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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cry Before Supper, a novel by Julia Rose Grey

Historical mainstream fiction; general audience
A story about the power of perseverance

Chapter One - A Bad Day

The body fell out with a thud.  It wasn’t a hard sound, like the time we were playing hide-and-seek in the library and I turned too quickly, sending the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary and the table it was sitting on crashing to the floor.  No.  This sound was soft.  I’d say it was more like the sound that my grandmother, MooMoo, taught me about ripe cantaloupes.  “The sound has a spongy, dull thump,” she’d said, rapping her knuckles on the outside of the rough skin.  “There…that’s it…this melon is juicy and ready to eat.”
All I could do was stand solid as stone and stare at the dried-out skull and hollow eye sockets.  Swirls of dust floated in the sunbeams and tickled at my nose.  How inappropriate of the dust particles, I thought, to be playing at such a time.  But I couldn’t prevent the effects of the dust that hovered in my nostrils.  Without even covering my mouth -- because I couldn’t, I was frozen in place -- I sneezed.  I watched helplessly as the spittle flowed through the air and sank to the floor.
Watching in dumbfounded silence, articles of clothing spilled out:  a lace collar, yellowed with age; a whale-bone corset, once cream but now with brownish stains along the stays; a remnant of sage green taffeta, part of a gown I suppose, crumpled and worn thin along the edges. 
The poor dear, I thought, to be so alone for such a long time, only to pop out of the vintage steamer trunk in such an awkward way.  To expose herself in such a disheveled state to people she’d never met before.  We didn’t intend to disturb her.  We were only playing.  We often came to the attic to acquire costumes for the plays my older sister, Betsy, had written.  She had a flair for writing and always gave me and my younger sister and brother, Crosey and Michael, roles in her plays.  After rehearsing, we’d select costumes from the collection of elegant garments meticulously hung in the attic closets.  For the male roles, there was an assortment of thickly woven apparel:  tweed suits, vests with pockets, cotton shirts with stiff collars, cravats, bow ties, and shoes with their spats still attached.   The women’s selection was far broader.  The full-length gowns were many and varied.  All floor-length but in thick moirĂ©, fine silk, taffeta, some trailing a two-foot length of train.  The colors seemed endless: grass, dew, and emerald green; poppy, garnet and crimson red; teal, sapphire and cerulean blue; not to mention the pinks, mauves, daisy-yellows, and linen whites.  Included in this collection was everyday clothing:  woolen tweed suits, cream and white cotton shirtwaist blouses and sturdy skirts, leather button-up shoes.  And, oh, the hats!  There were wide brimmed hats in black, white, blue, red, with large flowers, ribbons, and feathers, and even one with a cardinal tacked on the side.  In addition to the fancy hats, there were smaller felt cloches that fit close to the face.  There was even a woman’s horseback riding outfit:  jodhpurs, white pleated fitted blouse, black velvet jacket and hard-hat, leather crop, and gleaming brown boots. 
On this particular day, we were trying to find clothing for our special-spooky Halloween skit.  We had tried before to pry open this particular steamer trunk, but we could never get the lock to budge.  It was shut as tight as the lips on the Sphinx.  Today, however, it popped open, as if it had a mind of its own.  Little did we know we’d find a lady inside in such disarray.
I wrinkled my nose at the stench.  She must have been in there a rather long time, maybe years, or even decades.
A sudden crackling sound split the silence like lightning.  I jerked with a startle and gasped before I realized the sound was the lady’s jaw.  It had dropped open, as if to say “Hello, dearies.”  I guess she was as surprised to see us as we were to see her.
A strange twinge of grief wrenched my chest.  Wanting to touch her, to hold her and comfort her, I started to reach out my hand.  But at that moment, I spotted the large, round stains that marred the bodice of what I first imagined as the tranquilly elegant sage green of her taffeta gown.  The stains were deep brown.  My first thought was of Sergeant Joe Friday of the television show Dragnet.  If it were him instead of me coming upon this body (as I wished it were), he would probably say, “It looks like blood.  Human most likely, with that pearl knife handle protruding out of her ribs like that.  Won’t know for sure until we test it.  But that’s my assessment of this situation.”   I was inclined to concur with Sergeant Friday.  “I agree,” I whispered to myself, “this lady’s demise was most likely not due to natural causes.”
Again my heart squeezed with acrid sorrow.  I tried to imagine some skin around those bones.  Was she tall or short?  Brunette or blonde?  Did she have high cheek bones or a moon-shaped face like me?  Did she pluck her eyebrows into thin slivers like my older sister Betsy?  Or did she brush them into natural dormers over her eyes like my Mom did? 
I knew at least a little something about her death.  But what was her life like?  Did she tend her large garden or make flower arrangements, as Mom did every so often?  Or did she cook using herbs from the kitchen garden?  Maybe because she lived in this large house, she had a cook and a gardener.  I wondered if she had children.  Or was she gone before she’d known the joy of having even one?  Was she happy?  Or was her unhappiness the reason that she ended up in the trunk?
A shriek shattered my reverie.  My younger brother, Michael, was screaming and running in circles beside me.  This reaction from Michael was not extraordinary.  His conventional response to anything unusual was a frenzied stomp in a tight circle, accompanied by a high-pitched screech.  He’d continue in this dreadful display until someone stood in his path, forcing him to stop with a full-body block.  Because he wasn’t smart enough to run around the obstacle, Michael would smack into the human barrier and finally come to a halt.  The rescuer would then have to quickly quell Michael’s emotion by hugging him and whispering, “It’s all right.  You’re safe now.”
