Saturday, October 29, 2011

Jack of the Lanterns

Jack of the Lanterns
It was a day like the others,
But the sea was at rest,
The crew was getting restless,
Including Lady Pen in the nest,
It seemed days since we had rum,
“Captain Jack,” said I so bold,
“I can almost hear a distant drum,
Someplace where there’s lots of gold,”
“Aye,” he muttered, “we need to find,
Something to do to distract their minds,”
“Captain, if I may humbly suggest,
Bring Lady Pen down from the nest,
I heard her talking to one of the crew,
She had some ideas on what to do,”
Now Jack don’t take to ideas quick,
But he knew Pen’s ideas would be slick,
He grabbed one of the men by the arm,
“Tell Pen to see me, but no need for alarm,”
She looked a bit worried, timid she be,
As she climbed down she glared at me,
“Did this tar say something, he’s worthless you see,”
She smiled provocatively at Jack, and batted her eyes,
“I’m ready for duty, you can count on me,”
“Lady Pen, I need some ideas to stir up this crew,
I need them fast, I feel trouble starting to brew,”
“Captain,” she said with a twinkle in her eye,
“I’ve been thinking while up in the sky,
If our flag was different than any other ship,
You’d become famous, Edward Teach would flip,”
And I have ideas about decorating and such,
The world would love us and it wouldn’t cost much,”
“Ah, Lady Pen,” said Jack with a twinkle in his eye,
“You’ve turned out to be a special kind of guy,”
With scissors and thread she started the flag,
With bits of clothing, curtains, and rags,
She’d requested some gourds when we found land,
Gave no explanation that the Captain could understand,
She toiled without stopping until she was done,
“Captain,” she said, “Now, let’s have some fun,”
The Jolly Roger came down, a pumpkin flag was raised,
The crew was perplexed and partially dazed,
The gourds were carved with precision and care,
All had smiles, but an evil stare,
“These gourds will be lanterns to guide us at night,
And the evil faces will give others a fright,”
Candles were lit and placed in each gourd,
“I’ll reward you handsomely,” said Jack, “you have my word,”
The ships demeanor changed, it was eerily strange,
Ships surrendered before we got into range,
As we boarded ships that we found,
Jack would call out, “Put your arms down,”
“Give us your gold and something to eat,
And no tricks we’ll play as we take our treats,”
It wasn’t long before the word spread,
That a great pirate ship was one to dread,
It was filled with spirits with evil grins,
It never loses and always wins,
Captain Kidd, Teach, and others heard of its fame,
And Pen was selected to give it a permanent name,
“Jack’s lanterns, to her just made sense,
And jack o’lanterns  have been called that hence,
Even now should you on the open sea be cast,
And a pumpkin flag is flying near the mast,
Look closely at the Lady dressed prim and neat,
Her eyes will be glowing as you close in to greet,
And beside her will be a captain, Jack be his name,
Take them seriously when they say, “Trick or Treat!”
Many a ship has been plundered out at sea,
I wouldn’t want that to happen to you or me,
When jack o’lanterns be smiling with an evil grin,
Be aware of the danger you could be in,
Should you be courteous especially to Pen,
Their hospitality is fabulous for all their friends.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Troubled Sleep

When dreams carry me far,

Connecting life's reality to distant star,

It is then I find answers to my fears,

Or discover what I hold dear,

Lost memories stroll two and three,

Reminding me how it used to be,

Am I awake or in a dream,

Caught forever in a wayward scheme,

My needs, my wants, my heart's desires,

Struggling between ice and raging fires,

My fantasies are not long to keep,

As I drift back into troubled sleep,

My muse tugs impatiently at my mind,

"Wake up! There are worlds to find,

Time is fleeting as you sleep,

And you have promises to keep,

Stories that have risen from the deep,

Must be captured for the world to keep,

You don't really need to sleep,"

Weary from travels within my head,

Miserably I stumble from my bed,

No reason to argue with my muse,

That's a battle I always lose,

For gentle thoughts become a crowd,

Their cries to be heard grow very loud,

And where is this wisp called sleep,

It was released early, not mine to keep.

