Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 ·
22 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
Copyright © 2012 Arizona Authors Association
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Arizona Literary Magazine
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Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 3
Arizona Literary Magazine
Proudly Presents the
Arizona Authors Association
Annual Literary Awards
44 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
An active member of AZ Authors since
1994, Toby Heathcotte ran the contest for
seven years and now serves as
president. She coordinates projects and
activities that support and serve the
membership and the writing
community statewide. Her fiction
titles include The Alma Chronicles:
Alison’s Legacy, Lainn’s Destiny,
Angie’s Promise, Luke’s Covenant, and The Comet’s
Return. Nonfiction titles now in print are “The Manuscript
from the Mystifying Source” in How I Wrote My First Boo;,
Out of the Psychic Closet: The Quest to Trust my True
Nature; Program Building: A Practical Guide for High School
Speech & Drama Teachers. Her books have won EPIC, Global
eBook, and San Diego book awards. Read her blog at
Elizabeth Blake has written a memoir about
her experiences teaching inner-city students
entitled No Child Left Behind? The true story
of a teacher’s quest. She also edited a Kindle
book of forty-two true short stories called
How I Met My Spouse. Many of her short
stories about her family have been published
in various magazines. Her first fiction e-novel,
written under the name Beth Blake, is
published by Keith Publications and is called Shelter of Love.
She lives in Peoria, AZ with her husband.
By day, SCOTT JONES is an Investment
Representative for Edward Jones and
has his own office in Sedona. Scott
writes children’s books. Author of
Lilly, the Adventure Begins, he is cur-rently
working on the second book of
the series. Vice President of the Ari-zona
Authors Association, he loves to
write for children, as they are honest
and ready to explore new worlds
More at www.lillysbooks.com.
Scott Jones................VIP & Contest Coordinator
Elizabeth Blake..........Literary Magazine Editor &
Vijaya Schartz.................................Web Mistress
Sandra E Bowen & Terry Smith........Membership
Jeri Castronova....................High Country Liaison
Allan J. Ashinoff........................Newsletter Editor
Jan Cleere & Barb Marriott..Tucson Coordinators
Martin Brown......................Banquet Coordinator
The Arizona Literary Magazine
is published each fall
Arizona Authors Association
6145 W. Echo Lane
Glendale, AZ 85302
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 5
1st Prize: Who is That Laughing?
2nd Prize: Who’s Directing This Mess?
3rd Prize: The Country School
1st Prize: Ode to Autumn
Jia Oak Baker...................19
2nd Prize: Beautiful Bell-Bottomed Boy
3rd Prize: Coma and Other Four Letter Words
1st Prize: Paris Lamb
2nd Prize: Under Construction
3rd Prize: Gifts
Michael D. Riley.............43
1st Prize: Waiting
2nd Prize: Hollow
Margaret I. Grubel.........60
3rd Prize: The Railroader’s Homestead
1st Prize: Magic Bridge
2nd Prize: Eskkar & Trella—
3rd Prize: Cross Roads
1st Prize: A Change of Habit
Patty Ptak Kogutek.........76
2nd Prize: Your Circulatory System
Conrad J. Storad.............77
3rd Prize: Dare to Care:
Caring for our Elders
1st Prize: Cheery: The true adventures of a
Chiricahua Leopard Frog
2nd Prize: Tales of a Tombstone, Arizona Tortoise
3rd Prize: Arizona Way out West & Wacky: Awesome
Activities, Humorous History and Fun Facts!
Conrad J. Storad &
AND THE WINNERS ARE...
66 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
DREW AQUILINA is an award-winning
cartoonist and author. Drew created the
cartoon strip Green Pieces©. Aquilina produces
a daily Green Pieces His award-winning cartoon
compilations are Green Pieces: Green From the
Pond Up, Meet the Pond Friends, One Piece At
a Time, and Green Pieces: Still Under
Construction. He lives in Paradise Valley with
his wife, Lisa.
Arizona native author LISA AQUILINA, J.D. is the
co-owner of Green Pieces Cartoon Studio Press in
Arizona. Her first novel is La Nonna Bella. Green
Pieces is a member of the Arizona Authors
Association, Independent Book Publishers
Association, PubWest and Society of
Children's Book Writers & Illustrators.
RUSSELL AZBILL is a native Arizonan who has
spent his entire life living in the southwestern
desert of the United States. He is deeply
interested in history, particularly that of the
motorsports, aviation, and space exploration.
Russell also has a keen interest in classic movies
and vintage television. Russell’s second novel is
scheduled to be released in 2013.
MARLENE BAIRD, the winner of the AZ Authors
unpublished novel category in 2003 for Minnie and the
Manatees, has four published books, and many of her
short stories have won awards. She took third place in
2008 in the international Lorian Hemingway Short
She has two active blogs:
Her website is www.marlenebaird.com
KEBLA BUCKLEY BUTTON is a
corporate stress management
trainer, a holistic healer, and an
ordained minister. The award-winning
author of books on how to
lose your stress and find your
energy, she has recently begun writ-ing
books about finding true inner
peace. The Second Edition of Peace
Within has just been
ELLEN HASENECZ CALVERT, a
psychologist and prize winning
poet, wrote her first book,
Pilgrim: Tales of a Traveling Cat,
from inside the head of the
family's cat. Her second book,
Nine Goldfish in David's Pond is
the story of a young boy and the
nine goldfish who invite him into
their world. Ellen is working on a
book of short stories. She can be
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 7
Award-winning author and historian JAN CLEERE writes
extensively about the people who first settled in the
desert southwest. Her historical nonfiction books reflect
her love of the west and her knowledge of western
history. She is a magna cum laude graduate of ASU
West with a degree in American Studies. Her freelance
work appears in national and regional
publications. She speaks throughout the state about the
montage of individuals she has depicted in her work.
KATHLEEN COOK spent her youth in Chicago's inner city. She
sent her first poem to Reader's Digest at age seven and later
earned recognition on Joel Sebastian's WCFL radio program. After
settling in Phoenix, Katy studied English at Rio Salado College,
raised four children and wrote plays for local schools. She served
as an editor for the Open Directory Project and wrote articles for
Demand Studios and eHow magazine. Katy currently writes nov-els,
including an Elf series and an autobiography. You may find
sixteen of her books published on Amazon.
ELIZABETH DAVIS is a children's book author.
Her book Salty Kisses and Fire Engine Sunsets
won first place in Children's Fiction in the
2010 Writer's Digest contest. During the
school year, she is a middle school reading
teacher. Her lesson for teachers, Degrees of
Synonyms, was published in the Mailbox
July/August 2008. Her passions are: family,
writing, traveling, music and reading.
DEE DEES is the author of
Write Your Life Story in 28
Days. As. a
Personal Historian, Dee has
taught classes and
presented workshops on
memoir writing for nearly 15
years. She also does
ghostwriting and editing of life
stories for clients. Dee is also
the author of Raise Confident
and Responsible Kids - 111
Common-sense Tips, which will
be published in early 2013
DIANA FISHER made a name for herself in Phoenix as an adver-tising
illustrator in the eighties.
Her career shifted into the how-to-
draw genre, illustrating and
authoring many award-winning
books for children and adults.
She then moved into other
literary genres including
women’s fiction. Diana is also in
the R&D phase of a new business
producing whole-brain educa-tional
e-books and lessons.
New York native and Arizona author, ANN GOLDFARB,
has spent most of her life in education. She writes mys-tery-
suspense time-travel for young adultS. Her first
novel, The Face Out of Time,
received an award from the
Arizona Authors Association
in 2011. She is currently
working on her fifth mystery.
She welcomes visitors to her
website at timetravelmyster-ies.
com and her Facebook
Fan Page at “Time Travel
EMILY PRITCHARD CARY is a specialist in Gifted/
Talented education and a Virginia state finalist for the
1985 NASA Teacher in Space project. She is the author
of seven romantic mysteries, two histories, and hun-dreds
of articles on music, education, travel, genealogy,
and parapsychology in newspapers and magazines
worldwide. Several are in anthologies. She is an honors
graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. Her ad-vanced
studies encompass education, archaeology,
public communications, and environmental science.
88 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
BARBARA HAHN (aka BARCLAY
FRANKLIN) is a retired medical tech-nologist.
Franklin has been writing
since 1985 and is the author of five
published novels: A Race for Glory
Run; The Bride Price; The Chording of
T. O. Malone; Up the Hill, Through the
Long Grass; and The Shepherd's Moon.
DANETTE ELLENWOOD HUNNEL is
the author of 2 books: Shorten the
Distance and Litty Lightning Bug
She is a contributing columnist for
Natural Healing Magazine and a
blogger for The Homeopathic
GARY HUNNEL is the Regional
Vice President of International
Channels & Sales for Pearson
School Systems. His 30 years ex-perience
includes Sales, Executive
Speechwriting, Training Presenta-tions
and Motivational Speaking.
Gary is an avid reader of many
MARILYN JUNE JANSON, M.S., Ed., is
the owner of Janson Literary Ser-vices,
Inc., an editing, proofreading,
and manuscript analyses company.
She teaches creative writing and
publishing classes at Mesa Commu-nity
College and other educational
venues in the East Valley. Ms. Janson
is the author of Recipe For Rage, a
suspense novel, and Tommy Jenkins:
First Teleported Kid, a children’s
chapter book. Her new book, The
Super Cool Kids Story Collection, is
scheduled for release in 2013. Contact Ms. Janson @
GAIL KENNEDY is a native New Yorker
who arrived in Sedona, AZ in 1995.
When she moved to Sedona in 1995
Gail volunteered at both the local hos-pital
and the Sedona Fire District. Later
she was offered a job and at the SFD
and worked there for 12 years. Gail has
been a vocalist on both coasts and in a
number of Jazz clubs and Cabarets in
New York, San Francisco, Mexico, Spain,
and in many clubs in Northern Arizona.
KAREN KIBLER earned her Bachelor’s Degree
from the University of Iowa in 1977, and
soon after relocated to Arizona. She received
a Ph.D. in 1997 from Arizona State University
where she is now an Assistant Research Pro-fessor.
Writing was always a passion of hers.
Until the completion of The Second Chasm,
her audience was restricted to family and
college class professors. She also does free-lance
editing or proofreading assignments.
After taking a volunteer layoff in 2002,
CHERIE LEE began writing stories for
children and adults. She lets curiosity
guide her by playing the What If game.
She is published through Allison Books,
LLC for The Stubborn Fairy, a children’s
picture. Her current unpublished pro-ject
is a middle grade novel titled The
Lip Stealer, An Adventure in Magic
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 9
KELLY NELSON lives and writes in
Tempe. She teaches Interdisciplinary
Studies at Arizona State University,
volunteers as a gallery docent at the
Tempe Center for the Arts and is a mem-ber
of her city’s Municipal Arts Commis-sion.
Her poetry has
appeared most recently in Paddlefish,
Dash and Ozone Park and is
forthcoming in an anthology of cancer
poems due out next year. Her poem
“Rivers I Don’t Live By” won the 2010
Arizona Authors poetry contest. She also
served as a judge this year for the Poetry Out Loud state finals.
CHANTELLE AIMEE OSMAN is the
author of numerous flash fiction and
short stories published in literary
journals, e-zines and anthologies. In
2011 she was an Anthony Award
winner for SuspenseSirens, a blog on
all things mystery. She has worked in
Hollywood, and now owns the
company www.twistofkarma.com. She
is an attorney who moonlights as a
book designer and a reviewer for
The Poisoned Pen bookstore.
JANE FRANCES RUBY earned her
masters degree in Chemistry
from John Carroll University
(Ohio). She was a research
chemist at the Lubrizol Corpora-tion,
where she authored publi-cations
relating to colloidal and
surface science. Her first novel,
The Azurite Encounter was pub-lished
in 2010. She is currently
working on the sequel Voiceless Whispers: A New Sha-man’s
Calling. She is married and has two daughters.
KATHY STEVENS is an environmental scien-tist
who specializes in safe drinking water.
She was raised in Sacramento, California,
graduated from Sierra Nevada College with
a BS degree in Environmental Science and
moved to Arizona in 1980. In 1989, she got
her Masters degree in Public Administra-tion
from ASU. She lives with her husband
in Tempe. Kathy plans to write fun, publish-able,
and educational works.
“If my doctor told me I
had only six minutes to
live, I wouldn't brood. I'd
type a little faster.”
GRETA MANVILLE, COPY EDITOR FOR ARI-ZONA
LITERARY MAGAZINE 2013, writes
mystery and suspense novels. Her biblio-graphic
research on John Steinbeck is avail-able
free online. She edited Transitions and
has served as contest coordinator and
treasurer of Arizona Authors Association in
10 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine 1st Place Essay
1ST PLACE ESSAYS
MARLENE BAIRD, the winner of
the AZ Authors unpublished novel
category in 2003 for Minnie and
the Manatees, has four published
books, and many of her short
stories have won awards. She
took third place in 2008 in the
international Lorian Hemingway
Short Story Competition. Marlene
is active in Professional
Writers of Prescott, having served
on the board for two years and
co-chairing their annual writing
contest for three years.
