Welcome to the WATCH #RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be taking part in the “Watch RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS) Write” Showcase Tour.
Today’s special guest: Jan Sikes

Jan Sikes

PARADISE BELOW
JAN SIKES

Emma Dupont shifted her backpack and lowered her head as she struggled through the crowded street. Panic struck as the sunlight faded.
It would mean sure death to get caught out after dark
“Watch where you’re goin’, you stupid bitch!”
Rough hands shoved her into the edge of speeding traffic. With great effort, she steadied herself, stepped back onto the sidewalk, and quickened her pace.
Making sure no one noticed her, she ducked into an alleyway and banged on the side of a blue dumpster with a series of raps. A camouflaged door slid open.
She tossed her backpack inside then hurried down the metal steps into the arms of a dark-haired man who held her while she sobbed.
“Susan, please bring Emma a cup of tea,” he instructed.
A tall blonde woman hurried away.
“I can’t go back up there again, Donovan. I just can’t.” Emma moaned. “They are no more than savages. Armed soldiers are everywhere, questioning everyone, barely controlling the mobs of hate-filled people. It’s awful.”
She didn’t tell him she’d felt someone watching her as she pushed through the street. The noose was tightening, but she’d die before she’d expose their hiding place.
Donovan rubbed her shoulders. “Don’t think about that right now.”
Susan appeared with a steaming cup and pressed it into Emma’s hands.
“Try to relax,” Donovan tucked a tendril of brown hair behind her ear.
Emma sank down against the cold concrete wall and let the warmth of the tea soothe her ragged nerves She watched while Donovan emptied the contents of the backpack.
When he looked up, his eyes shone. “You did good, love. We almost have enough.”
After the last election, conditions in the US had deteriorated. Humanity had gone crazy. Hate flourished and people killed each other over the slightest disagreement. Satan reigned.
Evil permeated every corner. Small handfuls of people banded together and escaped into underground tunnels determined to live in peace and raise their children.
Fed up with the insanity, Emma didn’t hesitate to join. Her group had one plan.
They had to get to Mexico.
The government’s restriction of money forced them to withdraw small amounts at a time. Emma’s experience of working in banks gave her the ability to gather the funds they needed to escape.
They were almost there, but nine months of living beneath the crazed streets of Dallas had taken its toll, especially on the children. Deprived of vitamin D, they grew lethargic and pale.
Resources, time and patience grew thin.
“I’ve been in communication with others in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. We’re almost ready to make our move,” Donovan said. “But, one mistake will mean death.”
Emma nodded. She didn’t care. The thought of dying didn’t frighten her.
Jasmine tea helped slow her heart rate and settle her nerves.
Donovan dropped beside her. “I never imagined that the ‘Land of the Free’ and the ‘Home of the Brave’ would deteriorate into such a state of evil, and hate.” He blew out a long sigh. “We’ve lost everything.”
Emma placed a hand on his arm. “But, we haven’t given up. And, we’ve kept love in our hearts.”
Susan and several others gathered around. “With trust in God and help from the angels who watch over us, we’ll survive,” she said. “We’re the future of humanity. We are the Lightworkers.”
They formed a circle and joined hands. In a melodic voice, a woman with straight black hair sang, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…”
Voices blended sweetly, and an essence of light filled the dank tunnel.
###
Melchizedek bowed his head overcome with the beauty and faith of the small group. He called Nemamiah and Charmaine to his side.
“It is almost time. We must rally everyone to watch over and help them. Please meet with the Ashtar Command and give them a report.”
Nemamiah folded his wings and nodded. Charmaine smiled and opened her wings to take flight.
“It is done.”
###
Emma barely survived her last venture above ground. When three hoodlums grabbed her and dragged her into a deserted alleyway, she fought hard, but they stuffed a dirty rag in her mouth and kicked her with the sharp toes of their boots.
From their sneers and insinuations, she knew they intended to take more than the contents in her backpack. She silently prayed.
The moment her attackers dumped the money out of her backpack, a flock of Ravens descended from nowhere, flapping their wings and pecking at their heads and eyes until they ran screaming from the alley.
Emma was sure they’d attack her next, but to her surprise, the birds hovered around her while she picked up the money, then flew above her while she ran for safety.
She shook her head when Donovan questioned her bruises and told him the angels had protected her.
Wheels were in motion. They would soon be away from the nightmare.
Donovan gathered the group for final instructions. “Travel light. Anything you don’t need, leave it. We have two vans, but there’s limited room.”
While the rest did the same, Emma gathered her belongings. She wouldn’t take more than she could carry on her back. She stared at a photo before tucking it into a zippered pocket. That life was gone. All she had left was her faith, strong will, and this family determined to live in peace.
By the time the twelve adults and four children were ready, the first shy rays from the sun graced the sky. It would be a long day.
They piled into the vans in an orderly manner. Donovan would drive one vehicle, and Michael the other.
Emma got into Donavon’s van. They’d grown close over the months of their confinement. She wouldn’t call it romance, but pure love. She’d grown to love all these gentle souls. Together, they would build a new life in paradise.
They slapped magnetic signs on the sides of the vans that read, “Hollow Road Baptist Church” and crawled through early morning traffic toward I-35 south.
They hit a roadblock a few miles outside Dallas.
“Remember what we rehearsed,” said Donovan as he pulled over.
Several of the group placed Bibles on their laps. Emma held her breath.
Armed soldiers approached. “Papers,” one soldier barked, “and state your destination.”
“Camp Zephyr, sir, for a retreat.” Donovan handed him papers.
Soldiers surrounded both vans and peered through the windows. Emma was sure they could hear her heart pounding. She forced a smile.
Donovan stared straight ahead.
After what seemed like forever, the soldier passed the papers back through the window. “You can go. But, stay on the main roads. There are crazies around.” He motioned them on.
Donovan nodded and pulled away. “Emma, pull up GPS and find a back route, then tell Michael what we’re doing.”
The route took them through miles of open pasture and small Texas towns. Finally, their headlights pierced the darkness and lit up a rusted VW van shell.
Donovan pulled to a stop. “Everyone stays put until we know it’s safe.”
He jumped out. He and Michael hurried toward the VW, looking in all directions.
Emma chewed her fingernails and stared out the window. Nothing could go wrong now. They were so close.
Donovan had explained that a Coyote would escort them through the tunnel into Matamoros, where they would find papers and transportation.
When the men turned and waved, the group grabbed their belongings and exited the vans. One-by-one, they climbed down rickety wooden steps into a damp tunnel. Flashlights reflected off dirt walls supported by boards and rocks.
Painted on one board, “Paradise Below” promised a long awaited redemption. The narrow tunnel forced them to walk single-file, and some taller men had to hunch over.
But, discomfort didn’t matter.
In an hour, they emerged onto a deserted side street in Matamoros where a dilapidated bus waited.
Without a word, the group filed onto the bus. The driver closed the door and ground the gears into forward motion.
Emma sat beside Donovan and reached for his hand. “We’re going to make it.”
He sighed and leaned back against the seat. “We are.”
A brilliant red sun rose over the ocean, bringing with it a new day, as the bus lumbered to a stop many hours later. Gentle waves lapped the shore and seagulls cawed as they swooped down searching for breakfast.
When the bus door opened, a couple dressed like American tourists greeted each person.
A woman with flaming red hair hugged Emma. “Welcome to Mexico. I’m sure you’re exhausted. We have rooms prepared for each of you.”
“Thank you,” Emma murmured soaking up the tropical scenery.
Paradise! They’d made it. No more hate, no more violence, and no more hiding.
They’d reached Pueblo de Luz, (City of Light).
A band of angels hovered above the group with tears of joy shining in their eyes.
There was hope for humanity.
Hope in these small groups that dared to keep love alive.