"I'll Promise You This"

A cloudburst in summer,

Soaked to the skin,

My heart is melting,

“Won’t you please let me in?”

A blizzard in winter,

I’m frozen to the core,

My love is ready,

“Won’t you open the door?”

The flaming leaves of autumn,

Are starting to fall,

How long must I wait,

“Don’t you love me at all?”

When the birds are returning,

At the greening of spring,

I’ll tell you, “I love you,”

And give you a ring,

My heart is broken,

But I’ll promise you this,

I’ll dance at your wedding,

And give you a kiss,

If my dreams were real,

As real as could be,

I’d enjoy the four seasons,

Having you here with me.

The Destination Is Up to You

The sails of his ship were made

 From butterfly wings,

He conquered the imaginations,

Of poets and kings,

He shared his adventures

About lands far away,

Then he caught a passing breeze,

And floated to a secret bay,

My small universe expanded,

A trickle became a flood,

The stories he told,

Now run in my blood,

I’ve set my course to reach,

Just one distant star,

And fill my notes with memories,

Of things as they are,

When I return to this earth,

My travels I will share,

You may choose to soar with me,

If you take the dare,

Somewhere there is a forgotten land,

I’ll need to take a look,

And you with your writer’s eye,

Can describe it in a book,

For not all get the chance,

To see all that we shall see,

If you write with words that live,

Those worlds will become reality,

Take the helm of this ancient ship,

And let your imagination play,

If I had clung to this earth,

I wouldn’t be here today,

These sails are woven,

 From butterfly wings,

And covered with stories,

From poets and kings,

I’ve sailed the oceans blue,

There’s nothing this ship can’t do,

Just steer for a distant star,

The destination is up to you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Just Like Me"

She read to the birds once a day,

It was her way,

Of saying thanks for all they’d done,

They made life fun,

Bluebirds and sparrows at her feet,

They took a seat,

Listening intently to the stories she read,

About pieces of bread,

That Hansel and Gretel dropped on the path,

Hoping to escape the wrath,

Of the stepmother and find the way back,

But they lost track,

Birds had eaten every single piece of bread,

And now as she read,

The audience of birds had gathered from the sky,

Some had already begun to cry,

“That’s such a sad story,” said one with shame,

“It’s true, birds were to blame,”

“Don’t you fret, my dears,” she said with a smile,

“The ending is happy after awhile,”

“Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Snow White,

So have a good night,”

“And bring me some of your songs to sing,

Just any pretty thing,”

“I want to share songs that you’ve taught me,

About the wind, the sun, and the honey bee,”

“Your songs could bring joy to girls and boys,

They might forget their toys,

And discover how much is in this world to see,

And learn to love it just like me.”


Suffering is unique for me and you,

I haven’t experienced what you’re going through,

I don’t know the depth of your pain,

Be patient, I’m trying your perspective to gain,

The migraines that don’t allow you to stand,

I’ve never experienced them and I don’t understand,

I’m trying my best to know what to do,

I don’t have answers for the agony you go through,

I’m trying to ponder who handles suffering well,

Is it someone who’s already seen one side of hell,  

Someone who’s had everything taken away,

And still smile and say, “It’s a wonderful day!”

