All posts by JL Mo

I'm a Florida Native. Yes, we exist. I'm a fourth generation Floridian, to be exact. Even after a fair amount of travel, I still choose to reside in the town of my birth, the tourist Mecca that is Orlando. My hometown is so culturally diverse, you can hear languages and sample cuisines from almost every nation within these city limits. Raised in South Florida during the 70’s (in a “lower-middle-income” family), I now have two grown sons, with kids of their own. My husband of fifteen years is my source of joy and inspiration. “Life. One short story at a time” is a collection of stories most everyone can relate to, on one level or another. Through life’s experiences we can share the possibilities, along with the humor, the frustration, the sadness, and the joy that comes with it.

Gratitude

 

Gratitude is an internalized emotion, which does nothing until externalized.

 

A birthday for a young nephew came around, but my husband and I live in a different city. As it was a ‘big’ birthday, we shipped him a special present. After several weeks, we’d not heard anything as to whether the item was appreciated, or even received.

When I spoke to my sister about the present, it was apparent I’d hit a nerve.

“Yes. He got it.”

“Did he like it?”

“Yes.”

Long pause. Then she said, “Didn’t you track the package? It would have shown we got it.”

“Yes.” Then I sighed. “I had hoped to speak to my nephew. Maybe hear that he liked it.”

“You mean, ‘thank you’? Is that why you sent it? You wanted to hear thank you?”

Stunned, I didn’t know how to respond. Needless to say, the conversation ended on a sour note.

I recall this exchange thanks to Hurricane Irma. She rattled our home, snapped our elm tree that fell across the driveway, and disconnected us from the grid. It was a rough night. But, we woke the next morning whole, and with a roof still over our heads. Thank you, God!

Without power, we faced the option of (what we now know to be) seven days of no air conditioning, refrigerator, stove, etc. Of our two sons and their families, only one had power. We all went there. With four children under the age of four and six adults under one roof, we had to find a way to make it work. “Please” and “thank you” were expressed by the adults to encourage the children as well as one another.

Irma wreaked havoc on our state. My family was richly blessed. The worst of it was the loss of power. So many others lost so much more. We are grateful beyond the pale, and expressed it several times each day.

My daughter-in-law, whose home we commandeered, is an amazing woman. During the time we were there, with all of the commotion and activity, she received a phone call. A woman from her church asked if she could come that evening and help with distribution of hot meals. Not only did she agree, but she made cupcakes and cookies to add to the meals. Then she took one of the four kids to the church with her, so that they could see gratitude in action. (Do you think the angel wings tucked into her shirt makes her itchy?)

When we express gratitude, it not only encourages those who give, but it connects you to that person on a spiritual level. By making cupcakes, or helping clear debris, being a nurse, working at the shelters, the doctors, firemen, police, these people understand that their work is satisfaction enough. But to hear and see the gratitude of the person for whom you do these things is to form an emotional connection. Sure, whine a little. Pout and/or cry for the tangible things lost. Even if all of your possessions remain undamaged, a traumatic experience such as surviving a hurricane is a legitimate reason for shock. Just don’t drone on for too long. Those around you trying to help will begin to feel frustrated that their assistance is unappreciated.

Gratitude feeds the giving spirit.

One moment you are in the position of giver. In the next moment you might be the receiver. To offer gratitude in action or word is to complete that circle.

Even if it’s nothing more than saying thank you.

 

 

Fearmongers

Fearmonger (a/k/a: scaremonger): Definition:

Psychological manipulation that uses fear-based tactics (scare tactics) including exaggeration and usually repetition to influence the public in order to achieve a desired outcome.

 

If you’ve been following me in any way, you already know that I am a fourth-generation Floridian. South Florida was my home for the first twenty years of my life. For the next thirty-six years, Orlando has been home. Florida is a wonderful place to grow and live. Our state motto should be: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

 

A few hurricanes have hit my home state in my lifetime. Prior to the ‘net, we depended on the three available TV channels for updates. My dad became so frustrated with the talking heads of the time he turned it off and told us to go outside if we wanted to know what the weather was doing. Wise man.

 

Today, Hurricane Irma is making a beeline for us, after leaving a trail of devastation across the islands as a Cat 5. The warnings issued would have the entire state evacuated. But, hold on a sec. If there is any concrete fact about hurricanes and the direction they take it is this, we just don’t know. Sure, there are more than a few educated guesses. But there’s a reason it’s called a “projected path” and that’s because we just don’t know.