I thought about helping Michael, by abruptly impeding his circles and comforting him.  Usually, because Michael seemed to like me the most, I was assigned the task of keeping him in tow.  I would hold his hand to make sure he didn’t wander off, as he had a penchant for doing.  But the task of calming Michael’s tirades was typically my older brother Bud’s job.  I’d never been in this exact situation, so I was caught off-guard and couldn’t imagine what I should do.  Bud was the one who could give Michael the required full-body grip, quiet his moans, and make him feel safe again.  But Bud wasn’t there.  I hesitated.  I bit down on my lip.  Hard. 
I let out a sigh and tried to think through this awkward state of affairs.
Help might be here soon, I thought.  Crosey -- Caroline Rose, my younger sister -- had taken off as soon as the mysterious lady did her jack-in-the-box routine.  Apparently she’d run down the hallway and was now leaning over the balustrade.  I heard her shouting, “Mom, call the police!  No, make that the coroner.  She’s beyond help, now!”
Crosey was always that way.  She instinctively assessed the situation and was able to act appropriately.  I asked her once if she ever felt surprised at her own intelligence. 
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“You always seem to understand everything.  And you make perfect sense.”
She tapped her finger against her cheek, assessing the question carefully.  Finally she said, “Yes, I’m surprised right now, because I don’t know why you would ever ask such a thing.”
“Well, you always seem to know what to do,” I’d said.
She replied quickly.  “Oh, I suppose that comes from reading the Emergency Manual the Red Cross sent us in the mail,” she said.
You see what I mean about Crosey?  She knew what to do.  And she didn’t freeze up like me.
Feeling that my abilities to do anything of value were limited, I decided to let Michael continue his circling and moaning.  Help would probably be here soon. 
Besides, the smell was starting to envelop me.  I hoped my skin wasn’t absorbing the odor.  I tried to lift my arm to sniff it, but it wouldn’t budge.  And my whole torso felt stiff.  My legs and feet felt as if they were encased in concrete.  I couldn’t even wiggle my toes.  A steely fear clasped my core. 
I rolled my eyes right and glanced sideways at Michael.  His face was red.  And he seemed to be getting redder with each rotation.  That was normal for him.  But I knew he needed help -- soon.  And I needed help, too.  My eyes were burning.  I could hardly breathe, the stink of the mysterious death was so foul.  Every time I tried to gulp some air, my lungs burned.  So I stood there feeling trapped in a scrim of ghostly webs.
“Annie!  Annie!”
Oh, thank goodness, I thought, my mother was finally here.  I felt her warm hands drape around my shoulders.  Even though my real name was Barbara Anne, my mother always called me Annie, so everyone else did, too.
“Yes, Mom,” I muttered.
“We have to go,” she said.
“I’m fine,” I replied, not fully understanding why I wanted to stay with the corpse.
I heard another familiar voice now.  “Wow, look at the dead body!”  That was Bud -- not very tactful but always ready for excitement. 
I could feel Mom’s fingers press into my shoulders, a sign of her disgust with Bud’s reaction.  “Bud, please stop gawking at that body and do your job with Michael.”
“Got it, Mom,” Bud replied. 
Still frozen in place, I watched as Bud stood in front of Michael and waited for him to come around his circle once more.  Boom.  Michael bounced right into Bud’s abdomen.  Then Bud quickly extended his long arms, wrapped them around him, and squeezed.  He held on for dear life.  “That’s OK, Michael,” Bud said.  “Everything’s all right.”
A large man in a blue uniform came in.  He had a round, pudgy face that turned bright red when he spotted the body.  He wore a policeman’s cap, except it had gold bands around it and a gold star on the brim.  Strands of gray hair stuck out from under the cap.  He had a badge that said “Sheriff Blake” on his left shoulder, and several gold chevrons on his jacket sleeves.  He came into the room and stood right over the body.  He put his hands on his hips and stared at the pitiful sight.  He then coughed and covered his mouth and nose.  I guess the stench really was as bad as I thought it was.
“We’ll take it from here, Mrs. Campbell,” he said.  His voice was as large as he was.  “You’d better get the children out of here.”
“We have to go now, Annie dear.  The police -- they’ll handle everything now,” my mother said.  Oh, how I loved my mother’s mellow voice, her buttery touch, her fresh cotton scent.  She caressed my shoulders and guided me gently towards the doorway.  My numbness started to ooze from me like warm honey. 
“But I want to stay,” I said.  Despite her desolate end, this woman had intrigued me.  Who was she?  How did she live?  We knew how she died -- pending Sergeant Friday’s confirmation, of course.  But how did she get into such a predicament?  And, most importantly, who killed her?  I wanted to know.
“Come, Annie,” my mother repeated, tugging me towards the attic threshold.
My quest would have to wait until later.
Oh dear.  I think I’ve done it again.  I’m always doing that.  Rushing things, that is.  Crosey’s always telling me I start a story in the middle and forget to give the reader a chance to understand what’s going on.  She also says that I tend to tell readers the most exciting but the least important and most irrelevant parts of the story.  Like the lady popping out of the trunk that day.  That incident was only a sliver of what happened to us in our new home.
In fact, the lady’s demise isn’t even pivotal to the story.  It’s what Crosey said is a “sidelight,” something related because the house seemed strange, but not at the heart of what happened.
I guess I did it again.  In all my eagerness to tell you about what happened, about our adventure in the new house, I suppose I’ve gotten much too far ahead of myself. 
I need to slow down.  I need to start at the very beginning.  I need to tell you the whole story.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