#

Thank you for joining me. If you have enjoyed this author’s writing, please visit her Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of her writing, along with her contact and social media links.

You might also want to check out her books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

https://ravewriters.wordpress.com/meet-the-authors/author-jan-sikes/

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Welcome to the WATCH #RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be taking part in the “Watch RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS) Write” Showcase Tour.
Today’s special guest: Suzanne Burke

“Shielded”
By
Suzanne Burke.

I welcome the shield provided by darkness. Those sweet moments when I allow myself to sit in the velvet depth of silence and dwell only on what is to come.
For the past only exists to remind me of the challenges I failed to meet. The things I thought myself powerless to change. I know better now.
I have no room for failure here as I sit wrapped in the warm blanket of my darkness-inspired illusion of safety.
The soft glow of the clock now heralds your arrival. I feel my pulse jump in anticipation.
I check the window … again. No vehicle yet slows to a stop on the rain-drenched streets so many floors below.
I feel the twitch of the nerve in my jaw and suck in the air in an effort to still it.
I remind myself once more that external factors are likely responsible for your late arrival. I know you too well to ever believe that you would be late by choice. You are eternally predictable. That comforts me somewhat.
My neck muscles clench and I stand, stretching my arms and softly willing them to relax.
The clock rolls through another hour, and my calmness begins to falter.
I check through everything that I have prepared in anticipation of our meeting.
Grunting with approval at my readiness, I check the window one more time, and I gift myself a smile as your vehicle draws up and parks on the opposite side of the now quiet street.
The excitement begins to make itself felt and I shiver.
You will arrive soon, and all the waiting will end.
I lick my dry lips and take a deeply satisfied breath.
I hear the sound of the ping the lift makes as it stops on this floor. I hear your key turn in the lock.
I wait as you fumble for the light switch and flick it on. You swear in displeasure as the room remains dark. Now you search for your iPhone and seek out the torch app. The room in your immediate vicinity is caught within the boundary of its fractured light.
I smile.
My surprise still awaits your discovery.
You feel your way slowly along the wall and take a faltering stumbled step into the kitchen. The light switch disappoints you once more.
The language that follows that discovery explodes in the air. I hear you open the refrigerator to confirm to yourself that this lack of light has permeated the entire apartment. You shrug out of your coat and drop it to the floor, uncaring of the dirt and clutter it now lay amongst.
You find the bottle of scotch and slam cupboard doors seeking a glass. There are none. They lay in a disordered mess of unwashed utensils still awaiting attention on the food scrap cluttered kitchen bench.
I hear you curse as you stagger. The booze you’ve been consuming for hours rattles your movements and makes them disjointed.
You sit heavily in the easy chair uncaring of the scattered and dirty clothing that cushions your weight.
You unscrew the lid of the scotch bottle and take several satisfying gulps.
The anticipation makes me quiver now.
I have waited so long for this.
The cigarette lighter grants you a drag of the nicotine that is but one thing on your list of addictions.
The clock ticks over again and moves time relentlessly forward.
The bathroom awaits your imminent arrival and you curse again at your now shaking hands as you seek out your ever-present stash of heroin. You scream in rage and frustration when you finally acknowledge that there is none to be found.
I hear you slamming the walls with your now white-knuckled fists.
I reach across and flick off the power override switch. I illuminate the apartment.
It takes brief seconds for you to lurch back into view.
“Melody? Why the fuck didn’t you tell me you were here? What the hell! When did you get back?”
“I discharged myself from the hospital.”
“Oh. Good. This place is a mess. It needs cleaning.”
“Yes, Charles. Yes, it does.”
I watch you nod your head, pleased at my response.
You check your wallet, quickly counting the bills waiting inside. You confirm your decision, “I need to go out. Fix me something to eat. I won’t be long.”
“Why do you need to go out again? It’s raining.”
I watch you glare at me for daring to question you. “I need a fix. I’m heading to see Freddy.”
“There’s no need. I stopped by and saw him on the way home. I wanted to give you a surprise.”
You smile for the first time. “Well, now. That’s fine. That’s good.”
“Do you want me to get it?”
You now wear your frustrated look. “Fuck yes. Of course. Hurry up.”
“Sorry. It’s a little hard to walk with my ribs strapped.”
“You’re always sorry. You’re pathetic!”
I access the bedroom and return with his fix, and watch as he draws it up and applies the tourniquet to his upper left arm.
“You broke my jaw again, and two ribs this time.”
You glare at me as I dare to disturb your concentration, “You shouldn’t aggravate me like you do. You know you asked for it.”
The smack hits you, and I watch as your pupils dilate. The sickly smile that you now wear is most unattractive.
I wait.
You look suddenly startled. I watch the confusion on your face turn to fear … and then a moment of understanding colors your now bulging eyes. “Fuck! Fuck, Melody! What did you d…………….”
I wait.
You make a gargled choking noise as you begin to foam at the mouth.
I wait for five minutes and then check for a heartbeat … I smile … there is none.
I need to be certain that reviving you is not possible. Fifteen minutes should do it.
I punch in a number on my iPhone.
“911. What is the nature of your emergency?”
“Oh, God … help me, please! Please! I’ve just found my husband. He’s not breathing. Please … I think he’s overdosed.”
The kind operator took my address, “Okay. Stay calm. I have paramedics on the way.”
“Hurry! Hurry, please, please hurry.”
I turn off the lights and sit within darkness’s velvet cloak. My iPhone torch casts a spotlight on your rapidly cooling body.
I smile.
The rigid look of fear on your now strictured face brings me comfort. “Did you like my little surprise, Charles?”
I hear the sirens approaching.
I laugh in delight as the heady rush of adrenaline-fuelled relief floods my system.
The dawn light is just filtering through the balcony windows. Soon now I’ll have no need to seek the comfort of darkness.
I wait now. I have finally regained control.
#

