Short Stories

The Wardrobe           by  Sandy Mason

All Rights Reserved

Scott Eddison was obsessed by his wardrobe. It wasn’t just a passing ng mind game. It was an out and out obsession. It overcame his life each morning before work and each evening before bedtime. During the daytime working hours it sometimes carried him to distraction.

Often, during dreary business luncheons he would focus on the subtle pattern in his suit. The pattern brought him comfort – the simple beauty of weaving intricate lines into the soft cloth. Like a  work of art he thought, indeed a well made suit was a work of art. And so, he would make it through the day – another day in his mediocre  career and his failed personal life. He would listen to his clients and feign  some involvement, all the while hoping that the thin veneer of his attention wouldn’t dissolve into another stream of disinterest.

When the clock finally ticked to four in the afternoon his business attention totally evaded him. Too many images during the day were left in front of him. Late at night after a few scotches , Scott’s wardrobe re-entered his consciousness. Wandering quietly  into  his walk in closet, he  perused his things – all alone– his private time with his clothing - passing his hands over his garments.

Scott would chose one of his suits and slowly caress the sleeves and lapels like the breast of a sensual woman. Then he’d focus on his beautiful dress shirts wrapped in their ribbons of cardboard. Yes the shirts, those gorgeous shirts, standing ready like soldiers to do battle during the business day.  Their strength and elegance could carry him through the meetings, greetings and negotiations which threaded through his life.

Then of course there were the ties – those eclectic, fickle ties. Their flamboyance and arrogance allowed for a sequence of combinations with his suits and shirts. Each capable of its own mood, its own day  its’ own persuasions.

The truth was, Scott had clothes in his closet dating back thirty years or more. As his life unfolded, his career took center stage. He became a successful advertising executive knowing both the sales and production sides of the business. His positions brought him relocate  to San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC. As the years went on he was abandoned by his ex-wives and left alone by his ex-girl friends. When the economy crashed, he found himself back in New York, working for a small firm and earning a salary he made twenty - five years ago. He leased a small apartment on the east side of Manhattan which had a main feature of oversized closets. The landlord said the previous two tenants had just disappeared with no notice and left their belongings. Not that the landlord minded, since he held the last month’s rent as well as a security deposit. Scott agreed to the same, all the while wondering why anyone would split and leave their deposits and their clothes abandoned without a clue


The Words


‘The waters of the Dardanelles are a serene cobalt blue under a mild spring sun and cliffs that rise from their rocky base. This relatively narrow strip of sand at Ariburnu could be any ordinary beach off the beaten track back home if it were not for that brand spanking new monument. As I gaze above me all seems blurred with a kind of haze as if the ghosts are out today to haunt the heights. The Turks actually renamed this place Anzac Cove last year. They built that big wall and inscribed the consoling words to Anzac mothers on it. They insist the words came from Kemal Atatürk, although there is no evidence that he thought them, said them, or wrote them down.’

Avo Smith, May 1987.

All the way to Deputy Principal Bower’s office - following my abrupt summons from Year Twelve study hall - that final paragraph in my diary from Mama’s and my previous September holiday in Greece and Turkey burns in my mind. I search fruitlessly for an inspired opening line for my defence. Standing before Bower, who sits at his desk, all I have is: ‘I was trying to tell the truth.’

Bower strokes his greying beard, extends his angular, bony frame and rises to close his office door behind me with a metallic clunk. The sterile air in the closed-off space smells faintly chemical, like Bower himself. Originally a Chemistry teacher, his career remains stalled for a decade on the greasy promotion pole. His well-worn white lab coat hangs behind the door, next to where the cane-box once sat, if the tales are correct. It is no secret that Bower’s favoured method of maintaining a punitive, steely grip on discipline in the school is to whip the rear ends of boys who fail to obey orders. But for the past seven years, schools are effectively in a ‘no-caning’ situation. In Study Hall, there is an anonymous cartoon, dated 1980, pinned to the wall, depicting Bower’s itchy caning hand.

            ‘Mr Jaensch is unlikely to agree with your assessment of the truth.’ Bower contends, seated again, his black eyes inscrutable.

‘I was trying to be heard, trying to make a point,’ I continue, ‘one that maybe people don’t want to hear.’

‘You had your chance to be heard in class, young man,’ Bower cuts across me. ‘Mr Jaensch let you have your say, until you started getting your facts wrong.’

‘But he is wrong,’ I blurt out, knowing I am walking into a brick wall.

‘So, you, the boy in Mr Jaensch’s Modern History class, knows better than the experienced history teacher,’ Bower says, his thick black eyebrows arched.

‘I researched it,’ I insist. ‘Last summer holidays. In the State Library.’

Bower looks bored. He glances at the place where the canes once sat. There is a knock at the door.

‘Come in,’ Bower says. The door opens. Jaensch and his orange teacher resource box stuffed with papers stand framed in it. He is about forty, a large, beefy man with short, cropped red hair that is beginning to grey. He eyes me, a cockroach to be stepped upon. He is twice my size, but I’m barely bigger than a jockey. Bower fixes me in his gaze. ‘Now… Alvin… ‘

“Sir, it’s Avo,’ I correct him. I am used to it. Who else in Adelaide is called Avo? Avo Angelos Smith, a mix of my Armenian grandfather’s original and assumed names and my Australian father’s surname. ‘Spelt A…V…O.’

‘Avo,’ Bower says deliberately. ‘This need not take long. I need you to apologise to Mr Jaensch for arguing with him in front of his class.’

‘I wasn’t arguing,’ I say.

‘Arguing,’ Bower talks over me, ‘and showing dissent.’

‘But he is wrong,’ I insist.

‘Wrong about a subject I have studied not just at Uni but all my teaching career?’ Jaensch challenges.

‘I believe it is safe to say that Mr Jaensch knows the history of the Dardanelles and the first Anzac campaign better than you,’ Bower states. ‘He has the qualifications, the experience…’

‘But I believe he is wrong about Mustafa Kemal,’ I insist.

‘Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,’ Jaensch maintains. ‘Father of the modern Turkish state. A great man.’

‘I may be still in school,’ I say, knowing I am doing this the hard way, ‘but we live in a democracy with free speech and I have a right to be heard.’

            ‘And no one is denying you being heard,’ Bower allows, his beetling brows visually contradicting his words. ‘But you have had your hearing. Now, accept that you’re wrong, apologise to Mr Jaensch, and we can all move on.’

            ‘But, sir,’ I persist. This is about when Bower would be reaching for the cane in the “good” old days, perhaps the thin, whippy one. ‘Mr Jaensch. How can I apologise when I feel certain I am not wrong? You are concerned with my reaction to Kemal’s words to the Anzac mothers, right?’

            ‘Of course I am,’ Jaensch responds. ‘That essay draft you submitted – late - is speculative and unsourced. It is unacceptable.’

            ‘I haven’t added my sources to the draft,’ I counter. ‘I am waiting on the State Library to call me back with the info I need, the names I couldn’t decipher from the microfiche. My essay proves that reconciliation is based on a lie. And it forces us in Australia to accept other, worse lies…’

‘You’re getting ahead of yourself, Avo,’ Jaensch cuts in. ‘I can overlook the lateness of the draft this time. You have put in a big effort, going to the State Library and all, I’ll give you that, but you’re on the wrong track. Our topic is on how diplomacy in the aftermath of the Great War created reconciliation. The essay is about the central role Atatürk’s words to the Anzac mothers play in diplomacy between Australia and the Republic of Turkey. It is not about your interest in challenging the veracity of the words themselves, which are now carved into monument walls in Turkey, Canberra, and Wellington.’

            ‘Diplomacy,’ Bower adds. ‘You would do well to practise it yourself, young Avo. Arguing and answering back instead of listening.’ He turns to Jaensch. ‘What was the context exactly? I know the Anzac story, of course. One of my great-uncles died there in 1915. What is the issue with Kemal? Why don’t we clear it up now, then we can all go to recess with the matter sorted.’

‘In 1934, a ship called Duchess of Richmond carrying a British, Australian and New Zealand delegation came to Ariburnu at Gallipoli,’ Jaensch explains, passing Bower a sheet of paper from a sheaf he removes from his orange teacher resources box. ‘Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who was founder of the Republic of Turkey and the officer who commanded the defence against the Anzacs at Gallipoli was not there to greet the visitors, but his loyal comrade Sükrü Kaya was, and he passed on Kemal’s message to Australian and New Zealander mothers.’

Bower studies the sheet while Jaensch recites the message, word-perfect.

‘Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly Country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well.’

‘I will admit,’ Bower says, ‘I had not heard of this. Beautiful words, beautiful sentiments…’

‘And none of it is true,’ I chime in. Jaensch looks at me as if I am some kind

of traitor.

‘What makes you so sure?” Bower questions me, his eyes narrowing.

I pause to gather my thoughts and it seems to me - having read everything current on it, some on microfiche in the State Library, and researched even more - that everyone from Prime Minister Bob Hawke down is sold on the sentiment and nobility of content from a set of words that my research tells me has little or no basis in reality.

‘There is no clear evidence that Kemal ever thought, spoke, or wrote those words,’ I insist. ‘I think we are making a bad mistake to accept that the consoling words to the Anzac mothers were direct from the mouth of Mustafa Kemal. He was not there that day in 1934, when the British, Australian and New Zealand delegation came ashore at Gallipoli from the Duchess of Richmond, and were greeted by Turkish government reps. No one ever heard him speak the words. No written records suggest he wrote them. Only Sükrü Kaya says he did. Unproven.’

The bell for recess goes.

‘I am calling your mother, Avo,’ Bower says. ‘We might need more time to sort this out.’

Jaensch nails me with a hard stare on his way out. No one likes being told they are wrong, I suppose. The thought stays with me back to the cramped back corner of Year Twelve Common Room, the flocking point for me and my nerdish companions.

There are old Primary School mates Caleb and Bradley, as usual, but unexpectedly, Carli is there as well. Carli began high school life with us as a nerd, but in Year Ten she lost the braces and the rest of her curved out pleasingly, advancing her from nerd-dom into cooler company, albeit without denying she ever knew us.