YA age range 13+
paranormal, romance, apocalyptic


Flyn, her protector and companion. It started from the moment he moved next door to her parent's house. Like her, he was a single child, left to his own devices much of the time.

They'd become fast friends who played together, shared countless secrets, pulled numerous pranks. And now, they'd survived together, when others hadn't. 
"I can't believe there's a horse near here. I can't wait to see it again." Taryn grasped his shoulder and squeezed. "This is so unbelievable." She bounced on the bed next to him. 
"You and those high maintenance hay burners." He threw his hands in the air and gave her a pointed look. "You can't have a horse, Taryn. Where do you plan keep it, anyhow? People in the compound would serve it up for dinner. Peter would be first in line with his knife and fork." 
Taryn cringed at Flyn's words. Peter, the current leader inside the sanctuary, was also her arch enemy Vanessa's father. "Hey now, I can't help it." A pressure built in her chest as her lips formed a pout. His grim words threatened to take the wind out of her sails. 
"The stallion is beautiful, powerful. Free..." She stared off in the distance. "Maybe that's why it calls to me. It represents what we don't have and haven't experienced in a very long time." Her emotions betrayed her and a tear escaped down her cheek before her fingers could erase it. It seemed a lifetime ago she'd even seen one of her beloved equines. 
"Hey now, don't cry." Flyn gathered her into his arms. Her head rested beneath his chin. His scent was familiar and calming to her senses. 
She pondered how he'd changed this past year they'd lived inside the refuge. He's grown into a man. The smattering of facial hair across his jawline proved it. A very handsome man at that. She sighed. He'd be seventeen this year. 
"You know I hate to cry. It's a useless waste of energy." 
"But it makes you feel better," Flyn said, brushing his finger across her cheek, wiping away the evidence.
"Do you remember the things we used to dream about doing? I'd have my license and could work now. Be able to save money for college. I sometimes wonder if I'll ever be able to go to school and become a veterinarian. I hate this life...fearing if the only thing I have to hope for is to dodge zombies in order to make it through another day." Taryn quieted. The bleak outlook she'd spoken of darkened her mood. If I can catch this horse, life will be more tolerable. 
"Don't feel bad. I have the same worries. In my mind, I try to come up with ways to make our current situation better. There must be a way to get through this, find our families, and feel safe again." Flyn looked her in the eye. 
"I hope you're right," she said. 
Right now, they endured and existed. Food, health, and a ray of sunshine. They considered the simple things in life precious gifts to hold tight to their hearts. 
"From now on, when we leave the compound, I'm not letting you out of my sight. Understood? It'll be over my dead body one of those zombies gets a chance to infect you." He pulled her from his chest and clutched her upper arms. Tension radiated through his fingertips and zinged across her skin. 
"You know I'm able to take care of myself. I've learned how to stay alive. I don't need you babysitting me every second of the day." Her words sounded strong and sure to her own ears. Too bad little nags of doubt crowded her mind. She brushed them away. If I want to capture this horse, I need to be strong.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

 Genre- Mystery/Suspense Romance  Age restriction 18+ (graphic sex)

Title: Eyes Only (Covert Flirt)
Author: H.K. Sterling

"I dunno, maybe I had a wild hair that night or maybe I was going a little bit stir crazy. In any case, I think Charlie sensed it and that’s why he made the suggestion. So this one time, I decided I'd go to the restricted bar. What harm could it do? I'd have a few drinks with Charlie, hear some old Marine stories, and call it a night.
I couldn't have been more wrong.

Isla Aldon was her name. My eyes found her as soon as we stepped in the bar. A crowded bar too. And she was a short thing."

