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Social inSecurity, the Sequel

I returned home from the Social Security office brimming with optimism. I had been treated courteously, taken seriously, and given a pathway to determine whether I was owed thousands of dollars in back retirement benefits. With my new-found hope I had to remind myself that my record still showed a zero contribution toward FICA (Federal Insurance Retirement Act) for the first four years of the 1970s when I had been employed by the Cook County Department of Public Aid. Agent Pickens’ words rang in my ears: “County departments back then commonly took deductions for a pension fund and didn’t pay into social security”. I was on a mission to find out if that was true in my case.  Was it possible I was eligible for a pension?

That evening I emailed my cousin in Chicago. Pat had worked for Social Security when I was with Public Aid and for many years after until she retired. Summarizing my situation in my note, I asked if she knew anything that could be helpful, or did she have any suggestions to track down records from the long-defunct county department.

Checking my computer the next morning, I was pleased to find an email from Pat with the name of a resource she thought might be useful: the State (of Illinois) Employee’s Retirement System, referred to as SERS. Is every government agency known by an acronym? Going to the site, I scanned down the list of thirty-plus topics along the side of the home page to start my search. I selected ‘Tier I Information’ which sounded like a good starting point.  Clicking on that, I then had to choose among seven sub-headings. Selecting the first one with the word ‘benefits,’ I was confronted with a chart of mathematical calculations and formulas for various years of employment and income levels. I felt a headache coming on.

I went back to the home page and clicked on topics at random, trying to discern exactly what SERS was and who was eligible for the System.  As I bounced around, I came across pictures of attractive grey-haired people, all laughing, as they walked hand-in-hand on a beach, or played with a grandchild, or even as they stared at a computer screen. From scraps of text I picked up along the way, I gleaned that SERS was an optional pension plan for civil service employees. One screen entitled ‘Legislation’ was a listing of House bills that had become laws. Clicking on some from my time and later, I noticed several had been signed off by former governors who were now cooling their heels in the state penitentiary. Were those laws still valid?

I finally decided my best bet was to go to the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ to see if my query was even relevant. As I read through them I realized most laid out possible scenarios that might impact retired worker’s benefits; such as earning income after starting to receive a pension, or remarrying after the death of the spousal recipient. The most conscientious query had to be from the anxious retiree who wrote, “I am receiving a pension from SERS. If I die, (if?) what should be done with that month’s check?" (The entire amount would go to the estate of the deceased. Even the government isn’t that mercenary.)

Scrolling down to the bottom of the FAQs, I found the phone number for the Chicago office of SERS. I studied it for several seconds, debating whether I should call and how to summarize my situation to be routed to the appropriate person. Unconsciously, I tapped on the edges of the pile of Social Security correspondence to straighten it into a perfect rectangle, then glanced at a hornet bumping against the window screen. Shrugging, I picked up the phone’s receiver and punched in the number with the familiar area code of 312.  

Surprisingly, a live female voice answered on the second ring. Startled, I lost my words for a moment. “Uh, I’m a former employee of Public Aid, calling to check on my possible pension benefits from 1970 through 1973.” Silence on the other end. Did she think it was a prank call?

Her voice came back on, but with an edge. “You should be talking to the Cook County Pension Fund office,” she scolded.

“Yes, I think so,” I agreed. “Do you have that number?” She rattled it off like it was her own. “Thank you,” I gushed, grateful to have the number and to be able to conclude the conversation.

Without pausing to think about the next call, I pressed the numbers I had scribbled down. This time I got a menu. I held on to the bitter end when I could hit ‘0’ to speak to an agent. I was informed my wait time would be ten seconds. That’s a wait time? Even sooner a woman came on the line and volunteered her name. The personal touch seemed promising. I launched into my now-practiced spiel, starting with my beginning and end dates of employment with Public Aid, acknowledging the change to the State Department, and ending with the advice given to me by the agent at the Social Security office to check on whether I had paid into a pension fund.  

“What’s your name?” she asked reasonably.

I gave her my name, then advised that I had two different names during the four years I was without benefits:  my maiden name and my married name. I added the date of my marriage.  

