In #Gratitude for the 400th Review of my #Memoir “Empty Chairs” It is #Free From Oct 8th, till Oct 12th. #RRBC #IARTG #WritingCommunity.

 

Hello and welcome.

How does it feel when the reviews of your work click over to 400 on Amazon.com?

Now there’s a question I never believed I’d ask myself! My first reaction was stunned. I sat here looking at that number and shaking my head in amazement. Then this tough old girl had a damned good cry.

Why?

Because these people I may never meet in person, made the time in their lives to read of my journey. Then they sat and shared their feelings in a review, and many of them gave me a glimpse into their own journeys. I count myself forever grateful to them. I have been inspired by so many of them as they shared their wisdom.

There are so many marvelous people that have stepped forward and offered their unrelenting support on my writing journey. Many of them are fellow members of #RRBC Rave Reviews Book Club.

I’d like to share a review with you that continues to make me smile through grateful tears. My dear friend and fellow author Gwen Plano made this wonderful clip.

In celebration of the 400th Review, I have listed “Empty Chairs” FREE From October 8th thru October 12th.

Again, my warmest thanks for your kindness and support.

My #Christmas on The Streets: 1966. A sweet memory.#Memoir #RRBC @pursoot

CHRISTMAS BLOG BANNER

Thanks so much for stopping by. I like to share this post every Christmas. It remains one of my sweetest memories.

CHRISTMAS MORNING 1966: 2:00 AM.

The Christmas season is the harshest of all when you live on the streets.

On ANY streets. In ANY town. In any Climate.

A miracle happened in our small dark world that hot and steamy Christmas morning all those long years ago. I’d not yet turned twelve years old. Yet I felt older than time.

It was not a ‘miracle’ of biblical proportions. Yet for the fifteen of us that lived in the damaged shipping container, it was a miracle that we would hold in our memories forever, to be taken out and looked at whenever life grew harsher.

I am sharing it with you here.

I hope that it makes you nod in understanding. I hope that it reminds you of what joy your smile and a simple hello can mean to the lost and the lonely.

I am smiling through my tears as I remember…..

***

Christmas was barely a week or so away, and the mood in ‘the palace’ wasn’t good. That’s what we’d named our rusty old shipping container. ‘The Palace’ was exactly that to us. We constructed our own safety barriers, dodging between smart-mouthed bravado and silent despair.

Christmas out here meant different things to each of us I guess.

My memories of Christmas’s past were all bad. Even last year when I’d been on the streets alone for barely a month had bad stuff attached to it, yet it hadn’t been nearly as bad as the ones I had lived with back in the home I called ‘hell central’.

I asked ‘Baby Jenny’ our youngest member to come for a walk with me down to see Big Mike. The guy was built like a mountain and I never did learn his last name. He was the go-to man for everything here on the Sydney docks. I wanted to ask him if he could scrounge up some left over decorations to put up in the palace to lighten the mood a little.

He gave me a thoughtful nod, and said he’d “see what he could do.”

He bent down and spoke to Jenny, “I swear you get prettier every day, Jenny. Don’t let Sassy here teach you any bad habits.”

Jenny grinned at him too afraid to respond.

I kept my mouth shut for a change, except for a “Gee thanks, Big Mike.”

He smiled and wandered off, and we headed back up to the palace. We spent a lot of time outdoors during the heat of the summer. The cooler breezes drifting in from the water gave us a little welcome respite. The heat inside our metal home was dreadful. It was difficult to breathe in the late afternoons. We complained to each other long and loud. But I had to shrug and smile at our bitching. Winter was far worse.

We figured Big Mike had forgotten when a week passed with no contact. It was disappointing, but the man didn’t owe us anything. He’d already rushed one of us to the hospital and probably saved her life and the life of the baby that she’d been giving birth to. So we didn’t really expect the decorations, we just hoped for them.

Jenny was extra quiet. I wondered if she would ever be able to talk about why she was here. I didn’t ask her. I hadn’t discussed my background with any of them, even Jamie. So I understood that it was not open for general discussion. These streets were harsh and difficult regardless of why you found yourself here.

Christmas Eve dawned fiery red. It was going to be a very, very, hot day according to the radio forecasts, with a cool southerly change expected later in the evening.

We all headed up to Hyde Park very early and took a Christmas bath in our favorite fountain. At least the palace wouldn’t stink quite so badly for Christmas day.

It was tempting to just jump into the ocean so close to the Palace, but Big Mike had warned us all about the sharks, so we didn’t dare.  We planned on heading down to the Botanical Gardens for a dip in the lake that evening. We figured there wouldn’t be many people around at that time because it was Christmas Eve and they’d be home with their families. It was a sad thought until we reminded each other that we too were a family.

The sky began to darken and the thunder rolled in early in the afternoon. The southerly buster was heading up the coast rapidly. We were all unusually quiet and sitting around outside in the shade of the container when we heard the sound of vehicles heading toward the palace.

We headed around the front to see who had arrived and watched in stunned amazement as Big Mike and two of the other guys whose names I can’t recall, began unloading boxes of stuff from their cars and placing it in the shaded opening of our tin home.

Big Mike looked uncomfortable, if possible, he was even gruffer than usual. “You lot need feeding up, so we brought you some stuff.”

We were all too stunned to say much at all, these hard men were all smiling and a little red-faced. I swear if they could have, that they would have scuffed their shoes in the dirt like little kids with embarrassment.

Big Mike shook Jamie’s hand and accepted the ‘thank you’ from him.

I was speechless which wasn’t a common occurrence. I just grinned at them all. and gave the guys a hurried “Thanks.”

