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ECLECTICA: An Anthology

ECLECTICA: An Anthology

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ECLECTICA: An Anthology

266 Seiten
3 Stunden
Feb 19, 2019


Contemporary fiction to Western, Sci Fi to nonfiction, in the form of short stories, poetry, nonfiction, a screen play, a memoir, and a novella, the anthology Eclectia, offers a variety of genres for adult and YA readers. Laugh with some pieces, fight tears with others, and be transported by creative storytellers in this unparalleled collection of writings.

Feb 19, 2019

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ECLECTICA - Joyce Ragland



Vicki Dawn Arnett, 2017

The conductor stands,

arms raised,

prepared to assist

the ensemble

which breathes

en masse, rhythmically.

The baton drops and

the first notes crown,

pour out and

fill the hall

with the magic

only a debut performance


Melody curves

and rhythm rides

on the beat

overwhelming the senses

and memories

of music I’ve heard before.

This is something new,

an expression of a new thought

that rang in the composer’s head

and somehow, through the miracle

of physics and anatomy,

is expressed and living now

in my head too.

The baton stops;

the conductor goes backstage.

The ensemble rests, at ease now.

Music bounces and gurgles

in my heart and mind.


Jerry-Mac Johnston

Little Frankie Cannon played second as if he had been born just east of the base. Little Frankie stood 6’-1" and packed 192 pounds of solid, ball stopping power. Had he played for the Cubs it would have been Tinker to Cannon to Chance.

He was Mr. Baseball and loved the game, with the exception of the lights. It was the lights that did him in; a high pop-up, lost in the unfamiliar glare, the ball came down like a lead goose and hit him dead-on between the eyes.

After the funeral, they began to say second base carried a curse. On the road, the double plays always worked and the stand-up doubles flowed. It was a different story at home. Easy double play balls took an odd hop; batters tried to stretch doubles to triples to avoid being caught on second base.

John Mitchell broke his collarbone on a routine headfirst slide. That took ten miles-per-hour off his fastball and his career ended in Single-A El Paso when his car slid into a flooded arroyo.

Billy Bendell tripped on second during a home-run trot. Two broken ribs punctured his lung. At least he had an education and got a job coaching at a college in Nebraska, but it didn’t take long for the booze to catch up to him. Another funeral.

Opening day Eddie LeMasters brought down a line drive and dove for the bag to double up Buddy Wilson diving back. They met head–to-head, both missed the remainder of the season.

So it went. Veteran players might torment the rookies with practical jokes each new season, but when it came to the death base the vets were very serious. Every player, both home and visitor, was nervous around second. They all knew the tales of injuries caused by the cursed base. Finally, finances took their toll and the franchise sold and moved to a larger city with more baseball money.

The field stood vacant until the city developed it as a park. The city never could figure why there were so many lawsuits concerning kids falling out of the swings or being spun off the merry-go-round, but old-timers knew why. The park went to ruin and was soon just a field again.

Years later, thanks to the new interstate highway the town grew and prospered. Soon one of the national chains opened a superstore on the land. As construction began one of the senior members of the crew talked about the field, remembering how he and his dad used to attend the games. Someone at city planning caught wind of the ballpark talk, records and photos were researched and it was determined that home plate was just outside the entry doors. As a small town without a lot of history it was decided that a brass home plate should commemorate the spot. Nobody gave a thought about, or even remembered the curse. But at the end of Row G in the parking lot exactly 127’- 3 3/8" from the brass home plate was a dead tree in a triangle of dirt where nothing ever grew. Shopping carts left by the triangle’s curb rolled across the flat parking lot denting and scratching parked cars, and people who never considered themselves accident prone, consistently banged their head on the door frames of the cars if parked near the triangle.