She sighed but remained on the line. “What’s your social?” she said, using civil service speak for social security number. I gave it to her. “Just a minute. It’ll take me some time to go that far back into old records.”

“Thanks.”  She had to say far back and old like that?  I waited.

She came back on. “I see we didn’t use social security numbers back then. Just names.”  Egads. I was there before Social Security numbers were in common usage? That program started under Roosevelt.

“Is your middle name Jean?” she said suddenly.

"Yes,” I gasped in amazement.

“I found your record,” she enthused, like it was an archeological discovery.

“Oh, good!” I was equally excited. “What does it show for my pension or social security?”

I heard papers being shuffled. “Here it is. You paid into the Cook County pension fund from March of 1970 through December 31st of 1973. You opted to take it out in a lump sum at that time when the department was brought under the State.”

My shoulders slumped as my mind went back to when my first husband and I purchased a Victorian home listed on the historic registry at that time. It had sloping floors, leaky plumbing, windows that rattled with the slightest breeze, and the odor of cat urine in the back bedroom on the second floor. The offer of a lump sum pension payment had been irresistible. I needed the money and I was decades away from retirement. “That’s right. I remember doing that,” I said quietly. “Do you have the amount?”

“Yes. It was $2,696 dollars and twenty cents.”  I wondered how much that was in today’s money; but it didn’t matter.

“Thank you so much for finding that information for me.” I tried to keep my voice positive.

“No problem at all. Anything else I can help you with?” You could call a suicide hot line and they would ask you that same question.

“That’s all. Thanks again.” I slowly hung up the receiver. I had come to the end of my quest. I was no worse off, although it felt like I had just lost something. After a moment, I shook my head and exhaled. I had at least done myself credit to follow through and cut a little red tape. Time to move on.

And that Victorian house? My husband swore he had seen the ghost of an old man several times in the upstairs hallway. We renovated it and sold it after only nine months for a tidy profit. I hadn’t lost my benefits; I had reinvested them in a haunted house.  Sounds about right.

 

The End

 

 

 

 

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Tilmer Wright Jr.
A great conclusion to an engaging story. Thanks, Cheryl. I actually enjoyed reading this. I love the vivid depiction of the old ho... Read More
Monday, 11 June 2018 16:41
Cheryl Peyton
Thanks, Tilmer. Glad you enjoyed it. And all of it was true.
Monday, 11 June 2018 16:53
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Featured

Social inSecurity

I sat in the car dreading to go inside. I was overdue by ten years, so why go in now? Worse yet,  I wasn’t any more prepared to be there than I had been a decade earlier. For years I had regularly passed by the neo-classical grey stone building set behind a car dealership on Kingston Pike, often thinking I should stop. Now I was parked in front of it. The two-story structure looked more like the executive offices of a corporation than a government building. Only the block letters attached to the façade gave away its bureaucratic identity: SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION. 

I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled as I glanced at the bulging Pentax folder containing Social Security mailings that was on the passenger seat. Little of it was helpful, but it was all I had. I checked my watch. Almost noon. It was time to go in. I snatched up the file and shouldered my purse. Out of the car I clicked the door lock and started off towards the glass-walled entryway. Reaching into my purse I fingered my birth certificate and passport to reassure myself I could prove who I was if nothing else.

At the door, I glanced back over my shoulder to see if anyone else was coming, but there was no one around. I thought the place would be very busy on a Monday. An hour earlier I had called the agency with the foolish notion I could make an appointment to avoid the crowds. After enduring a long-winded menu of irrelevant options, I was told my wait time to speak to a human being (agent) was 45 minutes. I could make the drive in less time, so I took off. When I first pulled into the lot I cringed to see there weren’t any spaces in the first few rows. Looking more closely, I realized they were all the same two makes of cars and trucks sold by the dealership in front. Chuckling at my stupidity, I drove on and had mhy pick of parking spots.   