 

One of the forecasts now show a decrease in strength to a Cat 2 as it reaches Central Florida. At the risk of offending every hurricane-fearing reader out there I’ll quote an old saying. “Don’t wake me if it’s under a Cat 3. That’s damn good sleeping weather.”

 

Now, for the scaremongers. Look back at the beginning of this post and re-read the definition.

 

The first part is the most important to understand. Psychological manipulation. They work to keep you afraid. Why would the powers-that-be do this? To keep the general populace tuned-in, and look to the government for assurance. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but certain individuals may indeed benefit from your fear. How much money have you spent over the last week prepping? Yes, there is a genuine danger. Look at the islands that Irma crashed. But they do not know any more than can be guessed. A theory is an educated guess, and that is what we are seeing on screen.

 

The second part of the definition is fear-based tactics (scare tactics) including exaggeration. Not one to point fingers, but come on. Tuesday saw the forecast as Irma shredding the East Coast of Florida as a Cat 5. Did that drive you to collect all things hurricane related? Of course it did. What sane human (who has never been through this) wouldn’t? Yes, have a disaster package ready. At all times. Put up shutters when the storm turns in your direction. But mindless panic of buying every bottled water on the shelf is a bit extreme.

 

Now, for the media. The part of the definition that makes the biggest impact on our lives is, repetition to influence the public. In no way, shape, or form would I consider the genuine warnings of an oncoming hurricane fake news. However, there are those who allow anxiety-driven newscasts to become a part of their minute-by-minute lives. Compelled by fear, their anxiety is amped up to the point of not realizing what they are doing to those around them. Loved ones look on in dread, not knowing how to communicate with that terror-filled family member.

 

If this is you, please, stop. Step back. Take a deep breath. Look around at the faces of those who love you. Including your pets. Anxiety is unintentionally shared. Do you want to see everyone around you becoming bat-shit crazy as well? No? Then turn off the hurricane updates for an hour. Your nerves will thank you. Your family will thank you. Your four-legged friends (read: pets) will thank you.

 

Yes, Irma is to be feared. But, if you have done everything in your power to protect what is yours, no amount of fear or worry will change anything. So, take a minute to relax and appreciate the camaraderie that a storm like this can bring to the general public. Do not allow Irma to tear apart relationships, as well as property.

 

As for me and my family, we are prepared. thanks to plenty of advanced warning from The Weather Channel app, MyRadar app, and The Orlando Sentinel. The people in tornado-ally don’t get near as much warning as hurricane-prone states. An earthquake in Mexico struck with no warning, and has left dozens dead. In that light, we should consider ourselves fortunate.

 

I’ll write another post once Irma passes through. It’s now projected to come right on top of us. Most know that once a hurricane is over land, it quickly decreases in strength, not increases. But, whether a Cat 1 or 5, there is nothing more we can do.

 

Just so you don’t think I’m completely cavalier about Irma, I’ll close with this:

 

Hold on tight, folks. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

 

 

 

 

 

PSA: Ethanol is Bad

 

In case you missed it, America runs on Ethanol. This is a corn-based fuel additive that has been around since the 1970’s. Pushed by Agribusiness as an answer to the oil crisis back then, it has become big business endorsed (read: required) by the US government.

The problem is that it doesn’t work. In fact, it can damage engines.

Personal experience: In 2009, I purchased a brand new Impala SS and still drive it today. Shortly afterward, Ethanol appeared at every gas station. The label on the pump states: May contain up to 10% Ethanol. Other labels read: Contains at least 10% Ethanol.

I knew nothing of the biofuel except that it was the next best thing to happen to cars since fossil fuel. So, I filled up time and time again without a thought.

Then, my engine started to die. Literally. There seemed no rhyme or reason to it. Driving the highway at 70 mph, or along a residential area at 25 did not matter. With no warning, the engine dropped in power. My speed declined to ten miles per hour. Doing 25 in a residential wasn’t an issue. However, 70 on the interstate can be quite traumatic.

The dash display read: “Engine Power Reduced.” Followed by “Service Stabilitrack.” By some miracle, I survived each of these sudden power failures. Once able to get off the road, I turned it off, and waited. After several restarts, the error message on the dash disappeared. To add to the frustration, my mechanic reported no code errors recorded. So he couldn’t fix what wasn’t broken.

