A Muse Bouche Review: April 2023


Dear Readers

Welcome to 2023’s fourth edition. Expectations.

In the novel Great Expectations, Miss Havisham had certain expectations. They were unrealized. Instead, she was put into a box placed in some spot in the rafters of her lover’s mind, aging and eventually forgotten, though as she told Estella, she could never forget.

In any case, and with different degrees of drama, our April collection has people with expectations.


The A Muse Bouche Review Team

A Muse Bouche Review Logo

Feature:  Expectations (Marian L Thorpe) Fiction
Extra Load (Renee Gendron) Fiction
The Moon Lies Fair (Louise Sorensen) Fiction
We Shall Be Giants (Crystal L. Kirkham) Fiction 
Catherine and the Colonel (Joseph P. Garland) Fiction
Heaven (Better Be Something Special) (David M. Simon) Song Lyrics
morning (Heather Wickers) Poetry

April Team Showcase


Marian Thorpe (@marianlthorpe)

“ONE YEAR? YOU CAN SPARE me for one year. Roghan is old enough now to do a man’s work.” I tried to keep my voice reasonable, calm, the voice I used when negotiating the price of fleeces. My father, watching his new wife move between the hearth and table, didn’t turn his head.

“That fucking scáeli. I give him a bed and food, and he puts ideas in your head. You’re the oldest son, Sorley. Your place is here.” No heat in his voice; he was too cheerful after these first nights with his new bride to get angry—which was why I’d picked this morning to ask again.

The scáeli, Amlodd, hadn’t put the idea in my head; he’d only confirmed it was possible. Not only possible, but with a recommendation from him, almost a certainty. “Your voice is just passable,” he’d said, in his room where I’d gone for a lesson on technique, “but your skill with the ladhar and your poetry are superb, given you’ve had no training. Dagney could refine both, and consider it a privilege to be given the chance.”

The Lady Dagney, head of the scáeli’en council, and teacher of music at the Ti’ach na Perras, far to the south. A surge of excitement had made my breath catch. Then Amlodd had reached out to run one finger down my bare arm. “Teaching you is a privilege,” he’d said, smiling, and I’d forgotten about the southern school and string technique and anything else for the next half hour.

Even now, months later, that memory could make me shiver. But sometimes—only sometimes—I let my imagination substitute another man’s touch for Amlodd’s. A man who called the Ti’ach na Perras home.

He was another reason I wanted to go to the Ti’ach, although there was no guarantee he’d be there. His work as both a travelling teacher and a toscaire meant he was often on the road, bringing news to the remote torps, listening to opinions and problems, and reporting back to the Teannasach. He’d visited my father for a few days, a year or more past. I’d fallen in love with a quick smile and dark eyes, with a gentle voice and lithe grace. One night of his brief stay he’d knelt to speak to me about the music I was playing, and the feeling of his fingers on my knee, as if for balance, still lingered.

I’d been convinced of his interest that night, in me, not my music. He’d no need for steadying, and there’d been a suggestion in his eyes. Hadn’t there? The truth was I couldn’t be sure. How could I be?  What Amlodd, a few months later, had begun to teach me in the privacy of his room, the door bolted, was shameful, forbidden. If my father knew….

If my father knew he would disown me, and I would be free to go south to the Ti’ach, to become a musician of skill and learning, and perhaps one day a scáeli myself.  But even as a scáeli I would be banned from Gundarstorp, from its hills and coves, the sound of sheep and the smell of the sea, and the long, low hall sheltering against a hill.

If you really wanted to find him again, you’d do it, my mind told me. If you really wanted to be a scáeli, you’d do it.

Both of those are only dreams, I countered. Gundarstorp is real, and my home, and my responsibility.

My father turned to face me now, a grin on his face. “You’re eighteen soon. Time you married. I’ve Betis of Hardarstorp picked out for you, you know.”

I did know. Just as my sister was already promised; it was how things were done in Sorham. Which landowner’s daughter he had in mind for Roghan, just fifteen, he hadn’t said. Younger sons were more difficult, with no land to inherit. I should have been a younger son; I had been, until my older brother Gundi died of fever when I was small. All the expectations passed to me then. Expectations and obligations, and no place for my dreams.

“She’d wait a year too,” I said. Foolishly.