Now, entering the building, I followed the ceramic-tiled hallway that led to a waiting area where about fifty people sat facing me. The person in charge appeared to be a security guard who was seated behind a counter on one side of the doorway. On the other side stood two machines bearing signs that read, Check In Here. A middle-aged woman was using the first one, so I went around to the second and tentatively pressed the Start button on the glass, worried that I wouldn’t have the right responses. The first screens were straightforward enough: preferred language, name, social security number. The final screen was more challenging: What is the reason for your visit? I wasn’t there to apply for any benefits, or to change my name, or to replace my social security card, or any other listed purpose. The last option was the only one that fit: Other Business. I hit that. Fortunately, I wasn’t asked for any details and the machine spat out a slip of paper with a number printed on it: O366. It seemed depressingly high.

With my ticket in hand, I surveyed the people waiting. Judging by the slumped postures and widespread use of reading materials, it looked like most of them had been there for quite a while. Several young, healthy-looking people interspersed among them had probably come along for company or as drivers. Stepping over to the security guard, I mewed, “What is the typical wait time with this many people?” 

He shrugged before answering, “An hour and a half…give or take.” I couldn’t help but jut out my lower lip in response, so he added,. “Could take less, depending what people are here for.” 

I nodded and managed a wan smile in appreciation of his effort to be encouraging, then turned and sat down on a chair in the front row that had an empty seat on either side. Setting down my purse and file, I looked around to scope out the room to figure out the setup in case my number was ever called. The two side walls had openings that led to inner passageways fitted with bank teller-type windows about every ten feet. Unfortunately, most of the windows I could see had their shades pulled down. Signs were posted on each side of the room.  The sign on the left wall read, Windows 1-11. The sign on the right wall read, Windows 12-22. At the back of the waiting area were five more windows, each with a letter sign, A through E. Twenty-seven windows in all. I brightened. That meant there shouldn’t be more than two claimants waiting for each window.

My cell phone chirped with an incoming email.  I pulled up the message: Newsmax wanted to know if I was at risk for Alzheimer’s. Probably. I opened my other emails and answered the few personal ones. After several minutes, a female voice came over the loudspeaker directing number C48 to report to Window 12. C48? I checked my slip again to see if I had misread it. No. Sadly, it was still O366.  What kind of numbering system was this? Looking around for some explanation, my attention became drawn to the TV monitor set up in the front of the room. At the bottom of the screen were five sets of letter and number combinations; the first was O354, the second was C48, and three others followed that also appeared to have no rhyme or reason. At least I could see where my number fit into the scheme of things. I was behind O354. Twelve ahead of me. Not great, but not as bad as I thought.

Now that my wait time was measurable I had to mentally nail down my story that would convince an agent that Social Security owed me money going back ten years although I couldn’t prove it. My original Benefits Statement showed zero-taxed earnings for the years 1970 through 1973, the first 4 years I had been employed by the Cook County Department of Public Aid in Chicago. When I received the statement, I had made a couple of phone calls to dispute the record, but hadn’t gotten past the question, “Do you have pay stubs to prove it?” Does anyone keep pay stubs for thirty years? I had given up and regretted that ever since. Recently, it dawned on me that 1973 was probably the year the County Department became a state agency. My Cook County records must not have been transferred. My hope was that the Social Security people could get access to the records of the now-defunct department.

Glumly, I turned my attention back to the monitor that was running a loop of announcements and bits of trivia for entertainment. The list of the current top ten names for babies came on screen. “Olivia” surprised me by coming in at number two for girls, and how could “Liam” be the number one name for boys? Several messages regarding social security policies and procedures for application came up on the slide show. My favorite was, “If you are deaf, call the number below to request sign-language assistance for your next appointment.” Right. Messages were repeated in Spanish, which was understandable, but one version appeared to be in Cyrillic. How many claimants in Knoxville were from Russia or Eastern Europe?

Every few minutes, the same female announcer’s voice called out another number to report to a particular window. I had noticed that few windows were being called: only Windows A and B, 9, 12 and 20 so far.  Aha. Five windows corresponded to the five sets of letter and number combinations. Apparently the other 17 windows were unmanned today. Great. However, my number had now crept up to being only two down.  

I stretched my neck and shoulders and sat up straight. A few new people were standing in the waiting room doorway. Observing them, I saw they all knew the drill, going directly to the check-in machines, rapidly tapping on the screen and taking their numbers without even glancing at them.

