Story Time in the Tent By Kathryn Paulsen

Fireflies lit our way as Jim and I rode back from dinner at a biker bar in Williamsport, Maryland, to our damp and buggy campsite, four miles south on the C & O canal trail.  By 9:30, we were in our tent, reeking with Deet, eager for sleep after close to 60 miles of bicycling. But, although July 4 was still a week away, fireworks were booming all around, and sleep seemed a long way off.

I’d brought along an issue of One Story, a literary magazine that publishes one story per issue, figuring we could read it aloud to each other by flashlight.  I got it out, and Jim said he’d be glad to listen, but I’d have to read the whole thing by myself.

The story, “The Good Word” by Yannick Murphy, proved easy to read.  It was made up mostly of short sentences—the kind of prose, I thought, that would lend itself to being read on the radio. I wondered if it had been.  The style reminded me of Ernest Hemingway, or Raymond Carver.  The phrases “he said” and “she said” were repeated a good bit more than strictly necessarily—for rhythm, I’m guessing.  But the repetitions didn’t stop the story from moving right along.

The story was set in an unnamed tropical place reached by ferry. One of the characters reminded me of a guy from whom I’d rented a tent on the beach at Isla Mujeres, Mexico, years ago.  My first night in that tent, I lay awake in the dark listening to some critter outside crawling around the perimeter.  At dawn, I awoke to find that the critter was inside the tent, looking for a way out, and I had just spent the night with a scorpion.

On the C & O, we were happy to share our tent with a spider that Jim thought might eat mosquitos.

Jim held his flashlight steady as I read, and male fireflies cruised our tent, looking for love.

I read as if hypnotized, heard my voice as if it were somebody else’s—somebody who lived in the world of the story.

In a quiet way, the story turned out to be full of suspense, with surprising twists and a satisfying ending. “I think I was awake for most of it,” Jim told me when it was done.

The next morning, we were both still thinking about the story, and what it was about, deep down, though like most good stories, this one was about more than one thing. The author mentioned several of them on the One Story website, but none reflected our thoughts.

One of these days, maybe we’ll meet her and ask her. And tell her how we shared her story with the spider and fireflies—and the fireworks.


Kathryn’s prose and poetry have been published widely, and she also writes for stage and screen. Kathryn currently lives in New York City, but, having grown up in an Air Force family, has roots in many places, all of which she misses, and suffers from chronic wanderlust.

Resentment and Grief By Angel Baxter

“You have to be strong for your sister You can’t cry, she needs you.” I must play that in my head over and over again. No matter how prepared you think you are, the truth of the matter is you never are. It’s been almost 12 years, and it troubles me to this very day, having created deep scars that remain open. I remember sitting in the little pale white room at the hospital. My sister, my brother- in -law’s parents and his 2 siblings waited patiently to find out what was causing such problems for my brother in law, Bobby. He was having a surgical procedure done to find out what was wrong, and possibly have it taken care of, so he can begin to feel better.

We were all saying what we thought might be wrong with him, but then the doctor came in no expression on his face and delivered the blow—knocking the breath out of each one of us. He uttered the shocking diagnosis that Bobby had colon cancer.

We were all overcome with disbelief and sadness. Not Bobby! How can this be? He’s so young! He has his whole life ahead of him!

As I sit writing this, I find myself becoming distraught as I relive that devastatingly painful day. It took several attempts for me to enter the room where my brother in law was being viewed. This has to be one of the most heart-breaking days I’ve ever had. I saw my sister standing over his coffin looking down at her dearly departed husband. Just the sight ripped my heart to pieces. I wanted to comfort my sister, because I know she needed me. However, doing so has caused me to struggle with not being able to mourn the loss of my brother- in -law and has left me with resentment. Anytime I think about the day my brother-in-law passed, it causes such torment within me. I wasn’t to grieve or show any emotion for the passing of my brother in law, because I had to be the strong one-the shoulder to cry on. Come on, I’m human too.

Grieving allows us to heal, to remember with love rather than pain. It’s a sorting process, and I’ve begun to embrace healing. One by one, I’m letting go of the negativity and things that are gone and mourning for them. In a way, the pain of grief is a gift because it’s the comfort and healing I’ve needed for so long.

