Lisa Criss Griffin: The Beaver War

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay
Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

The Beaver War

Lisa Criss Griffin

The faint aroma of blooming honeysuckle flavored the evening air wafting through the secluded valley. Steve and Lori breathed in the delightful fragrance from the comfortable wooden bench overlooking the lake by their home. Their gravel drive glistened brightly in the light as it crossed the top of the newly refurbished dam. The couple had spent all their extra savings on the dam repair last year, having almost lost the only road to their house from unprecedented flooding the previous autumn. 

It was now spring, and the new dam had survived the latest challenge of the worst flooding experienced in their area in recent history. Regional newscasters on the radio and TV issued urgent warnings for people living in flood prone areas to seek higher ground immediately, only hours before the storm arrived. 

The roar of the water from the drainage tubes the night of the torrential storm was deafening, and caused Lori to investigate after the bulk of the storm passed by their home. She watched the water screaming straight out of the tubes, disappearing into the darkness beyond the reach of her flashlight that night. The incredible power behind the propelled water would not be evident until the sun came up the next morning. Fortunately, the only damage to their property was the impressive erosion of a forested bank, forty feet beyond the massive drainage tubes extending from the backside of the dam. 

Lori sighed with delight, enjoying the white blooms of clover blanketing the sloping banks of the emerald green lake. She had spent many hours fortifying the banks of the dam with gravel, dirt and seeding it with the clover last fall. Her project had turned out beautifully, and she was thankful they both could finally relax and enjoy their private lake at the end of their workday.

The clouds turned pink, hinting of the approaching sunset. The light banter between the couple abruptly stopped as a large furry head with teddy bear ears glided past them in the water, unconcerned by their presence. The audacious rodent paraded back and forth in front of them, unafraid, as if it was proclaiming ownership of the lake. Steve and Lori watched it swim by them slowly in disbelief.

“What IS that thing, Steve?”

“Hmmmm, it is either a beaver or a huge muskrat.”

“Are you serious? Those things will destroy the banks of the lake!”

“Yep. They are destructive creatures.”

“Eeeeew. Beavers pollute the water with giardia parasites too, which infect people with a nasty diarrhea. That varmint is kind of cute…but Lordy, it has to go!”

“I don’t think we have just one, Lori.”

Another brown head popped up out of the water, carrying a small branch with leaves farther down the lake.

“Oh no! And it is spring. Everything is reproducing right now…including beavers. We have to call a trapper!”

Steve leaned back on the bench, studying the lake.

“Or I can shoot them.”

“Yeah, you could certainly do that until we can get a trapper out here. We can’t afford to wait very long though, Steve. I know you are an expert shot, but who knows how many of those creatures are in there?”

“More than we can see, most likely. I’ll try to locate a trapper tomorrow. In the meantime, I can start picking them off. But, it is getting too dark to hunt tonight. I can start this weekend.”

“Oh Steve, I hate this so much, but we do have to get rid of them! They carry a serious disease and will destroy the new dam.”

“Yeah, baby. They have to go…one way or another.”

The big beaver slid silently through the water by the couple once again, eyeing the drain pipes with more than a passing interest. There was no turning back. The beaver war had begun.

Two days later, any sympathy Lori had for the beavers disappeared. She was weed eating the small, flat peninsula adjacent to the drainage tubes when something unusual caught her eye. She clicked the machine off, laying it in the freshly cut clover. Something was caught in the drainage tubes.

The larger tube had an assortment of tree limbs wedged in the front entrance. Water was still flowing through the tube, but barely. In addition, there was a sturdy wall of branches, leaves and mud built halfway up the entrance of the second, smaller tube. More tree limbs were visible in the low light of the smaller tube, behind the mud dam. 

Lori muttered some choice expletives to herself as she realized the lake level was at least a foot higher than it had been the other day. To make things worse, the forecast was calling for rain later that night. She trekked up the hill to put away the weed eater. Grabbing her work gloves, a rake and a shovel, she made her way back down to the drainage tubes of the lake, still muttering her displeasure out loud. 

A large beaver met her disapproving glare before quickly ducking below the smooth surface of the water. If looks could kill, the beaver would have been instantly incinerated. Lori wished she could vaporize the intruding varmint with a single glance. It would have been quite gratifying.

She began the removal of the limbs from the larger drainage tube. The ends of several of the larger limbs were freshly gnawed. Lori realized they were actually small trees, recently felled by big, naughty beaver teeth. She dragged them all, one at a time, up the side of the dam and thrust them into the gaping maw of the eroded bank forty feet beyond the dam. The dratted rodents had also shoved a significant amount of mud into the waterway leading to the larger tube. Lori raked the dark, rich mud from the channel, filling in uneven spots in the small peninsula by the drainage tubes. It was hard work, but thankfully shade from nearby trees overlooking the lake had crept into her work area.

She stopped, satisfied the larger tube was clear. Leaning against her rake, Lori watched in relief as the rush of water flowed freely through the long length of the construction-grade black plastic tube, spilling onto the concrete pad and down the huge rocks on the far side of the dam. The sound of the re-established waterfall behind the dam was a delight to her ears, and a balm to her soul.

It was now late afternoon, and clouds were beginning to cover the sky. Lori realized she wouldn’t have time to unplug the smaller drainage pipe before dark, so she climbed up the side of the dam and leaned her tools against the large trunk of a cedar tree close to the road. She walked to where the bench overlooked the lake, loath to sit down on it since she was covered in mud and gunk. Her gaze ran across the surface of the lake, immediately locating her nemesis gliding through the water. She glared at it in frustration as it passed her on its way to the other bank. Lori put her hands on her hips defiantly. She had worked too long and too hard on this project to hand it over to a bunch of destructive rodents who had suddenly moved in. The dratted squatters. They had gone too far! This was now a war for their lake. The beavers must die!

And that was how Steve found his bride of many years…hands on her hips, covered in mud and softly chanting something about beavers dying. He smiled to himself, knowing he was about to grant her fervent wish. He knew she didn’t mind getting dirty while working outside, but she sure was a sight this evening. His curiosity stoked, he probed gently for answers.

“Hey, babe. Whatcha doing?”

“Trying to incinerate beavers with a single glance.”

“Oh? Something happen to incur such wrath from my favorite…erm…mud covered Mama?”

“The danged beavers plugged up our drainage tubes, Steve! I spent the last couple of hours unplugging the largest tube. Those varmints stuffed small trees in there, tangling them all together. The beavers actually cut down small trees around our lake somewhere, and floated them down here to clog up our big pipe! I also had to dig out the channel to the big tube since they filled it up with mud. The smaller drainage tube is still completely blocked off with branches, leaves, sticks and mud. I don’t have time to try and clear it before the rain moves in tonight. This is war, Steve! They have got to go!”

The large beaver nonchalantly swam by the couple, unimpressed by Lori’s tirade against his clan’s handiwork. Lori’s eyes narrowed, getting the impression the blasted rodent was mocking her. Another beaver crossed the lake beyond the large rodent, silently dragging a limb with green leaves through the water. 

Lori whirled towards Steve in frustration, stopping short when she saw what he was carrying. Steve smiled at his highly disheveled wife, delighted to join forces with her. He carefully leaned his rifle against the wooden bench and pulled some highly capable looking bullets from his pocket. 

“Why don’t you go in, change clothes and get something to drink while I pick off a few destructive varmints for you, my sweet?”

“Oh, thank you, babe! Thank you!”

“No problem. Happy to be of service.”

Steve loaded his gun, checked the safety and put in his hearing protection. Lori wasn’t even to the front door when he dispatched the big beaver. BOOM! He took a second shot to be sure it died quickly. BOOM! The other beaver ducked under the water, leaving the branch floating in the lake. He sat still, watching for the other beaver. It didn’t reappear that evening.

Lori returned with a couple of drinks, having changed into clean work clothes. 

