Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

Spring 2013 – Non-Fiction

23 Apr

No Crime Was Committed by Keith Cranmer

My One and Only Escape by James T. Thomas III

Fall 2012 — Nonfiction

05 Dec

Expect Nothing Less of Us by Mark O’Leary

Expect Nothing Less of Us

05 Dec

by Mark O’Leary


Our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Coasties, obey orders and carry out their duties, as well as their Commander In Chief’s policies. Our ground-pounding Grunts, Recon, Green Berets, Seals, Para Rescuers, Snipes, Airdales, Deckapes, Marines and Coasties, do not set or establish what America’s policies are. Treat them accordingly, with dignity and respect, and honor their sacrifice’s, by supporting our troops here at home and in the theatre’s of war on two continents.

This also means honoring our veterans as they return home; by thanking them, and saying welcome home, by hiring our Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, and not treating them as pariahs, simply because you don’t support this war without end. They are doing their level best with what they’ve got to work with, they are placing their lives on the line for you and me America; and they aren’t asking for much, just for us to believe in them; because Goddamn it! They Believed in You! They believe in our constitution, as well as in our way of living our lives as we wish, free to say what we want to say, when we wish to say it. We all do not agree with what each other has to say, but we would fight to the death, for our right’s to say it. As well as decent employment opportunities when they get home, and wish to continue on with their lives.

They don’t seek pity, just the chance to prove themselves. They are not permanently broken; some just need the proper guidance and extra care along the long road to healing themselves. They are not seeking a handout, they are searching for a hand up, in order to be able to gain the knowledge and care they will need along that road of healing. They are not seeking to steal your jobs; they are seeking the knowledge to forge their own way in life, with today’s and also tomorrow’s technology; because they desire to live the American Dream. To be happy, have, raise and support families of their own; with the very same expectations of all of those who have sacrificed and served before each one of us has had. And by US, I’m speaking about every American veteran, from each and every one the wars we have fought. Both North and South, and every war from our Revolutionary War, on up to and including Afghanistan; just to keep the American Dream alive for all of those who shall follow us. It is our honor bound duty to do so! And expect nothing less of us.


Even Ducks Grieve

22 Apr

by Nina D’Andrea

For many months, a Muscovy duck couple has visited my yard day in and day out without fail. They come to feast on cracked corn and bread. Once full, they leave together. Always together.   Inseparable.  I have observed and even remarked to myself about the male duck’s protective behavior towards the female. He was constantly on alert for predators that might harm his mate.

On Easter Sunday morning, the female duck appeared in my yard alone. I had a feeling that she was upset and maybe even a bit frantic which was quite a departure from her otherwise calm behavior. I greeted her with her usual treat of cracked corn and bread. Once full, she departed for the lake. At dusk she returned again, alone. My sixth sense knew something was awry. Her constant companion was nowhere in sight.  Always together.   Inseparable.  Again she appeared frantic; darting around the yard looking for her mate. She finally gave up and flew off to some secret sanctuary for the night.

She appeared again on Monday morning, alone. That gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach persisted as I realized that her constant companion for the past months was probably gone – never to return. I greeted her with the usual daily sustenance. She ate quickly and left for the lake. I watched for many hours as she swam up and down, up and down – searching. Later that evening my neighbors confirmed what my sixth sense had been telling me for two days – her mate was dead. Earlier that day they had found the male duck floating in the lake.

Several weeks have passed since the loss of her mate and the sweet female duck still returns to my yard each morning – alone. She feasts on cracked corn and bread. However, instead of searching the lake, she lies down under my tree to rest or catch a nap for a few hours. While she is resting, I often sit a few feet from her and talk. I share the sorrow, anguish and loneliness in my heart about the difficulties of losing a mate, often wondering and hoping if he will return home at any moment. We were also always together. Inseparable.

Over the many months of my journey through grief, I have somehow drawn comfort from the daily visits of the ducks.  Always predictable.  Always together.  Inseparable. Her daily visits now remind me that life goes on regardless of my own loss. My intuition tells me that she understands what I am feeling. We bring comfort to one another in an odd sort of way. We are forever kindred spirits on the journey through grief. Even ducks grieve!

Mindless Addiction

03 Dec

Addiction – just the word still sends shivers down my spine and sends my blood pumping hot through my extremities. There is a saying that once you are an addict, you are always an addict. That would make me a recovering addict, though I haven’t used in over seven years. People that have had severe physical addictions understand the bleakness of it. My life revolved around crystal meth for two years. In fact, after I quit, there were many painful days and nights spent struggling through the physical withdrawals, and the mental withdrawals will haunt me for years.