I miss him very much. I’ve struggled for some time about how Bobby was taken from us way to soon. I know he’s only gone physically, but I would rather he was still here with us. He was so strong—our rock—he just had a way of making everything okay. I really miss that. I’m blessed to have had the privilege to call him my brother-in-law. He’ll always be remembered  because he lives in his 3 boys, in our hearts and the many memories we have of him.

Death evokes a weakness in all. It creates such havoc and chaos in our lives and has us going through many phases of emotions that will send us “mad.” Mourning is a necessary and healthy part of the healing process, and I never got to grieve the loss of my brother- in- law. I should be able to celebrate his life. Instead, I dwell in the sadness of his death, not able to really move on, because I had to be the strong one.

Angel Baxter is working on a degree in Nursing at Hagerstown Community College to become an RN. She enjoys spending time with her family and being outdoors. Angel likes watching horror movies and is addicted to ghost hunting shows

Story By Richard D. Campbell

He fell in love the first day he saw her.

She entranced him with her natural beauty.

She was only in a friends’ picture,

but from that moment on she was always in his dreams.

His friend told him that he knew her well;

he would introduce him to her this weekend.

For the next few days he planned his moves.

He had to know exactly what he was going to do.

Finally his dream would come true.

His friend was taking him to her place.

The drive seemed to take forever,

but he could feel her getting closer and closer.

Eventually the trip was over and the adventure began.

Her presence was absolutely breathtaking.

He spent the entire day with her.

She made him laugh, she made him cry.

He was having the best time in his life with her,

then something special happened.

They were having an emotional moment;

his hands were sweaty, his knees were shaking.

He knew he was unprepared and it could be disaster.

The outcome could be unwanted or it could be glorious.

It broke his heart, but he could not continue.

It would not have been right to go on.

He always imagined that his first time would be perfect and natural,

but something made him very cautious.

He knows he should use protection, even though it may get in the way

or lessen the intensity of reaching climax.

He has to be prepared emotionally and financially,

if something goes wrong, or if he doesn’t know when to quit.

He would like to hang on to her forever,

but he could never be strong enough; he has to let her go this time.

His friend tells him that it was a tough call,

but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

She wasn’t upset, it didn’t bother her at all.

She knew he’d be back again someday, just like all of the guys before him.

They keep coming back every weekend just to be with her.

Everyone thinks she’s really special,

even though hundreds of guys have caressed her.

You can see that the hands of time have had their way with her,

but she hasn’t worn out,

because she has a heart of stone, and no one will ever take it away.

Not even our hero will succeed in this task.

He may eventually have his way with her,

but he will never change the way she is.

Even if he takes her solo the next time they meet,

he hasn’t conquered her, only himself.

So, if by chance you get to meet her, remember to give her some respect,

or you may become just another rock climber

who let her slip through his hands.

And, she will be there waiting for another adventure to begin,

since she’s not going anywhere.

How can she?  Mountains are always grounded.

 Richard D. Campbell is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics who started teaching at HCC in 2004.  Professor Campbell has written stories and poems since grade school.  Over the years, he has  had several neat experiences that have molded him into what he is today.  Here is the short list: rock climbing, working for the family firewood business, spelunking, participating in decathlons, visiting Ireland, coaching sports, getting a negative score for his improv performance, ice climbing, marrying an English teacher, working as the Hagerstown Suns videographer, buying a new Saturn and driving it for 20 years, graduating from Bucknell University, playing semi-pro football, being the father of two boys, working for an engineering firm that improved the design of crash test dummies, being inducted into the National Darts Hall of Fame, and guarding the secret recipe at KFC.

Measuring Bees By Johanna Bulley

I keep bees. For the most part beekeeping is relatively hands-off—the bees go about on their tiny day-to-day missions of glory and adventure, and I stand at a respectful distance and watch them. Occasionally, however, we have an adventure together. For instance, the other day I had to go measure them.