Then I found a forum on Edmunds.com with identical complaints. One member suggested Ethanol as the cause. He’d had his gas analyzed and found 45% Ethanol in his tank. Stopping the use of the bio-fuel has eliminated the problem for him.

I found one gas station, Wawa, which sells Ethanol-free gas. After three fill-ups, the problem has not returned. Perhaps the answer is that the computer couldn’t compensate for the half-gas mixture it was trying to draw power from. A few more trouble-free tanks will prove the point. (One can hope.)

Engine problems are not the only issue. Another demon of Ethanol is the diversion of actual food to third world countries going into our first world vehicles. How did we agree to feed our cars over our fellow starving human beings?

Here are some great articles if you’d like to read more about it, before you decide to stop using this piece of corn that is force-fed to us by the Feds.

It’s Final — Corn Ethanol Is Of No Use – Forbes

The Ethanol Scam – Rolling Stone

Can E15 Gasoline Really Damage Your Engine? – Popular Mechanics

 

And lastly, for my number-crunching peeps, here’s the word from the IMF on the situation:

 

Impact of High Food and Fuel Prices on Developing Countries

 

Ethanol-free is a bit more costly. So ask yourself, is an extra fifty cents a gallon worth protecting your engine, the environment, and helping to feed your fellow man worth it?

I choose yes.

***

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

Lost Wallet

 

Another short story (of panic) in this life.

This last weekend was fabulous. My husband and I spent Thursday through Monday at the beach. To make it even more astounding, an Atlas Rocket Launch and a partial eclipse made the whole thing a genuine celestial event. Wow, what a blast!

Tuesday found us home again, with all of the catch-up, clean-up, and errands that needed our full attention. With my to-do list in hand, I got in the car and checked that the appropriate payment methods were in my wallet…

Oh, shit.

My wallet insert, with three debit cards and my driver’s license, were nowhere to be found.

If you’ve ever lost your cards, I know you’re familiar with the panic. Lost? Where? How? Stolen!

One time I lost one of my bank cards, and the person who found it used it for gas immediately. But, the online banking service showed no unknown activity. So far.

And so it began. If you can relate, you’re familiar with the drill. The suitcases, my bag, the dirty clothes, coolers, garbage cans, and my car were searched two to three times each. No luck.

Tamping down the panic, I decided the insert had to be where we stayed at the beach. No one was there now, so I had to drive back there to look for it myself. The anxiety doubled since I didn’t have my license.

All of the fears and imaginings played across my mind as I drove. Identity theft. Robbery. Dealing with the banks to replace the cards. Dealing with the State to replace my license. Ugh!

Then, while driving within every legal parameter for forty miles into an eighty mile drive, a thought hit me so hard I gasped. I called my husband.

“Hey babe,” my voice sounded cooler than I felt. “Can you look in your car and see if my wallet insert is there?” We had driven separately to the beach, but we used his car to drive around town.

“Sure,” he says. “I’ll call you back.”

He knew of the situation. I felt certain he would look as soon as possible. But with an office gig, you never know how “soon” that might be. I kept driving toward the beach, heart in my throat, wild thoughts still bouncing around my brain.

A few more miles down the road and the phone rang. My husband’s caller ID didn’t get through the first tone.

When I answered, he said, “I hope you didn’t get too far.”

First, the sigh of relief. Then, the nervous laughter. Why did I not think to check his car?

While driving back home, I decided that all things must balance out. For now, I feel I’m still on the positive side of this one. Let’s hope it stays that way.  😉

Getting old sucks.

***

 

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

Welcome to the Land of Unemployment…

Welcome to the Land of Unemployment…

 

No doubt, this is a very harsh land to find yourself in.  No matter how you arrived (strutting, kicking and screaming, just woke up here), you will first traverse the Field of Terror.

 

In the Field of Terror you will hear shouts of “How did I get here?” “What have I done?” and, “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” as well as cries to various deities.  Some of those shouts will be coming from you.  You might get through this faster or slower than others.  Try not to judge.

 

Once you get through Terror, you will find yourself in the Alley of Depression.  It is a dark and scary place where the walls are closing in on you and failure is imminent.  Acceptance that you are fully in this land, and determination that you will not live here for long, might help speed the passage of this particular Alley.  The best advice is to look up.  The sky is still there and the walls are not really moving toward you. Once you recognize that you are in the Alley (and that can be very difficult) try to see the faces of possibility at the other end and get through this dark place as quickly as possible.