She has two active blogs:
Her website is
WHO IS THAT LAUGHING?
When we were dating and during the early years of our marriage, my
husband and I went out to dinners often, and we always enjoyed a cocktail or
two. If we had friends over to our apartment it seemed expected that there
would be alcohol on hand. I don’t recall anyone ever refusing a drink. Because
Brad (pseudonym) was in the advertising business, he entertained clients, and
we were invited to many special occasions. We lived in Honolulu and often
met celebrities. Life was a lot of fun. I didn’t realize how much of that fun was
due to our constant drinking.
We had two children by the time I first suspected that alcohol might
have a grip on Brad. One day, I repeated part of a three-way conversation we’d
taken part in during the previous evening. Brad had no recollection. Even
though he had actively participated in a lengthy discussion, he had a total
blackout of any such conversation. That worried me but since alcohol never
made Brad falling-down drunk or gave him a hangover, I was slow to realize the
depth of his problem. One Sunday morning after we’d moved to California, we
had no orange juice in the house. Rather than give up his usual mimosa, Brad
poured vodka into his coffee. That seemed like a desperate move to me, for
what could possibly taste worse?
That day, I began to look back. We’d had many arguments that in-volved
his drinking. Sometimes, when I relied on him to do something—such as
the day I needed him to drive one of the children to the doctor—he was intoxi-cated.
The only month of the year we ever went to a movie was January. Over
the holidays he would drink so much that he’d swear off liquor for a month.
The reason movies were out of bounds from February through December was
that no liquor was served.
Looking even further back, Brad had been dead broke and in debt
when I met him. Yet, since the arrival of our first two children, he had been a
fairly good provider. He changed jobs often—we moved our residence thirteen
times in six years. Twice to Honolulu and back to the mainland, and for a few
years we lived in Canada. It seemed that, with his engaging personality, he was
always being offered a more interesting position. When I began to suspect that
he had a drinking problem I saw this job switching not as an opportunity for
him to do better but a chance for him to escape responsibility. On more than
one occasion it seemed that, rather than take a promotion in his current posi-tion,
he would move to the next. Another possibility I considered was that his
lunchtime drinking was becoming obvious to his bosses. At any business lunch
cocktails were almost mandatory, and no doubt Brad was overindulging. Brad
was a master story teller. He could always make someone laugh. Perhaps his
peers gave him a lot of leeway in return for his companionship.
1st Place Essay Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 11
Alcoholism has one thing in common with cancer. You can have it for a very long time before it is discovered, but once it is rec-ognized
your life and the lives of those around you change forever.
His bar tabs caught up with us. He was missing work. He went away for weekends with “the boys” which were probably drink-ing
binges, because quite suddenly we could not pay the bills or the mortgage. We had to file for bankruptcy. I knew that our lives were
spiraling downward, but never considered leaving Brad. We now had three children, and I wanted them to grow up knowing their fa-ther.
I talked to Brad several times about his drinking, but no matter how carefully I approached the subject it was me who was the
problem. He told me I was an uptight, controlling wife who no longer knew how to have any fun.
I had heard of Al-Anon but could see no easy way to attend meetings with two children in school and a baby at home. I could
not count on Brad to be home in the evenings, much less babysit while I attended a self-help group. But even those of us most mired in
denial sometimes wake up. Often I had no transportation, but a couple of days a week I drove Brad to the BART station, and he would
take the train from our bedroom community to San Francisco where he had opened his own advertising agency. I saw, in retrospect,
that opening his own agency meant he had no boss to watch his activities. One day, when I had the car at my disposal, I found the cour-age
to attend an Al-Anon meeting.
The first meeting I went to was held in the basement of a small church. The walls were cement gray and the aroma of freshly
brewed coffee did not overcome the smell of disuse. With the baby on my knee, I looked around the room. A half dozen women re-turned
my gaze, some with smiles of welcome. Some without. It wasn’t personal. I could see myself in those unhappy faces. We re-peated
the mantra: my name is so-and-so, and I have an alcoholic in my family. Then one woman welcomed me as a newcomer to their
group. She promised me one thing only—that repeated attendance at Al-Anon meetings would change my life. She didn’t promise a
better life, but only a changed one. At that time all I wanted was change.
The women at the meeting spoke in turn. They seemed to know each other well. There were lots of nods of understanding as
one spoke of financial problems. And there were tears as another told of abuse.
The woman who spoke next told of embarrassment. The previous night her husband had driven home, drunk. When she
opened the front door in the morning, she saw his car parked sideways in the driveway with the driver side door hanging open. Her hus-band
had apparently groped his way toward the front door of the house but had fallen a few feet short. He was lying face down in her
flower bed, his long legs stretched across the pathway. Her first instinct was to look up and down the street to see who might be wit-nessing
I wish I could remember the name of the next woman who spoke. She saved my life. She said, “You should have stuck prun-ing
shears in his hand and told everyone he was gardening.”
The room erupted with laughter. The idea that any one of our husbands would have taken the time or effort to garden was
ludicrous. There was a rush of shared understanding and release. Then I heard a laugh that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t
place it. As the noise died down I heard it coming from my own mouth. I probably had not laughed out loud in several years.
At Al-Anon, I learned to deal with my husband’s arguments which erupted if I criticized him in any way. Al-Anon taught me
to not listen. Pretend he is a small child. Do you listen to a small child if it is having a tantrum? Does that small child have con-trol
over you? I stopped reacting to Brad. Since he was getting no feedback from me, there was no sport in it. Since I no longer
argued with him, he could not blame his drinking on the fact that he was married to a shrew. He became bored. He came
home even later in the evenings. Then he found a girlfriend. Then I filed for divorce. I did it myself. It cost me $65 and one
court appearance. I was granted custody of the children and child support. As for the support, in all of the following years I
received two $100 checks from Brad, and both of them bounced. I was in touch with the District Attorney’s office, asking them
for help. But Brad knew what he was doing. He moved every six months, and they never caught up to him.
1212 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
The next step was feeding the children. On a day of desperation, I put the three of them in the back seat of the Plymouth
station wagon and headed for the social services office to apply for food stamps. One of the children had a bad head cold, and
one was feeling even worse. Another thing that alcoholism does is separate you from neighbors, and making friends is diffi-cult.
There was no one I could leave the children with. For example, one of the neighborhood teenagers babysat for us occa-sionally.
Then one night we were at a club miles from San Francisco. Brad was having a wonderful time and refused to leave
until after 2 a.m. By the time we got home it was 4 a.m., and that was the last time that girl’s mother allowed her to babysit
When I arrived at the social services office the waiting room was crowded. The receptionist asked me to sit down and fill out a
form on a clipboard. I managed my name, the names of my children, our address and phone number. Then the full degradation of our
lives hit me. For years I had tried to hold together a marriage for the sake of the children, and it had all come to this. I couldn’t face an
interview. I got out of the chair and left the office.
But there are angels in this world. Later that day the receptionist phoned me. “We can do this over the phone if you prefer.”
Within two days I had enough food stamps to feed us better than we’d eaten in a long while.
I couldn’t make up the missed house payments, so I sold it. The net proceeds were $1,600, and I sent Brad a check for $800.
I’m still kicking myself for that.
The children and I moved into an apartment building which was advertising one month’s free rent. I was then able to sell my
refrigerator, washing machine and dryer, which brought in some cash. Next, I had to find a job. I had excellent secretarial skills, so that
was not difficult. However, finding child care for three children was. After a couple of false starts, I came across a wonderful woman in
the neighborhood. She kept the two-year-old all day and the two older children before and after school. Of course, the food stamps
stopped when I began to work, so much of the time the four of us lived on cereal, fruit, peanut butter sandwiches for the kids’ lunches,
and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. In those days, the little blue boxes were priced at three for a dollar. A couple of times a week I added
cooked ground beef to the pasta. My greatest fear was becoming ill and not being able to work or care for the children.
I expect we could have survived for quite a long time in those circumstances and perhaps come out of it none the worse for
wear. However, I was to have luck once again. After two-and-a-half years on my own, I met and married my current husband. The first
gift he bought me was four new tires for the station wagon. When he asked me to look at the old tires I was shocked. Part of my drive
home at the end of my work day was down a steep and winding hill, often in the rain—and I had been driving on four balloons. I swear
an angel was on my shoulder those years.
My children are now grown. They are genuine and generous. I am proud of the life my current husband and I have managed to
give them, but it all began with Al-Anon. The lessons I learned at those meetings changed my thoughts and my actions and, therefore,
my future. Those women shared their strength and their courage, their ugly experiences and their small victories. If by any chance you
are one of them, thank you. I can still hear your laughter—and mine.
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 13
2nd PLAC E Essays
JOAN RATTAY first essay re-ceived
Mention in the 2011
Writer’s Digest essay
thirty-second in well over
one-thousand entries in the
category. “Who’s Directing
This Mess?” is her second
essay. Since retiring from
teaching in Phoenix, she is
studying writing and is pres-ently
working on a short story.
The movies lied. I grew up with lies that won Oscars. In those movies,
life progressed with a predictable plot until the characters were struck with
heartbreaking problems. But the characters’ problems had logical solutions
which satisfied us. And always, their suffering was accompanied by a full or-chestra,
playing tearjerker background music. It made us enjoy life’s agonies.
In the end everyone lived happily ever after, except the hated character who
always got what he deserved. Those writers lied. The truth is most lives are
confused messes from start to finish and no one gets what’s deserved. For
example, my best friend, who’d give a needy stranger her last dollar, was going
to be a great actress. Now with five kids her only lines are prayers and quota-tions
from the Bible. And me, everyone said I had the best dance moves on the
floor so why am I dancing by myself? Some movie must have explained real
life but I missed it.
Discouraged, I committed myself to a makeover. It was that time of
year, spring, when optimism overtakes reason. By luck (or bad karma), I found
an article about a hiking club and an upcoming hike in rugged, challenging un-spoiled
Shaded trails, rust colored cliffs. . .
wildlife. . . spiny vegetation. . . wade creek. . .
steep climbs. . . outstanding views from the summit. Warning: possible high
water in creek.
Maybe too challenging, I thought. But so what? It sounded like a
thriller movie, and I hung on to the belief that every story ended with at least a
crumb of hope. Besides, the challenges would aid my makeover.
On the designated date, I rechecked my backpack. Lipstick, eyebrow
pencil, hair spray, cheek blush, hand cream, one sandwich, a low-calorie candy
bar, and two pints of water. And for safety, my dog-whistle. Then I pulled out
of the driveway in early morning darkness. Soon I was on strange streets. Car
speed dropped to that of a dying snail so I could decipher shrunken street
names requiring 20-20 night vision. Ahead a red glow slowly spread over the
mountain top as the sun began to rise. Its rays, like lasers, targeted my eyes,
which narrowed into slits, reducing my vision. Mental torture. Without full
vision, was I following directions? Missing a turnoff? Maybe I took the turnoff
to the West Coast. Finally, the highway turned into two lanes and then a
bumpy dirt road that ended in a grove of maple trees. I saw some hikers get
out of their cars, and I gave thanks to a higher power.
1414 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
Dave, our leader, told us to form a circle, a symbol of unity and brotherhood. Introductions began. Mary hiked in New Zealand;
Carol and Bill in the Superstition Mountains; Dave, on Catalina Island; and four others in Europe. I introduced myself, Sally, gave my
nickname, Sunshine, and mumbled two well-known mountains, which I’ve never been on.
Dave led us to the trailhead. Anxious to start, they were hopping on one foot then the other, like horses at the starting gate.
Pros, anyone could tell.
“I hope everyone brought water shoes,” Dave yelled as we headed out. Water shoes? An interesting concept but of no concern
to me. I was wearing new, top quality boots, fit for crossing streams, rocks, and mountains, and a jacket to die for. It was made of im-ported
fabric with hidden inside pockets to hold a mirror, mascara, and comb.
The trail had been cleared of rocks and was level. Emerald shrubs and wild flowers in red, yellow, white, and blue spread out in
the gravel, a delight until Dave pointed out animal scat which indicated bobcats or wolves in the area.
The trail became rocky as we descended into a barren canyon, deep and drab and looked like a land long ago abandoned by
nature. It was the setting for a haunted house in the movies, when the victims entered the house and the music changed to screeches
and drums. On each side of the canyon were one-hundred-foot high cliffs.
Scattered along the top were gray shrubs struggling to grow in boulder crevices and crooked, scrawny trees perched on rocks.
Lying on the floor of the canyon were three-to-five-foot high boulders. No level ground, no gravel. The boulders, as far as the eye could
see, were the trail. Their creation was worthy of Macbeth’s witches, pouring their evil brew onto the canyon floor to harden into hell’s
carpet. No turning back.
The most able men leaped ahead. They appeared to be metamorphosed into mountain goats, having developed the animal’s
agility and balance. We humans, like babies taking our first steps, wobbled and fell. Success had two preconditions: strong ankles and
properly fitted boots. I had neither. My boots were decapitating my toes. With every jump from boulder to boulder, they recoiled in
pain, and I hardened to others’ suffering. There lay Mary spread over a boulder like pancake batter. And Bill was holding up a bleeding
finger. I was unmoved. In our circle of brotherhood, everyone was on his own.