“Did you get one, Steve? I heard a couple of shots before I could get to the house!”

“Sure did. It is over there by the bank.”

“Oh. I’ve never seen a real beaver up close before. And we probably shouldn’t leave it in the lake if we can get it out. It will just get gross, stinky and plain nasty.”

“I’m done shooting tonight anyway. If you can get it out of the water, I’ll put it in the back of the farm truck and take it up to the Man Field. The coyotes will have a treat tonight. Or something sure will.”

Lori smiled as she retrieved her rake from the cedar tree. The Man Field was her husband’s version of his Man Cave. He did almost all his hunting there. It was surrounded by forest on two sides, and all kinds of wildlife frequented the area. Including major predators. 

The big beaver was floating in the water next to the bank. Lori slid the hefty tines of the metal rake under the body and slid it onto the bank. She was surprised at how heavy the rodent felt as she lifted it into the clover with the rake. 

It had huge, elongated teeth, and short front legs with claws. The back feet were tapered and appeared to be webbed…perfect for swimming. What really interested her was the tail. It was fairly flat, oblong and about a third of the length of the entire rodent. She knew beaver fur was prized, but she didn’t have the skills or the interest to skin and tan the beaver hide. Especially tonight.

Thunder rumbled in the distance as Steve pulled the farm truck down the roadway crossing the dam. He grabbed the beaver by a back leg, carried it up the bank and hefted it into the truck bed. He removed his work gloves, gazing at Lori as she continued to peruse their adversary.

“That thing is huge, Steve.”

“Yeah, I’d say about forty pounds of naughty rodent is going for a ride. I still haven’t heard back from the trapper, so I suppose I’ll come back out here tomorrow if the weather cooperates. Want to join me?”

“Absolutely. I will need to deconstruct that dam across the smaller drainage tube tomorrow in case we have more bad storms.”

Another rumble of thunder sent Lori to the house and Steve on a quick trip to the Man Field. The overnight rain was gentle, and merely washed the pollen from the surface of the lake. Lori spent most of the following afternoon clearing the smaller drainage tube of the beaver build. It was something she didn’t ever want to have to redo. After her shower that evening, she rejoined Steve on the bench, her earplugs and binoculars clasped in her hand. It was less than an hour before Steve was able to dispatch another varmint. 

Their evenings on the bench became a standing date. A trapper promised to come the previous week, but never showed up. The enemy had gotten wise to where the bullets were coming from, and had moved down the lake, away from the dam. Lori was still having to remove branches and mud from the drainpipes. 

Steve decided to erect a blind and began hunting the varmints at the break of dawn. That was successful for a while. He then decided to move to a site farther down the lake, while Lori scouted for swimming rodents from the bench. He was able to take out a couple more from his new site. The amount of material placed by the surviving rodents in the tubing was dwindling significantly. 

The couple sat on their bench, watching for any further signs of the aquatic beasts. It had been several days since Lori had to clear a drainpipe. They were hoping the beaver war was finally over. The sun was beginning to set when Steve spied a rodent head cutting through the water at the far end of the lake.

“I’m going to sneak down there and see if I can get him. Stay here so I know where you are if I fire my gun.”

Lori watched Steve stealthily make his way up the road, crossing the dam and into the forest by the lake. She eventually lost sight of him. She could see the beaver cruising through the water in her binoculars. Dratted things. She hoped the varmints hadn’t caused a lot of damage to the forested lake banks with their burrows. She couldn’t imagine having to deal with a large floating tree in the water from a collapsed bank.

BOOM! The beaver she was watching through the binoculars jerked and flew up out of the water as the liquid around it sprayed in grandiose waves from the power of the bullet. It immediately sank, never to be seen again. Steve picked off one more varmint the following evening. 

The water level of the emerald-hued lake finally stabilized. Any noticeable attempts to plug up the drainage tubes ended. Steve and Lori still keep their regular rendezvous on the wooden bench overlooking their beautiful lake, listening to the soothing sound of the small waterfall beyond the dam. Interestingly, since the beginning of the beaver war, nobody stops by to visit the couple…unannounced. Soon, and hopefully, very soon, Steve and Lori will be able to officially declare the beaver war over. For this year, anyway.

Copyright ©️ 2021 Lisa Criss Griffin

All rights reserved

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Stephen Oliver: Anthologies & Genres

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Anthologies & Genres

Stephen Oliver

I’ve decided to talk about two different subjects this time, although they are connected.

Anthologies

Here’s a strange situation.

I’ve written, revised, and edited an episodic novel and three anthologies of dark urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror, with more than one genre and sub-genres often blended into a single story. I have another five collections I’m still working on.

The thing is, publishers and agents, keep telling me that anthologies and story collections are on the way out; no one is interested in either publishing them or reading them, they say. In fact, I ended up writing a space opera novel in an attempt to break into the publishing market. I’m still trying to find an agent or a publisher for that, too.

And yet, I have had eight short stories accepted for seven different anthologies (plus one for a podcast) in the past nine months. Six of them have been accepted in the past four months.

As I see it, there are several advantages of anthologies:

  1. They allow multiple writers to present their work to the public. Getting your name out there can be very difficult for people starting in their writing careers. Anthologies from publishers can be a great way of getting yourself noticed. Writing and publishing credits are extremely useful for showing agents and publishers that you are serious and that you can write.
  2. Even if the anthology has a single author, each story can be an experiment in changing style, viewpoint, structure, etc., allowing the writer to entertain in various ways. From drabbles (100-word stories) to novellas, each story is complete, even though they can also be part of an overarching tale. Think of A Game of Thrones, the first volume of the all-embracing storyline of A Song of Ice and Fire.
  3. They can be specific, where the subject matter of all the stories has a common thread: Cthulhu, Mermaids, Lesbian Ninja Cats, whatever. This “limitation” can be a source of great creativity, I’ve found.
  4. For the writer, it means that you can narrate a story without having to expend huge amounts of thought, time, and effort on plot and character development. You can concentrate on a single event or series of connected events, telling a simpler story. The characters might never appear again, or they could make cameo appearances in other stories, or even be the Main Characters in most or all of the stories.
  5. For the reader, a shorter read can be a great experience. When you’re commuting (remember doing that?), a quick 10-15-minute read is exactly what you want. You don’t have to remember where you are in a novel, and you needn’t go back to the previous paragraph or page to get back into the flow of the story. And you have the satisfaction of reaching the end of the story and experiencing its resolution.

So please don’t tell me that anthologies are on the decline.

Genres

The second theme is what I consider to be the limitations of genres.

Many agents and publishers insist that stories stick within the framework of a specific genre and even a specific sub-genre. And this is where I have a problem.

I write self-help, science fiction, space opera, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, magical realism, horror, fairy tales, fairy stories, slipstream, interstitial, noir, detective fiction, action, thriller, humour, YA, and children’s stories. I sometimes blend more than one into a single story.

For instance, I have a story with a police detective (detective fiction) who is both a psychic and magician (paranormal/urban fantasy) and a cyborg (science fiction). In which genre should it be pigeonholed? Especially since the preceding story is a noir/magical realism blend and the following one an urban fantasy/action blend.

And all of them are part of an urban fantasy/horror/science fiction episodic novel (again, think A Song of Ice and Fire), which also has flashes of horror, humour, and straight fantasy.

How am I supposed to define the novel-length book? Urban fantasy? Science fiction? Speculative fiction? Something else?

A humorous children’s science fiction story? Done it. Lovecraftian humour? Written that, too. A twisted fairytale with a Carollian quirkiness? Yep! These are all from anthologies based in the same narrative universe as the novel.

And, as all of us know, life isn’t neatly sliced into categories. It’s messy and overlaps, blending and merging, splitting apart and diversifying. There are no blacks or whites, merely uncounted shades of colour and grey.

