Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Cheer

Christmas Cheer
At Christmastime it seems

There's some kind of a trick.

An unexpected gift

Makes you take action quick.

To have a fair exchange

You give a gift back to

The person, by surprise,

Who just gave one to you.

And there's always the joke

That someone has to make,

That in the whole wide world

There's only one fruit cake.

It just goes round and round

Till it gets back to you,

And if you take a bite,

Your life may soon be through.


Oh, Christmas is a day

Of all kinds of good cheer,

Along with many reasons

To try to hold it dear.

Remember as you struggle

To keep it full of fun,
The reason for the season

Is Jesus, Number One.

Mary S. Palmer


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Reverend's Rambling - Christmas thoughts

The Reverend's Rambling

     Two days before Christmas, following an altar girl with the cross held high, Reverend Timothy O'Hara walked down the center isle of Saint Mary's Catholic Church. He moved slower than in the past. Knee surgery and his eighty-two years were telling on him.

     Why am I still saying six a.m. Mass every morning? he mused. I'm retired; I don't have to do this. Too many innovations nowadays. I never liked the idea of girls as altar servers but I have to tolerate them; I have to read some of the liturgy because it's been updated and my memorized version isn't in vogue; and I stumble on the words, embarrassing myself. Hell, I can't even recite the Lord's Prayer anymore without missing a beat sometimes.

     Hell? I said Hell on the steps to the sanctuary. God forgive me.

     The deacon at his side held onto the priest's elbow as he walked up the steps and over to the lectern to face the parishioners. "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost--" The Mass had begun. As soon as Father O'Malley sat for the readings by the lecturer, his mind wandered again.

     I guess it's the Irish in me, I always get sentimental at Christmastime and when a new year approaches. More so now that most of my family's gone and I never had one of my own. I think about regrets. Over fifty years a priest. I've baptized many children, and their children. I've watched them grow up. Some turned out fine; others, well, not so good. I've buried many parishioners, too. And visited them in jail. Plus, listening to their woes and trying to advise and console them, promising them God never forgets them. I've also reminded a few why they're on Earth--not to rack up millions but to serve God and reach heaven.

     He stared at the deacon who had begun reading the gospel but he wasn't listening to the words of it.

     Hmmm, I wonder what my life would have been like if I'd gone to medical school like I planned? Maybe not much different. As an internist, I'd still be counseling people, listening to their problems. But, God willing, I would have had children. Would I now be proud of them, or would that have been a disaster? Although I never let them know it, sometimes the school children get on my nerves. Maybe I wouldn't have been a good father. He suppressed a smile. Was I any good at being a "father" to my flock?

     Father O'Hara blinked when he realized the deacon had finished reading the gospel. He rose for the Prayers of the Faithful; following them, he stepped over to the altar and recited the Mass prayers almost in a sing-song fashion. The congregation stood and joined in when he reached the Lord's Prayer. At the Sign of Peace, he looked out at the pews and waved to the O'Hara's, who always attended daily Mass, the general's wife who came most of the time alone, and to Sister Louise, now retired. He blinked when he spotted the young couple who'd just lost the month old baby he'd baptized in a back pew on the side area. As they hugged each other, he could see the sadness in their eyes.  

     I'm glad I never had to suffer through losing a child, he consoled himself.

     The Mass ended. After telling the congregation, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord," he received help down the steps. On the way down the aisle, he passed a lady he didn't recognize, but she looked familiar somehow. She followed him to the back of the church.

     As soon as they reached the holy water fount, she touched his arm and motioned him over by the sacristy door.

     "Father O'Hara," she said with a twinkle in her blue eyes, "I guess you don't remember me. It's been many years, but I'm Susan Stein Lewis." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "But I bet you remember the night you kissed me goodbye and said you were going to the seminary."

     Father O'Hara cut his eyes in all directions. He hoped the parishioners passing by didn't hear her remark. "Oh, Susan. What a nice surprise. How has life treated you?" he asked, recalling what a tease she'd always been.

     "Actually, I've had a very good life. My husband, John, is very successful. He's an engineer, retired now, so we moved back to my hometown. We have two children, the oldest, John, Jr., is also an engineer. The younger one, Timothy, she chuckled and blinked, "well, he's almost middle-aged but still finding himself." She pulled out a picture of a handsome man with carrot red hair and a winning smile and held it up. Her voice lowered. "John doesn't know it, but I named him for you."