Thank you for joining me. If you have enjoyed this author’s writing, please visit her Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of her writing, along with her contact and social media links.

You might also want to check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Click the link below to learn more about this author:

https://ravewriters.wordpress.com/meet-the-authors/meet-rwisa-author-suzanne-burke-pursoot-rrbc/

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Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be taking part in the “Watch RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS) Write” Showcase Tour. Thank you for joining me. I’d like to introduce Ron Yates.

ron-yates

OUT TO PASTURE
Musings of an Erstwhile Asia Hand
by Ron Yates, RRBC 2017 KCT Int’l Literary Award Grand Prize Winner

He watched the hawk circling high in an infinite Southern California sky, far above the shaggy brown hills that loomed behind acres of avocado and orange trees. Every so often the hawk would dip as though preparing to dive on its unsuspecting prey, but then it would pull up abruptly, unsatisfied with the approach to its target, waiting perhaps for a better opportunity.

He knew this hawk. He had seen it before. There were two patches of vermilion feathers on the underside of its broad chestnut wings that reminded him of the red circles that adorned the wingtips of the Japanese fighter planes he used to see in the Pacific during World War II.

He closed his eyes, allowing the warm sun to wash over him. The only sound other than the crisp dry wind that blew up the long pass from La Jolla, was the dull whine of the automatic pool cleaner as it made its programmed passages back and forth in the pool next to the patio. For a moment he could feel himself being pulled back to a time when the heavy coughs of old propeller-driven fighters ripped through the dense, fragrant tropical air like a dull knife through perfumed silk.

For a brief moment, he pictured himself sitting at his old black Underwood, pounding out another story of some long-forgotten battle in World War II, or Korea, or Vietnam that he had covered. He could almost see the white typing paper rolled half-way out of the typewriter and he could see his By-Line typed neatly just above the first sentence of the story:

“By Cooper McGrath
Global News Service.”

He sighed and shifted his body in the pool-side lounge chair, allowing his growing potbelly to slide slowly to the other side of his frame. “Typewriters,” he thought. “Nobody even knows what they are today.”

Then he reached for his binoculars so he could get a better view of the hawk.

“Look at old Zero-sen up there. He’s going in for the kill.”

“Zero-sen?” Ellen was still puttering around the patio, watering potted plants and trees.

“Yeah, the hawk. That’s what I call him. Look at those red spots on his wings. He looks like one of those old Japanese Zeros.”

Ellen squinted up at the sky and frowned. “You have a lively imagination, Cooper.”

The hawk continued to circle, but it was moving further away. Finally, it dipped below a small rise and disappeared. When it reappeared, it was carrying something in its talons. Cooper exhaled and at the same time pounded his ample belly, the sound of which reverberated across the patio like a hollow drum. Then he pulled himself upright in the recliner.

“I always did, you know.”

“Did what?” Ellen asked, only half paying attention to what her brother was saying.

“Have a lively imagination.”

“Oh, that.” She was on her knees pushing sticks of fertilizer into her potted plants. “And as I recall, it always got you in trouble.”