More specifically I had to measure the ratio of parasitic mites in my hive. Mites are small, flat, and red. They specialize in spreading diseases and will invariably wipe out an entire colony if the mite population gets too high. Of course, nobody wants mites around but when I first heard about doing a “mite check” I was a little skeptical. First, I had been made fully aware by a number of beekeepers that although preventative measures can be prescribed, there is little to be done in terms of long-term mite management. Second, the idea of literally measuring out half a cup (three hundred) bees, putting them in a jar of rubbing alcohol, and counting the number of mites that fall off the bees seemed rather bizarre honestly. But after listening to the conversations of several beekeepers on the subject, I came to understand that the idea behind a mite check is to have a scapegoat for when a colony fails. Naturally, I wanted a scapegoat too, so I grabbed my hive tool and zipped up my full-bodied bee suit. There is nothing especially attractive about beekeeping suits (although there is a growing beekeeping fashion market), however, as an amateur beekeeper I have been concentrating more on the fundamentals—such as securing a scapegoat—than on fashionable apparel. For this reason, I have an ordinary white beekeeping suit—only, it doesn’t look normal when I wear it. You see, my dad originally bought this suit so that it would fit both of us. The only problem with this is that my dad is 6’3”and I am only 5’7”, so whenever I wear it I look like an enormous deflated marshmallow. It’s pretty embarrassing, but fortunately the neighbors don’t live too close.

So, there I was, a giant deflated marshmallow walking out to my beehive, ready to measure some bees. I pried the lid off the hive and some of the bees flew up to inspect me, gaging whether or not the person ripping the roof off their home was a threat.

Now this was the delicate part, I needed three hundred bees to conduct the test, but I couldn’t just pluck them out of the hive one-by-one and expect them to stay put until I had half a cup.

Instead, I was going to capitalize on the element of surprise.

Making sure not to disturb them, I painstakingly withdrew a frame from the hive, it was heavy and covered with little furry bee bodies that milled about confusedly in the sudden sunlight.

And then I banged the frame down into a small shallow tub that I had brought along.

Now I had read that if you’re lucky the bees will all fall off at once into a complex, wriggling, disoriented mass, but if you’re unlucky you will stand there for a moment after you have half-heartedly banged the frame down and then, with your measuring cup hanging loosely in your hand, you will watch as individual bees claw over one another, shake back their antennae and flex their wings with a determined glint in every pair of eyes.

I was unlucky, probably because I had just violated one of my last innate instincts of survival—to not provoke stinging insects with irascible temperaments. Of course, I had on my deflated marshmallow suit for protection, but still, the audacity of what I had just done was rather overwhelming. Not because I had just made three hundred bees angry, but because I had a hive of twenty-five thousand bees. Twenty-five thousand bees which were now thronging around my head in a golden haze of righteous indignation with the unified purpose of wriggling into my deflated marshmallow suit and stinging me to death.

While I was calculating how many stings it would take to kill me, most of the bees had crawled out of the tub and were now in the air. Fortunately, my desire to survive was still strong—I wasn’t about to start over—so I grabbed the tub and half-poured half-scooped the bees into my measuring cup.

I had maybe an eighth of a cup.

I didn’t want my eighth of a cup to fly away so I held my gloved hand over the top of the measuring cup, this, however, proved to be a problem. As I was preparing to transfer the bees to the jar of rubbing alcohol, the bees had mostly transferred themselves to the palm of my hand. I did my best to brush them into the jar but at this point it didn’t matter anymore—the air was thick with bees, bees flying into the jar, bees flying out of the jar, bees pacing back and forth on my face mask, wrathfully waving their tiny bee-legs through the holes—I began to doubt whether or not I would ever survive.

*                *                *                *                *

I took me a half hour of walking around the yard before they left me alone. And then it took me another half hour of walking around the yard before I was convinced that they had left me alone. However, I did eventually get to examine the results of the test—once I was sufficiently certain that the buzzing I heard was only my imagination and I had finally ventured to get out of my deflated marshmallow suit and run into the house.

I was going to need that scapegoat—the mite level in my hive was above the acceptable threshold.

But here’s the great thing about beekeeping—the rules are always changing. I did some more research and learned that if I were to administer preventative measures soon and apply them regularly, in all probability my colony would survive—that is, as long it didn’t starve, or freeze, or get mauled by a bear.

I keep bees. Its relatively hands-off—the bees go about on their tiny day-to-day missions of glory and adventure, and I sit close by and watch them.

Johanna Bulley keeps bees in the state of Maryland but often finds herself in a different state while writing. She is an editor of Hedge Apple Magazine. 


Cityscapes By Dimple Shah

We are alone, walking on the street, staring at that particular nothingness that exists just a couple of feet ahead of us, at eye level.