“The word addiction carries a negative connotation,” states J. Margolis and E. Langer, in the journal article in Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors. They say, “We, in the United States, have decided that to be an addict, (whatever the addiction) is undesirable.” There is a stigma associated with being addicted to a substance, be it something as benign as chocolate or as deadly as narcotics. The person is considered weak and mindless to allow anything to take over their life. An addict “habituate[s] or abandon[s] (oneself) to something compulsively or obsessively” (Dictionary).

On my 19th birthday, my fiancé and I, and a couple of our friends, all got together to party. I wanted something spectacular and new, so my friend introduced us to meth. As long as I live, I will never be able to forget the feeling of the first rail I snorted. Remembering makes my heart speed up and my palms get clammy. It was horrid and fantastic all rolled into one long night; a night that sentenced me to a lifetime of nightmares.

Junkie, tweaker, pillhead, pothead, chocoholic, alcoholic, nymphomaniac, ludomaniac; these are only some of the names that we associate with addicts. The Latin origin was addictionem, which means “awarding or devoting.” In the 1600’s when the word was first recorded, it referred to having an inclination or penchant for something, and was “less severe” than the way the word is used now. In 1906, it was used for people who were hooked on opiates (Etymonline). Thus, the word’s current implications began to form.

The infatuation started the night of my birthday, and the next two years of my life were a blur of pain, darkness and hopeless desperation. There was never more than five days that went by that my fiancé and I weren’t high. We were considered “functional” addicts, because we continued to work and pay our bills, putting on the façade (for ourselves mainly) that we had control over this twisted desire. Denial plays an important role in addiction. We both snorted at our workplaces, and called in many days “sick”. We stopped hanging out with any friends that weren’t using. The habit consumed us and turned into an obsession. Every weekend literally consisted of staying up from Thursday until Monday night. I spiraled into a major depression.

Even after I was hospitalized from a serious injury that was related to “tweaking”, (the slang for being high on amphetamines), and I was forced to get professional help for rehabilitation, we still continued to use for another full year. Quitting seemed futile, the need to feel that next high was all consuming. There is no way to convey the utter sorrow that plagued my heart and soul, the private embarrassment of not being strong enough to say no, even as I watched in horror as my life crumbled around me.

The Encarta World English Dictionary defines an addict as “somebody dependent on [a] drug: somebody who is physiologically or psychologically dependent on a potentially harmful drug”; or “[an] enthusiast: somebody who is very interested in a particular thing and devotes a lot of time to it”. There are lists and lists of substances, items, and even actions that are considered addicting. Institutions and programs are in place everywhere to help support and guide addicts (of any kind) to a life without their vice.

Addiction is a powerful word that carries varying significance to different people. I still carry physical, emotional and mental scars from those wretched two years. No longer am I ashamed of my physical scars or the fact that I was an addict. Those scars serve as a reminder of the consequences of my actions and how they affect my loved ones as well. To overcome the vicious cycle of a physical or mental dependence, the strength has to come from within.

Works Cited 2010. Web.
“Drug Addict.” Photograph. DrugFreeHomes. Web. 5 Oct 2010.
Encarta World English Dictionary. North America. Microsoft Corporation, 2009. Web.
Harper, Douglas. Online Etymology Dictionary. 2001 – 2010. Web.
Margolis, Jonathon, and Ellen Langer. “An analysis of addictions from a mindful/mindless perspective.” Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors (1990): 107 – 115. Web. 5 Oct 2010.

by Anna Maldzhiev


At 17, I dropped out of high school and ran away with the man who would later become my husband and the father of my children. We moved to Portland Oregon and lived there for five years, away from everything we knew and all of our family. That is the period of my life that is discussed in this essay. In 2004 (one year of being clean and sober) we got married and moved back to Florida, and had our first daughter in 2006. In 2009 we had our second daughter. After realizing that I wanted more for my family than my husband did, we separated and got divorced when our youngest was only 9 months old.

This is my second semester of college, and at times has been a challenge after ten years of being out of school. I have two little girls that are healthy, sweet, adorable and intelligent. They are my whole world and help keep me motivated in going back to school. My desire is to model the strong independent woman that I want them both to become.

A Paradise in Hell

28 Apr

by Rob Mac

Here we are again. The sand storms that kept us out at sea an extra week had subsided. The scars that are left on the windows of the buses designated to move us around the countryside tell the tale of the horrendous winds. You can’t even see out of them. Not one of them is in running condition. The air is so hot it hurts to breathe and you never really dry off after a shower as you immediately start sweating from the humidity. Over the last few years since the first Gulf War, we pull in here to the city state of Dubai on a regular basis. So far the Saudis like us here in the Persian Gulf and they are still paying the gas bills for the Air Force and Navy jets. The USS Cole incident and 9/11 are several years off into the future so the atmosphere is relaxed and the locals welcome us with open arms when we get here. In 1993 the sight of the USS Abraham Lincoln on the horizon meant dollar signs to the shop owners who lined up in droves to make a “special deal”. That deal was usually 150% more than everybody else but they were there to deal none the less.