“Is it time for lunch?” he asked, rising slowly to his feet. “God,” he groaned. “I’m stiff as a dead tree.” He looked at his watch. It was already one-thirty in the afternoon—way past his usual lunchtime and his stomach was growling.

“You don’t get enough exercise, Cooper. I keep telling you, you should enroll in that aerobics class they’re offering down at the clubhouse.”

She stood looking at him for a few moments, hands on hips, white, wide-brimmed gardening hat shading her beige face from the hot sun. She loved her brother mightily, but it saddened her to see him in such physical and mental decline. Why had the Global News Service pushed him into retirement? He had given his life to that ungrateful news agency.

As he stretched his arms skyward Cooper’s ever-expanding belly caused the bottom of his shirt to pull out of his shorts at the midriff, revealing a roll of untanned flesh the color of boiled pork. Finally, she shook her head and made one of those disapproving clucking sounds with her tongue.

“I’ll call you when lunch is ready. Why not take a few laps in the pool, or even better, call the clubhouse about that senior’s aerobics class?”

Cooper mumbled some acquiescent reply as Ellen walked into the house. She was right of course. But at 70 he didn’t feel any particular need to jog around a room with a bunch of other ill-proportioned old farts in tights. Hell, he was retired. Why did he have to do anything at all? Hadn’t he worked his ass off all his life? Didn’t he risk his life reporting stories nobody cared about? Didn’t he deserve some time off to do, well, to do nothing? Nothing at all? Hell yes, he did.

He sighed heavily, and a bit guiltily. He always did when he remembered the half-finished manuscript in his small office. It sat there day after day on the desk next to his laptop computer—unfinished, unedited and unsold. Sometimes he half expected it to finish itself, to somehow link up magically with his mind, download forty years of journalistic experience and then turn it all into some kind of marketable prose that a big time publisher would snap up without hesitation.

But it didn’t work that way. He knew that. Oh, how he knew that. After years of meeting one deadline after another—thousands and thousands of them—if there was one thing Cooper McGrath knew it was that nothing got written until he sat down at his typewriter and began banging it out. Then, about five years ago, toward the end of his career as a foreign correspondent, he had reluctantly traded in his typewriter for a computer. The laptop had been sent over to Singapore by his editors. He would no longer roam the Asian continent as he had for most of his professional life. Instead, he would write a column every two weeks that focused on current events. And that’s what he had done for the past few years. His job, he was told, was to insert his years of historical perspective into dispatches written by less knowledgeable, more youthful correspondents.

Cooper knew what was really going on, of course. He was being put out to pasture. Sure, the discipline was the same. You still had to sit down in front of a blank screen and create something worth reading. The difference was the burnout. He felt as burned out as an old war correspondent could feel—like the old iron kettle in which he cooked up his special chili. He had served up so many portions of his life that there just wasn’t anything left to spoon out anymore. It was 1990, and the kettle was empty—empty and caked with rust.

Yet he knew he had things to say, stories to tell, history to recount. He was, after all, an eyewitness to some of the greatest history of the Twentieth Century. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, not to mention more than a score or so revolutions and coups d’état. When he thought about it that way, he could feel the juices stirring and bubbling in the bottom of the kettle, and he would get excited enough to walk into his small office, turn on the laptop and type a few lines. But after a while, an inexplicable gust of arid self-doubt would blow through his mind, and he would feel the passion receding. Then it would be gone—as extinct as that old black Underwood he used to pound on day after day in places like Rangoon, Saigon, and Hong Kong.

“Nobody gives a damn,” Cooper would say when Ellen asked him why he didn’t finish his memoirs. “It’s all ancient history. Hell, I’m ancient history.”

Ellen knew he was feeling sorry for himself. But she couldn’t bring herself to tell him that. Instead, she guilefully nudged and tugged his ego gently back to its perch above the bleak valley of his self-doubt.

“You’ve seen so much, and you have such a gift for describing what you’ve seen,” Ellen would say. “You must write it all down, to preserve it for others. That is your gift to the world. It shouldn’t be wasted.”

Cooper knew Ellen was right—if not for the sake of history then for the sake of his own mental and physical health. He needed to be doing something. And he had to admit, when he was writing, he felt like he was contributing again. It gave him a sense of power and purpose.

But after Toshiko’s death most of the power and purpose he still possessed deserted him. He retreated emotionally and physically from the world. He gave up the grand old house in Singapore where he and Toshiko had spent the last ten years of their married life. He just couldn’t bear living in it anymore—not when everything in the place reminded him of Toshiko and their life together.

For the first few weeks after Toshiko had succumbed to the ravages of cancer, Cooper would sit on the verandah of their house built during the British-raj, drinking one vodka-tonic after another and wondering why Toshiko had to be the first to go. He always figured he would be the first. After all, he was the physical wreck, not Toshiko. She had taken care of herself. Her 5-foot 2-inch body was as lithe and slim as it was the day he met her in 1946 in Osaka.

Cooper knew the hours spent on his verandah were nothing more than a boozy ritual of self-pity. But he didn’t care. It was the only way he knew to deal with abandonment. And that’s what had happened. He had been abandoned; and cheated, and irreparably damaged. By dying, Toshiko had deserted him. These were the emotions that had churned in Cooper’s sozzled brain with ever-increasing velocity until late afternoon when he was, as they say, “decks-awash and listing severely to starboard.” Then, with the sun descending past the tops of the traveler palms and tamarind trees that populated his front lawn, Cooper would stumble into the house and collapse on the small bed in the guestroom. Even drunk he couldn’t bring himself to sleep in the bed he had shared with Toshiko.

