At times I want to ride a chestnut horse
over wide, undulating, endless steppes,
with hooves pounding out a staccato beat,
our heads lowered to enhance speed,
pointing toward the elusive white stag
ever within our sight, ever out of reach,
leading to verdant valley far away.
Years ago I only kept the gas tank half-full
in my ’72 Duster slant 6.
Great was the temptation to drive beyond
the mountains hazy with residual smog,
looming as I dropped from the 55
on slender concrete ribbon down to the
San Diego Freeway towards Irvine.
The time had not come for me to leave.
Now my life no longer fits into a car.
The white stag has blended into the mists
and I am content to be where I am.
Dismounting, I set the horse to pasture
and sit sheltered by the tall pine trees.
Arthur Turfa, Places and Times ©2015
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Lightning ripped across the northern California sky, then splintered down through the rain and disappeared behind our neighbor’s house. Letting the door slam shut behind me, I ran away from the warmth of our porch light into the darkness of our backyard. My mom would’ve killed me if she’d caught me outside that late at night. Especially in a thunderstorm, and on the night before my fifteenth birthday, with the big party she had planned for tomorrow. But I had to get out of the house before I fell asleep and they came for me. And they were coming!
A gust of wind blew my hair against my face. I swiped it out of my eyes just in time to see a plastic lawn chair tumbling through the air. I covered my head with both arms, but a leg of the chair smashed against my elbow. Ouch!
I dropped onto the wet grass, pulled my knees into my chest, and rocked nervously back and forth. Water soaked up through my nightgown and my underwear, making me shiver.
None of these things mattered, though. Because something far worse was happening inside my head. A memory of me as a little girl, on the night my grandpa Dahlen disappeared from his cottage, was trying to claw its way into my consciousness. And I didn’t want to think about that night. Ever.
Still, I couldn’t stop it, which didn’t make sense. I was awake, and outside, where I was supposed to be safe, yet the aliens from my dreams were somehow messing with my thoughts, rearranging things, trying to make me think about that night! But how?
And why? It happened eight years ago, and my grandpa was dead now.
Although, before he disappeared, he’d—
No! Stop, Courtney! I yelled at myself.
I bit my fingernail and took a deep breath, hoping to calm down.
No luck. I was remembering the musty old-books smell from my grandpa’s bookcase. Butterflies rushed into my stomach and I sprang to my feet.
“All right. Is that what you want me to do?” I shouted into the rainy darkness. “Remember my grandpa? What happened that night? If I do that, then will you leave me alone?”
I wiped the rain from my eyes, and suddenly it was like I was right there, in the cottage. His notebook sat on the plaid couch, opened to a map he’d drawn of the ancient wormholes linking the alien world to our own.
I stumbled backward over a tree root and my butt hit the ground; my head clunked against an even bigger root. Oww! I started to sit up. But suddenly the memory I’d been running from took over the screen in my mind. I fell back into the wet grass and watched the scene unfold as if I were seven years old again, right there in the cottage.
It was raining outside, and the air smelled like old, musty books and burnt hamburgers. I glanced over at my grandpa Dahlen. He was busy in the kitchen, forking ears of corn out of a pot of boiling water. Standing tiptoe on the comfy reading chair, I reached up to the bookcase and ran my fingers along the dials of what he called his ham-radio/alien-transport machine.
“Courtney!” Grandpa stared at me over his steamed-up glasses.
“Fine.” I plopped down on the reading chair and crossed my arms over my chest. Then I lowered my eyes. Blood was seeping through my shirt again from earlier in the day, when my grandpa’s nun friend had stopped by with a guy with a tattoo gun. They’d come to give me a tattoo. I hadn’t wanted a tattoo! But my grandpa had told me it was important, and the way he’d said it, I’d believed him. So now I had a blue mark on my rib cage that looked like four dead bugs arranged in a square.
“So tell me this, Grandpa,” I said. “If these aliens who visit you are really your friends, then why do they make you keep everything secret?”
He turned away from the steaming pot and eyed me with suspicion. “Because people are frightened of what they don’t understand. And frightened people can be dangerous, Courtney,” he said. “Now come sit down for dinner.”
I slipped into a wobbly kitchen chair, rested my elbows on the wooden table, and stared down at my burnt ham- burger. “Mom doesn’t believe in aliens, so does that make her dangerous?” I asked.