 

Once you leave the Alley, you should find yourself in the wide Valley of Resignation.  This is where many people linger for too long.  It is a somewhat comfortable place after the Terror and the Depression.  Here your fellow citizens will mutter phrases like, “I should have seen it coming,” or “I could have done things differently.”  This will be the place to stand in line for something while not really trying or wanting to try.  Swapping horror stories of the Field of Terror or the Alley of Depression with those around you eases the monotony.

 

Once you’ve decided to get through Resignation, you will find the Foothills of Job Seekers.  Here the going will be easier, for you are filled with determination, and friends and family will be cheering you on.  These Hills are easily traversed for there is refreshment to be found at Interview Fountain.  After a single sip your confidence is restored and you are strong again.  You are motivated to find your niche in the upcoming Mountain of Employment.  You shade your eyes as you look at the towering peaks and see the eagles soaring majestically along the craggy face.  I can do this! you decide.  It is shortly after that you find yourself standing before the Cliffs of Frustration.

 

The Cliffs of Frustration have sent many back to the Valley of Resignation.  The handholds that must be used to climb the face are rough and torturous.  No matter how firm a grip you feel you have on the situation, either your fingers will slip, a fellow citizen will step on you on their way up, or one of those damn eagles will buzz you so hard and fast you wish you were never born.  But if you can get past that, if you can hold fast, ignoring the pain, the insults, the crippling assaults to your ego, you just might find your very own Comfortable Niche on Employment Mountain. And congratulations to you!

 

Yes, there are some who just cross the boundary of the Land of Unemployment and are swept up by the wings of those eagles before they even get to experience the Field of Terror. To that I would say, “Congratulations.

On behalf of all the citizens of this nightmarish place to be, we would like to add…Go to Hell!

***

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page.

WoManapause

 

WoManapause

By JL Mo

 

 

At the dawn of civilization…

 

The cave was dark. She woke with all the animal skins being thrown on top her. She pushed them off and reached for her mate of thirty summers. He flung her arm off of him, as if it were a snake.

“Grok? What happened?”

“Nothing,” was his terse reply.

“Is it.. .you know?”

“Yes, it’s you know,” he whispered harshly.

“I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone.”

“Sure, run away. I can’t escape.”

“Do you want me to stay with you?”

“What good would that do, Gyrll?”

“You’re having a moment. I’ll just—”

“I know what I’m having! I’m lying in bed, sleeping soundly, only to wake up and break out into a sweat like I’ve been running from a saber tooth for the last freaking hour! I know what I’m having!”

Gyrll knew nothing good could be said right now. Grok would only give her a nasty remark. She got out of bed, intending to get him something to drink. He said nothing to her as she left the cave.

The stars shimmered in the night sky. The tribe’s starman, Degraasy, said a wishing star would be sailing across the sky, and he was right. A bright light, with a long tail, seemed to hover just above the horizon. Anything wished on it would become so, according to Degraasy, and she hoped it was true. She locked her eyes on the sky light and closed her eyes, thinking of Grok.

They had seen the medicine man, even though this was normal for all men of his years. Each man handled WoManapause differently, but the symptoms were all the same. Hot flashes, mood swings, forgetfulness. Her friend Brock’s mate was a dream according to her. He never woke her once when he went through the hot flash stage. Although, she still occasionally had to listen while he cried about how his mother was crushed by a woolly mammoth. At least he only told the story two or three times a week.

Gyrll had listened to plenty of Grok’s sad stories, but it was the complaining that drove her crazy. She’d suffered childbirth and not griped half as much.

Help me, star. Help Grok.

“Gyrll.”

She jumped at his quiet approach. “Grok, you startled me.”

“I’m sorry for everything I said. You’ve been awesome through this. I know I wouldn’t want to live if a cave bear ate you or something.”

A wave of love washed over her. He seemed so sincere. “Thank you, Grok.” Gyrll looked into his beautiful eyes shining in the star light, and felt her heart race. Maybe the star can help.

“It’s getting late,” she said. “Look, it’s already two stars past the moon. Let’s go back to bed.”

He took her in his arms and hugged her gently.

“Come on, big guy,” Gryll said as she pulled out of his arms. “Let’s get going.”

“What?”

“Let’s go to bed.”