            ‘What happened?’ Caleb and Bradley demand as one.

            ‘Look at you,’ Carli smiles. ‘Answering back to Jaensch. No idea what you were on about.’

I sum up the encounter in Bower’s office. ‘I haven’t heard the last of it.’

            ‘I don’t get it,’ Carli says. ‘You were arguing about something Kemal Whatsaname said. ‘And you got so fired up. Why?’

            ‘Yeah,’ Caleb echoes, glancing sideways and blinking nervously through his nerdy glasses, lest Carli notice he was ogling her breasts. ‘Why?’ They genuinely want to know. I never talk about family because it’s complicated.

‘OK,’ I begin. ‘You guys off next lesson?’

‘Yep,’ Bradley confirms, glancing at his printed timetable.

‘My Phys Ed class is on a bike ride excursion,’ Carli says. ‘But I got out of it.’

‘I have Biol,’ Caleb intones mournfully. ‘But I have done the prac work.’

‘It is to do with family,’ I admit. They nod as one.

Tati Anoush?’ Carli ventures. ‘She still alive?’

‘She is,’ I confirm. They all know the basics. My Armenian-born great-grandma, Tati Anoush, who still lives in her own home on the Esplanade near us at Henley Beach, was born into a family of Armenian farmers in Anatolia and was its only survivor of the Armenian Genocide, the mass killing of Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire during and after World War One, almost completely unknown to most ordinary Australians.

            Tati Anoush is cool,’ Carli says. ‘I remember her blue eyes and beautiful smile. She seemed to see right inside me. I felt her love. And the cakes she made us in Primary School... Soooo yummy.’

Ironically, given my objection to Kemal as depicted by Jaensch, my Aussie family background is full of soldiers and even includes an original Anzac, Tom Mills, who was at Gallipoli, in the trenches of France and later took part in the famous Light Horse charge at Beersheba in 1917. Tom Mills met Tati Anoush at the end of the war. There was also Uncle Bert, who was taken as a prisoner-of-war at Gallipoli and saw what the Turks did to the Armenians from 1915 in the Ottoman Empire. Mama fell in love with and married a career soldier, my dad, who survived Long Tan but never made it back from Vietnam. All I have of my dad are his medals.

‘It’s about the Armenian Genocide,’ Caleb says.

‘It is,’ I say. ‘And Tati Anoush. She lived through it. She knows.’

‘I never saw you like that before, Avo,’ Carli says. ‘You really got to Jaensch.’

‘Jaensch is an arsehole,’ Bradley says. ‘But there is more. Isn’t there?’

‘There is,’ I say, and take a deep breath. ‘I haven’t told you guys any of this because I haven’t worked it out for myself until recently. You see, the Anzac legacy that I have looks nothing like the official mythology, the stuff that Jaensch loves.’

‘They make the Anzacs into heroes, like in Homer’s Iliad,’ Carli says. ‘Ancient Troy is not far from Gallipoli. You see? I was actually paying attention in Classical Studies.’

‘Gallipoli was a military defeat,’ I say. ‘My problem is: I see the truth of it. My understanding of the Anzacs comes from soldier stories, not the legend stuff that comes from the media. One of my dad’s surviving mates told me stuff about my dad. He was brave at Long Tan under Viet Cong fire. He helped get the ammunition dropped by helicopter to troops pinned down in the bush. But there was no glory. His death happened because our leaders backed the Americans in their holy crusade against communism. The Vietnamese were really only fighting a civil war. I lost my dad because of it.’

‘You never told me about your dad,’ Carli says. My world lurches on its axis when she smiles, but I have started talking and now I need to get it out.

‘Bower is dragging Mama into it,’ I say. ‘She will become emotional and I do not want that. Tati Anoush spent decades getting over her losses. If Mama is upset, Tati Anoush will re-live the things she saw that no one should have to see.’

Tati Anoush is cool,’ Carli says.

‘I respect his bravery,’ I insist, ‘but I would rather have had my dad. I question the circumstances that put his life on the line.’

‘There vill be no qvestions,’ Caleb interrupts, in his questionable Colonel Klink mode.  

‘Vietnam is a whole new thing,’ I say. ‘Let’s not go there. Jaensch is on record as being one hundred and ten percent behind Uncle Sam.’

‘Jaensch is a fascist,’ Bradley intones.

‘He worships the military,’ Caleb says. ‘That’s for sure. Remember when he showed us his service medals?’

‘Yeah,’ Bradley adds. ‘He was in Vietnam for five minutes before Whitlam got in and withdrew us.’

‘He never fired a shot in anger,’ Caleb muses. ‘I think that’s why he is angry now.’

‘I can believe that,’ I say. ‘It is about the test of manhood, or something. Courage under fire. Uncle Bert told me what he knew about Great-granddad Tom and his own tales of POW life in central Anatolia. And poor old Uncle Kev was a prisoner of the Japanese at Changi, never fired a shot and came home a stranger, alone, bitter, and angry.’

‘Should introduce Uncle Kev to Jaensch,’ Bradley laughs.

‘Shut up, idiots,’ Carli says companionably, punching Bradley’s shoulder. ‘This is Avo’s story. Continue.’ She smiles at me again. My heart does a double backwards flip with a half-pike.

‘It’s about the Genocide and its connection to us in Australia,’ I say, dragging my thoughts together with some effort. ‘Tom Mills died long before I was born, but Uncle Bert knew Tom White, a fellow POW who survived the war and later became a minister in the Menzies government. He wrote a book called Guests of the Unspeakable. Both Bert and Tom White saw the Turks marching Armenian men off to be shot in a village in Central Anatolia called Afionkarahisar...’

‘Afi…what?’ Bradley asks.

‘It’s a village,’ Carli repeats. ‘Whatever. Continue.’

‘They were locked up,’ I continue, ‘in a house where an Armenian family had been kicked out. They both saw the Turks force crying women and children into the street at gunpoint. They - and Tom Mills - knew the Turks were doing this sort of thing on a large scale, right through the First World War.’

            ‘Why?’ Carli asks.

            ‘Cleansing the empire, they called it,’ I explain. ‘Eliminating the infidel. They hanged and shot the Armenian men. And Greeks. And Syrians. And they kicked the families out, into the street and forced them to walk south to the desert, to Aleppo and beyond. Tati Anoush lived through it, Turks whipping Armenian women and shooting their men in cold blood, in the streets. Tati Anoush told me that Kemal kept murdering Armenians long after the armistice in 1918. She lived through the mass murders of Armenians from 1915 through to 1918 and looked after orphans of murdered Armenians until 1925 at the Australasian Orphanage at Antilyas, near Beirut.’

            ‘You never told us that,’ Bradley says.

            Tati Anoush told me stories,’ I say, ‘but she also said that the past was over and she preferred to live in the present. She likes peace.’

            ‘I’m with Tati Anoush,’ Carli says. ‘But continue. You’ve started now.’

‘Hitler got the idea of mass killing a race of people from the Ottoman Turks,’ I say. ‘The Turks murdered one-and-a-half million Armenians between 1915 and 1922. No one remembers that. It took a Jew born in Poland called Raphael Lemkin to make up the term Genocide at the end of World War Two.’

‘I don’t get what this has to do with Kemal,’ Caleb says.

Tati Anoush told me Kemal’s orders led to ten thousand Armenians being massacred – after the war - in Marash,’ I continue. ‘Her birthplace in Anatolia. It is part of Turkey. These people were Genocide survivors who had made their way back to ancestral lands familiar to them, hoping things would go back to normal, now the war was finished. But even though the so-called ‘Young Turks’, Talaat, Enver and Djemal had disappeared and the Ottoman Empire had surrendered to the allies, the urge to continue murdering the Empire’s Christian minorities remained. The British, French, Italians and Greeks were there, ready to split up the empire. By all rights, the killings should be over. But they weren’t. Kemal had succeeded in rallying surviving Ottoman troops, to resist being administered by their conquerors. He got the French to leave the Cilicia region. His troops set fire to Izmir on the Mediterranean coast, killing 120,000 Greeks and Armenians. After Marash, he slaughtered more innocent people in towns called Hadjen, Killis, Aintab, and Adana. And they are just the ones I remember off the top of my head.’

‘What are you people doing here?’ It is Jaensch, standing in the doorway to Year Twelve study. He is the rostered staff member for supervision. ‘Do you have class, or study?’

‘Study, sir,’ Caleb says.

‘Study,’ Bradley says.

Carli smiles at Jaensch and moves to her locker. ‘I was just getting ready to start my history assignment, sir.’

Jaensch regards me inscrutably for a moment. ‘Report to Mr Bower,’ he says. ‘Now.’

            Bower is studying a photocopy of my essay as I enter his office. He continues to skim over the text, while I stand silently, unacknowledged.

Bower begins reading aloud. I recognise my opening paragraph: ‘“The so-called Special Relationship between Australia and Turkey is based on a lie. Although the Anzac invaders and Turkish troops came to respect each other as soldiers, the sudden outpouring of friendly sentiment a half century later stems from a statement, attributed to Mustafa Kemal, addressed to grieving Anzac mothers, words that Kemal is very unlikely ever to have articulated out loud and almost certainly did not pass on to a British delegation to Gallipoli in 1934.” Mr Jaensch obviously has a major problem with this statement. He has already advised that you do not address the essay topic. You will need to rewrite your opening paragraph completely.’

            ‘But sir…’

            ‘No room to negotiate,’ Bauer barks. ‘If you’re wrong, you are wrong and since that is the case, you’re getting the chance to fix it. Now, pay attention…’

            ‘Sir,’ I begin.