They were the unlikeliest Angels you would ever see, sweaty and dirty after a long hot day’s work, but the sight of them unloading the Christmas goodies and punching one another in the arm in a gesture common amongst males remains etched starkly in my memory.

Big Mike reached into the front seat of his car and pulled out a parcel that was wrapped in Christmas paper, with bright ribbons attached. He walked over and handed it to Baby Jenny.

She looked confused and wasn’t sure what to do with it.

“The women picked this out for ya, little one.” Big Mike said in a voice strictured by emotion.

Jenny still wasn’t sure what to do.

“Go ahead and open it, Jenny,” Jamie said.

“Um, later. Later. Okay?” she replied looking very unsure of herself.

She looked at the men, and gave them one of her sweet smiles, “Don’t matter what it is. I never had a present before, so, um, yeah. Thanks, thanks a lot.”

The men seemed to understand that she needed to be alone when she opened it.

As for the rest of us, we tore into those presents and boxes like there was no tomorrow, squealing in delighted surprise with everything we found.

There was more food than any of us had ever seen.

There were tinned hams, fresh pineapples, cherries, and plums. Cooked Turkey and Cranberry sauce, with all the trimmings. Fifteen red t-shirts all large sizes. Paper plates, and plastic knives and forks, a can-opener. A Cooler packed with ice, and a new radio with spare batteries. A big crate of beer and bottles of cold Coke rounded out the feast.

That night, we all huddled around the new radio. It was much bigger and put out a better sound than the small transistor we had been using. We sat drinking the beer and singing our version of Christmas carols, none of them repeatable. Trust me.

Jenny sat on her sleeping space of folded layers of newspaper. She was a little tipsy having been allowed one-half of a small bottle of beer. We glanced at her as she picked up her present and watched the look on her face as she unwrapped it.

It was a baby doll, all soft and dressed in bonnet and booties with a pretty pink knitted dress. “Just what we needed, another fuckin’ mouth to feed,” she said. But the smile on her face could have lit up the entire city.

We were fed, content, and a little overwhelmed and unsure at the kindness of these people.

We all wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, they had done it for no motive other than the wish to make this Christmas a better place for us to be. It was an alien experience to all of us,but a welcome one.

We had only sampled a little of the huge amount of food, deciding to save the rest for Christmas Day

That night we were all tipsy, yet strangely quiet as we bedded down for the night. I think we were all a little overwhelmed by the generosity of these men.

It was around 2.00 am Christmas morning I guess when I felt something was wrong. Whatever the something was, it wouldn’t let me sleep. I couldn’t place it immediately. It was a strange sense of something missing, and it troubled me.

Jamie was on watch. I climbed over the others and hunkered down next to him. Jamie smiled at me and said, “You too hey, Sassy?”

“Yeah, I guess. What is it? Something’s different.”

We sat a while just listening. Then Jamie said, “Oh shit! It’s Jenny, she’s not crying!”

My heart was in my mouth. Jamie grabbed the torch and we played it across the others, several of them were already awake, and wondering what the hell was happening. Jenny had cried herself to sleep every night since she’d come to this place. It was a sound we all tried not to hear. She couldn’t be comforted, we weren’t permitted that close. She’d been here for two years now. Jenny was only around eight-years-old and the sounds of her despair echoed through the palace every night.

We stood looking down at her. Jenny lay on her side, sound asleep, with both arms wrapped around that doll so tight there was no space between them.

That was the first time I had cried in a very, very, long time. I glanced at the others, without exception we were all affected the same way. No one wanted to look at anyone else, shit we were supposed to be the toughest kids on the block! Hell, we were the only kids on the block. That Christmas was the first real day of Jenny’s childhood. From then on, Christmas became Jenny’s birthday.

I’d like to tell you that a miraculous change came over her. That she was instantly transformed. In a make-believe world she’d be outside singing all the hits from ‘The Sound of Music’ and wearing a pretty new dress and shoes.  But this is the real world, and the changes took place over time.

Jenny named her doll, Francine.

The greatest change of all, was that, from that night, for all the years that Baby Jenny remained in our world, she never cried herself to sleep again.

 ***

Many years have passed since that long ago Christmas Eve. My darling Jenny has gone.

So many of my Christmas Eves over time have been special ones. But the one I recall with tears of happiness on my face, and a smile in my heart, is this one.

Jenny lost her battle with life in September of 2008.

The doll Francine was buried with her.

#

Thanks so much for stopping by and helping share my memory.

Have a joyous and memorable Christmas Season.

 

#CoverReveal #NewRelease: “The Alternative” by S.Burke @pursoot My new #Thriller #Anthology. #RRBC #premium_indie #IARTG Now Available for PRE-ORDER.

 Hello, and welcome to the Cover Reveal of my New Thriller Anthology

“The Alternative”

The ALTERNATIVE BANNER HEADLINE FOR COVER REVEAL BEST

The Alternative

The Alternative
by S.Burke

Available to Pre-Order NOW.
Release Date:  Monday June 18th 2018
Mystery> Thriller & Suspense > Anthology.

It is such an exciting time for an author when releasing a new book! I would be remiss in not sharing my heartfelt thanks to the marvelous people who gave of their time so readily to beta read my latest book. Their valuable insights helped me enormously when crafting “The Alternative”

At long last, I’m able to share the cover and blurb for “The Alternative” my latest Thriller Anthology.   “The Alternative ” is due for release on June 18th.

