Above it All

ivan-palmer-above-circle The vacancy sign at the Del Fond Motel was on, a reminder that not many people wanted to stay there. Locals would tell you it was a dump and even worse, “foreign owned.” Sikander Kahloon, the owner, was born in Pakistan, but had been a US citizen for twelve years, so the Del Fond was as American owned as the nicer and more expensive Sleepy Time Motel a mile away. Out the office window Kahloon could see the neon letters of the other motel sign run together in a blurry red dot for “No” and a glowing dash for “Vacancy.” As usual there was the dot and dash, indicating they were full.

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Alimentary

Alimentary photo Like the real estate ad says, “You want what you want.” I wanted to dine at this mysterious restaurant, Alimentary on Canal, with its unnamed prices and its clientele sworn to secrecy. Their motto was, “We serve your dreams. Consume them with gusto.” I also wanted Tom Watson, our new political reporter. He didn’t want me, Allison Mintz – yet. But he would. I’d heard rumors about Alimentary – even if people wouldn’t talk openly, there were random postings on blogs, whispers at clubs. Word got out.

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All That is Blue

ohannes-vermeer-rijksmuseum-amsterdam-holland “You found me,” the old man in the knitted sweater whispers in a soft, hoarse voice. I wonder about the sweater, since this is one of the hottest days of the year. He looks out from the doorway of his old house beside the canal. I’ve just rung his doorbell to tell him that his keys are hanging in his lock. A cluster of different keys, crowded on a wrinkled brown leather trunk label. I still remember the hassle when I once left my keys outside in the lock and they vanished.

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Angels Carry the Sun

Angels Carry the SunChapter One: In the Woods.   Finn liked white-bread sandwiches. In June I forfeited all my free cafeteria lunches to sit with him during his quiet lunch breaks in the classroom.

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In an Hour

Outside Richard's second-story window, the crab apple trees' stiff limbs lurched about like waving lunatics about to board a bus back to their asylum. Richard reached underneath his sweatshirt, patting for the flask, anticipating the swig that would temporarily warm him in that coarse autumn wind on the other side of the window.

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The Archivist

Archivist

On the morning that True Love found Greg Chandler, he-Greg Chandler, not True Love-rose as the second hand on his nightstand clock swept up to twelve and with one movement, planted his feet on the floor and placed his palm over the clock to silence the alarm.

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 Blood Grip, Prologue: Virginia – September, 1836

Blood Grip Virginia Sept 1836

Some 50 years ago, my Virginia-bred mother, Cleoria Coleman Sparrow, did something straight out of West Africa. The moment a certain visitor left the house, my mother swept from where he had last stood all the way out to the street.

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Blood Grip, Chapter One

Blood Grip Chapter 1

Chapter One

Ilsie Stone’s breasts were gorged with milk because the baby had hardly nursed. The child’s fever-bright eyes widened then half-shut as Ilsie’s milk dripped down its cheek. “Have mercy, Jesus,” Ilsie whispered, cradling the baby to her bare skin, feeling the breath of the child for whom they had fled home and kin. Ilsie set the baby on her pallet. She buttoned her blouse, bowed her head, and prayed up what few reserves the last months hadn’t worn away.

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Blood Grip, Chapter Two

Blood Grip Chapter 2

Chapter Two

James Forten climbed the steps of the wooden platform outside Mother Bethel Church and felt the crowd’s attention weigh him down. Folks had come craving hopeful words from someone rich but brown as any of them. What could he tell them in these lean days?

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Blood Grip, Chapter Three

Blood Grip Chapter 3

Chapter 3

“…every woman, who won her freedom, by this perilous undertaking (fleeing slavery), deserves commemoration.” — William Still, The Underground Railroad. (1871)

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Blood Grip, Chapter Four

Blood Grip, chapter 4 Chapter Four “We consider it a mere waste of words to talk of ever enjoying citizenship in this country.” — John Russworm, Editor, Freedom’s Journal, 1829.

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Bone by Bone

Williamson Bone by Bone

Edith Miller sat on the floor of the bedroom that belonged to her son, David. The sun slanted in from the one window to pool on the bare pine floor, and in that light, her thick legs tucked under her, Edith arranged piles of folded pants.

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Diva’s Fool

Diva's Fool “The Diva’s Fool” is the launch of a mystery series based on the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards, a popular deck used for divination. The first card is the Zero Card, known as The Fool, and it represents the Uninitiated Person beginning a journey that takes twenty-two phases, each coinciding with the archetypical characters and themes of the Major Arcana, otherwise known as the Greater Secrets.

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Elephants

Photo by Angie Brenner I have a hard time sleeping at night. I have what my doctor calls night terrors. My mind is working like I am awake and my eyes are open. Most nights I scare Regina so much that she does not want to share the queen-size bed with me anymore. I think that’s great because I hate her rough feet rubbing on my legs and kicking me all night. My sister Regina is 12 and sometimes picks on me but is mostly nice and funny. She prefers to be called Reg because Regina is too girly. We get along pretty well for sisters.