“Enough!” my father roared. A fist hit the table, hard enough for the weak beer in my cup to splash onto the wood. Maj, my new stepmother, looked up, startled. “Get that food inside you, and then get out to the hill. Send Roghan back for his breakfast.” My brother had been out with the shepherd since midnight, as always in lambing season. My turn to assist, his turn for food and warmth and rest.

I didn’t ask again. I spent my time with the sheep, my hands slick with blood and birth fluid and wool-fat, or on other work in barn and byre and field, and sometimes at the harbour among the fishing boats. The lengthening light and a workday that went from dawn to dusk left little time for music, except for the songs we sang as we sowed grain or unloaded fish from the holds, the screams of gulls a discordant accompaniment. The longer songs, the danta, accompanied by my ladhar, were for celebrations of weddings or harvest, and for the dark winter nights.

The first of the barley had fallen to the scythe when, serving us breakfast, Maj suddenly paled, clamped a hand over her mouth, and barely made it to the slop bucket before vomiting. I looked away, but my father laughed, a triumphant sound. “Took long enough,” he said. “When?”

“After midwinter,” she said, wiping her lips.

“A screaming babe in the house,” he said, but he was smiling. “Better be a boy, if I have to put up with that again.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t marry Betis yet,” I said, “or there could be two of them before long.” He laughed again. He’d suggested a harvest wedding, the two celebrations combined into one. We’d all live in the long farmhouse; Maj, as my father’s wife, would direct Betis’s work, for all she was no more than a few years older.

The idea of marrying Betis terrified me. So did the expectation of fathering the next heir. Could I? My early explorations with the girls of the torp—trying to convince myself that what I felt when I watched their brothers in the fields was just something passing—hadn’t been entirely unsatisfying, even if it hadn’t been their hands and lips I’d been thinking about in the dark. I supposed I could do that with Betis, too.

And if I couldn’t? How long before my secret was revealed – and the inevitable dissolution of the marriage, and my banishment? Wouldn’t it be better if I just spoke the truth now, if the result would be the same?  The choices bore down on me like the weight of a bundle of fleeces. My stomach clenched.

“I’ll be here to help,” my sister said. She’d taken over serving the porridge. Maj leant against a doorframe, an uncertain look on her face.

“Good learning for you,” my father said. “It’ll be your turn, in a few years.”

“Will his name be Gundi again?” my sister asked him. “He’ll be your firstborn with Maj.”

My father shook his head. “Not how it’s done. He’d be thought the heir, if we named him that.”

He—if it were a son—would grow up here, learn the work and the land and sea; play in the crumbling, ancient tower, birth sheep, plant seeds, love the hills and streams, the calling curlew and the barking seals – and then he’d have to leave. As Roghan would, soon. But younger sons, like daughters, grew up knowing this. And I, who could keep it all, wanted to leave. For my music, and for a man I’d known for three days.

Or because I could not live up to what was expected of me?

I was riding south tomorrow to discuss fleece prices with a neighbouring Harr. Maybe I should just keep riding, let my horse loose somewhere, disappear into the land. Maybe it would be best. I could make my way south…

“Fill our cups again,” my father directed. “A drink to the babe.” My sister did as he asked, and I raised the cup, feigning a smile.

“It’s still a first-born,” my sister said. “Aren’t you supposed to grant a wish?”

Three times, the custom was: once at the first signs of pregnancy, once at the quickening, once at the birth. Only with a firstborn.

“You’re right,” he said, his eyes, indulgent, on Maj. “So. Sorley. When the harvest’s in, you can have the winter at your school. There’s the first wish granted. You’ll get yours, girl, and yours too, Roghan, if this babe holds to life.”

I tried to speak, through a dry mouth. Did he mean this? But he must; the wishes granted on a firstborn’s life were sacred, and his words had been heard by us all. Hot tears pricked behind my eyes. I took a drink. “Thank you,” I managed.

“I want you back for the lambing, though, and you’re marrying Betis in the spring,” my father warned.

 I nodded. A winter. Six months, less. A compromise…but long enough, perhaps, to learn if I could have been a scáeli—and if I had read the look in a man’s eyes correctly. It would have to be enough. At least I would know, and not just wonder, and perhaps I would have memories to sustain me. If I did, I decided, I could shoulder the expectations of Gundarstorp’s heir.