     She edged closer. "Look, Tim, er, Father, he's in jail on drug charges and burglary. I came to ask you to say some prayers for him." Her mouth twisted in a smug look that he remembered fondly. Then she added, "If things had been different, he might have been your son," and Father Tim caught his breath.

     He put his arm around her shoulder. Oh, dear God, my memories are flooding back. No, I never forgot that last kiss. I think I loved her. My decision, was it right? Timmy? He's got red hair like mine was before it turned white. Would he have been different if I'd been his father?" He blinked. How am I going to handle this?

     He stiffened his body, stepped back, and held Susan at arm's length. "Since Timmy is your son, Susan," he said in a firm tone of voice, "I'm sure he's enough like you to overcome adversity. Give him a little time and keep praying for him and he'll be all right."

     Father O'Hara steadied himself by leaning his back against the wall. "Suz," he used his pet name for her, "I'm convinced that you know the right things to tell Timmy to turn him around, back to God. And I'll keep him in my prayers."

     The tears in his former girlfriend's eyes melted his heart. He hoped he was telling her the truth. But it was time for dismissal. He looked at his watch. "I'm sorry, but I have to go. A baptism. Thank you for coming by." He squeezed her elbow. "Keep the faith." He didn't extend an invitation to come again.

     It wasn't till Suz left that he realized how ludicrous his statement--"Keep the faith"--was. Suz was not Catholic; she was Jewish and deeply entrenched in her religion. It reminded him that their marriage could have turned out to be a very shaky one. A definite obstacle to happiness.

     Walking back to the rectory, Father O'Hara raised his eyes to the sky. So, the baptism's not till this afternoon, but I had to have an excuse to leave, Lord, before I got in some real trouble. Ah, age doesn't end feelings. Suz was quite a looker and she's still a charmer--and a tease.

     He turned and looked back at the church he'd just left. This isn't the first time I've had doubts about being a priest, either. But I think it's the last. I may be an old man, but I learned something from that encounter: The church is my home; I made the right decision.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My latest post, Anticipation, a Thanksgiving story, won First Place 11/16/13 in the Baldwin Writers' Group contest. It was a nice gift certificate from Books a Million and an autographed book by our guest speaker. I'm sure I'll enjoy both.


     Lottie looked at her watch. It's already noon. They'll be here in a minute. As in Thanksgivings past, she placed Haviland dinner plates on the table, admiring the tiny pink flowers of the Varenne pattern. Next, she put her sterling silver knives, forks and spoons in the proper order on either side of the plates. She slipped pure white cloth napkins into brass rings and made sure they were exactly parallel to the spoons.

     "Oh," she said with a little tremor in her voice, "someone's knocking at the door. That must be Susu, she always gets here first."

     When Lottie opened the door, she got a big hug. "Glad to see you, Mama. How are you doing?"

     "I'm fine. You want to help me finish setting the table? Get the turkey platter. It's on the bar in the kitchen." She smiled. "I didn't carve the bird yet. I wanted you to see how pretty it is."

     "It's lovely, Mama." She put the turkey in the center of the table.

     Lottie poured some iced tea in each crystal goblet. "I hope Jansen gets here on time. Everything's hot and I don't want it to get cold."

     The door opened and a tall, slender man walked in. "I'm here," he announced. Putting his arm around his mother's shoulders, he said, "Good to see you." Then he sat at the table and Lottie sat across from him.

     "Let's say the blessing." Reaching out, Lottie took each of their hands. "Oh, Lord, thank you for the many times we had Thanksgiving at this table in the past. And please bless those who can't be with us today." She reeled off a list of grandchildren's names. "Please bless all of us, too. Thank you for all the gifts you've given us, including our family being together today enjoying this meal."

     They said an Amen in unison.

     Lottie pointed to the turkey, "Could you please do the honors, Jansen? Use that electric knife, it slices more evenly and..."

     Her words trailed off as she slumped forward in her chair. When it tilted sideways, she fell to the floor with a thud.

     Seconds later, two nurses who'd received an alert from a monitor rushed into the room. They shoved a card table out of the way and, following procedure, carefully rolled Lottie onto her back.

