme music playing in the background

And everyone’s smile is so big it could fit yesterday inside

And still have enough room for today and tomorrow.

There’s laughter so loud that the neighbors are angry

And wonder why they weren’t invited to the party.

Today there is no crying. No bloodshed in the streets.

No news headlines, bills, or road rage in traffic

Today there are no broken doors or counter pieces

chipped off from one too many arguments over nothing.

Today cancer doesn’t exist and there are no late fees.

Speeding tickets are just reminders of how fast life fly’s.

And there is enough food for everyone and then some.

The lights stay on all day because the bills are paid.

You can feel the last eighty years of struggle in the room.

The last eighty years of yelling and crying and swearing.

But you can also hear the last eighty years of laughter.

The last eighty years of Christmas lights and cookouts.

Today there is potato salad, grilled corn, and fried okra.

The only tear shed today is when everyone goes home.

SQUIRRELS

by Tony Rafalowski

 

The remnants of a hurricane blew through my yard

Late one September afternoon. You would think

West Tennessee and its cotton fields far enough away

From the tropical storm warnings of the gulf coast.

 

Not so much, as evidenced by the two juvenile squirrels

Tossed from the security of the large old sugar gum tree

Beside the driveway, abandoned by their parents, I guess,

Who heeded the forecast and found other shelter.

 

One died on the concrete and had to be carried away

By my son in law, laid to rest at the bottom of the creek

That runs behind our property, swollen in the morning light

With the run off from rains that flooded south Texas.

 

One survived, the stronger sibling, Cain or Romulus,

Crawled down the driveway and into the garage

Under the Toyota where we found him the next day,

Crying for justice in the dark light of the dawn.

 

Using garden gloves we laid him in a box

Pillowed on an old towel ragged but soft,

Stroked his gray fur with our fingertips,

Sought to pray away the hurts, his and our own.

 

We gave him to a friend who had done this

Before, nursed an injured squirrel back to life.

He died in the late afternoon, but not without

Love, the soft comfort of having mattered.

 

The rest of us could be so lucky.

TOMBIGBEE STATE PARK OCTOBER 8th, 2017

by Tony Rafalowski

 

In a state park on Sunday afternoon,

the hill country of east Mississippi,

my dog and I stop to watch a young couple

flying kites in a vacant baseball field.

 

They’re not having much luck, the wind is

swirling, black clouds melting the sunshine,

raising a storm to usher in the fall;

their own dog dances on a leash at their feet.

 

Rabbie stops to watch the dog and the kites

while I naturally follow the girl with my eyes.

They’re married, I think, and too young altogether,

something out of a Hollywood montage.

 

She’s fighting to get her plastic kite aloft

on the trickster breeze that tosses her hair,

dodging the dog in cut offs, midriff bare,

eyes glowing brighter than four o’clock gold.

 

I look at him, wishing I could tell him

you will remember this day thirty or forty years

from now amidst the slow beeping of machines

and the whispering hush of a ventilator.

 

Rabbie looks up at me with head cocked aside:

he’s done watching and so am I. Turn away,

walk on down the lane where the storm waits.

I wonder if she ever got that kite to fly.

JOHN

An excerpt from a story by Samuel Clayton

Chapter 1

The Lamb With Horns

John was a tall fit young man who had black hair and piercing hazel eyes. In the right light however, you might say that they were a menacing blood red. His countenance had always seemed a tad bit creepy. He was very good at eavesdropping on every conversation within thirty yards and had the memory of an elephant. He also had a habit to stare at people around the room as if he were looking into one’s soul. All this may have helped him make friends in the short term but, he was both shy and a little bit of a loner. Most people who were friends with him quickly dropped him because he seemed emotionless and without any empathy, why was he supposed to care, he wasn’t effected. This caused him to lose many friends after mere days.

During his junior year of high-school, his parents moved to a new location. They had started to worry about their son. He could never hold any real friends and those he did have, he hadn’t opened up in the slightest to. He, however, didn’t care about the move given that he thought that everyone in the older school he was at, he thought were blubbering idiots. Even if he was desperate for human interaction, he could never drive himself to be social. An invisible force would always keep him away. For this reason and others he took the move with ambivalence. He didn’t care one way or the other.

