Alex Andy Phuong Debuts

Underrepresentation

Minorities

Combined with

Congruence

Parallelism

Iridescence

Colors

Reflecting

Diversity

Trapped & bound,

but still bursting with freedom

Global Outrage

Global outrage

Outrageous outrage

Leaving words on a page

And taking center stage

The world needs mankind

To practice being kind

To make the world a better place

While remembering to pace

Because if some are stagnant

That would hinder the planet

Act and aspire

Like an actor upon the worldly stage

Within this current age

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University—Los Angeles in 2015.  He was a former Statement Magazine editor who currently writes passionately.  He has written film reviews for MovieBoozer, and has contributed to Mindfray.  He writes hoping to inspire the ones who dream.

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Nancy Scott-McBride

THE PACHEBEL CANON IN D

The loveliest piece of music ever written,

or so it seems to me.

I slide the disc into our player and there it is,

so sublime and perfect it almost breaks the heart.

There’s no dis-harmony or cacophony,

no riots, hatred, death or disease. 

It flows along and I drift with it,

imagining I’m  conducting it.

And for a few moments, everything

that’s out of joint comes together.

Heaven on Earth.

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Michael Jaye

Pickles, the Cat with Three Families.  

By Michael Jaye

There is a cat called Pickles.

She is called Pickles because her eyes are as green as the greenest sour dill pickles in the whole world, and as green as the ocean. But no one ever heard of a cat named Ocean, so Pickles the cat it was.

Pickles lives with three different families. One is black, one white, and the other brown.

Now with so many cats not having homes at all, having three families is a blessing. And also a bit of a curse.

One day little Lisa Weiner was sitting in the sun with her grandfather, and Pickles was sitting on Lisa’s lap.

“Poppa, can a cat have a religion?” asked Lisa in her squeaky little voice.

“Funny you should ask,” her Grandpa rumbled in his deep gravelly way. “Back in ancient Egypt, cats were worshiped. And those holy cats slept forever in the Pyramids when they died.” Grandpa chuckled as the sunlight danced merrily on his spectacles.

Hearing every single word but pretending to be asleep, Pickles twitched her tail and began to daydream. In her cat’s mind she saw vast stretches of desert, a few palm trees and some camels. She also saw herself as a little queen sitting dignified and elegant atop a red carriage drawn by six white horses.

“But can a cat be Jewish like you and me and Mommy and Daddy?” Lisa wondered.

“Honeybunch, anything their owners are, a cat can be. They can be Jewish or Catholic or Hindu . . . ”

”Or a cat can be nothing at all, if that is what she wants,” thought Pickles. 

And with that, she jumped down from Lisa’s lap, stretched majestically in the sun, and leaped right over the wooden fence.

At The Jones’s, Pickles needed to be always on her guard, because she shared the big tree-lined backyard with Brutus, a giant Doberman. 

Brutus was as big as a deer, as fast as the wind, and had terrible breath, plus a nose that was always runny. “Thank goodness he can’t climb trees,” thought Pickles the cat.

In his good-natured but annoying way of playing, Brutus would chase the little cat all around the yard, yipping, barking and snorting in the most uncouth manner. Yet, when Mrs. Jones came home in the evening from work and put their suppers out on the back porch, Pickles and Brutus would immediately declare a truce and dine together in peace. When they had eaten their fill they would lie side by side snoozing in cozy contentment. 

Mrs. Jones was always careful to leave the window on the top floor open just wide enough so that Pickles could come into the house. So whenever it rained or got too cold or too hot, the little cat would slip ever so quietly through the bathroom window. And at her leisure, she would explore the large quiet rooms, her green eyes shining in the darkness. 

But her greatest pleasure came from catching a few delicious winks atop the stack of fluffy pillows on the Jones’ king-sized bed. Alas, it was a wicked pleasure, because Mr. Jones had very strong opinions about where and when a cat should be present.

“Monique, that cat is no good,” he’d shout to Mrs. Jones. “Sprawled out all over our bed like some kind of queen. Who knows where she’s been or if she’s picked up fleas or germs…Scat, scat! You dirty cat!”

So Pickles the cat would march off and disappear out the window, fuming to herself, “Get real!  I wash up four times a day, which is more than I can say for you . . . See if I curl up in your lap anymore during those boring football games.”

At times like these, when she was feeling the most rejected, Pickles the cat would visit her third home, where the Nuñez family lived.  

Their big cheerful house was painted bright yellow, and there was always something fascinating going on inside. 