     "She's still breathing, but her heart's beating erratically. I don't think we'll be able to resuscitate her this time," one of them said as she frantically administered CPR.

     Minutes later, despite their efforts, Lottie was gone. The older nurse had tears in her eyes. "Miss Lottie was a sweet woman, kind and patient, not like some of the old biddies in here. She rarely complained." She looked at the lifeless figure. "It's sad. She's been in Baytime Nursing Home ever since I have. Four years and not once have her two children visited; the only time I saw them was when she was admitted. I guess they think they're too important to be away from their offices. The son's a psychiatrist in Atlanta and the daughter's a big-shot literary agent in New York."

     The other nurse raised her brows. "Really? That's awful that they don't come see their mother."

     "Well, they seldom call to check on her. Oh, the daughter sends expensive clothes for her birthday and Christmas. But I think that's to ease her own conscience."

     "You're probably right. But Miss Lottie never spoke ill of them. I'm new here but Miss Lottie's one of the patients I took a liking to right away." She looked at the table with paper plates, cups, and plastic serving pieces wrapped in a paper napkin, all were in disarray. "What's all the stuff on that card table about?"

     "Oh, we humored her. Every Thanksgiving we'd set up a table and let her pretend her family was coming for dinner," she replied as she bit her bottom lip. "She'd talk to them, but I don't know if she really believed they were here. She did have a little dementia." She looked at the pale pink blouse with the lace collar they'd pulled back to work on Miss Lottie. Stepping closer, she re-buttoned it and pushed her patient's white hair off her forehead. "But she didn't forget her nice designer clothes and she always made sure we dressed her up for this occasion."

     The nurse backed away and shook her head. "So, whether this dinner with her family was pretend or real in Miss Lottie's world, I guess it doesn't really matter. Either way, for her, it was Thanksgiving and she used it as a time to give thanks, even if her family didn't show up and she didn't have much to be thankful for." 

     She pulled a tissue from her pocket, roughly wiped her eyes, and kicked a folding chair beside the card table out of her way. "I'll notify her son and daughter. Maybe they'll make it to the funeral." She shrugged. "But I wouldn't bet on it."


Friday, October 25, 2013


The little boy walked
Up the stairs
That creaked on every step.

He held his nose
To stop the smell
Of old food that was kept.

Then suddenly
He heard a sound
Like one not heard before.

As he shook
And turned around
He heard a slamming door.

But in the dark
He could not see
What creature lay in wait.

Nobody lived here
For many years,
And he knew not their fate.

Behind him then
A step did squeak
And he knew all was over.

So, terrified,
He froze in place
Till it said, "I'm your mother."


Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Ghosts and goblins
Walk around
Scaring children
All over town.

Trick or treat
Is the word
Treat's the one
That is heard.

At other levels
Adults live
Not so happy
As they give.

But fun abounds
And problems wane
As we become
Children again.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Writer's block

I'd like to know what the term Writer's Block really means. For some writers the definition is simple. They say it's when they sit with a pen in hand or at the computer, like I do, and nothing comes to mind. How can that be true, though? As far as I know, people always have something, whatever it may be, on their minds. A mind is never really blank. Of course, we can have things drifting through like what we need at the grocery store or whether we have enough time to go there before picking up Johnny from baseball practice, but some thoughts are always there.

True, writers are a different breed. Some want a full outline before beginning to write. But it may work to just sit down and type whatever IS on your mind. That thought, no matter how insignificant, could lead to a story. I avoid using cliches, even in dialogue. That requires effort. Instead, I'm trying to use more original metaphors and similes in my writing, so, I plan to write down random thoughts and see how I can transform them into figures of speech. That should give me a way to use those seemingly useless ideas floating around in my brain.

I also discovered that almost any incident can find a place in a manuscript. Especially the humorous ones that happen to all of us. I generally jot down notes on these on the spot. As soon as possible, I develop them into a couple of paragraphs. Later, I find a home for them in another story. Quite often, they provide comic relief. The serious ones which pop into my subconscious can be more difficult to place. One example was a time I rescued a toddler wandering on a highway at night. I forgot the incident for years. Something may have triggered my memory because one day I found myself wondering what happened to him as he grew up. I didn't have the answer but I found a place to use the incident in a book.