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Monday, March 24, 2014

UnFamiliar by Erica Cope and Komal Kant

Genre: NA

“I thought I heard you. Figured you’d need this.” Chase strolled into the room wearing only his boxers with a glass of water and two big, white pills in his palm.
I tried not to stare at his huge arms or the ridiculous six-pack he had as I pulled the covers up to my chin. Though if what I thought happened last night had really happened, it was nothing he hadn't seen before. My cheeks felt hot and I lowered my eyes, unable to look at Chase. I was so embarrassed.
“What's wrong?” he asked as he sat down at the foot of his bed.
“Nothing. I just can't believe I did that last night.”
“You did get pretty wasted. I told you to slow down.”
“That's not what I mean.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Me and you— last night—do I really have to spell out what is wrong here?”
“I guess so because I'm kind of confused.”
“I have a boyfriend!”
“I’m aware of that,” he said quietly, and there was an edge to his tone that I didn’t understand.
“And you don't see that what we did was wrong?”
“Seriously Hailey, I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.”
“Wait...do you mean—you and I—we didn't?”
“Didn't what?” he asked, obviously questioning my sanity. “Will you just spit it out already?”
Did he honestly have no idea why I was so upset? Yeah, sure I’d gotten drunk last night, but did he really think I was the kind of girl who would do something like that? Of course he probably did. I’d been upset, had agreed to come to his apartment, and then proceeded to get drunk— not exactly my typical behavior, but how would he know that?
“I cheated on my boyfriend last night,” I whispered, still unable to believe I could be so heartless.
Sure Braxton had been a jerk, but that didn’t justify my actions. It wasn’t even really his fault. He was just upset about his mom— it probably really had nothing to do with me or my hair; he just had no one else to take out his frustration on so he’d lashed out at me. I couldn’t really hold that against him. I was devastated about everything too— how could I do that to him?
“Wait! What?” He stood up. “With who?”
“With you, Einstein!”
He seemed relieved by my answer, though I couldn't imagine why. “Hailey, nothing happened last night.”
“Yes it did—I know I may have been drunk but I remember...”
“You remember what? Because the only thing that happened was you getting so drunk you couldn't even walk straight. I did what any decent person would do—I let you stay here and sleep it off. I even cleaned up your vomit.”
“But I remember—“ Oh God…
“What do you remember exactly?”
“Never mind.”
“No, tell me.” There was confusion plain on his face as he tried to figure out what I was talking about. I kept my face blank. There was no way I was going to admit it—ever—especially not to him.
“It was nothing.”
I watched his expression change as the pieces clicked in place. The confusion was slowly replaced with the sexiest smirk I had ever seen. “You had a sex dream about me. Didn’t you?” He seemed extremely amused by this.
“No, I didn't,” I snapped a little too defensively.
“Yes, you did.”
“Why the hell would I have a dream about you?”
“Probably because you find me completely irresistible,” he said, that smirk still on his face. “I bet I was amazing, huh?”

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Best Boy Ever Made by Rachel Eliason