Somebody was always doing homework, knitting, or cooking something that smelled positively delicious on the big old stove. 

  “Holà, Pepinilla my little queen,” called out Grandmother Nuñez as Pickles strode grandly into the room. “So small but so proud. How goes it in the alleys, trees, and rooftops of your little kingdom?”

 “At last, a bit of respect,” thought Pickles, and she curled up at the old women’s feet and began toying with a strand of bright green yarn that dangled temptingly from the sewing basket in the old lady’s lap.

The kitchen was so warm and cozy that, soothed by the steady clickety-click-click of Señora Nuñez’s knitting, Pickles the cat soon dozed off, purring like a tiny motorboat on a faraway lake.

As she slept, the little cat dreamed a bittersweet dream of her very first family

Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell were already quite old when they got a little kitten with green eyes and named her Pickles. 

Mrs. Mitchell was nearly always under the weather, so she hardly ever got out of bed. But watching the tiny Pickles playing and climbing and discovering all the things that kittens discover in their very first months of life never failed to cheer her up.

But one day some men came in an ambulance, and Mrs. Mitchell had to go to the hospital. And though Pickles waited and waited and waited for her to come home, she never did.  

Mr. Mitchell was very sad for a long time, but he and Pickles continued to share their little old cottage quite happily until one day Mr. Mitchell himself was taken away to the hospital. 

That was when the Mitchell’s terrible son Herman, the same awful disgusting Herman who picked his nose, chewed with his mouth open and hated cats, decided he didn’t want Pickles around anymore. So one cold and rainy night, he grabbed the little cat and shoved her roughly into an old shoebox. Then he drove his smelly old car to another part of town, dumped the box on the sidewalk and sped away.

“Good riddance,” thought Pickles as she popped open the lid and inspected the strange new neighborhood, “Now I can concentrate on adopting a family who can appreciate a cat with my fine qualities.”

“Pepinilla, come eat your lunch,” called Grandma Nuñez.

So Pickles awoke from her dream, stretched up and then stretched down, and trotted over to her little flowered bowl filled with nice cold milk.

She daintily lapped up her lunch, affectionately rubbed up against the old lady’s legs, and then climbed out the small cat door that Mrs. Nuñez’ grandson, Juanito, had made for her.

After a hard day of patrolling the backyards and the front yards of her three families, Pickles the cat was very, very tired. 

By 11 o’clock it had started to grow chilly, so she watched the news with Lisa’s father Leonard, and spent the night blissfully curled up near the heater in the Weiner’s living room. 

“Pickles is going to school! Pickles the cat is going to school,” sang Lisa, prancing around the kitchen while Pickles ate her breakfast.

“That’s the first I’ve heard about it,” thought Pickles, but just as she was taking her last nibble of kibble, Mrs. Weiner swooped her up and gently deposited her in the cat carrier.

“No!” Pickles cried, “No! No! No! No! No!”

“Oh, Pickles, relax,” said Mrs. Weiner gently, “You’re not going to the vet. Lisa’s kindergarten is having ‘Show and Tell’ and she wants to show you off to all her friends.”

“No!” Pickles cried, “No! No! No! No!”

But her protests didn’t do a bit of good, because they put the carrier on the back seat of their car and drove for what seemed like forever.

When they finally reached the school, the little cat was a nervous wreck. 

To make matters even worse, she had to stay all cooped up while all the other children showed off their hamsters, guppies, and gerbils.

“If this is what they learn at school,” thought Pickles peeking out of a small air hole, “no wonder we cats don’t have to go.”

Finally, Lisa picked up Pickles and proudly showed her around to all her classmates.

“Now this is more like it,” thought Pickles, basking in the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ as the children admired her big green eyes and pretty gray coat.

Then a terrible thing happened.

A very loud bell began ringing and wouldn’t stop.

“Fire drill!” yelled Lisa’s teacher. 

And she made the children put their pets back in their carriers, form a line, and march out the door into the hallway and out onto the school playground.

“Clang-brrrrng-Clang-brrrng-brrrng-brrrrng” rang the alarm, and with every ring Pickles became more afraid.  

Desperately looking  to escape, she jumped out of her box, saw an open window and leaped right out of the classroom. Head down and ears pinned back, she sprinted across the blacktop and right over a chain link fence.

And she didn’t stop running till she found a nice tall tree to scurry up. Then she caught her breath and began to calm down.