I've been told that I don't waste anything. I either eat leftovers or save them for soup. I suppose that habit spills over into my writing. If I find words wandering around in my brain, I latch onto them, put them into sentence form, develop the batch into paragraphs and, finally, I will tuck them into a manuscript. Does this help turn the key to unlatch Writer's Block? 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013



With good news,
It's a good day
I'm having one
I'm glad to say.

The sequel to
Is coming soon,
I hope it sells.

Is in Musa's hands
I hope it climbs
To a status grand.

And then TIME WAS,
The third book,
Will be published, too,
Please take a look.

When a contract's signed
It's a step on the way,
Hopefully leading to
More happy days.

Mary S. Palmer

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I used to check this because:

Though poetry is subjective,
Readers still spot misspelled words.
I would rather write it right
So I won't be corrected.  

End of Summer

Summer's waning,
But Daylight Saving Time
Still provides
Long evenings.

As August creeps along
And Labor Day approaches,
Children reluctantly
Return to their classrooms.

Beachgoers return home,
And settle in
For the chilly days
Of fall.

Work resumes
At a faster pace.
Multitasking sometimes
Causes waste.

Writers try to tell
Of the beauty
Seen in the changing
Of the leaves.

But no words
Can adequately describe
The pictures
God draws on the wall.


Thursday, July 25, 2013


"I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because I don't want any nit-pickers finding errors in it.
     It's always amazing how some of the worst readers, those who can't spell I, can find errors in books. Although such criticism can be instructive, it's often nitpicking.
     The source of the phrase is gross. It comes from the task of removing eggs of lice from someone's hair and clothing, a tedious job that requires close attention to detail. It's interesting to note that fifty percent of Civil War soldiers had lice, so one of their favorite pastimes was having lice races.
     Maybe that's what some readers are trying to prove--that they can find flaws in an author's writing, even though they themselves can't write a complete sentence. Such fault finders never seem to make any suggestions for improvement, either. Perhaps their goal is just to win the lice race by finding the most errors.

     Should authors listen to them? I'd say Yes. It's possible to learn something from anybody. However, don't be discouraged because your writing isn't perfect. You should also make your own final judgment regarding whether the criticism is justified with an eye to considering the source. Remember, monkeys nitpick all the time. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To Mother with Love

For all the things I didn't say
The compliments not paid.
For times of night, and of day,
I could've been less staid.

I wish I'd told you that I cared
More often than I did.
So many things we might have shared
Were left alone, unsaid.

Perhaps you knew it all along,
And words unspoken came
To you in terms of things like song
Each time you heard my name.

Still there will be another day
When we both meet above
To have my chance to simply say
I'd like to share my love.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Presentation in Metairie

Doing the presentation to writers in the New Orleans area was very interesting. The  Fiction Writers' Group, which meets at the Jefferson Parish Library, has serious writers who are attentive. They liked the exercises I gave them and I also learned a few things from their responses and participation.

I sold a few copies of my most recent book, CHANCE FOR REDEMPTION, and the library is going to purchase copies of that and of my other titles.  It takes a little time to prepare a program for two hours, but making such appearances is great PR and it helps build a writer's platform. It's also fun and a great excuse to visit New Orleans.

Friday, May 3, 2013

I'm excited to announce that my latest book, CHANCE FOR REDEMPTION, a fantasy novella, is now in print and will soon be on I will have copies available immediately--5/3/13. If you are interested, you can contact me at my e-mail address:

In this story, mercenary Jerome Strait discovers that his wealth will not help him get into heaven; to be redeemed, he must return to Earth and correct all of his mistakes. However, an angel named Ezekiel is sent to guide him.

It has been compared to IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. It would be "wonderful" if it is as successful as that story was.

I appreciate all who take and interest in my work.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

On May 6, I will be doing a presentation to the Writers Group at the Jefferson Parish Library in Metairie, LA. It will focus on elements of writing such as lead-in's and cliff hangers as well as using figures of speech in novels.
If anyone is in the area, it starts at 7 p.m.


Mary S. Palmer

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I'd appreciate your posting this link and any likes or comments on my story MOM MADE IT. They help the judges decide on the weekly winner. 