It is NOW available for Pre-Order

I have many good friends sharing this cover across the blogosphere today and tomorrow, so you’re likely to see it pop up in various places. Thank you to everyone participating in my cover reveal splash, and to everyone dropping by to share in my excitement.   Here’s my new baby . . .

With much gratitude to Eeva Lancaster at The Book Khaleesi for the cover creation.

Cover Created by Eeva Lancaster at The Book Khalessi

Presenting “The Alternative” A Thriller Anthology.

“The Alternative”

THE ALTERNATIVE COVER IN HIGH RESOLUTION BEST

BLURB:

The Alternative.

There are those that cling unreservedly to the lifeboat that believing in Karma hands them so willingly.

They work, they live, and they function in a world that allows them the option of unreservedly trusting that Karma has no deadline.

Until they are handed the spark that ignites them into becoming the instrument of Karma itself.

There are others who have had all they once held to be truths, everything they once stood for and took pride in, torn apart and ripped from them by the hand of a cruel fate.

Then, of course, there are those who believed in nothing and no one, to begin with …

These are their stories.

The stories of people both good and bad, who made the choice to exact “The Alternative.”

An excerpt from Chapter 1. Picasso.

February 1990.

The tall man stretched his arms and flexed his long artistic fingers. He stood back to gain a different perspective of his latest work of art. He’d spent a great deal of time sketching his outline and was well satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps this one would be the perfection he craved above all else.

His other efforts were upstairs in the gallery, and while they were far from his lofty imaginings, they each represented another step forward toward his ultimate goal. He knew this exhibition would prompt worldwide interest, that was a given. His reputation was on the line. That at least was something he valued.

He grunted and moved the newest piece into the workroom. The more difficult application of his talent needed to begin.

***

 NEW YORK JULY 2015

Meredith keyed in her code, shouldered the door open and dropped her briefcase onto the polished boards of the entry. Working on autopilot, she flicked on the light and bent to collect the mail from the floor; throwing it onto the small bureau without bothering to check the sender. She shrugged off her coat and draped it over the arm of the sofa. Too damned weary to be bothered with any external interruptions tonight, she removed the home phone from its cradle and headed to the kitchen to fix enough coffee to sustain the long evening ahead, deliberately ignoring the well-stocked bar. She was well aware that she’d need every bit of concentration she could muster. She removed the Glock from her handbag, and out of habit, she placed it on the coffee table next to the perpetually full ashtray.

Her head was already pounding and she rubbed at her tense neck muscles until her fingers ached. Relief from the unresolved tension still hovered … just out of reach. She held her breath for a moment, stilling her impatience. If all went to plan, this thing would be finally ended. If justice existed at all, it would go well. All the years she’d worked to bring what was the only course left open to herself and the others to completion was coming. ‘Soon now’, was her daily mantra. But the darker visions still danced vividly in her mind’s eye and tormented her rare sleeping hours … it had been that way for almost twenty-five years.

The memory haunted her, dark and unforgivingly brutal. It replayed in clear and explicit detail every time she was forced to reflect on it … and its aftermath.

***

THE ALTERNATIVE IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

“The Alternative” on AMAZON.COM

Suzanne Burke Amazon Author Page

On TWITTER.

On Facebook.

My Blog

Thank you so much for joining me here today. Your support is very much appreciated.

I would be delighted to hear your thoughts and comments below.

Look Back in ANGER … Move Forward with DREAD. A brief exploration of me. #RRBC #RWISA #IARTG

BANNER LOOK BACK IN ANGER

 “The best predictor for future behavior is past behavior.”

Have you read and heard that statement as often as I have?

More importantly however, is, do you recognize and believe it?

Has your past behavior resounded through time to continuously affect the way you respond to life, right here and right now?

Mine certainly has.

I’ve headed this post “Look Back in ANGER … Move Forward with Dread.”

Therein lay my challenge to myself.

Make no mistake, I have held onto the fierce anger I learned to feel before I was taught to write my own name.

It has raged inside me forever, or so it seems.

It is relentless, soul consuming and unapologetic in its efforts to deny me peace of mind.

I have loathed it … and I have nurtured it.

For it has become comfortingly familiar to me, much like an old friend that I recognize, and in that recognition I’ve invited it to re-visit me over-and-over, and over again.

I seek answers within the rage, knowing in advance, that there are none to find. For I know from whence that rage stems.

I rail against it, I abhor it … I recognize the damage that it offers my future self, and in an instant I deny that recognition.

For I have sought comfort in the unrelenting familiarity I find within these boundaries I have set myself.

The anger, helplessness and utter frustration that I’ve recognized and clung to, have not enriched my existence.

Nor have those raging reactions and emotions enriched the existence of those that have loved me in spite of it.

It is not only for myself, but, for them, that this morass of soul devouring rage has to change.

I can NOT go backward in time and alter the situations that crafted my rage.

I can NOT undo the damage that life’s fickle hand has dealt me.

I can NOT forget or forgive those that perpetrated their evil betrayal on an unsuspecting child.

But … I CAN learn to reshape that rage into a renewed sense of purpose.

I CAN learn to channel that sense of purpose into a passion that spurs me on to do better.

I  CAN permit myself to love those that love me … and do so unconditionally.

I CAN allow myself to again trust in my own judgment.

Until, ultimately, I CAN move forward into a future unclouded by dread.

Yes, it will be difficult, and, Yes, it will present me with challenges.

But the rewards of attaining this freedom from rage  will enable me to pursue personal goals I’ve long wanted to acheive.

It will grant me the permission to feel pleasure in its final accomplishment.

Now THAT is the future I want. THAT is the future I’ll aim for.

That gives me reason to smile.