Bower cuts me off. ‘You write here: “A more meaningful contact from the war years and immediately after them was the first Australian overseas humanitarian drive that raised money and supplies for the relief of Armenian survivors of the Ottomans’ attempts to purge them completely from their empire.” Mr Jaensch advises that this does not address the question. Then you refer to “the continued efforts of the Turks from 1919-1922 to complete the grisly ambition of exterminating the Armenian race, at the command of Mustafa Kemal…” Why are you on about the killing of Armenians? They’re not even a proper country. Look at the map. They are part of Soviet Russia, last time I looked…’

            ‘Because I am Armenian,’ I say. Now I am really angry. I know it because my general dread at being anywhere near Bower has evaporated.

Bower looks at me like I am mad. ‘You are an Australian citizen. Your name is Smith.’ He shakes his head as if to clear it and reads: “The founder of the Turkish republic may have been a successful general and a clever politician, but he was also an unconvicted war criminal.” This is unfounded hearsay, at best, as Mr Jaensch has noted in the margin, but there are no officially recorded statistics and documentation to support it.’

            ‘Sir, this is unfair,’ I protest. ‘I disagree with the whole premise of Mr Jaensch’s topic, which concerns conciliation that comes from a statement that was made up by someone else, many years later and accepted as truth, without historical verification…’

            ‘How are you so certain this statement by Atatürk was the furphy you say it is?’ Bower demands, throwing down the pages onto his desk.

‘It is in my essay.’ I pick up the relevant page. No teacher remarks are jotted anywhere in the latter half of my work. I begin reading: “There is no hard historical evidence that Kemal ever uttered the affectionate words to the Anzac mothers that are the foundation of the Special Relationship between Turkey and Australia. In 1953, one of Kemal’s fellow war criminals from 1919-22, one Sükrü Kaya, alleged to a state Turkish newspaper that he relayed a version of these words on to a British delegation to Gallipoli, three years before Kemal’s death in 1937. No evidence of that exchange has ever emerged. In 1968, a retired Turkish teacher passed on the words as reported by Kaya to an unnamed old soldier from Brisbane. They found their way to Alan Campbell, an RSL official, who made his own version, with his own added words ‘the Johnnies and the Mehmets’ lying ‘side by side’. He had them inscribed in a Brisbane RSL, about ten years later. No serious attempt at fact-checking their historical veracity had ever been undertaken. There is only Kaya’s 1953 claim that they are true.”

‘How do you know that?’ Bower is looking like he has itchy caning hand.

‘Because I spent quite a few days in the State Library on North Terrace,’ I say. ‘I have copies of actual Kemal statements that praise Australian soldiers as good fighting men and also one that refers to the terrible loss of life in the defence of the peninsula. We lost eight thousand men in 1915, sir, but the Turks lost something close to eighty thousand. But there is nothing in the archives that proves Kemal spoke those words. It got more complicated when Bob Hawke took a personal interest. Our Prime Minister and his people engaged with the Turks on the basis of these unproven words. The Turks offered to rename Ariburnu as “Anzac Cove”, provided we acknowledge Kemal in our War Memorial. The bas-relief of Kemal and memorial with the unproven words to the Anzac mothers on Anzac Parade were unveiled less than two years ago, in 1985.’

Bower’s office phone rings. He answers, and says: ‘Send her in.’ Then I hear something I know well, the sound of a stick, tapping the floor at regular intervals. There is a tap at the door. Bower stands, moves to the door, and opens it. Standing there is a small, elderly lady all in black, white hair framing an old face with the same stunning ocean-blue eyes as Mama, a wise and kind face that retains faint traces of her youthful beauty. It is Tati Anoush. For once, Bower is lost for words.

            Tati,’ I say, and give her a hug and kiss, as I always do. There would be hell to pay if I did not. She holds my hand and gives it a squeeze. She looks at me fondly through the same eyes that she passed on to Mama.

            ‘Avo,’ she says. ‘Your Mama is upset… she has telephone call from this gentleman. She say, you in trouble. She start to say why.’

            Tati, you did not have to come,’ I say.

            ‘No, I must come,’ she says. ‘Is… my fault. I am too much want to… not think about Tseghaspanutzyun. But you must know.’

Bower clears his throat. ‘Avo…?’

            ‘Sorry, sir. Mr Bower, this is my great-grandmother, Mrs Anoush Mills.’

Bower is flustered. He deliberately keeps no second chair in his office. ‘Er, nice to meet you, Mrs Mills. Excuse me…’ He darts outside and returns with a chair, which he places before his desk. ‘Please, have a seat.’

            ‘Thank you, Mr Bower, But what about Avo?’ Tati Anoush asks, settling into the chair. ‘Where is seat for my boy?’

Bower is a study in misery, as he disappears down the corridor and returns with a second chair. ‘Now, Mrs Mills,’ Bower begins. ‘It seems you are acquainted with the problem…’

            ‘Is no problem for me,’ Tati Anoush says. ‘Maybe problem for you.’

            ‘I beg your pardon…’

            ‘Avo read for me his essay. I tell him: is very good. Is A-plus, how you say. You have read it? Last part, is very nice. It say… truth about Gen-o-cide.’

Bower has slumped forward in his seat. He glances down at the pages as if he is afraid they will give him cancer. ‘I have just been reading it,’ he says.

            ‘Avo, read for Mr Bower last part.’

I find the last three paragraphs and address him. ‘Sir, this part sums up the problem.

“Anzac Day is intrinsic to Australian culture and Gallipoli is sacrosanct, but not many people know Armenia exists, let alone the unacknowledged 1915 Genocide, the slaughter of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire that was initially smoke-screened by the Dardanelles campaign. Kemal was determined that the fledgling Turkish Republic in 1923 would not emerge with the stink of war crimes all over it. From Day One, a curtain was drawn over the continued slaughter, post-surrender, of Armenians by Ottoman forces commanded by Kemal. The 'Young Turk' obsession with eliminating the Empire's Christian minorities would continue under Kemal in his single-minded drive to create a new Turkish republic out of the ruins of the old, defeated Empire, and, in doing so, resist the efforts of its conquerors to split it up.

“The omission of our Armenian connection is political in Australia, given how the Turks cynically bought us with Ariburnu in 1985 as a price for never admitting the truth of the Armenian Genocide, despite Australia being a signatory to the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. By buying into a construct that featured these words and embracing Kemal as a noble foe with memorial walls in Canberra, Wellington, and Anzac Cove, successive Australian (and NZ) governments have become complicit in the Turkish lie that Kemal began. Any official acknowledgement of the Genocide would end the so-called ‘Special Relationship’. Imagine the patriotic outcry should that happen.

“By not acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, Australia remains complicit in the Turkish official narrative founded in 1923: the refusal to countenance and acknowledge the crimes committed all through the collapsed Ottoman Empire. By buying into the Special Relationship, we, in Australia, have 'bought' Anzac Cove in name and annual event, but paid the price in truth.”

I look up. Bower’s head is in his hands.

‘All of this,’ Tati Anoush says, ‘…is history. Kemal show no mercy… keep Turkey united. He is president of new Turkish republic. He make his new land over dead bodies… more than a million Armenians. And when they ask him, Kemal say: Bad things happen in war. There were… uprisings here and there … have to put down as part of war. No civilians. Just soldiers. Tell that to survivors in Aleppo in 1922. When I am nurse, 1922, Aleppo, I speak with dying woman from Sivas. She say, before war there are three hundred thousand people, hundred thousand children. After war, couple thousand. Where the rest of them? Holiday camp, maybe? Kemal give order. Soldiers obey. This, I know. This, I do not think about. Many years now. But my boy Avo is from my people. He must learn. He must know truth. I speak truth. I was there. You, sir… You were there also?’

Bower unravels. ‘Thank you, Mrs Mills. If you will excuse me, I have other appointments. Avo must return to class. I have the information I need.’

‘And thank you, Mr Bower,’ Tati Anoush says. ‘I have the information I need as well.’

I get a C for the essay. Life’s normal rhythms resume.


But in 2022, the words remain, a monument to lies. This story is a short sequel to my novel Angel of Aleppo, which can be found on this site at


The phone rings in the Atlanta Braves’ locker room. The bat boy’s voice slices through pregame hubbub. “Hey, Ben! Telephone!”

            “What?” The baseball player growls into the phone.

            “Ben Peters?” A soft male voice.

            “Yeah. Look, the game’s about to start. Who is this? What d’ya want?”

            “There’s been an accident. Suzi—”

            “Oh, god.”

            He listens to the details and slams down the phone. From a Nashville hospital, a slender young musician dials another number.

            “Memphis Uniform Patrol. District Two.”

            “Sergeant Morgan, please.” The musician waits, taking deep, deliberate breaths.

            “Morgan here.”

            Details are repeated. Phones click dead.

            So, my three men know. Lying there on the operating table, I can feel that they know. In the midst of the pain, I sense Cosmo has called the other two.  Whatever the cost to his heart, he would do that.

Agony blankets my leg, creeps up through my groin, settles in my stomach. A mask slaps on my face. I breathe blackness.

            FLASH! I am above the pain, above the flesh, floating—floating? O’m’god, FLOATING! I’m in the lobby where Cosmo waits for the others. I need to help him; need to kiss away his fears. Wow! It’s purple out here!

            Love rains from my spirit and patters uselessly into Cosmo’s soul. I see his tear, but cannot dry it. My sweet, sensitive poet and lover. It’s Saturday night, but you’re not singing. Has the music died? Sing for me, my love. Sing from your heart to heal me.

            FLASH! What the—?!?  I now hover above my body on the antiseptic table. I wonder if I will live; wonder how things will change if I do. If I don’t . . .

            I never thought about dying. All those days in the sky, a merry flight attendant flying my Tennessee/Georgia tri-city route, a man in every port. Even in rough weather, even with other airline tragedies, I never worried about dying. I, Suzi Buckholz, am a free spirit. Free spirits don’t die. Not now. NOT EVER!

            FLASH! I’m flat on the table again: Me and my human entity. My life plays out in living color on the screen behind my eyes. Suddenly free spirit seems selfish. Independence becomes scared. Truth exposes what I called honesty. Things are much clearer now.