Finally, the four-mile trek through hell was over and we were bushwhacking. My toes were on fire. I knew they were no longer
attached, just flopping around in my boots. I hobbled on my heels but that was too slow. My God! They’ll leave me here. Keep up or
die. I stumbled into holes in thigh-high grass (snakes’ haven), stumbled past cacti and flung my arms out for balance causing the pene-tration
of cacti needles into my hands. My prized jacket was torn——my fingers, pincushions.
I caught up as the group was changing shoes. Silly, flashed through my mind, but my attention was drawn to a roar that
sounded like eighty-mile per hour winds. A storm? But the sunlight was brilliant. I sat down to rest and quickly ate my sandwich. When I
looked up all were gone except for a head bobbing in the distance. Trudging after the head and down a deep slope, the roar grew
louder. It was water stampeding down from the mountain. In front of me, a frenzied river. Niagara Falls II. I’d cross it or find my way
I took off my boots and socks and tied the shoelaces to my backpack. I stepped into ooze at the bank and then onto sharp
rocks and into ice-cube water. Boulders were scattered across the rushing water’s width. I took baby steps to the nearest boulder and
felt the water pulling me away from the boulder. If I lost my grip on it, I’d fall and it’d be a fight to get up. Inch by inch, I moved from
boulder to boulder, digging my fingers into tiny crevices and hugging each huge rock with my whole body. I couldn’t see beneath the
water’s surface, and suddenly I sank as one foot stepped into a hole. One of my two water bottles fell into the water and was swept
away. Now, each step was preceded by a probing foot feeling for a bottomless pit. I finally wrapped my body over a boulder, pulled
myself up on it, and stepped onto land.
Dave walked into view. “Do you need help?”
I gasped, “Who’s directing this thriller?”
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 15
We regrouped. The trail was poor——it was probably last used by the Indians. Though the ascent had a moderate slope, the
climb was taxing because small loose stones and pebbles destroyed traction. It was like roller-skating up a mountain until I picked up a
dead branch to use for a brace. Just in time. By stooping for the branch, I missed the potentially lethal jabs from a man’s hiking poles,
which he swung back and forth like a Prussian general. We climbed down into a fifteen-foot gully and out of it and then negotiated a
second gully. The trail got worse. Shrubs with thorns and long, hard branches crossed the trail. Go under or around. Keep up with the
rest. Breathe. I was unconsciously holding my breath. Must remember to breathe.
Now the climb was almost straight up. Breathing harder. The man with the swinging hiking poles was beside me. I looked
down over the side of the cliff. Keeping as far from the hiking poles as possible, I asked, “What are those dots down there, the dots
spreading as far as you can see?”
He swung his pole across my path. “Those dots are trees,” he laughed.
We’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I thought. New pain. Climbing with no air in my lungs. A forest lookout tower was perched
above the trees in the distance. My leg muscles felt as if they were loaded with shot from a nail gun. Must breathe. A tribe of made-in-hell
thorny trees with silver spikes lined the trail, ready to attack if we tried to cut through them. Climbing higher, a switchback brought
us back to the same trees. We stopped.
Not fully rational, I asked, “Are we at the summit?”
I limped over to Dave. “The views truly take my breath away. So breathtaking. Can we go home now?”
“Lost the trail,” Dave mumbled. “Don’t know where we are.”
The sun was setting. With a wild leap, I landed on a big rock and yelled, “Here, help us.” Little sound came out of my throat.
My fail-safe whistle would be heard. It was guaranteed. I blew it. No response.
“George! Patty! Dave! Let’s yell altogether.”
It would be dark before long, so they were busy looking for a place to sleep. I sat alone on a rock until it was dark and a pierc-ing
howl filled the air. Another howl, a wolf pack was closing in. They won’t pick me off first. No way! I crept to the huddled bodies,
pressing my prized jacket into the dirt. More howls followed throughout the night.
Finally light came. We rummaged through our backpacks for food and comments turned belligerent.
“You’re responsible for yourself, including feeding yourself.”
“Order yourself a latte and a donut.”
“Catch a rabbit. Rub two sticks together, make a fire, and we’ll cook it.”
I concentrated on holding the last crumb of my candy bar under my tongue until it became a single molecule. When it was
gone, I grabbed a notepad and wrote my final will. Half would be left to my family and half to trail improvement. Burial instructions
followed in case my body was found, and the instructions and will were put where a wolf wouldn’t get them——in my boot.
Silence took over. I was praying and thinking. Why am I limping, starving, and lying in dirt? My eye began twitching. I had hon-orable
goals. To experience nature, its beauty and challenges. To keep a promise to improve myself mentally and physically. I think
some things interfered, superhuman things that couldn’t be controlled. My thoughts reminded me of the movie I saw in high school,
“The Odyssey,” and its hero Odysseus (the ideal man or close to it).
1616 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
Odysseus had a worthy mission and it started well. But then things start going wrong, like a plague, and losing battle after battle, and
getting caught in storms, and fighting traitors. All because higher powers, gods, interfered. They were really running the show. But
Odysseus would not give up, and some good higher powers helped him.
We heard a faint roar and jumped to our feet. A helicopter! It circled a ridge, then turned in our direction. I whipped off my
jacket and waved it in a circle above my head. The aircraft was above us, its rotating blades creating a hurricane wind. “Help,” I
screamed. My mouth was wide open and it filled with blowing dust and dirt.
A man stood in the aircraft’s door and yelled directions on an amplified microphone. We shouted our thanks and bush-whacked
back in the direction he told us to go. The helicopter followed as we passed through snake-pit country to our trail.
But my prized jacket was gone, left behind at the rescue site. A sign of my mental deterioration. I wanted to go back. One eye
was twitching uncontrollably. It was a short distance, but no one would go with me and so my tortured jacket was left to the mercy of
Soon a civilized trail appeared and I was in a different land, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” going home on the yellow brick
road. All was magically beautiful with sunrays showering down on me, the trees, and the flowers. My feet felt as light as a bird’s. It was
dusk when we got to our cars and dark when I pulled into my driveway, got into my house and took off my hiking boots. My toenails
were spectacular shades of purple and ruby red rippled with thin black veins. Two toenails were ready to drop off. And I hurt where I
never hurt before, and hurt in places I didn’t even know I had. It was difficult to rank the severity of the hurts, but I decided to deal first
with the cactus shrapnel in my fingers.
The Emergency Care office was packed. Chairs jammed together. Shoulders almost touched. Coughs erupted, filling the air,
and the ventilation system did not work. I refused to die from TB that I caught in a doctor’s office.
“Could I PUHLEESE wait outside?”
“No. You won’t hear your number called.”
My ticket number was 70, number 40 hung above the desk. I sat down and held my breath. I could run to the door for quick
gulps of air.
I was sprawled back in my chair, wide-eyed, staring up at the ceiling when my number was called. I remember the doctor de-scribing
my condition as a “one,” and that it would be best to stay in the hospital for observation. My mental condition immediately
worsened. But with the hospital’s good care, I am recovering, of course.
I can say without any argument that my attempt to improve myself physically and mentally failed, but with time to reflect and
read, I found my explanation in ancient Greek literature. It’s really simple. We choose our mission——blame no one but oneself. That
mission becomes our fate and our maze. We are locked into it and strive to successfully complete the mission. Higher powers will bom-bard
us with obstacles. But we have been given hope. If we struggle with heroic courage and intelligence, a superior power may—-or
may not-—help us complete our mission. The bottom line, therefore, is do not tempt the higher powers to present obstacles (as Odys-seus
So, my self-improvement hikes will be indoors . . . hospital corridors, religious monasteries, or some stronghold like the U.S.
missile base deep inside a United States mountain.
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 17
3rd PLACE ESSAYS
A Minnesota resident during the summers, ELAINE
SIEVERS winters in Arizona where she is a proud
member of both the Creative Writers and the
Memoir Writers of the Northwest Valley AAUW.
Elaine’s favorite quote for writing is by American
author, Brenda Ueland.
She writes, “I learned that you should feel when
writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but
like a child stringing beads in kindergarten; happy,
absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after
When she writes, Elaine is quietly and happily
absorbed as she puts one bead on after another.
The Country School
By Elaine Sievers
A little white country schoolhouse sat on the corner of the next
mile square from where my family lived. Every day my sister, my
brother, and I went to school there. We walked across the pasture,
crossed the creek on a plank that my father had put down, went through
the next field, crossed the dirt road beside that field, and we were there. I
was four-years-old the fall I began making the trip and the only kinder-gartener
enrolled in the school.
How well I remember the teacher, Miss Gray, who had red hair,
thank you, even with a “Miss Gray” name.
There were several families of children in attendance. I remem-ber
the Jones children, Robert, Jimmy, Noreen, and Gertrude, and also the
Schmidt children. I particularly liked Polly Schmidt, a tall, gangly girl who
was not a bit shy and who seemed to like me, too. These were my first
friends and, for a little girl who lived in the country without playmates,
the friends were very special.
Discipline problems were not evident in this school, perhaps
because the children were country children who were just glad to be
learning. Or perhaps it was that the teacher was gentle and kind, and the
children reflected her modeling.
I spent a good deal of time watching and listening to the lessons
of the older children. I was especially entranced with the geography les-sons
and the maps on one of the walls. As a kindergartener, there were
not specific academic expectations, but every day, sometime during the
day, Miss Gray held me on her lap and taught me to read in a most natu-ral
and undemanding way. We simply read the books together and talked
about the pictures and stories. I was a quick study. At four-years-old, I
was reading well. I innocently assumed that this was how one learned to
read in school, sitting on the teacher’s lap and reading books together.
Miss Gray asked my mother to buy me a coloring book and a box
of crayons so I would have something to occupy my time during her les-sons
with the older children. It was my first coloring book, and I was
thrilled. I knew that it would be my only coloring book for the year; thus,
working in it demanded careful “staying-in-the-lines” concentration. I
decided to color one picture a day. I did so,
1818 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
and I did “stay in the lines,” proudly earning a silver star at the top of each page. But one day, coloring while listening to the
geography lesson and letting my eyes rove to the maps on the wall, my green grass went past the grass line and far up into
the sky. Upon discovery of the mishap, I was mortified and ashamed and closed the book, not knowing how to handle the
dreadful situation. My world came crashing down. It was personal failure on my part, I knew. My perfectionist goal had
been shattered in just a few seconds of inattention. Miss Gray must have been heavy in heart when she passed by the page
without awarding it a silver star.
Mother packed our lunches in syrup pails. The pails were silver-colored and clean and had little handles for carry-ing.
Every lunch was anchored with homemade bread or buns and freshly churned butter. During the winter, we took
a big jar of eggnog and buried it in the snow outside so it would be cold for lunch. When it was too cold to eat outside,
we ate our lunches sitting around the pot-bellied stove, a stove that was fed and stoked by Miss Gray. (Not only during
the day did Miss Gray manage the stove with the help of the bigger boys, but she was always waiting in a warm
schoolhouse when we arrived in the mornings. I remember the warmth because we were very cold from the walk
across the fields.) When the days were warm, we all ate together outside, the “together” including Miss Gray, sitting
on the railing of the sandbox. Then, after eating, we children played running games of tag and hide-and-go-seek.
School was good for me that year, but in March my family moved to another farm. Perhaps our parents prepared
us for the move, though I do not remember being prepared. One day we were in familiar surroundings at our country
school. The next day we were taken to another school. This was a town school where the children were divided into
age-appropriate rooms. It would be accurate to say that, in this setting, I was and continued for some time to be a lost
soul. There was not a kindergarten at the new school; however, since I could read well, I was placed in a first grade
room with children who were older and wiser and who had not been pampered and coddled by a loving teacher
named Miss Gray. Indeed, I was the “new kid on the block.” I was ogled and watched carefully but not invited to par-ticipate
in the recess fun. I was perceptive and knew that I didn’t fit in with the group, but there was really nowhere to
hide. Every day I missed my older friends in the country school, and every night my pillow was wet with tears of sad-ness.
But it is lovely, now, to have good memories of a first experience in school. This is not the way we do things today;
that is, we do not put several ages of children together in a learning situation that is also inevitably a social situation.
In the one room schoolhouse where many ages were together, I remember how the older children watched over me. I
remember easing into learning, and I remember learning by listening and absorbing and by just being with others as
they learned. I learned, too, that it was my own responsibility to do a good job. It was a very natural kind of education.
Perhaps, in my case, the cliché is somewhat true that, “All I ever learned in life I learned in kindergarten.”
My first year wasn’t planned. The year just happened and evolved. It was my good fortune to have my kindergar-ten
year of school in the little white country schoolhouse. I was four-years-old, and the learning was sweet.
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 19
1st PLACE POETRY
JIA OAK BAKER lives in Peo-ria,
Arizona. She is the recipient of a
Liam Rector Scholarship from Ben-nington
College where she is pursu-ing
a MFA in Writing and Litera-ture.
She is also a former partici-pant
in the Squaw Valley Commu-nity
of Writers Workshop and the
Sewanee Writers' Conference. Her
poetry has appeared or is forthcom-ing
in Thin Air Magazine
I close another season of the garden.