On the first day of his senior year of high-school John was on his way to class when he came across a girl that had tripped and needed some help picking up her things. He didn’t know what possessed him. This school had been just as much of a disappointment as the other three however, he decided to say hello and help her pick up her books. He would have normally passed her over but something about her was different. The conversation was short. He never even got to hear her name nor her his. The bell for the next class had rung and he was almost late!

John rushed off to his first class but from that point onwards his thoughts and actions were consumed with the girl.  He couldn’t get the girl out of his head. This chance encounter was, to John, love at first sight.  For the next couple of months John followed her at a good distance taking a slower route to school. He got to know her, her friends, and their habits in the process.  She lived down the street from him and walked to school with her group of three friends. Their names were Jessica, Erica, and Samuel. Hers, as he found out, was the beautiful name of Rose. He would write poems in his room often of his rose, which only intensified his desire.
Jessica was a sporty young woman that looked older then she appeared. She was a member of the cheer team.  She had green eyes and brown hair and was taller then usual in the school.  Erica was an attractive and fit girl that was short for her age. She had brown eyes and dirty blond hair. Among some other details John found that she liked to write short stories. Samuel was a taller than average young man. He usually didn’t shave normally except for every three days. He had brown hair and was fit but not the strongest guy in the school. John could see as soon as he started his spying on her friends that Sam had eyes for Jessica.
Rose, however, was the most important out of all of them. She was well endowed with long curly brown hair.  She had beautiful blue eyes that seemed endlessly deep when John looked into them and tanned skin.  She wore modest clothing consisting of either a blue, purple, or pink blouse and a long skirt on most days.  Her teeth were always shiny white and her face was perfectly smooth only drawing more attention to her endless sky blue eyes. Even her hobbies were perfect in John’s eyes. She loved to talk about and read books that John loved already! He found out that here favorite books at the time were dystopian fiction written by people like Huxley and Orwell. She liked the Greek epics, western movies, and so far as he had learned, wanted no car but a 1966 Mustang. From her choice of class, John had figured that she had a minor interest in philosophy and literature, upon looking her up on the internet he seemed to find several works she had written also. He loved all of the writings that she did, no matter how sappy and generic they were, because his rose wrote them. This couldn’t be any more perfect for him. She was the one person that he could think about aside from his studies. If not for how shy he was, he would have asked her out the second time he saw her.
Eventually, John decided to stop dwelling in the shadows, just out of view and formally become friends. It took some effort on John’s part but he finally went up and formally introduced himself to her and her friends. However her friends found him suspicious because he knew just a bit too much about all of them and their habits.  As one of the many things John knew, even though nobody else but the effected parties, that Jessica was currently in a relationship. And in a similar manner, that Erica had some interesting internet habits. It took some effort on John’s part but despite the best efforts of her friends John wormed his way into her circle of friends. He eventually convinced her friends to accept him accept for Sam who was still suspicious of the guy.

 

Chapter 2

David and Goliath

John, over the next couple of weeks had formed a routine. In the morning he would follow Rose to school. He would then go to to his classes, five of which were shared with her. At lunch he had prepared too much to eat on his own and thus would willingly share his food with Rose, and grudgingly with her friends. Sam still suspected at this point but had been quickly silenced by Jessica. John would then hit his remaining classes then follow Rose on her way home to protect his love. After heading home and finishing his homework, John would stalk her and her friends over social media until he fell asleep. Waking up in the morning he would repeat this every school day so long as he could.
Everything was going perfectly until a legend of the sophomore year came back. Jimmy Dawson, otherwise known as The Titan, had returned from his year long expulsion under the terms that, for the next six months, he would do nothing wrong. For the most part, that is what he did. Jimmy was very much a changed man. Although, he still had his reputation as the terror of the sophomore year. John had no problems with this figure except for the fact that Jimmy, the 6’ 4”, muscle bound young man, was making moves and getting a little bit too close to Rose.