We stand alone in the elevator, surrounded by pressing bodies jutting into us as the door closes on our 10 seconds quarantine. A smorgasbord of cologne and nicotine wafts over us while we observe napes and cowlicks, collars and wingtips.

We sit alone on the large floors with rows of desks, in cubicles and open plan offices, with connections all over the world.  The hum of power and ambition drown out our attempted camaraderie. By ourselves in the coffee shops and smoking zones, in our libraries and chat rooms, we get our fixes in anonymity.

We cruise the aisles of supermarkets and shopping malls, circling like large birds of prey, filling the emptiness. The tomatoes blush at our social awkwardness.

We strive to connect at singles bars and pulsating nightclubs. Music and alcohol conspire to obliterate our thoughts as we sing along to another’s words.

Isolated in our schools and our classrooms, we treat knowledge as currency. Books wish they could organise their own book burning with shame.

We are alone in our gyms and pools, flagellating ourselves to the sound of podcasts and playlists, clad in our Lycra and Velcro armour.

In the dark in movie theatres, and plays and concerts, our singular experiences with art make way for mindless, pretentious chatter during intermission.

We segregate ourselves in our cars, and in our trains and subways, trying to decipher the names on spines of books that others read, watching with interest as the woman seated across applies lipstick without a mirror.

In cafeterias, and restaurants, we peruse elaborate menus and today’s specials on the blackboards, and nitpick on the lighting for that perfect picture of steaming noodles or pink seared meat, served with cursory dialogue on the side.

We pray in secret in our temples and churches, our mosques and synagogues, searching for the heaven that will make sense of our living hell. If we listen closely, we might hear the sound of the universe laughing.

In our parks and in our playgrounds, with our Fitbits and the screens in our hand, we try to catch make believe monsters, bumping into each other like wounded bats.

We are alone on our dates and our dinners. We are alone on our wedding night, our birthdays, and anniversaries. The calendar feels the weight of our self-importance and falls off the nail in the wall.

On our holidays, in the forests and on the beaches, we try to capture our perfect moment of loneliness to share with the world. The list of mountains to climb grows longer, even as our relevance decreases at an exponential rate.

We age and die and go mad.  In our hospices and hospital wards, in our asylums and recreation centres, our limbs shake, like dead leaves on rotting branches, as we try to learn new tricks in the game of survival.

The lady walking in front of us trips and falls. Her shopping bags skitter away from her hands, straining to hold their innards but failing. Her handbag winds up under her hip with the strap half suspended over her shoulder. She is a large woman, and she looks comical, lying there with her legs splayed out, dress hiked above her knees, enough to flash a glimpse of her unattractive underwear, because she didn’t think to wear the lacy black thong just to pick up the milk and bananas.

We are laughing together – bystanders, strangers. The woman grins, sheepish, as she struggles to stand up and pull her dress down and collect her wayward stuff. We coexist in this moment of a mishap.

We come together as skin and lips and tongues and limbs. We shine bright, like stardust, like a thousand million suns, before our radiance eclipses our momentary happiness. A child’s laugh rings out, filling the void.

We cheer as one at football matches, and political rallies, and protests, revelling in shared righteousness and ranting against otherness. Drinking beer is the acceptable way to conclude a lynching.

We stand together behind the sniper’s stock, the wayward missile, the extremist’s explosion. Widows and orphans will be cared for from our collective largesse.

We come together in criticizing, and judging, and denigrating, and discriminating.

We are together when we scream aloud with a strident, binary voice and deafen the world.

I am alone again, walking on the street, staring at that particular nothingness that exists just a couple of feet ahead of me, at eye level.



Dimple Shah arrived in Hong Kong 10 years ago and promptly decided to forego a lucrative career in Banking and Finance for the unquantifiable joys of writing. An avid consumer of words all her life, she has only recently officially assumed the mantle of producer of words and spinner of yarns. Read more about her and her work at




A few years back on a winter morning, I walked the north portion of Paradise Church Road.  On this rather cool day, I witnessed the falling of a limb from a large tree in an adjacent pasture.  With no indication of the cause, the limb just dropped from its place of origin. And as it fell, the limb was caught by siblings and remained in their arms.  I was inspired by this event and wrote the following:


In winter, the limb from a large maple tree fell toward the ground;

But not yet, did it fall entirely, for its descent was interrupted

By a sibling limb that reached out to catch the fall.

Now the broken limb lay hanging on its brothers-sisters.