I water deeper and more often, let moisture
travel roots. I pick the last tall lavender
for drying and say goodbye to feather leaves
of yarrow, goodbye to clusters of clover.
This will be the last trim of the grasses
before they go dormant. No further flush
of bloom, only pincushion moss to dampen
the yard. I put away shears and gloves,
the tarp and wheelbarrow. Past olive hedges
I watch the sun set in ombré rushes of red.
I kneel once more beside the shorn santolina
and breathe the thin air of your absence.
What good is a body I can’t give to you?
Ode to Autumn
by Jia Oak Baker
2020 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
2nd PLACE POETRY
Award winning novelist and poet, C.L.
Gillmore is a retired special
education teacher who holds
Bachelor of Education degrees in
both Elementary and Special
Originally from Muscatine, Iowa, C. L.
Gillmore resides in Surprise, Arizona
with her husband, Mike. They have
two married sons and five
Her social media based romance
novel, Uncommon Bond was nomi-nated
for TWO 2012 Global eBook
Awards and her poetry book, Of
Roots Shoes and Rhymes won BOTH
the Arizona Author’s Association
2011 Literary Award for published
non-fiction and the poetry category
in the National Indie Excellence
Awards for 2012.
Beautiful Bell-Bottomed Boy
Shirtless, bronzed, bell-bottomed boy,
Beautiful, young and lean.
Soft, silken coffee-brown hair,
Wind-swept, wild and free.
Graceful, fluid, outstretched arms,
Expressive, gentle hands.
Lovely, curved, sensuous hips,
Legs strong, slender and tan.
Rocked by the gods of music and freedom,
Swaying in rhythmic jubilation.
High on life and love’s sweet passion,
He danced for her in celebration.
One girl alone was hypnotized,
In the midst of a thousand faces.
Her eyes linked to his piercing blue eyes
And put her own feet in his paces.
Gone are the days of the young summer sultan,
And the girl who watched him with joy.
He dances forever within her heart,
Beautiful, bell-bottomed boy.
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 21
3rd PLACE POETRY
Coma and Other Four Letter Words
By Ruth Chazez
Do YOU think I lay in the womb this way?
Knees tucked under my chin,
Curled tight like a caterpillar that’s just been touched—
Safety’s position, surrounded by WARMTH?
To linger how?
As a closed caption stock ticker
running along the bottom of your screen,
Mouth agape hanging open, eyes leaking,
heart half broken.
Measured by intakes and output,
Tethered to life by a twisted mass of synthetic capillaries,
Nourished by the same.
Un-sustained by your amateurish attempts
to waste my time.
I am longing for light,
A scent of orange blossoms on a spring breeze,
an embrace, butterfly kisses, dignity,
Do YOU remember how I loved to laugh?
What is this for?
Even pain and frustration are better than this:
Life in perpetual suspension.
How much longer would you have me here?
Your feelings for me
must be as cold
as my touch is to you.
RUTH CHAZEZ is a mother of
three and “Nana” to her two
granddaughters. After a long ca-reer
as an engineer in the high
tech industry, Ruth retired early
to pursue her life-long dream to
write full time. She has a Bache-lor
of Science in Marketing and is
currently working on an aca-demic
certificate in Creative
Writing. Ruth lives in East Mesa
where a view of the Superstition
Mountains offers her daily inspi-ration
for her poetry and fiction.
2222 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
1st PLACE NOVELS
Growing up in south Florida, the only child
of New York expatriates, MARCIA FINE’S
best friend was a good book. She taught
high school while earning a Master’s de-gree
in English Education at Florida State
University. Marcia later began to pursue
her dream of writing to become an award-winning
author of five novels. Marcia’s
writing covers the gamut from social satire
in her series Stressed in Scottsdale to
sweeping historical narratives in Paper
Children and The Blind Eye. Currently,
Marcia is finishing her sixth novel entitled,
Paris Lamb, about biblical archeology and
By Marcia Fine
Arles, Provence, France
Some say life’s traumas come in threes, the way plane crashes some-times
do. I don’t accept that. My colleagues said I had few choices, that my op-tions
were over, that I could do nothing but stay where I was and move forward. I
didn’t feel that way. I saw an opportunity to take my situation in a different direc-tion.
It was as though I thumped my chest in determination. I don’t have to be
reminded of the tragedy, the betrayals, the manipulations. I wanted to do some-thing
bold. Like move to an entirely new place far away where no one knew my
story, where there were people who wouldn’t pry or even care. The French are
sophisticated that way. Your business is your business. Well, except for the Presi-dent
and his wife. And the L’Oreal heiress and her husband’s Nazi connections.
And all the striking workers.
Are there things I miss? Of course. The efficiency, the news, even the
politics with the crazy extremist voices. There are some things that are uniquely
American. But for now I’m more concerned about what fresh fish is available, pur-chasing
the ingredients for foie gras, that the beekeeper has a stock of Miel de
Lavande, an all natural honey with the floral motif on the lid, and whether my
favorite boulangerie has chocolate croissants with toasted almonds. I am even
thoughtful about the linens drying on the line before the rain.
My week of simplicity shapes around the market on Wednesdays and Satur-days
that stretches from the stone gates of Arles around many blocks to the Cae-sar
Hotel. I purchase seasonal vegetables, fruit jams and fresh cheese from the
farmers who transport refrigerated cases that hum with generators. Vernal ba-guettes,
squalling chickens in the back of trucks cramped in their coops, eggs in
graduated shades of brown to white, and an array of spices set out in shallow
round pans all tempt me. Who knew being around food preparation would weave
my feminine side to the front of my masculinity?
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 23
I can’t resist the plump woman, strands of gray hair falling from her bun, who stirs yellow saffron rice plentiful with
fresh shrimp and mussels, with a wooden spoon. I purchase a small amount to eat in a paper container with a plastic fork, an
anomaly for the French. I stand aside to eat, observing two well-known chefs from the popular restaurants in town chatting,
woven shopping baskets over their arms. In Provence they are rock stars competing with their Parisian counterparts.
Some American tourists stroll along the crowded aisles, cameras in hand, nylon fanny packs at their waists, deliber-ately
counting out their euros for each purchase, but mostly they’re French who make the day trip from Nimes, Cavillion, Car-penteras
and the pedestrian village of Seguret to shop for bright tablecloths with traditional prints that wave in the breeze,
sample herbs and spices to bring home and buy fresh produce, oblivious of the camaraderie among farmers and housewives,
haggling over prices.
I’ve assisted a few travelers frustrated with the language, Canadians, who are exceedingly polite, and Americans
who ask incessant questions when they realize I am one too: Do you live here? How is it? Expensive? Often, they are flum-moxed
over their change, the euros a foreign-looking tender. Some farmers lack patience when the buyer doesn’t attempt to
speak French. Mine is terrible, but I try. The largest market in Provence is a microcosm of my life.
I purchased a bed and breakfast when I first arrived that needs constant maintenance. Initially a bargain, I curse it
as I crawl around behind toilets, maneuvering narrow curved stairs built in the sixteenth century and feeding the whining cats I
brought home from the rescue service to manage the rodent problem. Sometimes I don’t recognize my bandaged fingers. It
seemed like a pleasant distraction and a source of income after everything that happened.
Outside, the stone edifice with a tacky blue screen door was what I first saw after hearing about it from a friend.
“The chefs are divorcing and putting it up for sale. Got a great country kitchen. You ought to look at it,” a fellow archeologist
told me. “It’s down the street from the Communist Party headquarters and across from a shop that sells funeral wreathes and
statues.” Perfect. I thought it had charm in the middle of the block on a one-way cobblestone street that led to the Roman
arena in the center of town. And, they had reservations booked for the next six months since they made the Rick Steves’ guide.
But what I learned is that if something’s four hundred years old, everything leaks or drips or has to be cleaned. It
seemed out of character for me to purchase it, an impulse buy, but I sought an anchor to keep me here. I didn’t want to return
to the States.
At first, I was overwhelmed with my spontaneous decision, but now that I’m into the rhythm of being a proprietor
of a well-known landmark, I look forward to the guests checking in Thursday through Sunday with their travel tales. They’re
always surprised to find an American in charge, especially since my French is not that fluent. Fortunately, Marie Louise, the
manager, directs the maids so the linens get changed, the long table for breakfast is wiped clean and re-set and classical music
plays from the tinny stereo. I buy the ingredients for the continental breakfast—fresh croissants, herbed goat cheese, butter,
home-made jams, honey at the market twice a week—a splendid spread of exceptional treats, that only require minimal cook-ing.
I prepare it in the kitchen, the largest room in the house.
Other days I work on a book. I have found a wealth of material at the archeological museum, Musée de l’Arles et de
la Provence antiques, with the finest collection of Roman sarcophagi outside Rome itself and only a short walk along the em-bankment
of the Rhone River.
Luc Long, the head diver from a subaquatic archeological research team brought up hundreds of artifacts from the
river including a marble bust of Julius Caesar dated from 46 BC. And, as usual, various academic factions have disputed the
date and whether it was placed there by the citizenry after Caesar’s assassination to protect it from marauders or pushed into
the river depths by those who wanted to steal the treasures. The French ministry of culture has not issued a statement.
The museum, the market, the guests—all distractions so I don’t think about what catapulted me here six months
2424 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
Newark, New Jersey, September 15
Maurice Dubois moved into the aisle after hours of being cramped on the L’Avion flight from Paris to Newark, his
elongated frame stretched to its full height. He couldn’t wait to depart the plane, get through customs, and exit the terminal
for a smoke.
He patted down his pockets for his wallet, cigarettes, lighter, and aviator sunglasses, balancing his leather brief-case
on the top of the seat. He clicked it open to survey his papers and confirm that his passport was tucked into a pocket.
From the overhead bin he pulled his suit jacket by the collar and shook it, the wrinkles in the lightweight wool-blend melting
away. Then he pulled out his trench coat, draping it over his arm. In first class they hang up your garments. Ah well. When
the auction is over I will be flying on private jets and pouring a Lafite Rotshchild bourdeaux for myself and my friends.
The other passengers took measured steps away from the stale air of a ten-hour flight. A woman in a yellow
sweater held up the line trying to snap up the handle of her rolling bag. Another insisted on pulling her child’s arms through
a Mickey Mouse backpack. Maurice was impatient with frivolous and unnecessary delays.
Finally, freedom. Maurice slicked back his longish blond hair with a free hand. Rarely conscious of his good looks
he moved with confidence around groups of people into the large disembarkation room to claim his luggage for customs.
His dark chocolate Louis Vuitton was among the first to slide down the shaft. Here the expensive suitcase was a
status symbol. In Europe their indestructible practicality was a necessity. He spoke to no one as he waited in the customs
line. A brunette dressed in studded denim groused about how long it was taking. Most people had piled their belongings
onto the free rolling carts. Maurice placed his briefcase on the top, his suitcase on the bottom. The mother next to him held
a drooling baby who threw his bottle to the floor. Maurice took a step forward to retrieve it and handed it to the young
woman, never removing his hand from the cart. She smiled in gratitude. Americans, he thought, a child-like people.
He waited in line. Red light, stop. Green light, go. The glum customs official looked at his passport. “Business or
“Of what nature?”
“Archeological research. An auction.”
“How long will you be in the U.S.?”
The man, a serious bureaucrat with horn-rimmed glasses, stamped the passport. “Welcome to New Jersey. Enjoy
Maurice knew his route. A men’s room stop, euros for dollars, a smoke, the cab ride into New York, The Pierre. It
was going to be an extraordinary trip.
Professor Sommerstein was meeting him tomorrow to examine his research on what was often referred to as
God’s gold, three priceless treasures from the time of the destruction of Israel’s Temple in 70 AD valued at more than a bil-lion
dollars. Maybe more. He had seen photographs of the extraordinary discovery until his first viewing a few years ago.
Their beauty inspired chills when he saw them at the Vatican. He alone had the credentials to authenticate them. Of course
others were jealous of his access to the rare artifacts. They would have to wait until the auction preview to see the rare
gems that had survived centuries of deception and controversy.
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 25
Tomorrow was a prelude to delivering his speech at the Ecole Biblique et Archologique Français symposium in a few
days. Much had been written about the cache that consisted of two silver trumpets blown at Jewish festivals, a gold menorah,
its base decorated with eagles and sea monsters and finally, the Table of the Divine Presence crafted in wood, covered in gold
and gems. All were believed to be commanded by God for Moses to create on Mount Sinai and looted in Jerusalem in 70 AD.
His speech would reinforce his reputation worldwide as the expert on these discoveries.
Maurice, pre-occupied with the impact these items would have on the open market of museums, governments and
individuals clamoring for them, waited behind the painted line on the floor at the airport money exchange. Merde. He was at
such an advantage in Europe with the euro to dollar ratio. How did the rate go down while he was crossing the ocean? Best to
change money at a bank but he didn’t have time. His benefactor wanted him to use cash.
He opened his briefcase at the window, handing a credit card to the woman dressed in a navy jacket. “Ten thousand
in American dollars, please.”
She raised her eyebrows and checked his credit limit in the computer. “Large bills, okay?”