Grandpa chuckled. “Your mother is only interested in facts and evidence. Even when she was a child, she had no tolerance for intangibles. Or even comic books, for that matter. Can you imagine?” He set a plate of corn on the cob in the center of the table, then sat down across from me. “But dangerous? No. I think we’re safe from her.” He flashed me a wink.
I winked back. People always told me that I shared his silvery-blue eyes. Hearing someone say it would make my mom cringe, though, because she thought Grandpa was crazy. And the last thing she wanted was for me to turn out like him. But she and my dad were spending the weekend with their old law school friends on Lake Tahoe, so they’d dropped me off with Grandpa on their way.
“Well, if these alien things are real living creatures, then did God make them?” I asked. “Or are they just imaginary?”
I smiled proudly. I was about to finally get the truth from him.
“How’s your burger?” he asked.
“But you didn’t answer—”I started to protest, when a bang on the front door made me jump.
My grandpa ran over and covered his ham-radio/alien-transport machine with an afghan.
More quick pounding! Grandpa shoved his notebook under the couch.
I tried to read his expression, to see if he was frightened or just cleaning up, but he wouldn’t look at me. He rushed to the door and glanced through the peephole, and I held my breath.
When he unlocked the door, three men barged into the cottage.
I immediately recognized them as professor friends of my grandpa’s from when he’d taught at Berkeley. But what were they doing out here at night? I mean, hadn’t they heard of cellphones?
They stared over at me. “Hello, Courtney,” said one, a tall man with a thick beard and black suitcoat.
I shot my grandpa a pleading look, like Make them go away. But he quickly shook his head. I stomped into the guest bedroom and slammed the door.
“They’re coming,” one of the men whispered, loud enough for me to hear. He sounded worried. Which made me worry. About what, though, I wasn’t quite sure.
I bit my thumbnail, and it tasted like wormy dirt from the woodpile. Gross! I wiped my mouth with the bottom of my shirt.
“She’s not safe,” another man said.
Not safe? I froze. “She”? As in me? My heart started racing, and suddenly I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs.
I grabbed the black metal latch of the window next to me and opened it. The chirr-chirr of crickets filled the bedroom, and I breathed in the smell of wet leaves. Pressing my face against the screen, I glanced up at my grandpa’s ham radio tower, standing tall along the side of the house. The siren on top of it glistened with rain under the silvery moon. It would sound off if any bad guys snuck into the backyard and tried to mess with my grandpa’s things. Or that’s what he’d told me, anyway.
Suddenly a familiar shiver trickled down my neck. Oh wow!
I turned away from the window and locked eyes with Astra. “Nice of you to show up,” I said.
She was a few years older than me. Like eleven, maybe. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor next to the closet; her eyes shone bright green against her pale skin and black hair. She bit into her plump bottom lip, which meant she was worried about me. “You think I’m going to climb out the window and run away?” I asked her.
She didn’t answer. For an imaginary friend, she wasn’t very talkative. But she seemed to show up whenever I was in trouble. And there was no getting rid of her; our minds were connected. My grandpa said she was probably a real person somewhere, and that we shared consciousness because we came from the same bloodline. As crazy as the idea seemed, I liked to think that there might be someone real out there who would understand me if we ever crossed paths. Most people just thought I was weird like my grandpa.
“I’m glad you’re here,” I told Astra.
Outside my door, I could hear the men pacing around on the creaky wooden floor boards.
“When?” my grandpa asked.
“We don’t know,” another man said.
I didn’t like the sound of that. My stomach tightened with nerves. I sat down on my bed and rocked back and forth, staring at Astra.
“You’re crying,” she said. Or I could hear her voice in my head, anyway.
“No I’m not.” I swiped my cheek. Then I looked down at the spot of blood on my shirt. “I got a tattoo,” I said, trying to change the subject.
A siren wailed outside. The alarm! I jumped up, turned toward the window. But the bedroom door burst open behind me. I spun back around, and my grandpa stood in the doorway.
“Grandpa! What’s happening?” I started toward him. He quickly shook his head and then pressed his finger to his lips: Stay quiet.
Grandpa looked scared. And he was never scared. My heart pounded against my rib cage. Astra was gone. This was bad.
Bright light lit up my grandpa’s face. It was coming through the window behind me. Oh no! I whipped around to see who was there, and someone grabbed me from inside the room.