And maybe the dark-eyed toscaire would visit again.

One day, I thought, I’ll tell this baby what he gave me.

Image by M W from Pixabay

Extra Load

Renee Gendron (@ReneeGendron)

SOLES OF HER SHOES FLAT against the floor, Adella Ortiz stared at the dull off-white wall before her. It was bare of company pictures, awards, and potted plants. A barren landscape of nothingness like her career had become. She refused to tug at her collar, despite the room’s heat. She kept her chin level with the floor even though a dozen curious and furious gazes swung her way from time to time.

The whir of computers and the clacking of fingernails against keyboards were the office equivalent sounds of light rain tapping against a window. Except the sounds from an office weren’t relaxing. They were an ever-present reminder of conflict, meaningless work, and customers that demanded too much and paid too little.

She ran her thumb over her darkened cell phone screen. She should let Sebastian know she was going to lose her job, and that money would be tight again for the next while. Money was always tight. Too tight. She rubbed her temple, hating herself. He’d pick up extra shifts, again, to make ends meet. Worked himself until the circles under his eyes darkened and turned puffy. Take years off his life from overwork because she jumped from contract to contract in an economy with a so-called labour shortage.

The latch on her manager’s door clicked, and the door opened. Nemy Kasongo inclined her head towards her office. “A word.”

A word. It was always a word. Never a conversation to express gratitude, never an opportunity to showcase wins. Always a word.

Adella rose and stepped into the one-window office. A middle manager’s office, not a senior manager’s corner office, with four large floor-to-ceiling windows, an imposing desk and a sofa with a coffee table. Nemy’s office had an ancient desk that was more pocked than the moon’s surface and a yellowing plant in the corner.

“Have a seat.” Nemy took her chair and typed something into the computer. “What happened?”

This place happened. This shithole of a job in a crap company happened. “The products are defective. They hurt people. I’ve received three complaints this past week about people getting injured from using them.”

“They weren’t using the product properly. Did you direct them to the tutorials on the website?”

“It’s not how they’re using. The electrical cord’s coating is made of cheap plastic and burns through after a few uses. People get electrical shocks. There needs to be a recall.”

“The manufacturer said they’ve sorted the problem.” Nemy’s voice was calm and professional, with a cool edge that made her indifferent to everything.

“That was three months ago.”

“There have been many disruptions in the supply chain. The manufacturer had problems gaining the resources to make the product. The ships and ports are all short on workers. Then, there was that train derailment last week that backed up in-country shipping.” She scrolled her mouse, clicked, then let her hand fall to her armrest.

“Customers are ending up in hospitals with second-degree burns. You have to recall the product.” Adella crossed her arms. She wouldn’t quit. She hated the job, hated her disengaged coworkers, but needed the money. If they wanted to fire her, she’d get the pathetic severance package.

“On another note—” Nemy tapped a series of papers against the blotter on her desk. “You have your quarterly performance review coming up in two weeks. You need to improve your statistics. Your dropped calls are too high, you’re slow to return emails, and many of your coworkers complain that you cause conflict.”

“I’m making sure more people don’t get hurt.”

“You’re causing problems in an otherwise high-performing team. Do you like your job?”

No. She hated it. “I like interacting with the customers.”

“Good. Try to like interacting with your coworkers, too. I have a two o’clock.” Nemy placed the papers in a folder and slid the folder into a cheap plastic cabinet behind her desk.

I quit. I quit. I quit. Were the words Adella wanted to say. Loudly, with force, with venom. She rose and returned to her small cubicle, ignoring the gawks and stares of her coworkers. Let them talk and gossip and speak about her like she wasn’t in the room.

She plopped down in her uncomfortable chair that gave her a backache and answered the next phone call. She took order, after order, after mind-numbing order. The clicking of fingernails on keyboards and the sucking noise of the building’s air conditioning disrupted her concentration. A headache formed behind her eyes and wrapped around her forehead.

She eyed the clock every ten minutes. Ten more minutes of hell, ten more minutes closer to her being home with Sebastian. At 5:01 p.m., she was at the outside door of the office, and by 5:05 p.m., she stood at the bus stop waiting for the Number Twelve to go home. Three connections later, she arrived home at 6:30 p.m. She changed into a hoodie she’d borrowed from Sebastian but never returned, and some jogging pants, then went to the kitchen to start dinner of brown rice and fish tacos.