When will it fall again and finally reach the ground?  

 In springtime, perhaps, or during the blaze of a summer sun?  

 Who knows.  But I will watch it as I walk by each day and weep

 When I see it lying dormant on the soil.

 Indeed, life is seasonal.

Trees, O that we might listen to the trees, for they voice a language that surpasses much of the garble of human rhetoric.  A tree’s branches give earth its umbrella to shield a beaming sun, providing earth’s inhabitants with a cool spot on a warm day.  Their arms/limbs reach out to hold up climbing children and the ropes that hold their swings. A tree’s leaves brush with the space they are given, showing evidence of an eternal breath that fans a sweating world.  Even more, the leaves wave to passers-by, clap for joy in gentle breezes, and persuade beholders to be glad in a freedom that only nature can provide.

Trees know of arctic blasts, wintry days, and winds that howl on dark nights.  They can tell us about spring, too, when buds are born and later blossom into a beauty that surpasses all human fabrications.

Trees know about the fierce heat of summer, when the ground is parched and rain is future.  And they rise up to meet the sun, giving pedestrians an umbrella to thwart a thermal advance and give shade to that which is weary.

The trees know about the autumn, too, for they begin preparing to yield their leaves paying homage to the soil that gave them their birth.  And in so doing, this offering gives death its definition and advances a hope that another season awaits.

Suffice it to say, the trees hold a part of the universe’s wisdom, for they can interpret our brutal times when winds, floods, fires, and the ravages caused by human violence.  The trees can tell us how to grow, mature, stand stately amid all that has been and now is, and what might be. Trees can tell us how to age and leave the earth appropriately. G. Manley Hopkins said it long ago: “The earth is charged with the grandeur of God.”  It really is, and the trees are divine exponents.

The arborist in me grieves the passing of all that is, and that includes the falling of trees.  Even more, I grieve when the environment is raped and void of human care. I grieve when the greed of man bulldozes and uproots the good earth not for the nourishment of its contents, but for the advancement of a prevailing economic avarice.

Don Stevenson is a retired UCC clergyman who is also an adjunct instructor of Philosophy, Ethics, and World religions at Hagerstown Community College.

What the Land Teaches by Chila Woychik

Some mornings, the moon plays off a rising sun, lingers in a lightening sky. In Native American tradition, each month’s full moon was ascribed a name representing a characteristic of that time of year, for example, January’s Wolf Moon and June’s Strawberry Moon.

Morning moons aren’t rare in their ebbing circuit across an early sky. And but for nature’s yawns and stretches, young country days are an exercise in silence. Leaves hang softly; a breeze quivers in the air; the land lays quiet except for a blue jay’s screech and cattle lowing for the disappearing grass.


Twenty years in Milwaukee and I’m more than citified, know urban sprawl and traffic jams. I wish it no more. It’s out of my blood. The desire for anything metropolitan has departed. These days, as the painted wooden plaque in the farm store so aptly admonishes, I “never stand behind a coughing cow.”

At the checkout lane, the cashier has a tattoo and six or eight piercings in each ear. Her hair is short and gray except for one long braid in the back. She’s at least sixty, and adds a modern touch to this decidedly rural mercantile that offers everything from needle syringes for bypassing the vet, to the latest stylish Carhartt clothing, to baby fowl, to tires and Pringles and complimentary popcorn.


Trucks. I began admiring them when I finally got used to the high step-up and rhythmic clatter of our Ford diesel, when I finally mastered the wide front seat and having to scoot farther right so as to be dead center of the steering wheel, and when I finally grasped the fact that such a long wheelbase maneuvers potholes and gravel roads with handy ease.

My truck is a chariot to heaven and Everygirl’s adventure. Now I demand the scenic routes and dust-filled byways, extol the clouds and blink away the busyness. I drag along wonder with each escape, and there’s not a rural setting beyond my scrutiny.


Too much dirt mucks up the cogs. Too many details and the lines drag down. Just bury the stuff in the pasture or dump the junk in the lowlands, old farmers say. So rusty metal bones and industrial fuel tanks and Frigidaire washers fill the gullies next to great slabs of beef roaming acres of what used to be the richest land on earth.