The self-pity finally wore off in a couple of months and so did the appeal of Singapore. After minimal coaxing from Ellen, he left Asia and moved in with his only living relative. Ellen, his little sister, lived in the sunburnt craggy hills just north of Escondido. The house was one of those rambling Spanish-style places with a red tile roof and bleached stucco walls. It had been built by Ellen’s husband just before his untimely death ten years before.

Moving in with Ellen wasn’t Cooper’s idea, but he was thankful she had offered. One evening in Singapore during a fierce tropical storm that had forced Cooper to retreat from the Verandah, Ellen had called, and in the course of the conversation, she suggested he come to California and help out with her thirty acres of avocado and orange groves.

A month later, after selling off five decades of Asian bric-a-brac, several rooms of teak, rosewood and rattan furniture, half of his oriental carpets and various silk screens, wall hangings and jade statuary, Cooper returned to the U.S. It was the first time he had been back in almost 20 years. When he stepped off the plane in San Diego, he couldn’t help observing how sterile, how ordered, how incredibly mind-numbing it all was.

“Where’s the texture?” he asked as Ellen drove him north toward Escondido.

“What?” Ellen responded.

“You know, the texture. The dirt. The coarseness. The graininess that makes a place look lived in.”

Ellen had dismissed Cooper’s outburst as a sign of jet lag or crankiness.

In fact, Cooper was frustrated by how little the change in scenery had done for him. He had merely traded the verandah of his house in Singapore for the poolside patio of Ellen’s mountainside villa. There was one huge difference, of course. There was no booze to be had anywhere in Ellen’s house. Just lots of lemonade and cases of those flavored ice tea drinks that were so irritatingly trendy.

And so it had gone for the past six months that he had lived with his sister in the hills north of Escondido. He purged the booze from his system, but not the pain. He drank lots of ice tea and lemonade and every so often the two of them took day trips to places like the old missions at San Juan Capistrano or San Luis Rey, or the old stagecoach town of Temecula, or the posh resorts of La Jolla.

If nothing else, Cooper was getting to know his kid sister once again and Ellen was rediscovering her brother. Nevertheless, sometimes she thought he would have been better off staying in Singapore. But she was the only family Cooper had left and it distressed her to know he was alone and suffering in Asia.

Cooper watched Ellen as she reemerged from the house and moved across the patio with the water hose trained on the hanging plants. He closed his eyes and imagined Toshiko standing on the long wooden verandah of their Singapore house under slowly turning teakwood paddle fans fussing with the bougainvillea and orchids. It was too easy. All he had to do was will her into his consciousness and there she would be, just as she had always been. That was the problem. As much as he had loved Toshiko in life, he found himself consumed with an even stronger love for her in death. Sometimes he thought it was becoming his own personal cancer, and he had no doubt that it was killing him.

Cooper paced the length of the patio, spent a moment or two pushing himself up by the toes, then walked back to the lounge chair, eased himself onto its thick foam rubber cushions and closed his pale blue eyes under freckled eyelids.

“That’s enough exercise for today. I think I’ll take a little nap.”

Ellen looked over at him and shook her head. His tanned legs with their crepey skin extended from knee-length blue shorts and his meaty, liver-spotted hands rested on a half-buttoned red, yellow and blue Hawaiian shirt that threatened to burst open with each of his breaths.

“You really are a lazy old bear, Mr. McGrath.”

Cooper, muttered an indistinct reply and watched Ellen as she pottered past him into the house. He closed his eyes, yawned, and began drifting away to another time in a vanished world where his personal cloistered refuge awaited.

“Tomorrow,” he mused. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll come in from the pasture.”

The End

Thank you for supporting Ron Yates along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed his writing, please visit his Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of his writing, along with his contact and social media links.

We ask that you also check out his books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!

https://ravewriters.wordpress.com/meet-the-authors/author-ron-yates/

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Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be taking part in the “Watch RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS) Write” Showcase Tour. Thank you for joining me. I’d like to introduce Karen Ingalls.

JUST ONE MORE

The bright neon lights of Las Vegas did nothing to improve Jack’s self-loathing. He walked the Vegas strip with head hung down and his shoulders slumped, ignoring the people rushing past him. He was desperate as he fingered the five coins in his pocket, knowing they were the last of his money

The hot, bright sun did nothing to lift Jack’s spirits. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?” His questions went unanswered. He did not know how long he had been walking, but he soon realized how hungry he was. He stopped at the intersection looking in all directions, not knowing where he was and not caring. The crosswalk signal changed, and the crowd of laughing and drunk people, pushed him out into the street. Jack looked down as he stepped onto the curb and saw a wallet. He picked it up and looked around. The people that had once surrounded him had dispersed in different directions moving far away from him.

Jack slipped the wallet into his coat pocket and walked into the nearest casino and entered the men’s room. He went into the first open stall and with shaking hands he opened the wallet revealing a large amount of one hundred-dollar bills. “This can’t be. I must return the wallet.” He searched further and found a driver’s license for a Stephen Richardson from New York City. There were credit cards plus a family photo of a man, woman, and two young girls. “I suppose this is his family.”

“I will get hold of Mr. Richardson and tell him I found his wallet.” Jack put the wallet back in his coat and left the stall. He stood in front of the mirror looking at the unshaven face and unkempt hair. He washed his face and ran his fingers through his hair. He pulled his tie up and tucked in his shirt. “Well, I look a little better. Maybe I could use one of these bills, get a shave and haircut and have enough left over for dinner and a room for the night.” Jack reasoned that Mr. Richardson will never miss one hundred dollars out of the thousands in the wallet.