And then there are the crossovers and mixes; Twilight has vampires and shifters (werewolves), for example, which I’ve been told repeatedly are two genres to be kept distinct from one another. People love stories that blend and blur, no matter what the agents and publishers try to sell us.

And that is how I write.

To get around this, I focused on a single sub-genre and wrote the YA space opera science fiction novel I mentioned earlier. Even there, the genre-loving agents and publishers bite me in the backside. One said that my language was too adult for the proposed audience, while another told me that it was too young and infantile a few days later. Go figure.

And remember, these genre divisions are artificial, devised to allow agents and publishers to pigeonhole things so that they can determine whether they will make any money from them.

Sorry if I sound as if I’m ranting, but I’ve just received my 189th rejection since the beginning of this year, from a total of 287 submissions sent during the same period. That’s a rejection rate of 65.9%. It’s only that low because 92 submissions are too recent to have been rejected.

Mind you, as I said at the beginning, I’ve also had two short stories published last year, and another six have been accepted in the past four months. I’m getting noticed, just not as quickly or extensively as I would like.

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Please visit Stephen’s website for more great articles: http://stephenoliver-author.com/

About Stephen Oliver

I’m a ‘Pantser’ (aka ‘Discovery Writer’), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants’.

In other words, I have no idea what I’m writing until I’ve written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don’t stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I’ll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.

Once I’m done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I’ve had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I’ve gone over dozens of times, and I’ll still find something to improve, on occasion.

So it is that I’ve self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories, completed a novel, and am still working on two more. My genres cover science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, humour (very dark), noir, detective fiction, fairytales and fairy stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there’s a second self-help book in the works, too.

I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain’t going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can’t help putting words on paper.” That’s me, because I’ve already written over a million words since I began. I’ll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.

Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!

SUCCESS PHILOSOPHIES WITH DR. CHUBACK EPISODE #10

Writers are human and humans require motivation. When we set a goal, the motivation to accomplish our desires is the force driving our actions. For many of us, finding the correct path to follow and maintaining that driving force can be difficult.

In our quest to assist writers in becoming the best you can be and remain motivated, we would like to introduce you to John Chuback, M.D. A cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Chuback found his goals waylaid by his lack of motivation. In a series of interviews with Paul W. Reeves, host on Impact Radio USA, Dr. Chuback discusses “The 50 most powerful secrets for success in and out of the classroom.”

Please click on the link below to hear Episode #10 in this series, and start enhancing your journey toward success today.

DR. JOHN CHUBACK, a cardiovascular surgeon from New Jersey, joins us in this series to celebrate the release of his book, “The Straight A Handbook – The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom”.

Throughout this series, they will cover each of the 50 chapters in detail, each of which will guide you toward success in all that you do in life.

On this segment, Dr. Chuback and Paul discussed chapters 22 and 23.

Enjoy!

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Previous Episodes of “Success Philosophies With Dr. Chuback”

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Dr. John Chuback

Picture

Dr. John Chuback was born and raised in Bergen County and graduated from the Dwight Englewood School. He earned his medical degree from New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ, in Newark. Dr. Chuback then completed a five-year General Surgical Residency at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC). Dr. Chuback is the author of Make Your Own Damn CheeseKaboing, and The Straight A Handbook.

All books are available on Amazon. com. 

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Impact Radio USA

Welcome to ​IMPACT RADIO USA, where we strive to  provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.

As we are continuing to add content on a daily basis, please feel free to click on the “LISTEN NOW” button at the top of the page to hear us 24 hours a day.While you are here, please check out all of our links to our shows, our podcast page, our blog, and learn how YOU can host your own show with us.  Thank you for listening to IMPACT RADIO USA!!!

Impact Radio USA

Listen Now

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul W. Reeves 

Paul W. Reeves is a longtime Detroit area author, radio talk show host, music educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician!

Listen to “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA and visit Paul’s websitehttps://paulwreeves.com for more information on his books and CDs.

https://www.impactradiousa.com/

A Principal’s Family Principles by Paul W. Reeves Ed. D. is available on Amazon.com

Paula Shablo: His Time Machine

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

His Time Machine

Paula Shablo 

Dan was never the sort of man who discarded items just because they were out of style. The radio worked fine, and so it stayed on the nightstand on his side of the bed throughout many years of our marriage.

It wasn’t the radio that finally gave out—it was the electrical cord. Dan took it to his electrician friend, Salvador, who laughed kindly and gave him a friendly pat on the back before recommending that he replace the old relic. “It would cost more for me to try to replace this—with no guarantee it would work—than it would for you to get a new radio.”

Dan came home with the radio, dejected. “I’ve had this since boot camp,” he told me. “The first time I danced with you, this was playing the music.”

My heart gave a little flutter at that—it was a sweet memory that I had tucked away myself and assumed he had forgotten. It was nice to know he hadn’t.

“It’s not like we don’t have the money,” I told him. “If you want to try…”

“No, it’s okay. I’ll put it in the bookcase with the other time machines.”

I smiled. There were items we’d accumulated over the years that were just, frankly, too pretty to throw away, even when they were no longer useful. Dan called them “time machines” because looking at them took us back to the days when they’d been working parts of our household.

The shelf in question was currently home to an old mixer that had belonged to my mother. It was a pastel blue shade popular in the 1940s, and was displayed with its blades and bowls. It, too, had fallen victim to the dreaded worn-out electrical cord.

Also featured was my old portable record player. It had belonged to my father, who gave it to me. My daughter used it for several years. Finally, it began to overheat and smell—to be honest—dangerous when in use; the turntable no longer spun quite fast enough, causing a dragging drone in the songs she was playing. Dan confiscated it, declaring it a fire hazard and relegating it to the “Time Machine” shelves.

She got a new one as a gift—I forget if it was a birthday or Christmas. That was a long time ago.

As I watched him make a space for his beloved player of music and news, I felt bad for Dan. I determined that I would find him a new radio, one that would be simultaneously serviceable and nostalgic.

It was a bit of a search, but before Father’s Day I received a package containing a vintage-look AM/FM radio. The speakers resembled an old automobile grill. The volume and tuning knobs looked like tail lights. The dial display looked like an old-fashioned odometer.

Personally, I found the looks somewhat marred by the headphone jack—there were no radio headphones in 1955. But overall, I was satisfied with the purchase.

Dan was delighted with his Father’s Day gift. He gave it place-of-honor status by sitting it on the night table on his side of the bed. He plugged it in. “Let’s see how she sounds,” he said, and turned it on.

Hank Williams was singing, his slightly twang-y voice belting out “Hey, Good Lookin’,” much to our delight. There wasn’t much room between the foot of our bed and the chest of drawers, but we managed a dance, anyway.

After listening to a few oldies but goodies, Dan said, “I’ve never heard this station before. It must be new. It’s almost time for the news, though, so I guess I’ll tune in the local guys.”

He turned the dial. Elvis Presley’s rich voice crooned, “Love Me Tender.” Another turn of the dial, and Patsy Cline was walking after midnight.

Dan looked at me. I looked back at him. We looked at the radio. “That’s weird,” Dan said.

Every turn of the dial brought forth songs from the past. Jim Reeves, Eddie Arnold, Perry Como, Loretta Lynn.

“What’s going on here?” I asked.

“Well, honey,” Dan said, “I think you actually found me a real time machine!”

I don’t know about that—we never left the current world. But every night, before going to bed, we danced to the songs of our youth as they floated from the speakers of that radio.

Never once did a song recorded past 1970 play on any station of that radio. No matter the time of day or night, it played our songs.

Time passed, as it always had. Dan became ill and frail. But he loved listening to that radio. When he became mostly bedridden, it played softly, day and night.

Each song held a memory. We talked for hours. We remembered all the good things. Even the harder memories were discussed and let go.

The music played on.

We were listening together the night Dan drew his last breath.

The radio stopped when he did.

A few days later, I unplugged it, believing it was broken.

