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A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

4: Preparing

Brian Johnson had discovered where President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s top secret getaway in the Maryland mountains was hidden. It was one piece of the puzzle he needed to find before he could kill the president in the name of the Fuhrer.

He jogged back to his cabin in the OSS training camp to change before his training as an OSS agent began in another hidden camp in the mountains. When he arrived, he saw a pair of soldiers standing guard outside.

He stopped running and walked in circles to catch his breath. It gave him time to think.

Why were they there? They had never had guards outside the cabin before. Had someone gotten suspicious about him?

Brian approached the cabin entrance, but one of the guards held up a hand.

“You’ll have to wait out here for now,” the burly man said. Although the guards wore uniforms, no branch of service was identified, which meant they were OSS agents.

“Why? I need to get changed before my first class,” Brian said.

“The colonel is inside and ordered that no one can enter.”

The colonel? Colonel Smith was in charge of the camp. Brian kept the panic he felt under control. He had created a problem by acting outside of the norm with the run. It was a risk he had needed to take to get information. Now he needed to act within the norm and act as if nothing was wrong.

“I’ll get a shower then. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back inside then to get fresh clothes.”

The guard said nothing as Brian turned away and walked to the shower house. The small building had four shower stalls inside. Two of the stalls had other recruits from his cabin taking showers.

As Brian stripped out of his sweaty clothes, he said, “Did you see the guards outside of our cabin? They wouldn’t let me inside.”

“They sent us out, too,” a recruit called Jack said. No one in the camp used their real names as a security precaution. Brian’s fake name was Adam.

“Are they looking for something?”

“Who knows? They said it was an inspection, and we needed to leave.”


“What isn’t in this place?”

Brian stepped into the water stream. It was cold and quickly cooled his hot skin.

Jack was right. Most likely, it was just an odd way they did things in this camp, but Brian was a spy inside a camp that trained spies. He had to be very careful, or he would be captured. Even if they suspected him of something, they wouldn’t find evidence of it in his things or in the cabin. The only personal things he had here were what he had been wearing when he arrived from Miami University in the truck.

He finished showering and redressed except for his sweaty shirt. He walked back to the cabin and saw the guards were gone. When he went inside, everything looked normal. Jack was making his bunk.

“See? They’re gone. No problem,” he said.

“They had you leave without making your bunk?” Brian asked.

“Yea, but I’m not going to risk that now.”

Brian nodded, but said nothing. If the colonel had been inspecting the cabin, an unmade bunk would have warranted some sort of demerit, but apparently not. That made it doubtful that the colonel’s visit had been an inspection.

Brian looked around. What had changed then? Had anything? Why had the colonel been here?

Brian wondered if the room had been bugged. Were spies spying on the spies to see if any of them disobeyed orders while in the cabin?

This was a world of suspicion and deception Brian found himself in.

Their morning instruction that day was in the art of safecracking from someone named Capt. Peters. Peters was a small man with thinning hair and a scar across his neck. He grinned every time someone called him captain, which made Brian doubted that he was actually military. He knew his work, though. He showed the recruits the insides of combination locks so they could understand how they worked. Then he showed his group different ways of opening those locks, from feeling for the tumblers to fall into place while turning the lock dial to drilling through the tumblers to blowing up the safe door without destroying the contents.

Brian was so fascinated by what he was learning, he forgot about planning for his own mission for a while.

During lunch in the mess hall, Brian wondered whether he could break into the colonel’s office. It would have maps and information that would make Brian’s planning easier. However, the cabin had two rooms; one was the colonel’s office, and the other was his aide’s. Besides being their offices, they also slept in the rooms. Although Brian believed he could break into the office, it would be too dangerous to try to enter. Too many people were around during the day who might see him and the colonel and his aide were there during the night.

The afternoon training session was on the “trainazium.” Brian had seen nothing like it before, except for perhaps in a circus. He reported to a clearing with other recruits and saw six telephone-pole-size logs were set into the ground and connected by smaller poles 18 feet above the ground. They were criss-crossed with ropes, nets and cables going every direction.

“This monstrosity is an obstacle course,” Lieutenant Price told them. “Your work in the OSS will challenge you physically, not only in strength, but in dexterity. This course will help you learn to deal with those challenges.”

The recruits then spent the next few hours swinging, running, and climbing along the poles and ropes as if they were monkeys making their way through the jungle. Brian was so exhausted at the end, he could barely open his hand so that it was flat.