            FLASH! I watch a memory of last Christmas. Cosmo holds me in the crisp Nashville air; tree lights flicker against ornaments, stars against the sky. Colors dance across our faces. Ribbon rattles, falls. Wrapping paper follows. His gift, a book: The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach. “About soulmates,” he says. His eyes beg me to find us among the pages. 

            My kiss of thanks warms to fiery passion. Ah, you taught me feelings, Cosmo. Like sun on the desert, or gentle drops of summer rain.

            FLASH! Another memory. With Cosmo in bed. Hands seek intimacy that hides beyond the touch—intimacy lost in words never spoken. “Talk to me!” I beg silently. “Feelings are glorious, but words need saying, too!  Sweet Cosmo, tell me your fears.”

            FLASH! Pain drives me from my form on the hospital table. I watch the knife cut away flesh and probe at bone. Too much pain. Am I dying? I’M DYING! I was wrong, Cosmo. Feelings are enough. Who needs words?

            FLASH! My spirit follows my thoughts to the outer room where Cosmo waits. He sits, head bowed, elbows resting on knees, nervously massaging each finger of each hand. I become his fear—his sensuality. They’re the same up here somehow. I love you, Cosmo!

            The hands stop moving. He’s heard me! 

            But he looks away, toward the door. I follow his gaze.

            Morgan! Familiar strong legs stride into the room. Oh, Morgan, you stride, stalk, and march, never just walk. Your Sergeant’s badge glitters against your Memphis blue as you take control. Morgan, my rock.

            “Buckholz. Suzi Buckholz.” Morgan snaps out my name to the nurse at the desk.  She looks up from her papers, his voice commanding her attention. Like it does from fellow uniforms. And criminals. And me.

            “She’s still in surgery. You may wait over there with your friend, Sir.” She gestures at Cosmo.

            I watch Morgan assess my poet, scrutinizing his competition with trained gray eyes, calculating if the pain of conversation with the foe will be worth the information gained. You clump over.

“Jack Morgan,” you say brusquely, hand extended.    

            Cosmo stands, struggling not to break eye contact. He flinches beneath the firmness of the cop’s handshake.

            Remember your center, Cosmo. Remember your dreams. Morgan’s a teddy bear; don’t let him intimidate you. But Cosmo cowers under Morgan’s gaze, and I am saddened.

            Morgan—my haven, my strength. Perhaps it is you I need. The old and strong may not need feelings and songs.

            “What happened? What have you done to her?” Flecks of anger and fear darken Morgan’s eyes; his voice is gruff, demanding. Darling, Morgan, always hiding behind interrogation.

            FLASH! Sutures crimp off my veins and suck me back to check on my body still being probed on the operating-room stage. I will myself to keep fighting.

            FLASH! I watch my knights circle for battle.

            “It was a motorcycle,” Cosmo says. “She had to try it alone.” His voice cracks. “I tried to get her to wear a helmet, but she said she was too much of a free spirit to . . . bother.” Pain and bitterness sound the same up here.

            I remember now, yelling about adventure as I roared away. Then the stench of hot metal and burning flesh mocked my hubris. Pain. Sizzling, searing pain. No! I don’t want to remember!

            A commotion at the door saves me. My dashing Ben catapults into the room like he’s sliding into base.

            “Oh, hello,” the nurse flutters. “You’re Ben Peters!”

            He doesn’t seem to hear her.

            “I’m a huge Braves fan.” the nurse prods. “Can I help you, Mr. Peters?”

            “I’m sorry. Yes.” Ben flicks the shock of blond hair from his forehead and flashes his famous, heart-melting smile. She forgives him his rudeness in an instant. I feel like I’m melting, too, but then I remember I’m a spirit and I’m supposed to feel this light. “I’m looking for Suzi Buckholz,” Ben croons.

            “Oh, my.” The nurse flutters again and glances at my other two suitors, who now stand together against this latest contender.

            Morgan ambles over, and I giggle at his pretense as he evaluates the enemy. Nostrils flare. Stallions prance. Territories are marked and acknowledged. Unconscious contempt for the “common man” curls Ben’s lip. There’s that “snob face” I hate. Stop it, Ben!

            “Who’s operating? Do we need a specialist? I’ll cover the cost,” Ben says. I see his fear. I am his fear. Ah, Ben, arrogance is a mask to hide your weakness.

            Don’t worry, I want to tell them all. It’s okay. Everything’s okay up here.

            DING! DING! CODE BLUE! Oh, no, it’s not okay! Flurries of starched white lab coats rush down the hall. The cord of light connecting me to my body jerks me back to physicality. Frantic commands. Hands pound my chest. I feel the hot sting of a needle. Fire surges into my veins and races wildly beneath flesh in search of the enemy that threatens my life. Electricity jolts me.

            COME ON, SUZI, FIGHT!!!

            My body jerks. Lungs pump madly. A cloud of strength surrounds me. I smile, absorbing the power of my knights as they put aside their war to join forces with mine. My breath surges at last. I’m going to live!


            For two days I lie in limbo, trapped in my prison of skin, knowing nothing but the hazy sense of changing auras around me.

            Cosmo sits with me first. His essence calms. Pink bubblegum love and poetic purple. I sense him going deep into his core to quiet his fear so I will not feel it. My heart smiles, and I wish I could make his do the same so he will know how his colors soothe. 

            Next Morgan takes a shift. His aura is solid gray. Steel. I pull his strength into me, but reality is crushing him, and I wish he could hear me laughing at death. He has never understood my flippancy about troubles. Not from that first meeting. I was driving my blazing blue MG Midget much too fast. Top down, I zoomed past this gray-haired, old-enough-to-be-my-father, very handsome policeman on his way home from work.

            As he wrote the ticket, Morgan gave me Lecture 101 about the dangers of driving fast in a convertible.

            “But I’m a flight attendant,” I said. “I love to fly.”

            “Then save it for the job.”

            He handed me the ticket. I smiled at him, saying I’d show up in court if he did . . . maybe we could go for coffee afterwards.

            “Are you bribing an officer?”  

            I laughed.

            “Laughing at a cop will get you in trouble, Ma’am.”

            I waved my ticket at him. “I’m already in trouble, sir. Why do you think I’m laughing?” 

            We hadn’t waited for court to have our coffee. For four years I have taught my serious man in Memphis how to laugh. And now, with a twist of a handlebar, I have taken his laughter away. From my hospital bed, my mind begs him to remember. Laugh with me, Morgan! 

            But he rises—age showing—and walks to the door. I think of the sun and concentrate on sending a few rays filtering over him. A flicker of yellow crosses his departing gray aura. A smile! He smiled! When my body has healed, I’ll show him how much that smile meant.

            As the door closes behind Morgan, energy races through me. Ben is near! Vibrant orange energy ripples through the air and descends over my bed. My spirit grabs at the vitality like a drowning swimmer clings to a life jacket. Consciousness creeps up my spine, knocking at the windows to my soul and flooding my brain. I try my eyelids for the umpteenth time—finally time they open. Ben’s crystal blues stare unseeing for a moment.

            “Isn’t this a hoot?” I mumble. 

            Ben’s eyes light up. Mine fall closed.

The orange aura fades into a rainbow of emotion as all three men huddle around me. My eyes won’t stay open, so I just smile and let the colors saturate me: purple . . . gray . . . orange.

            Now the doctor arrives. His aura is a pretty pastel blue. He lifts my right eyelid and puts a spotlight on my brain. I sit up, eyes bursting open, and push the startled doc away. “Hi there, sweet shining knights of mine,” I say to my three heroes.

            Nervous laughter. The men shake their heads, unsure what to do with me, but resigning themselves to love who I am.

            The doc eases me back on the bed; Nurse Hatchet prods for my pulse, pinching my wrist a little too tightly. Ha! Jealous!

            “Don’t talk,” says Cosmo.

            “Rest now,” says Morgan.

            “You’re going to be okay, kiddo.” Ben wiggles his fist. It’s the gesture he makes for me when he’s at bat on TV. He told me once it meant: Hi Suzi, I know you’re watching—maybe in Nashville with Cosmo, or Memphis with Morgan—but soon you and I will be together in Atlanta, and you’ll be all mine.

            “You say all that with one little waggle of the wrist?” I had asked.

            I touch his arm to still it. My finger traces down his hand as if it has a mind of its own, as if Cosmo and Morgan aren’t there.

            There is a moment of awkward silence. I smooth it over by motioning my lovers to stand together and say “party.” I take a picture with an imaginary camera. They understand. There’ll be no more talk of giving up the others—of marriage—about all those conventions that are not me. I need all three of my men . . . love them as one.

            FLASH! Pink, gray, orange, the colors of love, blanket me in a cozy glow. My eyes close, and I am flying. Free spirit . . . yeah, that’s what I am . . . Ahhhh . . . I’ve never flown this high before. So, this is love.


"Stop that fighting!" Carol yelled to the clamoring toddlers outside the bathroom door. Turning, she studied herself in the mirror. God! Five years ago, she had been senior prom queen. Now she looked fifty! Her auburn hair was long, limp, and unkempt. Yikes! Was that a wrinkle? She picked a dried piece of tomato from her eyelash and yelled again. “If I have to come out there, you boys will be sorry!” Splashing water on her face, she muttered to her reflection. "I need a break from these monsters before I go NUTS!" Her eyes hardened in decision. "I'll talk to Roger again tonight.”

The family dinner that evening followed the usual pattern. Roger, a construction worker who looked like an accountant, sat at the far end of the table, ignoring the three four-year-olds who sat on either side of Carol. Her head throbbed as she tried to coax mac-and-cheese through Paul’s pursed lips. Beside him, John circled a finger in a blob of ketchup and smeared it across his lips. He tried to smear his brother’s lips as well, but instead got his mother in the eye. Carol jumped up and screamed, which sent the triplets screaming as well. George nervously pulled on his hair, leaving behind a long streak of cheesy yellow.  The dog added his howl to the uproar.

Roger was oblivious as he swigged down the last of a beer and burped loudly, chuckling at something on his cell phone. Carol’s angry look went unnoticed, as did the loud sigh she let out before sending the dog to his bed and quieting the boys.