Even people new to the town, with no knowledge of the local history or lore got caught up in the curse. Young Billy Martin left his brokerage firm in the big city for the simpler life. A gentleman farmer with a King’s Ranch edition 350 Ford, four-wheel drive, extended cab didn’t believe the tales. Since there was always space, he parked by the triangle so the truck wouldn’t get scratched.

He changed his thinking the day John Simmons, with a semi load of kitchen appliances, had a heart attack coming through the parking lot. He lost control of the semi, took out a rack of empty carts and side swiped two cars before coming to a stop on top of Billy’s pick-up. Billy became a believer.

The store prospered, but it didn’t take long for people to learn not to park at the end of Row G. But they never really even knew why.


Jerry-Mac Johnston

He fought for breath, heart pounding fast. Harley’s domain had never been invaded before and it upset him. His dugout was being dug out.

An unseasonable short, but a strong earthquake early in the season had cracked the visitor’s dugout floor from steps to wall. The dugouts were less than a year old, but rising numbers of complaints about the visitor’s dugout odor irritated Jack Dunn, the team owner and General Manager.

Harley, the stadiums grounds keeper, daily treated the dugout’s cracked floor with bleach. Guys like Harley were the backbone of minor league and town baseball, putting in hours above and beyond, for little remuneration. Despite Harley’s loving care, the development of the stinky ooze and a seventeen-game road trip made the inevitable a reality.

Les Crane, who built the dugouts and most of the other major improvements to the stadium over the past ten years, wanted to pull a chunk of concrete and see what could be found. Harley stood by just to make sure that the bench, steps, and field sustained no damage, although there wasn’t anything but a jackhammer being brought in, and the generator running the thing would be kept off the field. The hose could be run down the warning track.

There was little Harley could do and he soon moved on to the care of other areas.

Harley was an owner’s dream and Jack Dunn oft times felt he took advantage of the gentle man’s dedication to the stadium. People said Harley, a thirty-sixth round draft choice who played A-ball before injuries benched him permanently, just wanted to spend time at the park because it was better than spending time with Jennifer O’Neil.

Folks said Jennifer married the image of the home-run hitting community college phenom and not Harley at all. With a voice that sounded like sneakers sliding on the clubhouse floor and a figure resembling an overstuffed gear bag, everyone wondered how the mild-mannered Harley put-up with her.

The extra time Harley spent on the diamond during the state high school tournament seemed the perfect antidote for Jennifer’s abandonment. Everyone said making the field as nice for the fourth game of the day as the first was what kept Harley going.

It wasn’t going to take long to bring up a small piece of the dugout floor. Les wouldn’t damage any more floor than he had to. A baseball fan since his dad used to take him to the games, Les would find the problem, solve it, and patch up the floor. By the time the team returned from their road trip nobody would know the dugout floor had even been worked on.

Everyone was surprised when Harley married Linda Latimer, a bitter young widow with fewer prospects than the Devil Rays, but with breasts which would lead any league in double plays. Linda came to the park for a while and Harley doted on her. Harley taught her how to repair the pitcher’s mound and explained why it was important to drag the infield between games. Linda’s interest in the field waned quickly, though she found the bullpen intriguing.

GM Jack was glad when Linda’s visits to the park tapered away. From Jack’s point of view she distracted the pitchers who weren’t yet mature enough to focus on fastballs jointly with carnal pleasures. No one looked for Linda except a couple of middle relievers who couldn’t find their jockstraps unless they were wearing them.

With the jackhammer in the background Harley graded the base path around first. The previous night of walks, singles, lead-offs and pick-off attempts had given the area the look of heavy bombardment. Harley didn’t notice Les enter the administrative offices attached to the visitor’s clubhouse just outside the left field fence. Nor did Harley notice the arrival of his old high school buddy, sheriff Steve Hollis, and the ambulance.

It was debatable if anyone in town ever liked Susan MacMurray. She was unpleasant from the time she arrived during her high school senior year. Although no one remembered seeing Linda lately, people were surprised when Harley married Susan in a quiet little service. She’d only been seen at a couple of games and never with Harley. People who liked to talk, said she was more interested in scoring than baseball.