Things got worse when John found out that, while following rose back home, that Rose had been tutoring Jimmy at her house. This would not do, not one bit. John watched the two for the next few nights and found out that they were doing a little bit more then just studying. Jimmy was far too close and far too intimate. Seeing this rankled John to no end. Every kiss made him want to use a knife to carve off his face, every hug made him want to cut off his arms. Every touch made him want to burn off his hands. He wouldn’t stand for it! John decided that Jimmy had to go, he wouldn’t be allowed near Rose ever again.
John knew he couldn’t just say that Jimmy had to go because then, Samuels suspicions towards John would be proven correct. John decided to make a plan. John, having studied Jimmy for a little while, put together a personality chart for the guy, knew exactly what to do. Because of the fact that Jimmy was on his probationary period he would have to only do one thing, get him in trouble. John’s plan would come in three parts. In the first he would become his friend and gain his trust, in the second he would get him expelled, then he would use his trust to intoxicate the guy and cause him to make a serious mistake. When he is inevitably brought in to answer for his crimes, John would testify against him and try to make sure he got as long a sentence as possible. In the end he thought he would have convinced everyone that Jimmy was a terrible person. Jimmy would never see rose again.

It took about a week but John eventually gained the interlopers trust. Jimmy was even under the impression that John was his friend. This didn’t stop him from his routine though. John in fact increased what he did during the week. John had started that week throwing late night parties where he would invite much of the school. This had a two fold impact. It kept Jimmy away from rose at night and started to make Jimmy legitimately like John as a friend. The only disappointment to John was that his beloved Rose never came, no matter how many times he invited her. This wasn’t the biggest deal as these parties allowed him to spy on the entire senior class all at once which was highly useful. Not only that but it gave him a degree of control of the people as well. John could, for example, spike the punch and cause everyone but him to get drunk. He could do any manner of manipulation through drugging the food or drinks.

One day John decided to put his plan into action. He slipped a pack of cigarettes into Jimmy’s pack at the party and, Just as planned, upon the inspection of Jimmy’s bag, the cigarettes were found and he was yelled at by the principal. At the next party John hosted Jimmy went to John for help. John gave him some emotional support, telling him it would all work out. Although this gave Jimmy some hope, rules were rules, and Jimmy was expelled from school anyway. With John as almost the only friend that Jimmy had, and the closest one too, Jimmy was in the palm of John’s hand.

The next weekend the next part of John’s plan took place and he invited all the class but rats and teachers. It was a huge party with dancing, a disk jockey, and all sorts of expensive foods and drinks. John had spent quite a bit of his savings on this event. He, near the end of the party, spiked the punch with the vodka his parents kept in the alcohol cabinet. Jimmy, who was already stressed from arguments with his parents had gone to John’s party to relax. He drank and drank and soon enough he was more drunk then anyone else around in the party. John suggested that he make advances on Jessica and Jimmy, like John’s puppet, did.
In his attempt though Jimmy irritated Samuel and made Jessica uncomfortable. Already being an irritable man an argument started between the two and Jimmy was the first to escalate the conflict hitting Samuel in the jaw and flooring him before, inappropriately making advances on Jessica again. Jimmy only got so far to pin Jessica to the wall and put his hand on her side before the party was called off, but it was too late. Jimmy’s fate was sealed.

Only a week after the fight and the party being called off, Jessica’s parents leveled a serious lawsuit against Jimmy. They sued him for sexual assault, emotional distress, and aggravated assault and battery. This mistake had also gotten Jimmy kicked out by his parents. The actions at John’s party had been the last straw. John during the trial still pretended to be Jimmy’s friend. He pushed him to not accept the plea bargain, and gave him hope that he could get off scot free. He knew that Jimmy’s fate was sealed though. John would make sure of it.

Due to Jimmy not accepting the plea bargain the trial was long and hard. it went on for two days. The public defender tried his best to reduce the sentence once it became obvious to him that he couldn’t get off from what he had done. It was a terrible scene. Jessica was crying in the defendant stand, supported emotionally by her parents. Jimmy was going to lose the case, but John didn’t merely want Jimmy to lose, he however also wanted crush his hopes.

The final part of John’s plans then came to fruition when he was brought up to provide testimony for his friend. John started at first to support Jimmy. when questioned by the prosecutors however, he used this moment to throw Jimmy under the bus and guarantee a long sentence. Obviously John claimed that the catering company that had provided the drinks had given them spiked punch instead of what John ordered. Jimmy who had relied on John for emotional support and, who was counting on John to help his friend out, was broken by this. His only remaining friend had betrayed him. Jimmy at the end of the suit, was merely silent, hopeless, and looking down, a blank expression in his eyes. Jimmy was given 20 years in prison then told he could never get within 100 feet of anyone he had known before, nor could he get any good jobs.