 

 

 

 

Book Review 2018 “The Neon Houses” BY LINDA C. MIMS @boom_lyn. #RRBC #RRBC_RWISA #IARTG

BOOK REVIEW COVER THE NEON HOUSES BY LINDA MIMS

WELCOME TO MY BOOK REVIEW of “THE NEON HOUSES” BY LINDA MIMS @boom_lyn.

MEET LINDA MIMS

LINDA MIMS BIO PIC

 

The Author’s Story – @boom_lyn #RRBC #RWISA

A former classroom teacher, Linda Mims has enjoyed careers as a high school administrator, a radio show co-host and announcer, and a public speaker. Finally free to roam, Linda enjoys traveling and storytelling. The only thing she loves more than telling stories is reading them.

Her novel, “THE NEON HOUSES,” available on Amazon for kindle books, was born when she overheard a speaker claim that people had lost interest in reading. He joked that decades from now America would be holding “reading nights” in neighborhood parks for citizens who couldn’t read.

The statement took shape in her mind until it evolved into two contrasting societies—one for people who had nothing and the other for people who had everything. Now, Linda is busy writing the second book in the Kennedy Circle Mystery series and shaping the message she wants to send.

A resident of the small village of Matteson just outside of Chicago, IL, Linda spends her days writing, cooking, gardening, and blogging—sometimes simultaneously. She is married, has two adult daughters, and one bossy bichon-pom, Ms. Alexis.

***

BOOK REVIEW COVER THE NEON HOUSES BY LINDA MIMS

BLURB

Murder, mayhem and suspense abound in this action packed page-turner set in 2087 Chicago. Our heroine, Dr. Noel Kennedy hears screams inside her head. They are the screams of her young friend, 20-year-old Zarah Fisher. She’s miles away and screaming for her life!

Noel knows the exact moment Zarah takes her last breath because Noel has a secret that not even her husband, handsome mayoral aide, Richard Kennedy, shares.

As the youngest Deputy Chief of Schools of Gang Territory, Noel has perfected her life. She is a solid, middle-class citizen from New Chicago, Incorporated. New Chicago and Gang Territory have become vastly different societies since the early Urban Wars. Now, year 2087 finds New Chicago’s military-trained police determined to enforce laws that keep “gang people” out.

Harlem Pierce, a New Chicago police detective, has been warned to stay away from Zarah Fisher’s murder investigation and he urges Noel to let it go, too. But a new killing involves Noel’s cousin and her boyfriend and links Noel to it in a startling way.

Who can Noel trust? Should she turn to Warren Simpson—the menacing, treacherous boss of Gang Territory? Or … could he be the killer?

If you like flying cars, robots, androids, dystopia and utopia mixed in with your thriller then this is the story for you!

MY REVIEW:🌟🌟 🌟🌟🌟 A delightful read that any lover of Dystopian & Paranormal fiction is certain to enjoy.

Finding a book that blends the genre’s of Dystopian/Paranormal and Thriller together is rare enough, finding one as well written as this one most assuredly is pure delight for an avid reader such as myself.

Author Linda Mims has woven intricate threads throughout this book, luring the reader down one path and suddenly throwing a curveball that was not anticipated, keeping me relentlessly turning pages right from the first chapter.

Although set in a Chicago of the future time of 2087 this book is highly relevant right now, if we are honest about the monstrous differences our world already permits to exist between those that ‘Have’ and those that ‘Have Not”.

I rate the believability factor into my enjoyment of reading any book. Everything this author has created within these pages it utterly plausible and as such believable.

From protagonist Dr. Noel Kennedy’s strong, resilient, and determined persona, to the convincingly portrayed streets of the ‘Gang Territory’ this talented author weaves a tantalizing scenario.

All the characters portrayed here are multi-dimensional, they are each flawed by the lives they have had no choice but to live.

There are many characters to meet along this journey, but the author has done a remarkable job with each of them, one of my personal favorites is the treacherous Warren Simpson, head of ‘Gang Territory’ his presence is menacing, threatening, and decidedly dangerous.

The many plot threads are handled well and the book is not difficult to follow. I loved being constantly surprised by a character’s actions.

A delightful read that any lover of Dystopian & Paranormal fiction is certain to enjoy.

***

CONTACT DETAILS:

Contact via:

Twitter

Facebook

Blog/Website:

Linda Mims

Title:

“THE NEON HOUSES”

***

 

 

 

 

Christmas on the streets. The truest meaning of Christmas. Christmas morning 1966: 2:00 A.M. #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1

BEAUTIFUL BABY DOLL FOR BLOG CHRISTMAS 2017

Thank you for joining me. Whenever the darkness of our crazy old world threatens to overwhelm me I remember the times when the wonderful spirits of good people who saught only to give joy with no expectation of return enriched my life. I share this precious miracle with you each year that I am able. My Christmas gift to all those that may despair or have lost faith in the belief that most human beings are intrinsically good.

CHRISTMAS MORNING 1966: 2:00 AM.

The Christmas season is the harshest of all when you live on the streets.

On ANY streets … In ANY town.

A miracle happened in our small dark world that hot and steamy Christmas morning all those long years ago.

It was not a ‘miracle’ of biblical proportions, yet for us, it was a miracle that we would hold in our memories forever, to be taken out and looked at whenever life grew harsher.

I have taken the chapter from my memoir, and I am sharing it with you here.

I hope that it makes you nod in understanding.

I am smiling through my tears as I remember…..

 “Faint Echoes of Laughter” Book 2 of the “Standing Tall & Fighting Back.” Series. Non-Fiction. Memoir.