What’s left is our chemical-laden soil, a deathtrap for bees and butterflies, and its runoff sabotages our rivers, lakes, and seas. Runoff from Iowa reaches the Gulf of Mexico. We use plastics too, those filling our oceans and ensnaring the fish. This is our apocalyptic seedbed, our darkening hope, and it envelops this globe.


People do clone best; clone is what we do. We forget that sky is not a clone. Dirt is not a clone. Every animal strides to its own unique rhythm unflustered by the concept of uniformity. When does the light flicker on, when does individuality strike us soundly enough that we finally say, I am, I am, I will be rare and new.


Life is place and setting: how a land feels as it trickles down the gullet of identity. It’s the slipping away of an all-night moon and the slant of an early morning sun piercing the blinds, the speed of clouds carried over a pasty mountain ridge, and rush hour traffic whether a convoy of three hundred sheep marshalled by an attentive shepherd or a swarm of three thousand cars with right-side steering wheels crowding narrow Paris streets. It’s the air we breathe, fresh and wild, or stilted and heavy.


Everyone’s scared when the darkness refuses to lift, but the land brings us light and feeds us. The land teaches us to be more, teaches us to be brave. The land brings us home.


German-born Chila Woychik has bylines in journals including Cimarron, Portland Review, and Silk Road. She won the 2017 Loren Eiseley Creative Nonfiction Award & the 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. She is the founding editor at Eastern Iowa Review.

Dances with Weed Tree by Jill Clark

When spring arrives in Florida, no one safely traverses our back patio. Our camphor tree,  cinnamomum camphora, which provides plenteous shade from Florida’s searing summer wrath, nevertheless, turns on us. This tree is considered a weed in many southern states—invasive through seed transfer.

The camphor tree’s barrage of pea-size seeds pelts our outdoor back-porch entertainment area. These ground-covering turgid terrors taunt our household with the potential for a typical Three Stooges’-style pratfall. The branches of the tree move not by wind but rather from a belly laugh deep within the tree’s soul. So, as the seasons transition, I am once again compelled to dance with our beloved weed tree.

Last January, two hard freezes decided to even the previous summer’s scorching score. These wintery, icy lashings confused our Asian-born arbor as she struggled to find her regular rhythm of ripening and sloughing. The usual thrice-yearly deposit of seeds upon our patio walkway now had become a twice-spring event. Additionally, the fecund camphor berries found no mercy from the desiccating sun.

Florida’s penetrating sun had fried these granular hopefuls into dried, solid kernels whose rocky hardness then tested the equilibrium of any barefoot pedestrian daring to walk within their gritty paths.

When such copious fallout occurs, I am favored with frequent opportunities to strap on my dancing shoes to sweep the pestering pits off the porch—especially when surprised by the news of unexpected guests arriving soon.

Under such social pressure, most self-respecting wards of nature—like myself—would partner with  a large and powerful dry vacuum to do battle with these peppercorn-like irritants. However, my R2D2 clean-up-imposter proved awkward as the vacuum lumbered to learn my amateur dance moves. With the tank’s wheels hobbling over bare toes, I stumbled, the chord entangled, and in an effort to maintain ballroom grace, I sprang aloft to create a breathless beating-of-the-feet-movement, but instead landed on the concrete in a crumpled heap.

As our plush tree cheerily whirled her branches with the wind, trickles of camphor seeds tittered and rolled—hissing snide chuckles as they skittered along the hot patio pavement.

I stood undaunted by this attempt to keep me from removing the smirking seeds—determined that my impending guests would not be held house-bound to pits that lay in wait for a tenderfoot to venture out.

Awkwardly, I cast off the clumsy vacuum bloke and warily approached my prickly opponents with a less-modern, but more interpretive removal technique: the ancient Alegrias—the Spanish Gypsy bullfighting dance. I had a fool-proof but time-tested attack plan. I knew the camphor stones would be no match for my crude adaptation of the dramatic Latin rendition utilizing my fleet-of-foot, but less-than-graceful partners—ye old broom and dustpan.

In hand, I charged gallantly with straw-lance and dirt-catcher—doubting that tipping at windmills would work more successfully for me than it had for Don Quixote.

All of nature seemed to converge against me and impede my agile broom-and-pan ballet.  A sinister, smoldering cloud rolled in from the West—darkening and chilling the dance floor.

And if nature’s bullying was not enough, the phone rang: Company was on the way!