Or a person with cancer who continues to pray,

“Thank you, Lord, for each bonus day,”

I told my children, “In life you’ll have choices,

Surround yourself with those who have wise voices,”

And when you run and scrape your knee,

To ease your pain right there I’ll be,

Bad things might happen so learn to be tough,

Because life isn’t perfect, it can be rough,

I can’t fix your problems but I can ease your pain,

And I’ll be there to help you get up again,”

I wonder if my answers match my own life,

Do my answers hold true when I face strife,

Do I blame someone when life knocks me down,

What part of my misery is shared with those around,

Did my bad choices create my own pain,

Does my anguish count for loss or gain,

Is my trouble because of evil or good,

What part of my distress is misunderstood,

If I use my own sorrows to help me grow,

I’ll understand you better for now I know,

If being there to listen will ease your pain,

I’ll listen and help you get up again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Soul Catcher

It was an evening ritual,

One that was surreal,

One that made her senses reel,

She was ready when her phone rang,

Strident and demanding, loudly it sang,

He whispered, “Answer it.  It’s just me,”

She did not want to recognize his voice,

But the second time he whispered,

She had no choice,

“Answer it.  Pick up your phone,

I won’t tell anyone you’re all alone,”

“Who is this?” she said loudly,

But he said nothing, for his power,

Would be gone that very hour,

If he let her control his name,

He continued with his game,

“Seduce someone if you will,

I’ll just watch and get my thrill,

I’m not flesh and blood like you,

But I enjoy all the things you do,”

At first it was a thought, then her dreams,

He tore her future apart, seam by seam,

At first the night life was fun and energizing,

Then all the pleasures became paralyzing,

They were like a stream,

Then a flood,

For she was not struggling,

Against flesh and blood,

He was constantly urging,

Discovering her weakness,

Dashing here, creeping there,

Brushing away a lock of hair,

Once she had seen through his disguise,

Seen his fiery, glaring eyes,

With her peripheral vision she knew,

He was watching her too,

“An illusion,” that’s all,

“There are no demons that tall,”

A figment of her imagination,

And thus it went, day in and day out,

In the evenings and dark of night,

He carefully kept her in his sight,

When she was relaxed with her guard down,

He was watching and waiting,

Not for her flesh that made her whole,

He was waiting to catch her soul.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Ephesians 6:12

The Coin (Conclusion)

Reggie waited confidently by the river.  There was no point chasing Vanna.  The coin would bring her to him.  She would know it was their fate to meet and interact.  Reggie was sure she would think he was on the run, afraid of her and the coin.   But she would not know this was a trap. The coin would not warn her in time.  Reggie knew the coin had powers over people and Vanna controlled it. That’s why she would be overconfident until it was too late.

Reggie had a secret.  The coin’s powers would work for Vanna while it was in her possession unless….someone had control of the rest of the coin collection.  Fortunately he still had the collection and it was nearby, locked in his car. He The collection was nearby so the powers would be stronger. She would walk right past it and never know.    When she was least expecting it, the coin’s powers would be turned against her.

Reggie stayed in the shadows where he was less likely to be noticed.  He wanted to surprise Vanna.  If she was accidentally alerted by someone, Reggie wasn’t sure how she would react, or for that matter, how the coin would react.  The situation could get ugly.

Two young men loitered by a bar on a nearby street.  Reggie wondered if they were looking for an easy mark, someone tipsy or alone.  He hoped they would leave soon and be out of the way.  If not, he would have to take matters in his own hands. 

Vanna arrived later than Reggie expected.  He was tense and irritable and eager for a confrontation.  The two men were still there, apparently unaware of him, staying close to a streetlight.  Reggie was tired of waiting and ready to make their lives uncomfortable.

He had almost given up and was sliding out of the shadows when a bus stopped at a corner two blocks away.   A woman got off and the bus pulled away.  Reggie knew it was Vanna even before she turned and walked towards the river.

A woman alone was easy prey.  He could feel the men’s excitement increasing.  He wasn’t worried because he knew she had the coin and at any time she could unleash its powers against them.  He was uneasy about letting others crash his party,  but he decided to relax and enjoy the show.

Vanna stopped and talked to the young men.  That was unexpected. They didn’t follow her which also surprised Reggie.  They stood there for a few seconds surveying the scene, trying to determine if they were being watched or followed, before disappearing into the darkness.  Reggie decided the coin had worked its magic and they wouldn’t be a problem.