I started to scream, but a hand covered my mouth. My feet lifted off the floor. Frantically I twisted my head around to see who it was, but I was being dragged backward, down the hall, into the bathroom. Kicking at the bathroom wall, I bit into the hand covering my mouth, and for a second my head was free. I whirled around to see my grandpa, his finger gushing blood from where my teeth had cut into his skin.
“Grandpa? What are you doing?”
He whispered something in my ear. Then he lifted me up, ignoring my flailing legs.
The next thing I knew, I was underwater. Screaming!
The fascinating inspirations behind common inventions and creations - from Barbie to Sweet and Low to Mt. Rushmore.
The slinky was born aboard a World War II ship.
The Barbie doll was inspired by a German sex toy.
Weight Watchers began with a Jewish housewife in Queens, New York.
Eureka! explores the fascinating stories behind these famous creations and many others-from blue jeans to the Taj Mahal to Mickey Mouse-detailing the relationships between inspirations and their inventors. Readers will delight in the intriguing-and sometimes surprising-origins behind the ideas that have shaped the world.
Kenneth Platt drove his old 1995 pale-blue Ford pickup down the lonely stretch of highway 35 that connected Norfolk and Wayne Nebraska. He was going from the south, towards the north. His destination was Wayne. He drove with that lazy sort of confidence, the kind that comes from doing a mundane task over and over so many times that it could be done without even thinking. This was the way it was with the trip between Wayne and Norfolk; a task that he
had done so many times that he could do it with his eyes closed.
With the cruise control engaged, he hummed quietly to himself as he drove along. His fingers tapped upon the steering wheel as if his hands were a practiced team of sequin-studded Rockets doing their Vegas act for his sole entertainment. Likewise, his right foot, being denied the responsibility of depressing the accelerator, tapped up and down in rhythm to the tune. He drove through the darkness of night, humming and tapping, along that highway that resembled a giant serpent lying in the prairie grass, he watched the road magically appear in front of him. It seemed to grow out of the darkness as his headlights brought it into view.
He glanced in his rearview mirror. Behind him, he watched as the road disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared in front of him. It was as if the furnace-red glow of his taillights incinerated this giant prairie serpent into nothing but ash and blackened bones. He was alone on that road, but this was nothing unusual for that stretch of highway at that time of the evening on that day of the week.
This was a route without glamour and one that Kenneth had taken so many times before that he often arrived at his destination without remembering anything about the trip. In fact, he had been known to joke that a race of aliens routinely abducted him while he was traveling along this stretch of lonely rural highway. On Saturdays, Sundays, and Tuesdays, Kenneth made the trip from Wayne to Norfolk and back again. He lived in Wayne, attending the state-college there, but the town of Wayne was small and lacked job opportunity. So, on the weekends, he worked as a stock boy at a small discount store in Norfolk.
Compared to Wayne, Norfolk was a virtual metropolis, boasting a population of more than 20,000 souls. So, the potential for employment was equally boastful. This is why Kenneth did his lonely commute, at least as far as the Saturdays and Sundays were concerned. On Tuesdays however, he came to Norfolk for an altogether different reason. On that day, he came for lessons, guitar lessons to be precise. One would think that after taking on a full-time college credit load, and taking on a part-time job, extra lessons would be only an unwanted burden but such was not the case for Kenneth.
Like many his age, he had grandiose dreams of being something more than just another guy with a degree, destined for the stagnant grind of corporate life. No, Kenneth had bigger aspirations than that and it involved stardom. Wearing ties, butt kissing management, and working in a cube just wasn’t his thing. For him, this was plan “B”. Nobody knew that this was plan “B” except himself. He always felt that his parents would likely have simultaneous heart attacks if they found out that he was not interested in being the college grad, medium management schmuck that so many others seemed so keen to. No, he had a plan “A” and that plan was to rock!
He wanted to be a rock star and often dreamed of all the fame and glory that came with that lifestyle. Of course, he was not yet good enough for stardom. This was something he regretfully realized. Someday, he would be good enough. Currently, he could play a few Ramones songs, which meant that he knew exactly three chords. This was not sufficient to be the next American idol, but it was a start in the right direction. Everybody after all, had to start somewhere. Even B.B. King had that moment when he first picked up a guitar and strummed the strings and immediately fell in love with the instrument and the potential that could be unleashed from it.