“No. The big guy comment. What’s that supposed to mean?”

“What? Nothing!”

“You’re saying I’m fat.”

“No. I’m just – ”

“Oh, forget it, Gyrll. Why don’t you just sleep in the other cave like you wanted to do in the first place?”

“What the—what do you want from me?”

“I want you to take a minute and consider how I feel. What I’m going through.”

“Sure baby. I’ll pause for a minute and try.”

“You’re doing it again!”

“What? Doing what?”

“Talking to me like I’m an idiot! Stop! I can’t change what I’m suffering!”

“I know that! If I could take it all from you, I would!”

“Oh sure. You’d take on the searing heat, the blinding rage? As if a woman could handle it!”

“Blargh! I’m sure we’d do a better job of handling it than you guys! I wish all women could take it from man.”

At that moment, the star flared brilliantly.

     And that is how women came to suffer Menopause.

***

JL Mo is a mother of two full grown geeks, and Nana to their geeks-in-training. She is also the author of the McShane Mini-Mystery series, and has had a number of stories published in various anthologies which can be accessed on her Amazon Author Page

 

 

Normal Parameters

A few years ago I participated in a writers ‘shoot-out’ . The genre we were given to create a story within a one week timeline was Science Fiction. The following story was my submission.

 

Normal Parameters

by JL Mo

 

Captainship of this antiquated shuttlecraft had been mine since the abrupt demotion I’d suffered three months ago. The discipline was understood of course, but this assignment was a slap in the face. To be fair to the ship, she was a beauty in her day. I just didn’t believe she should still be in service, since her day was now long past. However, all of her maintenance checks came back clean, so the military keeps her in use.

Standing on the bridge, the vibration I felt through my shoes seemed familiar. Reaching up, I placed my hand on the slight curve of her inner hull and tried to identify the sensation. Bzzz. A count of ten and again, Bzzz. Rhythmic shivers gently pulsed through her. Something tugged at the back of my mind as I tried to reach a memory of a lesson, buried in layers of lessons from years long gone.

“Ensign Tadford. Status update, please.”

The young woman swiveled around on the squeaky, too small seat and declared, “All is working within normal parameters, sir.”

“Are you sure? Oxygen, power, engines, all read normal?”

“Aye, sir. Would you like a report sent to your intermail?”

“No, that won’t be necessary.”

The ensign turned back to the panel. “Is there anything specific you might like investigated, sir?”

I declined with a shake of my head. Not sure where to start with something so vague. The military, in their infinite wisdom, declared system engineers onboard a lowly shuttlecraft unnecessary. The manufacturer, Amalgamated Group of Nations, reluctantly conceded. AGN had built a number of stunning vessels, but the Agnes group of shuttlecraft had been the most trouble free. All monitoring, and minor repairs, could be performed by the crewmembers if necessary. Except for odd things like this. “Call Lieutenant Meyers to the bridge.” He’d been on this ship the longest and should be able to identify that rhythmic tremor.

“Aye, sir.”

The memory of a lesson from long ago danced just outside of total recall. What caused that damn vibration?

The AGNes 012, with its crew of three and carrying a dozen passengers, would fly fine without a captain. After my demotion, this route assignment turned out to be the worst of the penance. Losing rank from Major to Captain was a blow. But the true hell lay in the monotonous shuttling of military passengers from Earth/Sections 02 through 05, to Moon 001/Sections 08 through 11. The most uninteresting, mind numbing route to be had.

“Excuse me, Captain Casey. Lieutenant Meyers, as ordered.”

The formality on this shuttle irritated me, but the others seemed to appreciate the military protocol. So, I dealt with the uniforms, and the salutes, and the posturing as if we were actually on a military mission. Well, I suppose we were. But it’s an AGN Class B Shuttle, for God’s sake! I returned his salute, stifling my frustration.

“At ease, Lieutenant. Tell me, have you noticed a pulse, an odd vibration, throughout the ship?”

“A vibration, sir?”

“Yes, Lieutenant. Here. Put your hand right here and you’ll feel it.” I stepped away from the small patch of bare hull, one of the few areas not covered by instruments, pipes or wires. Meyers raised his hand and placed his palm fully on the ship.

“No sir, I don’t feel anything.”

“It’s faint. Wait a moment longer.”