 Reggie was concentrating on Vanna and the coin because its power was zeroing in, challenging his authority.  Because his attention was diverted the sound of  breaking glass never registered, and he never dreamed that the two young men would ransack his car.

 Vanna stopped a few yards away and called out, “Reggie! I know you’re there.  Come out!  Don’t make me use the coin’s powers.”

He laughed.  ”Vanna, you don’t have as much power as you think.  The coin is mine and will do anything I demand of it.”

Her knees were weak and her stomach was churning.  The coin was vibrating and she felt her control weakening.

“Just like before, Vanna.  You’ll do what I want.” 

She stared at him for several seconds and then began slowly gyrating, dancing to music she remembered from before.  Reggie urged her on.  “Keep going, baby.  Feel the rhythm.” 

She wanted to resist but resistance was futile.  Unbuttoning her blouse as she danced, she watched Reggie. There was no change in his expression but she could feel his hatred turning into indifference.

At first she was chilled by his expression and the cool breeze coming from the river.  Then a strange warmth began in the pit of her stomach.  The warmth came in waves, each wave increasingly invasive.  She hated him and yet she was beginning to want him, feeling love in spite of her hatred of all he had done.  She continued to dance for him until she stood before him naked and waiting, obediently ready his next command. 

The coin, still clutched in her hand, began to vibrate.  She took several steps back and pressed her hands to her head.  The trance was broken.  Suddenly she looked up and defiantly said, “Where are your powers, Reggie?  Did you lose them?”

Reggie stared in disbelief.  “Don’t even try, Vanna,” he snapped.  “Do you really want to challenge me?  Vanna,” he ordered, “go jump in the river.  It’s time for you to go.”   

She ignored him and began getting dressed.

Reggie was losing his self control.  “What did you do?   Where is my collection?”

He noticed the two young men standing nearby.  “This is your chance!” he shouted. “I won’t stop you whatever you do. She’s yours for the taking.”

“Reggie,” one man said, “you don’t have power over us anymore.”

Reggie’s eyes narrowed as he recognized one of the men.  “Karl, where is my collection?”

“I put it in a safe place for Vanna.  I trust her. She is in charge now,” Karl responded.  “She can answer your questions.”

“Vanna, give me my collection and I’ll let you go,” Reggie gasped.

“Reggie, it’s too late for you.  You won’t hurt anyone ever again.  Karl found the collection and it’s in my possession.  You wanted me to die in the river.  I’ve decided you can take my place.” 

Vanna rubbed the coin.  Reggie backed down the levee bank and stood ankle deep in the water.  “Vanna, please,” Reggie begged. 

She rubbed the coin again.  Reggie’s hands gripped his throat and he fell to his knees.  He gasped twice and then pitched backward into the current.  He was visible only for a moment before he sank into the darkness.

Vanna turned to her brother.  “It’s over, Karl.  Now you’ll have to get your life in order.  You can’t continue being with a gang and living on the edge.  The coin will turn against you if you forget. Now you and your friend go home.  No more trouble.  Understand?”

Karl knew she was right and he knew he had no options.  She would be in charge and life would be different.

When she returned to the apartment there were several messages from George.  She didn’t want to deal with his probing questions or even to talk to him.  She didn’t feel the same towards him. Yet George was persistent and one evening she found him waiting at her front door. 

“You don’t want to see me, George,” she warned.  “I’m not the same person you knew.  So much has changed since I last saw you.”

“I don’t care,” he insisted. “Whatever you’ve done or wherever you’ve been does not matter to me.  I don’t want to know unless you want to share.  All I know is that I can’t live without you.  I love you, Vanna.  I always have and I always will.”

His arms surrounded her but she pushed away.  His arms were too confining and reminded her of the humiliation and torture she had endured and the conflicting moments of pleasure.  Could she forget any of that?  Could she ever be a good wife and mother?  George would expect life to be orderly and under his control.  She had gained her independence and it was too soon to give it up.

