The Harvey Street Irregulars reach out in prose and poetry

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Photos by Cynthia Price

 

Introduction by Cynthia Price

 

A group of writers meets on the second Tuesday of each month at the Barnes and Noble in the Lakeshore Marketplace shopping development. Calling themselves the Harvey Street Irregulars after the Baker Street Irregulars who often helped out Sherlock Holmes, the informal group shares their writing with each other and offers reactions and critiques.

Several of their works are included in this issue of the Examiner, starting on page 8.

Two of the writers featured are familiar to Examiner readers. The story “The Last Wolf” is by John Cox, who wrote the column “Renovation Dharma” for several years. The poem and story on pages 8 and 9 are by J. Michael McFadden, the author of  young adult fantasy books Deidre’s Dawn and Risking Darkness, who has been featured in a couple of articles over the past year.

It was also McFadden who took it upon himself to “herd cats” and get these works out to the public.

 

The Last Wolf by John Cox

The mossy smell of the cool fall air hung heavy in my nostrils and my chest seared with pain as I struggled for my next breath. The pale fall moon just barely lit the trail before me as I raced with one footstep after another finding uncertain purchase upon the soft soil beneath. The old backpack I had found in my basement, abandoned by some old war veteran along with the house before I bought the place, made my journey over the trail even more perilous as the weight of its bouncing contents caused me to struggle for balance. Finally, out of breath having pushed through the woods ahead of the snarling wolves, I skidded to a stop in front of a cliff and realized my all-too-certain fate.

With no place to go and out of time to think, I could either leap from the cliff to a self-imposed exile from life or take a chance in facing life fully engaged in the consequences of my actions. But, this would be a fight to stay alive. Because in nature there are no victims, only predator and prey working out survival in an eternal dance.


We humans, in our arrogance, have fallen asleep to this dance as we live out our tired lives in self-contained, air conditioned and cushion safe environments. Protected by layer upon layer of systems developed over the millennia to keep us safe from the consequences of the dance. We visit zoos filled with the earth’s most aggressive creatures and believe them cute and cuddly, while deep inside our unconscious we recoil in horror at being so close to them. But let me assure you, the eyes looking back at you through those glass enclosed cages see only food.


I quickly dropped the backpack from my shoulders, grasped one of the straps with my best arm and swung as hard as I could as my first attacker leapt at me.  I knew I connected as I heard a loud yelp as both the wolf and the backpack continued their union over the edge of the cliff falling freely to their doom. I gotta say, I really liked that backpack
­– it’ll be missed, but it was a good trade.


As I finished my spin I could hear a second and third beast coming at me one on the tail of the other. I lay up a round-house kick, sensing that it was an odd circumstance in which to use the tae kwon do lessons I had so many years ago. As the kick connects - another loud yelp - and the faint sound of snapping bones as the ball of my foot sinks deeply into the second wolf’s chest cavity. But there is no time to congratulate myself as its body falls limp to the ground.


The third animal, having taken advantage of the opening created by my defense against its companion, sunk its teeth deep into the hamstring of my left leg. The pain was excruciating, I cry out and drop to my knees as the animal parried around for a second attack. I catch it by the neck redirecting its attack into a strange sideways-like summersault that took us both sliding over the edge of the cliff. I managed to catch myself by curling my fingers deeply into the rocky outcrop for grip, without a doubt an advantage of a species descended from monkeys.


In pain and exhausted from the battle, I worked myself up onto the precipice. Rolled to my back with some sense of self-congratulations. As I lay starting to feel pain radiate from the wound on my leg, a fourth wolf made its presence known. Standing over me, its tongue dripping saliva on my neck and steely grey eyes glaring into mine. I am totally exposed. There is no defending myself. All the animal had to do was act. I didn’t even bother crying out. I just lay there exhausted, accepting reality as it was. I was going to die.


Strangely, this wolf didn’t attack. It just stood over me for what seemed like an eternity. Its steely grey eyes looking into mine as if saying, “I see your true nature and you’ve earned this gift, at least until we meet again.”  Then it took off as quickly as it appeared. Disappearing into the forest as I lay bleeding from the wound on my leg.