The amplified female voice came back on. “O366 to Window 20.” That was me. I had calculated where Window 20 should be so I jumped out of my chair and headed for the doorway that would be closest to it. I was right. The window screen was up, and I took a seat to face my opponent. He turned out to be a balding, middle-aged bureaucratic type with a pen-protector in his shirt pocket. He greeted me politely and asked for my identification. I dealt out my full hand of social security card, driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate. His head shot back a little. “Just your card and driver’s license are fine.”

After looking them over he glanced at me. Apparently satisfied, he clicked keys on his computer.  “What’s your mother’s maiden name?”

“Carlson.”

“No, her maiden name.

Her maiden name and married name are the same,” I responded, wanting to clarify that my parents weren’t related and there are few Swedish surnames, but I refrained.

He made a few more clicks, then leaned back and steepled his fingers. “So, how can I help you today?”

I launched into the facts of my work history, including my exact starting date of March 3, 1969, to give myself credibility. Handing over the Social Security Benefits Statement, I pointed out the “0” amount of contributions shown for the contested years.

He studied the statement with pursed lips for several moments before looking up. “Do you have any pay stubs from this time period?” 

I struggled to keep my expression neutral.  “I’m sorry. I don’t.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “No, of course not. That’s understandable.” He stabbed the statement with an index finger. “I believe you that you worked these years, and I want you to get every dime that’s coming to you. It’s just that we need some proof.”

I nodded solemnly. “I was hoping Social Security could get access to Cook County records,” I said softly.

He sighed and shook his head. “I think you should go to the IRS for that. We base our payments on their records.”

I was sure my lower lip had jutted out again.

He turned back to his computer, his forehead scrunched in thought. After several seconds his face cleared, he swung out of his chair, and stood. “I’ll be right back. There’s another agent who’s had more experience with this.” With what exactly, I wondered.

As promised, my agent soon returned with another 50-something man in tow who introduced himself as Agent Pickens. He told me he had been briefed on my case, but asked a few questions about my work history. After a short discussion he said, “I don’t want you to get your hopes up,” No problem there. “but I’m going to flag your case for a month to scour any records for your social.” (security number)

I was getting my hopes up. “Thanks. Anything that might help.”

Agent Pickens looked off into space. “What I’m afraid of,” he drawled, “is that prior to 1973 many county departments didn’t pay into social security but into a pension fund instead. I think you should call Cook County pensions and see if you can get connected to someone who’s been around for a while who may remember. Maybe they owe you pension money.”

The ball was back in my court, but I wasn’t going to give up this time. I would call the Pension Board. I would also contact an old friend who worked at Public Aid the same years I did and see what social security she was receiving. I would even contact a cousin who's retired from Social Security to see if she has any ideas.

I thanked both of the agents for their time and help. Agent Pickens handed me his personal business card. “Call me if you learn anything and I’ll do the same.” They both smiled and wished me luck.

Making my way back to the waiting room, I checked my watch. It wasn’t yet two o’clock. Passing by the security guard, I held up my wrist and tapped on my watch face. “You were right about the time.”

The guard beamed and I smiled back, heading out the door no richer, but having a plan and feeling better about myself.  

 

THE END

 

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Recent Comments
Susan L Kite
Oh, boy, social security is the great equalizer. Does this sound familiar! Thanks for the smile, Cheryl.
Saturday, 26 May 2018 14:40
Cheryl Peyton
Thanks, Susan. It is that. But as a former civil servant, I tried to present a balanced report. It really wasn't so bad.... Read More
Saturday, 26 May 2018 15:15
Kaye George
I dealt with SS after my husband died and, though it IS a bureaucracy, it went fairly smoothly. I was officially told, though, exa... Read More
Saturday, 26 May 2018 16:10
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9 Comments

A Memorable Kiss

I’m giving you my heart. Please take care of it for now you have two – and I have none.

 

I knew from the time I was in third grade that I wanted to be a teacher. There was never a doubt in my mind.

In 1961 I graduated from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI and began my teaching career. I loved being a teacher. I can remember thinking at the end of the day, “I can’t believe I’m being paid for doing this.” However, at that time four thousand dollars a year was good pay!  