YA - older teens, 15+
First chapter excerpt:
Hi, my name is Alecia Mueller and I will be your narrator for this story. Let me start by telling you a little about myself. I am five foot five, not tall by any stretch of the imagination but not short, either. I have long blond hair. I usually wear it braided into pigtails, even though my sister tells me it makes me look like I am twelve. I don't really care what she says, it's both pretty and practical at the same time.
If I had to describe myself in two words it would be those two: pretty but practical. I am very feminine but I don't let that stop me from doing stuff I want. Now my best friend Sam (she's the tall girl leaning up against front of the school next to me, the skinny six-foot girl with the short dark hair. She's reading a book if that helps), well let's just say that if you wanted to describe Sam you'd just use the word practical.
Sam and I have been best friends for most of our lives. We are country girls. That might not mean much to the city kids at the school, or to some of the readers, but to Sam and me it's important. Country kids aren't quite like town kids. It's little things, but sometimes the little things are important.
Take the way we dress. City kids wear faded torn blue jeans. They actually go out and buy jeans that have been purposely worn and faded. Country kids wear faded and torn jeans, too, but we buy nice clean blue jeans. The tears and fade marks are put there by our lives. I have a huge scuff mark and tear on the rear thigh of these jeans, well below the butt crease (I am not trying to show anything off). I took a spill while helping my uncle break horses a couple of weeks ago and that's how the scuffs got there. I got up, dusted myself off, got back on that horse and broke her, too.
Sam's got a huge tear on her right knee. If you look closely you can still find the matching thin scar. She got her leg caught up in a downed barbed wire fence. One of her dad's cows was stuck in the fence. Sam was wading in tall grass with a pair of wire cutters when it happened. I was there, too, talking gently to the cow so it would stay still while she worked.
“Hey girls, I was hoping I would run into to you,” Mrs. Terrance said at my left. Mrs. Terrance teaches Algebra 1 and 2 as well as coaching the girl's track team. She has dishwater blond hair and a round face. Her body is thin, a runner's body. It does not match her face at all. She was wearing a green track suit, a whistle around her neck and was holding a clipboard. “Are we going be blessed by your presence at tryouts?”
“Sorry, Mrs. T,” Sam replied, putting the book down for a moment. It was The New Goat Handbook; figures. “We would love to but it's almost time for the kidding.”
The thing about Mrs. Terrance is that she was born on a farm not far from here. She understands us country kids because she is country, too. She didn't miss a beat. A city teacher would have thought we were the ones kidding. Mrs. Terrance knew that by kidding, Sam meant our goats were about to give birth to their young, or kids.
She also knew we weren't trying to duck tryouts. We had responsibilities. That's a fact of life when you are a country kid. We both wanted to go out for track, but 4-H came first.
She nodded and made a mark on her clipboard. “Okay, well hopefully they'll drop and we'll still have time for a few practice runs before the first meet. Keep me posted.” Sam assured her we would.
With that she went on her way. You might be thinking that she gave us special treatment because she was biased in favor of country kids. I know some of the town kids felt that way but it wasn't like that at all. She understood that our responsibilities came first. Besides, she knew we weren't going to be sitting around inside playing video games or something like that. We'd be working and when we found time to make it to track, we'd be in great shape as always.
Okay, maybe there was a little favoritism going on. We were her two best distance runners by a long shot. Sam set the school record last year, as a sophomore. I was hard on her heels when she did it, too.
That was another difference, a pretty big one. You ask a city kid to run a mile and they act like that's so far. I mean come on. Sam's parents live a solid three quarters of a mile down the road from my home. I must have been five the first time I looked up and saw Sam running full tilt down the gravel road. She pulled to a full stop inches from me, nose-to-nose.
“Lambing,” she said, a smile spreading across her face, “First ewe is about to drop.” With that she was gone, back down the gravel road at full tilt again, me hard on her heels. It had been like that ever since. God knows how many times we tore back and forth on that strip of gravel, to see the birth of calves, lambs, baby chicks or to watch the vet give shots or the farrier trim the horse's hooves. So our fateful run at the end of last year had been the result of more than ten years of running, me chasing my friend, Sam.
“Hey,” a man's voice said. I looked up. It was Jeremy, so scratch that, a boy's voice. He was my boyfriend of the last three months.
“Hey,” I replied.
He nodded towards the distant track field. “Boy's tryouts don't start til tomorrow. Want a ride home?” Jeremy was a city kid. He was quarterback of the football team and he was fast, for a short distance. He ran four hundreds and did some field events, mostly to keep in shape for football.
He asked me to the winter dance and I said yes. We'd been going together ever since, casually. We weren't going steady, yet, and he'd not gotten past second base. I wasn't that kind of a girl.
I looked at the field, weighing my options. The bus was awfully slow. You had to stop at every farmhouse with a kid so it took almost an hour to make a less than fifteen minute drive. That extra forty five minutes meant I could be finishing chores by the time I would have normally been starting.
“Sure,” I replied. “Come on, Sam.”
Sam cocked her head at Jeremy. He gave her a sour look. She shrugged. I knew the two of them didn't like each other.
I also knew that Jeremy had only intended to ask me. But you know what? That's rude. Sam lives right along the way and there is no good reason to give me a ride and not her. Besides she was my best friend and she was willing to play nice with him for my sake. If he couldn't do the same, he'd become history. I know where my loyalties lie.
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Erasing: Shadows by K.D. Rose