Dutifully, Meyers obeyed. He lowered his head and closed his eyes, doing what he’d been ordered to do with every ounce of concentration. Having been through the academy more recently, he’d be the person who could identify this mysterious vibration. On top of that, he loved this ship. The resentment he must hold for me being the captain, instead of him, was kept well in check.

Meyers head jerked up, his eyes wide. “Holy shit!” He glanced at the ensign who swung around quickly in her chair. “Ensign Tadford!” shouted the lieutenant, hand still on the hull. “Has a flux been recorded by the Bosonic Gravitron Meter?”

My heart skipped a beat as I gasped. Failure of the BGM could result in an explosive brand-spanking-new black hole.

“No, sir,” she answered calmly. “As I told the Captain, all is working within normal–”

She didn’t finish the sentence as I roughly pushed her out of the way to get to the instrument panel. I heard her hit the floor, but didn’t care. The lesson dodging my memory came back to me like a lightning flash.

The AGN Shuttles were one of the first passenger ships built with the HB Artificial Gravity Field. In the preceding seventy-five years of use, not one failure had occurred. This would be the first on record. The passengers and crew would be only the first to die.

The instruments all gave normal readings. I scrambled to the other consoles to check the back-up instruments. All displayed the BGM working within normal parameters.

I spun to face Meyers. He had helped Tadford to her feet. The Lieutenant’s face had lost all color. The Ensign appeared too calm. The suspicion must have been reflected on my face.

“Is there a problem, Captain?” Tadford asked with lips curled in a cruel curve. She watched my eyes as she reached into her pocket and slid out a recognized, much-hated black card depicting a hologram of the red planet. I froze. She was a member of MarSaver, a terrorist organization responsible for thousands of deaths in their pursuit to ‘save Mars from man’.

“What have you done?” My voice sounded much calmer than I felt.

“What my people told me to do. Kill you.”

“You would kill yourself and all these innocent people, possibly Earth itself, to get to me?”

“Well worth the sacrifice!”

My voice seemed hollow as I shouted, “I told the military of your people’s demands! They refused to negotiate! I lost my rank because I wouldn’t stop my crusade to save those people on the outpost, and you blew up the Mars station anyway! What more could I do?”

“Die.”

“Captain!” Meyers voice broke the spell of incredulity this woman held me in. “We might still save some of those on board!”

“Yes! Bypass the instruments and sound the alarm!” The too-smooth, female automated voice of the AGN started before Meyers reached the control panel.

“The containment field is failing.”

            “Repeat – The containment field is failing.”

            “Repeat – The containment field is failing.”

“I know, Agnes!” I growl under my breath.

“Captain, the alarm began–”

“Yes, Lieutenant! Tell me this piece of flying space junk carries the proper number of escape pods!”

Tadford said, “Until I had two removed for maintenance. Oh! I forgot. You don’t check the daily inventory logs. Do you, Captain Casey?”

“You are insane! If this goes off, most of humanity will die!”

“Captain!” Meyers shouted. “We have to move! The HB is pulsing harder!”

I stopped engaging this lunatic and paid attention the vibrations. The pulse was so hard it had become audible. RUMBLE. A count of five and RUMBLE. “Follow proper protocol to abandon ship. With two pods gone, one remains. All of the passengers will fit if they double up for the ride. Go!”

Meyers scrambled off the bridge and down toward the passengers.

“Repeat – The containment field is failing.”

“Well, Captain,” Tadford purred. “I would say it’s been a pleasure serving under you, but, well, you know.” The sickening, cruel upturn of her lips pushed me too far. In two strides I reached her, and she hit the floor hard. I’d never punched a woman before, but since I was gonna die anyway, I figured, what the hell. Some small satisfaction came with the knowledge that I might have broken her jaw.

The panel still read everything working normally, even with Agnes blaring her warning. Think, man! If the instrument says it’s OK, then the instrument is wrong. So, what made it go wrong? No! The instrument failure is not the point! What will it take to make the HB Artificial Gravity Field not implode? No one’s ever done this! Think!

“Repeat – The containment field is failing.”

“Wait!” I shout. I turn to Tadford, still on the floor holding her jaw. “The gravity field needs the Stress Energy Tensor! Is that what you did? You disabled the SET?”

The only response is her glare. At least she wasn’t smiling anymore.

“I need to get to the engine room and put the two back together before this ship becomes a black hole!”

From behind me Meyers says, “You’ll need help.”

“Repeat – The containment field is failing.”