That was a year ago. Today I took it to Salvador, just to see if it was worth fixing.

He plugged it in.

Switched it on—static. He twisted the tuning dial.

Lady Gaga was belting out “Applause.” The tone was perfect.

“Julia, there’s nothing wrong with this radio,” Salvador told me, frowning.

“That’s what you think,” I replied sadly.

Maybe my daughter would like a new radio. I can’t bear to keep it now.

I’ll be content with the one from boot camp. The one we listened to the first time we danced together. The one on the “Time Machine” shelf.

It won’t play anything now—but I have great memories.

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Please visit Paula on her website: https://paulashablo.com/

Enzo Stephens: The Healing Show with Doctor Joe

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

The Healing Show with Doctor Joe

Enzo Stephens 

“Good evening America! This is Doctor Joe, and we have finally gone national! So I say again, Hello America, and welcome to the show.

“Some business to get out of the way before we dive in tonight.

“I am Doctor Joe, board certified in psychiatry. However, please understand that I will not dispense clinical diagnoses on our show. That’s not what our time together is about.

“This show is to give you, the Listener, a forum to open your heart anonymously. Most of the time you’ll hear compassion, but yes, there are times when some Tough Love is needed, and I do not shy away from delivering that message.

“You pledge to accept that as a possibility when you call in.

“Now, if we’re all square, let’s pay the bills for a minute and then we can get this show on the road. This is The Healing Show with Doctor Joe, on WAMO radio, and I’ll be right back.”

Butler smacked the ceramic jar out of his hands, and it shattered on the gleaming tiled floor. Mom’s ashes were strewn everywhere amid jagged shards of pottery that bit into the flesh of his massive hands as he tried to gather Mother’s remains; to preserve her, to hold onto her, even if only for just another moment or two. But she was lost, sifting through his splayed sausage-sized fingers with chipped and bitten nails, though some of her ashes mixed with pinpricks of blood that gathered from the wounds inflicted by the unworthy vessel.

Tears flowed freely, also mingling with her ashes as he came to the realization that she was gone. Forever. The one person in this life who loved him despite his fearsome appearance.

He was on his knees, heart utterly shattered as the tears and snot dribbled ceaselessly down his face while the crowd of teenagers stood in stunned silence. Then Butler’s girl Karen Wilkerson tittered nervously, which opened a flood of laughter from the kids. They were entertained for a few more centuries before they turned away; Eggsy and his obliterated soul just a fading memory.

A stream of crimson ants churned their way toward the struggling, tightly-bound teens, and Edgar smirked in the humid morning light as he climbed into his land-yacht. “I hope this hurts you as much as you hurt me, pricks.”

The land-yacht roared to life, and slewed and slung its way toward the curving blacktop that intersected the gravel trail leading to the remote lake. Edgar thought he heard a scream. Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but he cherished it nonetheless.

“Our first call tonight comes from Minneapolis. Good evening, Ed. How’s the weather out there?”

“Good evening, Doctor. It’s always cloudy in Minnesota.”

“Is that true about Minnesota or about your current disposition?”

A glutinous chuckle was the response to Doctor Joe’s perceptive question, which immediately set the good doctor on edge. That infamous ‘Little Voice’ — or perhaps it was some kind of sixth sense — began murmuring. “So, what’s on your noodle tonight, Ed?”

“I’m facing a bit of an emotional conundrum.”

“Well, by all means Ed, we are listening.” But it just might be a better idea to stop listening; to shut this guy down before he kicked off his looney-tune festivities for the night. 

Dude was nothing if not a shitload of bad vibes.

“Some teenagers did something to me that was pretty heinous.”

“Kids will be kids. What did they do, TP your house?”

“No Doc. They destroyed my mother.”

For the first time in Joseph Bettis’ recent memory, a caller caused him to be speechless. As Ed’s words sunk in with sledgehammer impact, Doc Joe’s autopilot kicked in. “What do you mean, ‘destroyed your mother’?”

“Her ashes were in an urn. They destroyed the urn.”

Doctor Joe Bettis paused, waiting for Ed to fill in the blanks; dish on the deets, but he offered nada-empanada. The silence was thunderous. “Your mother was in an urn?”

“Ayuh.”

From somewhere in Maine and living in Minneapolis. Okay, that piece of data found its way to Joe’s memory as he continued. “So she was cremated I presume?”

“That’s a fine piece of deductive reasoning, Doc.”

“Want to tell us about it?”

“Sure, but that’s just the back-story. But what the hell…

“A big football type of guy; a bully if truth be told, gathered up his posse and rushed me and shattered the urn. It’s just the kind of crappy thing a black-hearted bully would do, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Well it’s been my exper—”

“A bully is a bully, Doc! You know it as well as I do. And what stops a bully in their tracks?”

“Standing up to them. But it’s HOW one stands up to them that results in either escalation or de-escalation.”

“Yeah.”

“Understanding what motivates a person to engage in that kind of behavior gives one the ability to level the playing field, figuratively speaking.”

Ed might have blown a raspberry at that point in the conversation. “I’ll tell you what levels the playing field, Doc. Here’s the ultimate in de-escalation…”

“Please Ed, I’m sure many of our listeners would love to know how you’ve dealt with this situation.”

“Easy-peezy, Doc. I killed him. And I killed his dumb-as-a-shoelace, wind-me-up-do-me-doll too.”

Twice in one phone call was the good Doctor Joe Bettis struck speechless. His first thought was that this was a crank call; some off-the-rocker crackpot calling to blow off steam, but then he recalled that boogery, glutinous chuckle earlier, and the case of heebie-jeebies this whack-bird gave him, and, well, maybe the dude wasn’t a crank call after all.

Maybe. God I hope I’m wrong; I do NOT need this shit tonight!

“I tell ya, puffing on some superb ganja certainly makes the medicine go down, ya know. Helps to keep a healthy perspective. There’s times when killing someone is damned hard work. That’s not for me, dontchaknow. I want things to go down like a bowl of fine vanilla low-fat yogurt. Smooth as butter. Slick as dog-snot on a doorknob.”

“Good God man, are you serious?”

“Would a bear rip your doink off if you chose to have sexual relations with a jar of honey out in the woods?”

Okay, no question about it, Doctor Joe was losing control of this call. He looked into the production booth to see the engineer making frantic circling motions. Keep the call going

Message received, damnit.

“Okay Ed, I think we’ve ascertained how serious—”

“I’ve got some gold kush right at this very point in time, Doc. All loaded up in my special peace pipe, which, by-the-bye, is chock full of ice and mint leaves to make the puff-a-roni go down nice ’n easy.”

“Ed, you’re smoking marijuana while talking to America this evening?” 

Deep inhalation followed by a protracted exhalation that felt like cobwebs wafting across Joe’s mind. This was surreal.

Hello Master of Understatement!

“Actually I really don’t know if this is gold kush. Could be skunk-weed for all I know. But it’s putting me in the mood for some French toast slathered in dark karo.”

“Look Ed, as entertaining as it may seem to you, I don’t think America’s idea of compelling radio consists of listening to you smoking weed.”

Silence for a second. Then two. Then, “Dead air.”

“What?”

“What’s a sure-fire way to kill a radio station, Doctor?”

“Oh, right. Dead air. We can’t have that going. Of course if that’s what you want to do, we’ll just end the call, Ed. In fact—”

“In fact hell, Doc. You end this call and this young lady here bites it.”

Joe stilled his tongue forcibly, demanding calm before he opened up his pipes. Motion caught his eye. The producer, gesticulating, his mouth moving. Joe was certain that sounds, maybe even actual words were coming out of the guy’s mouth, but it was distant, and Doc Joe simply wasn’t picking up what the guy was laying down.

There was Doc Joe, the headset, and a lunatic on the other end of the call.

“Ed? Do you have someone with you?” Joe felt his voice quiver.