“Oui. Yes.” A nervous tremor coursed through him. He glanced to his right. No one there. He looked at the woman,
obviously a smoker, too, from her yellowed fingers and lines around her mouth. Not like the Parisian women who smoked after
dinner for effect. He looked to his left. A kid in a black nylon jacket wearing sneakers was hunched over, cell phone to his ear.
When he saw Maurice glance at him he turned his back, his jeans baggy, underwear showing.
The teller counted out the bills below the counter. Maurice watched her lips move as she thumbed through the
bills. She placed the cash into an envelope and slipped it under the bullet-proof glass. Maurice took the envelope, pulled out a
few bills and stuffed them into his pants pocket. The rest of the money was stored in his briefcase under his report and laptop.
On the curb he stood in the taxi line smoking, his lungs filling with relief. Ah. I want to get rid of the cash in the safe
at the hotel, take a hot shower, drink a glass of Bordeaux. He dropped the cigarette and stepped on it when his Yellow cab
pulled to the curb.
The cab driver seated on wooden beads wore a crocheted Muslim cap. He peered in the rearview mirror. Maurice
pulled his trench coat across his lap, his briefcase close to his thigh.
“The Pierre at Fifth Avenue and Central Park in the city.”
With a wordless nod, the cab driver melded his vehicle into the traffic heading away from Newark Airport. Maurice
noted the cabdriver’s photograph and name, his credentials displayed in a plastic sleeve on the back of the window. Absolem
Halim. Then he looked at the skyline of industrial parks, factories and the gray haze of pollution. I am not in Paris with our his-toric
skyline. These Americans mourn for the Twin Towers but they were buildings, not monuments for eternity.
The cabdriver spoke. “Bad traffic this time of day. I take another route.” Maurice shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t
care. He just wanted to get there. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes for the long ride. He was anxious to go over his
paper again before meeting with Sommerstein from the college.
As the taxi picked up speed, Maurice swayed in the back. The driver made twists and turns running a route parallel
to the expressway. Apparently this was a known short cut because other cars zipped by his taxi adhering to the speed limit.
Maurice’s mind wandered to the Arch of Titus in Rome and his recent visit. Situated on the summit of the Sacred
Way in the Forum, the popular monument had limited access as ordered by the Italian prime minister after a special request by
the Israeli government. As though the Israelis could right all the wrongs. Passage through the arch itself was now blocked from
public access out of respect for the conquered people. Yet, Mussolini and Hitler passed underneath in anticipation of another
triumph years ago, thinking they would rule the world. Only Jewish tour groups walked it now, many of them spitting on the
The Romans had erected the arch with the sacred treasures in full relief on the southern wall to immortalize the
destruction of Israel and its Temple in 70 AD after the killing of 600,000 Jews. In clear bas-relief it depicted fifteen triumphant
Roman soldiers celebrating the emperor Vespasian and his son Titus’ victory over Israel and the First Jewish Revolt. The Ro-mans
paraded the broken dreams of a nation on their shoulders—a pair of silver trumpets, the gilded candelabra and a gold
table studded with gems. The ransacked booty didn’t have only material value. For the religious it represented the sacred inti-mate
symbolic communication between God and man, a triumph for the Israelis.
This symposium and the subsequent celebratory party and auction of the actual items would draw world-wide at-tention.
And make me one of the most sought after académique in the world.
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The cab jerked to a stop. Maurice’s head lurched forward. His eyes flew open. Car doors slammed. Absolem Halim
leaned out the window and yelled out in a foreign tongue. Three cars blocked the street.
In moments, the windows darkened with bodies, the air with shouts in another unfamiliar language. The driver
was pulled out of the cab and thrown to the ground wailing to Allah. Maurice, bile creeping up his throat, pressed the side of
his head to the window to see the cabbie on the ground with a man standing over him.
Maurice’s window shattered with the strike of a tire iron. He grabbed for his briefcase. My report. The cash. Panic swarmed
through him. What do they want? Why? For Christ’s sake. I’m an academic. An arm in black nylon reached into the vehicle through the
window. Maurice had no time to cower to the floor. For a millisecond he felt cold steel against his temple. Then nothing.
Paris, France, August 4
When I first arrived to spend two months in Paris, prior to the New York archeology conference in September, I did all the typi-cal
tourist sites—-the boat tour down the Seine where sightseers exit to see the Eiffel Tower or the Palace of Fine Arts, the Batobus
tour for the Champs Elysees, the train ride to Versailles.
Then I fell into the Parisian lifestyle, sitting in a café on St. Germaine people watching or taking the Metro to explore new
neighborhoods. I practiced the word arrondissement until it rolled off my tongue so I could ask for directions, wandering for hours
searching for a landmark. Along the way I bought fresh bread, cheese and olives for a solo picnic in a park. It was on one of those re-laxed
afternoons that I met her.
I ventured to the Place des Vosges, an elegant refuge sanctioned by Cardinal Richelieu in 1605. Among the most beautiful in
Paris it is dominated by an equestrian bronze statue of Henri IV and surrounded by red brick homes with stone strip quoins.
I remembered to take napkins from the small shop where I purchased a ham sandwich and a cold bottle of beer. More blue
collar than I was raised but satisfying. Ah, the simplicity of the French lifestyle. No whole wheat, rye, gluten-free choices. Just freshly
baked French bread with a hard crust and unmatched flavor.
I watched children who I thought should be in school playing near the fountain among the clipped lindens set in gravel and
grass. A young couple kissed sitting on a worn blanket, her hair shielding their faces for privacy. An Orthodox couple strolled the path-ways
holding hands, he with a skull cap and long sideburns wearing a white shirt and black pants and she, younger, pale-pretty in a long
dress, a pregnant belly leading the path. They probably lived in the Marais district nearby, which flowed across the third and fourth
arrondissements, a hub of upscale boutiques, bagel shops and yeshiva schools. My own connection to this world is not important now.
I will confess more later. At the moment what matters is how I met her.
I crumpled up the paper from my sandwich and threw it in a receptacle along with my beer bottle. I wandered around the in-terior
of the covered arcade that rims the park, past #11, the former home of Marjon Delorme, a famous courtesan and #9, the Acad-emy
On the corner stands #6, Victor Hugo’s house. I had been there before on a previous trip but decided to go through it again. I
marveled how a successful author, his most acknowledged work altered to appear on Broadway stages and little theaters throughout
America, had empathy for the masses of people who had so little. I consulted my guidebook. He wrote Les Miserables while living here
from 1832-1848. I am in a city of social revolutions.
I wandered afterward into a tea shop with elegant containers and enticing aromas. I made a small purchase of green tea with
a hint of mint, a treat for later in the evening. I strolled into art galleries, some with oils and sculptures too abstract for my tastes and
then I passed a custom shirt shop. A display of attractive shirts with elegant collars and French-cuffs crisp with starch lined the window
on covered hangers.
I went in. The shop was fitted with dark wood fixtures, an ancient leather love seat, magazine racks and shelves of shirts. As
most of the buildings in this city, it had been standing for hundreds of years. She greeted me with a “Bonjour, Monsieur” and an expec-tant
“Do you speak English?”
“Oui. A little.” Then she smiled. “American, no?”
“Oui.” Her teeth were small and white and even. She wore little make-up except for well-drawn lips and arched brows.
“Welcome to Paris, City of Light. My name is Sandrine. You would like assistance?”
I was captivated by her throaty voice, the seductive accent and the way she made eye contact. I had to think of an answer, an
excuse to stay in the store and have her help me. She was beautiful but not in a perfect way like a pageant winner or women who in-
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 27
dulged in plastics. She was petite with large coffee eyes, a straight elongated nose and a red sensuous mouth.
I stammered. “I would like some shirts.” What an astute beginning.
She began to give me a tour of the store. “On this wall we have prototypes of the shirts our tailor can make for you in various
sizes. You pick your size and try on. Then we discuss collars, size, cuff types.” She eyed me up and down. I noticed the length of her eye-lashes.
“You will be a 42/16.” Her small hands pushed aside a few shirts on the rack and she reached for one. “Here. Try this. The dressing
room is behind the curtain. Please come when you are ready.”
“What are the ties for?” I asked fingering a few thrown over the end of the brass rack.
“Only to see how a collar will lay on you.”
Lay on me? My boyish humor wanted to guffaw. I’d better go into the dressing room. When I reappeared in the light of the
store, she frowned. She reached up to grab my shoulders and faced me toward a standing antique mirror. “You have the good physique—
but we will taper on the sides. You go to a gymnasium, no?”
She fussed around me like a mosquito deciding where to land, touching and flecking at me, smoothing my back. She pulled at a
few places and held them. “You like?” She took a measuring tape from around her neck and held it against me, writing down a few things
on a pad of paper with a pencil that had been hidden behind her ear.
I looked at my reflection. I often heard I looked like an actor on some hit TV show about advertising men in the 6os, but I never
saw it, so I didn’t know if the comparison was valid. It wasn’t good for a man to be vain, especially in scholarly circles so I did the neces-sary
toiletries, got haircuts in a barber shop, wore serviceable clothes from the local department store and moved on. But now, with her
peeking out behind me, I saw my father’s six-foot frame, blue eyes and thick, dark sandy hair. It’s a wonder how you can look so much
like someone and be nothing like them inside.
“This is parfait. The shirt you wore in here was not fitted properly. This makes your shoulders more broad. How many will you
order? We have a summer special. You take three, the fourth is free. I assume these are for business.”
I nodded. Not exactly. But it wouldn’t hurt for me to look more professional for the upcoming conference. Uh-oh. This was going
to cost me. Not that I had to worry, but with economic times in peril I had reined in my spending.
“Monsieur, what is your name?”
The French are exceedingly polite. “Michael. Michael Saunders.”
“It is nice to meet you, Monsieur Saunders.” Her lips parted to reveal her perfect teeth in a smile. “What about something for
“Sure.” I found her English charming and acknowledged it was much better than my French. I didn’t need anything casual but it
was an excuse to stay longer and engage her. Of course, every man who wandered in must approach her.
She led me to the other end of the store with an inventory of shirts already made up in pinstripes and florals. I observed what
she was wearing—a man’s shirt with tiny red polka dots and white starched cuffs, a few buttons opened to reveal a bit of a lacy bra and
cleavage. It wasn’t an overt “I’m trying to be sexy” look. It reinforced that unselfconscious way French women are comfortable with
themselves. She had tied it at the waist in a knot so a piece of her belly peeked out above very tight, well-worn jeans. On her feet she
wore red high heels.
“Your size is up high,” she said, as she rolled a ladder across a brass bar and climbed the first few rungs with ease. Her ass was
eye level to me. My, my. She was a specimen.
“Wait. Let me help you. I can reach up there.”
“No. This is my job.” She climbed down with a half dozen shirts in a panoply of designs and colors. She displayed them on the
front showcase next to the computer. “I see you in this. It will match your eyes.” My mother said the same words to me when she
dressed me in blue as a child. She stroked a gray-and-blue soft faded stripe with contrasting cuffs of navy. In moments, she had pulled the
pins and collar cardboard out, shaken it, and held it against me.
“Ah yes. This one. Fantastic with jeans.”
I fingered the fabric. It was soft. “Egyptian cotton?” I asked.
She stood close to me with her neck bent forward, a few tendrils of hair curling into the white collar. She wore her dark hair
clipped to the crown of her head and spouting like a waterfall. It smelled like spring. Or was it the perfume?
Her perfume was seductive. I wanted to ask what it was but I thought it too intimate a question. I had read an article that
French women knew how to apply perfume so that it permeates their being without being overwhelming. Besides swabbing it behind
their ears and on their wrists like American women, they dabbed it at pulse points, which included between their breasts, the indentation
of their throat, the navel and pudendum. The warmth of their bodies released the fragrance. Whew. Better not go there.
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“Monsieur, no. Our all natural fabrics are made in France. So two for work and two for pleasure?”
“Yes. Of course. And please call me Michael.” I slipped back into the dressing room to put on my own clothes. She assisted
me with the choices, packed up the two ready-made shirts and told me the others would be in next week.
She handed me a white shopping bag with a gold fleur-de-lis, tissue paper popping from the top and her card with Sandrine
scrawled across the bottom. “Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Michael.” She lowered her eyes for a moment and then stared at me directly.
I felt a connection, the kind a man knows well. It’s that signal that there’s interest even though everything she did was on a professional
Paris, August 12
I stewed until the end of the following week when I couldn’t wait anymore to see her. I sat on a bench in the Place
des Vosges once again wearing one of the shirts I purchased, glancing at my watch every few minutes. I read over my confer-ence
paper, “The Journey of Sacred Biblical Treasures from the Essenes to Their Hiding Place at the Vatican.” It was a treatise
that was sure to cull some refutations from my academic counterparts. It was our job to dispute theories. I often thought
Brooks White, my nemesis, stayed up at night thinking of ways to hassle me.