Squelching her anger, Carol got another beer from the refrigerator, popped the top, and set it in front of him. He was shoveling food into his mouth and barely noticed.

"Roger?" She hated that her voice sounded so meek.

"What?” He looked up from his plate, noticed the fresh beer. “Oh, yeah, thanks.”

"Roger!" Now her tone was sharp enough to get her husband’s attention.

He flicked his glasses up his nose. His voice was resigned. "What, Carol?"

"I need a break, or your sons will not turn five!  I am truly going crazy! Can't we afford a sitter one afternoon a week? A couple hours. I’ll cut back on the grocery bill."

Roger looked at the remnants of gluey mac-and-cheese and wimpy boiled hot dog on his plate and rolled his eyes.  “Sure, I’d love to eat gruel so you can have a spa day.”

“That’s not fair.” A tear sprang to Carol’s eye as she began to pace. “Look at me, Roger.  I look like crap. I’m starved for adult conversation. I’m too young to be trapped like this!” A plaintive whine crept into her voice. She hated the sound, but couldn’t seem to control it. “I’m beginning to hate my own children.”

Roger looked at the ketchup‑freckled faces staring at him. He knew his wife was right. He just needed a little more time. "I’m up for a raise in a couple months, dear, and with the new office complex project, it should be a good one. We'll look into it then. I promise."

"A couple of months? MONTHS?" Carol’s screech set off the toddlers and the dog again. Roger stalked out in disgust. By the time the chaos was calmed, he had planted himself in front of the television and was already nodding out. He barely noticed when the boys, all cleaned up, paraded by in their nightshirts and leaned shiny faces in to kiss him goodnight.

Once the kids were settled, Carol plopped into a rocker and stared daggers at her husband until he finally looked away from whatever insipid sitcom he was watching and scowled at her. “Stop staring. There’s nothing more to say. You’re the one who wanted a baby.”

One baby, not three!”

“Well, don’t blame me for that. Multiple births come from your family, not mine. Do you think I was planning to have to support five people so soon?”

“Maybe you could watch them a couple of hours at night once in a while.”

“After working like a dog all day, and having to get up at dawn to do it all over again?”

Carol was silent, dejected.

“The boys nap every afternoon so maybe do some yoga or something here while they’re down. Lots of women do that. Anyway, they’ll be in preschool before you know it, and you’ll have all day to relax. But I’ll still be punching that time clock to provide for all of you while you lay around. Now the news is coming on, and I would like to watch it.”

He turned his head deliberately, stared at the screen. She was too furious to speak. Stalking to the refrigerator, she poured herself a glass of cheap, boxed wine and wearily cleaned up the dinner mess and loaded the dishwasher. She muttered as she threw a load of laundry in the washer. “Lay around, my ass.” She slugged back the rest of her wine and stalked into the den. Roger was sagged over in his recliner, asleep, his can of beer dangling precariously in his hand. She took the can and set it on the end table, but left him sitting there as she trudged off to bed.

            The next morning, Carol was vacuuming when the doorbell rang, sending the dog’s barks and boys’ squeals to dangerous decibels. Carol switched off the vacuum and yelled futility for quiet as she answered the door.

"Howdy, Ma'am," said the chipper young man on the doorstep. He looked past her toward the chaos. “I see I’ve arrived just in time.”

Carol followed his gaze. “How much will you give me for the whole kit and caboodle?”

His eyes widened, and Carol rolled her eyes and sighed loudly. “Look, I’m busy and have no money to buy whatever you’re selling, so—” She started to close the door, but his hand stopped it.

“I'm with Rescue Babysitting Service. You entered our contest?"

Carol gave the man a wary look. “No. I didn’t enter anything.” 

“Maybe your husband entered for you. In any event, you won! I’m here with your free babysitter.”

Carol furrowed her brow as she glanced around for a camera. “Is this a joke?”

“No, Ma’am.”

“I won you as a babysitter? For how long?”

“No, Ma’am, not me. I’m Eugene Bradley. An inventor. This is the babysitter.” He held up a box that was about six inches long and four inches wide. Carol is intrigued, but skeptical.

“May I come in and show you how it works?”

Carol hesitated, but the sound of a lamp shattering behind her, and Paul’s wail immediately echoed by his brothers made her step aside so the man could enter. “Oh, why not? I’m desperate. Would you like some coffee?”

Later, the house was quiet, and Carol was smiling as she walked Eugene Bradley to the door. “Now remember the terms of our contract and the consequences—”

“Yes, yes. Now go. I have big plans for my day, and I want to get started.”


Roger returned from work as the sun set. “I’m home, dear,” he called out as he hung his coat on the coatrack.

“Hello, Darling.”

Roger turned toward his wife and did a double-take. Gaped in disbelief. She had dyed her hair the color of a shiny penny, and her make-up was impeccable. She had resurrected lingerie he hadn’t seen in years. Lingerie that left nothing to the imagination. "Holy cow, Carol? Wha—You look . . . magnificent! I’m not complaining, but what's going on?"

"I feel good, that's all. The boys went to bed early, so we’ll have a lovely dinner and…” Carol smiled seductively as she loosened his tie, leaned close. “…and then….” Her words were a warm whisper at his ear. A beer appeared in his hand, and Roger swallowed any questions with his first icy gulp.  


            A couple weeks later, Roger raised up on one elbow and studied Carol as she slid into bed beside him.           


"Yes, Roger?"

"Carol, I may jinx things by asking, but what’s happened to you? Delicious meals every night, great lunches packed every morning, and you’re looking rested and lovely all the time. Not to mention the—you know— sex. I love it—don’t get me wrong—it’s just—are you okay? And what have you done to the boys? They're so polite and quiet these days. It’s unnatural."

"Oh, Roger, stop talking and kiss me.”


The next day, Carol studied the boys as they ate their oatmeal. They had become rather docile. Deep in thought, she walked around the table, fluffing each boy’s hair in turn, planting a kiss on the top of each head. “You guys are fine. Just growing up is all. That’s why you’re not so rowdy anymore. You know I love you and would never hurt you, don’t you?”

Carol wiped three faces and six hands and prodded the boys from their chairs. “Go and play with your Legos.” She shooed them toward the den, pulling a remote control from her purse as she followed them. “I’ll tell you what. I won’t pause you so much. Maybe one day a week we can have an outing. Go to the zoo or something.”

The boys all yelled “ZOO” at the same time.

“Maybe,” Carol said. “But I need these breaks. I’m finally starting to feel human again. Besides, there’s the contract. And you’ll start pre-school before too much longer, so we won’t need it anymore.”

She pointed the remote at each of her sons and hit PAUSE. The boys froze in place.

Carol actually whistled as she cleaned up the kitchen and changed into workout clothes. She stopped at the door to the den and blew kisses at the triplets. “I won’t be gone long today. I promise.”


At the same time, Roger was finishing his lunch at the construction site when his boss walked up with a clipboard. “Whitmore,” he said. “You still drive that van, right?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good. We need to replenish a few of the supplies on this job.” He holds out the clipboard. “Here’s a list. I want you to take off and go to the warehouse and load up. Then go ahead and knock off for the day, since you live over there.”

“I’d rather come back and get the hours, Sir. With the boys, things are—”

“Don’t worry about that. You’ll get full pay. We don’t need the stuff until morning so you can bring it then.”

“Are you sure, Sir?”

“You work hard, Whitmore, and deserve it. Go on, now. Get out of here.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

A half hour later, Roger looked around puzzled by the silence as he stepped into the house. He chuckled as he got a beer and took a long drink. “You are so busted, Carol!” After all her whining about how hard she worked all day, he’d caught her napping with the boys.

He walked to the bedroom, grinning. Maybe he’d join her for, well, not sleep. 

But the bed was empty. Where the hell?

Roger went to the boys’ room. Empty, too. Worried, now, Roger rushed to the den, his calls to Carol echoing through the eerier silence of the house.

He stopped dead in the doorway to the den, eyes wide, mouth gaping. Then he sprang into the room and rushed from one frozen boy to the next, shaking them, horrified when he got no response.

Rushing back to the kitchen, he grabbed the cell phone he’d left on the counter and was just punching in the first “1” of “9-1-1” when the outside door opened and Carol burst in.

“Roger! What are you doing home?” Her voice was breathless with guilt. He laid down the phone.

“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? What have you done to my sons?”

“Oh, Roger, they’re fine. I just paused them for a few minutes to run out.”

“PAUSED THEM? What do you mean paused them?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“You’ll tell me or I am calling the police.”

“Please, Roger. You don’t want to do that.”

Roger pointed to one of the chairs around the kitchen table.  “Sit. Talk and make sense.” He held his cell phone at the ready.

“Do you want a beer? I’ll un-pause them as soon as you’re calm.”

“I’ve got a beer and I’m fine right here, so sit down and tell me what is going on.”

“You should blame yourself for this not me. You’re the one who entered my name in the contest.”

“I never entered any contest. What contest?”

“For the babysitter. It saved my sanity. It saved us.  I haven’t heard you complain about your home life lately. He said it wouldn’t harm the boys. I wouldn’t hurt them.”

“I don’t understand, and we are not leaving this room until I do. So, start making sense.”

Carol let out a huge sigh and pulled the remote from her purse. Tears welled in her eyes. She turned slowly and held it up for her husband to see.

 “What’s that?”

“It’s the babysitter, Roger. I just push the pause button, and the boys freeze until I push it again.”

“You should have told me. We should have discussed this. Done some research on the thing before we used it on our sons.”

“I couldn’t. The contract was very specific. I couldn’t tell anyone. The consequences—” She aimed the remote at him.

“So, what, you’re going to pause me now?”

“No, Roger, it’s much worse.” Tears rolled down Carol’s cheeks. “I have to STOP you, Roger. Forever. I’m so sorry, but I had to make a deal to get a deal.”

“Give me that thing.” Roger advanced on her, grabbing at the remote.

