Who is Johnny Jebsen, and why does he keep emailing me?
My memorable remnants are few. Not so much for my lack of mental capacity but for the small and focused nature of my background.
As a 4 month old child I was left at the door step of a Monastery; hence, parent-less, without a history I was -- though I had never known it -- turned over to Monastery of the Order of Sanctus Sicario, or what is the Holy Assassins of the Holy Catholic Church.
That no history exists, that nothing has been recorded precludes not that it ever doubtfully existed, but that we were so well hidden.
Here now is my story.
copyright Johnny Jebsen
Jose Olivares was born in Corpus Christi. He graduated from Roy Miller High School, and the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&I University Kingsville, and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. He worked as a secondary mathematics teacher, middle school principal and Corpus Christi Independent School District mathematics consultant and as adjunct professor of mathematics at Texas A&M CC. Jose and his wife Tomacita have three children who are also graduates of UT Austin. Their daughter Liana Gonzales is an attorney in Corpus Christi and daughter Mariela Olivares is also at attorney and law school professor at Howard University in Washington DC. Their son Jose Luis is a graphic computer artist in Portland, Oregon. They have four grandchildren.
“Please close the windows, the air is burning my face” my younger sister cried as we drove to California seeking work as migrant workers. My parents had loaded the family (five children ages 17, 15, 13, 10, 4) into the car and headed cross country to the Bakersfield area. Two older siblings did not join us—one was married and the other was serving in the U.S. Army. I was 15.
Our car did not have air conditioning, but the desert air blowing into the car was so hot that we alternated closing and opening the windows. My Mother would constantly place a wet towel over my Father’s head and shoulder in order to cool his body.
We worked picking grapes, peaches, potatoes and tomatoes. Our home was in one of the many labor camps in the area. Our shelter was a metal structure that felt like a furnace in the hot summer days. Our shelter had no electricity, running water or bathroom facilities. Group facilities were available for our use.
Read more of this in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology
Lisa Mason has published ten novels, including Summer of Love, a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book and Philip K. Dick Award Finalist, The Gilded Age, a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, a collection of previously published short fiction, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, and thirty-three stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies worldwide. Her Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” sold outright as a feature film to Universal Pictures and is in active development. She recently published seven books in print and as ebooks on all retailers worldwide including Summer of Love, The Gilded Age, The Garden of Abracadabra, Arachne, Cyberweb, One Day in the Life of Alexa, and Strange Ladies: 7 Stories. You can find all links, reviews, and the covers on the Lisa Mason website at http://www.lisamason.com
July 4, 468 moons ago, my next-door neighbors and I opened up the doors to our penthouse apartments in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco and had a Fourth of July blow-out bash. Hundreds of people showed up, wandered from my apartment to theirs, and had a great time. I shut my Siamese cat, Sita, in my bedroom, and posted a DO NOT ENTER sign. No one disturbed her.
On my coffee table I’d placed a book I was reading and was excited about—a bestselling book called The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav, who (it turned out) lived in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco at the time. The book is a lively presentation of quantum physics and has amusing illustrations.
At around midnight in walked a tall, lanky, red-headed guy who had traveled across town from North Beach at the invitation of one of my neighbors.
He was Tom Robinson, the illustrator of The Dancing Wu Li Masters! He and Gary knew each other. Later, he illustrated my novel, Summer of Love, which was first published by Bantam, and drew the cover for the Bast Books edition now in print.
Quantum magic in real life! We’ve been together ever since. We married on July 7 and had our first date on July 14. (That COULD have been the wave/particle effect, but the marriage was in a later year.) He’s my soul mate, the love of my life, my best friend, and partner in all our creative endeavors.
Have a Happy Fourth of July!
Nandita Banerjee has a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature. She taught English for ten years in Oxfordshire, England. She loves classical works from Milton, Oscar Wilde, and Charles Dickens as well as from contemporary writers like Deborah Harkness and Jhumpa Lahiri.
Mashi peeked in. “What is the matter, Hema? Why are you crying?”
I pointed to the open book on Hema's bed. “She sees ghosts.”
Hema’s mother hugged her. “Hema, beti, there is no such thing as ghosts. I told you.”