The reality was that the artifacts from the Essenes, an ancient apocalyptic Hebrew sect who dwelled in Qumram
caves around a hundred years after Christ, were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the greatest manuscript discovery of
the twentieth century. It also took decades of skeptical historians to establish proof of their authenticity through publication
and interpretation. I hoped these artifacts from the destruction of the Second Temple wouldn’t be subjected to such a long
The biblical treasures in question, the trumpets, the candelabra and table, were released without fanfare through
an antique dealer in Rome not unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls that leaked out in Bethlehem. So many frauds came to the market-place.
It didn’t take long to trace it back to the Catholic Church. After all, no one could verify what the Vatican had hidden in
their vaults after so many centuries. The presentation of the paper was to be on the second day of the Ecole Biblique et Ar-chologique
Française and Scholars Conference in New York in a few weeks. I wasn’t the star of the conference. That was
Maurice Dubois, an academically adept Frenchman with a superior attitude. He worked directly with the archeologists who
verified the exceptional pieces with carbon dating.
I strolled into the shop a few minutes before five when she was closing down the computer and register. I felt nerv-ous.
A man takes risks when he approaches a woman, although I admit I hadn’t been turned down very often.
“Monsieur?” The red lips were the same, but I had forgotten the aroma of her intoxicating fragrance. It floated in
“I was in last week and ordered some shirts,” I said, disappointed she didn’t remember me. Maybe I misread the
signal of interest.
“Ah, yes, Monsieur Michael. I was going to call you today, but the shop was busy. One moment.” She walked from
behind the counter to the curtain in the back. She pulled it aside and emerged with two dress shirts on hangers.
“Please try on,” she said with a nod toward the dressing room. I took my briefcase with me. I trusted no one when it
came to my paper after twelve years of exhaustive research, even though there were versions on my laptop and at my office
in New Haven. I glanced at it whenever I had a spare moment to memorize key phrases so I could look out during the presen-tation.
Most academic speakers never meet the eyes of their audience, who view only the tops of their heads as they read
every word. Fortunately, I don’t have a bald spot or a bad comb-over. And I didn’t have to peer at them over reading glasses.
I stripped off my shirt and tried on the white batiste one. I didn’t bother tucking it into my jeans. I pulled aside the
curtain and stood in front of the mirror.
“Ah, c’est approprié.” She touched me at the shoulders, fussing around like a hummingbird discovering a succulent
flower. She inserted inexpensive links into the cuffs. “Now you see how a shirt should fit onto you.” She looked at me in the
mirror, her lashes lowering. “Très beau.”
“Merci beaucoup.” It was an immediate response with one of the few French phrases I knew. It took a moment to
realize she had just complimented me. I didn’t know if it was another sign or I was misinterpreting interest.
“I will get your bill ready. It is almost time to close,” she said, meeting my eyes again in the mirror. I glanced at her
as she turned away. Jeans with an awesome fit. Same red lips and heels.
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 29
At the register I paid with a credit card. She was very efficient, handing me the receipt to sign and then the shopping bag.
“Bonsoir, Monsieur Michael. Come again.”
A flush rose on my cheeks. I headed for the door and stopped. “Mademoiselle Sandrine, would you like to meet me
for a glass of wine at the café a few doors down since you’re closing up?” In the past I might have added that I was interested
in more sights to see or made a larger offer of dinner, but something made me keep it simple. I expected a no, an excuse, a
story of a previous engagement or a boyfriend.
She opened her eyes wide. “Oui. I am almost ready. You go to Ma Bourgogne. I will meet you there.”
And so, that is how it began. Wine, conversation, later a salad. Then coq en vin with roasted vegetables and more
bread and wine. She was talkative outside the store. She lived with her mother in the third arrondissement. Her brother-in-law
owned the shop. She was twenty-eight and never married. And there was a boyfriend. Damn. We sat for hours.
I spoke about myself and my work as an instructor at Yale University on sabbatical, my research into the hidden Bibli-cal
treasures held by the Vatican for centuries, the recent death of my mother, and why Paris was an aphrodisiac for my soul.
She asked more questions and I played into her lovely eyes. She ate everything we ordered. “I did not have a lunch
today. Sometimes I close shop and go home for the afternoon meal. But today I stay in and leave early with you.” She gave me
a slight smile. Whatever she said sounded charming with her accent.
“You don’t have set hours you keep the store open?”
She shrugged. “The French will come back if no one is there. Only the Americans keep rules.”
During dinner she asked intelligent questions about my research. She wanted to know what proof there was that
the Vatican had been holding the spoils of war for so many centuries. Did the Pope know about the artifacts? Did Israel’s rabbis
have a right to demand the return of silver trumpets and gold treasures two thousand years later? What was their significance?
I found her bright and engaging.
At first I responded in general terms, but she pressed me, and I became more specific sharing recent research about
an unpublished inscription on a mosaic in the chapel of Saint John Latern of Rome dating to 1291. I memorized it because it
was so crucial to my premise that the artifacts had been hidden by the Catholic Church after passing through the hands of bar-baric
Vandals, ambitious Byzantines, Persian historians and thieves.
I quoted the lines for her. “Titus and Vespasian had this ark and candelabrum and . . . the four columns here present
taken from the Jews in Jerusalem and brought to Rome.” I admit I was showing off a bit but she was someone worth impress-ing.
Now that they were found and the world was watching, would they admit to hiding them? Rumor was the lawsuits
against the church for the priestly scandals with children had grown to such astronomical financial proportions, it was a simple
solution to raid the basement and Secret Archives of the Vatican. Or the Tower of the Winds that held the Papal collection. It
meandered for more than seven miles and was no longer in use and not open to the public.
As valued and priceless objects appeared on world markets with little explanation for their discovery, they created
havoc in the antiquities arena. Some of the archeological discoveries were breakthroughs that gave credence to the Israelis
and the validity of their right to the land as stated in the Bible. Others reinforced the power of the church to plunder in God’s
name. Still others were elaborate fakes.
I told her I had spent years ruminating about the skullduggery that must have ensued to smuggle these particular
artifacts out of their clandestine tombs and into reputable hands to report a discovery of worldwide significance. I often
flashed to the Pope’s Palace in Avignon with its secret hiding places dug around the perimeter of his dressing room, now cov-ered
Now, at last, these priceless treasures would be auctioned in front of a world market next month in New York.
After the owner/chef came out a second time to see if we wanted anything else, I paid the check. He took a small
computer from his apron pocket, so I was able to take care of the bill at the table. No disappearing into the back with my credit
card like in the States.
I avoided touching her as we strolled along the crowded streets still lit by a late sun, weaving by cafés, people lean-ing
in with their arms draped over chairs, gesturing with cigarettes in hand, the smoke circling around them. I was cautious. It
was bold of her to dine with me. I didn’t want to make her skittish. Men and women acknowledged us as we passed—her im-pudent
stride keeping up with mine, the pointy red shoes leading the way, her sunglasses pushed onto her head, a black
leather jacket slung over her shoulders. A quintessential French woman.
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In France, the air is intoxicating everywhere. Scents of lavender, musk or the fragrance of women amplify fresh
croissants in the morning and red wine in the evening. I walked her past the St. Paul stop to the Métro at the Hotel de Ville.
“Bonsoir, Michael,” she said, lifting herself up to kiss me lightly on both cheeks. The perfume again. I took a subtle deep
“And tomorrow?” I asked. A bad move. Too soon to ask for another date.
“Roland meets me. We motorcycle to the cemetery.” I looked away, knowing I had blown it. She brightened.
“Père Lachaise where all the famous are buried. Have you been?”
I nodded. “I spent last Sunday in the rain looking for the graves of Jim Morrison, Gertrude Stein, Modigliani, and
“Ah, the flower shop across the street from the entrance specializes in funereal wreaths and sells maps.”
“Now you tell me.”
She laughed, biting her lip for a moment. “Roland leaves to holiday in Biarritz Friday.”
“And you don’t go with him?” I had picked up her pattern of speech.
“No.” She pursed her lips. “I stay with the store. It is a family business. The shirts they make in the eighteenth
arrondissement by the Muslim women. We own a small factory. There are many orders now.”
Okay. The door was open. I was infatuated with her. I watched her disappear down the steps of the Métro, her
diminutive ass reminding me how long it had been since I had made love to a woman.
New York City, September 16
Maurice Dubois dead? Why? What kind of a threat could a scholar have been? The call from an associate shocked Seymour
Sommerstein. Random violence? An ambush? Was it a conspiracy to prevent the auction from taking place?
Seymour Sommerstein put the phone down and fell back into his leather chair and sighed. His chin fell to his chest. He didn’t
know the French professor well. They had been cordial at a few conferences over the years, but the competition between academics
was fierce. Intellectual discourse was acceptable. Friendship? Well, that was something else, especially with a pretty boy “Frog” who
had attitude. Ach, and his aroma of Gaulois’, those French cigarettes he smoked, his hair hanging onto his forehead and over his collar.
Maybe it was a look for students trying to be nonchalant but not credible for a professor. Always a few who stayed in the university
system because they harbored an image of youth.
He leaned forward and put his elbows on the cluttered desk in his home office, an unused bedroom with metal file cabinets
and stackable book shelves. The ancient wooden desk with one pencil drawer and a shabby circular rug were hand-me downs from his
mother-in-law before she passed years ago. A folded academic journal kept one of the legs level. The walls were bare.
It was unlike his university office situated on a corner with a view of the Hudson River. There he had the status of paneled
walls covered with framed diplomas and awards in gold frames and club furniture.
His head fell into his palms. It was enough spending the last two years putting the conference together. It had been such a
coup for his department to be the host. NYU wanted it. Brandeis wanted it. Even Harvard made a bid. But he got it with a promise of
academic excellence and top-notch organization. And now?
Should it even go forward? Was that appropriate in light of a death? And not an old-age-retiring-professor death. This was an
assassination. He would need a replacement for the keynote speaker. What about all the printed programs? The press releases? The
journals to be distributed? He groaned, slamming his hands on the desk and said aloud, “The poor schmuck comes to deliver a research
paper and gets offed on his way out of the airport. That’s great for tourism.”
The head of the Antiquities and Biblical Studies Department of New York’s finest liberal college dragged himself down the
short hall to his living room and clicked on the television. He brushed The Times from his worn brown leather sofa onto the floor and
settled in, pulling his shirt out of his pants waistband, opening the belt and the top button, his belly expanding into the new space. His
knees creaked as he set his feet onto the coffee table.
Of course it was all over the eleven o’clock news. A black and white photograph of Maurice flashed on the screen.
The bloodthirsty public loved crimes like this: a handsome Frenchman and an esoteric conference coupled with priceless
relics. It was a plot from a bad Dan Brown novel. How do they get this stuff so fast?
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“. . . the renowned professor was in the city to present a paper about biblical relics that will be on display next week
at the Judaica Cultural Museum prior to the antiquities auction at Shropshire, the famed international auction house.” The
broadcaster turned over a piece of paper to start her next news story. “No suspects have been found. If you or anyone you
know has information regarding this case, please call the FBI, New Jersey authorities or your nearest NYPD.”
Seymour Sommerstein felt a concrete weight land on his chest. Instinctively, he rubbed it. Oy, I forgot my choles-terol
meds this AM. I’ve got to eat better. My Sondra, of blessed memory, would be nagging me if she were here. He clicked off
the news and pulled himself up. I’ve got to salvage the conference. He reached for the phone on the end table next to him.
“Heather? Professor Sommerstein. Am I calling too late?”
“No. It’s okay.” She stifled a yawn. “Marianna and I were just getting ready for bed.”
“You saw the news?”
“Yeah, I was going to talk to you in the morning. What are we going to do about the conference? Maybe we should
cancel. People would understand.”
“What? No, we’ve been planning this for ages. The prestige of the college depends on it.
People—even government representatives—are flying in from all over the world . . .”
He heard her say, “It’s the boss.” She placed the phone against her ear again. “Maybe not if they’re killing people
who arrive in Newark.”
“Never mind. That’s Jersey. They’ll come into Kennedy or La Guardia. Call Dr. Levy and see who we can get to re-place
Dubois. And call your detective brother. Find out if Dubois’ briefcase was recovered. If I can get my hands on his research
paper I can get someone else to read it. At the very least get hold of his secretary in Paris.”
“I don’t speak French.”
He wanted to hang up. He had no patience for excuses, but Heather was invaluable to him. An efficient Ph.d. candi-date
in archeology is what everyone needed. Thank God she was on the six-to-eight year plan. Of course he hated it when she
took off an entire semester to go on digs in Caesarea or work on Herod’s tomb in Israel or travel to Tikal in Guatemala. Kid
thought she could dig up the world overnight. He just didn’t want to hear about her weekends spent in a Melissa Etheridge
haze with her girlfriend. “Sir, do you want me to set up a short memorial service at the conference after I find a possible list of
“Excellent idea. You’re always thinking.” And then he visualized her in a man’s shirt and khakis with her boy haircut,
arm around the girlfriend’s shoulder and an earring in her eyebrow. Damn, she was smart.¨
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2nd PLACE NOVELS
By Barclay Franklin
Thayne Kirk rolled out of bed before the first rays of sun peeped over the
surrounding mountain ridges. His roommate, Thomas Chittum, lay sprawled on top
of the spread, his face tinged gray because he hadn’t had the ambition to wash it
before collapsing on the bed.