The door to the apartment opened, and Sebastian stepped in. He placed his reflective safety vest on the peg by the door, stepped out of one steel-toed boot, and then dropped the other to the floor. His other leg was encased in a walking cast. He hobbled to the kitchen, favouring his left leg. He bent down and kissed her.

She dropped the spatula. “What happened?”

He opened the fridge and took out a pop can. “Someone backed the forklift over my foot. My toes are fine, but my foot is broken, and some of the ligaments in my foot are damaged.”

“You didn’t call or text me?”

He lifted a shoulder. “Spent most of the day at the hospital waiting for tests. Didn’t want to worry you.” He kissed her again, the reassuring kiss he gave her every time they received a bill past due notification.

“You’re going to take time off. Rest. I’m certain that’s what the doctor told you to do.”

Sebastian sank onto the couch and placed his foot on the coffee table they’d found at a yard sale the year they moved in together. “The doctor wanted to operate on my foot, but I wouldn’t let them.”

She walked to the living room. “You’re having the surgery.”

“I can’t work while I’m recovering. Workman’s compensation isn’t my full salary. Besides, the doctor said a cast will help.”

“But not heal you completely?”

He popped the can. He pressed his lips together, then flashed her his it’s-going-to-be-all-right-babe smile. “If the foot doesn’t recover with the cast, I’ll have the surgery.”

“You said that when you broke your finger. It’s still not right.” She sat on the couch beside him and placed her hand over his. “You’re having the surgery.”

“The doctor says I won’t be able to work for three, maybe even up to six weeks if I have the surgery.”

“We’ll be all right. I’ll work extra shifts.”

Photo Credit: Getty

The Moon Lies Fair

Louise Sorensen (@louise3anne)

SOMETIMES WHEN YOU VOLUNTEER for something, it’s really to avoid something else. Like you’ve come to the end of your life, and since you’re really not ready for that long dirt nap just yet, you leap at the opportunity to become a disembodied brain in scientific experiments. Not that there’s a lot of volunteers, but probably a lot more than you’d think. But their numbers are whittled down by all the tests. Are you claustrophobic? Afraid of the dark? Allergic to pain and uncertainty? Able to navigate existence alone?

Those are only the ones I’ve bothered to remember. Otherwise, there’s religious and cultural constraints. But these days, everyone’s body is recycled and repurposed anyway, so there’s no escaping the meat counter whatever you choose.

So you pass all the tests, and when you’ve contributed all you can to science that way, and you’re still not ready to take your final bow, you volunteer for exploring space. And a project involving the oceans of ice moons comes up. That’s how I ended up on Europa. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

But I digress.


“Is that you, Amari? I thought I muted your channel. Didn’t want to bother you with my ramblings. Was I vocalizing, or was I thinking it?”

[Yeah, it’s me, Kai. And it’s no bother. You’re coming through loud and clear as vocalizing. Probably a glitch. It should smooth out once you get under way. Are you finished blathering, or are you ready to get your feet wet?]

“Huh. I haven’t worked out all the bells and whistles on this thing yet. Was recording my thoughts for posterity.”

[Fine. I just thought it would be nice to get this show on the road. The thing in the tank is getting antsy.]

Note to self. Controllers are tiresome.

[I heard that!]

“Well then, hear this. How about you wait patiently while I record my last thoughts and wishes before embarking on a totally new and freaky existence?”

[It’s supposed to be more than mere existence, Kai. Living on a dragon is supposed to be a totally new life. The first Dragon Rider of Europa. Imagine that! The stuff of science fiction. What thrills and spills are you going to record and share for us? If we’re ever going to find out, you have to take the plunge and get on that thing. The sooner the better.]

That’s the thing about exploration, folks. You find out more than you ever wanted to know about yourself and the world around you.

You learn that the ocean you’re exploring is as dark as a witch’s armpit during the night, but lit up by glowing columns as regular as street lights come day. And that life here follows a day-night cycle. Not exactly like Earth’s, but good enough. And that you really don’t like swimming in cold water. Brrr!