“Yet you believe in them yourself. I heard you tell the doctor that Baba’s spirit came for me, that my days were numbered.” Hema’s words were arrested by her dry, hacking cough.
“That was when you first told me," Mashi said. "Yes, there is a superstition that the dead return for their loved ones when it is…”
“Time for them to die.” I finished the sentence for her.
Mashi bit her lower lip so hard, it bled. “But Hema is still with us...” She wiped her mouth with her sari pallu. “Hema is safe. She won’t die.”
“I am not the same and you know it.” Hema scowled at the mirror opposite her bed. “Can’t you see? You should have seen Priya’s expression when she came in.”
Her mother looked away.
My eyes stung. If only I could disguise my feelings. “No, Hema, I was just sad that we didn’t get back sooner.” I swallowed and pulled out the dress from my basket and laid it on the bed. “Hema, I brought this for you.”
“I will not wear that dress. Priya, take it away.” She stared at herself in the mirror. “I look like Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, much worse than I looked after number five.”
“Five?” Her mother gasped.
I opened my mouth to explain, then stopped.
“I saw other ghosts after the first, Ma, and each time a new one arrived, I felt worse than before; I didn’t want to tell you because you would be upset.” Hema broke into a terrible cough that robbed her of her breath.
“She has seen six ghosts. Look in her book.”
Mashi peered into the book. Her restless hands fingered the pictures. When she spoke, her voice was tiny. “Why would they come to her? She is all I’ve got.”
“Don’t worry, Ma, they haven’t been able to take me. I was strong, but I don’t know about number seven.”
My stomach flipped. I swung around. “The number of completion?”
Hema nodded. “The last one.”
“That one will kill her,” my tongue spoke before I could stop it. “Do you think it will be Uncle Dev?”
Hema cast a furtive glance at her mother.
“He isn’t dead.” Mashi evaded my eyes.
“But it’s got to be someone, someone who is dead and is close to Hema.”
“Nonsense!” Mashi sprang up. “How can you be so sure?”
“Seven always completes a process,” my six-year-old tongue blurted out. “Miss Wilson said, and Hema is dying. Number seven will come and finish what number one began.” I flipped through the pages of creation in Hema’s book. “When God created the world, he finished it in seven days.”
Mashi swallowed. “Seven is also a happy number. God finished the world in seven days; that was an accomplishment. The rainbow is a beautiful reminder of God’s goodness. If a seventh spirit comes at all, it should cure Hema, not—”
Hema interrupted her. “Ma, Priya is right, they come for me alright, but they are nice. Not just Baba, Dada, but also Nana, Nani, Didu, Dadu.” Hema spoke so quietly, I had to strain my ears to listen. “Since I learned about my illness, every night… all those long and lonely nights… the spirits have watched me cry myself to sleep, and when I have struggled, they have taken turns to hold me in their arms. And when the golden pink hues of dawn have streaked the dark skies, their dull and glazed eyes have brightened as if with life; only I have felt tired, so tired, completely drained.” She exploded into a fit of viscous coughing that racked her tiny body.
Mashi gave her a throat lozenge and hugged her tight. “You should have told me about this long ago; I would never have allowed them to come near you.”
“Neither would I. Nasty creatures.” I squinted at the figures in Hema’s book. “They are sucking her life spirit out of her.”
The phone rang again. Mashi picked up, then whispered, “Your mother… go.”
I scampered off, mindful of the consequences for my nonconformity: pages of Bengali spellings to learn and worksheets to practice in Bengali grammar.
Sometimes a song
Touches my heart;
Strikes a chord
In a hidden niche-
The tremors spread,
I listen addicted
I cannot let go;-
It swamps my soul,
It drenches my brain-
My feelings drown,
All my cares too.
I call it perfect bliss.
The world fades;
My mind chills,
My senses awake,
My spirit takes flight...
In that blessed state
I begin to write.
Nandita Banerjee Composed August 17, 2019
Neesy Tompkins was born in San Antonio but left for Port Aransas as soon as she graduated from High School. She and her then-husband ran a shrimp boat for several years. Later, she was employed in the restaurant and bar industries where she met many colorful characters that are reflected in the stories she writes. It wasn’t until attending college, which was possible because of a Hurricane, that she was acknowledged as a writer by her winning of a National Essay Contest with her story entitled “The Gift.” She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications and a Minor in History in May 2017, which is utilized in her current self-employment as a social media manager and advertising agency for local Port Aransas businesses. Along with writing, photography of the Island she adores is a passion.