Her thumb smashed down on the STOP button.

But in the world of karma, it was Carol’s heart that suddenly stopped not Roger’s. Whether it was a malfunction of the remote, or it had been purposely designed to take the life of the one who would take another, no one ever knew. Roger un-paused his sons, hammered the remote into a million pieces, shredded the contract he found in Carol’s underwear drawer, and never told a sole about it.

Carol’s death was ruled a heart attack, and life insurance provided enough for Roger to hire a real babysitter. He found a spry and kindly grandmother, who moved in and helped raise the triplets into fine young men.

Brad and Tara were at odds. They stared angrily at each other. With tears streaming down Tara’s face, she offered Brad an ultimatum. “It’s time to make a choice. It’s either me or your new mistress.”

“Rose, her name is Rose Gray. Why can’t you call her by her proper name?”

“Brad I am tired. The two of you spend every waking moment together. You haven’t taken me to dinner in a year. We have not made love in months. The other night I got dolled up in a sexy negligée and you didn’t even notice. You came home and went straight to bed. You didn’t even take your socks off.”

“Quit being a drama queen, Tara. I was tired, I worked all day.”

Tara stood fast. “What’s it going to be? Me or your new love?”

“I am not giving up on Rosie,” Brad insisted.

Tara wheeled and strode off in disgust. As she climbed into her car she exclaimed. “You will be hearing from my lawyer.”

Brad pulled a stool up behind where Rosie stood. He stroked her backside. “Don’t worry honey, nothing will come between us. From now on it is just you and me old girl.”

True to her word Tara filed for a divorce on the grounds of alienation of affection. Two months later they appeared in court.

The judge asked, “Are all parties present? Where is this Rose Gray mentioned in the testimony?”

Tara barked back. “No, Rosie is still back home, where he left her. He sleeps with her every night.”

Brad added. “She can’t come out right now.”

The confused magistrate asked. “Why isn’t she here at this hearing, and why can’t she come out? What is her problem?”

Brad replied, “Her engine needs to be rebuilt.”

“What?” Asked the judge.

“Rose is my 1965 Rose Red Corvette convertible.”

The judge slammed down his gavel. “Divorce granted.”

Tara was awarded the couple's entire estate. Minus Rose Gray, of course.


"Shit, this weather is getting worse, I can barely see in front of me".

As usual, Satan was talking to himself.

He only had a few friends, and of those he did have, none would be stupid enough to accompany him on a late night drive in this weather.

The Dark One was returning from a business trip up north, where he had been closing a deal to acquire more souls. The meeting had gone well. He had purchased a dozen pure souls, and his client had thrown in a few wretched ones to seal the bargain. Yes, all had gone well until he had to make the return journey in this appalling weather.

"Oh do me a favour! What's wrong now?" Satan grimaced as his car spluttered and coughed, before slowly coming to a halt.

"That's all I fucking need. Now where's my bloody breakdown cover?"
Satan reached into his glove compartment and pulled out his crumpled certificate with the emergency number printed in big black type across the top. Flipping open his mobile phone, he gave another curse as he realised he had no signal. Trying anyway and getting the requisite "connection unavailable”, he let out a "Why Me?" at the top of his voice.

Looking through the rain splattered windows he could just make out the illuminated word "HOTEL" in red neon.

Satan pulled his jacket over his head before stepping out of the car into the raging storm. He proceeded to manoeuvre the car as best he could into the kerb until both his energy and interest sapped.

"Fuck it. Who cares?" were his parting words as he strode through the deep puddles on route to the hotel.

Making his way through the double doors into the reception area of the hotel he was a little put out to find that the desk was unmanned. Hitting the bell three times in quick succession he glared about him while waiting for someone to appear.

Minutes passed before he struck the bell again, this time with a ferociousness that would have sent a saint down to hell. The bell merely tinkled a faint and muffled "ding", before collapsing into molten metal.

Satan stared at the fist that had done the smiting and realised it was all aflame. "Oh fuck, this is getting to me; at this rate I will burn the place to ashes before I get a bed for the night".

He placated himself with a "Calm down old fellow, take it easy".

The door behind the desk opened and a grizzled old man appeared. With a smile that would have melted the heart of anyone but the prospective guest, the old man spoke cheerfully, "Good evening sir, what can I do for you on this dreadful night?"

"A room for one, with en-suite if you have it," Satan replied.

"Certainly sir, I have one room vacant on the sixth floor. Number sixty-six, would that suffice?"

Satan reached for the key with the 666 embossed prominently upon it and smiled. "Couldn't be better, home sweet home"

He told the clerk his car had broken down and that he would need it repaired and ready for the morning. He passed on the car keys, the breakdown certificate with the phone number and registration details, and asked the clerk if he could get it all arranged.

Satan added that there would be a decent tip if everything was 'tickety-boo' by the time he had finished breakfast the following day.

The smiling clerk told Satan that all would be ‘tickety-boo’ by morning, and assured him that everything would be taken care of. 

Going up in the elevator to the sixth floor the devil was slowly shaking off his bad mood. Still dripping wet of course, and if he had any spirits, they would also be pretty damp. Nevertheless, what the hell, he’d soon dry off.

Putting the key in the door, turning it, and then stepping into the room, Satan shrugged off his sodden clothes, hung them on the radiator and stepped into a steaming shower. "What the hell?" he repeated to himself. "Life ain't so bad".

Satan returned from the shower wrapped in the fluffy white gown, supplied free of charge by the hotel, and now he felt almost human. At least as human as any self respecting devil could feel.

After making himself a coffee from the facilities unit, he climbed into bed, dimmed the lights, and let himself drift into his favourite tormented sleep. Within moments he was blissfully dreaming of howling souls and burning red coals.

He awoke drowsily and knew at once that a drug had been administered to his normally all-powerful body. Finding his strength diminished and his powers non-existent, he could barely struggle with the bonds now holding him.

Satan quickly realised his arms and legs were stretched out to the four corners of the bed, all tied firmly to the bedposts. Surrounded by chanting figures, all but one masked, he immediately recognised the lone unmasked tormentor as that of the smiling front-desk clerk.

Satan's voice came out mumbled as there was a red kerchief rammed deeply into his mouth; but, even through the restriction, it was clear the words "fuck" and "hell" had been uttered."

As he writhed weakly on the bed pulling at his bonds the voice of the clerk came through the rhythmic chanting of the masked assailants.

"Hark oh Beelzebub, we pray to you Dark Lord; please accept this sacrifice as our pledge of unceasing devotion. Please accept the blood of this lowly human who we sacrifice in thy name and in this room dedicated to you, our eternal lord and master"

With these words the still smiling, the now near hysterical clerk plunged a dagger deep into Satan's black heart.

I place the last brick in the wall, and leave the cement to dry before plastering. Hopefully when I return to finish the job his screams will have stopped....

"The Demons of War are Persistent”

 A Personal Story of Prolonged PTSD

 —A.W. Schade, USMC 1965/69 

Fifty years have passed since my deployment as a combat Marine to Vietnam. However, only several years since I acknowledged my inability to continue suppressing the demons alone. Like many veterans, the “Demons” have haunted me through nightmares, altered personas, and hidden fears. 

Even as many veterans manage the demons’ onslaught successfully, millions survive in destitution, needless solitude, and social disconnection. Scores consider themselves cowards, should they concede to the demons’ hold. Countless live in denial and loneliness, protecting their warrior’s pride. The most vulnerable— tormented by guilt and feeling forever alone — too often choose to “end” their lives.


As friends and family gather to celebrate another joyful holiday, I am often disheartened, reminded by vivid memories of lost friendships and battlefield carnage that erratically seeps from a vulnerable partition of my mind. The cerebral hiding place I concocted, decades before, as a mechanism to survive in society. I unwittingly clutch at profound loneliness as I avoid searching for memories of my youthful years. If I dare to gaze into my past, I must transcend a cloak of darkness weaved to restrain the demons from so many years before.

My pledge to God, Country, and the Marine Corps were more than forty years ago. As a young, unproven warrior, I consented to the ancient rules of war. At eighteen, like many others, I was immersed in the ageless stench of death and carnage, in the mountains and jungles of Vietnam. However, my journey began much earlier, on a sixty-mile bus ride with other nervous teenagers, to New York City’s legendary Induction Center at 39 White Hall Street.

We went through lines of examinations and stood around for hours, recognizing one another’s bare asses before we could learn each other’s names. We did not realize so many of us would remain together in squads and fire teams, building deep-seated bonds of friendships along our journey. Our initial ‘shock’ indoctrination began immediately at Parris Island; intimidating Drill Instructors scrambled our disoriented butts off the bus, organized us into a semblance of a formation, and herded us to the barracks for a night of hell!

Anxiety, second-guessing our decision to join, and apprehension was our welcoming. Following what we thought would be sleep (but was actually a nap), we awoke in awe to explosive clamor, as the DIs banged on tin garbage can lids next to our bunks, yelling ‘get up you maggots.’ Even the largest recruits trembled.

We remained maggots for the next few weeks and began intense physical and mental training, slowly recognizing the importance of “the team” instead of “the individual.” In less than sixteen weeks we were proud United States Marines. It was a short celebration though, as we loaded our gear and headed, in order, to Camp Lejeune, Camp Pendleton, Okinawa and then the Philippines, where we continued to enhance our stealth and killing skills, before executing these talents on the already blood-soaked fields of Vietnam.

We argued and fought amongst ourselves as brothers often do. Still, we never lost sight of the bonds we shared: We were United States Marines with an indisputable commitment to “always cover each other’s back.” Crammed into the bowels of Navy Carrier Ships, we slept in hammocks with no more than three inches from your brother’s butt above you. The sailors laughed as these self-proclaimed “bad-ass Marines” transformed into the wimpy “Helmet Brigade.” We vomited into our skull buckets for days on our way to Okinawa, where we would engage in counter-guerrilla warfare training. 

Aware that we were going to Vietnam, we partied hard in every port. The first of our battles were slugfests in distant bar-room brawls.

