Saturday, May 12, 2018

walking past you

remember people
when you are feeling blue
whether you are sad or happy
you are only you

the fellow walking past you
with his briefcase in his hand
inside he may be weeping
because his dreams have turned to sand

the kid behind the counter
at subway or burger king
do not tell him your troubles
to him they don’t mean a thing

sadness is all human’s fate
sung by heavenly voices
whether you walk the dusty roads
or ride in rolls royces<

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

bob and bill and brad

by horace p sternwall

a guy named bob and a guy named bill
lived in a shack on top of a hill
they were watched by a guy named brad
whose binoculars were all he had

brad kept an eye on bill and bob
because it was his job
he watched their actions ebb and surge
and a certain pattern emerged

bill had the upper hand
and abused bob to beat the band
bob did all the work
and bill claimed all the perks

this went on for about a year
and brad began to fear
there was nothing more to see
in this here territory

brad was ready to move on
and then awoke at dawn
at the shack he took one last glance
and what should he see by chance

but bob pounding on bill!
suddenly the air grew still
brad looked on with surprisement
as bob gave bill his chastisement

from then on bob was king
and bill was the underling
bob cut bill no slack
and watched the sunset with his feet on bill’s back

brad made out his report
and tried to keep it short
had everything changed?
or were they still the same?

brad looked out at the sky
white clouds drifted by
somewhere a child scraped its knee
and a bird sang in a tree

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

you'll be sorry

by corinne delmonico

illustrations by eddie el greco

aurelia received a letter in the mail. it stood out from the junk mail by being addressed by hand.

it had no return address.

she opened it.

it read, you have an appointment with doctor carter on wednesday, june 16, at 3 pm. it gave dr carter’s address, which was on the next street over from a second hand clothing store aurelia often patronized. it also listed a phone number and an e-mail address.

aurelia had never heard of dr carter. she had had a checkup with her own regular doctor the month before, and the doctor had not referred her to anyone, or indicated that she needed any kind of treatments or visits to specialists.

aurelia called the number listed in the letter. she immediately got a message to leave a message. she decided not to leave one. as it happened, wednesday was an afternoon off for her - she had an elaborately staggered schedule in her job as a waitress - and she decided to just drop by dr carters office and explain that there had been some kind of mistake. it was a saturday when she received the letter, so wednesday was only four days away.

but except when she was busy at work, aurelia found that she could not get the strange letter out of her mind. she wished she had tried to get through to a person on the phone, although she realized how unlikely success would have been.

she sent an e-mail, but as she expected, got no reply.

she decided to go through with the visit. it did not occur to her, as it might have to some people, that she might be kidnapped or murdered.

it did occur to her that she might be charged for the visit, and one reason she was going was to make sure that she was not. if she did not show up, they might try to charge her some ridiculous fee for missing the appointment!

wednesday afternoon arrived, and aurelia arrived at the address in the letter. it was an old brick office building. the front door was unlocked and she entered. there was no security guard inside. a directory beside the single elevator showed dr carter’s office to be on the fourth floor, which she had already guessed by the office number, 404.

aurelia knocked on the door of number 404 and entered. there was a small reception area but nobody at the desk.

a man suddenly appeared. aurelia assumed he was dr carter. he was younger than she had expected, with curly hair, a little mustache, and he looked a bit nervous.

“come in, aurelia, come in, “ the man said. “we have been expecting you.” even though she was five minutes early.

“are you dr carter?” aurelia asked.

“yes, of course, who did you think i was? “

“one question, please, before we go on,” said aurelia. “how much is this going to cost?”

“oh, your employer is paying. you don’t have to concern yourself.”

“mrs johnson’s restaurants is paying?”

“of course, why wouldn’t they? but please come in , your father is here, we have had a nice talk.”

her father? aurelia had not seen or talked to her father in years, and had forgotten all about him.

aurelia followed dr carter down a narrow corridor behind the reception area and into a small bare office. there was no desk, just a computer station and what looked like a dentist’s chair.

a man was seated in the office, in a low chair beside the computer station. he was definitely not aurelia’s father.

aurelia’s father had been short and stocky, with five o’clock shadow, with nothing much to say and a permanently surly expression, although he was not at all violent and had almost no energy of any kind.

the man seated in the office was tall and thin and pale and had glasses with small thick lenses. he wore a sports jacket with leather elbow patches. he was definitely not the man aurelia had thought was her father.

what was this about? was this guy supposed to be her real father? and if he was, so what?

“tom here has been telling me all about you,“ dr carter said, as he took a seat himself at the computer.

there was no place for aurelia to sit, except the dentist’s chair or on the floor, so she remained standing.

“i have never seen this gentleman before,” said aurelia, “and my father’s name wasn’t tom.”