This is how I will remember you, Port Aransas. Before the oil storage tanks and before the dredging. Before the desalination plants and huge oil tankers.
I will remember the way you look at sunset, when the stars have just risen and the air hums with nightfall. Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men, even when those men are intent on destroying the beauty of this special place for the sake of the money that will line their pockets.
It is Christmas and the Harbor is filled with the sounds of Carolers from boats. Festive lights decorate masts and beams as slowly they glide through the marina, and if only for tonight peace fills the air with community. Tonight we stand together, intact, hot chocolate being served and the scent of peppermint from candies given freely by groups.
Silent night, holy night where dolphin roam freely in pristine, calm waters. I will remember this night for all that is held dear is about to change as the darkness of greed and current administration recklessly maintain the advancement of facilities destined to scar this special place and scrape away all the natural goodness.
But on this special night, people were joyous and the World was good and all was well as the boat parade Christmas lighting ceremony brought families and neighbors together to celebrate the Christmas season. Pray for Port Aransas.
Copyright Neesy Tompkins
Me and this old porch.
Last night I watched the fireworks from my old porch for the last time as FEMA retrieves their loaner at the end of this month.
I don’t own the land where this old porch sits, the land where my old cat Pepper is buried and where I have resided for over 19 years.
Many memories from this old porch.
I leave my old tomcat Pepper here in his grave but the porch will go with me. Pepper, never forgotten and always in my heart.
To freedom, fireworks, whiskey and making new memories.
Anybody have a chainsaw I can borrow?
It was like any other day, the day my father died. Oblivious to the crying and runny noses on the other end of the phone line, it seemed surreal, like the way talking sounds through the fog across a ship channel, muffled. With shaky voices, they talked of arrangements.
Voices repeated that he was really gone, as I tried to comprehend how I was supposed to act. And this huge sense of nothingness overcame me, like trying to stay adrift through a dark sea of bitterness and disappointment, blindly searching for an answer that is not there as I attempted to feel what they were feeling.
After the funeral, after the law books and business had been divided and before returning to the Island, my share of possessions resulted in a cardboard box filled with ships that my father had collected throughout his years, always on his credenza shelves in his law office collecting dust. Some metal, others bamboo, and even an oil painting in cobalt blues of a Spanish galleon tossed upon stormy seas.
The box went into the storage room of my old mobile home, in the place I stored things that I didn’t care to see. A junk room, cluttered with bird feathers and seashells, a rusty ironing board and old photographs of a life long ago known that had somehow changed so drastically to have tossed me here on this Island known as home for so long.
Home, such a strange word. How to define home? I was not born here but knew I belonged here. Here with the harsh Winters and a chill that reaches down the corridors of your heart, yet the ocean gave me comfort, like a warm blanket and a buffer between the world and me.
Until that day in August and a storm that drove in unsuspected, so only a few pair of clothing changes were taken as I loaded up for higher ground.
A week passed, holding my breath, stuck in a city with concrete and buildings that obliterated any chance of viewing a sunset. With an aching heart I returned, knowing that what was left might not be much after seeing video after video of first responders on social media, some of them close to my street but never my street exactly. Prepared for the worst, my feet trampled heavily through still wet and muddy ground, and a stench that was almost as unbearable as the mosquitos dive-bombed any flesh left uncovered.
My old mobile, what was left of it, lay on its side, white walls fallen like broken wings in the mud, weighted down by sewage and stinky mud. Everything was covered in a putrid brown color, the stench of rotting fish and seaweed halfway up the sides with wires exposed. Ironically, the kitchen shelves and dishes in the cupboards stood untouched, coffee mugs ready for a new morning and a new day. Searching through remnants for anything that might be salvaged, a few dead birds lay in awkward positions pointed the way on the saturated ground to where a book lay open. It was the only book found, Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, pages still damp, barely legible and opened to expose a line reading “Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid”. And I started to cry. One of those long moaning cries that comes with the pain of letting go, and giving in.