As he rode the snake-like highway, he glanced affectionately at his passenger, the current love of his life. It was not a woman. With all of his activities, he had not found much time to meet women. In the passenger seat sat his guitar, a Gibson Les Paul. He didn’t love it quite the way he would have loved a woman, yet he had been intimate with it, telling it his deepest secrets and desires through lyrics that he wrote. They were only apart when he was in class or asleep. Actually, they were consistently apart only in class, and then only because the professors would not allow the instrument to take up a seat. He had actually been known, on occasion to sleep with it. He did not do this for sexual reasons. He did not do it out of obsession. It was mostly just to creep out his roommate
who objected that his hobby had sped past healthy levels long ago.
As far as his hobby being an obsession, what did his roommate know anyway? He would think on this and smirk. His roommate was a business major, destined for nothing more than days filled with cubicle life, gossip by the water fountain, and annual reviews for miniscule wage increases. That life was not for Kenneth.
The guitar’s polished white finish glistened from the pickup’s greenish dash-light as if it were winking at Kenneth, flirting with him. The flirting worked. Kenneth wished he were home right now, playing those silvery strings and pouring his heart out in song. But first, he had to get home. He didn’t have a case for his love, not even a cheap gig-bag.He did have a roll of black plastic trash bags under the truck’s passenger seat so he could avoid getting the instrument wet if it rained.
It wasn’t that he thought the guitar didn’t deserve a case; he loved it more than that. He simply couldn’t afford one on his college student, discount store stock boy paychecks. He had worked more than full-time at two jobs all summer and had saved every cent he could to get that instrument. After he purchased it and a small Peavey Rage 108 amplifier, which he had to get second hand from a cigarette smoking pawn shop owner that seemed to sweat far too much to be healthy, he just had nothing left for a case.
His humming grew into words and he began to serenade his love with touching lines from his Ramones library. It was a Ramones-medley, a little of Teenage Lobotomy, a bit from I wanna be Sedated, a line from We’re a Happy Family. Then he stopped mid-song, an action that would have probably put off
his love if she had been anything more than pieces of fine wood, bits of precisely formed metal and high-gloss enamel. He stared with eyes wide open out his front windshield and unconsciously slowed the car to about fifty miles per hour.
Ahead of him, a bolt of lightning had torn the night sky into fragments separated by white-blue rips. This didn’t make any sense to Kenneth. First, mere seconds ago, he had been singing and he had been driving under a starry sky. There had not been a cloud to be found from horizon to horizon. Second, although lightning is not unheard of in Nebraska during late September, it is not at all common. He never heard a clap of thunder. Then again, maybe his ears never had the chance to relay that sound to his brain.
Mere milliseconds after this odd phenomenon occurred, something slammed into the pickup’s front windshield so hard that it transformed it into a useless piece of junk.The thing was something like a snake without eyes and apparently with a head of steel. Kenneth only got the slightest of glimpses of this---this, whatever it was. He had just enough time to take his foot off the accelerator. He did not have time to brake.
As easily as the thing had penetrated the windshield, it plowed itself into Kenneth’s skull. It went through his left eye-socket, which was comparatively less solid than automotive glass. It sliced through that tissue like a knife through warm butter. It entered his brain.
It can be lonely parenting a special needs child, but you are not alone.
A Memoir / Self-Help book by Eichin Chang-Lim.
Parenting is a challenging journey, especially when raising a child who requires extra attention. There are days when it feels as if you're trapped in a dark cave with no way out. The lonesomeness and helplessness exhaust you. You may be looking for some words of inspiration to know that you are not alone.
A Mother's Heart is a book for any parent in a similar circumstance. This book is written by a mother raising a special needs son with a genetic disorder. It encapsulates both the elements of a memoir and a self-help book. The author candidly shares her need to make heart-wrenching decisions throughout the journey, including family life and working with the school systems.
This is a book not only helpful for parents with a special needs child, it will also give insights to individuals who may encounter or be involved with parents of special needs children.
Charles Carpenter, the author of the revered memoir Handcuffed does it again with Colors of Oppression.
The well written narrative explores the anatomy of the often hostile, racially divided prison environment. Charles Carpenter details the social and psychological ramifications of oppression, and describes the wisdom needed to navigate through a microcosm of hatred, racism, deception, and prison politics.