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Tilmer Wright Jr.
I love this, Adele. It's not all that involved and it seems so simple on the surface, yet there's a warmheartedness that kind of s... Read More
Tuesday, 20 March 2018 10:30
Susan L Kite
What a sweet story and very nicely told. Those kind of intimate moments in schools are sadly gone when even a hug is suspect these... Read More
Tuesday, 20 March 2018 16:45
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2 Comments

RECYCLE: Tin Cans into Cars or Deleted Scenes into Short Stories

 

Shake and Bake and Double-O Buckshot

By Wayne Zurl

 

This story was fabricated from an outtake which originally appeared in the Sam Jenkins novel, A NEW PROSPECT. I reworked it to create a stand-alone story. The scene was deleted prior to publication because it didn’t provide ancillary support to the basic storyline. It’s based on two actual incidents which took place in New York in the 1970s.

 

       

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Cheryl Peyton
Mesmerizing story with enough local color and details to put the reader in the middle of the action. I loved the interruptions in ... Read More
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 15:14
Kaye George
Lovely story! Thanks for the great read before I dive into my own work today.
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 15:55
Wayne Zurl
Thank you, Ladies.
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 16:07
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5 Comments

A Tribute to the Late Robert B. Parker

 

Whenever someone asks me what well-known author has influenced my writing most, I tell them the late Robert B. Parker. Parker in turn had been greatly influenced by Raymond Chandler. So, I’ll assume some of his style rubbed off on me, too. Characters like Spenser and Marlowe are good role models for any all-American boy.

 

In January of 2010, Parker passed away in his Boston townhouse. I was then attending an on-line writer’s workshop called thenextbigwriter.com. News of Parker’s death made the rounds of the daily forums and elicited many sad comments and kind words. A lot of people, me included, would miss him and the characters he created.

 

I wrote this piece shortly after his death. For this anniversary, I’d like to post it again.

 

 

So Long, Bob, and Thanks for the Memories

 

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Recent Comments
Kaye George
This is beautiful, Wayne! I enjoyed it.
Thursday, 18 January 2018 10:33
Tilmer Wright Jr.
I absolutely love the image of the landscape being glazed over like a "cheap doughnut". That gave me a chuckle and made me like th... Read More
Thursday, 18 January 2018 10:47
Wayne Zurl
Thanks, Kaye & Tilmer.
Thursday, 18 January 2018 11:00
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7 Comments

Excerpt from my latest Alex Trotter Mystery, "Murder in Mobile."

This book is a departure from the format of my others in the series that follows the adventures of tour operator Alex Trotter as she conducts groups on vacation that's always interrupted by murder. Here, Alex is reuniting with four of her college friends in Mobile, Alabama for Mardi Gras, ten years after graduation from their women's college, Wood Hole, in Frededrick, Maryland. In this excerpt, Alex is remembering one of her friends as she makes her way down to Mobile. 

Note: This is a true-life incident that happened to me and my friends whose actual names I'm using for their characters in my book.

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Wayne Zurl
Great beginning. I'm looking forward to reading this one. And Mobile is a great town to use as a setting. Good choice and good luc... Read More
Saturday, 25 November 2017 16:20
Cheryl Peyton
Thanks, Wayne. Your encouragement means a lot. Mobile does provide more than its share of history and ambiance.
Saturday, 25 November 2017 19:00
Susan L Kite
Too funny! Nice beginning and love the sweet revenge!
Saturday, 25 November 2017 19:00
201 Hits
5 Comments

THE LAST GAME IN BROOKLYN

If my world hadn't changed in 1957 perhaps the outcome of the latest World Series would have bothered me. But the Dodgers abandoned Brooklyn when I was just a kid and I vowed never to watch a major league ball game for as long as I lived.

A couple years ago a friend asked a few mystery writers to each give him a short story for his blog with baseball as the theme. This what I came up with.