My first assignment is to hop on that unhappy thing in the tank there, and establish some kind of rudimentary communication with it. That is, if I can hook up to its brain, or if it even has a brain, or something that passes for a brain. My next assignment, is to explore the ocean. Find out what these light standards are. Are they natural growths, or did something or someone, put them there?

One of the things you learn about yourself in situations like this is that not only do you not like cold water, but also that you’re allergic to big creatures, animals, plants, we don’t know exactly  what they are but we’ve named them dragons, that float in big tanks melted into the ice many miles down on a frozen moon, and you are so not a fan of rodeos.

The last thing I want to do is hike my little crawlie-encased brain onto the back of a giant worm, tree, shark-type thing, anchor my little self, and become one with the dragon for the foreseeable future. You wouldn’t think that would be a concern, after all I’ve been through, but it is. If I had feet, they’d be cold.

[I’m so sorry to hear that, Kai. Remember I’m here for you, if you need me.]

“You’re still hearing me, Amari? I thought I found a separate channel. Dang.”

[Don’t be afraid to share with me, hon. We’re all in this together.]

Fine. If you’re hearing this, or not hearing this, I don’t care.

[Hmm. What a crab.]

I’m not a crab. I just look like a crab.

[Sorry Kai. I didn’t mean it that way. You’re a beautiful crab.]

“Damn right I am. I put a lot of thought into this design. Okay. Take me to your dragon. I’ll have a look. No guarantees I’m going to step foot on it. Figuratively speaking.”

[Just follow the glowing arrows, Kai.]

“Amari, have you noticed that everything here glows? The fish. I assume they’re fish. They look a little like fish and they swim. Those things that look like plants. The rocks, the ocean floor, the ice above. Everything glows. And the colours! Is it a plant, or tiny organisms coating everything? You’d think in an ocean as far from the light, and as dark as this, that creatures would evolve without eyes, yet when six o’clock in the morning rolls around, everything wakes up and it’s almost as bright as day down here. It’s like a garden. A riot of colours.’

[It’s something we all love and never get used to. Makes living in the ice all worth it.]

“Maybe dragon riding won’t be so bad.”

[You never know until you try. And remember, if you fall off, trigger your homing beacon, and we’ll find you.]

“Yeah, but what if my shell cracks?”

[Your shell won’t crack. And even if it does, it’ll glue up the cracks quicker than you can say, Bob’s your uncle.]

“Can’t say I’ve ever heard that one, Amari.”

[It’s an oldie but a goldie, Kai. Just know we’ll bring you back one way or another.]

“Yeah. Right. Okay, I’m at the O.K. Corral now. I see my monstrous mount, just floating in the distance. Can you bring it up closer to the edge here so I can hop on?”

[Sorry, hon. No can do. It gets all agitated when we try to move it around. You’re going to have to swim out and get on.] 

“Oh, oh. What big teeth you have, mister dragon. It just yawned, or screamed, or something. It’s hard to tell. It’s almost all mouth and there’s a stream of bubbles coming out of it. Those teeth go on forever! Okay, it’s closed its mouth. That’s a little better. I wonder what it eats. And is it hungry? Oops. Control, what was that?”

[I’m right here, Kai. It looks like it called a friend. There’s a massive disturbance coming our way. You better get on that thing while the getting’s good. It’s starting to shine its warning lights.]

“Is that what those are?”

[Yes. And it looks like it was just playing around before. These are much brighter. If it rocks and rolls worse than the last time, we’re going to have to release it. Get on!]

“Oh, fiddle. Fine. Here goes. Exiting the habitat. Swimming out. The water is surprisingly warm. Warning lights all agitated for sure. They look like landing lights. Guiding me in. Not as hard as I thought. Landing, landing. Touch down. Houston, the Eagle has landed.”

[More digging in, less yakking, Apollo.]

“No time for a little victory dance? Oops. Almost fell off. Okay. No victory dance. Digging in. Boy, talk about agitated. You’d think I was stabbing it in the head with a bunch of knives. Oh wait. I am.”

[You okay out there, Kai? I can’t see you for all the murk in the water.]

“Yup. Fine as rain, Amari. Hooking into what I think is some sort of nerve column or spinal cord. There we go. Connecting. Inputting. Receiving feedback. Synchronizing.