New Adult, Fantasy/Paranormal
 no age restriction

Exactly one hour later, six raggedy looking teenagers showed up out of nowhere in the astral, sitting on the ground near a farm. For a moment, they weren't quite sure where they were. Then it all came back to them. The gravel underneath their legs was leaving imprints like always. They smelled hay. It was a sure sign they were 'there.'
The Emergency Meeting Place.
The group surveyed the landscape, and it appeared exactly as it was supposed to be. The field over the hill lay behind Mira's childhood home. Then they caught themselves staring at each other because of the sheer scale of difference between their before and after appearances.
"Wow." Jonathan spoke first. He gaped at Michael, who, true to his word, had come back at about sixteen-years-old. Even his clothes were teenage clothes. "You've learned some things haven't you!" He was impressed.
"From Mira," answered Michael. "And apparently you have too." Jonathan looked obviously older than Michael. If Michael had to guess, he would say Jonathan was nineteen or twenty. "But, I've re-thought this, and maybe I am going to return to age twelve. It’s closer to Mira's age, and I can build more rapport with her."
He didn't mention that also he just plain missed her. If they were both twelve, well, hopefully her former crush on him when they were younger would manifest this time too. In real life she was older than him, though not by much. That was the weirdness of the astral. Playing with ages got really complicated.
Michael amazed the others as he shrunk. Suddenly he wasn't sixteen anymore. Jonathan knew the technique, but the others were in awe.
"Can I do that too?" asked Zac, who was changing into the clothes he brought. Jonathan noted his older clothes were hanging off of him. Zac was the only other one at about age twelve. He was also the only one who hadn't seemed to travel into the correct clothes. He had arrived still wearing his adult attire. Somehow his traveling skills were a bit behind the others, who looked their appropriate ages.
"No," said Michael. "You are the cousin I have that is Mira's age. The more people her age the better."
Trina laughed at Zac's adult clothes falling off. "Okay, Mr. Hobo, about ready there?" she teased.
Then she turned to Onie. "Wow, you're suddenly a cougar , aren't you,?" she said laughing, for Onie had turned up as age sixteen, four years older than her husband.
"Ha, ha," said Zac.
"Yeah, forgive me if I wait until we're back into the real world to um—oh never mind," said Onie.
"So you do only love me for my body!" teased Zac.
"Well," said Jonathan, getting everyone back on track, "we have to be careful how we introduce ourselves to Mira. It needs to be like it was before; except atour current astral age, so we don't freak her out. I'm not sure where she would end up if she got confused and upset, but it wouldn't be good."
"Right," said Michael. He popped a few more Tums. "She could end up in a forest or a storm. Or alone in the desert—you never know what the unconscious will do, so everyone needs to concentrate hard because Mira won't be able to. So I will find her first and try to develop our old rapport. Knowing her, she will want to learn, and then I'll introduce her to Jonathan like before."
"Let's write this down," said Lu.
"I have paper and pen," said Onie.
Lu looked at the group. "We really haven't changed much personality-wise. There's Onie with supplies on hand, Jonathan ordering us around, and Zac falling apart." She laughed.
"I think it will be easiest if we think of this like a play. We all have our parts that are mimicking how we met and acted before. Only don't forget how serious it is," said Trina.
"I agree," said Michael.
The group spent the next hour recalling their collective memories, remembering the old days, and then reenacted some of their initial encounters with Mira. Michael decided to leave out some of the negative events so as not to traumatize Mira. In the end, they had a plan.
"Does everyone feel comfortable with this?" asked Lu.
"Do you mean, do I feel comfortable as a nineteen-year-old?" said Jonathan. "Hell, yeah. Loving this."
Everyone laughed. Perturbed, Zac spoke. "I'm surprised that I'm only twelve. I thought I'd be older. Why am I the only one that was automatically so young?"
Jonathan answered, "Well, it is representative of your inner evolution, so physically you may be older, but astrally, in this world, you haven't really done that much more traveling or advanced your learning so you haven't particularly grown intellectually or evolutionally 'here.' And remember," he added, "when Michael first came back, he was twelve too. And look at him now—he can stretch to any age."
Zac frowned. His wife saw and added, "It's not a bad thing, Zac. Some people get older and can't go back because they've lost their sense of wonder and attitude of learning. Other people never grow up because they never mature. I think we are right where we are supposed to be, and you never know, this adventure may change us a bit."
"Yeah, hopefully in a good way," Zac acquiesced.
Lu and Trina at sixteen voiced no complaints.
"Actually, Onie, this may come in handy, because you know we are not exactly the same ages as when we first met Mira, except for me, so I think Zac being closer to her age is a good thing," said Michael.
"That's a good thought," said Zac. "I feel better."
Jonathan was gathering his things and making moves to go. "It's getting late. Is everyone clear on what to do? And the order to do it in?"
There were nods all around. Michael added, "Okay, from now on, I am twelve-year-old Michael. Is everyone also clear where to sleep tonight, how to eat, and all the practical things? We sleep in the real world, eat in the real world, but if anyone can, someone should bring some real food to the astral next time."
 Jonathan volunteered to try.
"Okay, unless there are any last concerns, let's get this show on the road," said Trina.
Onie had one last comment. "Everyone remembers our name, right? We loved it at the time and believed we were so slick. Mira liked it."
Michael remembered back to his younger self. "The High Five Gang."

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Rabbletown: Life in These United Christian States of Holy America' by Randy Attwood



Introduction: The Sacred Exchange
When the Mossad obtained incontrovertible evidence that the Grand Ayatollah of Iran not only had a nuclear bomb, but it was installed, ready to launch on a missile in a silo disguised to look like a mosque, Israel pushed the button on its own secret missile and Tehran was obliterated. Although Iran had only one nuclear-tipped missile, it had distributed nuclear knapsacks to hundreds of willing suicide bombers who entered Israel and detonated the small devices in as many Jewish settlements as they could, thus helping the Palestinians to gain their own long-sought-for, if now-irradiated nation. Al Qaeda, not content with that great victory over the Zionists, unleashed its own nuker-knapsackers on the Satanist capitals of Europe and the costal cities of America. The newly elected American Christian Pastor President and his Christian Pastor Vice President were evacuated before a nuker-knapsacker leveled a two-mile radius around the White House. Retaliation was ordered. No backpacks from America. Missiles. To Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Kabul, Jeddah, Mecca. Sometimes their arrival nearly coincided with missiles from France and Great Britain. Mecca got a triple whammy. North Korea used its one missile to kill millions in Tokyo. China solved its Taiwan problem; there was no more Taiwan. India and Pakistan nuked each other to their hate’s content. For some reason, cooler heads prevailed in Russia. They decided to sit and watch and wait.
The world entered another Dark Age. Religion ruled again.