“tom” ignored this, and without saying hello to aurelia or introducing himself, launched into what seemed a continuation of a story he had been telling dr carter. something about aurelia’s being taken to the beach - or maybe it was some kind of county fair or a family picnic - where she, aurelia, had amazed the assembled listeners with her ability to - to do something, aurelia could not really understand what - even though she was only - some age or other, aurelia did not catch the number, as tom talked rapidly, and made jerky little movements as he talked.

dr carter listened attentively to tom, never taking his eyes off his face, and nodding encouragement, particularly at the most incomprehensible parts of his disjointed narrative.

“this is ridiculous,” aurelia attempted to interrupt tom. “i have had enough.” and she turned to go.

dr carter stood up suddenly. “i don’t think you want to leave just yet, aurelia,” he said. “i think you might want to hear what tom has to say.”

“not really.” aurelia opened the door behind her.

“you’ll be sorry,” the doctor said. “you should stay.”

for the first time aurelia felt a twinge of fear. was there anybody else, she wondered, in the whole building? she had not seen any sign of anybody. would anybody hear her if she screamed for help?

but neither the doctor nor tom followed her as she made her way down the corridor, through the reception center, and back to the elevator.

the elevator was still on the fourth floor and she took it down to the lobby and made it safely to the street.

what was that all about? aurelia laughed out loud, happy to be in the sunny street, and a couple of teenaged boys walking by turned and stared at her.

that was weird, thought aurelia, but she knew, from the internet and reading newspapers, that far weirder things happened to people every day.

she thought she might send her story to some website - to be included in something like “31 weird creepy things that happened to real people”. but it probably was not strange enough.

she went shopping. shopping was her favorite thing to do.

the next morning aurelia did not show up for work at mrs johnson’s restaurant. darlene, the manager, called and texted and e-mailed her but did not receive any response.

when she did not show up or respond to messages the next day, she was sent a letter that she was fired, and the letter enclosed a check for the wages she was owed. employees often quit suddenly, and mrs johnsons restaurant chain did not waste time or energy on them.

when aurelia did not pay her rent on the first of the month, the manager of her apartment building found her room empty. the letter from mrs johnson’s with the enclosed check was later found in her post office box along with forty-five pieces of junk mail.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

i remember

by horace p stenwall

illustrated by roy dismas

i remember the good old days
the old fashioned ways
when a dog was a dog and a cat was a cat
and nobody had a problem with that

i remember mr jones’s store
it isn’t there any more
i remember old mr jones
with his twinkling eyes and creaking bones

i remember old mrs jones
scooping and molding ice cream cones
the nickel for the cone burned a hole in my pants
the screen door banged and the shadows danced

i remember charlie chan
in a double feature with tarzan
w c fields with his thumbs in his vest
and john wayne riding through the west

i remember stoves with coal
and swimming in the old swimming hole
a dog named bud who came when you called
and the full moon shining over it all

i would give your information age
with its trillions of bytes of hate and rage
its temples of steel and towers of glass
to see bud running through the tall green grass

Sunday, December 17, 2017

always a woman involved

by fred flynn

illustrations by konrad kraus

“you wanted to see me, sir.”

“ah, yes, come in, morrison.”

morrison entered the commander’s lair.

the commander was scowling at his map. he tapped it with a pointer .

the map showed what morrison already knew - that they were trapped in sector c, surrounded by three battle squadrons of the rival empire, and with little hope of a breakout.

communication wth headquarters had broken down months ago and they had no way of knowing if any effort was being made to reach them, or if they had been written off.

they suspected the latter, as they had only been a scouting expedition to begin with. and headquarters surely knew what they were facing now.

“quite useless, these maps, quite useless,” the commander observed.

“indeed, sir.” morrison nodded.

“there is nothing else for it,” the commander continued. “we shall have to make a dash for it. and hope there is still something to make a dash for.”

“yes, sir.”

“how long do you think it will take you to gather the men together and brief them?”

“why, no time at all, sir. the only man left is hodgkiss, and he can not have gotten far, after telling me you wished to see me. he is not due to go on patrol until sixteen hundred hours, so i expect he just went back to his bunk.”

“hmm.” the commander scowled briefly. “i did not realize things had gotten quite so far as that. so you are telling me that there are only you and i and hodgkiss left alive here?”

“yes, sir. and the woman.”

“the woman!" the commander exclaimed. "what woman? i did not know there was a woman on the premises.”

“oh, yes, a native woman. we took her in shortly after we got here.”

“well, i hope she was not some sort of spy!”

morrison coughed. “not so far as i can tell.sir.”

“and to what use has she been put?”

“oh, this and that. washing the pots, entertaining the troops. though with the troops pretty much gone, she has had some time on her hands lately.”