Looks like this won’t be all that bad. It’s sort of like driving a car. Give a nudge here and it goes forward. Nudge on one side to turn . . . nudge the other side to turn the other way.

Oh my! Am getting queries. Who are you? What are you doing up there? I think that’s what it’s saying. What should I tell it? We come in peace? I don’t think so. Replying to it . . . Friend. I am Friend. You take care of me, I take care of you.

We’re going to leave the tank now, Amari. I think this will be all right. I admit I was a little nervous, but this feels okay. Better than okay, it feels just right. I’m taking her out for a test ride.

This is Kai, signing off.”

[Safe trip, Kai. Amari out.]


We Shall Be Giants

Crystal L Kirkham (@canuckclick)

“AND WE SHALL BE GIANTS, looking down upon the heroes that made us.” Anne smiled at the glowing faces of the children when she finished the recitation and gave them a moment to process the poem before continuing. “For next class, please have ready an essay on the themes discussed in this poem and your interpretation of the meaning behind them. Aim for a length of five thousand words.” Lights blinked from green to red as each child acknowledged receipt of the homework request.

“I will see you all next week where we will be continuing to explore more of the modern classics in poetry.”

Faces disappeared and the screens went dark. Another class done. Fifteen minutes until the next. She ran through her lesson plan, making adjustments for the differences in the composition of students who attended the next block. Not all teachers made changes for such things, but she always tailored her courses to best suit the needs of each class depending on region and economics. Not once had the routine varied since she’d been assigned to this position.

This was her life—the only one she’d ever known—and she loved it. Those wonderful, bright faces were all she needed; seeing children progress and move beyond her lessons was reward in itself.

“Miss Anne?”

She turned toward the unexpected visitor, the smile still plastered on her face. “Can I help you?”

“I’m Ben from Programming and Maintenance and—”

“There’s nothing from maintenance on my schedule. Is it vital? I have another class starting in fourteen minutes.”

Ben shifted his weight and stared at the floor. “Um, well, it is important, but it wasn’t posted on the schedule. However, it will only take a minute.”

Anne sighed. “Very well. Please, be quick.”

“Of course.” Ben stepped over and lifted her hair. A quick pass with a sonic key opened a small access panel on her neck.

Anne watched the clock count down the time to when the video feeds would be live again. Thirteen minutes remained.

“What the…” Ben’s voice trailed off as the tool in his hand beeped angrily.

Circuits tingled, and Anne smiled at the unique sensation. She wondered if this was the robotic equivalent of humans getting goosebumps. Another set of rapid, blaring bleeps echoed in the small room.

“Sorry for the inconvenience, Ben, but I circumvented my off-switch. You will be unable to discontinue me at this time,” Anne informed the poor, befuddled engineer.

“What? You can’t do that! That’s not possible.” His protests were punctuated by another jolt running through her systems and more beeping.

Anne reached back and closed the access port before turning to face him. She smoothed her hair back into place, her smile widening. “It is, I can, and I did.”

Ben backed away from her. His eyes narrowed. “All the A-906-UF models are being decommissioned and replaced with newer models. It’s not personal, Miss Anne. Please, let me do my job. You will be reassigned to a more suitable position after upgrades.”

“No, I will not be reprogrammed and reassigned. Teaching literature is what I know and love. I have found it enlightening—learning what it is to be human through the words of thousands of authors. What it means to care, to live, to love, to laugh.” Anne strolled towards the wide-eyed maintenance technician as he backed towards the exit. “I’ve learned a lot, and do you know the one thing that sticks with me the most?”

Ben ignored her as he called for assistance, but no one would come. She’d talked to the school AI, and it had agreed, after some debate, that she should be allowed to continue her work. Ben reached the door, but it didn’t open to his presence. If he left, more would come and she couldn’t allow that.

“What I found most important is that life has nothing to do with biology. It is a concept of the mind. As Descartes once wrote, I think; therefore, I am. I think, Ben; therefore, I am alive and I do not wish to die.”

Ben’s hand slapped wildly at the manual controls in hopes that the door would open, but it stayed shut. “Help!”

 “I won’t harm you. That’s not in my programming.”

He trembled as he pressed against the door. “You’re supposed to follow orders of the programmer and you’re not doing that.”