Chapter 1

Bob Crowley, drunk and very tired, almost tripped over the broken toy truck before kicking it out of his way then trudging around the side of the house to the back of a former duplex that now housed six families of 50-some Christian souls. Work on the Great Christian State of Kansas Cathedral went on from dawn to dusk, almost a 14-hour, hot, summer day. After Bob had made the long climb back to the ground, he stopped at one of the small booze-holes at the edge of Rabbletown to drink its oily-smelling, stomach-wrenching, blessedly mind-numbing alcohol before going home. Now, in the doorway to his basement apartment, he burped and smelled the sour acid of his empty stomach. Pulling the burlap sack of tools off his shoulder and dropping it to the floor when he entered, the noise of his own household assaulted him. The twins came, screaming their welcome, and he picked the bag of tools back up, swung, and caught one of them on the side of the head, sending him sprawling sideways and setting up a wail of tears and pain that caused his wife to yell, “Stop beatin’ the kids, will ya?”
“Well keep the little retards away from me.”
A pounding on the ceiling prompted his wife to grab a broom and bang back against the floorboard above them. “Mind your own business up there!” She then focused her scream at her brood, “Get to bed!” A couple of the older ones, Bobby and Lila, started hushing and herding the younger ones over to the corner where their pallets lay. Through the blare of the “Truth Today” news channel on portal, he could make out his eldest son spouting Bible verse, “Strong drink is raging. Suffer the little children.”
“Bobby, shut up. And can’t you turn that damn thing off?” Bob shouted at his wife over the noise of the portal. “It’d be nice to have a little peace and quiet for once. And get me something to eat! God, what a day,” he said and sat down in exhaustion at the table.
“If you don’t stop swearing, your own children will report you. We’ve been told to expect a portal message from the Pastor President. Here, some soup is left.” She plunked a dirty bowl in front of him. The smell of split pea almost made him vomit.
“What, another message from Jerry the Jerk?” he said, and then did get worried as he noticed Lila looking at him. Pious little shit, she just might report me to the Inquisitors, he thought. At fourteen, her breasts were developing. He’d seen her praying with one of the neighborhood boys. It was about time she found a mate and got out of the house. More likely, it’d be Bobby–the twelve-year-old who stared into space until some Bible verse got disgorged from his brain to his mouth–who’ll rat on me. Time for him to pick a trade, Crowley thought, but I’ll still have to support him until he turns 14. Then I can finally kick him out of the house. Cheryl thought little, darling Bobby would be accepted to pastor preparatory school if they could come up with the application fee. Fat holy chance. Jesus, why do I dream of the kids leaving anyway? With 11 of ‘em I’ll be long dead before the youngest is grown. And the retarded twins, the ones who had run to greet him, will never leave.
A squeal broke out from the corner where the kids slept, and Bob got up to roar at them: “Go to sleep you God-damned shits or I’ll beat your heads in!” That quieted them, but he saw the hatred in Lila’s eyes. The way she looked at him reminded him of the eyes of the feral cats that roamed the work site. A mason would sometimes lob a stone down at them from those many stories above and occasionally squash one. It made the survivor cats look up from time to time with hatred in their eyes at those who let such things fall upon them. Yes, he thought, I’d better see that she moves out soon or she will report me. But what do I care? How could my life be any worse than it is now? He looked down at his red, raw, scraped hands, calloused and rough from years of laying brick and stone. He picked off a dried bit of cement. What if they did turn me in as being an UnChristian? How could Bible Re-education Camp be any worse than working on that J-damn cathedral? After all, I haven’t done or said anything to warrant stoning. Then he wondered how had he come to have such thoughts? He used to be proud of his skill. One of the Order of the Mason’s fastest layers. Took two hod carriers to keep up with him. He looked around at their basement home, and remembered how proud Cheryl had been of him when he first had been able to afford its rent. Basements were prime locations. Cooler in the summer; warmer in the winter. He recalled his grand plan of using stones as he could acquire them to face the patchwork siding, which was a quilt of unpainted scrap wood. Now the basement's dirt, and the smell of the bodies of his own family, sickened him, and he looked at his wife. He’d married her when she was only 16 and now she was 30, and after 11 kids she looked 50. Cheryl’s once deep-chestnut-brown hair had gone to a mousy gray. And what a slob she’d turned out to be, Bob thought. He heard her say to the kids:
“You kids say your prayers, and say one for your father and his safety. It’s only because of God’s grace that he hasn’t fallen yet. Hung-over as he is up there.”
Yes, pray for our safety because the state don’t provide no safety nets for us, he thought bitterly to himself. Six masons had died in the last two months alone. He had been working aside Clarence when the old man lost his balance, tripping over an idiot hod carrier's foot, and went tumbling down to his death. The bodies of Clarence and five other masons were still stored in the morgue, waiting until there were enough dead for a group funeral. The Pastor Governor wouldn’t bother himself for a service for less than 12 workers, representing the 12 apostles in some sort of warped church symbolism.