“Doc, I have this… this thing in my heart, man, and it hurts. It hurts me bad.”

Now we’re getting down to the core. “Tell me about that, Ed. That thing you’re talking about.”

A sob. Just one, followed by an abrupt sniffle. “I dunno, Doc. It’s like this… this vacuum inside me; maybe in my heart, maybe in my soul. Maybe like a black hole or something, like in space where it sucks everything inside and no one has any idea where all that stuff goes. But it’s just gone.”

Good Doc Joe felt compassion, even though this guy kind of scared the hair on his back straight. “Ed, did you feel like this at all before that incident with your mother?”

“Bastard!” 

Fumbling, rustling noises, as if the phone became a hot potato against Ed’s ear. A muffled scream, then Ed, suddenly savage and snarling, “I’ll kill you bitch!”

“ED! Ed? Calm down Ed, talk to me, please. Don’t hurt her!”

Heavy breathing, sounds of a girl with a hunk of sock or something stuffed in her mouth.

The producer was seated at his console, staring at Joe with dinner plates for eyes. Joe snared a black Sharpie and scribbled on a notepad, then held it up for the producer to see. It said:

Call 9-1-1.

Google his phone number

Right. As if THAT would work.

“Ed?”

“Yeah, I’m here, Doc. Getting harder and harder to keep that under control. But I’ve got to, right. Losing one’s temper makes one… sloppy. And that’s a damned good way to get caught, which is not my idea of a cuppa chamomile, if you know what I’m saying.”

“Ed, let me ask you again; do you have someone there with you?”

“Ayuh Doc, I do.”

“Is it a girl, Ed? A woman?”

“Durn tootin she is, Doc. But if you want, I can turn her upside down to be sure. She is wearing a skirt—”

“That’s not necessary, Ed, I’ll take your word on that. Now Ed…”

“Go for it, Doc.”

“Is she with you of her own volition?”

“Well, she kinda is, Doc. I mean, she fell asleep on me. Of course the sleeper choke I put on her sort of induced that response.”

Joe was struck by Ed’s earlier admission of some kind of thing inside him that felt like a black hole in his soul, and while that did not sound like a good thing at all, at least Ed could be salvaged. Even though he said he killed before, for some reason that didn’t seem true…

“Ed, what’s the girl’s name?”

“How would I know?”

“Tell us what she’s wearing, Ed.” Joe knew that he had to make his captive more than just a captive, he had to personalize her to Ed. That’s how the girl would live past this night. Or—”

“She’s dressed like a cheerleader, Joe. You’d like her too. Blond, willowy. Nice and young and firm. I personally think she’s a little underdressed for the weather, but you know how kids today are.

“If I was into meaningless boinking, she’d be dancing with me by now.”

Jeez.

“Why, Ed? Why are you doing this?” 

“She knows, Joe. You can see it in her eyes. She was one of them that laughed.

“Wanna know what she’s wearing, Joe? Well this might sound pretty bad, but what the hay. I’ll tell everyone anyway. She’s wearing a bear-trap, Joe.”

“Wha—”

“Hells bells yes. It’s a Duke number 16 offset — that’s where the teeth are offset from each other. Didja know that, Joe? Did you pick any of that valuable info up in your board certifications?”

That’s it! This call needs to—

“So here’s the deal, Joe. If you go to a commercial break. SNAP! If you hang up this call. SNAP! If you piss me off…”

“Snap?”

“Ayuh. Now you’re jing-jing-jingling along with the program, Doc.”

“Ed. Tell me what you want.” Joe was walking a tightrope here and he felt it as he struggled to modulate his voice.

“Well, honestly, I’m feeling a strong urge to do some confessing, but if I do that very thing that just might make my soul feel even a smidge better, well that would be like giving the keys to the candy store away to the kiddies.

“There’s a whole bunch of super-smart folks working police investigations, and me dropping a name or a location or two, well those fine folk would put two and two together and before you know it, I’d be on the run. The lam. It sounds a whole lot better than it is, Joe. Can you dig what I’m feeding you here?”

Just gotta keep him talking; distracted. The producer was making those circling motions again, but truth be told, this exchange, this little foray into Whackoville was exhausting. 

He stopped with the circular motions and held up a notepad of his own, upon which was written,

Cops are coming. Keep him on the line.

“Joe? Doc?”

“Yeah, yeah.” 

“That Duke number 16 is resting across her shoulders; clavicle to clavicle. It looks like when it snaps shut, it should go into her neck just below the jaw. She’s got a long neck.”

“No, Ed, don’t. Just talk to me—”

“—That’s the tooth on the front. Should penetrate above the esophagus, which is bad enough. I mean, if that were all there was, it would be pretty bad for her. Can you imagine the damage? It just might kill her in and of itself!”

“Ed, please. There’s no reason for that girl to die. All life is precious.”

“But remember I said this is an offset trap? The opposing teeth are off to either side of that front one. Both would slice through the sides of her neck and she’d bleed out pretty fast. We don’t want that.”

“Ed?”

“Do we?”

“ED?”

“No, she needs to go slowly; needs to feel the HURT—”

“ED!!! STOP!”

“DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO YOU SUNOFA—”

SNAP

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Please visit Enzo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

D. A. Ratliff: Listen to Me! No! Listen to Me!

Listen to Me! No! Listen to Me!

The Talking Heads of Writing

D. A. Ratliff

I am one of those nerdy types constantly looking for new information. When I decided to start writing fiction again after many years of writing business and marketing-related materials, I scoured the Internet for every morsel of writing advice I could find. The amount of material I found was overwhelming, but I dove in without taking a breath. I wanted to learn.

What I found fulfilled my needs, but I also found that, apparently, everyone who has ever written considers themselves an expert. The myriad of articles, blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos are mind-bogglingly confusing, with almost all of these ‘experts’ saying the identical thing. The difference is how they offer their “expertise.”

My background is in science, so I took a rudimentary approach. I had taken creative writing in high school and college, but I decided to start with general information. I researched topics such as writing fiction for beginners, components of a good fiction novel, and how to write mysteries or science fiction. After looking at overviews of the craft, I pared my searches down to the basics.

Among my first questions were these:

  • How to write an opening sentence
  • How to write a hook
  • How to write an opening paragraph, a first chapter

Well, you get the idea—totally back to basics.

I wasn’t a novice, but years of writing nonfiction suck the soul out of writing fiction. I needed to relearn how to put the reader into the story for more than information. I needed them to feel the emotion of what they were reading. I searched for information on developing characters, plots, world-building, voice, structure, and grammar, among other topics.

Whether a beginning writer or one who believes in continuing education, the resources available to us are amazing. We can have information from the Internet in seconds that could take hours to find the conventional way open to us—libraries.

Libraries had librarians. Those individuals who spoke softly and always found the answers you sought. If you needed information on any subject, there would be stacks of books or periodicals in front of you, ready for exploration within a blink of an eye.

Today, while my love of libraries will never wane, my librarians are more often Internet search engines. The process is not as personal, but the information is instantaneous. It is also confusing.

There are basic steps to writing. While all of us like to be creative individuals, the art of storytelling is an ancient one and varies little from the beginning of the spoken and written word. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That pattern does not change. Our creativity is in how we construct our story.

With the Internet’s assistance, we can learn the basics and the nuances of storytelling by asking questions. For example, I typed in this search request. How to write an opening line for a novel.

The result? “About 373,000,000 results (0.67 seconds)” was the response from the search engine for all results.

For videos? The results were—“About 3,720,000 results (0.46 seconds).” That is a lot of videos for a very narrow topic.

I admit to a love-hate relationship with writers and videos. There is one author who I came across a few years ago whose advice I found to be excellent and delivered in a fun and irreverent manner. I followed this author and her advice for a long time, until recently. Her videos have become solely marketing tools for her books and merchandise. There is nothing wrong with promotion, and she has built her following and has every right to market her work to them or anyone.