Chapter 7

Christmas was barely a week or so away, and the mood wasn’t good.

Christmas out here meant different things to each of us I guess.

My memories of Christmas’s past were all bad. Even last year when I’d been on the streets alone for barely a month had bad stuff attached to it, yet it hadn’t been nearly as bad as the ones I had lived with back in the home I called ‘hell central’.

I asked Baby Jenny to come for a walk with me down to see Big Mike. I wanted to ask him if he could scrounge up some leftover decorations to put up in the ‘palace’ to lighten the mood up a little.

He gave me a thoughtful nod, and said he’d “see what he could do.”

He spoke to Jenny…”I swear you get prettier every day, Jenny. Don’t let Sassy here teach you any bad habits.”

Jenny grinned at him too shy to respond.

I kept my mouth shut except for a “Gee thanks … Big Mike”

He smiled and wandered off, and we headed back up to the palace. We spent a lot of time outdoors during the heat of the summer. The cooler breezes from the water were good. The heat inside our metal home was dreadful.

When a week had passed and we hadn’t seen Big Mike we figured that he had forgotten. It was disappointing, but he didn’t owe us anything; and after all, he had helped us out with Momma and other stuff like wood for the fire in winter, so we didn’t really expect the decorations, we just hoped for them.

Jenny was extra quiet. I wondered if she would ever be able to talk about why she was here. I didn’t ask her. I hadn’t discussed my background with any of them, even Jamie. So I understood that it was not open for general discussion.

Christmas Eve dawned fiery red. It was going to be a very, very, hot day according to the radio forecasts, with a cool southerly change expected later in the evening.

We all headed up to Hyde Park very early and took a Christmas bath in our favorite fountain. At least the palace wouldn’t stink quite so badly for Christmas day.

It was tempting to just jump in the ocean so close to the Palace, but Big Mike had warned us all about the sharks, so we didn’t dare.

Sydney Harbor wasn’t the safest place to swim. We planned on heading down to the Botanical Gardens for a swim in the lake that evening. We figured there wouldn’t be many people around because it was Christmas Eve.

The sky began to look dark and threatening early in the afternoon. The southerly buster was heading up the coast rapidly. We were all unusually quiet and sitting around outside in the shade of the container when we heard the sound of vehicles heading toward the Palace.

We headed around the front to see who had arrived and watched in stunned amazement as Big Mike and two of the other guys whose names I can’t recall, began unloading boxes of stuff from their cars and placing it in the shaded opening of our tin home.

Big Mike looked uncomfortable; if possible, he was even gruffer than usual. “You lot need feeding up, so we brought you some stuff.”

We were all too stunned to say much at all, these hard men were all smiling and a little red-faced. I swear if they could have, that they would have scuffed their shoes in the dirt like little kids with embarrassment.

Big Mike shook Jamie’s hand and accepted the ‘thank you’ from him.

I was speechless which wasn’t a common occurrence, I just grinned like mad and gave the guys a hurried “Thanks.”

They were the unlikeliest Angels you would ever see, sweaty and dirty after a long hot day’s work, the sight of them unloading the Christmas goodies and punching one another in the arm in a gesture common amongst males remains etched starkly in my memory.

Big Mike reached into the front seat of his car and pulled out a parcel that was wrapped up in Christmas paper, with bright ribbons attached. He walked over and handed it to Baby Jenny.

She looked confused and wasn’t sure what to do with it.

“The women picked this out for ya, little one.” Big Mike said.

Jenny still wasn’t sure what to do.

“Go ahead and open it, Jenny,” Jamie said.

“Um, later. Later. Okay?” she replied looking very unsure of herself.

She looked at the men, and gave them one of her sweet smiles, “Don’t matter what it is. I never had a present before, so…Um…Yeah, thanks, thanks a lot.”

The men seemed to understand that she needed to be alone when she opened it.

As for the rest of us, we tore into those presents and boxes like there was no tomorrow…squealing in delighted surprise with everything we found.

There was more food than any of us had ever seen.

Tinned Hams, fresh pineapples, cherries, and plums. Cooked Turkey and Cranberry sauce …with all the trimmings. Fifteen red t-shirts all large sizes. Paper plates, and plastic knives and forks, a can-opener. A Cooler packed with ice, a radio, and spare batteries. A big crate of beer and bottles of Coke.

That night, we all huddled around the new radio; it was bigger and put out a better sound than the small transistor we had been using, we sat drinking the beer and singing our version of Christmas carols, none of them repeatable. Trust me.

Jenny sat on her sleeping place; she was a little tipsy as well having been allowed one-half of a small bottle of beer. We glanced at her as she picked up her present and watched the look on her face as she unwrapped it.

It was a baby doll, all soft and dressed in bonnet and booties with a pretty pink knitted dress. “Just what we needed, another fuckin’ mouth to feed,” she said…but the smile on her face could have lit up the entire city.

We were fed, content, and a little overwhelmed and unsure at the kindness of these people.

Typically, we questioned the motive behind it. We all wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, they had done it for no motive other than the wish to make this Christmas a good place for us to be. It was an alien experience but a welcome one.

We had only sampled a little of the huge amount of food, deciding to save the rest for Christmas Day

That night we were all tipsy. Strangely quiet as we bedded down for the night. I think we were all a little overwhelmed by the generosity of these men.

It was around 2.00 am Christmas morning I guess when I felt something was wrong. Whatever the something was, it wouldn’t let me sleep. I couldn’t place it immediately. It was a strange sense of something missing, and it troubled me.