This book highlights various deceitful tactics employed by the correctional officers and inmates, thus giving the general public an unadulterated glimpse into the world within a world - prison.
Colors of Oppression is an educational tool for anyone interested in a career in the field of corrections. This book also raises the awareness level for those interested in analyzing the dynamics of prison life.
Words can impact our lives in so many ways. They can be both wonderful instruments and deadly weapons at the same time. The tongue or words that come out of our mouths as referred to in the Bible, is a tool that the enemy, Satan, uses each time to deceive, kill and destroy us. If used for good, it can heal and bless others. Our words can make or break us. Learn the truth. Know the consequences of the words you say and what God has to say on matters of the tongue.
This book brings awareness of the importance of our words at the Last Judgement. God Himself put much emphasis in the Bible on how we must live. Be guided to discover the power of the tongue!
A compelling true story about a young man who ventured on the wrong path despite a mother’s best efforts to keep him on the straight-and-narrow path. This honest collection of memoirs written by Charles Carpenter while in the confines of California’s notoriously violent state prison (New Folsom) depicts Mr. Carpenter’s early years and details what led to his membership with the faction of Crips known as “Tray-Five-Seven.”
The book explains how a young man became fixated on a life of crime and through a distorted perception, viewed the gang subculture as a normal way of life. The Charles Carpenter story is a brutally honest account of his experiences in various juvenile facilities during the 1980’s and the members of various gangs he met during his unfortunate stints of incarceration.
A recent graduate of UCLA, Molly McAlister has just landed her first job and loves it.
The problem is her demanding boss, who seems to think he’s in charge of her free time too. Under threat of layoff, her boss manipulates her into giving up Christmas with her family in Florida to pet-sit his two beloved purebred poodles.
When Molly arrives at his house in Santa Monica a few days before Christmas, she learns she must also watch two ill-tempered Rottweilers, Darth and Vader, who scare her to death. His hypercritical wife seems to think Molly is a maid too, and leaves her a long list of chores and rules. Molly’s expecting to have a miserable Christmas, but things start to look up when she meets the boy next door and his family. Unfortunately, they’re embroiled in a neighborhood feud with her boss.
Deeply upset by rampant naughtiness, Santa Claus decides to launch nuclear missiles at the world. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer argues he’s being too rash, that not all humans are bad.
Santa agrees to cancel the missile strike if he can find someone who will slay twenty-nine bad people by Christmas Eve. He settles on his kin Sam Mollusk of Poway, California.
Sam begins by killing the neighborhood terrorist. Medusa, lonely for millennia because of the snakes on her head, loves Sam and follows his every move.
Meanwhile, root-beer-loving Afghan terrorists Nar and Salah are hoping to gain membership in Poway’s Al Qaeda cell and become Tupperware salesmen as cover.
Can Sam prevent Al Qaeda’s fiendish plot and Santa’s nuclear holocaust? Will Sam survive shopping WalMart on Christmas Eve?
Life can flip in the blink of an eye, but love and passion will find a way to make it right.
Flipping is an award winning romance novel that highlights the power of love to move us forward and the strength of the human spirit to overcome life's challenges.
Be Inspired. Fall in Love.
JonSun and SuAnn are an unlikely couple. But despite their different social backgrounds, they fall in love. From the start, the odds were against them. SuAnn's family has other plans for her future, but their love cannot be dismissed so easily. Defying everything, the couple gets married in secret and moves to California. Good fortune blesses the couple while flipping houses. Their success marred only by JonSun's sudden need for revenge.
The second story is about Christa and her struggles with her disabilities. At a young age, it was discovered that she was profoundly deaf. A cochlear implant gave her a new perspective and she fell in love with Gymnastics. Flipping in the air made her feel alive, and nothing will stop her from achieving her dream of a gold medal. These two stories intersect when JonSun and SuAnn's son, Wynson, meets Christa. They became good friends for many years, and their friendship turns into something more. But a lot of problems stand in their way. Christa receives devastating news which could be a game changer, and Wynson has to deal with his own troubles at home. The question is whether their love for each other will survive these trials.
What gives this novel depth are the parallel themes running throughout. The characters' struggle with their self-esteem are prevalent throughout the book. This creates a richly layered and more interesting novel as the reader recognizes the threads that weaves the book together.
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The inspiration for 'The Worst Man on Mars' came after a chance meeting with top British scientist and author Mark Roman.
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