However, when I am going to her for advice on a topic, having her book discussed before she addresses the subject is annoying, and she lost me as a follower. Not like there aren’t more writing advisors out there. Unfortunately, there are.

For example, one author is bright and cheery but distracted during her rushed delivery. Her camera fell during a taping and, instead of starting over, she frantically grabbed the camera, placed it where she had it, and kept talking. It was annoying and distracting, and she should have stopped and started over, but she did not. Another time, she yelled at her dog for barking. If you want me to respect you as an expert, conduct yourself like one. Her advice was nothing we haven’t heard before, so delivery and connection to the audience are imperative.

There is another famous video writing guru who has produced many YouTube videos. This is more of a personal quirk of mine, but please don’t talk down to the listener and don’t declare how proficient you are on a topic, prove it. In one video, she discussed outdated genres and tropes and noted that some genres are dead in traditional publishing but do well in self-publishing. As her focus and her professed expertise concern traditional publishing, her bias is there as well. If a genre is not selling one place but selling in another, it is not dead but subject to other markets and readers. As a writer, never forget, your success in traditional publishing is at the whim of agents, publishing house editors, and marketing staff. Your novel may be exceptional, but if it does not fit their cubbyholes, the odds of receiving a publishing contract are slim. When reaching out to find qualified advice, read the author’s bio and listen to their intent, as not all advice applies to your situation.

I am not saying that any of the abovementioned writers’ videos don’t have good advice. Advice is subjective and how we learn varies from one person to another. However, I want to offer a word of caution as many authors imparting their ‘knowledge’ do not provide sound advice.

To appear unique, people want to take the basics of writing and spin the ideas into a new way of thinking or processing the information. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when two plus two equals four, there is little room for stating that fact any other way. Overembellishing a process often leads to confusion, especially for a novice writer.

There are hundreds of processes offered as the way to write the best novel ever. The list is endless. There are numerous character development or world-building forms, specialty writing programs, name or plot generators, and different ways to plot—all ways to accomplish the same goal we all have, to write a novel.

When researching the writing process, you should read all the information you can but be wary of who you are listening to when you take lessons away from your reading. The first Internet search results will be the most popular ones, and often you will see the same writing websites or blogs listed. Popularity does not always mean quality, but if writers use the same sites for advice, there is a reason. You should read all the articles, watch all the videos, take a writing class, and read books with one thought in mind. Take the information that you gather and apply it to your writing process to fit your style. You should be unique, not the person providing writing tips.

The US Navy came up with an acronym, KISS, which stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. It applies to writers. Learn all that you can about your craft but remember the basics of writing. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end, and only you can write your story.

Listen to yourself.

Please visit D. A. Ratliff on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com

Please note: Images are free use and require no attribution. Images used by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

SUCCESS PHILOSOPHIES WITH DR. CHUBACK EPISODE #9

Writers are human and humans require motivation. When we set a goal, the motivation to accomplish our desires is the force driving our actions. For many of us, finding the correct path to follow and maintaining that driving force can be difficult.

In our quest to assist writers in becoming the best you can be and remain motivated, we would like to introduce you to John Chuback, M.D. A cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Chuback found his goals waylaid by his lack of motivation. In a series of interviews with Paul W. Reeves, host on Impact Radio USA, Dr. Chuback discusses “The 50 most powerful secrets for success in and out of the classroom.”

Please click on the link below to hear Episode #9 in this series, and start enhancing your journey toward success today.

DR. JOHN CHUBACK, a cardiovascular surgeon from New Jersey, joins us in this series to celebrate the release of his book, “The Straight A Handbook – The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom”.

Throughout this series, we will cover each of the 50 chapters in detail, each of which will guide you toward success in all that you do in life.

On this segment, Dr. Chuback and Paul discussed chapters 20 and 21.

Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Previous Episodes of “Success Philosophies With Dr. Chuback”

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Dr. John Chuback

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Dr. John Chuback was born and raised in Bergen County and graduated from the Dwight Englewood School. He earned his medical degree from New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ, in Newark. Dr. Chuback then completed a five-year General Surgical Residency at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC). Dr. Chuback is the author of Make Your Own Damn CheeseKaboing, and The Straight A Handbook.

All books are available on Amazon. com. 

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Impact Radio USA

Welcome to ​IMPACT RADIO USA, where we strive to  provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.

As we are continuing to add content on a daily basis, please feel free to click on the “LISTEN NOW” button at the top of the page to hear us 24 hours a day.While you are here, please check out all of our links to our shows, our podcast page, our blog, and learn how YOU can host your own show with us.  Thank you for listening to IMPACT RADIO USA!!!

https://www.impactradiousa.com/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul W. Reeves 

Paul W. Reeves is a longtime Detroit area author, radio talk show host, music educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician!

Listen to “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA and visit Paul’s websitehttps://paulwreeves.com for more information on his books and CDs.

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A Principal’s Family Principles by Paul W. Reeves Ed. D. is available on Amazon.com

Lynn Miclea: Beyond Static

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Beyond Static

Lynn Miclea

Startled, Olivia jerked her head up and looked toward the kitchen. What was that? Having been deeply asleep and suddenly jarred awake from a nap she desperately needed, she frowned in confusion and struggled to stand up from the recliner she had been dozing in.

She focused and listened for any possible sound coming from the kitchen. What had she heard? What woke her up? Then she heard it again — static coming from the kitchen.

Hesitant, she slowly approached the kitchen and peered in. It was empty.

She wished Douglas were still there to help her. Recovering from her husband’s death three years earlier was the hardest thing she had ever been through, and it had devastated her. Depths of grief had threatened to destroy her, but she slowly made it through. Douglas was the love of her life, and the loss still overwhelmed her. Times like this when she was scared were incredibly difficult, and she needed him. How could she face this alone? She blinked back the tears and stepped into the kitchen.

Static again cut through the air, then went quiet. Olivia’s eyes zeroed in on the radio sitting on the counter. The radio’s large, luminous dial lit up and then went dark. What the —

Her heart pounding in her chest, Olivia slowly stepped farther into the kitchen and gingerly approached the counter, her eyes glued to the radio. It lit up again, and static emanated from it. This time the dial stayed lit.

Her hand trembling, she slowly reached toward it.

She jumped as a burst of static came from the radio. It went quiet again, and the dial light went off.

Tentatively, she pushed the power button. The radio lit up as it always did, and a song from the ’80s emanated from the speakers. Good. That was normal, and it was a favorite song of hers. “I love this song,” she murmured. She pushed the power button again, and the radio went off. Quiet and peace settled in the kitchen, and she let out her breath slowly.

Olivia shook her head. She must have imagined it. It made no sense.

As she turned to leave the kitchen, the sound of static made her hair stand up on end. Eyes wide with fright, she turned back and stared at the radio. The dial was again lit up. It had clearly turned on by itself.

Strange whispers filled the air. The light in the radio dial flickered, and static cut through the air. Then more eerie whispers.

She sucked in a breath and felt her throat close as an icy tentacle of terror crept up her spine. This was impossible.

The whispers coalesced into discernible words.

“GET OUT!”

Olivia gasped as goosebumps rose on her arms.

The voice grew louder and clearer. “GET OUT!”

She froze for a few seconds and could barely breathe. Then terror flooded her body, and she turned and ran from the house. Confused and panicked, she tripped over the step down to the porch, but quickly caught her balance. Her heart pounding, she broke out in a cold sweat. Her breath came in quick, shallow gasps, and she rushed down the driveway to the sidewalk, then turned and looked back at the house.

Movement got her attention, and Olivia watched as her next-door neighbor’s tree started leaning toward her house. It suddenly picked up speed, and a loud crash shook the ground as the tree crashed through the roof of her house. Her mouth opened in shock as she stared at the ruined structure of her once beautiful home.