“yes, i can imagine. do you suggest we should take her with us when we depart?”

“well, that is up to you, sir.”

the commander considered. “i suppose as long as she has been a faithful servant , and if we can find some use for her. we should take her along. we were always taught at academy that we should show some loyalty to natives who had shown loyalty to us. as a general principle going forward in the path of empire, you know.”

“quite, sir. she is quite sturdy, i am sure we can load her up pretty well with whatever we wish to carry.”

“yes. well, i leave it up to you, morrison. i would like to move out before daybreak, if it can be arranged.”

“yes, sir. i might add, that the woman might be useful in parleying with any tribesmen we encounter on our way.”

“tribesmen! what tribesmen? you amaze me, morrison. i did not know there were any tribesmen about, i thought we were engaging exclusively with the forces of the blue empire!”

“oh no, sir. the hills are quite alive with tribesmen. you can hardly set foot outside the camp without tripping over a tribesman.”

“you do not say so. well, one learns something new all the time, even in the darkest hour.”

“very good, sir. should i start making our preparations?.“

“yes, please do. while you are doing that, i shall make one last attempt to contact headquarters, though it is only for form’s sake, i am afraid.”

morrison turned to go.

“wait!” the commander stopped him.

“yes, sir?”

“this - woman. is she young? at all attractive?”

“ah - that is difficult to say precisely, sir. i think opinion might tend to fall on the negative side.”

“i see. well, carry on.”


the first glimmers of dawn were visible between the hills.

the little party of four moved out, with the commander in the lead, slapping at the air and at his thigh with his riding crop, followed by corporal hodgkiss carrying a radio which morrison and the commander both thought quite useless but were afraid not to bring.

behind hodgkiss came the woman, barely visible under supplies and equipment that might have been carried by four pack animals.

morrison brought up the rear. he had a heavy pack on his back, and carried a small submachine gun.

they had not gone half a mile when, true to morrison’s prediction, they were met by a group of five tribesmen - actually three men and two boys. two of the men were riding animals that looked like a cross between a bear and a camel. the other, older and heavier man, and the two boys walked beside them.

the commander scowled as morrison came forward and began to parley with the two men.

the conversation went on interminably - though politely enough - until the commander could take it no longer.

“what is it they want?” he demanded of morrison.

“well, sir, in one word, they want the woman.”

“they do, do they?” despite morrison’s cautious description, the commander, in the brief glimpse he had of the woman as she was being loaded up, had thought her a rather fine specimen. a fine and sturdy specimen, though of course it had been hard to tell in the dim light and all.

“they are prepared,” morrison went on, “to furnish us with some food, lead us to a water hole where we can fill up, and give us one of the boys as a guide - in return for the woman.”

“that does not sound much of a bargain,” the commander countered. “i think we are well stocked as we are. and can the boy carry all she is carrying? eh?”

“i think, sir,” morrison replied in a low voice, “it would be wise to take their offer.”

“you do, do you? look here - i tell you what - unload the packages from the woman and let us get a look at her.”

morrison looked puzzled but answered, “yes, sir.”

the commander had come to a decision. if the curvature of the woman’s hips was at least equal to that of the dome of st weneceslaus’s cathedral, he would refuse the tribesmen’s offer. otherwise, they were welcome to her.

by such things are the fates of empires decided.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


by horace p sternwall

a nothing apple
falls from a tree
on a nothing hill
beside a nothing sea

the nothing sailors
on the nothing boat
laugh at the reporter
and won’t give him a quote

about the nothing princess
who never drowned
in the nowhere river
in her nowhere gown

never and forever
and all the same
the score is nothing to nothing
in the nowhere game

the nowhere cats
and the nowhere dogs
howl like houdini
in the nowhere fog

locked in a trunk
with a nowhere lock
the clock strikes midnight
on a nowhere clock

the bubbles float
on the nowhere surface
of the nothing river
with no end or purpose

on the nowhere horizon
of the nothing sky
sweet sue sings softly
in the sweet bye and bye

Monday, October 30, 2017

the princess in the tree

a tale

a beautiful princess was sitting in a tree.

robin hood came along.

he was carrying a big suitcase.

it was so heavy he kept moving it from one hand to the other and stopping to rest.

robin hood, asked the princess, what do you have in that suitcase and why is it so heavy?

it is filled with gold bullion, said robin hood, and i am taking it to the holy land to ransom good king richard from the saracens

at the rate you are going, replied the princess, king richard and the saracens will all be dead of old age before you get there.

you have a point, robin hood agreed, i was hoping to encounter a genie or a magician who would assist me in some way.

you do not say so, said the princess, in that case i may be able to help you out.

do you mean that you know a magician or genie in these parts who can assist me? asked robin hood. perhaps yu are n possession of a magic lamp yourself?