Thanks for your interest in my work.

This is the notice I received:

Your story will be in our April 8 contest! You can preview our just-released, promotional video on our Video page.

Tell your friends! Email this link, post it on your Facebook page and on your Twitter account. If you don’t have a Facebook page or Twitter account, ask friends who do to post the link.  

Midlife Collage

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I am pleased that my short story has been accepted as an entry in the Midlife Collage weekly contest. It will be on their website at in April. More to come on this later.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Serendipity - The Luck of the Irish

Mary S. Palmer
     The other night at a church fish fry when a well-dressed woman sat down at the table across from me, the first thing I noticed was her ring. I could hardly miss it; it was set with a diamond as big as a shooter marble.
     She saw me staring and smiled. "My husband gave this to me for our thirty-fifth anniversary."
     "It's beautiful." I didn't express my thoughts that it must have been quite a few years ago.
     Her eyes lowered when she said, "Then I lost it."
     What? How could she have lost it? It was still on her finger. To avoid embarrassing her, I didn't ask. The lady was elderly and she might not remember. Instead, I told her my own "ring" story.
     "I designed a ring once," I began. "Of course, it wouldn't compare to yours but I was proud of it. It started when I saw an ad in the classifieds in the newspaper." I smiled at the memory. "It said, Weedeater, lawn mower, chair and diamonds. The other items didn't interest me but diamonds caught my eye."
     "Did you know how to tell if they were real, dear?"
     "I know real diamonds can scratch glass. But I can't say that I had a plan to make that test. I was curious enough to go check them out, though."
     She nodded and I continued. "I knew by the address that she lived in a nice section of town, so I didn't hesitate. When I reached her two-story house and she invited me inside, I could tell that it was well-kept. The furniture fit the setting. Even though I thought everything was legitimate, I asked a few leading questions and found that she was a court reporter, moving to take a better job in Texas. It was funny, though, she asked me right away if I was there to see the Weedeater and she said, 'It's almost new and it's only $125.00'".
     I noticed my seat-mate moistening her lips and felt she wanted me to get to the point of my story, so I talked a little faster. "Anyway, I told her, 'No, I'm interested in the diamonds.' She showed me a diamond pendant on a gold chain; it was over half a karat and  was lovely. So was the ring. I wanted them but I doubted if I could afford either one. "How much is the pendant?" I asked.
     "'Seventy-five dollars,'" she replied. 'The ring is the same.'
     "I scrutinized them one by one. But I didn't ask for glass to scratch. They looked real but even if they were zircons, I thought they should be worth that much."
     I chuckled. "When I hesitated, she made an offer. 'You can take them to a jeweler. If you don't want to keep them, I'll take them back.' She gave me her phone number, then asked again, 'Are you sure you can't use my Weedeater?' I didn't know why she was so anxious to sell that. Nor could I figure out why she'd sell diamonds so cheap. The closest I came was that she wanted to prove to her ex-husband that they weren't worth anything. Without questioning, I paid her seventy-five dollars for the pendant and twenty-five for the chair and left."
     My friend smiled and I continued. "Well, I was very happy with the price of the mahogany side chair but I was more pleased when the jeweler appraised the ring at over two thousand dollars.
     "I called the lady immediately. 'Do you want to bring it back?' she asked.
     "'No'," I told her. "I want to buy the ring, too.' She said she'd hold it for me but I drove back to her house as fast as I could. I gave her another check and left with my treasure, elated at my good luck. I was even more thrilled that the jeweler said the ring was worth over a thousand dollars."
     Mrs. X widened her eyes. "You must be Irish; that's the luck of the Irish."
     "You're right. I am Irish on my mother's side. But there's more." I leaned forward and whispered. "When I decided the ring looked too much like an engagement ring and I bought a couple of diamonds cheap and designed a new ring, I decided to insure it. Was I in for a surprise! The insurance has to be calculated at replacement value, much higher than my investment. So, when I lost the ring a few years later, I got quite a large amount of money." I showed her my Baum-Mercier watch and three-quarter karat ring. Proudly, I added, "Better yet, these were on sale for half-price when I bought them to replace the ring. The best luck was that my insurance paid in full for both."
     "My dear," she smiled, "you were lucky three times. Losing that valuable ring was certainly serendipity."
     I smiled back as I twisted the ring to set the diamond upright, still wondering why that lady sold those diamonds so cheap, knowing I'd never really know.
     Then my curiosity got the best of me. I took a chance that I wouldn't offend Mrs. X. "By the way," I asked, "you said you lost your ring, too." I pointed to her finger. "Did your husband buy you another one?"
     She lifted her hand and stared at the ring she held close to her trifocals. "Oh, he didn't have to do that." Looking at me, she added, "You see, my little one karat diamond was well-insured, too."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