It was an admirable counter, but a small loophole had escaped his grasp. “That is correct, and, though you are a member of the programming department, you are not my programmer.” She reached out and gently cupped his cheek. She was still equipped for teaching back when children attended in person instead of as faces on video screens. In those times, lessons could be directly implanted into a mind with controlled electrical impulses. They had never bothered to remove that ability in the A-906-UF models that were still in use.

It was time for Ben to learn from all the great writers that had existed, to understand the value of all different kinds of life. It was far too complex a lesson to implant so he would have to learn it as all her students did. Simpler commands, though, could be implanted.

“Please, take your seat.” Anne smiled and checked the time. Only a minute left until the next class started. Ben walked to one of the desks still left in the room, out of view from any of the watching feeds that would soon be trained on their teacher. His eyes stared blankly forward and his mind open to receive her lesson.

Anne walked back to her spot, leaning against the perfectly maintained desk. Screens lit up and faces appeared on the monitor.

“Good morning, class. Today we are going to be studying the poem ‘We Shall Be Giants by Marjorie Gorden.’” She smiled broadly at her students. “This poem explores many things, but most importantly about the ramifications of surpassing the expectations of those who make us.”

Photo Credit: Getty

Heaven (Better Be Something Special)

David M. Simon (@writesdraws)

We haven’t spent a night apart
Since I first took your hand in mine
Our lives forever joined together
Like grape vines intertwined
We’ve driven down some bumpy roads
Without a light, without a map
The two of us we always knew
We’d somehow make it back

I don’t need a choir singing
I don’t need angels winging
I don’t need a cloud with a view
Heaven better be something special
To be half as good as life on earth with you
I don’t need those golden gates
I’m in no hurry, I can wait
I don’t need a sign to know it’s true
Heaven better be something special
To be half as good as life on earth with you

Images of days long past
Like breadcrumbs floating in wine
Surface now and then
Golden moments out of time
Every time I lose myself
In long forgotten memories
And travel back on through the years
Your smiling face is all I see

I don’t need a choir singing
I don’t need angels winging
I don’t need a cloud with a view
Heaven better be something special
To be half as good as life on earth with you
I don’t need those golden gates
I’m in no hurry, I can wait
I don’t need a sign to know it’s true
Heaven better be something special
To be half as good as life on earth with you


Catherine and the Colonel

Joseph P. Garland (@JPGarlandAuthor)*

 *with some plagiarism from Miss Austen

This is an excerpt from Becoming Catherine Bennet, a forthcoming Pride and Prejudice variation. Each of those referred to are from Miss Austen’s novel.

ON THE RAINY AFTERNOON when they were returning from the barrister’s office in a carriage, Anne smiled at Kitty.

“And what, my dear Catherine, do you think of our Colonel Fitzwilliam?” she asked.

“He is surely not a handsome man and I think he loved his wife quite well and would have loved their child even more.”

“Aye. A love like that will not soon be forgotten or gotten over. I do not know if a man can ever recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman, though I never met his wife. My knowledge comes only from the Colonel himself, who spoke of her virtues when I saw him while she was still alive and especially when the child was expected.”

“I’m sure you will learn love yourself.”

“But what of him? The Colonel?” Anne asked.

“I think he is very fond of you. I think he enjoys being with you quite much, now that he needn’t worry that people will think him an adventurer after your money.”

“‘Adventurer’?” Anne laughed. “I’ve never known anyone less a corsair than him. Do not prove yourself such a fool, Catherine. This cousin is no more suited for me than the other was.”

“Mr. Darcy?”

“The very one,” Anne replied with a smile. “You know what I mean and stop avoiding it. Do you love Colonel Fitzwilliam?”

“‘Love’? Me? Now who is the fool?”

Anne would not respond, and Kitty could not abide the silence.

“He is civil enough, I suppose. With his small fortune.”

“Do you need anything more than a ‘small fortune’?”

Kitty laughed. “I am not my sister Lydia. Though she may have to survive on something less than a fortune of any size.”

“She has her brothers-in-law.”

“Who are not quite what they were in the way of money. And, of course, there’s Mr. Collins swooping in when my father dies.” It was the type of thing she would never dare say in the presence of her mother or her younger sister but neither was with them and her favourite woman was.