Jamie was on watch; I climbed over the others and hunkered down next to him. Jamie smiled at me and said, “You too hey, Sassy?”

“Yeah, I guess–what is it? Something’s different.”

We sat a while just listening. Then Jamie said, “Oh shit! It’s Jenny, she’s not crying!”

My heart was in my mouth. Jamie grabbed the torch and we played it across the others, several of them were already awake, and wondering what the hell was happening. Jenny had cried herself to sleep every night since she’d come to this place. It was a sound we all tried not to hear. She couldn’t be comforted, we weren’t permitted that close. She’d been here for two years now. Jenny was around eight-years-old.

Jenny lay on her side, sound asleep with both arms wrapped around that doll so tight there was no space between them.

That was the first time I had cried in a very, very, long time. I glanced at the others, without exception we were all affected the same way. No one wanted to look at anyone else, shit we were supposed to be the toughest kids on the block! Hell, we were the only kids on the block. That Christmas was the first real day of Jenny’s childhood. From then on, Christmas became Jenny’s birthday.

I’d like to tell you that a miraculous change came over her. That she was instantly transformed. In a make-believe world, she’d be outside singing all the hits from ‘The Sound of Music’ and wearing a pretty new dress and shoes.  But this is the real world, and the changes took place over time.

Jenny named her doll, Francine.

The greatest change of all; was that, from that night, for all the years that Baby Jenny remained in our world, she never cried herself to sleep again.

***

Many years have passed since that long ago Christmas Eve. My darling Jenny has gone.

So many of my Christmas Eves’ over time have been special ones. But the one I recall with tears of happiness on my face, and a smile in my heart … is this one.

Jenny lost her battle with life in September of 2008.

The doll Francine was buried with her.

Thank you for being here. I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, serene and joyous Christmas, no matter where on this planet you’re from.

Faint Echoes of Laughter here on Amazon.com

KOALA CHRISTMAS

 

‘Human Disinterest’ Part 3. “Aftermath” The story ends. From my upcoming Anthology ‘Front-Line Heroes.’ #RRBC

Front line-heroes HUMAN DISINTEREST PIC

My latest work in progress is an anthology of stories dedicated to the bravery of men and woman worldwide. ALL those that silently and without fanfare hold down the Front Lines. ALL the front lines. On the streets of any town, anywhere, you’ll find them, The Policeman, Paramedics, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors and all their support personnel. Those on the battle-fronts in foreign lands, and those on the battle-fronts of streets peopled with others that have slipped through the cracks and crevices of the world we now live in. The many brave souls that endure the lasting, life changing flashbacks, and battle each and every day with the nightmare that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are their stories.

If you missed PARTS 1 and 2 of HUMAN DISINTEREST here is the link.

 

PART THREE : OF HUMAN DISINTEREST

AFTERMATH.

 

Melisa Doyle was incapable of speech for quite some time. The film crew finished up, said their goodbyes, and headed back to the studio. The laughter they normally shared after a shoot was absent. Melisa had the distinct feeling that they’d be having more than their usual amount of after work drinks this night.

Jenny was talking quietly to Deke, away from the rest of the group now huddled around the fire. Melisa glanced over and saw the woman give Deke a hug. He hugged her back. She watched him raise his hand to the rest and he headed off alone into the darkness beyond the perimeter of light given by the fire.

Melisa stood, and without speaking, she walked across to where Brad was standing in front of the food truck.

“You doing okay, Melisa?” He asked softly.

She didn’t respond.

“Melisa? You okay?” he repeated.

The young woman appeared to hear him then, “I’m okay, Brad. Thanks.”

“It’s never easy, hon. You hear these things out here, and it just doesn’t get any easier, no matter how many times you hear it.” He patted her on the arm. “Coffee’s still hot if you’d like one.”

“Please, yes. Yes, that would be good. Thanks.”

“Come and help yourself to cream and sugar, I’ll get you a cup.” He entered the van and busied himself, to give her a moment longer to pull herself together.

He caught sight of Jenny with Rusty at her side sitting with old Davey Kelso, he saw the old man nod at whatever Jenny had said, and she moved on one-by-one, till she’d spoken with all the folks around the fire, and then she headed back in the direction of the van.

He took the styrofoam cup with the freshly brewed coffee outside and handed it to Melisa Doyle, she accepted it gratefully and was sipping at it when Jenny joined her.

“Brad?” Jenny said, “Any chance of a cup of that hot brew for me as well please, buddy?”

“You got it. You want it black?”

“Yeah. It could be a long night.”

Jenny walked closer to where the reporter stood. “Well now, I think it’s time I called you, Melisa. What do you think?”

The reporter looked at her, “I’d like that … Jenny.”

“Good. Take it a little easy on yourself, you hear. You did a great job back there. Thank you.”

“I just don’t know how you do this, Jenny. How do you deal with all of that pain, day in and day out?”

“We deal with it, because somebody has to. We keep on dealing with it for the same reason. It doesn’t get any easier. But, Melisa there are a great many folks in organizations bigger and smaller than ours that all keep doing it. Simply because somebody has to. Somebody has to care.”

The younger woman shook her head sadly. “How can I have spent my life in cities like this and never really looked at it? I feel so damned stupid, Jenny.”

“It’s not stupidity that makes folks turn a blind-eye, Melisa. It’s self-protection. That isn’t going to change overnight, no matter how good our intentions may be.”

“Will Deke be okay?”

“He’ll be okay, tonight. He needs to be alone with himself for now. I keep a close eye on him, when I can.”

Jenny gave the girl a quick hug. “Are you up for any more, tonight, Melisa?”