The lights of the casino were less intrusive, and the noise lifted his spirits a little. Jack walked past the slot machines and gaming tables out into a hallway. He walked past clothing stores and gift shops until he came upon a barber shop. The shave with the hot fragrant towels followed by a shampoo and haircut were what Jack’s weathered appearance needed. He hardly recognized the face in the mirror looking back at him.

“Perhaps a new shirt, slacks, and jacket would not be too expensive.” Jack reasoned that he would pay Mr. Richardson back every penny once he gets back on his feet.

The memory of his gambling habits which caused the loss of his marriage, job, and friends had faded. “I will never become that person again. I will change for the better.”

The new clothes and filling steak dinner with all the trimmings, relaxed Jack, and he confidently made his way back through the casino. The slot machines were well occupied and occasionally Jack heard the screams from a winner while the lights and sirens of the winning machine blared. “I would rather play poker than throw my money down the one-armed bandit.” He stopped at a Texas Hold ‘Em table where there was one vacant seat. “A few hands won’t hurt anything. I can play with Mr. Richardson’s money and pay him back with my winnings.”

The free drinks, the smoke, the cocktail waitresses and the sound of the cards being shuffled were magic to his ears. With each hand dealt, Jack became more determined to win the big one. He eyed each of the players trying to read their body language. On the fourth deal he opened his hand to reveal two queens. The flop showed a queen, seven, and a five. Jack made a modest bet. The dealer placed another card up which was a ten. Jack called the bet made by a player across from him. They placed the final card up revealing a seven, which gave Jack a good hand of two pairs. He raised the bet from another player and watched as other players either folded or called.

“I must have a winning hand because no one is aggressively betting,” he reasoned. “I’m all in,” he announced as he pushed all $500.00 of his chips into the middle. Players folded one after another except for the man sitting across from him. Jack tried to remain calm and put his shaking hands in his lap. The noise in the casino seemed to become louder and perspiration ran down his face.

“I’ll call.” The man turned his cards over to reveal two sevens.

“That can’t be. I had you beat.” Jack felt weak and nauseous. “Hold my place. I’ll be back.” He knelt in front of the commode and vomited up his lunch. At the sink he washed his face, straightened his tie and took another $500.00 out of the wallet. At this point he did not care and had convinced himself it was his money. “I found it. Finders, keepers.”

The evening turned to long hours. There were no windows or clocks in the casino, so Jack had no awareness of the hours slipping by in the same way the money was slipping away.

Jack’s luck and poker skills did not change. He won a few small hands, but he never recouped what he lost. He took his last $100.00 bill out of the wallet. “All I need is one good hand. Just one more.”

The big winning hand never came. Jack threw the empty wallet into a trashcan and walked out into the bright, sunny and hot day. He could not adjust his eyes to the brightness as he staggered down the street. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?”

Jack did not have one more game to play. He was found on a park bench late that night, alone, penniless, and without any life force in his body, still dressed in the new clothes.

***

Thank you for supporting Karen Ingalls along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! If you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit her Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of her writing, along with her contact and social media links.

You might also check out her books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and I hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Click the link below to learn more about this author:

Karen Ingalls https://ravewriters.wordpress.com/meet-the-authors/author-karen-ingalls-2/

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Welcome to the WATCH #RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be taking part in the “Watch RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS) Write” Showcase Tour. Thank you for joining me. If you have enjoyed this author’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

You might also want to check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Today’s special guest:

Bernard Foong: “STOP WORRYING”

Stop Worrying
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.
Corrie Ten Boom