 

LAST GAME IN BROOKLYN

By Wayne Zurl

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Tilmer Wright Jr.
Nice, Wayne! You told a lot in that small space - a rare gift.
Monday, 20 November 2017 13:46
Wayne Zurl
Thanks, Tilmer. I got good advice from Robert B. Parker. Less words, more story. WZ
Monday, 20 November 2017 14:06
Cheryl Peyton
When I finished reading this, I went, "What?!" aloud. It's possible this could have happened, but since you used your character's ... Read More
Monday, 20 November 2017 13:48
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6 Comments

I Want to Live When I Die

When I die, I want to live.  I want to live in the smell of my perfume on the pillow next to you as you wake in the morning.   I want to live on the bathroom counter as you move my makeup and hairspray around to reach your razor.  I want to live in the smell of the morning coffee as you pour it in your favorite cup.  

When I die, I want to live.  I want to live in the recliner next to you as you read or play with the dog on your lap.  I want to live in the shadows as you turn to say something to me, but I am gone.  I want to live in the everyday objects that remind you of me. That tell a story of our life together.  That show the love we shared all these years. 

When I die, I want to live.  I want to live in the air that you breath and in the memories that you have, before they fade away. 

When I die, I want to live as long as possible.   Until the last scent of me is gone. 

By Penny C. Lofton, 
sister of Gale Frances
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2
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Cheryl Peyton
This is pure poetry from a courageous woman who is in a fight for her life. I have no doubt that everyone who knows her will remem... Read More
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 21:38
Susan L Kite
Just lovely and I think the same sentiments reside in each of us. To live....
Saturday, 04 November 2017 11:05
Wayne Zurl
That's a beautiful thing. I couldn't write poetry if someone held a gun to my head. But this is excellent. Thanks Cheryl, for post... Read More
Sunday, 05 November 2017 17:19
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Phlash Phiction Phor Halloween

A few years go I entered a contest and one first prize. My big grand award: A free copy of the sponsor's Southgern Writers magazine. The rules were simple: Less than 200 words and the story must begin with, I've had wonderful holidays...

This what I submitted.

 

A Halloween Collar

By Wayne Zurl

“I’ve had wonderful holidays, but this wasn’t one of them.” After that sentiment, I smacked the kid on the back of his head.

A rubber ghoul mask fell from his hand to the floor and he pulled in his head like a frightened turtle.

“Up yours,” he said.

I grabbed his nose and put my face an inch from his ear. “The next time I hit you, smartass, you’ll lose a few teeth.”

His eyes strained to look at me. I removed my fingers from his beak.

“I chased you four blocks, nitwit, and ripped my pants going over that fence. I am not a happy policeman. I’ll ask again. Where did you get those fireworks?”

A slight smile crossed his face. “I forget.”

I smacked him again, this time on his ear and a little harder.

His hand went defensively to his head. “I’ll have your badge for that, man.”

“I doubt that you little stinkbug. Blowing up a mailbox is a felony. Talk or go to jail. Where did you get the M-80s?”

He cracked an arrogant smirk. “From my father, the chief inspector.”

 

PS: The title of this blog entry is in honor of my buddy Phlash Phelps, morning DJ on Sirius/XM Radio's 60's on 6, for mentioning my last novel, HONOR AMONG THIEVES, on his show. He had a cameo spot in the book.

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Cheryl Peyton
You won for your O Henry finish. I thought the scene was already amusing with the scruffy kid mouthing off to the seasoned cop who... Read More
Monday, 30 October 2017 12:03
Wayne Zurl
Thanks, Cheryl. Speaking professionally for Sam Jenkins, some times you win and sometimes you also ran. WZ... Read More
Monday, 30 October 2017 13:32
Susan L Kite
Way funny! Thanks, Wayne! Great job!
Monday, 30 October 2017 21:29
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4 Comments

A Short Story by Russ Fine

Daisy

 

I remember the day Daisy came into my life. I had just left my local Walmart and as I turned on to the street there was an old man wearing worn out clothes standing next to a shopping cart he had borrowed from a grocery store. It looked like all his worldly possessions were in the cart. He was holding up a cardboard sign that said, “Please Help”. Next to him, sitting at his feet, was a small brown dog.