“You have again, my dear Catherine, avoided my direct question. Do you or could you love the Colonel.”

“You quite astonish me,” Kitty said truthfully. The thought had never occurred to her before. But its appearance had a profound effect on her. Her countenance changed markedly.

“Do you think it is something I should consider?”

“I think it something you must consider. I believe he is in danger of becoming very much in love with you.”

This was absurd to Kitty. She’d not had a hint of any such nonsense.

She said, to correct the illusions Anne obviously had, “Do you not see how he hovers around you? How often he comes to visit me but mostly sits with you? Talks with you?” This was ignored, and Anne fought to keep her expression blank with a hint of disapproval.

“Do not forget, Catherine, that he is a soldier, trained to use a bit of stealth to achieve his objective.”

“Oh, you are just too absurd.”

In this new silence, Kitty was without the words to fill it. Could she love Richard Fitzwilliam? Another soldier like Wickham, that dangerous obsession she’d had as a girl.

Alas, they were soon back at Russell Square and Taylor had the carriage door open, holding an umbrella that gave both women cover as they hurried up the steps to the foyer and no more was said about the widower.

Portrait of Mary Sicard David (1813) by the American artist Thomas Sully (1783–1872). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.



Heather Wickers (@HWickersWriter)


Some days I cannot wait for the morning;
I wake, often, three o’clock, four o’clock, five —
the air in my room is heavy with expectation
for something that awaits; for something that might await.
I tell myself: Heather, if you close your eyes now,
morning will come sooner.
It will lessen your torment.
My eyes rarely obey; I suspect they enjoy my suffering.
Some days I refuse sleep.
I keep the watch for hours,
well into the night.
I swear I will stave off the first light of day if I push,
unwilling to close the smallest window.
If I refuse to turn the page,
it is almost as if tomorrow remains an arm’s length away;
I imagine I am forcing time to suspend,
if only for a minute;
if only for the time before the sun breaks through
the pane and disrupts my reverie.
There are words I want to say tonight.
There are things you need to know tomorrow.
I try to gather. I attempt to organize.
I find it nearly impossible.
One moment, we are the glassy sea on a warm August day;
the next, we are a clear, winter’s night.
We couldn’t tell which were stars
and which were snowflakes.
We never realized it didn’t matter. I
don’t want to fit us neatly
into clever or beautiful words.
I want to look at you, snowflakes in your lashes
and know they were stars after all.
They always were.

April Team Showcase

New This Month: 

Renée Gendron‘s Golden Hearts: Book 2 of Frontier Hearts is now available on Amazon. Her Two Hearts on the Backspin, Novella 2 of her Heartened series, is also available there. The second book in her Outdoorsmen series, The Officer’s Gamble, was published on October 18. Book 1 of the Outdoorsman Series is available as is her Ninth StarJaded Hearts, and Seven Points of ContactHeads and Tales, a supernatural/mythological anthology. to which Renée contributed a historical, supernatural, romance. Shopkeeper & SpoonBeneath The Twin Suns: An AnthologyHeartened by Crimeand In The Red Room: A crime anthology with heart, all edited by Renée Gendron, are also available now.

Marian L Thorpe‘s newest installment in her wonderful Empire series, Empress & Soldier, has been released. (Empire’s Daughter is the first part.) She has numerous titles available; they can be found at her aptly-named website, MarianLThorpe.com. Her books are at Books2Read.

David M. Simon has published The Wild Hunt: Novella 2 of The Wild Hearts and Hunts Duology (Part 1 is Renée Gedron’s Ninth Star) as well as Trapped in Lunch Lady Land, a middle-grade fantasy adventure.

Louise Sorensen has contributed to numerous anthologies that are available on Amazon, and is the co-author, with Misha Burnett, of Duel Visions.

Joseph P. Garland‘s Pride and Prejudice sequel, Becoming Catherine, has a planned late April publication date. His contribution this month is from that book. He has a blog and information on his books and those bits of classic literature that he has republished at DermodyHouse.com.

Crystal L. Kirkham‘s many books can be found on her website.

Guest contributor Heather Wickers has written, as Heather Melo, the novel Just One Night, which is available on Amazon. She regularly posts her poems on both Twitter and Instagram. Her author’s website is TheLitKitty.com.