“Nooo,” she whispered as she stared.

Trembling slightly, she went to the front door, opened it, and looked inside. The tree had destroyed much of her home. She gasped as she glanced in her living room. The tree had landed next to the recliner where she had been napping, with one sharp branch embedded in the back of the recliner. If she had still been there sleeping, she would have been impaled.

Her throat tight, she walked into the kitchen. The radio sat on the counter as though nothing had happened.

She stepped close to the radio and put her hand on it. “Thank you,” she whispered to it.

The dial lit up briefly and then faded, and one small chirp could be heard. Whoever or whatever it was, it clearly heard her and acknowledged her words.

She let out a long breath, knowing she needed to deal with home insurance, the neighbor, and fixing the house. She would take pictures and she knew who to contact. She trusted things would work out and she would take care of what needed to be done, but she would deal with that soon enough.

She chewed on her lower lip. Instead of fear, she now felt protected, and her lips curled up in a small smile. Whatever spirit was in the radio, it was not trying to hurt her — it wanted to help her.

Despite having to deal with the mess, Olivia felt a warm rush of relief. Something or someone was watching out for her. And having someone look after her and protect her gave her a sense of peace. Maybe staying in the house would work out, even without Douglas.

As she turned to go back to the living room, the radio dial lit up and the radio turned on. That same ’80s song was playing — the one she liked. She started singing along and then abruptly stopped. Was that song put on deliberately by the spirit? Was that song playing because she had said she liked it? Was the spirit trying to please her?

As the song ended, the announcer’s voice filled the air. “Again, that was dedicated to Olivia from Douglas. And now, a word from one of our …” The radio turned off and was silent.

Olivia stared at the radio. What? Did she hear that right? To her from Douglas? That was impossible and too coincidental. Was Douglas here with her, helping her? Was he the spirit in the radio? Was it her sweet husband who warned her and saved her life?

Her eyes burned and a tear slid down one cheek. “Thank you, Douglas, my love,” she whispered.

The dial lit up, the radio made a small chirp, and then it turned off.

Olivia placed her hand on the radio and choked back a sob.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/

Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/

And visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

D. A. Ratliff: Aunt Estelle

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Aunt Estelle

D. A. Ratliff

My earliest recollection of Aunt Estelle was in the summer of my sixth year. My parents took my younger and annoying brother and me to visit our grandparents in a small south Georgia town.

We lived in Los Angeles, and the trip was memorable as it was my first time on an airplane. My grandparents had visited us until then so that my parents didn’t have to lug two small children—did I mention my four-year-old brother was annoying—through airports. Or so I overheard them saying.

Cameron and I—I’m Samantha—were excited about being on the plane. Although Cam did get scared on takeoff and cried, I loved how the plane went faster and faster until it lifted from the ground. Seeing the trees and roads and tall buildings of LA get smaller until I could no longer see them was exciting.

The flight was long, and Cam became fussy, but the captain came to the passenger cabin and calmed him. Our father was an Air Force pilot, and he and the captain had served together. Cam and I finally fell asleep a couple of hours from the Atlanta airport, and it was dark when my parents woke us. As we walked through the nearly deserted airport, I wondered if we had arrived in another world. Funny how that thought would come back to haunt me.

My dad rented a car, and off we headed to my grandparents’ farm. Cam and I fell asleep again, and I vaguely remember arriving at the farm a few hours later and my grandfather carrying me into the house. He smelled of Aqua Velva aftershave, and I felt safe in his arms.

The following morning my grandma cooked the biggest breakfast I ever had, and afterward, we headed outside to play in the yard with Nutter, my granddad’s Labrador Retriever. That big black dog was only about a year old then and became our best playmate over the years. As I write this, Nutter’s great-great-grandson, Sirius, is lying on the deck beside me. And no—I named him after the star and not a wizard from a fiction story.

Later that morning, we were playing, under the watchful eye of our father, on a trampoline that grandpa had put up for us when our great-aunt Estelle arrived carrying a basketful of something that smelled quite tasty. We stopped jumping as she approached. Holding out the basket, she removed a cloth napkin, revealing a pile of cookies. She had our attention.

She hugged my father and then us. “Children, I am your great-aunt Estelle. Let’s go inside and have some milk and cookies.”

We needed no further prompt. Cam and I climbed down from the trampoline with our father’s help and followed her into the kitchen. It’s funny now, thinking back on those days. We knew so little then and now—well, now it’s only my story to tell.

We spent two weeks on the farm, wandering the peanut fields, pecan groves, and the acres of watermelon and cantaloupe. Cam and I feasted each day on a watermelon that our grandpa would pick for us. He always whispered to me in the morning after breakfast, want to pick something pink and green? That phrase became one he whispered to me until he died. Cam’s favorite treat was grandma’s soda biscuits with butter and honey from beehives on the farm. I liked watermelon better.

Aunt Estelle was my grandfather’s sister, and she lived in a cottage just a stone’s throw from our grandparents’ home. The path to her house led from my grandma’s flower garden to a wrought iron gate set in a hedge and into a flower garden in Aunt Estelle’s yard. At six and for many years later, I imagined I was walking through the world of the fairies when I visited her, and we would imagine fairies in the garden and tell each other stories.

We spent a lot of afternoons at Aunt Estelle’s house during that first visit and later ones. She loved to play games with us and taught us to make kites. We would take the balsa and silk kites to the peanut fields and run between rows to watch our colorful creations fly. She took us walking through nearby groves of trees and taught us about plants and birds, and over the years, Cam and I became quite the ornithologists and botanists. And did I mention, she made the best cookies ever.

There was, however, one item in her house that always intrigued me. On a cabinet in her living room sat an old-time radio. My mother called it an art deco piece which I didn’t understand then, and she marveled at how beautiful the radio was. It was shiny black with gold trim and in pristine condition as if she had never turned it on. She once asked Aunt Estelle if it was a reproduction and my aunt just smiled. “Oh no, my dear, it’s an original.”

It wasn’t until my tenth year that I felt something was amiss. We had come for another summer visit, and it was the first time Aunt Estelle did not meet us with a basket of cookies. We didn’t see her until the third day after we arrived. My grandma said Estelle was traveling, as I had learned she often did. When she came to see us, she was carrying two large boxes wrapped in shiny paper and ribbons and a basket full of chocolate chip cookies, our favorites.

“Children, I am so sorry I wasn’t here when you arrived. However, I have a surprise. I was in Germany, and I brought each of you a present.”

Excited, we opened our gifts. Now eight, Cameron was the proud owner of a tree fort with tiny platforms, branches, a staircase, ladder, a bridge, elf-like figurines, and a crow’s nest on top. After seeing his gift, I was anxious to see my own but carefully untied the ribbon and peeled away the paper. Inside the box was a miniature fairy village. There were five houses, patterned like an acorn, honeycomb, tulip, pinecone, and mushroom, along with five fairy girls and five fairy boys.

“Aunt Estelle, I love it. I have just the place in my room for this.” I hugged her, and she squeezed me tightly.

“My darling, I wanted something for you to treasure and remember me and our fairy walks by in years to come.” 

Her eyes glittered as she looked into mine. I would remember that look as even then I realized there was more to Aunt Estelle than I knew.

Wonderful memories filled the years to come. When I was fourteen, I begged my parents to spend my school vacation in Georgia. With Cam going to camp, my parents allowed me to spend my summer at the farm. Looking back, it was the best summer of my life.

My grandmother, Aunt Estelle, and I made jams and jellies, relishes, baked cakes and cookies, and tended the personal garden. Thank goodness I had taken up running, or I would have gained a hundred pounds. We wandered the countryside, visiting antique shops, and had lunch at quaint little cafes. I fell in love with the area and the two women sharing the experience with me.

One week, in late July, my grandparents traveled to Chicago for the wedding of a close friend’s grandchild, and they decided I would spend the days they were gone with Estelle. That was the week my journey to my present life began.