For a while Pickles was content to observe the new and fascinating goings on in the strange neighborhood she found herself in. But then she began to get hungry.

Her appetite told her that just about now Grandmother Nuñez would be pouring some delicious cold milk into her dish, and that the kind old lady would be bustling over to the back door to call out to Pickles that her lunch was ready.

“Guess I’d better head home,” thought Pickles.

So the little cat climbed down the tree and trotted off. But after passing block after block of strange houses, it began to dawn on Pickles that she was very lost.

“Shucks,” she thought, “I’m going to miss my afternoon snack.”

Then from out of nowhere some automatic sprinklers snapped on with an angry hiss, sending a fine spray of mist into the late afternoon air.

Pickles leaped high in surprise and, after carefully looking both ways as she had been taught as a kitten, she crossed the street and began to lick her paws dry in the warmth of the setting sun.

“Hmmmm, maybe that’s a clue,” she thought. “The sun always sets about this time right over the Jones’s house. I know because it’s so bright that I have to look away. So if I head towards the sun, I’m positive I’ll get home soon. I certainly don’t want to miss dinner.”

But even though the little cat kept walking towards it, when the sun finally set, Pickles was still nowhere near home.

“Okay, let’s just think of it as a little vacation from those three families of mine,” Pickles thought. True to her cat self, she was trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

But soon she was getting very tired from walking. And as it got later and became darker, she did what any sensible cat would do, which was to find a nice car, still warm from being driven, and crouched underneath it, waiting to see what the night would bring.

And what were the three families doing with their own lives during the absence of Pickles the cat? Well though it might be more interesting to think otherwise, Life went on, as it always does.

Mrs. Nuñez called out for Pickles several times and wondered about her whereabouts, but she knew to be tolerant because cats require a certain amount of independence. The old lady had owned many cats during her long life. She realized there was nothing to be alarmed about if you did not see a cat for two or three days, though after four or five days, there might be cause for concern.

The Jones household was coping pretty well too, with distractions such as the stock market dropping by 900 points, the local professional basketball team stuck in a horrible losing streak, and the fact that Mrs. Jones’s car had developed the habit of making loud noises whenever it came to a stop.

In fact, the only one reallyupset about the disappearance of Pickles was little Lisa Weiner.

Right after the fire drill she searched frantically around the schoolyard for her lost cat. She just couldn’t stop crying, so finally her teacher took pity and allowed her go home for the rest of the day.

“Pickles is gone, little Pickles is gone,” the heartbroken girl sobbed, and though her mother tried to comfort her, nothing could stop the tears.

“Remember that last batch of pictures we printed up, honey? It had a couple of shots of Pickles didn’t it?” asked Mrs. Weiner, trying to calm Lisa down with some meaningful activity.

So they found the snapshots, and sat down at the computer and made a ‘Lost Cat’ flyer printed on neon yellow paper that was so bright nobody could ignore it.

Then off into the twilight they went, and soon every telephone pole and tree from the school to their house had a picture of Pickles on it, with a message to please call the Weiner’s if she happened to be seen.

“Don’t worry, honey, Pickles will be home safe and sound before you know it.”

“But Mommy, what if she’s hungry . . . Or she gets sick?”

“Calm down, Lisa, Pickles is a very smart, self-reliant cat, and she’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself until she finds her way back home.”

They had pizza for dinner that night, and baked a batch of Lisa’s favorite cookies for dessert.

And then it was bedtime.

All the excitement of the day had made Lisa very tired, but in the darkness just before she slipped into Dreamland, she said a little prayer. “Please, dear God,” she whispered, “Watch over little Pickles, and keep her be safe until she comes home to me.” 

At the very same time, green eyes glowing bright as emeralds in the darkness, Pickles the cat was crouching warily under the sheltering car.

Since it is almost impossible to sneak up on a cat, imagine her surprise when a voice right behind her purred “Ahhh, the famous Pickles, I presume?”

The startled little cat spun around and found herself staring right into a giant pair of golden eyes set in a yellow tabby’s face.

Pickles knew by instinct that a cat in strange territory needed to be very careful. She herself fiercely guarded the yards of her three families against invasions by any and all other cats. 

But now she was on somebody else’s turf, and lost too.

“How do you know my name?” asked Pickles. She kept her voice calm and her body language neither too friendly nor too bold until she could determine the stranger’s intentions.

“Listen Pickles,” replied the big yellow cat, ”You are much more famous than you realize. There are posters  and pictures everywhere! All the humans are talking about you. Somebody must want you back home very, very badly.”