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Stephanie McElligott
Love your story Russ! Well done
Thursday, 26 October 2017 18:00
Susan L Kite
What a sweet story, Russ. Very poignant, very evocative of feelings every pet owner has. Nice job!
Thursday, 26 October 2017 22:06
AGT
You already saw my tears when I read this story a couple of weeks ago - wonderful story!
Friday, 27 October 2017 08:41
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8 Comments

The Dreaded Thought of Gun Control

After the recent Las Vegas massacre by a supposed lone gunman armed with multiple assault weapons, sevral people asked me for my take on the possibility that this individual really acted alone and basically what I think of common sense gun control. I'd like to wait for a final conclusion of the investigtors on the ground at the scene before theorizing too much about the first question, but The overall idea of COMMON SENSE gun control has always appealed to me. I DO NOT advocate banning all guns from civilians entitled and qualified to purchase and own them; any legislation pointed in that direction is nothing more than a waste of time and a disaster waiting to happen. However, the laws as now written are disjointed nationwide and in need of COMMON SENSE refurbishment. A quick fix would not be overly difficult, but should be addressed by people who understand statute law, the public's right to basic protection from incidents like these and the point of view of the average law-abiding gun owner.

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Cheryl Peyton
This is a remarkable retelling of a senseless and, arguably, preventable mass killing of innocents by an unbalanced individual. It... Read More
Friday, 06 October 2017 22:08
Wayne Zurl
Thank you, Cheryl.
Friday, 06 October 2017 23:19
Sam Bledsoe
Wayne Zurl has written and shared with us a sad but powerfully moving story about guns in America. He has broad experience in this... Read More
Monday, 09 October 2017 15:20
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8 Comments

Insights

 “Mr. Jerry, Mr. Jerry, guess what?” the four year old excitedly shouted as he entered the Sunday morning classroom for three –to-five year olds.

Several children were crowded near the door’s entrance as I stood there trying to welcome each one with the ritual hug. The excited child circled his arms around my leg and then looked expectantly into my face.

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Cheryl Peyton
Funny exchanges with children. You're a fine teacher -- you listen respectfully and don't over-react to emotional outbursts. Very ... Read More
Monday, 07 August 2017 11:38
Wayne Zurl
Very good, Jerry. You're an expert in child psychology.
Monday, 07 August 2017 13:03
Susan L Kite
Cute story, great reaction. Someone's mommy or daddy need to have their mouths washed out, not their darling's. ... Read More
Monday, 07 August 2017 22:15
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June's Predicament: A Short Story from the Book Women Among Men: The Story of three Sisters from Eastern Kentucky

Harlan County, Kentucky. One sunny Saturday morning in early August of 1943, June Brittian woke up feeling out of sorts. Her period was a week late and she was starting to worry. At first she hadn’t thought much about it; maybe she had miscounted. She counted the days again–twice; no, she had not! She went outside and sat on the porch, uneasily mulling over her predicament. What if I’m pregnant? What would Jim think about that, she fretted. And what would Momma do? Her thoughts frightened her. She couldn’t decide which was worse.

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Susan L Kite
Nice crisp dialogue, Sam. Good hook, too.
Tuesday, 25 July 2017 18:50
Cheryl Peyton
Wonderfully authentic characters and emotions seen in your dialogue. You were able to speak through the mind and words of a woman.... Read More
Sunday, 30 July 2017 10:30
Cheryl Peyton
This is a late notification of being a subscriber to the posting I've already commented on.
Monday, 31 July 2017 14:11
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Ten, Nine, Eight...

7-19-rocket-launch-morguefile

The official launch date is tomorrow, July 21, for DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of Eclipse. Why July 21st? Because it's exactly one month before the total solar eclipse, the first one in North America since 1918. The last one across the continent was in 1900. To star-gazers (and sun-gazers, but don't actually gaze at the sun, OK?) this is big deal.

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Wayne Zurl
Congratulations and good luck, Kaye. Sell a million.
Friday, 21 July 2017 07:51
Kaye George
Thanks, Wayne. From your fingertips to the buyer's pocketbooks.
Friday, 21 July 2017 11:24
Kaye George
I mean the buyers' pocketbooks! I hope there's more than one. ... Read More
Friday, 21 July 2017 12:18
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My Home in Montague, MI – A Very Special Place

On Saturday or Sunday afternoons my father would often want to take a little ride.  We would pile in the car and off we would go to places unknown.  I say unknown because it was always my father’s desire to find a two-track road that we had never been on before.  Our 1935 Ford would take us through the very bumpy dirt roads, the winding roads and sometimes to dead-end roads.  When dad came upon an old vacated house he would stop and we would take the tour. As we were walking through these old homes, I can still remember my dad saying, “If only these walls could talk.  Wouldn’t they tell a story?”