“No, I don’t believe I am. Not yet. But I’ll be back. I have a feeling that the network might run with this one alone. I’m heading back to the studio to view the film, I promise you, nobody will edit it. Will Deke want to see it?”

“I’ll ask him. But, somehow I don’t think he’ll want to. Call me tomorrow morning, let me know how it goes with your boss, okay?”

Jenny smiled at her, and continued, “I’ll have Brad give you a lift back. He needs to brief the next shift before they come out, and then he’ll come back and collect the rest of us. You did just fine tonight.”

Melisa nodded and waited for Jenny to talk to Brad, then, when he was ready she climbed back into the van and headed back to her own safe world.

***

Melisa’s hunch had been correct; the network felt that the story was powerful enough to be aired alone.

She rang Jenny early the next morning to check on Deke and to ask if he wanted to see the final print of the show.

“I’m pleased that they reached that decision. I think it’s wise. I spoke to Deke again very late last night; he doesn’t know if he wants to see it. I’ll need to let him make his own choice about that. Maybe the group will come in here to the warehouse when it airs. I can set up a large screen T.V. I doubt they’ll be up for it, but I’ll ask.”

“Thanks, Jenny. I’ve been thinking hard since I left you, is there something I can do, I mean there at Street Angels? Anything at all, I don’t mind what it is?”

“I’m certain there’s a million things you can do, and I’ll be pleased to have you, for whatever time you can spare.”

“Good. I’m available this afternoon. I’ll come over, is that okay?”

“I’ll be here till four. See you then. Oh, Melisa, when will the show go live?”

“They want to do a heavy promo, so at this stage I’d say three weeks. I told them we needed it to air before the onset of winter. Maybe there will be some donations that might help out as a result of it.”

“Yeah, well you never can tell. I’ll chat more a little later.”

“See you then.”

***

Three weeks later.

There were an odd assortment of people gathered in the warehouse. The large screen television was mounted on the wall, and an eclectic mix of donated chairs formed a semi-circle in front of it that night.

Melisa Doyle was seated next to Jenny and Brad. Further around the front-row-semi-circle, sat Kelso and four of the folks that had been gathered around the fire that night.  All the volunteers that weren’t out on the night-shift had come in and prepared food for everyone, and then seated themselves and waited with all the others.

The noise of various conversations quieted suddenly as nine o’clock approached.

“Here we go.” Melisa spoke softly. She watched Brad take Jenny’s hand in his own, wishing she had one like it to hold on to.

Nobody spoke when the show ended. The muffled sounds of people attempting to control the tears that had caught them unprepared was all that echoed around the room.

Jenny recovered faster than most of them, and she stood with a sad, sweet smile on her face. “Who wants coffee?” she asked, already on her way across to the bench where the urn had been set up.

The young voice from the back of the room surprised her, “I’ll have one of those, thanks, Miss. Jenny.” Said Deke.

“Deke! I didn’t see you come in. Come on over and help yourself, there’s food left as well.”

“Thanks, that sounds good to me. I’ll be right there.”

She watched him walk across to Davey Kelso and hand him a handful of cigarettes. The old man took them, and offered the boy an old hand to shake, “You did good, boy. You did good.”

The smile on the boy’s face was unshielded, and for a brief, precious, moment, the others in the room caught a glimpse of what could be, if only this kid caught some breaks.

Outside the southerly wind had turned bitter as the last week of fall drew to its inevitable end.

Melisa came over to Jenny, unable to hide the concern that was etched clearly on her pretty face, “Jenny, we don’t have enough bunks left down in the shelter for all of the folks. It’s too cruel to make them go back outside in that cold.”

“Honey, there are never going to be enough beds. That’s the hell of it. They will make the choices of who stays and who goes back to watch over their turf.”

Melisa just nodded … wishing she didn’t understand the wisdom these folks had, or where it had come from. The last three weeks had ripped the blinkers from her eyes, and she could no longer hide.

It took a couple of hours before all the choices had been made and this group of survivors split up and each headed to a different destination.

Melisa became aware that her cell phone was vibrating in her pocket, suddenly remembering she had switched it to silent when the show had come on.

“Melisa Doyle” she said, her voice vaguely irritated. Most of her friends would never call her so late.

“Melisa, it’s Connie, you might want to put this on speaker for Ms. Thurston to hear. Tell me when that’s done please …

“Jenny! Connie Farrell on speaker for you.”

Jenny nodded and joined her as Brad went off to answer the warehouse phone.

“Go, ahead, Connie, she’s listening.”

“Great! Ms. Thurston, you might need to come over to the studio, we’ll send a car for you. We’ve had to call extra staff in to handle the calls that are coming in. It’s an unprecedented response unlike anything we’ve experienced on anything we’ve ever aired. I need your instructions on where to direct these calls, or instructions on how best to have these folks make the donations they’re offering. I can have a car there in ten-minutes. Can you come in? Please.”

Jenny looked shell-shocked for a brief moment, “Well, I … yes, yes of course. I’ll wait out front, shall I?”

“Wonderful, thank you, Ms. Thurston. Melisa? Can you come in as well?”

“Sure thing, Connie. I’ll see you soon.” She ended the call.

Jenny turned to her, “I wasn’t expecting a reaction, let alone a big one. I … well yeah, let’s just see what happens I guess. I’ll just change my shoes.”

Melisa grinned broadly when she automatically looked down at Jenny’s feet; she wondered how she’d failed to notice the fluffy dinosaur-feet slippers till now, “Your version of ‘Jimmy Choos’, Jenny?”