“Well, I should hope so,” Pickles said in a sad little voice, “but just how do you propose that I get back home? And what is your name, since we have not yet been properly introduced?”

“They call me Butter Toes,” said the big yellow tomcat. “And as for you getting back to your home, you must first learn the lesson that every truly intelligent cat learns, and that is, ‘A tail is a wonderful thing, but you mustn’t chase it for too long.’”

“Hmmm, that makes perfect sense when you think about it,” mused Pickles, “Because how can you ever move forward if you are always chasing what’s behind you?”

“Now you’re using your noodle, Pickles,” said Butter Toes, “But, hey, you must be starving. After all, you‘ve been on the road for quite a while.”

“Hungry?” said Pickles eagerly. “I could eat a whole tuna.”

“That might be difficult to arrange on such short notice,” purred the yellow cat in amusement, “but since you are just passing through, permit me to share my humble midnight snack with you.”

So under the silvery light of the full moon, Pickles followed him out from under the car, over a big brick fence and into a large backyard. 

On the patio, an enormous yellow bowl that said “Butter Toes” in fancy black writing stood waiting, and it was filled to the brim with delicious food.

“Mmmmm . . . my favorite! Catfish!” exclaimed Pickles with pleasure. 

She tried to be polite, but she was so famished that before she knew it, the whole bowl was nearly devoured.

“Oh Butter Toes, I am so sorry. What happened to my manners? Please, you finish the rest,” she said, backing away courteously.

“Aw, I’ll get more if I meow loud enough. Eat, Pickles, eat till you’re full! You’re gonna need every bit of strength for the journey ahead.”

Butter Toes then led her to a very large and very old oak tree.  

“Sleep up here tonight,” said the kindly yellow giant, “But make sure that you’re  on your way early. It’s gonna to be a scorcher tomorrow, and the pavement will be extra hot.”

“How I can ever repay you,” said the little cat. “I don’t even know where I am, or even if I could ever find this place again.”

“Oh fish-posh,” Butter Toes purred modestly, “When I was a kitten, I got myself lost, too. A big black cat showed me the ropes, and helped me find my way home. Look, you just be nice to some other poor lost puss, and that’s all I ask in return. Now remember your lesson! You will never get anywhere at all by following your tail.  Keep going straight ahead. And when you get to the big red tree, go left, and then left again at the empty field with the four palms. By then you’ll be in familiar territory and you should be able to make your way home. Oh, and watch out for Speed Bumps! 

“Straight ahead, left at the big red tree, and left at the four palms . . . and watch out for the speed bumps,” Pickles repeated. Butter Toes nodded and then, like a miniature mountain lion, he disappeared majestically into the night.

Cradled safely in the sheltering branches of the oak, the exhausted little cat had barely enough energy to wash her face and paws before she fell into a deep, deep sleep. 

And that night Pickles dreamed of her three families. 

She was drinking a delicious bowl of fresh milk while Mrs. Nuñez cooed to her in Spanish. Then she played a game of tag with her friend Brutus the dog. And then little Lisa Weiner was brushing Pickles’ coat to a glorious sheen as they sat together on a wide green lawn. 

But as the first rays of the sun lightened the sky, the little cat awoke. She yawned, stretched and scampered down the tree.

“Enough dreaming,” she said to herself. “Time to go home.”

“Straight ahead, then left at the Big Red Tree, and then left again at the palms…and watch out for the speed bumps,” Pickles repeated over and over again so as not to forget.

When cats are determined, they walk very straight and very quickly, their eyes set on a goal that only they can see.

  So Pickles marched through the cool early morning repeating Butter Toes’ directions. And just to keep from being bored, she invented a little rap song.

It went, 

Well you step straight ahead, 

A-one-two-three 

And then you hang a hard left at that Big Red Tree, 

Which I really hope that we soon shall see. 

Then you stroll along cool and calm,

 And hang a left when you see the four palms

And now, if you please, don’t be a chump…

Be sure to watch out for the speed bumps.” 

The sun rose higher and higher in the sky, and the pavement got hotter and hotter, but the little cat pressed on, stopping only to lap up a few drops of water from a leaky sprinkler when her tiny pink tongue became dry.

And just when she thought she was never ever going to get home, she saw something that made her spirits soar.  There in the distance stood a stately maple tree proudly thrusting its dark red leaves into the sunny blue sky.

“Thank you, Butter Toes,” the relieved little cat whispered to herself, and on she trotted with renewed vigor.