Sheriff Hollis had some suspicions regarding the disappearance of both Jennifer and Linda. Without evidence those suspicions were worthless as a pitcher who was thinking. As the decaying body of the tentatively identified Susan MacMurray was unearthed from the visitor’s dugout, Hollis thought this might be the break he had been looking for.

Harley’s breath now came easy and his heart had slowed to a quiet, more normal pace as the deputy escorted him to the patrol car. On the way they passed Les, Jack and Hollis. Les and Jack were comparing dates and were both sure the visitor’s clubhouse had gone in about the time Jennifer vanished. Les was commenting that taking up the slab floor would be expensive and time consuming. Better to look around the new scoreboard, erected just before Linda’s noticed absence. What they hoped to find under the scoreboard might justify a further search under the clubhouse.

As the EMTs loaded Susan MacMurray’s body on the gurney the only sure thing was baseball and ex-wives, America’s favorite pastimes, made for a deadly combination.


Carl Wilson

Don sat in a chair next to his father’s hospital bed. His father was dying of congestive heart failure. His brother Edward couldn’t be there because he was playing his first major league baseball game. Edward had dropped out of college in his sophomore year to play minor league baseball. That was three years ago and their dad was really put out with Edward for dropping out of school. Edward had spent three years working his way up in the minor leagues and tonight was what he had always dreamed of. His chance to make his father proud of him.

Don had the TV on. He and his dad were watching the game. It was Edward’s fourth time at bat. The first time at bat he hit a grounder to second base and was thrown out. The second time, he hit a fly ball to center field and the outfielder caught it. The third time, he hit a fly ball that would have been over the wall if it had been a couple of feet higher, but it hit the wall and one run came in.

This was Edward’s last chance at bat. It was the bottom of the ninth inning and the bases were loaded. They had two outs. The score was two to three and they were down one run. If they could win this game, they would be in the playoffs.

Edward swung at one pitch and missed. He took two balls and swung on the fourth pitch and fouled it. The next pitch was a ball. The count was two strikes and three balls. Edward stepped back from the plate, bowed his head for a moment, crossed himself, and stepped back to the plate.

The stadium became quiet, waiting to see what would happen.

The pitcher wound up and threw a fast ball. Edward swung as hard as he could. He hit the ball dead center. His bat broke. The ball sailed over the wall. He had a grand slam and his team won six to three and would be in the playoffs.

The stadium erupted as he rounded the bases.

After the game, Edward called Don at the hospital and asked if they had seen the game. Don said they had, and right before their dad passed away, he said, That’s my boy.

Edward was ecstatic that his dad was proud of him when he died.

What Don didn’t tell Edward was that their dad had died at the bottom of the 8th inning and never got to see Edward’s grand slam. But Don figured that a little white lie wouldn’t hurt anyone.


Velvet Fackeldey

My name is Molly and the piano player is Jack. I spoke softly into the microphone. I learned long ago that a quiet voice was much easier to get attention instead of trying to be louder than the conversations around the room.

I loved singing in various blues clubs around the Quad Cities in Illinois and Iowa. I don’t mind saying I was good—never had trouble getting gigs. Singing financed my travels. I made two trips a year to Florida to visit my parents, who moved to Leesburg when my dad retired from the John Deere factory. I also made one trip a year to some exciting destination. I’ve been to Italy, France, New Zealand and Australia, and other countries. Traveling made life more rewarding—seeing how other people lived, experiencing different foods, viewing old ruins fascinated me. Sometimes I traveled with a group, sometimes my cousin Trish went with me, and sometimes I went by myself.