When the sun did finally come up, Thayne knew it would be blood red, a little
darker shade than the pumpkin-orange full moon had been the night before. Fortu-nately,
the motel where he and Tom had crashed was upwind of the blaze. He’d
eaten enough smoke in the last two days to make his lungs ache. The fresh air had
been a welcome respite.
Pulling on his work boots, he opened the door of the room. From the second-floor
balcony, he could see the massive smoke clouds rising. He and Tom would
shortly be back in the thick of them, bulldozing fire lines in front of the approaching
flames. Setting backfires, trying to starve the beast before it reached the city limits
and began to eat houses as well as Ponderosa pines.
Thayne closed the door and debated about taking a shower. Like Tom, he’d
crashed without taking off his pants or socks. Only the shirt and his boots had hit
the floor before he’d hit the bed. In the bathroom, he washed his face and neck,
both speckled in fire ash above the line of the T-shirt he’d worn under his yellow
jacket. His dark auburn hair was matted to his head, pressed into unnatural waves
by sweat and the construction safety helmet he wore.
Shit! I’m going to take a shower. Who knows when I might get another
chance to enjoy one.
He peeled down to bare skin and turned on the water. Adjusted it to a cool
setting and stepped into the tub. He sniffed the free bottle of shampoo and thought
it too like a woman’s fragrance, so he used the bar of soap to wash his hair.
He’d just stepped out of the tub when Tom came in to take a leak. Thayne
wrapped one of the motel’s big fluffy towels around his waist and used a second
one to dry his head.
“Hey, Thay, leave me a couple dry ones,” Tom protested. “Is your throat as
raw as mine this morning?”
BARCLAY FRANKLIN holds a
Master of Arts in English (with an
emphasis on creative writing) from
NAU. She taught writing classes in
the early 90s at Yavapai College for
4.5 years. Her published novels
include: A Race for Glory Run (now
out of print); The Bride Price; The
Chording of T. O. Malone; Up the
Hill, Through the Long Grass; and
The Shepherd's Moon.
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 33
“Yeah. Hurts clear down my bronchial tubes. Chest feels kind of tight, too. Shower helped a bit. Probably would have been better
if I’d cranked up the hot water—made some steam—but damn, it’s going to be a bitch today, so I didn’t relish starting off with my skin
on fire from hot water. They’re predicting the low 90s.”
“You got any aspirin?”
“Sure, in my shaving kit. It for the throat—or is your head pounding?”
“Both. You can’t hear the fire boss shouting directions wearing those ear protectors, so I keep part of my right ear uncovered. All
day on the dozer with its constant growl gives me a headache every time.”
“Keep both ears covered, Tom. If the boss needs to tell you something, let him get in your face and make hand signals. You don’t
want to be deaf from not wearing the earmuffs.”
“Deaf? That might be a blessing. I wouldn’t be able to hear Shawna nagging me to take out the garbage . . . or wash the car . . . or
cut the grass.”
“Or hear geese honking on a hunting trip? Or hear Brianna telling her daddy she loves him? Be smart, Tom. You don’t want to be
“Yeah, I guess. Well, Cowboy, I’m going to take a shower, gulp a couple of painkillers and hit the diner for breakfast. What time
did Everett say we needed to be back on the line?”
“Ten. I’ll set the aspirins out on the counter in here. Wait until you finish showering. If you try to take them with all that soot on
your face, they’ll be coated in ash and won’t likely want to dissolve in your gut.”
“That’s why it felt like I was blowing cement blocks out of both nostrils this morning. Was afraid to stick my finger up my nose to
try and clear it. It might get wedged in there and not come loose. Hard to whip a dozer around with only one hand.”
Thayne grinned. It was the standard joke. Ash and dust and vaporized pine tar tended to make nostrils feel like they were har-boring
granite boulders. Nosebleeds were prevalent when working a fire. “Booger bleeders” the dozer men were called.
He pulled on a fresh T-shirt, boxers and socks, and donned the same pants as he’d worn yesterday. They were stiff with perspira-tion
and dirt, but he wanted to save his last remaining clean pair for going home.
He knew his mother worried less if he came home not looking like he’d been working a fire. Though she knew better, he tried to
let on like his was a standard 9 to 5 job. He could only pull off the charade if he managed to sneak the clothes that smelled heavily of
smoke into the washer before she got up or stopped at a Laundromat to wash them on his way home.
Dora Kirk was his last living relative. His father, Ben, had been a dozer man, too, working on various road projects around the
state. Ben had died trying to clear the Oak Creek Canyon road between Sedona and Flagstaff after part of the hill above it had tumbled
down to cover the highway following three days of hard rain. Hit by a stray boulder—one loosened from the unstable hillside—Ben had
died instantly. Thayne still missed him.
With nobody else to fret over, Dora worried herself sick over her son. Daily, she watched the news, dreading the report of a fire
anywhere in the western United States. Weekly she advised him to find another line of work. Monthly she begged him to get married
and settle down so she could have the grandchildren she’d set her heart on.
Tom came out of the bathroom looking cherubic. He had a round face and fat cheeks—blue eyes that sparkled and a mouth sel-dom
devoid of a smile. The only time he didn’t look like a Rubens angel was when his face was covered in ash and dirt.
“You ready for breakfast?” Thayne asked.
“Yeah. Hope they make decent pancakes. That last place the pancakes were so heavy I could almost hear them hitting the bot-tom
of my gut.”
“Try some scrambled eggs. Not much a cook can do to screw up what a hen lays down.”
“Can’t eat eggs. Shawna says they’re bad for my cholesterol.”
3434 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
“C’mon, Tom. All the hard and heavy work we do, no self-respecting cholesterol molecule could hope to hang on inside our
* * *
They slid into a booth and the waitress arrived with order pad in hand.
“I’ll have a stack of pancakes, bacon, hash browns and wheat toast,” Tom said.
The waitress smiled at him. “I love a man with a good appetite first thing in the morning,” she said, blatantly flirting. “You?” she
asked, turning to Thayne.
“Denver omelet, hash browns, double side of bacon and two English muffins.”
“Sweetie, I don’t know how you manage to keep such a svelte figure eating like that. Coming right up, guys. More coffee?”
“Sure, Hon. Lots more coffee,” Thayne shot back. “If we keep you running back and forth often enough filling our cups, you can
eat a big breakfast and keep your figure, too.”
“Ooh. A nice torso and a quick wit, besides. You must have got up on the right side of the bed this morning, Sweetie.”
“Same side as always, Hon.”
“All alone?” she asked. “No one to keep you company?’
“Alone? No. Tom and I share a bed most nights. We’re ardent lovers.”
“He doesn’t like me to tell outsiders. He’s still debating whether to come out of his closet or not.”
“He’s joking. I’m happily married and have a three-year-old daughter.”
“Then I take it you aren’t married?” she asked, addressing Thayne again.
Thayne shrugged. “Haven’t seen a woman yet I’d consider settling down with. Would you like to enter my online, marriage-eligibility
contest? I’d need a complete dossier on you, a nude photo and a thousand dollars. The last is to weed out the serious con-tenders
from the rest of the herd.”
“For God’s sake, Thayne. Dial it back about a hundred yards. A nude photo? I doubt she’s over 18. She’ll be phoning the sheriff’s
office and they’ll arrest you as a sexual predator.”
“Do you think it’s unreasonable, Hon, to request one of those photos? I’d like to assure myself of a certain level of perfection in
my intended bride—no scars or stretch marks from accidents or previous pregnancies.”
“Perfection? I don’t think such a thing exists—in a woman—or a man. Doubt you’ll ever get married with that attitude. I was all
prepared to think you had a pretty fair handle on perfection—but then you opened your mouth and spoiled it all.”
“I could shut it, Hon, if I had some breakfast to chew on. How about you do your job and provide me with my omelet?”
She turned on her heel and stomped off toward the slotted window opening between the kitchen and the restaurant to turn in
“Must you always. . . ? What kind of thrill does it give you to tick off a waitress?”
“None, Tom. I’d like it if they did their jobs. If they think I’m going to tip more for a little scintillating conversation, they’d be
wrong. I tip for good food and good service, not batting eyelashes, fake grins and semi-salacious chit-chat.”
“She’s probably right. You’ll never get married with that attitude.”
“Maybe it’s true . . . what I told her. Maybe I am gay.”
“Cut the crap, Thayne. I know about you and Susie Pittman.”
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 35
Thayne had to grin. Rumors were rife about him and Susie. Legends had been built on less. In his hometown of Clarkdale, it was
bandied around that he’d had sex with Susie right there in her own bedroom, not two doors away from the father who’d threatened to
flay alive any young man who even offered to unzip his pants in Susie’s presence.
“What did you hear?”
“Let’s just say she can’t pretend to be a virgin anymore.”
“You think I busted her cherry? Old man Pittman would have me castrated if that rumor gets back to him. If that happens, I
might need you as my bed partner for sure. Not many women are enamored of a guy who talks like a Vienna choirboy sings.”
“Did you have sex with her?”
“Guess that’s for me to know and you to wonder about. Ah, good, food arrives. You weren’t mad enough to spit on my omelet,
were you, Hon?”
“Think I’d tell you if I had?”
“Probably not. Guess if you did, it wouldn’t be much different than swapping spit while giving you a French kiss, so I’m not going
to quibble. Could I trouble you for a bottle of ketchup?”
She slammed a bottle of it down in front of him, giving him a glare that would have melted an iceberg.
“Thank you, ma’am. Little more coffee, too, please?”
* * *
When each of their bills arrived, Tom opted to pay his with a credit card. Thayne fished out a wad of bills from his pocket and
counted out the cost of the meal—$9.95. To that he added another ten-spot for a tip. Pulling a pen from his yellow jacket’s pocket, he
wrote on the bill.
After completing his message, he folded the bill around his money and waltzed up to the register where she was waiting for
other customers to pay.
Tom handed over his credit card. Thayne winked at her and handed over his bill. Watched as she carefully unfolded the money
and read the note.
I apologize for giving you a hard time. I’m leaving you a fairly substantial tip to make up for my teasing. You’re not bad on
the eyes—kind of pretty—even so early in the morning.
If you’d consider entering the contest for becoming my wife, I might even be willing to reduce the $1000 fee if you’d send me
your dossier and that photo. Just in case you’d ever like to be in touch, my e-mail address is:
Thanks for breakfast—spit or no spit—it was good.
She gave him another hard look, shaking her head ever so slightly. No smile, he noticed, but she did slip the ten-dollar tip in her
pocket before handing him the nickel he was due in change for the breakfast.
“You have a name that goes after ‘Rosalie’?” Thayne asked as Tom pocketed his credit card.
“I do, but I don’t give it out. That’s why there’s only my first name on the nametag. So we don’t get hit on by smart alecks like
“C’mon, Thayne. Fred’s gonna be chewing our butts if we show up late on the fire line.”
“You’re working the fire? Both of you?”
3636 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
“Smoke-eaters personified, that’s us. This here’s Thomas Chittum and I’m Thayne Kirk—couple of dozer runners. We’re at your
service whenever a big blaze takes off anywhere west of the Mississippi River.”
“Thanks for trying to save as much as you can. Please be careful out there.”
“Gee, Tom. That kind of sounds like she cares about me—and I’d say she might care about you, too—but you’re married. Should I
ask her out for our upcoming weekend off? Maybe to a movie?”
“Let’s go, Thayne,” Tom said. “After your performance at breakfast, I’d hate for your ego to be down in the dumps all day because
she refused your offer of a date.”
Thayne looked like woe personified at Tom’s comment. Like he couldn’t imagine any woman turning down a date with him.
Rosalie burst out laughing at Thayne’s hangdog look. “You do have a rather weird sense of humor, Mr. Kirk, but I’m inclined now to
think it isn’t quite as malicious as I first believed it to be.”
“I’m still not the sort of fellow you’d consider taking in a movie with, though, right?”
“Right. I have a boyfriend.”
“Guess that doesn’t surprise me. We’d better get a move on, Tom. It’s an hour’s drive to the front lines, and it’s already 9:15.”
“Wasn’t me holding up the works, Thayne.”
“I know. I need you to nag me like Shawna nags you if you expect to get me to the church on time. Mornin’, Ms. Rosalie. May all
your customers for the rest of the day be sweethearts.”
“Be safe guys.”
* * *
“Damn, Thayne. I think she might have gone out with you if you’d have kept a civil tongue in your head.”
“Where’s the fun in that? I’d be willing to bet she spends more time today thinking about me—brazen SOB that I am—than she
thinks about her other male customers. I might not be all cool and mannerly, but I tend to be memorable.”
“Right. Like when a garbage truck overturns on the street right outside your house. That kind of memorable.”
“We’ll see. Bet she e-mails me before the day is out.”
“You’re on. What’s the wager?”
“Ten bucks? Same as the tip I gave her?”
“Yeah. Okay. I’m putting mine in the glove compartment. You add yours to it. When we finish the shift at 10 p.m., you look right
away at your e-mails.”
“But the day won’t be up until 10 a.m. Ten tonight is only half a day.”
“I don’t care. At 10 p.m. the bacon hits the fire. No message, I’m $10 richer.”