no, replied the princess, but there is a witch in these very woods who might help you out.

a witch exclaimed robin hood, good king richard does not approve of witches, and would not right be right pleased to receive assistance from such creatures.

o but this is a good witch said the princess, and she has received the blessings of st christopher, patron saint of wayfarers, st john the eremite, and st elegius the patron saint of goldsmiths, among many other worthy denizens of heaven.

the patron saint of goldsmiths, cried robin hood, that it is indeed fortuitous, in that case perhaps an exception could be made to king richard’s wishes.

would you like me to take you to the witch, asked the princess.

after a moment’s hesitation, robin hood replied that he would.

the princess hopped down from the tree and led robin into the depths of the forest.

darkness fell as they walked along a dusty road.

a few stars could be seen above the branches of the dark trees.

are we almost there, asked robin hood?

almost, replied the princess.

suddenly they came to a clearing in which stood a large, busting railway station.

the railway station was brightly lit up but was surrounded by dark narrow streets.

the princess led robin hood down one of the darkest streets.

robin hood could see that the streets were little more than alleys and were filled with gin shops and low haunts where congregated some of the scum of the earth.

a couple of ruffians known as billy the barber and java drinking jake watched with knowing smiles from a doorway as robin hood and the princess passed within a few feet of them.

bob’s your uncle, whispered billy , and winkled at jake with his glass eye.

here we are, said the princess to robin hood. she had stopped in front of a crooked little building, little more than a hut, on a corner in front of a large hole in the ground.

there was no light in the hut but the princess entered it and robin hood followed with his heavy suitcase.

although there was no lamp or candle visible, the interior of the hut was faintly illuminated by a strange unearthly glow.

wait here, said the princess. she disappeared behind a curtain.

there were no chairs in the hut, but robin hood, glad to take a load off his feet, sat down on the suitcase and waited.

after what seemed an eternity, the curtain parted and the witch appeared.

robin hood had expected an old crone, but the witch was as young and beautiful as the princess.

she might have been the princess’s sister, but with longer and darker hair, the color of a raven’s dying croak.

and eyes as dark and old as the depths of the sea.

robin hood explained his plight to the enchantress, and asked if he might be transported immediately to the holy land.

i can not do that on such short notice, the witch replied, but what i can do is lighten your load.

she pointed to the suitcase. go ahead, she told robin, pick it up.

robin did as he was told - the suitcase was as light as a bird’s wing!

robin started to thank the witch but she had disappeared.

he decided to say prayers of thanks to st elegius and the blessed virgin instead, and turned and went back out into the street.

billy the barber and java drinking jake were waiting for him.

what’s in the suitcase, country boy? drawled billy.

a picture of my old mother, robin replied, an arrow from the side of st stephen, and a feather from the wing of the archangel gabriel.

country boy’s got a sense of humor, drawled jake.

let’s take a look, said billy, and snatched the suitcase from robin’s hand.

the bars of gold spilled out, blinding billy and jake.

billy was turned into a toad and jake into a mouse and they scurried away whimpering onto the dark shadows.

suddenly the princess reappeared and helped robin scoop the feather light bars of glowing gold back into the suitcase.

let us make haste, she told billy, you have to catch the express to constantinople.

the express to constantinople, exclaimed robin, i have never been on a train before.

the conductor of the train is st basil of cappopdocia, said the princess, and st augustine is the engineer. they will see you safe to constantinople, where you will find the prophet ezekiel waiting for you. he will escort you to the tent of the king of the saracens, where you will deliver the ransom for good king richard. but hurry, we do not have a moment to lose.

they reached the train station without incident, with robin clutching the weightless suitcase.

the princess delivered robin to st basil, just as the train was pulling out.

the express thundered through the night, through cities bright as jewels, forests as quiet as graveyards, and fields dark as the center of the earth.

nobody, not even st basil or st augustine, spoke to robin after he was in his seat, and he fell asleep, with the suitcase full of gold in his arms on his lap.

dawn was breaking when they reached the imperial city.

but the prophet ezekiel was not waiting for robin, nor was anybody else.

with a strange feeling of foreboding, robin decided to check the interior of the suitcase, and ducked into an alley beside the station to do do.

the suitcase was empty except for a small toad, which robin recognized as the fallen angel moloch, and which quickly hopped away into the throngs which were starting to crowd the streets with their hawkers and beggars cries.

it would be many years before king richard was ransomed from the saracens.

but as king richard was the most forgiving of men, as well as the bravest and most warlike, he never upbraided robin hood for his unfortunate adventure, or for losing half the gold of his kingdom, and they both lived to hoist many a golden foaming tankard back in merry old england, in the green depths of sherwood forest.

thus ends the story of the princess in the tree.