Pickles decided to rest a bit in the shade of a large rose bush that nestled up against a stone fence.

“Just a little cat nap,” thought Pickles, as she curled up into a tight little gray ball. 

When she awoke the sun was still high in the sky, but the worst of the day’s heat had passed.

Refreshed, the little cat started off again, rapping as she walked 

“Well you step straight ahead, 

A-one-two-three

And then you hang a hard left at that Big Red Tree…” 

Soon Pickles approached a large and dusty field, and sure enough, four tall but scraggly palm trees loomed into view. 

So left she turned, and though she didn’t quite recognize anything yet, her senses told her that home was near.

Trotting steadily onward, she began to notice a few familiar things. 

There was a tree she remembered climbing, the house of a family she had once considered adopting, a small sea food market in a mini mall whose fragrant odors were so alluring that she occasionally joined the other neighborhood cats in a vigil for yummy fish scraps.

“Almost home,” thought Pickles. “I’m almost home.”

But suddenly her feline instinct sensed an angry and powerful force rushing towards her.

And a split second later, a horrified voice cried, “Speed Bumps! Speed Bumps! Bad dog! Get back here this instant!”

Just in time, Pickles spun around to see a huge black and tan German Shepherd hurtling towards her like a runaway train.

She leaped high in the air, narrowly avoiding the gleaming white fangs of Speed Bumps as they clamped together with a terrifying snap right where her little gray neck would have been.

And the chase was on.

Pursued by the furiously growling dog, Pickles ran, her tail down, and her little ears pinned back,

Over lawns, through bushes, and around corners she swiveled and swerved. She tried every trick in the cat’s bag of tricks, but she just couldn’t shake her relentless pursuer.

And just as Speed Bumps was closing in for another vicious lunge, the giant Shepherd was knocked right off his feet by an immense brown force that was even bigger, stronger, and angrier than he was.

“Back off, Bumps!” came a growl so low and so fierce that only another animal could understand it.

It was the Jones’s Doberman, her friend Brutus.

The smack of flesh against flesh split the air with a great whummmp. Not giving the German shepherd a moment to think, the huge Doberman threw another crushing body block that flipped Speed Bumps into the air like a rag doll, and then just for good measure Brutus delivered a smart bite right on the tip of the big shepherd’s sensitive nose.

Like all bullies, Speed Bumps never thought about fighting fair. 

Instead, he turned tail and ran. And in his mad dash for cover he nearly knocked over his startled master who was watching the spectacle from the porch. Whimpering softly, bushy tail between his legs, the once-fierce shepherd cowered behind the couch and couldn’t be coaxed outside for days afterwards.

“Brutus, I could kiss you,” breathed the little cat with relief, “I never thought I would be so happy to see a dog in my life.”

“You can relax now, Pickles,” said Brutus, “you’ve got a bodyguard the rest of the way,” and with that, the two animals ambled homeward.

The Weiner’s house, blue and white and friendly, loomed into view, then came the Jones’s big pink residence, and finally at the corner, all cozy, warm and yellow, was the home of the family Nuñez, where just at that exact moment the front door opened and Grandmother Nuñez stepped out on the front porch.

“Holà, Pepinilla, welcome back!” she chirped in a voice that was old but still had much music in it, “You are just in time for your lunch.”

“Now I know I’m home,” thought the little cat. 

And because she was thinking only of the bowl of cool rich milk awaiting her, Pickles the cat did something she had never ever done before, even as a little kitten.

Without first looking both ways, she dashed right out into the street.

Because she had not been careful, she never saw, until the very last second, the bright green delivery van that was barreling down the block.

Pickles, sensing danger out of the corner of her big green eyes tried to hurl herself back out of harm’s way.

And she almost made it, except for her left paw, which was clipped by the van’s front tire.

The driver screeched to a stop, and pandemonium broke loose.

Brutus the dog went absolutely bonkers. He growled and barked and bared his ferocious fangs and would not even let the poor driver get out of the van.

Mrs. Nuñez screamed and came running to aid of the injured little cat.

Mr. Jones was just coming home from work, and witnessed the spectacle of his dog attacking a delivery van, so he jammed on the brakes, leaped from his car, and started pulling his enraged Doberman towards the front door.

Then he saw Pickles lying in the street, being comforted by Grandmother Nuñez.

“Wait right there! Don’t move!“ he yelled, dragging Brutus into the house.