Conversely, our minds were opened to the poverty and living conditions of these famous islands in the Pacific. Their reputations preceded them, but stories about war with Japan—John Wayne movies—were not what we found. Instead, we found overpopulated, dirty cities; we were barraged constantly by poor children seeking any morsel of food. In the fields, families lived in thatched huts with no electricity or sanitary conditions. 

While training I experienced the horror of being chased by a two-ton water buffalo (with only blanks in my rifle). Moments before, this same beast was led around by a ring through its nose by a ten-year-old boy. Worse than the chasing was hearing the laughter of brother Marines watching me run at full speed, trying to find something to climb. In a tree, I felt as though I was losing the “macho” in Marine, and we were still thousands of miles from Vietnam.

In confidence, we spoke as brothers about our fears, hardships growing-up, family, girlfriends, times of humiliation, prejudice, and what we planned to do in our lifetime once our tour of duty in Vietnam was over. We knew each other’s thoughts and spoke as though we would all return home alive, never considering the thought of death or defeat. We had not learned that lesson, yet. 

Moreover, we dreamed of going home as respected American warriors who defended democracy in a remote foreign land, standing proud, feeling a sense of accomplishment, and experiencing life, as none of our friends at home would understand. Our country had called and we answered.

We transferred to a converted WWII aircraft carrier that carried helicopters and Marines instead of jet planes. We were to traverse the coast of Vietnam and deploy by helicopter into combat zones from the Demilitarized Zone, the imaginary line separating North and South Vietnam, to the provinces and cities of Chu Lai and Da Nang. Then further south, to the outer fringes of Vietnam’s largest city, which was, at that time, Saigon.

Within sight of land, we heard the roar of artillery, mortars and the familiar crackling of a small-arms fire. These were sounds we were accustomed to because of months of preparing ourselves for battle. However, for the first time, we understood the sounds were not from playing war games. Someone was likely dead. Anxiety, adrenaline highs, and fear of the unknown swirled within my mind.

Was I prepared? Could I kill another man? Would another man kill me? From that point forward, death was part of my life. We would eventually load into helicopters, descending into confrontations ambivalent, yet assured we were young, invincible warriors. We were convinced the South Vietnamese people needed us; many of them did. Thus, our mission was simple: save the innocent and banish the enemy to Hell!

The first time we touched down on Vietnam soil, we mechanically spread out in combat formation. Immediately, everything I was taught to watch out for rushed through my mind: “Was the enemy around us?” “Was I standing near an enemy grenade trap, or stepping toward a punji pit filled with sharpened bamboo spikes?” Seeing our company walking through the low brush gave me comfort, until an unexpected explosion deafened our senses. We immediately hit the ground and went into combat mode, establishing our zones of fire. There was nothing to think about except engaging the enemy. We were ready for battle.

We waited, but heard no gunfire or rockets exploding, only a few Marines speaking several hundred feet away. One yelled, “I can’t F’N” believe it!” We learned our first meeting with death was due to one of our brother’s grenade pins not being secured; we assumed it was pulled out by the underbrush. Regardless, he was dead. Staring at his lifeless body, I felt the loss of youthful innocence gush away.

One engagement began with us being plunged into chaos from helicopters hovering a few feet off the ground. We anxiously leapt—some fell—into the midst of an already heated battle. The enemy sprung a deadly assault upon us. I became engrossed in the shock, fear, and adrenaline rush of battle. It was surreal! It was also not the time to ponder the killing of another human being, recall the rationale behind the ethics of war, or become absorbed in the horror of men slaughtering each other. Thoughts of war’s demons certainly were not on my mind.

When the killing ceased and the enemy withdrew, I remained motionless, exhausted from the fighting. With only a moment to think about what had just occurred, the shock, hate, and anger were buried under the gratitude of being alive. I had to find out which brothers did or did not survive, and as I turned to view the combat zone, I witnessed the reality of war: dreams, friendships, and future plans vanished. We knelt beside our brothers, some dead, many wounded, and others screaming in pain. A few lay there dying silently. 

As I moved about the carnage, I noticed a lifeless body, face down, and twisted abnormally in jungle debris. I pulled him gently from the tangled lair, unaware of the warrior I had found. Masked in blood and shattered bones, I was overwhelmed with disgust and a primal obsession for revenge as I realized the warrior was my mentor, hero, and friend.

My voice fragmented, I spoke at him as if he were alive: “Gunny, you can’t be dead! Son-of-a-bitch, you fought in WWII and Korea, how can you die in this God for-shaken country! Get up Marine!” Tears seeped down my face; I whispered that he would not be forgotten. I placed him gently in a body bag, slowly pulling the zipper closed over his face, engulfing him in darkness.

Navy Corpsmen—our extraordinary brothers—worked frantically to salvage traumatized bodies. We did our best to ease the pain of the wounded as they prayed to God Almighty. “With all my heart I love you, man,” I told each friend I encountered. However, some never heard the words I said, unless they were listening from Heaven. I was unaware of the survivor’s guilt brewing deep inside me.

In two or three weeks our mission was completed; we flew by helicopter from the jungle to the safety of the ship. None of us rested. Instead, we remembered faces and stared at the empty bunks of the friends who were not there. I prayed for the sun to rise slowly, in order to delay the forthcoming ceremony for the dead.

Early the next morning, we stood in a military formation on the aircraft carrier’s deck. I temporarily suppressed my emotions as I stared upon the dead. Rows of military caskets, identical in design, with an American flag meticulously draped over the top, made it impossible to distinguish which crates encased my closest friends. As taps played, tears descended. For the first time I understood, that in war, you never have a chance to say goodbye. I pledged silently to each of my friends that they would never be forgotten: A solemn promise I regretfully only kept through years of nightmares or hallucinations.

Combat is vicious; rest is brief; destroying the enemy was our mission. We fought our skillful foes in many battles, until they or we were dead, wounded, or overwhelmed. Engaging enemy troops was horrific in both jungles and villages. We had to either accept or build psychological boundaries around the terror.

Nonexistent were the lines of demarcation; we constantly struggled to identify which Vietnamese was a friend and which was a foe. The tormenting acknowledgment that a woman or child might be an enemy combatant had to be confronted; it was often an overwhelming decision to make. I was not aware of the change in my demeanor. In time, I merely assumed I had adjusted emotionally to contend with the atrocities and finality of war. I acquired stamina, could endure the stench of death, eliminate enemy combatants with little or no remorse, suppress memories of fallen companions, and avoid forming new, deep-rooted friendships. I struggled to accept the feasibility of a loving Lord. I never detected the nameless demons embedding themselves inside of me.

At the end of my tour, I packed minimal gear and left the jungle battlefields of Vietnam for America, never turning to bid farewell or ever wanting to smell the pungent stench of death and fear again. Within seventy-two hours, I was on the street I left fourteen months prior, a street untouched by war, poverty, genocide, hunger, or fear. 

I was home. I was alone. Aged well beyond my chronological years of nineteen, I was psychologically and emotionally confused. I was expected to transform from a slayer back into a (so-called) civilized man.

Except for family members and several high-school friends, returning home from Vietnam was demeaning for most of us. There were no bands or cheers of appreciation or feelings of accomplishment. Instead, we were shunned and ridiculed for fighting in a war that our government assured us was crucial and for an honorable cause. I soon found that family, friends, and co-workers could never truly understand the events that transformed me in those fourteen months.

I changed from a teenage boy to a battle-hardened man. I was not able to engage in trivial conversations or take part in the adolescent games many of my friends still played. For them, life did not change and “struggle” was a job or the “unbearable” pressure of college they had to endure. It did not take me long to realize that they would never understand; there is no comparison between homework and carrying a dead companion in a black zipped bag.

The media played their biased games by criticizing the military, never illuminating the thousands of Vietnamese saved from mass execution, rape, torture, or other atrocities of a brutal northern regime. They never showed the stories of American “heroes” who gave their lives, bodies, and minds to save innocent people caught in the clutches of a “controversial” war. For years, my transition back to society was uncertain. I struggled against unknown demons and perplexing social fears. I abandoned searching for surviving comrades or ever engaging in conversations of Vietnam.

Worse, I fought alone to manage the recurring nightmares, which I tried to block away in a chamber of my mind labeled; “Do not open, horrors, chaos and lost friends from Vietnam.” However, suppressing dark memories is almost impossible. Random sounds, smells, or even words unleash nightmares, depression, anxiety and the seepages of bitterness I alluded to before. I still fight to keep these emotions locked away inside me. 

Today, my youth has long since passed and middle age is drifting progressively behind me. Still, unwelcome metaphors and echoes of lost souls seep through the decomposing barriers fabricated in my mind. Vivid memories of old friends, death, guilt, and anger sporadically persevere. There may be no end, resolution, or limitations to the demons’ voices. They began as whispers and intensified—over decades—in my mind.

“Help me, buddy!” I still hear them scream, as nightmares jolt me from my slumber. I wake and shout, “I’m here! I’m here my friend,” and envision their ghostly, blood-soaked bodies. I often wonder if more Marines would be alive if I had fought more fiercely. “I had to kill!” I remind myself; as visions of shattered friends, and foes hauntingly reappear at inappropriate times.

Guilt consumes my consciousness as I recall the mayhem of war, and what we had to do to survive. As well I question: Why did I survive and not them? Most horrible, however, is the conflicting torment I feel when I acknowledge that I am thankful it was others instead of me.

Regardless of which war a person fought, I am sure many of their memories are similar to mine, as many of mine are to theirs. I never recognized the persistence of the demons, nor realized how quickly they matured deep within my soul. Disguised and deep-rooted, the demons cause anxiety, loneliness, depression, alcohol abuse, nightmares, and suicidal thoughts; traits that haunt many warriors for a lifetime. For thirty-five years, I would not admit these demons were inside me, and believed seeking medical assistance for what was going on in my mind, was a weakness in a man.