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, London, England
I was delighted to see Uncle James after several months of absence. The evening before my mother’s arrival in London, I had a heart-to-heart talk with my English guardian. He had kindly invited Andy and me to sup with him at one of London’s oldest English establishments – Simpson’s-in-the-Strand.
“What is worrying you, boy?” Uncle James pressed. “You know you can ask or tell me anything. I promised your mother that I’ll do my best to assist you, while you are in my care.”
Touched by his kindheartedness, I muttered, “I know my mother is in London to whisk me away from Andy. She’d gotten wind that I am having a homosexual affair with a boy. Is that true?”
My guardian gave a hearty laugh. “That is indeed true, and it was I, who told her about Andy. Most importantly she is here to see her darling son and to meet his mannerly beau.”
“If she intends to get to know Andy Why is she bolting me, with her female entourage to Europe for two weeks?” I questioned.
“She misses her son and wants to spend time with you,” my guardian answered on my mother’s behalf.
“Knowing my relatives, they’re likely to convince her that my homosexuality is a sin,” I countered.
James acknowledged. “Although that is true, you should evince to them that you have come into your own and you have the right to love whom you choose. Young, positive actions will always speak louder than words.
“Your mother is a worldly and a well-traveled woman. She understands you more than anybody else, besides Andy.”
“It’s hard not to worry,” I opined.
Andy, who had thus far remained quiet, expressed, “My dearest, the answer lies in your beliefs in the negative and the positive about worrying. On the negative side, you may believe that your worrying is going to spiral out of control, which will drive you crazy, and may damage your health.
“On the flip-side, you may believe that your worrying will help you to avoid bad things; like preparing you for the worst and then coming up with solutions. In my opinion, your worrying shows you’re a caring and conscientious person.”
Uncle James denoted, “Andy is in part correct. Negative beliefs or worrying about worrying add to your anxiety.
“But, positive beliefs about worrying can at times be damaging. It’s tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying protects you. To stop worrying, you must give up your belief that worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem and not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.”
He paused before he rejoined, “Young, you can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more positive perspective.
“Let me cite you an example: daily, I have tough decisions to make as the CFO of The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and it is not easy to be productive if I allow worries and anxiety to dominate my thoughts….”
My Valet asked before my uncle could finish. “What techniques do you use to rectify that, sir?”
James responded smilingly, “It doesn’t work to tell myself to stop worrying; at least not for long even if I can distract myself for a moment. I can’t banish those anxious thoughts for good. Trying to do that often makes these thoughts stronger and more persistent.
“Thought stopping often backfires because it forces me to pay extra attention to that very thought I want to avoid, thereby making it seem even more important. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing I can do to control worry. This is where the strategy of postponement of worrying comes in. Rather than trying to stop or get rid of the anxious thought, I give myself permission to have it, but I put off dwelling on it until later.”
He took a breather before he resumed, “Postponing worrying is effective because it breaks the habit of dwelling on worries when I’ve other more pressing matters to attend to, yet there’s no struggle to suppress the thought or judge it. I simply save it for later. As I develop the ability to postpone my anxious thoughts, I realize that I have control over them.”
Andy inquired curiously, “How do you stop thoughts of worry from reemergence by deferment?”
The CFO answered, “There are three steps I take to accomplish this goal.
“First, I create a ‘worry period.’ I choose a set time and place for worrying. For me, it is from 6:00 to 6:30 PM so that it is early enough for me to not be anxious before dinner and bedtime. During my worry period, I allow myself to worry about whatever is on my mind, while the rest of the day, is a worry-free zone.
“If an anxious thought comes into my head during the day, I make a brief note of it and then continue about my day. I remind myself that I will have time to think about it later. Therefore, there isn’t any need to worry about it for now.
“Lastly, I go over my worry list during the appointed worry period. If the thoughts I had written continue to bother me, I allow myself to worry about them. But only for the time I’ve set aside for my worry period. If those worry thoughts don’t seem important anymore, I cut short my worry period to enjoy the rest of my evening.”
My Valet exclaimed, “What a brilliant way to deal with worry and anxiety.”
James gave an acceding nod and added, “You see, worrisome thoughts and problem-solving are two very different things. Problem-solving involves evaluating a situation, before coming up with concrete steps to deal with it, and before putting the desired plan into action.
“Worrying, on the other hand, rarely leads to solutions. No matter how much time I spend dwelling on the worst-case scenarios, I am no more prepared to deal with them should the actual event happen.”
I queried, “How then, do you distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries?”
“Young, It is much easier than you think. If a worry pops into my head, I start by asking myself if the problem is something I can actually solve. I ask myself these questions:
Is the problem something I am currently facing, or an imaginary what-if? If the problem is an imaginary what-if, how likely is it to happen? Is my concern realistic? Can I do something about the problem to prepare for it, or is it out of my control?”
He sipped his wine and continued, “Productive, solvable worries are those I can take action on right away. For example: if I’m worried about my bills, I could call my creditors to see about flexible payment options.
“Now, unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which there is no corresponding action. Like: What if I get cancer someday? Or what if my kid gets into an accident?
“If the worry is solvable, I start brainstorming by making a list of all the possible solutions I can think of. What I try not to do, is get hung up on finding the perfect solution. I focus on the things I can change, rather than dwell on the circumstances or realities beyond my control. After I’ve evaluated my options, I draw out a plan of action. Once I have a plan, I can start to do something about the problem. This way I feel less worried.”
My lover questioned, “How do you deal with unsolvable worries or a worry I cannot solve?”
“Andy, you’re not a chronic worrier, but if you are, it is vital for you to tune into your emotions. In the majority of cases, worrying helps a person avoid unpleasant emotions. Worrying keeps one in one’s head – like thinking about how to solve problems rather than allowing him or herself to feel the underlying emotions. Yet, one cannot worry one’s emotions away. While a person is worrying, his/her feelings are temporarily suppressed. As soon as the worrying stops, the feelings bounce back. Then, the person start worrying about his/her feelings, like: ‘What’s wrong with me? I should not feel this way!’” James paused when our waiter fill our wine glasses.
When he departed, my uncle resumed, “It may appear alarming to embrace one’s emotions because of a person’s negative belief system. For example, I may believe that I should always be rational and be in control and that my feelings should make sense. Or I shouldn’t feel certain emotions, such as fear or anger.
“The truth is that emotions, like life, are complex. They don’t always make sense and are not always pleasant. But as long as I can accept my feelings as part of being human, I will be able to experience them without being overwhelmed, and I can learn how to use these emotions to my advantage.”
I remarked, “Uncle, it is difficult to accept uncertainties when I don’t know the outcome.”
“That is indeed true. The inability to tolerate uncertainty plays a huge role in anxiety and worry. Chronic worriers cannot stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with a hundred percent certainty what is going to happen. Worrying is seen as a way to predict what the future holds, to prevent unpleasant surprises, and to control the outcome. The problem is, it doesn’t work.
“By thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable. You may feel safer when you’re worrying, but it’s just an illusion. Focusing on worst-case scenarios won’t keep bad things from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying the good things you have in the present. My dear boy, if you want to stop worrying, start by tackling your need for certainty and immediate answers,” my surrogate dad counseled.
“Worrying is usually focused on the future, on what might happen and what you’ll do about it. The centuries-old practice of mindfulness can help you break free of your worries and redirect your focus back to the present. This strategy is based on observation and release, in contrast to the previous techniques I mentioned; that of challenging your anxious thoughts or postponing them to a worry period. Merging these two strategies together will help you to identify the roots of the problems and will assist you to be in touch with your emotions.
“By not ignoring, resisting, or controlling them, and through acknowledgment and observation of the anxious thoughts and feelings, one then views the worrisome thoughts without immediate reactions or judgments, from an outsider’s perspective.”
“My dear fellas, let go of your worries. When you don’t control your anxious thoughts, they will pass; like clouds moving across the sky. Stay focus on the present, pay attention to your ever-changing emotions, and always bring your attention back to the present,” my surrogate dad reassured as our English roasts arrived for us to dig in.