And if that wasn’t enough excitement, at the sound of all the commotion little Lisa Weiner came running out of her house.

“Pickles has been run over,” she cried. “Oh Pickles, Pickles, Pickles.”

But during the crisis, Grandmother Nuñez remained the calmest of all, like an ancient tree that has weathered many a storm.

Kneeling in the street, the old lady gently stroked the injured cat, all the while speaking in a low voice, reassuring Pickles that she was among friends. 

At the same time, she drew little Lisa Weiner to her side so she could see for herself that though Pickles was hurt, she was still very much alive.

“It will be okay, niña,” she said softly, “Please run inside your house and get an old towel and some ice cubes.”

Lisa raced off on her mission, and Mr. Jones came rushing back out. “What the heck do we do now?” he stammered.

Quick as a rocket, Lisa returned, and Mrs. Nuñez carefully wrapped the injured paw of Pickles the cat in an old pink towel packed with ice.

“Let’s get her to a vet immediately,” said the old lady.

“I’m coming too,” Lisa piped in, and as Mr. Jones drove his big blue car to the vet’s office, she sat in the back with Grandmother Nuñez, and together they took turns comforting Pickles.

“No, no, no” said Pickles, because it was the only word she knew in both English and Spanish, so she kept on saying it all the way there.

“Ohhh, Pickles,” said the nurse, “What happened?”

“What does it look like? That I dropped in for a manicure and teeth cleaning?” Pickles thought, trying to keep her composure.

Her poor paw was throbbing with more pain than she had ever felt in her life, and she finally gave in to it against her will. 

“Ow…ow…owww…Owwww!” she cried. And this made little Lisa Weiner start crying too, and that got Mr. Jones yelling “Where the heck’s that vet? We got an injured animal here.”

Just then, Dr. Wing appeared in a white lab coat, looking calm and cool. “Let’s have a look at that paw, Pickles old girl,” he said in a kindly voice.

“Now relax, but let me know if I’m hurting you. Hmmmm,” he said, gently testing “Hmmmm . . . hmmmm . . . hmmmm…”

“What are you, some kind of a hummingbird,” Pickles thought in irritation.

Just then the vet squeezed her paw in a particularly tender spot that made Pickles go  “Yeeeowwwwww!!!”

“Aha . . . fracture! And a major one, too,” Dr. Wing said seriously.

“Will she live, Doctor?” sobbed Lisa Weiner right on the verge of hysterics, “You won’t have to put her to sleep will you?”

“Calm down, niña,” said Mrs. Nuñez, “I am sure that the doctor will do his best.”

Leaving the scared little cat in the care of his nurse, Dr. Wing gathered Mrs. Nuñez, Mr. Jones and Lisa together for a conference.

“The paw is badly damaged. If Pickles is ever to walk normally again, it could cost a lot of money. And you can never tell for sure how a cat will make it through surgery, so there are no guarantees. I advise you to think about the expense very carefully.”

Mrs. Nuñez was not a rich woman, but without hesitation she said “I do not have very much, but I will pay as much as I can.”

“And I will give you every single penny of my allowance until I’m all grown up,” promised little Lisa Weiner, crossing her heart to show that she really meant it.

But Mr. Jones was the one who saved the day. 

He waved them both off and handed Dr. Wing a shiny gold credit card.

“Whatever it takes, Doc, just do it.” 

“I will do my very best,” Dr. Wing said as he walked through a pair of green swinging doors with his nurse in tow, the scared little cat cradled in her arms.

So Lisa, Mr. Jones and Grandmother Nuñez sat together nervously in the waiting room. And even though they had lived so very near each other for years, this was the first time that they’d ever had the chance to get to know one another.

“Well I’ll be danged …” said Mr. Jones after a few minutes “In a million years I never thought I’d spend that much money on a cat. Especially one that isn’t even all mine.”

“But one can never really own a cat,” mused Mrs. Nuñez “They are the most independent of all creatures. Perhaps that is why we humans admire them so much.”

“And I thought that Pickles was just my cat,” said little Lisa Weiner in her high voice, “I never knew that she had two other families. How does she get along with that big Doberman of yours?”

“Oh they fight just like cats and dogs,” said Mr. Jones, and because it was such a silly thing to say he started to giggle.

Then Lisa began to laugh and so did Mrs. Nuñez, and her laugh was as rich and clear as an old church bell.

And they laughed and laughed until the tears rolled down from their eyes. Then they began swapping stories about their experiences with Pickles, and little by little they started talking about their families and about themselves and before they knew it, they had become friends.