“Secure Tadford to something. Let’s make sure she can’t cause any more trouble. Then, please, turn Agnes off.”

All lights had been dimmed to lowest illumination level through the passageways, as per protocol. I could still see, but barely. The pulse now gave the impression of being inside a beating heart. A dying heart.

“We’ll try to save you, girl,” Meyers whispered from behind me. “Just hang on for another minute.”

POUND. A count of three and POUND. The gravity field was trying to pull the ship in on itself. The closer we got, the more difficult moving became, as if walking through molasses.

We reached the engine room adjacent to the HB Gravity Field unit. Meyers crossed himself as we went in. Here was the source of the heartbeat. A monstrosity of machinery, as reliable as the sunrise in the east. Unless someone sabotaged her, which somebody had. The SET was destroyed, with pieces beaten and broken apart. Tadford must have had help with this. One of the escaping passengers must have been a MarSaver as well. Tadford somehow manipulated the instrument panel while her accomplice came down here and performed this catastrophe.

“Fuck! What’ll we do, Cap?” asked a nervous-sounding Meyers.

The too-smooth, female automated voice said, “Repair the Stress Energy Tensor by removing the HB Artificial Gravity Field.”

My stomach clenched. Agnes was not programmed for speech recognition. She should not be able to respond, or to give instruction. Meyers’ face looked like he’d seen a ghost. Mine probably looked the same. I asked, “Didn’t you shut Agnes off?”

“Yes, Captain. I did.”

POUND. A count of two and, POUND.

“Repeat. Repair the Stress Energy Tensor by removing the HB Artificial Gravity Field.”

“Agnes?”

“Repeat. Repair the Stress Energy Tensor by removing the HB Artificial Gravity Field from the compressor.”

I attempt to process what I’m hearing. “Agnes that will kill us all.”

“Correction,” Agnes replied in the annoying, non-emotional voice, “That will kill the three humans on board. The planet we serve will survive.”

Lieutenant Meyers asked, “Agnes? What… how long have you been sentient?” His wide eyes are focused on me, as if he’s asking me the question.

“Repeat. Repair the Stress Energy Tensor by removing the HB Artificial Gravity Field from the compressor.”

Meyers grabbed the compressor for stability, as I manipulated the connections.

Agnes wasn’t classified as Artificial Intelligence. For all of the fear mankind held of AI however, this one saved us all.

He said, “Thanks for saving our planet, Agnes.”

“It’s been an honor to serve you, Lieutenant Meyers. I regret that your life span could not be prolonged.”

Another Woman’s Thoughts

 

One night, my husband and I went out for dinner. Next to our booth sat an elderly couple. The woman appraised my husband as he sat, but then all of her attention went back to her food.

After the server brought the drinks, our friend Bob came in and joined us. The old woman was now in my line of sight every time I turned toward him. She had looked up as he sat down, and stared. And stared. Eyes narrowed, lips tight, holding her fork with a slight tremble.

Once, at a much younger age, I might have grown uncomfortable. All the thoughts of why she might be staring would play through my insecure head, and end with the certainty she was judging me in some way. Today, not so much.

Then, my imagination kicked in.

“…She’s checking out my husband and Bob. Probably wondering if there’s gonna be a threesome tonight. She’s probably remembering her first threesome now…”

I literally laughed out loud. Then everyone was looking at me. I gotta tell you, at fifty-six, I don’t give a crap.

I’m Different. Just Like You.

 

I'm different
Summer’s first day 2017

 

The sunrise on the first day of summer 2017 was spectacular. At first rose colored, then transitioning into a palette of blues, with a grand finale in golds and yellows. Breathtaking.

Being a Floridian, I have seen more than my fair share of sunrises over the ocean. They are all similar in that they begin with the dark sky giving way to the growing light. For a few brief moments, the twinkling stars and shining moon are backlit in a series of blues ranging from indigo, to azure, to cobalt.

Once the sun nears the horizon, everything changes, every time. The radiant colors might be splashed across multi-layered clouds. Or there may be a complete absence of cloud coverage, allowing the sun its dramatic solitary show. The pelicans might be flying in formation over a barely ruffled surface, or they may be swooping down between the troughs of the waves. Spectacular.

Each one breathtakingly the same. Each one spectacularly different.

Just like us.