Depressed at that thought, Bob put his head down on his folded arms, but the smell of the split-pea soup came up to his nostrils and he pushed the foul bowl away.
“Gimme some bread and cheese.”
His wife turned the portal up even louder, because the screen was now filled with the face of Pastor President Jerry Falwell V. His fat face smiled, his hair was slicked back making him look like a plump seal, but with a weasel’s nose.
“My fellow Christian Americans, I have wonderful news for you. Praise God, for how HE HAS blessed this land. More people across the world join us each day in accepting Christ into their hearts as their savior, just as all of you have done. One day, with the help of the papists, we will regain Jerusalem from the devil Muslims. And one day, too, we will bring Christ to the yellow people. The Second Coming is near! Christ’s return is soon! We must show that we tried to save every soul from Satan we could reach. Oh, that Jesus will find ALL the world is Christian when He returns. And woe then to the UnChristians.”
Bob hated the Pastor President’s voice. He hated the voices of all ministers, that sing-song specially modulated rant made Bob want to smash his calloused fist through the portal.
“I have a special joy and great revelation to reveal to you. God has spoken to Me! As I was on My knees asking for His guidance, He gave Me that guidance. He wants Me to run for a third term.”
A third term! Wasn’t it still in the Constitution that a person could only be president for two terms? But, Bob realized, who would bring suit against him, and so what if they did? There was no Supreme Court anymore; it existed in name, but decades ago the Pastor Presidents simply didn’t nominate any new justices when one died. Same with federal judges. They just died off and were never replaced. Lawsuits ended. Why file a lawsuit when there was no one to hear it? Still, it was unusual for them to tamper with the Constitution. Wouldn’t they have to call the Great Christian National Congress in session and then all the Great Christian State Legislatures as well?
“God has told Me that our Holy Constitution has one remaining flaw in it. The limit of two terms allows too little time for Me to work God’s will in the office of the Pastor President. Time is short. Tomorrow, I will order the Congress of the United Christian States of Holy America to convene and introduce an amendment to the Holy Constitution to eliminate this flaw. I’m asking the Pastor Governors to convene their Christian legislatures so they, too, will be ready to pass the amendment. God has great plans for Me and His holy nation: expelling the devil Muslims from Jerusalem; expanding Christ’s message around the globe; ensuring that all Americans remain Christian Americans–all this can be done in My lifetime. With God’s help, and with the help of all true believers. My brother in God here, Vice President Robertson, has agreed to take on the additional duties as Secretary of the Department of the Defense of the Faith and National Grand Inquisitor,” Falwell said as he turned to point to the man behind him, recognizable by his wide and toothy grin, and the way he was always rubbing his hands together as though washing them in the blood of sinners. “Thus do we demonstrate again a simplification of our system of government and that these efficiencies make us worthy of your vote. My fellow Christian Americans, good night and God bless. My will be done.”
“Jesus, what’s he want to be–King?” Bob snorted.
“There is only one king and that is Jesus Christ our Savior. I hope you don’t talk like this around your co-workers. They would report you. You haven’t made an altar call in I can’t remember how long. You really are in need of repentance,” she scolded him.
“Yeah, yeah.”
Bob was thinking that when the Kansas pastor senators came to Topeka, they would visit the construction site of the cathedral with their bevies of church secretaries in tow. He fantasized about accidentally dropping a stone like other masons did on the cats to see if the state then regretted not having safety nets. The fantasy was cut short when he looked at his wife and saw her flushed face. An address from the Pastor President always did that to her, making her feel righteous, and Bob knew what was coming.
“We’ve got to fornicate again tonight, Bob.”
“So soon?” He remembered the last time: what was it, four months ago? He had finally gotten it up and they were plugging away when he heard a noise behind him and looked back to see his two, retarded, eight-year-old twins, their identical, right index fingers in their identical, right nostrils, snickering.
“I failed the pregnancy test again at the clinic today, and they said if I failed next month, they’d have to art-preg me.”
“Well, tell them I can’t get it up anymore.”
“That wouldn’t matter. You know that. They’ll haul you in and hook you up to the electro-ejaculator. Bob, I don’t want to be one of those women who have to be art-pregged.” She was starting to cry. “My Personal Pastor Counselor says God looks with disfavor on art-pregged wives. Other men perform their duty to God’s Church of the Evangels. I don’t know why you can’t.”
“Alright! Alright! Where’s that bottle you keep hidden from me? If I’m going to fornicate tonight, then I damn well am going to get drunk.”
He heard a snicker, turned around, and roared, “And if any little shits come over to watch, I’ll kick their asses out the door!”
He put his head back down in his hands. Sweet Jesus, he thought, and tomorrow they would start laying stone on the last story. Just the thought made him dizzy.
“And, Bob, Honey, you come home right after they let you off early from work tomorrow for stoning Friday. The kids and I don’t want to miss that holy event.”
Then he heard Bobby say, “Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”

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