And what, you might ask, was happening to Pickles the cat while her three families were getting to know one another?

Well, as soon as he got behind those swinging green doors, Dr. Wing underwent a complete change of personality.

As he prepared to operate on the little cat, he dropped his dry and serious demeanor and began making the most outrageously terrible jokes.

“This is going to hurt you a lot more than it’s going to hurt me,” he chuckled.” Not! Ahhh, the paws that refreshes? Would you like a cola, Miss Pickles?”

“They’re letting a clown operate on me,” thought Pickles, little realizing that Dr. Wing’s silly brand of humor was really meant to put her at ease.

Soon enough, the little cat was feeling no pain at all, thanks to the shot that the nurse had given her.

And though her cat’s curiosity made her want to observe all the fascinating procedures Dr. Wing was performing on her paw, she soon found herself becoming sleepier and sleepier

Her cat’s mind became fuzzy and floaty, and soon she was dreaming away.

While she slept, Dr. Wing completed the complex operation.  

Suddenly the green doors swung open, and the three nervous owners looked up expectantly.

“I have some good news,” Dr.Wing began. “The operation was quite successful. Pickles should recover …IF you can keep her quiet and off her feet for a month, which is very much against a cat’s nature.”

“And how does the doctor suggest that we change the nature of a cat?” asked Mrs. Nunez.

“Simple,” said Dr. Wing “You must make her feel very, very loved at all times.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

Each one of her families took turns caring for Pickles during the difficult recovery period, during which time they became better neighbors.

And about a month after the accident, the little cat finally had her cast removed. 

Dr. Wing’s eyes widened in amazement as he inspected her white tipped paw.

“An injury like this healing so perfectly is quite extraordinary,” he said. “You must all love Pickles very much.”

And when she returned home they threw a big ‘Welcome Home’ party, and everybody from each of her three families was in attendance to celebrate, even Brutus the dog.

And what a feast they had!

Mrs. Jones brought a huge bowl of collard greens and giant pan of the best cornbread anyone had ever tasted.

Little Lisa Weiner and her Mom brought a large tureen of chicken matzo ball soup, and Mrs. Nuñez’s grandson Juanito looked very serious indeed as he carried two immense platters filled with her very special (and very spicy) tamales. 

Sitting in the seat of honor, a plush purple pillow, Pickles the cat gazed around and watched her three families chatting, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying each other’s company.

And her big green eyes shone in contentment.

“This is so wonderful,” she thought. “My three families are each so different in the way they live their lives. But look how nicely they get along together now that they know each other. If they keep behaving so well, I suppose I’ll just have to keep them.”

Bio

Michael Jaye was born in Detroit and moved to Los Angeles with his parents when he was 6.

Attending UCLA, he earned a B.A. in English Literature and a M.J. in Television Journalism.

After college he spent time in England and Europe. But his plans to relocate there were abandoned after he realized there were enough Englishmen and Europeans to go around.

He worked briefly in radio news, and then became an advertising copywriter doing campaigns for toys, tires, theme parks and underwear.

Always a music lover, Michael took a class in jingle writing where he was encouraged by the teacher, and decided to segue into music as a career, while still accepting the odd journalism gigs for the likes of  The Quietus, the L.A. Times, and Rolling Stone.

He is married to Abbe Kanter Jaye. In the 80s, they formed the seminal L.A. punk cabaret group Tyrants in Therapy, and have released 18 records.

They reside in the San Fernando Valley, and the Pickles story was inspired by their first cat.

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Nancy Scott-McBride

AFTER THE FALL

Why do we get so hung-up on the apple?

The apple and the snake, for Heaven’s sake.

They weren’t important, you know.

Not really.

And it could have been something else.

Think about it.

For instance, God might have said “Don’t

cross that river or don’t climb that hill,”

or don’t do any number of things we wanted to do.

The point is, He told us not to do something,

but we did it anyway and now here we are,

poisoning the planet and dying of the flu.

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Bobbie Troy

Bobbie Troy  

Siblings

by Bobbie Troy

I lost a sister to suicide

I lost a brother to his own

self-absorption

I don’t know

which was more difficult

Love Comes to Us

love comes to us

in many forms

like a soothing summer breeze

with its warmth and calm

like a surge within

that captures your heart before you know it

and everything in between

embrace the romance and the rapture

so they will always supersede routine

make each day totally yours to share

and carry through your private eternity

hold each other every day and every night

as if the world would stop without that touch

for love, above all else, with its magic and its mystery

will make you complete

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John Tussin

SUNDAY NIGHT  

My father is threatening her

And my mother is screaming at him

In the fluorescent linoleum 1980 kitchen

Sunday night

As my brother bangs his head

Into the bedroom wall upstairs.