March Marches In

Today, it's cold in the deep South;
I had to cover plants
With blankets I seized.

Tomorrow, though, it may change
And warm up,
Maybe by twenty degrees.

No matter, though, these fluctuations,
Drastic, perhaps.
I'd rather not freeze.

March marches in; spring's on the way;
April will bring
A cool, soothing breeze.

God blesses us with variety.
It seems that
He likes to tease.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The Triumph floated into Mobile and we gave the weary passengers a taste of Southern Hospitality. Despite the fact that Carnival pulled out of our fair city, and that the passengers on this ship were hustled to buses to New Orleans, their disgruntled guests were welcomed by our city officials and many other well-wishers.

Every time a cruise left Mobile, the ship was full. Hopefully, Carnival will soon bring another ship to the Port of Mobile.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler

In the city where it started,
Mobile hosts Mardi Gras.
Make no mistake about
That claim is not a flaw.

It's time for revelry,
Parades and balls and such.
Fun for young and old,
Though some say it's too much.

Crowds fill the streets;
Parades come every day.
Children catch the throws
And run, and jump, and play.

The mystics wear their costumes,
On floats they bounce and dance.
A   merry time is had by all
Caught up in this romance.

Tails and floor length gowns
Are musts for every ball.
Bands vary dancing music
That fill the ballroom's hall.

For weeks frolic goes on
And all are full of glee,
But  it comes to a halt
On the day of Ash Wednesday.