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Fiction: Or is It?

timpane-circle Editor’s Note: On January 24, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the birth of Bella Sung-Ah Sofia Bonanni on a sled in the Roxborough section of the city. In an act of fiction imitating truth – or is it the other way around – in 2004 Inquirer Media/Editor writer, John Timpane, and regular contributor to Wild River Review, published this story in The Bucks County Writer, the print mother of Wild River Review.

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The First Pinto

Tomsko - pink pintoMrs. Behr bought a pink Pinto. I kid you not. It was pink — a gleaming, 1971 pink 3-door Runabout. On that Friday she swooshed in through the back door of the shop with a gee-whiz urgency that roused us from our morning stupor. “It’s just the cutest thing,” Mrs. B gushed. We — that is, Doug, Pat, Ed, and I — had been lazing around the big oaken table in the stock room of Suburban Vacuum Sales & Service, sipping potent coffee from Styrofoam cups and sharing the morning newspaper. A box of Hostess donuts lay splayed in the center of the table encircled by a fuzzy halo of powdered sugar.

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Half the Horses Rise

piano My son Kyle has been in Florida. He says he’s coming to see me. Ha! I don’t bother giving him directions to the apartment. Even if he could find it, I sure as hell wouldn’t want him inside. Junk’s piled up everywhere. So I tell him to meet me at work.

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Henry Moore and the Bookstore Clerk

Henry Moore bronze figure A Henry Moore sculpture, larger than several women, on loan from a wealthy patron, sits inside the entrance to the business school at an Ivy League university. When the weather allows, Martha Carter goes there on lunch break from her job in the bookstore, a five-minute brisk walk across campus, across its Quad filled with students changing classes. She sits there now on the rectangular knee-high stand which supports the weight of the sculpture Reclining Figure: Angles, the name given to the work by the artist.

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Her Name is in the Modeling Handbook

beer-circle My brother sits in the middle seat at the Lincoln Park, our favorite Manhattan bar, drinking his third Michelob Light of the evening and trying to avoid the peanuts that Ruby, our favorite poker-faced bartender, put in front of him.

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How Did I Get Here Again? Thursdays with Nobody

Thursdays with Nobody It started with two girls on an F train to Brooklyn. On the street or in a bar, they’d be unremarkable. But there, against the backdrop of people trying to read or sleep or listen to music, they had the presence of a marching band.

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In A State of Partition

partition of India

Shobha turned the dial of the rickety tuner until Prime Minister Nehru’s voice was drowned out by the commotion of mass radio waves. It was August 15, 1947, and India had finally gained her independence.

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The Last Daughter of Prussia

Sarles - Last Daughter of Prussia When I was a child growing up in the Bahamas, my grandmother came to visit from Germany. One day, while we were building sandcastles on the beach, she paused to tell me about East Prussia – a place of great beauty where Trakehner horses pranced across dandelion meadows and elk herds swam in green rivers. “Ost Preussen,” she said, with a soulful sigh. Hearing the sadness in her voice, I glanced up sharply. “Where is East Prussia?” I asked, as the sand slipped through her fingers.

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The Learners

Chip Kidd - The Learners

1961 August. When Tip is standing in the doorway as he is right now, it can only mean one thing. I brace myself. He shouts, eyes pleading:

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London Calling

London Calling hang gliding It was cooler than the day before. The stifling heat that had been building up over the weekend had dissipated. The mountains looked beautiful, green and lush — so unlike the white blanket they wore in the ski season.

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The Lovers

The Lovers by Kyi May KaungIn Chile my mother was married to a famous opera singer. She herself was a ballerina. Long legs, flat chests, and small heads run in the family.

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Madonna of Maquiladora

Frost - Maquiladora Madonna You first hear of Gabriel Perea and the Virgin while covering the latest fire at the Chevron refinery in El Paso. The blaze is under control, the water cannon hoses still shooting white arches into the scorched sky.

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Memoir of a Ghost

Memoir of a Ghost circle A century ago, at Central High, I studied the Greek classics. Foolish boy that I was then, I found the lecherous gods and lying humans boring and unbelievable. But time and death have changed me: At last, I truly understand Cassandra. Day after day, I try to tell the reporters the truths I know, but they neither hear nor see me. At most, I might be able to move the AP stylebook on their desks, or send a paper clip flying, but otherwise I can do nothing. People joke about the ghost in the newsroom, but it’s no joke to me.

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Metaphysics, Cinema

silent film Frederico Passolini made an early silent movie which ran for just twelve minutes and consisted of a single tracking shot across the ceiling of a surgical operating theater (the camera looking down of course). All that can be seen in this film is a man called Gaston Recherché, strapped securely onto a marble slab, having his appendix removed without the benefit of anesthesia. Gaston was a fellow student of Mr. Passolini’s at the Sorbonne in Paris, although he was studying Metaphysics, rather than The Principles of Light: Fruit Production in Nantes, the course in which Mr. Passolini was enrolled.

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My Inheritance

from My Hungry Heart My mother is dying. There are shuffling noises overhead coming from her bedroom. She has cancer, and her death is imminent. I am her only child. We never liked each other. I stare out the window at my large backyard covered in a crust of ice. The bird feeder is nearly empty. I know I must replenish it, but I can’t command my body to move.