I sit in the dark

And think of somewhere else.

I am nine years old.

I open the window,

Wings sprout from my back

And I’m out of that place.

I melt into the night

And its sounds and otherworldly visage.

And now,

Here I am

Writing in the Sunday night

As Monday morning approaches

Nearly 30 years later

After the Sunday night fights

With the wife

And I think, “where will my children

Fly off to

When they are old enough to see and hear

And open their bedroom window

In the endless static night?”

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Nancy Scott-McBride

GIRL CHILDREN

We hadn’t been wanted,

my sister and me.

Mother let us know that.

We’d been mistakes, she hinted,

when they had been trying for boys.

In her defense,

she’d been dis-counted as a child.

Though smarter, stronger and more talented

than her brother, she’d gone to work in a

button factory while he studied medicine.

She did her best for us,

dressing us in pretty clothes

and urging us to marry well.

But she hadn’t been able to love us,

so our self-esteem was low.

But everything’s different now, isn’t it?

Girls are being wanted and loved.

They’re being urged to take their rightful

place in the world, to make their mark on it,

and to come into their own.

And my sister and me?

Well, we’re old ladies now, of course,

set in our ways and wary of change.

But we’re learning and we’re trying,

and it gets a little easier every day.

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Bradford Middleton

TONIGHT THE WORDS COME TO SAVE ME

Another night closing in on midnight and

This time around I just got out of work and

Wine and smoke and a blessed day off tomorrow

Mean tonight i can sit back, enjoy this time

And get back to the words

Which i’m convinced have come to save me.

The wine, cheap and always nasty, soothes

Me tonight as i feel the stress of this life

Just falling away leaving me ready to face

Yet another new day when, again, with no

Work and no life tasks to do i can just wake

And get back on the crazy words of this life.

—————————— 

BIOGRAPHY

Bradford Middleton lives in Brighton on England’s south-coast.  He was born in London in the long hot summer of 1971 and began writing poetry aged 35 when he landed in Brighton not knowing anyone and with no money.  He’s recently been battling with a second draft of a new novel he began at the start of 2020 and hopes that someone somewhere will get to read it soon.  Follow him on Facebook @bradfordmiddleton1 if you like.

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Laura Zucca-Scott

Grandpa Raimondo

(from my father’s memories)

My Grandpa Raimondo

always dressed nicely with

a freshly pressed shirt and dress pants

He smelled of mint aftershave and sunshine

He picked me up every Saturday

to go for a walk and I grabbed

my red pedal car ready to go

the moment I heard his booming voice

at the front door talking with my dad

He told me endless stories

as we went down the avenues

the tall oak trees shading us

from the spring sun

We left flowers at the statue

that remembered the many soldiers                                                                                 

who died in the wars,

some long forgotten

My Grandpa said,

When I will be gone

you will remember

not with sadness

but with love and joy

On our way back

I was always tired

From riding so far

He just smiled and

changed his grip on his cane

and with it he pushed me

all the way back home

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John Tussin

Held

The wind picks off and spins the tremulous leaf,

carelessly guided,

decided,

down to the river.

The river rages at the leaf,

the leaf lands in the foam and

 the gurgle

and the sticks

and the other leaves

and damns the damn river up

at last.

It would take death

to unclog it.

The river raged in brilliance,

noise and insanity for

centuries,

and the wind delivered

the garbage of nature’s years;

turned the roar to a yelp,

to a trickle,

to a closed spigot.

It would take death

to unclog it.

The wind is an unloving god,

the leaves obeying dogs,

the river a downed animal

baying in pain,

plotting in vain.

Held. 

The river is still and silent,

rising, receding

on some whim.

The leaf molders

in its crumpled stagnancy.

The wind breathes on,

petulant,

arrogant,

holding the scent of flowers,

the winged insects, the birds,

the surely dying

in midflight.

The river is chilled,

cowed by the wind’s dominance

as winter descends

and it carries the snow

and magnifies the sun

and brings the carnage

of ice, of white,

of nothingness.

Everything is held.

It would take death

to release it.

John Tustin has appeared in many disparate literary journals in the last dozen years and his published poetry can be found at fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry.

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