It was not until the first Gulf War began in 1990, that I sensed the demons were again bursting from within. No matter how hard I tried to avoid them, I could not escape the vivid images and news coverage of every aspect of the war. Eventually, the bodies and faces in the media were not strangers anymore; they were the faces of my brothers from a much older and forgotten war. Encouraged by peers and several family members, I finally sought assistance from VA doctors, who immediately diagnosed me with PTSD and began an ongoing treatment program.

During my third or fourth group therapy session at the VA, the psychiatrist leading the meeting persuaded me to speak about myself, starting with my overall thoughts of my tour in Vietnam, but then focusing on what I accomplished instead of what I lost. After a long hesitation, I told them the greatest accomplishment in Vietnam was the hundreds of people our teams personally saved from rape, torture, or savage death.

We did not give a damn about the politicians and college students arguing back home, or running off to Canada to avoid the draft. We were enlisted Marines, on the front lines, protecting innocent people caught up in a horrific war.

My most positive moment, I continued, was when I lifted a three-year-old girl from the rubble that separated her from her parents, who were slaughtered by the Viet Cong for giving us rice the day before. Though traumatized and trembling in fear, she reached up to me, and I cradled her gently in my arms and made her smile for only a moment. I handed her to one of our extraordinary corpsmen and continued to seek out the enemy who committed these atrocious murders. It was then I understood why I was in Vietnam.

However, as with everything I masked in my subconscious, I obscured that moment of compassion for decades until this small therapy group encouraged me to glance back and look for positive events buried within the worst of my war memories.

Regarding my post-war years, the doctor asked me to focus on my career, an area where he knew I had some success. I explained that when I left the Marines after four years, I was youthful and confident in myself. I had no clue what depression and anxiety were, and I thought the nightmares were personal and temporary. I was determined to look forward and in no way back to the war. Unfortunately, today I realize that while constantly looking forward helped me avoid chaotic memories of war, it also cloaked the memories of my formative younger years and positive events throughout my life.

I never relished talking about myself and thought it would be a good time to stop. However, the group asked me to continue. As peers, they knew I needed to feel a purpose, and not think my life was a second-rate existence. I was reluctant; as I looked around the room and knew many of the Vets succumbed to PTSD early in life and did not fare as well as I did. I felt I was about to sound like a wimp, or worse, a self-centered ass.

Awkwardly, I began to tell them - with many gaps - about my career after Vietnam. My first recollection was one they all understood. I went through eleven or twelve jobs feeling totally out of place. Watching sales managers gather their teams, and with fanatical enthusiasm tell us how great we were, and together we would attain the highest sales revenue, whipping all other regions. To me, compared to combat in the jungles of Vietnam, this was a game. 

Feeling extremely frustrated within the environment of civilian life, I was ready to head back to the military. However, before reenlistment happened, I got married to my current wife of 40 plus years, who will be the first to tell you living with a type-A personality with PTSD is often a living hell, especially since she had no idea what I was battling. But, neither did I. Like millions of warriors before me, I never spoke to anyone about the war, or the nightmares that abruptly woke me, soaked in sweat and tears.

I decided not to reenlist and pursued a career in business. After numerous jobs, I finally landed a position with a bank repossessing cars - a small-scale adrenalin rush, at times. Within five years, I worked my way up to branch manager.

Bored, of my repetitive tasks in banking, I accepted an offer from a very large computer company to join as a collection administrator. Though it seemed as if it was starting over, I was promoted into management within a year. Focusing on new business challenges aided me in keeping the demons at bay. Subsequent promotions followed.

Within roughly eight years, I was selected to attend Syracuse University to attain a degree in Management - paid by the company at full salary. I continued to accept challenging positions in finance, marketing, business development, sales, and world travel. 

At first, traveling to other countries was great, but after the second or third twenty-one-hour flight to Bangkok or Singapore, it got old quick. I began to realize boredom and repetition were major catalysts for my emotional setbacks; having too much time to think was a recipe for falling hard into the bowels of PTSD.

As years passed, anger, frustrations, mood swings, and depression were common events affecting me, my family and career. I stopped moving forward and spent more time battling the memories of the past. It was at that time I understood the demons never leave; they simply wait for a sliver of weakness to overwhelm you.

Consequently, these conditions, as well as heightened road-rage, quick to anger, and sometimes not able to carry on an articulate conversation, I unenthusiastically retired early from my very well-paying job. This, of course, decreased my income significantly, and opened new crevices in my rapidly deteriorating armor. The demons seized a stronghold; they are persistent.

I have still not won the battle against the demons, but, with the help of therapy, outside physical activities, medications and writing; I look ahead again. The demons continue to haunt me with nightmares, depression, memory loss, anxiety and the need for solitude.

Although I am not able to sit down with a vet and talk about war, I have taken on a cause through writing stories, to reach out to young and senior veterans to help break the stigma of PTSD, by seeking reinforcement. It took me, with present-day support from younger vets at the Journal of Military Experience [], over the course of six years to finalize this story. I mention this so others can move forward in his or her life; by knowing what I and others know now.

I wish someone cited the following recommendations to me earlier in my life; although being young and macho I probably would not have listened. However, here are a few suggestions from one old warrior, to those of all ages:

Breakthrough the stigma of PTSD and get medical assistance - PTSD is real!

Unless you are in a high-risk job, you will probably not experience the adrenaline rush and finality of your decisions as you did in combat. For me, I lived by playing business games - never finding the ultimate adrenaline rush again. It is a void within me, I think about often.

The longer you wait for treatment, the harder it will be to handle the demons. They do not go away and can lay dormant in your soul for decades.

Understand that it is never too late in your life to begin looking forward and achieving new objectives.

If you do not want to speak about PTSD with your family or friends, then hand them a brochure from the VA that explains what to look for, and why you need their support. You do not have to go into detail about the tragedies of war, but without your loved ones’ understanding of your internal battle, your thoughts can lead to divorce, loss of family, relationships, or suicide – a terrible waste of a hero. Silence and solitude is not the answer! If you have PTSD you may not be able to beat it alone.

If you are concerned about your military or civilian job, seek help from peer resources. They have experienced what you have been through and will help keep you living in the present, instead of the past.

Or contact a person in a peer support group anonymously. They will not know you but will talk for as long as you wish.

You cannot explain the horrors of war to someone that has not experienced it, except maybe a PTSD psychologist.

Get up off your ass and take a serious look into yourself! Accept the fact that if you have continuous nightmares, flashbacks, depression, bursts of anger, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide, you have PTSD. If so, talk to someone who can help.

There is also financial assistance through the VA, which may help you avoid living a life of destitution.

Finally, let your ego and macho image go. There are many individuals and groups today wanting to help you. If you do not seek help, you may find yourself alone and bitter for a lifetime. The demons are not going away, but with help, you can learn to fight them and win one battle at a time. Please contact the resources below!

Semper Fi!

[AW Schade; a Marine, Vietnam 1966/67, retired corporate executive and author of the award-winning book, Looking for God within the Kingdom of Religious Confusion. A captivating, comparative, and enlightening tale that seeks to comprehend the doctrines and discord between and within Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Secularism. What the seeker discovers, transforms his life forever!]


"I could hear Elvis singing as tears fell on the last page of the book. One of the best short stories I've ever read." -- Amazon reviewer

Archie Johnson thought he was prepared to meet his death in the electric chair. 
The sentence had been read; he had had his last meal and the prison chaplain had asked God to have mercy on his immortal soul. Then, just as they were strapping him in, he suddenly realized there were a few things he wanted to do before he left this earth.
This story has been called a "dead man's dream."


A story by Domenic Marinelli


It was 1989; I was seven. My parents and I had left the comforts of New York for a trip back to my father’s birthplace of Parella, Italy. It was a small town of about two hundred people.

What I remember most about the trip was the freedom I had. I could wander the town walking from one end to another all alone, exploring and going on private adventures.

It was on one particular day that my walk took me to a less populated area where the alleys were narrow and the buildings seemed all but abandoned. I walked slowly, trying to take it all in, when suddenly I could see a small open fire in the distance. It was at the mouth of a small alley. The fire drew me closer, and the air smelled oddly of a scent I associated with Christmas Eve. It wasn’t until I was standing a few feet away from the fire that I noticed the small pan of chestnuts sitting above the bright orange flames.

A noise startled me from deep within the darkness of the alley. An old man was standing there, staring at me through grey eyes that were both menacing and kind. We stared at each other that way for the longest time, until he motioned me forward.


It was dusk, and my father saw me returning from the distance; I could see him waving me home from the front door of the house he’d grown up in. “How was today’s adventure, Ademo?” he asked me when I got closer.

“Fine, Dad,” I said as I squeezed by him.

He tousled my hair before I was out of his reach and into the hall bathroom.

I stared into the mirror, as I do now all these years later, wondering about the hidden corners of the world and the human spirit, where darkness covers all, and the soul suffers most.


(Copyright 2017 - Domenic Marinelli)

Domenic Marinelli is the author of Weathered Tracks, Save … Act – A Collection of Ten Stories, Miles In The Dark, Beneath The White Darkness, 13 Years of Lamentation, Resonant Words (articles) and Strays In The Cold. He is also a freelance writer who has contributed various pieces to many publications including The Sportster, The Gamer and Steel Notes Magazine.

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Latest Poem

In my Room long ago
I sat so merry in my abode
Loving hands around me
I dreamt of such glorious days
One day i would see

I remember the day I left
My room
I closed the door behind me
One quick look again
Then walked away
The room which would always remind me

The glorious days I had dreamt
I did merrily spent
How little did I then know
Life turns on a dime
My room is now not as it was
When I closed the door
Behind me

My room now is a prison
But not how one would invision
It is one of sorrow and grief
Sadness burns into the bare walls
I catch my breath
And weep

Why did thou'st doth betray?
The room which once embraced me
I ask with riddled heart
Jagged and torn
Which wicked riddles have I thus sought?

I sit still
I am now my room
No dreams as once before
I age before my open door

In my room long ago
I sat merrily in my loving abode
Loving hands did hold me
All gone

My room and myself
Now one
Two thrust to be together
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