Jimmy was taken way a broken and miserable young man. His last and only friend had thrown him under the bus, his parents had disowned him, even when he got out of prison, he couldn’t get any good jobs. There was no more hope left in him. John found out years later that Jimmy had hung himself on his belt, after only a couple weeks of entering the penitentiary. John hoped no other challengers would rise.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

The Sacrificial Lamb

John’s labors were not over however because, after only a week of having no challengers for Rose’s heart, one seemed to show up out of nowhere. His name was Timothy Right. He was a thin and short kid who, although he was a junior in high school but looked as if he was a freshman. He had light brown hair and hazel eyes that appeared at least twice as big under his thick glasses. He joined the group a week after Jessica’s family moved out of town, after meeting Samuel. There were two problems that John had with the kid, first of all he liked Rose, and second of all he was completely clean. He had committed no crimes, done nothing wrong. On the surface there was nothing John could use to control him.

At first, John was only suspicious of the kid and, so far, the kid hadn’t done anything to enact John’s wrath. John was patient but, over a few weeks, Timothy had been getting closer and closer to Rose. John finally hit his breaking point when the new guy had become a core member of Rose’s inner circle. John wasn’t going to take any chances this time, Timothy would have to go. John wasn’t going to be taking chances this time.

To this end John acted on what he did know about the kid. First of all he was weak, not only physically but mentally. Secondly the kids family babied him. With this information in hand John concocted his plan. John’s plan would work in two parts. First he would become Timothy’s friend, supporting his hobbies and interests. Then, have the remainder of Jimmy’s old gang of bullies bully him physically while John did so over the internet until Timothy had been good and broken down. John predicted that, if John acted like a good friend at that point, then he would become the cornerstone of the kids sanity. Then as he did to Jimmy he would drop him, throw him under the bus and, his family would soon after move, their poor son having been hurt by the school. After that, John would finally have his love all to himself.

To this end John both supported the creation of, and joined Timothy’s one hobby, computers. John pushed the kid to make a computer club and in support, Rose and the others joined also. John also convinced several other people to join the club to make Timothy feel better. That way his confidence would rise because there seemed to be people interested in the same things he was.

He started the bullying campaign soon after the founding of the computer club. Using a variety of methods and different social media platforms and accounts. At first he didn’t see many results but after a week of his online bullying as well as the bullying from Jimmies gang John started to see results. He watched Timmy’s head droop further and further down, the only thing keeping him sane being the club and his friends, which consisted of mostly John, some of Rose, and not much of the others.

John learned that Timothy had been hiding this from his parents and others really well because, on this occasion he seemed to suddenly become sullen and depressed. Rose, to John’s chagrin tried to help but, it failed. The rest of John’s plan took place when, at the appointed moment all of the members John had promoted the club too left. With that the last thing that Timothy had been using as a coping mechanism dissipated and he was now in shambles. John’s plan had worked well better then he had expected. The next morning Timothy didn’t come to school. His parents had moved away because their poor Timmy had been hurt by this town. With this John hoped to have his Rose all to himself for once.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN NIGHTFALL COMES

by Alexis D. Kerney

 

When Nightfall comes spare me the relentless taste of agony.

When Nightfall comes spare me this constant pain.

When Nightfall comes shield my ears from Her creature’s cries.

When Nightfall comes save me from Satan’s desirous lies.

 

As Nightfall approaches please let light shine upon this cold and broken heart.

As Nightfall approaches please bless this soul so her demons shall not tear me apart.

As Nightfall approaches protect me. Make me fearless. Make it fair.

As Nightfall approaches save me from my demons piercing glare.

 

O Windless Night! Spare me thy woe!

Splinters of ice carve out what is left of this stained soul.

Goddess of Destruction take what is left of me.

Shape, as Nightfall comes, the beast I have been cursed to be.

Howl beneath the bright glow of the Moon.

Fall captive to my golden stare.

Give me back my sanity.

Give me back those things you took, if you dare.

 

Take this as no challenge, this is war!

A war of courage and might.

Give me my battle cloths and we’ll fight until morning light.

Spare me thy mercy! Spare me thy pity!

This battle is not for peace!