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The Letter

My brother Jim joined the Air Force in 1955 with two of his high school friends.  Jim was called upon to study and complete a course in Serbo-Croatian language at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, Indiana. As he could not explain what his mission was to be, we had no idea what he was doing or the danger that it entailed.

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AGT
Wow! We may never understand why things happen the way they do, but one thing for certain is that God is in control of all things!... Read More
Friday, 21 July 2017 10:43
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A TOO PERFECT CRIME...A summertime police story by Wayne Zurl

This piece was destined for a contest that required everyone to begin their story with the line, “Have we met before?” I got that far, but drastically exceeded the word limit. So here we are. I gave the detective/hero of this saga the name Ian MacDonald because I wanted it ending with him getting the girl. And it would have been inappropriate for the long time married Sam Jenkins to do that.

A Too Perfect Crime
By Wayne Zurl
2011

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Cheryl Peyton
First, I love the title. Goes well with your Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe-style slick plot and spare dialogue. As usual, you have a su... Read More
Thursday, 22 June 2017 16:34
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Proud to be an American

Almost every day I put our American flag out at dawn and take it down at dusk. I often think of my dad and our neighbor Mr. Ford.  I was very young when I first noticed Mr. Ford, early in the morning, raising the American flag on his tall flagpole.  I watched as he pulled that flag higher and higher until it was waving high in the sky.  He secured it tight and then stood back and saluted. At dusk I would see him go outside, and slowly lower the flag, fold it neatly and go inside.  I remember asking my dad why Mr. Ford did this every day, weather permitting.  

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Cheryl Peyton
That's an amazing story about your dad, Adele. As usual, he had his wits about him and knew just what to do. BTW, I never heard ab... Read More
Sunday, 28 May 2017 22:44
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More Eclipse Teasers by Kaye George

Day-of-the-Dark---cover

The place I first heard of the upcoming total solar eclipse (coming closer every day!) was on Earth and Sky. http://earthsky.org/ In fact, I subscribe to their posts and get them every day. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen me repost some of their things. I’ve always been fascinated by what’s up there in the sky—and by what’s down here on the earth.

 

The 24 authors who contributed to DAY OF THE DARK, our short story anthology of eclipse-based stories, decided to give some of the proceeds to charity. Guess what I chose? You’re right, Earth and Sky! Two others chose that, too. We’re a varied group, so we have a lot of different interests. Here are the charities that will benefit from our sales:

 

I like to say that these donations are going to these great causes in the spirit of light and life: Earth and Sky, Petconnect Rescue, Natural Resources Defense Council, Science Center in Finland, DonorsChoose.org, Friends of Goldendale Observatory, Friends of the Earth, Morehead Planetarium, Texas Museum of Science and Techonology, DAPCEP.org for STEM education for future astronomers and scientists in Detroit, and personal friends in need. 

 

Here are teasers for 4 more stories, coming out July 21st, a month before the total solar eclipse in North America, from Wildside Press.

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Cheryl Peyton
Love the cover. The touch of red makes it pop even more. I'll mark July 21 on my calendar for the first Eclipse.
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 22:33
Kaye George
Thank you!
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 22:42
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A WALK WITH MOTHER

One activity that I enjoyed with my mother was to take evening walks. It was a time for me to tell her about my accomplishments and disappointments. It was a type of therapy for me and I believe it was for my mother also. She didn’t work outside of the home, and didn’t drive a car, so ‘getting out’ was something I believe she looked forward to.

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Kaye George
What a great story! Thanks.
Thursday, 11 May 2017 11:45
Cheryl Peyton
Well done, Adele! You had me going all the way through and I laughed out loud at the end. What a nice memory for Mother's Day. Tha... Read More
Thursday, 11 May 2017 12:07
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