After dinner, when Brian was supposed to be going to the latrine, he wandered off toward where he knew the fence to Shangri-La was. He stayed in the shadows as he approached the fence. He spotted Marines on the other side and was satisfied that was where the president would be when he visited.

He also realized he knew how he could get a weapon, and as far as getting through the fence, he didn’t need to get through it. The OSS had been teaching him to think of solutions to problems that were unusual. Yesterday, he had learned to create a knife from a newspaper. Now he could put that newspaper knife to use. As for the fence, he would go under it.

Once he did that, though, it would set things in motion, and he would be committed to his mission. He would have to move fast to make things happen in his favor. He would try to survive, but that was not his mission. He had to focus on killing President Roosevelt, even if it was the last thing he did.

Lisa C Cantwell

In the nearby hamlet of Utica, Maryland, resides a gentleman and a farmer. He’s a seemingly unassuming sort of fellow, who not only gardens and cans the bounty, but also raises 40 prize Boer goats, along with a bevy of peacocks, chickens, and pheasants. In addition to his homeplace, he manages his late wife’s family’s 500-acre historic property, known as “Green Spring Farm,” near Thurmont. Dr. Raymond “Ray” Ediger is not only an animal lover, farmer, and gardener, but he is also a retired veterinarian,  cum author/artist, who has led an exceptional life.

This active 87-year-old insists, “I’m not retired!” In fact, he canned 48 quarts of peaches last year and plans to continue art classes at FCC this September. And there’s more to come on the horizon. You won’t find Dr. Ediger rocking his senior years away on the front porch.

He is, perhaps, best known locally (and statewide) within the 4-H and FFA communities for his work with youth over the years, involving dairy, beef, swine, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, and poultry projects. Some locals may recall seeing him at the Eyler Stables’ weekly Horse Auction, where he served on assignment with the MD Department of Agriculture as a veterinarian to the several thousand horses that were sold there, annually.

Dr. Ediger has a long, remarkable list of achievements, including national awards within the fields of veterinary science, medical research, agricultural excellence, soil conservation, and cattle-breed development. (In fact, elsewhere in this issue of the Banner, is an article about his most recent award.) 

But his latest endeavor may project an even greater legacy: a book of some 102 personal stories about the funny, sad, and often miraculous interactions between humans and animals. At his daughter, Lynnelle’s, urging, he has written, illustrated, and published Living, Loving, and Laughing with Animals, The Adventures of a Country Veterinarian

Dr. Ediger described how the idea for the book came to mind, “I have a daughter who loved stories when she was little. I read the usual famous children’s storybooks to her, and she was smart enough that she got to the point where she would tell me, ‘Dad, you left something out!’ So, I began to make up the stories, often using animals to get a point across and to help her with life lessons.” 

Many years later, his daughter recalled those stories and said, “Dad, why don’t you write them up.” Dr. Ediger said that, at first, there was no intention of writing a book, per se, but since he had already jotted down many of the stories, he gave in, “It just seemed like it would be a lot of fun!”

Many of the tales are experiences from his 62-year career as a veterinarian. On this subject, he quipped, “Animals are most certainly interesting, and then there are those humans!” Stories from his early childhood and teenage years in his home state of Oregon are included. Still, other chapters are intimate family portraits, involving relatives, his daughter, grandchild, and of course, his beloved late wife, Louise.

Here is a sample of one of the funnier stories, entitled “Attack Turkey,” excerpted from the book, (with permission of the author):

“Deane [a friend from Sabillasville] worked at the neighboring fish farm where they raised goldfish and koi. Often ducks and geese nested on the banks of the ponds. On one occasion, Deane found a nest of duck eggs. In the nest was one egg that was much larger and speckled. He brought the eggs to me, suggesting since I had an incubator, I could try to hatch them. We set the eggs. After about four weeks, we had a batch of ducklings, and the odd egg hatched, too. It was a turkey. We named the ducklings Donald, Louie, Dewey, and Huey. 