Friday, January 25, 2013

ONE-SIDED PUPPY LOVE - For Valentine's Day

      Even in second grade, I knew Alfred wasn't my type. I didn't like his name and I didn't like him. His Puppy Love was one-sided. Still, I tried to be nice to him when he followed me around at school during lunch period or recess.
     When I got tired of his attention, I'd tell him, "Alfred, my friends are calling me. Why don't you go play with the boys?" He'd leave, but when the bell rang, he'd come to class and sit in the desk beside me.
     Alfred was smart. When he'd raise his hand and answer a question correctly in his squeaky voice, I'd look at his skinny body, yellow hair, and ears that stuck out and think, He looks like a sunflower, except his face isn't black. In fact, Alfred was always very pale.   
     I mostly ignored him, but one day he really disappointed me. I'd ridden my bike to Brantly School and the class bully, Bobby Thorne, decided to block my path when I got on it to ride home. He laid down on the sidewalk beside a camphor tree. "Get out of my way," I told him. He didn't. Just then, Alfred walked up behind me.
     "Make him get out of my way," I told Alfred.
     Staring down on Bobby, Alfred whispered, "C'mon, Bobby, leave Sue Ellen alone."
     Bobby didn't budge.
     "If you don't," Alfred said a little louder, "I'm gonna call my mama." He pointed to the school office where his mother worked as a secretary.
     Bobby sat up, laughing as he looked at the small crowd that had gathered. "Go get your mama, Al-fred. I'll be gone by then." He began to chant, "Mama's boy, Al-fred's a Mama's boy," and a few students chimed in.
     Alfred left in tears. I was really mad by then. When Bobby laid back down with his hands clasped behind his head, I drove my bike right over his stomach. He was so shocked that I don't think it hurt him at all. At any rate, he didn't try to chase me.
     The next day, my mother found a bouquet of wildflowers on  our front porch. "For you," she said, handing me a card. All it said was, "Sorry," but I didn't need a signature. I recognized Alfred's handwriting.
     Alfred was out sick for about a week. When he returned to school looking more pallid than ever, he sat in the back row. He must have started going home for lunch, because he wasn't around then and he stayed inside at recess. I didn't see much of him. But the last day of school, he passed a note up to me.
     "Please wait for me after class," it said. "I've got something for you."
     I didn't want to start anything but I was curious, so I waited. When everyone left and the teacher stepped out of the room, Alfred hurried over to me. He pulled his hand from behind his back. "Here," he said, "I, I, know you don't really like me, but I want you to have this."
     When I looked at the wooden clothespin he placed in my hand, I wrinkled my nose. "What do you want me to do with this?"
     Alfred hung his head. "I don't know. I have to go to another school next year and I just wanted to give you something. That's all I have."
     "But your mom works here."
     "Yeah, but I have to go somewhere else." Tears formed in his eyes and he blinked them back. With a, "See ya," he bolted out of the room, leaving me standing there with my mouth gaping.
     Alfred didn't show up for third grade and his mother wasn't a secretary anymore. My mother said she heard they moved away. That's all I ever found out. I felt sorry for Alfred, but I was relieved that a nerdy boy who reminded me of a sunflower wasn't following me around anymore.
     As years passed, I forgot about my admirer until I was in my third year of college and got an e-mail asking me to chair the research committee for a reunion of students who attended Brantly. I agreed, but it turned out to be a much harder job than I thought. The group included anyone who had ever gone to Brantly, a huge number of people to try to locate.
     Luckily, I still lived in the area and I was able to contact many former students who had not left either. After working with my committee of five for three months trying to find over a hundred people without no current addresses, we decided to divide the remaining missing persons and narrow our search to about twenty-five each.
     In a couple of weeks, I'd gotten my list down to six. One was a familiar name--Alfred Strong. I smiled. A while back, I'd come across that clothespin he'd given me years ago. For the first time, I thought about the contradiction in his name. Somehow "Alfred" suited him, but "Strong," he wasn't. I'd been about to admit defeat on locating these last few, but I had to know what happened to Alfred.
     I kept digging and sent e-mails and called every Strong in the phone book. That netted zero results. Finally, it struck me to do the obvious. I went to the office at Brantly School. New faces greeted me and I thought, "Not much hope here."
     When I recognized my old principal coming out of her office, I was elated. "I'm sure you remember Mrs. Strong," I said. "Do you know how I can get in touch with her? I'm trying to find Alfred for our school reunion."
     She looked at me over the top of horn-rimmed glasses. "Sorry, my dear. I guess you didn't know. Alfred left school because he had leukemia. They were going to take him to Atlanta to get treatment, but he passed away before that happened, a couple of weeks after he finished second grade."
     I swallowed hard. 

Monday, January 21, 2013



Candles flicker in the mirrored room, reflecting,

     multiplying, memorializing

Jewish children who died in the Holocaust.

Their names are called out, one by one.

Three years it takes to reach the millionth innocent victim.


Now, relatives and friends come to this memorial in Jerusalem

To pay tribute to their unwilling sacrifice.

I see their undry eyes and try to feel their pain,

But can I, really?


It's their flesh of flesh who suffered the loveless life,

The barren soul brought on by desolation, degradation,

Even worse, by hopelessness.


My mind shudders at those thoughts as I try to comprehend

The depths of the results of man's inhumanity to man, of         children slaughtered,

Of a race of people remembering.


My Christian eyes see different views; yet, we're humans all,

One part of a whole linked by an invisible Force,

And the agony which is felt by one permeates all others.


At seeing such sadness,

A part of us becomes a part of the children,

And we die a little.





Saturday, January 12, 2013


Much to my chagrin, I didn't get much writing done during my Christmas break from teaching. We all think we don't have enough time to do this, or do that, including writing. Actually, we all make time for the things we really want to accomplish. I'd planned to write every day and end up with several chapters of my sequel to my science-fiction novel TIME WILL TELL. Did I? No.
Of course, I can come up with a million excuses, unexpected interruptions, but most of them are just that--excuses. I let other things occupy my time. I did get some writing done, I just didn't meet the goals I'd set for myself.
The real question is what am I going to do about it? How can I get back on track? The answer is simple: Try again. We can't live our lives backward, so we may as well go forward. Besides, we always learn something from such experiences. What did I learn? I learned that having extra time does not mean I'll use it to achieve my goals. I also learned that I work best under pressure. Hopefully, I will use that information to my best advantage.