I gritted my teeth: No last-ditch, blusterous assault—no truculent gusts would stop me.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of sportsmanship, before sweeping these parched seeds into the dustpan, I bowed before these dauntless, breeze-blown nodules. As I scooped up the last gritty morsels, I teetered in giddy crescendo raising the dustpan heavenward like a sacrifice to the gods.

Subdued on the dustpan, the defeated seeds lay dormant all the way to the compost pile.

Returning to the tree, I stood beneath this immense, vanquished monarch—gazing straight up as I placed my palm upon a warm and shaggy bark.

I sensed the tree’s imperious aloofness to my arduous labors with her royal gems—her movements syncopated solely to the currents of the wind.

Forgetting the knock on the front door, and transfixed by her towering majesty, I felt faint—swooned by the promise of future dances laced with seeds.


Jill Clark is a freelance writer who writes for adults and children. Recent publications include the folkloric-horror short story series Machete published through Lyonesse Press: The Silver Empire. Forthcoming poetry will appear in Pocket Change Literary Magazine and Poems for the Night Sky S.R. Savage Publishing.



Don’t Miss It By Blake Garlock

I crept south on Brush Mountain, sneaking over and under the encroaching laurel hoping to hit a clearing where I could sit and wait on a buck. After several hundred yards, I approached the edge of a south facing ridge overlooking a large hollow resembling a soup bowl. At the edge, I dropped to a knee to avoid sky lining myself and scanned the bottom of the bowl for any discrepancies in the landscape: the twitch of an ear, the tip of an antler, or even a black blob requiring a little more caution. Satisfied, I slumped down next to an old white oak and reached for my lunch. A quick glance to the sun confirmed mid-day’s presence and stimulated my appetite.

After three days of scouring the southern Appalachians for a hooved meal, tired was an understatement. Either the deer were failing to cooperate, or I was hunting poorly, most likely the latter. Nonetheless, enjoying the hunt was becoming difficult. As I sat on the edge of my ridge contemplating an early retreat to camp’s confines and munching on a ham sandwich, I caught a glimpse of movement on the adjacent ridge. Only after dropping my sandwich did I raise my binoculars to my face for a closer look. Through the lenses—on the opposite ridge—I observed a Red Fox hunkering close to the forest floor advancing on a nearby oak tree as quiet as possible.

Still staring through the glass, I saw the occasional twitch of an Eastern Grey Squirrel’s tail hovering at the base of the tree—only feet from the fox’s nose. It took me a second, but I managed to piece together what was occurring.

Stopping just shy of the unknowing squirrel, the fox reared back onto its hind legs and leaped forward pouncing on the squirrel and killing it instantly. Picking its prey up and carrying it between the teeth, the fox pranced over the next ridge and out of sight with pride.

After the fox cleared the area I lowered my binoculars and reflected on the scene. Thinking back as far as my memory allowed, I confirmed that this was my first predator prey interaction; and upon the realization I was overcome with shame. As a self-proclaimed conservationist, hunter, and observer of the natural world, it dawned on me that over a decade’s worth of trips afield lacked the raw relationship between predator and prey; the purest interaction occurring in nature. And after scrutinizing my own faults, I discovered that if I spend a great deal of time in the wild and have only witnessed predator versus prey once, then the occasional wanderer must be unexposed to it.

Blake Garlock is an English major at HCC. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, fishing and writing.

Completely Dependent by Jeffrey Zable

On the streetcar heading downtown, a woman around my age is doting over a little boy who’s sitting in a stroller in front of her. “We’ll first go to ‘such and such’ a store and then we’ll go to ‘such and such,’ and then we’ll go to the park.” she says, and he responds, “I’m hungry. I want to eat!” With that, she takes out a graham cracker and holds it for him while he takes some bites. She wipes his lips with a tissue, then takes out some juice and gives him a couple of sips. She tells him something else, then looks around at the faces watching the whole affair. Realizing the expressions are sympathetic, she smiles at everyone, as I try to imagine what it feels like to be 2 years old again, housed in a stroller, on my way to some place without having any say in the matter, completely dependent on someone who I haven’t really known for all that long.


Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro Cuban Folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and anthologies. His recent writing appears  in MockingHeart Review, Colloquial, Ordinary Madness, Third Wednesday, After The Pause, Fear of Monkeys, Brickplight, Tigershark, Corvus, and many others.In 2017 he was nominated for both The Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.