Hark unto my words, I will not rest until this pain will cease!

 

This war is my choice,

A victory unannounced.

When Nightfall comes, your control ebbs away

Ounce by broken ounce.

Listen to my voice!

As you speak that curse, it is me you renounce!

Tell me the truth.

As Nightfall comes gain my trust

Ounce by golden ounce.

 

PANDORA’S BOX

by Alexis Kerney

 

 As night swears us to secrecy, and we are who we dread the most;

 Who shall see our identities? Will you be the one to boast?

 When Mother Earth is angry, and her wrath is uncontrollable…..

 What shall we do, as beasts, monsters, and ghosts of what we wish to be?

 So she wove her anger into a box;

 Closed her crying eyelid locks,

 And bade the past goodbye.

 To hope the box never to be opened

 By curiosity and it’s dreadful lie.

IT’S A SOUTHERN THING

by Amanda Pugh

 

Small towns form the backbone of the South. It is where we get our character, and our spirit, and most definitely where we get our color. You can find some of the best food, people, and stories in our small Southern towns.

And you know something else you can find?

Festivals.

We can take any place or thing (bonus points if it is particular to the neighborhood) and by gum, we can make it a reason to party. Of course, growing up in West Tennessee as I was most fortunate to do, I can tell you about some of the most fun (and unusual) festivals you have ever had the pleasure to encounter.

One of the best known in this area is the Humboldt Strawberry Festival in Humboldt TN.

Strawberries.

Yep.

Told ya.

It is a week long event with pageants and parades (I marched in the Grand Floats parade all four years I was in high school with my marching band, even with strep throat my senior year) celebrating all things strawberry. The citizens of Humboldt and Gibson County take great pride in this annual event and it shows in the care they take with the details and the pride that shines from their eyes during the first or second week in May, depending.

Depending on what you might ask?

Well, that brings me to the next well known event in West Tennessee, the World’s Largest Fish Fry in Paris TN. The Strawberry folks usually try not to have these two events overlap because of the crowds (and the revenue) they bring their respective towns.

There is not a catfish in the state safe the week this party- we’re talking vats of fish fillets, hush puppies, and all the trimmings. And yep, there’s a parade at the end of this festival (and yep I marched in this one) too. It’s a week of good fun and good food.

Next up I have to tell you about the Teapot Festival in Trenton, TN. Somehow, Trenton wound up with a beautiful teapot museum and so in grand Southern tradition, they decided to celebrate it with an annual festival. It IS a beautiful collection, so I can’t say as I blame them one bit for wanting to celebrate them-I would too.

 

They also have the Iris Festival in Dresden, TN, which started out as the town’s Easter parade and evolved into a huge event that draws big crowds every year, honoring Tennessee’s state flower.

But one of the most “huh?” inducing events each year would be the Doodle Soup Days in Bradford, TN.

Yeah.  Doodle soup.

Say what?

Bradford is famous for its doodle soup recipe, which (without giving up too much of the secret) involves chicken broth and seasonings and eaten with bread or crackers. They say that its main characteristic is a strong taste of vinegar (at least it does on the festival’s website). Bradford is quite proud of this decades old recipe- and as their website says, “Why not?”

That is one thing I love about the South- we can and will have a party at the slightest provocation. And give us a little bit of time and we will make the world party with us.

Y’all come join in!

 

(Originally appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, September 2017)

OPINIONS MUST DIE

by Jasmine Williams

 

Opinions matter but just not mine

Opinions matter but not at this time.

Opinions matter but just not yours

Opinions matter but only if its mine.

Opinions matter but only if its yours.

 

Opinions. Opinions. Opinions.

 

But when does opinions turn to facts

Then they are the least needed.

Because no one should be offended by being proven wrong.

Ignorance on a topic should be celebrated

A blank slate.

But pride should be feared. For it is a slate

full of things that are to prove wrong.

No matter how many agree.  No matter the numbers.  The facts.

 

Opinions are good.  But not to be mistaken.

Opinions should never be shared for change might happen.

For silence is envy.  Silence is key.

CLOTHES IN A TREE

by Jasmine Williams

 

I see little clothes on a tree branch near a river

They look new barely worn but the but the sun had bleached them.

For they have been there since long before

I wonder sometimes how they got there

Swimming or did someone have something darker in mind