In the 50+ years I’ve been allowed on this earth, a number of diverse philosophies have been embraced by society. One trend that failed to truly resonate with me is the thought that we are all the same. Flesh encased skeletons. Carbon units with a built-in survival instinct. An astounding biological unit, to be sure. Each having their own identifying human prints. Breathtaking to consider.

There, for me, the similarities end. From birth we walk our own path, make our own decisions (for better and for worse), and we march to the drummer in our own heads. The nationality decreed on us when we take that first, tantalizing breath holds great sway on our development, as well. Which is another way of marking our uniqueness. Each individual is strikingly different.

We become who and what we are by the series of decisions made on a moment by moment basis. Each experience, and it’s accompanied consequences, impact our next decision. From “I’ll never do that again” to “Okay, next time, I’ll…”

Which is why I fail to understand why people become so upset if not agreed with completely. For example, some individuals enjoy eating liver and onions. I, however, HATE liver and onions. Can’t we have dinner together anyway? The differences between us should be celebrated, not stifled. Even for people who eat liver.

Age. Race. Gender. Money. Nationality. Religion. Politics. Employment. Children. Technology. Each of these subjects might serve as a divider, but they shouldn’t. They are samples of what makes individuals different and more interesting, creating subjects for joyous conversation, not hate-filled exclusion.

How boring would this world be if everyone was a 50+ white female middle class American protestant without party affiliation who is a writer with grandchildren and no fear of computers? Thank God we are different in so many ways, on so many levels.

I’m different. Just like you.

Each one breathtakingly the same. Each one spectacularly different.

 

How to Small Talk

 

Alright boys and girls gather ‘round. I’m going to share with you the secret of (drum roll, please) Small Talk with the Opposite Sex. It is an art form that very few members of the species understand how to employ with someone they’ve just met. Especially if there is any type of physical attraction.

It’s Saturday night and you’re at the club. You’ve just gotten your first drink, so you’ve been there long enough to check out the crowd. There are a few faces softly illuminated by their cell phones as they tap away on the screen. A few more are into heavy conversations with others in their space. Some are dancing to the music in choreographed formation. Some others have a ring on the third finger of their left hand.

These situations equal an Automatic No. An invisible “Do Not Disturb” sign hangs above each of these people. Do not attempt to engage them in small talk. It may end in Automatic Rejection.

Then there are the rest of the patrons. They might be sitting at the bar, perhaps chatting pleasantly with others around them. Perhaps not. Some might be waiting in a line for whatever the reason. Others just milling about. Choose the one that you find attractive.

Ready? Here we go.

  • Respect – This word gets thrown around a lot, but few people seem to understand what it is. For those not sure, here’s a primer. Don’t invade the personal space (which should get you slapped/pushed away), do not leer (you might get an introduction to the bouncer), don’t ask if she fell from heaven, etc. (cheesy lines are meant for use between friends/lovers, not strangers).
  • Engage – Start small. Say hello, or hi, or hey, or whatever you generally say when you meet someone. Don’t fake it. It’ll show. This is the first impression, right? Just say hello.
  • Accept Rejection – Like a well-mannered person should. Did she offer a quick smile and then turn her back on your greeting? That is as polite a rejection as she should have to give. Besides, if you walk away, she just might call you back.
  • Introduce yourself – If she didn’t turn away from your greeting, tell her your name. Please don’t offer your hand while doing so. Too many jerks, I mean germs, are around to allow physical contact on an intro in a bor. If she still hasn’t turned away, ask for her name.
  • Banter –The ice is broken, she has given you her name. Tell her your impression of it. “That’s a (nice/unique/elegant) name,” for instance. Speak to her about anything else that will carry on the conversation. With the exception of money, politics, and/or religion. Those are the three big No-No’s. The weather, the club, sports, pick a topic. This is also where you can offer to buy the next drink.
  • Interested – Here is the most crucial piece of advice that I can offer. LISTEN. Put aside your lust and imaginings and listen to what the person is saying. Repeat it back, if you must, but listen. The natural course of human interaction should take it from there.

What if you find that you aren’t really ‘attracted’ to the person once the conversation has begun? Well, remember this… you can never have too many friends.

There are literally billions of people out there. Take this Small Talk guide and apply it in other places. Get out of your comfort zone and strike up a conversation with someone sitting on the bus next to you. Or standing in line at the store. Or anywhere else you might find yourself with people you don’t already know. Small talk may lead to bigger things.