Honestly, the turkey was an oddity.  It is a well-known fact that birds imprint at first sight. Since it was my wife and me, it thought we were its parents. That appeared to be the case with the turkey; however, it was not with the ducklings. Since they were wild mallards, they flew away as soon as they reached maturity, leaving the turkey all alone. Our little turkey was a friendly bird and steadily grew into a beautiful brown tom turkey. He became a yard ornament and greeted visitors. As time went on, he started to strut around the chrome bumper of any car that pulled up our driveway.  It was novel. At first, we took pleasure in watching him. He would sidle up to the bumper, see his reflection and think another bird looked just like him, and he would put on a strutting display. He would go back and forth, holding his breath until his face would turn blue, then letting out a large gobble. He met every car in the driveway, never missing the opportunity to put on his grand display. His knobby, purple head caused many farm visitors to roll their car window down and ask if he would bite before they got out of the car. If it were a peddler we didn’t want to see, we would say, Yes!”

One day, I noticed he was sitting along the road. As every car went by, he would chase it for a short distance.  I guess he thought there was a turkey in every bumper. The locals became aware that he would chase cars, so they started playing games with him. He would sit along the road, waiting for a vehicle to come along. He would crouch in readiness. If the car slowed down, he would take off running after it. If the driver put the vehicle in reverse, he would have to change directions—poor turkey. Not only was he hilarious to watch as he chased the cars, but he was also even more hilarious to see trying to change directions! He looked like a wobbly teacup over a saucer. 

I was afraid he would eventually get hurt. So when I heard of an individual looking for a male breeding turkey, it seemed like the perfect solution if it wasn’t close to the road.  After we let him go to his new home, we missed his antics. Whoever heard of a turkey who chased cars?”

For more delightful stories from Dr. Ediger, consider reading Living, Loving and Laughing with Animals, The Adventures of a Country Veterinarian.

At a cost of $30.00 for each book, or $25.00 for two or more, advance orders of Dr. Ediger’s book may be placed by emailing [email protected].

Dr. Ray Ediger has published a book of stories that span his years as an animal lover and veterinarian. The author is also an artist and illustrated the cover.

Photo by Lisa C Cantwell

Dr. Ray Ediger, retired veterinarian, with his prize Boer goats and his beloved Boer buck at his Utica farm.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

3: Planning

A hand shook Brian Johnson’s shoulder, and he opened his eyes. The first thing he realized was that it was still night. The second thing he realized was that Lt. Harcourt was standing beside him.

“You have five minutes to get ready and be out front,” the lieutenant said. “Don’t turn on the lights or wake the others.”

Brian rolled out of his bunk in the OSS training camp and scrambled to get his clothes on in the dark. No one else was moving. He was the only recruit in this building being ordered to get dressed and report outside.

Had someone discovered Brian was a German spy? If so, they might be preparing to interrogate him.

He didn’t have any weapons on him he could use to defend himself. Ironically, he would have to use the skills he was being taught as a U.S. spy and guerilla fighter to escape from this camp if need be.

Lt. Harcourt glanced at his watch when Brian came out of the building. “You now have 10 minutes to get to the spook house. You’ll have to run to make it in time. Go.”

Brian took a second to absorb the unexpected order and orient himself to where the building called the spook house was located. He took off running in the dark and quickly realized he couldn’t run at full speed or he was likely to trip. What little moonlight was out was being obscured by the trees around the camp. He jogged in the right direction, trying to remember where the trails were so he wouldn’t chance tripping on a stone or root.

He cut it close, but he made it on time. He stopped in front of a soldier standing at the door.

“Recruit Adam,” Brian said, using the name the OSS had given him when he had first been brought here. “I was told to report.”

The soldier said nothing. He knocked on the door. When a voice inside said, “Enter,” he opened the door and waved Brian inside.

Brian walked into a dimly lit room. A captain sitting at a desk said, “Recruit, inside this building, you will find Nazi soldiers hiding.” Nazis. Real Nazis? It couldn’t be. “Your job is to eliminate them before they eliminate you.” The captain laid a .45 pistol and two clips of bullets on the desk. “This is what you’ll use.”

Brian picked up the pistol. He loaded one clip and put the other one in his pocket. This had to be a test of some kind.

“Recruit, there may be others in there, as well, be careful to not shoot any innocents,” the captain said.

The captain motioned to the door behind him. Brian walked over, took a deep breath, and entered the room.

The hallway he found himself in was dark except for a dim light showing at the end about 15 feet away. He started forward, only to realize the floor wobbled beneath him. He balanced himself and moved forward more cautiously so as not to twist an ankle.

He held his pistol at the ready, unsure of what to expect. He paused at the end of the hallway and swung around the corner. He saw a small empty room with a single light on. A paper target made of the photograph of a German soldier popped up from the ground. Brian fired twice as he had been taught. The target didn’t move, but he saw the bullet holes in it.