Jenny’s happier laugh was a pleasure to hear, “I’m all class, aren’t I.”

Melisa grew serious, “Yes, Jenny. Yes you certainly are.”

Jenny turned to Brad, “Can you lock up please, hon?”

He was laughing, “Jenny … the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I get the feeling we won’t be locking up anytime soon.”

***

Jenny was driven back from the CNN studio at around 3.00 a.m. She climbed out of the warmth of the luxury vehicle and into the icy cold of morning.

She was weary, excited and hopeful all at the same time.

She let herself in made herself a pot of coffee, she knew already that she couldn’t sleep, and besides that, I do love my coffee.

She curled herself under a warm throw on the sofa, her laptop open, to keep responding to the emails that had gone overwhelmingly insane on her account.

The numbers had caught her unprepared, and, as she’d been doing  for hours now, she had to read each one, respond to it, and allocate it to a file labelled by type of donation pledged.

CNN had been putting up info breaks with all the hotline numbers for the donations, and as requested by Jenny Thurston they had asked out-of-state folks to take their food donations, and offers of blankets and sleeping bags to any reputable charity, operating within their own cities and towns.

***

Melisa Doyle arrived at the warehouse at 7.00 a.m, not surprised to find a line of folks already waiting, to either volunteer themselves, or make a personal donation. After all the calls she had taken had slowed down a little, she was too excited to do anything but come here. She knew instinctively that Jenny would already be busy trying to make sense out of the unexpected chaos.

Brad was looking pleased and exhausted, sitting quietly on his own for a well-earned, but very brief break.

He looked at her as she entered, “Welcome to the Land of Oz, Melisa.”

She grinned, immediately visualizing singing Munchkins in her mind.

“So where’s the good witch of the north?” she asked with a giggle.

“Follow the smell of the coffee-beans, honey. I haven’t seen her this happy since … come to think of it, I’ve never seen her this happy.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet! Brad, wait till you hear what calls I’ve been getting! Come on, you’ll want to be there when I tell her.”

Jenny saw them coming and waved them over, her concentration all on the call she was responding to. She ended it and turned to face them. “Melisa, you look like the cat that swallowed the canary. Guilty with pleasure, yet. So … tell me, what’s happening.”

“You know all those big ego’s we spoke of, the celebrities I’ve done shows on … well some of the big names have decided to get together and have a benefit concert. They’ll cover the costs, and all proceeds from ticket sales will come to Street Angels, with the only proviso being that a Trust fund be set up for Deke and kids like him, to pay for any counselling and all their education! Do you believe that? It’s enough to make me believe in miracles again, Jenny. And … and, CNN are planning a telethon with all proceeds donated to be split across all registered charities here and throughout the viewing area.”

“You’re serious aren’t you? I … I don’t know what to say.” And she promptly burst into tears.

***

The calls, emails and letters had only just begun to slow down a week later.

Jenny, Brad and the rest of the volunteer staff had worked in shifts twenty-four-seven, and the imperishable foods had been sorted and handed out.

The blankets that had been delivered from a large bedding manufacturer had gone out with the freshly washed used ones, that the public had given.

They still had a small stockpile waiting for any new folks that had been added to the numbers.

Other charities in the city had also reported a higher than normal donation event since the special had gone to air.

The older folks like Kelso and the very young ones, often with their entire families now homeless, were donated the sleeping bags that would help shield them from the elements.

Deke had managed to stay out of the limelight, keeping close to his group and watching the goings on around him and being pleased at what he was seeing.

Jenny had spoken to him about the funding and the number of people who had offered him a home. He needed time to absorb that. Jenny knew he’d need a great deal of counselling, but the when of it needed to be his choice alone.

The excitement of the past few weeks had left her depleted of energy, but more hopeful than she could recall being for a very long time.

It was after midnight again before she called it a night, and she laughed on finding Brad asleep with his head on his desk in the office.

“Hey, sleepy-head. C’mon, wake up, I’ll fix you a coffee for a change.”

She waited downstairs on the small sofa they’d set up for the volunteers to take a quick nap on, if they got the chance.

Brad wandered across and dropped onto the sofa beside her.

They sipped their coffee’s silently, gathering their own thoughts for a while.

“We won’t lose as many this winter, honey.”

“The best thing of all, is knowing that people do care, Brad. They just needed a little reminder that we all bleed red when we are cut.”

“Yup. Another coffee?”

She flashed her smile at him.

“Always.”

***

 

Melisa finished her shift at Street Angels and had showered and dressed ready for the studio. Jenny had just arrived back in and was ready to start her own day.

Melisa had been hesitating for a couple of weeks before she finally decided to ask Jenny the question that had been hovering in her consciousness since the night of the show.

She approached it cautiously, “Jenny, may I ask you a personal question?”

Jenny looked interested. “Well … sure, I guess. You want to know how much coffee I drink in a day, right?”

Melisa didn’t laugh.

“So, okay. It was a nice deflection though, I thought. What do you need to ask me, honey?”

Melisa took a breath. “You were out here once, weren’t you, on the other side of that fire?”

Jenny hesitated for a long moment “Well now, your instincts have sharpened. Yes, Melisa … I was. A long time ago, now.”

Melisa looked over to where Brad was standing, trying hard to appear like he wasn’t listening. “Jenny … sometimes happiness can be right under our noses, if we only get brave enough to look.”

Jenny followed her gaze, and her skin flushed a flattering pink.

“You could well be right, honey. Maybe I’ve been wearing those blinders as well. But for now I could sure use a coffee. You want one?”

Melisa smiled. “Always, Miss. Jenny.”

***