Let me assure you that a singular event can forever change your life. Since that day I have tried to live my life, for better or worse, with the same level of intensity, The same - all or nothing - engagement that helped me survive that day. Remembering always that in the end, this life I have lived was a gift given by a creature aware enough to see its own strength reflected back through me.


I make a point of visiting that place every year and have for a couple of decades now. I am certain that one wolf, the one that let me live, has long ago died.  But as I sit at the edge of the cliff, the crisp breeze fills my senses with the smells and tastes of autumn. A quickening comes over me and the scar tissue from that now ancient wound on my leg begins to throb as if the creature’s spirit were reaching out to tell me, “One day, brother human, not long from now, you and I will meet again.”



 

The Last Flicker of Twilight by J. Michael McFadden

In the flicker of twilight, I saw the shadow of a bird in flight behind the rustling maples at the top of the dune.  Its flight danced gracefully, sometimes hidden, sometimes bursting into full view.  I watched it climb, finally soaring above the highest limbs.  The swirling wind created the look of flashing lights, alternating between silhouette darkness and the reflection of the bird’s snow-white swan feathers.  It was a rare treat to see this creature aloft and soaring.  So often I watched swans placidly idle, paddling along Muskegon Lake or by the river.  As I breathed in the crisp fall air and watched orange and red maple leaves swirl up toward the swan, I felt a peace about the twilight – not the flickering sunset, but the emerging twilight of my own life.  The maple trees shedding their cornucopia of autumn color reminded me of the fading, but rich experiences of my own life – the budding of discovery when I drove my first Schwinn bicycle or my first Ford Valiant, the green behind my ears when I first went to school or took that first job, the strength of rich roots that I did not appreciate until my grandparents died, the glowing splendor of new love when I first met my beloved wife and when my children were born, the fullness of wisdom that comes with experience.  Suddenly I blinked in my reverie and beheld a stirring image.  Was it real?  I was aloft, looking through the eyes of the swan, watching the man below I see only in mirrors, brushing leaves that blocked his view of this airborne, flickering swan.  I felt the exhilaration of flight, the freshness of the breeze through my feathers, the deep hues of sunset on the horizon and the colorful leaves floating around this familiar man.  He smiled at me.  I felt a oneness.  Then, as the swan glided beyond the trees to the edge of the lake, I sent part of me with him, wishing him well in the flicker of twilight.  I breathed deeply and tasted the crisp air freshness that rises from leaves and lake water.  All is well.

 

 

Airport Theatre, 61118 by Samm J. Bogner

Having to check in with such a crowded place required a great deal of forethought and extra time, but here I was. I pulled my roll-about luggage up the escalator to the main floor of the airport. It was wall to wall people.  It took some doing to maneuver my way to the airline counter for Tri-Cities, but given a good half hour, I managed.

“Gene Garrett for the 10:30 pm flight,” I informed the clerk. I put my luggage on the scale to be checked.


The clerk looked up my information on the computer, then printed my ticket and handed it to me along with the baggage check.  “Have a nice flight, sir.”


The ticket said my plane would be leaving from Concourse C, Gate 8.  Following the overhead signs, I found my way, after yet another half hour fighting crowds, and had plenty of time to see what the board said about the timeliness of my flight. Good!  It would be on time.


I sat down in the nearly-empty waiting area and listened to the buzz of people moving as fast as they could under the circumstances.  It sounded much like a beehive.


I wasn’t in the habit of being in places where there were such crowds and I was glad that the waiting area offered the comfort of personal space.  According to the flight board, I could expect to board the place in about 45 minutes, time enough to meditate or, at least, to close my eyes and focus on relaxation.


No sooner did I close my eyes than the stewardess announced boarding for my plane.  I was a little taken aback, since there was 45 minutes, but I thought an early boarding would mean a seamless process.  I got up and went to the desk, surprised that there was a line already. I supposed that this was a commuter plane, so everyone was accustomed to ways to avoid a wait.