He moved from room to room, checking doors, and treading carefully in case a trap door opened beneath his feet. As the targets popped up or swung out from the walls, he fired at them.

In the last room, he saw a dummy dressed as a German soldier, sitting in a chair and holding a lighted cigarette in his hand. Brian fired twice and went out the door behind the soldier.

He was back in the original room.

“Very good, Recruit Adam.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The pistol was still in Brian’s waistband. He had been hoping to find a weapon to use to kill President Roosevelt when he visited the area. This might be it.

Then the officer said, “Leave your weapon here and return to your bunk.”

Brian hid his dismay. He removed his pistol, ejected the clip, and set both the clip and pistol on the desk.

“By the way, if you hadn’t shot the dummy at the end, you would have failed this test no matter how well you did throughout the rest the spook house,” the officer said. “You must be willing to kill or you will be killed.”

Brian had nothing to say to that. He was quite aware of the need. It had already been taught to him.

“Don’t say anything to anyone else about what, happened here this evening. You’re dismissed.”

Brian headed back to his bunk, climbed under the wool blanket, and quickly fell asleep.

He dreamed of how he could execute his plan. Not having a weapon was his first concern. Weapons were kept in the armory and accounted for when not in use. If he couldn’t find a firearm or an explosive, he would need to get close to the president to stab him.

Brian would have to find the presidential retreat and get into the area. He knew from Col. Smith’s phone call that it had to be away from the spook house but close enough to the firing range for the shots to be heard. Brian would start searching near there. He would need to sneak away from his other recruits, perhaps making detours on the way to use the latrine.

Once he had answered both questions, he would go hunting.

The next morning before breakfast, Brian decided to take a run. It was unusual given the extent of the physical training they were undergoing, but it wasn’t something that was disallowed. Also, it gave him a chance to be alone.

He checked his watch to figure out when he needed to be back so as not to create unreasonable suspicion. He started jogging through the camp along the established roads and trails. Between the camp buildings and the camp entrance when he was out of sight of everyone, he veered off and started searching for a fence line. Even if the training camp didn’t have one, he was sure the presidential property would.

He found it about ten minutes later. It was a long section of wire fencing. He stopped running and approached it. He listened for any humming and heard nothing. So he darted his finger out to touch one of the strands of wire. It wasn’t electrified. He didn’t think it would be, but he had to be sure.

He ran along the edge of the fence trying to find some sign of the president’s home of the other side. He heard voices and stopped. He squatted down and watched for movement. He saw Marines walking along a path, patrolling the property on the other side.

This had to be the president’s property. Brian would need to add shears or a hatchet to his list of needs. He had to find a way to cut through the fence, but he wanted to make sure he knew where he was going on the other side.

He was running out of time.

by Rebecca Adelyn Rutherford

The pitch-black sky,

The gleam in your eyes,

The mooing cows

And the screams from the rides

All combine on a summer’s night

At the County Fair.

The light shining on my turquoise

The mildness of your voice

Singing through the crisp air,

A summer’s night at the County Fair.

The indigo clouds

And the one lone star

Hang above a soft, subtle breeze.

Laughter and screams

Piercing the air, once again

A summer’s night

At the County Fair.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

2: Arrival

Navy seaman Brian Johnson and the nine other sailors looked around at where the army truck had dropped them off apparently in the middle of nowhere. They were in the woods standing in front of what looked to be a log cabin a long way away from a place one would expect to find a sailor. This was like no other military camp Brian had ever seen. Then again, since this group of sailors had been dressed in Army fatigues, nothing was as it appeared.

That was certainly true for Brian, too.

“Fall in!” Lt. Harcourt ordered.

The 10 sailors formed a line in front of the lieutenant, facing the cabin. The lieutenant then walked down the line and handed each sailor a pin with a name on it. The one he handed Brian read, “Adam.”

“Pin them on your shirts. That is how you will be known from now on,” the lieutenant said. “Do not share personal information, including your real names, with anyone here, even the officers.”

A tall, broad-shouldered man walked out the door and stood on the front porch staring at the men. He wore no insignia on his own fatigues. He didn’t need to. It was obvious he was in command. It showed in the way he carried himself.

“Attention!” Lt. Harcourt said.

The sailors straightened up.