* * *
A small subdivision lay in the direct path of the fire, which was pushed by a relentless 30 mph wind. Fred Everett, after a few
choice epithets hurled at them for being late, directed both of them to clear a wide firebreak on the side closest to the approaching con-flagration.
Working in opposite directions so they passed each other in the middle of the grid’s space, Thayne saw Tom still had one ear
protector lying back behind his ear so he could hear. He made pantomime motions and Tom finally pulled the earpiece back over his right
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 37
The wind carried sparks and bits of hot ash on its tide. Occasionally a small fire would flare up on the subdivision side of where
Thayne and Tom were clearing. A young squirt named Billy Bennett would run up with his portable water tank and extinguish it. If the
spark got too much purchase before Billy could wet it down, either Tom or Thayne would haul off the grid they were working to dozer a
little dirt over the blaze.
Men behind the grid were spraying a foam mixture on the fronting homes. A newly invented process, it had saved many dwellings
from the rain of sparks and flying hot ash. Nothing saved the homes from the smoke smell, which would linger for months or maybe
years—in furniture and bedding and clothes.
The smoke was bad that morning, as it had been for the last two days. Even the wet bandanas both men wore over their noses
and mouths didn’t do much to prevent eating smoke.
There was no lunch whistle. The fire was too close to permit breaks. Logistical crews or local fire fighters’ wives brought cold
drinks or dried-out sandwiches at intervals. Thayne and Tom would stop plowing up the landscape for a minute to lean down from their
dozers and grab what the crews and wives offered, then eat or drink on the job. Everything tasted like smoke, and not the good kind
that denoted a barbecue, either.
At four, the wind began to subside, giving both dozer men a short break. Tom and Thayne each upended a bucket or two of water
over their heads, in a futile attempt to cool off. Between the high temperatures and the heat from the fires, it felt about 120° on top of
the bulldozers. Dehydration or heat exhaustion were their constant companions and greatest enemies, so Fred made sure they drank
copious amounts of water and had the fire trucks occasionally spray them with water, too.
“Okay, you two. Now that the wind is letting up, the fire will start to lay down. I need you to work at making big lazy circles
around the entire subdivision. That way, if the fire begins to circle around it or the wind shifts directions, we’ll have a viable buffer on all
sides of the settlement.”
“Yes, sir,” Thayne agreed. “You want the left flank or the right one, Tom? Name your poison.”
“I’ll take the left one, Thayne.”
The left flank was flatter land. The right one was a series of small hills and gullies. Tom would be able to work his while half
asleep. Thayne would need to be both awake and alert on his side. It was fair—their agreed-on division of sides. He’d had the easier go
of the landscape the night before.
Climbing aboard his dozer, he kicked it into drive and started for the right edge.
This is kind of the same operation the Sioux used on Custer. Flanking him—getting him to turn his attention in one direction while
other warriors crept up from a different direction. Substitute the fire in place of the Sioux and these houses are in as much danger as
Looks like someone had to leave their horses behind when they evacuated. I’d better make sure there’s a real wide firebreak
around their pen. Check to see they have water, too.
He put the dozer into neutral and climbed down. Ran water from the hose into the water tank and sprayed some over both
horses. A dog crawled out from under the horses’ loafing shed and bared its teeth at Thayne. He sprayed the dog, too, and filled the low
galvanized washtub with water for it. The dog drank greedily and once he’d had his fill he started advancing on Thayne again, so Thayne
climbed back up on the dozer and went on about his business.
At 9:45, his relief arrived. Climbing down, he relinquished the dozer to the next man and caught a ride back to his truck with Fred.
Tom was already waiting when he got there.
“You guys need to be here on time tomorrow morning. They’re predicting variable winds in the range of 15-20 mph. The crews
that followed you tonight showed up on time, and I think they’d appreciate the same courtesy from you.”
“You got it, Mr. Everett. We wouldn’t have been late this morning, but Thayne had to get into his usual argument with the wait-ress.
C’mon, Thay. It’s time to check to see if she e-mailed you. I might be $10 richer.”
3838 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
Tom wouldn’t let Thayne pull out of the lot until he booted up his laptop and checked his e-mail. There were a slew of messages
because he hadn’t looked at the thing in three days. Quarantine reports. Several messages from politicians looking for donations. A
notice from Al Gore inviting him to join in a conference on global warming.
Tom was looking over Thayne’s shoulder as he stood outside his driver’s door punching keys on the laptop lying open on his seat.
Thayne read each message from beginning to end before deleting them.
“Hurry up, Thay. You don’t need to read every word. Just delete the junk and get to today’s messages.”
“You haven’t even won the $10 and it’s already burning a hole in your pocket?”
“No, but I’m beginning to think you’ve never heard of speed reading.”
At the very bottom of his messages was one from firstname.lastname@example.org. Thayne was tempted to close the top on the
laptop, but Tom had already seen it.
“Looks like you might be $10 wealthier. Go get the money out of the glove box.”
“No. Not yet. What did she say? I want to read what she sent you.”
“Was that part of the bet? I don’t remember it if it was.”
“Afraid she’s still not of a mind to go with you to the movies?”
“Fine.” He punched up the message and let Tom read it.
I told my boyfriend that one of the firefighters wanted to take me to the movies this weekend. He said I could go with you, as he
has to work. He’s a resident at the local hospital. If you still want to go to the movies with me, e-mail me back or come in for breakfast
and let me know then. Course, it won’t be much of a date—not like the real thing—because as soon as Rex finishes up his residency,
we’re getting married. Just think of it as another way for a local citizen to say ‘thanks’ for all your work to keep us safe from the fire.
“What are you going to tell her?” Tom asked. “Are you going to go?”
“No, probably not. Susie wouldn’t appreciate me stepping out on her.”
Tom rolled his eyes. “Rosalie’s practically throwing you a rose—no pun intended—or offering you a fun evening and you’re wor-ried
about some woman back in the old hometown?”
“Why don’t you take her to the movies. You’re married and she’s practically married—sounds like a better match-up to me. If I’m
going to waste money on movie tickets, I’d at least like to be able to pull off into a lover’s lane and cop a feel or steal a kiss after the
“You take the cake, Thayne, you really do.”
“You think I should go?”
“Yes. She seemed really nice.”
“I’ll give it some thought, but right now, I want some hot pizza and cold beer. Let’s hit the pub and have some of both.”
“I’m dirty, Thay, and so are you. We smell like smoke. I’m sure the owner of the pub will be just delighted to have us muck up his
“They have a drive-thru window.”
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 39
“Okay, use that then. Come to think of it, pizza does sound good and a beer sounds even better.”
Thayne went through the drive-thru and placed his order for pepperoni pizza with added mushrooms and black olives. Re-quested
a six-pack of cold Coors and had to produce his driver’s license to obtain it.
Tom was laughing as Thayne shoved his wallet back in the front pocket of his jeans.
“It’s you that looks like you’re about 13—not me. She wouldn’t have asked for my ID but once she got a look at you, she thought
she’d better be safe than sorry.”
“Yeah, right. Another 20 years you’ll feel flattered when someone asks you for your license.”
“I feel flattered now.”
They took the pizza and beer back to their motel room to chow down. They split the pizza and beer equally. After Tom downed
his three beers, he shucked off down to his underwear, washed the ash and tomato sauce off his face and crawled wearily into bed.
Thayne waited until he started snoring before going out to collect his laptop.
Hey, back at you Rose of Sharon—
If we’re going to the movies, how about it if you provide me with your phone number and address so I can pick you up around
seven Saturday night?
Smokey Bear—aka Thayne Kirk
He punched the ‘send’ button and closed the laptop. Shedding his clothes, he showered, using a washcloth to ream out both his
ears and his nose. When he dried off, he again opened the laptop to see if she’d been monitoring messages. She had.
Hi, Smokey Bear—
How about if I meet you in front of the restaurant? I’ll be there at seven. If you can’t make it, I’ll go home again, but I’d sooner
not give out my phone number or address.
Hey, R of S—
Surely you aren’t that afraid of me. I was only teasing about the contest and the nude photo. I’m not going to push the issue of
your address, though. I’m grateful you’ve at least agreed to go with me to the theater. Grateful enough, I’m willing to toss in dinner in
addition to the movie. I’ll be at the restaurant at six. Drove past the theater—I think it’s Alvin and the chipmunks that’s playing. It’s one
of those places with several theaters under the same roof. There may be something playing that’s more for adults, but it was Alvin in big
letters on the marquee. I like Alvin. Hope you do, too.
SB signing off.
He crawled in between the sheets grinning at the thought of taking her to see a bunch of chipmunks. Even if something else
more suitable was playing, he had his mind made up to see Alvin.
4040 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
Thayne got to the restaurant at 5:45 and slid into a booth where he had a good view of the door she’d come through. A middle-aged
waitress asked if he wanted something to drink.
“I’d like iced tea, please—no lemon.”
He thought she might have changed her mind or decided against dinner when it came to 6:15 and she had yet to show up.
I’ll have to wait until seven, just in case she wants to see a movie but not eat dinner. What looks good on the evening menu? Onion
rings. I love onion rings, but not tonight. Damn. Do I dare or do I not? Nothing like onion fumes if she shows up for the movie date. Better
He ordered a bacon-cheeseburger and fries. Was about to tuck into his dinner when she came through the door. She walked
straight to his table and slid into the booth.
“You’re early for the movie and late for dinner. Have you eaten? Want something?”
“Yes. I’ll have the ham on rye, with cottage cheese and a Coke.”
Thayne signaled the waitress and relayed Rosalie’s order. “Can I get a refill on my tea, too, Sweetheart?”
When the waitress was out of earshot, Rosalie asked, “Do you always address wait people in such familiar terms?”
Suppressing a grin, he said, “No, Hon. Only the females. Those terms of endearment would be lost on the male dudes.”
“How did it go on the fire lines?”
“About the same as always.”
“What is the same as always like?”
He took a bite of his cheeseburger and chewed before answering.
“We get between the flames and whatever homes the residents would like to return to. Go back and forth, dozing up all the vege-tation—
from grass to small shrubs and trees. Choke on the smoke. Pour water in our eyes to rinse out the ash. Eat stale sandwiches.
Drink gallons of water. Routine stuff.”
“Do you ever get burned?”
Thayne leaned across the table and rolled the collar of his shirt under, exposing several small blisters where hot ash had landed on
“Ouch! That looks painful.”
“Only gets bad when whole flaming branches fall off on top of you. Ash burns are like the times when your papa used his lit ciga-rette
to burn your hand for getting into his personal stuff. Not a big deal.”
“Your father burned your hands with his cigarettes?”
“Nope. Not a single time. Threatened to once or twice. The threat was enough to convince me to stay out of his stuff. He only
threatened when it was his pistol I was headed for.”
Arizona Literary Magazine 2013 · 41
“How old were you at the time?”
“Dunno. Four maybe. Five?”
“I begin to see why you’re like you are.”
“And how are I, exactly?”
“You have a smart mouth and are likely hard as nails inside. When did you start driving a bulldozer?”
“When I was three.”
“See. That’s what I mean. Another smart answer.”
“No, honestly. I got to drive one when I was three.”
“My father owned his own dozer. Did a lot of pro bono work for neighbors. Scraped out a driveway. Cleared weeds away from
fence lines. Leveled hills and filled in gullies for pastures. I went along. Sat on his lap. He let me steer sometimes.”
“Oh. That’s what made you fall in love with the occupation? Your father was a good male role model?”
“I guess. My dad was a pretty swell guy.”
“Was? Past tense?”
“Yeah. He was killed when a rock fell off a mountain and hit him in the head.”
“What about your mother? Is she still around?”
“She must worry about you meeting the same fate.”
“She’s more concerned that I’m still not married. No grandkids on the horizon for her to spoil. I hear about that on a monthly ba-sis.”
“No brothers or sisters to provide them?”
“Just me. How about you? Big family?”
“Two sisters, both married. I’m already an aunt. Mom and Dad live in Tucson in a retirement community.”
“How did you end up here?”
“I moved to Albuquerque to be close to Rex.”
“Yes. He has another year to go, then we’ll get married. He hopes to set up his practice in Santa Fe.”
“What sort of practice? Plastic surgery so he can treat the rich and famous movie stars who are drawn like flies to places like Taos
and Santa Fe?”
“Pediatrics, so he can treat the Indian children of the area.”
“I immediately have more respect for Rex. Some of those kids are in bad shape. Cleft palates. Diabetes. Deformed limbs. Fetal
“Yes—all of that is true. How do you know about them?”
4242 · 2013 Arizona Literary Magazine
“Worked the Rodeo-Chediski fire a few years back. Lots of Indians were on the ground crews. Sometimes their families came
with them. Saw some pretty disheartening cases among the kids.
“It was rumored that one of the Apache firefighters had started one of the fires in eastern Arizona just so he’d have work. He
was that desperate for money. Hope Rex isn’t expecting a huge income for treating them. Most of them don’t have much.”
“He has to make some money. He has huge loans to pay off for his education.”
“You may be waiting on tables until you’re as old as the waitress coming with your dinner, then.��
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