She looked into his eyes and said, “I’m not ready to make any commitment.  Give me some time.  You deserve someone special.”

“Vanna, you’re the one I want.  I’ll take care of you.  Get those silly notions about being independent out of your head.  I’m disappointed that you don’t want to have a life together.  You’ll change your mind.” He grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the door.   “You’re going with me to the priest right now and we’re going to say our vows.  You’ve been brainwashed by someone.  You’ll be straightened out in no time.”

“Let go of my arm!”  Her tone got his attention.  “I said, let go of my arm!”

“You’re different,” he said, “but you’re mine and you’ll do what I tell you.”

She rubbed the coin and George fell to the floor temporarily paralyzed.  “Don’t ever touch me again without my permission. You don’t own me and you never have.  I’m not a possession. Stay away from me unless I decide you can be in my life.  Do you understand?”

 Perhaps the only way he could learn was a simple jolt that would shake him to the core.  She waited a few moments before releasing the power that held him.

“Go, George.  Someday we might work as a team, but for now I have my doubts.”  She would have preferred a less harsh way of dealing with him.  That door to her past was closed and George was probably gone from her life.

Vanna knew her life would be going in new directions.  She was not timid or obedient anymore.  She was ready for excitement and with the coin in her possession she would turn her neighborhood around and make it safe again for families.  For now, she had much work to do.

The Coin (Part 9)

The Coin  (Part 9)

Vanna was emotionally drained and ready to abort the mission even though two of her original targets were left.  Reggie was one, but the other person she didn’t know.  She was afraid of Reggie and she knew something had to be done about him.  The other man was a mystery and she didn’t want him killed. Her anger had dissipated long before the judge had died.

 In spite of her reluctance the coin had become active and was willing her on again.  Its mission and her mission seemed to be going in different directions.  Where was she heading now?  She didn’t like having blind faith in a coin, especially one she couldn’t control. She was glad when the coin directed her to a bus going out of the city.  Maybe the killing was over.

The bus stopped several times to pick up riders or let them off.  When the bus stopped at a small mall in the suburbs the coin began vibrating again.  Vanna was surprised because the location seemed so unlike the bustling downtown office building or the court house.

She disembarked in front of a small grocery store and looked around.  The stores and businesses were mostly chain stores and unpretentious. The parking lots were almost full and people were arriving and leaving.  Two security police cars patrolled the lots while two security cops strolled through the mall.  With all the things that had taken place Vanna felt safer knowing they were there.

Suddenly two men burst out of one of the stores, each carrying a bag and waving a gun.  “Get out of our way!” one man yelled. 

A clerk emerged from the store.  “Stop them!” he yelled.  One of the gunmen turned and fired but the clerk jumped back inside unscathed. 

Vanna realized the men were running in her direction.  She wanted to dash into a store but she stood frozen.  The one in the lead grabbed her arm and spun her around.  Vanna’s purse swung out and up, catching the second gunman by surprise and throwing him off balance.  His head hit the pavement and he lay still.

The other robber stood there, momentarily shocked by the turn of events.  Without thinking, Vanna drove her knee into his groin.  He collapsed to his knees next to his accomplice.  Vanna stepped back, watching the man, knowing he still clutched a gun. 

Recovering quickly, he staggered to his feet and raised his gun.  His eyes met hers.  Her eyes widened in recognition as one thought raced through her mind.  “They’re just boys and this one is my brother!”

“Karl, what are you doing?” she hissed through clenched teeth. 

“You shouldn’t be here interfering, Vanna!” he snapped.  His eyes hardened and he pointed the gun at her.  “Goodbye, sister,” he said slowly.  

 She heard two shots and closed her eyes. Expecting pain, Vanna waited for the agony but nothing changed.  Death must have been swift.  She opened her eyes and realized that nothing had happened to her.  Karl stood there, his eyes unfocused and his face pale. Vanna watched in horror as blood dripped from his arm.