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Perambulating the Bounds

Vicky Fish Annie is caught between the wall and her husband Joe. His leg twitches and his foot paws the sheets. Joe Sleeping Dog she calls him, because of the nocturnal running.

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Red Bean Soup

Red Bean Soup - umbrella Yook fidgets with the plastic knot. His fingers shake when they try to grip the plastic. At the age of sixty-five, his hands just don’t work like they used to. “Do you need help?” says a young voice in Cantonese.

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Seasons of Frost

Fish-Perambulating November, 1948 “Do you still believe in God?” I ask Ruby. She turns over and draws the napped, heather gray blanket over her head. Outside, frost comes like a thief in the night. A stealth robber, frost suspends summer breeze and puts all reassurances in limbo. Frost swallows the sky, flushed apricot for the last time. Swallows it whole and coughs up its bones. A gray cage now rattles over a wind torn horizon.

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Secrets

engagement-ring What she can’t feel is the ring lying heavily in his closest-to-his-heart breast pocket; can’t know the hours he spent choosing between the all-diamond or ruby-on-diamond rings;

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Slow

from Slow by Marc Schuster What I’m trying to explain to my brother when I visit for the third time in a single week is that there are some things you just can’t sell at a yard sale. Old toothbrushes, for example. Worn-out pairs of underpants. Half-empty bottles of liquor. But he’s already laid them out on a card table along with the Matchbox cars he’ll want back as soon as they’re sold, an old tennis racket, a jar full of screws labeled “screw’s,” three of my mother’s old driver’s licenses, and a box of photographs snapped during the three-year stretch when my mental development had yet to overtake his.

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Solitaire

from Solitaire by Gerri George Corbett, his body lashed to the remnants of sleep, heard what sounded like the mating bellow of a dog, cat or a whore. He waited and the sound returned, unmistakable. It was the cry of a baby, his least favorite sound. It crossed the narrow alley that separated his flat from the building next door. Sluggish, ill-tempered, when he could take it no longer, he roused his lean, tan frame from Saturday sleep, pushed aside the heavy drape from his single window and stared outside. The cries seeped from a closed window across the alley, like smoke drifting from the start of a fire, little muted by a soiled drawn shade.

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Tales from the Fire Zone

Tales from the Firezone AUTHOR’S NOTE: Tales from the Fire Zone was first produced as a play at Temple University in the early 1980s, and was later produced as a radio production in Los Angeles.  After letting it sit for nearly 20 years I decided to revise it and turn it into a novel.

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Tales From the Firezone, Part Two

Tales from the Firezone

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The Michelangelo Effect

Michelangelo Effect “… only the hand which obeys the intelligence can accomplish… bringing out a living figure in alpine and hard stone, which… grows the more as the stone is chipped away…” — Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

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The Trip

Illuminati - The Trip - photoIf you were going on a trip, and there was a very good possibility you would never return home again, what would you pack? 1 clock 3 sharpened pencils 1 Happi-Time Camera The piece of paper on which I’m listing all the contents of my suitcase seems as important as the physical possessions. It’s a reminder of the things I brought so I don’t spend entire afternoons scouring my new living space frantically searching for the belongings that remained behind.

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Thurgood Marshall’s Coming

1950's Manhattan Had you by chance been in Manhattan in the early 1950s, and gotten off the IND subway at 148th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, in upper Harlem, and had you after reaching Amsterdam Avenue, which was pretty much deserted, walked down two blocks, passing old dilapidated store fronts that sold everything from food to machinery, you would have been particularly struck by one that stood out with its white curtained window. Spelled out on the plate glass window in large black block letters was Dismukes Tonsiltorium. Then, discreetly in the lower left hand corner in bold Corinthian script was Emmet L Dismukes. Prop.

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The Wanderers

Gunter David - The Wanderer Paris 1963 Decades have passed since I sat on this spot, waiting for Georg, my cousin, who came from Berlin to warn me about mortal danger looming only a few hundred miles away. That day, a man without legs slowly rolled by, his torso as if nailed to a wooden board. Pushing the sidewalk beneath him, he stopped at my table, cupping his hand, reaching toward me. “I lost my legs in the Great War” proclaimed a cardboard sign hanging from his neck.

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The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

spataro-wreck-circleMolly sat, dressed in her underwear, on a dusty box in the middle of her attic. What had driven her up there in the first place, she could no longer remember. An old photograph album was balanced on her lap, its cracked vinyl sticking to her bare thighs in the mid-July heat.

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Under Her Hat

Under Her Hat Mme Benhamou never leaves her apartment without her hat. It’s the ladylike thing to do since she was raised in France before people started living only for today, and yesterday’s manners were easily dismissed. At eighty-five, she still insists on such proprieties.

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Water Walking at the YMCA

Water Walking at the YMCA

“My husband is a good man,” she was saying, as she cut through the water of the YMCA pool. “We’ve been married 40 years. We have three grown children. Today he drove me here because of the road conditions. I don’t like to drive so soon after a snow storm.

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