After several months at sea, we pulled into the only part of the entire planet that doesn’t openly serve alcohol. There are only so many establishments that actually have it. And they are located inside hotels that cater to the European tourists. So, at that time, the total number of alcohol serving bars for over 6500 thirsty American Sailors to drink at numbered somewhere around 10. To say they crowded to max capacity at any given time is an understatement. To be in public merely smelling of alcohol is a grievous offence and the consequences are severe. After the local fines and jail time there was always the Navy to deal with who gave you more fines and jail time. Great! Does it get any better? From a bar the only place to go was to a hotel room or back to the ship. The latter was the wise choice when you have duty the next day. It is with in this realm that our story begins.

Big Pat Goonen, Goon for short, was a funny dude. His sense of humor was legendary and it was what kept us all laughing even when everything else sucked. At 5ft 10in 200lbs he wasn’t that imposing, but he could get his point across when he wanted to. He checked into the command in 1992 after the Philippines were evacuated because of Mt Pinatubo blowing her top. The bases had been destroyed in 1991 under the tons of ash that fell. Not to mention the leases on them had run out at about the same time. What timing right? Needless to say we didn’t leave anything behind that worked or stood as we left the islands.

During the “work ups” before our 1993 deployment Goon and I found that we had the same pass times. That usually meant drinking obnoxious amounts of beer, riding our Harleys at “ludicrous speed” and watching women get naked while they hung from brass poles on our off time (which really wasn’t all that often with 14 to 16 hr days). We were described as “walking frat parties” and the place to be was wherever we were letting off steam. At the ripe old age of 23 I was invincible.

So here we are in Dubai, shoulder to shoulder packed into a bar called “The Seafarers Center” like sardines. The beer is hot not to mention expensive, its 110 degrees in the shade and the DJ has played the same 8 songs over and over for hours. I can only assume it was in the hopes that somehow we will miraculously start to like 4 non Blonds. The pool has turned a suspicious yellow hue as folks don’t want to get out and lose “their spot” out of the heat. Not a woman in sight….THIS JUST ISN”T CUTTING IT!!!! The place is a total sausage fest. We got to get out of here!

Here comes Goon with intel from one of the cabbies. Those rotten cockroaches all lined up 20 + cars deep everywhere we went because they know we have no choice but to use them to go to the boat or a hotel from the bar. All the busses are down. As it turns out there is a new bar for the foreign workers. (Note: 80% of the population is imported labor in Dubai) When asked how many squids are there he said none. So off we go. For a total of $8 American we find ourselves deep in old town, alone, well away from the mob and in an air conditioned bar surrounded by scantily clad and apparently horny Filipino women. The beer was cold and cheap. There are only the two of us Americans, maybe 5 Filipino dudes from an oil tanker and 15 or so women that worked locally as house keepers and waitresses. Yep, this was the place to be in a country where the native women walk 10 paces behind their men and are covered head to toe in a Burka. All those other guys are saps. With some good intelligence and an adventurer’s spirit we found our own little paradise in hell.

Goon just coming from the Philippines speaks the language fluently. As for me I just smile and laugh when everybody else does. I have no idea what the hell they are saying. They may have been saying I had a small burrito for all I know. Occasionally he would translate and eventually I found a woman there that spoke enough broken English, also known as Taglish, to make small talk with. We all drank, danced; (God forbid) sang karaoke and had a great evening till it was time to head back. We got the girls contact info and they were going to pick us up the next day after our shift to show us around. In the mean time the clock is ticking and we need to get back to the ship.

We stagger outside and even in my drunken stupor I’m the one with the social graces for cabby negotiation. (Note: there are no meters in the cabs. You pay what you negotiate) as I walk up to the first cab I ask how much back to where we were? Remember it cost $8 to get there. The cockroach tells me $50. After a few choice words that he probably didn’t understand (then again he may have gotten the gist) about what he could go do with himself, I moved to the next cabby. He tells me $40, I reply the same way, on to the next cab in line. By this time Goon taps me on the shoulder and gives me a look that just says, “I got this”. He sticks his head in the cab, looks around, rips this guy out of the car through the window and slams him on the roof of the car. Screaming at the top of his lungs he says” $20 back to the Lincoln or I kick your ass!!!” To which this guy responds completely shaken in a thick Indian accent”Get in my friend get in!! You are better than money.” The negotiations were over, time to go.