Born and raised in California, Tara has recently moved to Colorado to begin new adventures in life and living. Colorado has great photographic opportunities, and being a photographer, Tara seeks inspiration from new landscapes. Her work may be found at http://tcphotography241.zenfolio.com/
Moving. No Matter how prepared, it’s always a slog. These 2 guys are pretty darned efficient and though I feel Like the walking dead, I will survive.
Getting discharged today! Yay! No heart damage, heart is stable and not to worry about. And the cardiologist recommended one in Denver that he says is the best in the country. Good for me! I’ll be able to leave on Friday and head off to my new life. Thank you all for your love and support.
Spending the night. No diagnostic tests at all because it’s the weekend. Hopefully tomorrow morning, but really, this was all brought in by big stress. Speaking of which, I finally got moved to a quiet room after my roomie had about 8 family in visiting all day - including crying toddlers and fighting older siblings. It was a 3 ring circus! I asked nurse to kick them out and they told all but two to leave. They spent their time loudly discussing the carnage of Dorian with the tv news blasting. When children and their mothers returned to join them I said “That’s it!”
So....here I am in a quiet (for now) double room awaiting an elderly roommate who is known to them and is said to be quiet. Fingers crossed.
There is a beautiful sunset out the window. Going to try and rest.
The wheels in the hospital turn excruciatingly slowly. Finally got my insulin (hours late) and my sugars were 300! Many pokes with needles and IV lines, ekg leads and wires every where. Consultation with Cardiologist and discussed various diagnostic tests. But so far, hours later, no tests. Thanks to Rick Poulin Steve Wiseman for bringing a 10’ phone cable.
Will be spending the night. Sigh
Thanks everyone for ckg in.
So, I’m in Elko Nevada and my sister reminds me this is where my grandpa passed away, peacefully in his sleep, On a trip with my uncle. Didn’t remember. Odd. It’s a forsaken kind of place, where jobs are few and I wonder why in the world people come here. The landscape is bleak, to say the least. Were they coming west (the original settlers) to California and just ran out of steam? Tomorrow we’re heading into Utah in our way to a night in Wyoming. Lots of road behind and ahead.
Had a good dinner across the street at Old Chicago Pizza. Sounded scary, but they actually had lots of good choices and listed calorie counts on all items so I could make some better choices.?way too many televisions and noise, but we handled it. Back in the room chilling and watching some old Twighlight Zone episodes. Tomorrow we arrive at my destination: Longmont Colorado and my buddy Laurel Lewis’ house - home sweet home.
Don’t cry for me Argentina...a lovely meal on the deck with some of my favorite peeps.
Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove up Timberline Ridge to about 11,000 ft where it was cold and windy. Much milder temps down in the meadow. A beautiful day.
Tom Murphy is the People’s Poetry Festival-Corpus Christi committee chair. Murphy’s books & CDs: American History (Slough Press, 2017), co-edited Stone Renga(Tail Feather, 2017), chapbook,Horizon to Horizon (Strike Syndicate, 2015), CDs “Live from Del Mar College” (BOW Productions, 2015), and “Slams from the Pit” (BOW Productions, 2014). Murphy has also been named the 2020 Writer-In-Residence for the Langdon Review. Tom Murphy has been teaching at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi since 2001.
Gulf Sunrise — like mercury
leaving the larger glob with a waver
Blue Heron perched upon the dunes
Beak faces the spread of light
Across the warp and woof
That weaves wet sand
to dune undulations
Garbage bag and garden gloves
Kneel and squat
Root out washed up trash
plastic in any form
Like a pig snuffling for truffles
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
In this God forsaken Bible
Rust Belt, Margaret Screws
Lived 98 years before going
To the Lord on November 19th
2016 at Mount Carmel CC.
A dedicated nurse, who
Learned her asses and lube trade
In the same hospital, she was born,
St. Paul’s in Big D
As Margaret Ann Thurmon.
Moved to Kermit with her friend Janie
To nurse that West Texas big sky
At Robinson McClure Hospital
Where she gave a shot of penicillin
To her love, George Dewey “Pete” Screws.