When it was my turn, the stewardess gave me my boarding pass and motioned toward the doorway to the plane.  I walked through the tunnel and, soon enough, was greeted by the flight attendant. Your seat is in the third row, seat 6.


For such a big plane, it was already filling up.  Seat 6 was a window seat, though I had little desire to look out of the window.  I was the first person in the row, so it was comfortable getting in. After a few more minutes, another gentleman came and sat with me. He was wearing a long, gray robe and had a long beard, also gray. He looked rather like he stepped out of tin-type photograph, so little color was there to him.  He was also very tall.


“How are you?” he asked.


“Fine thanks.  I’m glad to be seated finally.  The airport is a bit of a challenge these days.”


He nodded.  “At least you were one of the lucky ones, not having to have a strip search.”


I choked on a laugh, but seeing he didn’t seem to think it funny, I opted to rein it in.  “To where are you traveling?” I asked, trying to get back on track with civil conversation.


“Oh, here and there,” he said.  “Are you in a hurry to get to your destination?”


I thought that was an odd question, but replied, “No, not really.  I have a meeting tomorrow with some buyers for a piece of property I own.”


As if he were psychic, he looked me up and down, seemingly knowing I was pulling his leg. He grunted, then turned away from me.


Just as well.  I didn’t mean to have a personal relationship with someone I’d met on the plane.


Before we took off, I decided I should visit the men’s room.  I climbed over the tall man and slipped down the aisle to take care of my personal needs.  I opened the bathroom door and there was a bright light that kept getting brighter the longer I looked into it.  I couldn’t see, so I looked back into the plane, but my eyes were so out of focus I couldn’t see anything there, either.


I stepped into the light and, suddenly, found myself on a tropical beach.  Before the what the heck is this expression worked its way onto my face, I couldn’t fathom what was happening.  I tried to assume I was dreaming, and that I had never actually been on the plane. 


To my surprise, the tall man was coming toward me on the beach.  How did he get here? I wondered.


“Gene, are you all right?” he called as he approached.


I was taken aback with the whole thing.  “I suppose I am.”


In the blink of an eye, the beach was gone and I found myself on the floor of the boarding area, a small crowd of people around me. 


“What’s going on?” I asked.


The tall man was wrapping a blood pressure cuff to my arm.  “It’s all right. You just had a seizure. I’m just going to check your vitals to make sure you’re OK.”


 

Sorted by Samm J. Bogner

(Inspired by Unrestricted Attention by Katja Oxman)

Sorted by size and shape and direction

Madonna and Child of every description

Facing each other, looking away,

Unsure of whether it is one or another

A collage if you will, melded into my mind

Someone’s version of the truth, reality,

But not so much my own, perhaps,

Is this what The Church would say?

The kind, maternal gaze from each one,

Like the tender smile of Mona Lisa,

Some bearing halos, papal robes,

And yet, being the mother we all need.

 

Humanity by J. Michael McFadden

 

We are the teeming throng that inhabits the immeasurably beautiful planet Earth.

The web of life courses through our human form with grace and majesty.

Mother earth, father sky, sister moon and brother wind are one with us.

We run with wolves in valleys, climb the sky with eagles, and swim the oceans with dolphins.

 

We draw upon intellect to design homes and villages and cities and modes of transport.

Nature’s green forests nourish us with oxygen and we breathe CO2 to them in return.

We are born into a cycle that enriches us as we grow in wisdom and journey from life to death.

Our spirits rise with laughter, family, friends, sharing both our stories and our talents.

 

We are children of creation, filled with immense value, vitality and spirit.

We are neither party, nor country, nor government, nor world order — we ARE the world!

As the veil drops, we remember who we really are — connected with all humanity.

Human we are, full of emotion that ranges from fear and hate to love and compassion.

 

The full spectrum of life resides in each of as we share in the struggle to evolve.

If you can read this you are one of us, the human race — the one race that matters most.

Breathe out your human doubts and fears and breathe in the inspiration of the heart.

For you are here for a reason whether you know it or not — we are in this together!

 

The human race is in chrysalis now, reforming and transforming — into a majestic race.

 

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