Off we go, on our way back and feeling no pain and so drunk we could barely walk. We have plans for the next evening and two sexy tour guides to take us to see the rest of Dubai. After work tomorrow we don’t have to be back for 3 days. We are set, except the cabby keeps trying to renegotiate the deal “Give me $30″ he says in his thick accent. The reply from us isn’t fit for these pages. We were having nothing of it. We paid $8 to get there, he was making $12 extra than the previous cabby. Then he demanded $40. My reply was something along the lines of “go #$%^ yourself!”

Well, note to self… when in a foreign country that doesn’t tolerate drunks you are not in the position for aggressive negotiations. This guy zigged when he should have zagged, turned right instead of left and then we are in a walled compound with dudes carrying fully automatic weapons ripping us from the car. Immediately I had visions of us being held like the hostages at the Embassy in Iran. (Daniel Pearl hadn’t been taken yet) Then the badges catch some light and reflected in the dark. Oh thank god!!! It’s only the…..Oh shit….. It’s the cops! Out of the fire and into the frying pan. These guys rough us up but good before they even asked us a question. We had to pay the cockroach cabby $60, followed by a few more courtesy “rubs” from their rifle butts because we didn’t get the money out fast enough. Finally they set us down in front of the “Sergeant”. Some minor negotiations and a $440 fine/bribe (what we had left) later we were on our way in another cab. Serious fine and jail time avoided for being drunk in “public”. I’ve never been mugged by the police before. It was a new experience. $500 for a cab ride….I should have just paid the cockroach cabby the extra to begin with. Jerk!!!

We got back without incident from there. All we have to do is make it through the day without the Chief seeing us and we are home free for the next three days with our sexy new tour guides. As I looked in the mirror the next morning before work I mainly looked hung over. I had a broken nose that I set the night before, a fat lip and a swollen jaw but nothing really stood out. “Ok,” I’m thinking, “par for the course.” My ribs were killing me but the bruises hid well under a uniform. Then I saw Goon, whose eye was dark purple and damn near swollen shut. There was no hiding that. The second the Division Chief saw that he assigned us both to work that tied us to the ship for the next three days. We just couldn’t convince him that Goon fell down the stairs. Even though the Division Chief never found out what happened, he knew us well enough to know that something “significant”( that’s pronounced “f%^ked up”) happened. We skated out of being severely punished by the Navy for coming into negative contact with the local police. We did however laugh/ bitch about it for years later among our friends and coworkers. By 1995 we were the “old salts” and told this tale to the younger troops every time we pulled into that port. Praying to god that they didn’t do what we did and end up trashed, alone and far off the beaten path.

Times have changed drastically. Looking back we made so many deadly mistakes and survived that it isn’t even funny. This is just one tale. Dumb luck and the sense to carry bribe money was all that got us out of this one. Today that cabby would sell us to terrorists in a second and the outcome would be tragically different.

Rob Mac served in the Navy for 20 years and is currently retired. His journeys took him over a good portion of this planet on-board 5 different aircraft carriers and 9 deployments.

Going Home

05 Dec

After endless miles of interstate, I have finally reached McMinnville, Tennessee. I immediately recognize the wagon wheels marking the entrance to a tree-lined lane. I follow the gravel stretch back to a semi-secluded cottage nestled in the heart of middle Tennessee. Exiting the car, I am greeted by a small black barking dog. I try to coax her to me. I even call her by name, but she stands back – barking. She follows me around to the rear of the house. Just past the wrap around deck – I see it – the rustic barn stocked with fishing rods, reels, and tackle for use at the bass-stocked pond. The air is filled with the sweet aroma of honeysuckle in full bloom. Rose bushes of every color are bursting with buds ready to blossom. The garden is a lush deep green. I spot large, juicy, green tomatoes and cucumbers that are almost ready for harvesting. Five acres of rolling green landscape display a sampling of the areas finest nursery stock from flowering shrubs to weeping willow and blue spruce pine trees. I wander through the back door of the small house. Everything is just as I remembered it. Approaching the front room, a lump forms in my throat. There is the bar. I run my hand across the smooth lacquered finish. Then I notice the t.v., resting on a shelf that is mounted from the ceiling in the corner. A replica of the Budweiser Clydesdale team and wagon are proudly displayed next to a Coor’s Light clock. It is a miniature version of my childhood home – the small town bar my parents owned for forty years. I try to hold back. I can’t stop the salty flood of tears streaming down my cheeks. My husband holds me tight and I cry longer and harder than I have ever cried before. This was the vacation destination I chose for my family that 4th of July. Instead of a relaxing week in the foothills of the Cumberland Plateau, I am here to bury my father.