Humble Margaret screws
Pete’s Fitz-Willie and pops
Out eight children before
Sun Oil Company shipped them
To San Isidro Sun Oil Field.
A school nurse, then a quick in ‘n out.
The Kingsville Record’s headline
“Margaret Screws Bishop
Now Screws in Premont.”
Nurse of Brock County, humble, butt-proud.
Oh, Saint Teresa of the Infant Flower Catholic church of
How do we know Margaret Screws?
The eight kids’ 19 grandchildren
Their 39 great grandchildren
and their 3 great great grandchildren.
Her boys weren’t all that proud or humble.
After childhood torment, teasing and torture
Two of the sons changed their name to Crews.
The five girls all married, thus taking their husbands’ name.
Except for David Screws in Stephenville.
Remember, when you’re pressing the button
While you’re lying in that hospital bed,
mainlining meds and saline solution,
plus, filling up that colostomy bag,
remember, “Oh nurse?” Margaret Screws.
copyright Tom Murphy
Dr. Bill Chriss is a trial and appellate lawyer who is also a historian, political scientist, religious scholar, and published author. He was nominated for the Rhodes Scholarship and holds graduate degrees in law, theology, history and politics, including a J.D. from Harvard and a Ph.D. in history from The University of Texas. Dr. Chriss has taught Political Philosophy, History, and Constitutional Law and has written several articles for scholarly journals. His first book, The Noble Lawyer, was published by Texas Bar Books in 2011, while his second book, Six Constitutions over Texas, is currently being edited for publication.
I can’t sleep. Sirens whine and pulses of light flash red on the walls of this dingy hotel. There are only ten channels on the television and no wifi, and I’m stuck another night. All the flights home had departed by the time those New York lawyers finished interrogating the witness. Their hourly rates are higher than mine; certainly their cost of living is, so I understand. It’s a long time since our firm, too, had more than enough work, a long time since the days when practicing law was an adventure and billings were mere bookkeepers’ annoyances. I remember trying ten or fifteen cases a year with files only two inches thick – comp cases, fender benders, divorces, DWIs, and occasionally the more complex civil case or white-collar crime.
But maybe more than the law practice has been transformed. Maybe I was different then, too. Maybe I’m just growing old, inexorable change befuddling my calcifying brain. Maybe everything was wrong. Maybe I just took the wrong path. Maybe I’ll never rest, never feel that I can go up to my house justified, never, like the prodigal son, come to myself and return where I belong. Maybe that place where I belonged is gone.
The rest of this story is in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology. BUY NOW.
Zoe Elise Ramos was born and raised in Corpus Christi. She studies chemistry and creative writing at Texas A&M-CC. She has been a poetry editor for the Windward Review since 2016. Her work has been featured in the Switchgrass Review, Sink Hollow, and the Sagebrush Review. She was also awarded a 1st place prize in the 2018 Scissortail undergraduate creative writing contest. Her latest work (in progress) is a multimedia zine which pays homage to social media culture and its impact on communication styles.
We are under the trellis of Nueva Vita, a garden that murmurs with heaves of impatiens. From somewhere, the scream of autos tears at the plum of gingersnaps. They coil and fold their leaves into boats. I hold your hand while leaning, watching passerines blowing kisses to one another. This is just as you like though we are not llamas gemelas; we are the stems of an allium shooting off in diverging directions, never to touch but always close, borne from the same fruits. We swell from the heat of that glowing suspension and the sun is singing. It singes your skin into milky champurrado. Liberated winds hold their shining ends as if a vessel. And hummingbirds bait and stick us as we turn to sap all over the tree scenery. An SUV bares its teeth across the way to remind us that we are machinery. You cup your hands into buds and hold them over these ears. Your words are soil to me with my ligaments of buzzing bees and veins rippling with honey. “Suelo bueno, tomar este corazón y comerlo.” The cherub fountains of flushed marble cry themselves onto the floor. Brown translucence melts into creases between planets, with our shoes dripping into softness, wasted pollen stolen on fingertips. Now, we no longer stand but float atop the white and scarred swing, still creaking back and forth like the hands on a clock. Usted toma estas flores picante como el suyo en su boca. I give you my roots and you give me your flowers.
copyright Zoe Ramos