The first evening, Aunt Estelle, after dinner and yes, cookies, took me outside. There were no security lights in the area, and the sky was midnight blue and sprinkled with glittering stars. We settled into reclining lawn chairs, and while sipping peach tea, Estelle took me on a tour of the Milky Way spanning the sky above them.

She spoke of the constellations Sagittarius, Scorpius, Ophiuchus, and Scutum and the wandering comets glistened with ice in the reflected light of distant nebulas. She described them as if she had seen them with her own eyes, and her words filled me with wonder.

I had always had an affinity for space and excelled in science as Cam did. Now, listening to my aunt, I felt a growing need to learn more about space and the wonders it contained. It wasn’t until the second night that I discovered a secret about my aunt, and that secret sealed my fate.

We had remained outside until nearly one a.m., and then Aunt Estelle shooed me to bed. I was too excited to sleep, and thoughts of my future spun in my head. I sat, legs beneath me, on the window seat in my room, staring out at the night sky. When I heard a whining sound, I worried my aunt was in trouble. I rushed from my room and down the stairs stopping on the landing to see into the living room. Estelle stood before the radio with only dim light from a single lamp illuminated the room. She wore a pale green gossamer scarf over her head and held a small metal disk in her hands.

I knelt on the landing, peering through the banister, afraid to move. My body became rigid, and all I could do was watch.

Aunt Estelle touched a dial on the radio, and it began to glow. Within seconds, a voice spoke from the radio. Unlike any I had heard before, a voice spoke in a sing-song language as though it was part music and part speaking. Stunned, I watched as Estelle spoke into the metal disc using the same language. The conversation went on for several minutes before Estelle touched the dial again, and the amber light faded. It was then that Estelle turned toward me, and the room went black. I wouldn’t remember the radio incident from that night for a long time until she allowed me to remember.

My high-school years were a blur. I only saw my grandparents on the holidays as I spent my summers in science camp. My attention was solely on science and my desire to attend the Air Force Academy and become a pilot or an astronaut. The day I received my acceptance letter from the Academy, I called Aunt Estelle after I celebrated with my parents and my still annoying brother. She was as excited as I was.

“My darling Sam, I felt your connection to the stars from our nights gazing at the sky. I had a feeling you would want to visit the Milky Way.”

“You instilled that desire in me long ago when we sat in your front yard under the stars.”

“I did, didn’t I? And for a good reason, it is where you belong.”

I ended the call full of wonder and something else, an awareness of Aunt Estelle’s sing-song voice. I wondered why I had never noticed it until that day.

Five years later, I was an Air Force Academy graduate with a physics and aeronautical engineering degree, and I could fly aircraft. I had just come off a training mission when word came that Aunt Estelle had died. My heart shattered as my family and I left for Georgia.

We spent sad days there, as so much had changed. My grandfather had suffered a minor stroke only a few months before Estelle died. After the funeral, my parents talked him into selling the farm and my grandparents moving to California with my parents, including two handsome dogs that were the late Nutter’s offspring.

The day before I left to return to Nellis Air Force Base, my grandmother told me that something was waiting for me in Aunt Estelle’s cottage. I walked the path between the gardens, now lusher than when I was a child. Memories of fairies and twinkling stars fill me with nostalgia.

I walked into her home for likely the last time, and tears streamed down my face. I loved all of my family, but Aunt Estelle filled a piece of my heart that I knew would now remain empty. I found a package wrapped in shiny paper and ribbons. My heart pounding, I sat on the couch and opened the box.

I gasped at what was inside and, with trembling fingers, lifted the beautiful clock from the box, along with a strange metal disk and a letter. Day turned into night as I sat in Estelle’s home, processing what she had written.

Now, years later, I pulled the letter from a zippered pocket on my uniform and read it once again—my heart both breaking and full of love simultaneously.

My dear Samantha:

  First, I must tell you. I am not dead. The body I left behind was a non-animated clone. I knew this day was coming from the moment I met you, and I will admit I refused recall until you graduated from the Academy and your future set. You see, Sam, I am not truly your aunt. I am not from Earth. I am from a solar system that your planet has yet to discover. Our sun is much like yours, and my planet is very similar to Earth.

  We have visited Earth for many generations, but we are not little gray beings, as we look very similar to you, only requiring minor alterations. We observe your species by becoming part of your family for a while. Then we leave and erase the memories of our existence from those we interacted with but not with you. I petitioned for the right to remain in contact with you as I was certain that you would reach for the stars one day.

  You will not be able to discuss me with your family as they will no longer remember me. In a matter of days, they will not remember me at all—but you will. As you might have guessed, the radio is a communications device, and the metal disk is how to operate it. There will come a time when we talk again.

  The one thing I did leave with you was the fairy village, as the myths of fairies are common in your world. They are also common in mine. A love that we shared from our childhood.

  Samantha, whatever life brings you, remember I will be with you. And we will meet again when you are among the stars.

  Aunt Estelle.

I wiped the tears spilling from my eyes. As Estelle faded from my family’s memory, it was so difficult not to scream she was here, she was real, but it was futile. I gazed across the cramped captain’s office where the fairy village sat on a shelf, the radio on the shelf below. I had refused to leave Earth without either item or Sirius. Earth Space Command had given in, they wanted me, and I wanted Sirius and Estelle with me.

The comm crackled. “Captain, helm informs me that we are about to cross the boundary of our solar system.”

“Thank you, Commander.”

I scratched Sirius’s head and rose. Before I stepped onto the bridge, I touched the radio, still shiny and new. “Don’t worry, Estelle. I will be calling soon.”

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Please visit Deborah on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

SUCCESS PHILOSOPHIES WITH DR. CHUBACK EPISODE #8

Writers are human and humans require motivation. When we set a goal, the motivation to accomplish our desires is the force driving our actions. For many of us, finding the correct path to follow and maintaining that driving force can be difficult.

In our quest to assist writers in becoming the best you can be and remain motivated, we would like to introduce you to John Chuback, M.D. A cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Chuback found his goals waylaid by his lack of motivation. In a series of interviews with Paul W. Reeves, host on Impact Radio USA, Dr. Chuback discusses “The 50 most powerful secrets for success in and out of the classroom.”

Please click on the link below to hear Episode #8 in this series, and start enhancing your journey toward success today!

DR. JOHN CHUBACK, a cardiovascular surgeon from New Jersey, joins us in this series to celebrate the release of his book, “The Straight A Handbook – The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom”.

Throughout this series, we will cover each of the 50 chapters in detail, each of which will guide you toward success in all that you do in life.

On this segment, Dr. Chuback and Paul discussed chapters 17, 18, and 19.

Enjoy!

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Previous Episodes of “Success Philosophies With Dr. Chuback”

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Dr. John Chuback

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Dr. John Chuback was born and raised in Bergen County and graduated from the Dwight Englewood School. He earned his medical degree from New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ, in Newark. Dr. Chuback then completed a five-year General Surgical Residency at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC). Dr. Chuback is the author of Make Your Own Damn CheeseKaboing, and The Straight A Handbook.

All books are available on Amazon. com. 

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Impact Radio USA

Welcome to ​IMPACT RADIO USA, where we strive to  provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.

As we are continuing to add content on a daily basis, please feel free to click on the “LISTEN NOW” button at the top of the page to hear us 24 hours a day.While you are here, please check out all of our links to our shows, our podcast page, our blog, and learn how YOU can host your own show with us.  Thank you for listening to IMPACT RADIO USA!!!

https://www.impactradiousa.com/

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Paul W. Reeves 

Paul W. Reeves is a longtime Detroit area author, radio talk show host, music educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician!

Listen to “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA and visit Paul’s websitehttps://paulwreeves.com for more information on his books and CDs.

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A Principal’s Family Principles by Paul W. Reeves Ed. D. is available on Amazon.com

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