The other boy clambered to his feet and put his arm around Karl’s shoulder. “Come on, Karl! Let’s get out of here!”

 With a quick meaningful glance at Vanna, Karl warned weakly, “Don’t say nothing!”  Then he followed his friend into one of the shops and out the back. 

A mall security coop ran towards her yelling excitedly, “I got him! I got him! I can see drops of blood!” He was right.  Spots of blood marked a clear trail, one that the police could follow later.

Ten minutes later two squad cars and an unmarked car pulled up to the main entrance of the mall.  While policemen secured the area and looked for any gunmen or victims, detectives began taking statements.  “Lady,” a detective said, “You’re both a hero and very lucky.  You could have been killed.” 

She mulled over what the detective said and realized he was right.  During this whole time the coin had been still.  It had not protected her. 

The coin stirred and began vibrating.  Her head ached and her knee was throbbing.  She knew she couldn’t chase after Karl.  He would only become angrier.  She would have to wait until he calmed down.  He might listen to her then, if he went home, and if he could get home.

Vanna hobbled over and leaned against a wall.  She noticed the name “Sports Therapy” on a nearby door.  A man came out and looked around nervously.  “Miss, are you all right?” 

“My knee hurts.”

“Come inside and I’ll check it out.”  He extended his hand.  “I guess I should introduce myself first.  I’m Steve.  I’m a physical therapist.”

Vanna followed him inside and sat on the edge of a bench.  At his direction she flexed her knee forward and backward.  “You’ll probably have a bruise but I see no swelling. Don’t get up yet.  I’ll get some ice.”

Vanna looked around the room.  Various kinds of equipment were spaced strategically.  There were weight machines, a stationary bicycle, other benches that were fitted with sheets and pillows, large elastic bands, and other equipment she couldn’t identify.

Her gaze settled on a framed picture on a desk nearby. “Is that your family?” she asked when he returned.

Steve smiled.  “Yes.  My wife, my son, and my two daughters.”

As he placed a towel filled with ice around her knee she noticed a small tattoo. Suddenly she knew why she was there. Her thoughts raced. “He had helped her.  He had a family.  She didn’t need or want revenge anymore. She needed to go and find her brother. How could she have forgotten him?”

The coin was humming.  “No!”  Vanna stated emphatically.  “No!”  This has gone far enough!” But already the coin was out of her control.

Steve looked at her oddly.  “Did you hit your head or get bumped outside?  Lady, I think your knee will be fine.  I think you should go now.”

He took the ice pack and hurried her towards the door.  The mall was quiet.   Yellow tape stretched around the crime scene and police swarmed everywhere.

Off to her left a man stepped back into the shadows and she had the impression he was avoiding her.  Even so, he was vaguely familiar. 

In front of her a security cop twirled his gun as he told anyone within listening range the story of his heroic act.  One of the detectives looked disgusted.  “Put your gun away, George, before you hurt someone.”

George twirled it one more time.  The gun slipped from his hand, fell to the concrete, and fired.

Steve followed Vanna to the door and as she stepped outside Steve unexpectedly gave her a push.  As she tumbled to the side the bullet from George’s gun whizzed by and struck Steve in the chest.

The world stopped for an instant.  Vanna watched horrified as the police raced to the stricken man. There was little they could do as his life ebbed away.

The police turned their attention to the security cop.  As they led him away he began crying, “It was an accident.  Something knocked the gun out of my hand.  I didn’t mean to do it!”

Vanna knew he was right.  The coin had killed Steve. She shivered as other questions began popping up and nagging her.  “Was Steve the real target?  The bullet had barely missed her. Was the coin working for her or against her? Was it a coincidence that Karl and the coin picked this mall?  And finally, was that Reggie she saw step back into the shadows?”  Vanna had much to think about and she had to get answers quickly if she wanted to stop any more violence.  Or if she wanted to survive.

(To be continued)


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