https://ravewriters.wordpress.com/meet-the-authors/author-bernard-foong-rrbc-rwisa/

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Welcome to the WATCH #RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be taking part in the “Watch RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS) Write” Showcase Tour. Thank you for joining me. If you have enjoyed this author’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

You might also want to check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Today’s special guest:

Rhani D’Chae: “THE WEEK MY FATHER DIED”

THE WEEK MY FATHER DIED

I was at work when my mother called to tell me that dad had been rushed to the hospital the night before, suffering from excruciating pain in his abdomen.

Dad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer about fifteen years earlier and it had spread to other parts of his body, but he had been doing fairly well so there was no reason to anticipate something like this.

Mom told me that dad had spent quite a bit of time at the hospital while they ran numerous tests to discover the cause of his pain. Long story short, his kidneys were failing and there was nothing that could be done. He was sent home with a hospice nurse, so that he could be with his family in comfortable surroundings when the end came.

We rented a hospital bed and put it next to the front window so that he could see outside into the yard. We kept instrumental hymns playing on the stereo and moved mom’s chair closer to the bed so that she could be nearer to him.

And that’s when things started to get a little crazy.

James, my seeing eye son, was living with mom and dad at the time, and my sister, who I was living with at the time, drove out with me every day. Gail, my other sister, also came out daily, as did her husband, her four children and their collection of young ones.

Gail’s grandkids were all under ten and did not really understand the severity of the situation. They knew that Papa was going home to see Jesus, but that was about as far as it went. Gail’s family had never lived close to mom and dad, so their kids only saw my parents three or four times a year. None of them had a close relationship with dad, so the thought of losing him did not rate overly high on their radar.

For five days, the kids ran through the house, slamming the doors and yelling to each other. Even when they were sent outside, the noise was loud enough to be heard everywhere in the house. Their respective parents would occasionally tell them to tone it down, but they were kids and that’s what kids do.

At one point, one of my nephews-in-law decided to commemorate the occasion by putting it on film. He videotaped everyone going to my father’s side and saying goodbye. Maybe it was the stress of the situation, but I didn’t like what he was doing. My father’s death was not a photo-op, and I resented anything that made it seem that way.

I remember being called into the living room and told to say something to dad. I had already spoken to him several times, telling him that I loved him and assuring him that mom would be taken care of. Having my niece’s husband dictate to me where to stand and how long to talk so that he could get it on film, was infuriating.

As six families moved through the house each day, my mother spent most of her time sitting with dad, reading the Bible to him and making the most of the time that remained. She loved having her family close, but as the days passed, I could see that the noise and constant disruption was getting to her. I did speak to my nieces individually on several occasions, asking if they could please keep the kids quiet, at least in the house. They always said they would, and I know that they meant it at the time, but it never happened. The noise, the chasing from room to room, and the constant interruptions into my parents’ private space, continued. I could see that it was upsetting my mother, and I finally decided to put my foot down.

I took my mom and Gail into the bedroom and asked mom what she wanted or needed. She thought about it for a long moment and then said, very simply, that she wanted to answer the phone. Either Gail or one of her daughters had been taking the phone calls and making a list of the callers. Mom wanted to speak to those people, most of them from her church, and was upset that she was not being allowed to do so. And she wanted the volume around her to be turned down to a much less disruptive level.

Gail said that she would take care of it, and she did. Within hours, her grandkids had been taken by their fathers to another location. I didn’t know where they went, and I didn’t much care. They were gone, the house was quiet, and that was all that mattered to me.
Later in the day, James, my other sister Sharon and I,
took mom to Cold Stone for some ice cream. Dad was fairly unresponsive by then, so she felt that it was okay to take a little break.

We were gone for about an hour, and by the time we got back, everyone else was back as well. But at least mom had a few hours of uninterrupted time with dad, and I’m so grateful that the girls understood and were willing to do what was needed to give her that.

My father passed that night, surrounded by family and carried home on the sound of our voices singing his favorite hymns. Standing in a semi-circle around the bed, we held hands as we sang, while my brother-in-law, a minister, laid his hands on my father’s head and prayed him home.

As cancer deaths go, my father’s was fairly quick. He had been fully functional up until the night he went to the emergency room, enjoying his life without much discomfort. He avoided the long hospital stays and horrific pain that are so often a part of that kind of death. My aunt Gloria died of lung cancer when I was eighteen or so. I went to see her in the hospital, and I remember a shrunken figure in the bed, hooked up to monitors and numerous IV lines. Her time of dying took several long and torturous weeks, and I will always be thankful that my father was spared a similar end. I would have hated to have my last memory of this strong and vital man, be that of a wasted shadow of the man that he had always been.

I thank the Lord that it didn’t go that way.

https://ravewriters.wordpress.com/meet-the-authors/author-rhani-dchae/

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LONG STORIES SHORT is on sale through October 8th. This collection of ten captivating short stories of drama, suspense and paranormal will entertain, surprise, and maybe even turn skeptics into true believers in the magic and mystery of the universe.

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