My day job was office manager at the Rock Island Dental Clinic. I started working as a receptionist for Dr. Thomas right after I graduated from high school. In the twenty years since, he had partnered with one dentist after another until there were eight dentists in the clinic. As each new dentist joined us, my responsibilities grew and eventually we needed more than one receptionist. They promoted me to office manager. It was an easy job; organization came naturally for me. The dentists appreciated my skills and although the salary was not high, I had three weeks paid vacation.

Tonight, Jack and I had a gig at the Blue Note. We’d be there three more nights, until the end of the week. On Sunday I’d be off to Florida for a week. The club was crowded for a Wednesday night. With the spotlight in my eyes, it was hard to see the audience, but I could hear them. Some chatted, some hummed or sang softly along with me, and there was constant movement of the waitresses taking and delivering orders.

When Jack and I took our first break, we sat at a table in the corner by the stage. Susan, one of the waitresses, immediately brought me a large glass of water. She knew I drank lots of water when I sang. The cold water felt good and I drank half the glass without pausing.

Jack sipped a scotch rocks and looked over our song list. We tried not to do the same songs over and over, except for favorites like Yellow Dog Blues or Nine Below Zero. We picked out eight for our next set. The last set would be requests which we had collected through the evening.

As I glanced around the room, I saw Barry Winters at a table by himself. We dated at one time, but I hadn’t seen him in more than two years. I walked over to his table and he stood up.

Hey! I said. Great to see you! How’ve you been?

Barry kissed my cheek. He still had dark, curly hair, but there was a little gray around the edges now.

Keeping busy. I didn’t realize you were here tonight. I’m glad I stopped in.

Jack’s wave caught my attention. He pointed toward the stage. My pianist beckons, I said to Barry. We can talk later.

At the next break, when Susan brought my glass of water, Barry was right behind her. He stood by my chair. I just wondered, when you finish tonight, if you might let me buy you a sandwich. I remember that you’re always hungry after a performance.

I could never eat before a gig, so I was starved afterwards. I hesitated only a moment. Barry was a nice guy. He owned a real estate firm in Moline, and was divorced with two teenage daughters. He’d always been good company.

That would be great, I said. We can get caught up. I’ll meet you here.

It’s a deal, Barry said.

Jack and I started our request set with Yellow Dog Blues and finished with Sweet Sixteen.

As Barry and I crossed the street to Mandy’s Restaurant, I took a deep breath of the warm June night. The air in clubs got pretty stale and it made me appreciate the outdoors. I noticed that Barry was taller than I remembered. At five feet four, I barely reached his shoulder even in stiletto heels. As we entered the restaurant, the bright lights showed that he was still handsome, with that rugged, Marlboro ad look. The cold air made me shiver and, I pulled a shrug over my low cut nightclub dress.

Over our sandwiches, Barry talked about his girls who were now sixteen and eighteen. He spent a lot of time with Allison and Whitney. I remembered the girls as fun-loving and easy to get along with. They had joined Barry and me on several occasions, attending the state fair, going to concerts.

Barry asked, I suppose you’ve got a trip somewhere soon?

As a matter of fact, I’m heading to Florida on Sunday for a week.

Visiting your folks, huh?

Yep, every June and every Christmas.

How are they?

Doing good. Dad’s slowing down a little, but his health is good.

You know, I still think about you a lot.

I didn’t know what to say. Barry and I split up when he made surprise plans for us to go to Chicago for a four-day weekend. But I had a gig that weekend and wouldn’t cancel it for his trip. Barry was hurt when I wouldn’t change my plans and we drifted apart after that.

The waitress came by and refilled our water glasses.

I glanced at my watch. Wow, I’ve got to go.

Still doing days at the dental clinic?

Sure am. That’s what pays the bills. Thanks for the sandwich. It was really nice to see you again.

Are you singing all week, or could we go out to dinner some night?

I looked at Barry’s face, his brown eyes with the long lashes that his daughters were envious of, the laugh crinkles around his eyes, the perfectly straight nose, and that handsome smile. Who wouldn’t want to go out with him? My dates were few and far between, and I remembered

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