“Welcome to what we call, Camp B,” the commander said. “My name is Colonel Smith. It is not my real name. It may not even by my real rank. No one here is to know your real names. The names you have been given will be how you are known. Learn them. Remember them. Respond to them. This is for your safety and the safety of your fellow recruits. What you don’t know, you can’t tell the enemy. As for any rank you may have had before you came here, it no longer exists. I am your commander and you are my recruits and will be referred to as such.

“You men have all volunteered to become members of the Office of Strategic Services. We have been tasked with intelligence gathering, resistance training, and sabotage of our nation’s enemies.”

Brian nearly chuckled. It took all he could do to keep from smiling. What were the chances that one spy agency would recruit a spy from another agency?

“The things you will learn here will prepare you to operate behind enemy lines. Some things you will be familiar with from your basic training, but other skills are outside of the purview of the military, which is why we operate in conjunction with but not as part of the military.

“The work will be grueling and challenging, both physically and mentally. If you succeed in your training, you be part of your nation’s secret weapon.

“The lieutenant will show you the grounds and your quarters. Acclimate yourself to where everything is today. Tomorrow morning your training begins.”

He saluted. The men returned the salute. Then, Col. Smith turned and walked back into what Brian assumed was his office and quarters.

This was an opportunity for Brian to serve the Fatherland, but only if he could find a way to relay what he learned to his superiors. That seemed very unlikely at the moment. He did not even know where he was, let alone how he would contact anyone.

The lieutenant marched the men over to the quartermaster building where they were issued clothes and hygiene items. They were then taken to a larger building that 12 bunks inside along the walls.

Each man took a bunk and laid the pile of items the quartermaster had issued them on the mattress.

Lt. Harcourt then walked them around the camp and pointed out various buildings; the mess hall, the latrine, the classroom, armory, and a few others. One building off by itself was called he called “the spook house,” although he didn’t elaborate on what it was. Another area was a training area made of telephone poles with cables and nets strung between them.

Brian didn’t notice any fences, but that could have that Harcourt didn’t take them near the edges of the camp. He did see patrols of soldiers walking around, and he wondered how many men were stationed at this camp.

Just how many spies and guerrillas was the United States training?

Brian knew one thing, though, they were going to tell their secrets to one German spy.

The next morning he began his training along with the other recruits. He was given a sledgehammer and sent to break up a pile of small boulders into gravel. He didn’t see the point of it. He wanted to object that it was a waste of time, but he went to work on the pile. He wasn’t the only one working at it. There were multiple piles of boulders that they pounded with their sledgehammers.

The recruits tried to talk to each other, but the work was grueling. He soon had his shirt off as it was soaked in sweat. Brian felt like he was a convict on a chain gang.

Other than taking breaks for meals and water that was all he did for the first day. He was in fit condition, but the next day his shoulders and back ached, and he had blisters on his hands.

“Do you all hurt this morning?” Lt. Harcourt asked when he saw them in the morning.

When the recruits in Brian’s group admitted they were sore, the captain said, “Get used to it. The rocks were just to show you how monotonous the work you can do might be. It requires patience and focus… and preparedness. If someone had attacked you while you were doing the work yesterday, how do you think you would have fared?”

Brian had to admit that he doubted he could have fought anyone off, especially near the end of the day.

“My job is to help you survive whatever may come your way. You will learn unorthodox fighting as well as code breaking, safecracking, and explosives. We will train both your body and mind, and both will be better for it at the end your time here.”

Their next work was on the firing range where their instructor showed them a variety of weapons from standard military handguns and rifles to machine guns and derringers. The derringer was small, but it was easily concealed and could be useful in close combat fighting. It was not a soldier’s weapon.

Brian kept looking for chances to get away from his group and explore the camp, but they were hard to come by. At lunch, he excused himself to use the latrine.

He was walking by the commandant’s building when he heard someone talking inside. He paused near the open window trying to look nonchalant. He looked around to make sure no one was near and moved closer to the building.

“Yes, sir, I’ll see that it’s done,” one man said.

“How much rearranging of the schedule will it require?” the commandant asked.

There was a pause. “Some. We’ll just close the firing range and explosives area for a few days, although I think we can still use the spook house. It’s indoors and on the other side of the camp from the President’s compound.”

President? Was he talking about President Roosevelt? What President’s compound? They weren’t anywhere near Washington. At least he didn’t think so. Washington wasn’t so forested.

“That is acceptable.”

“Once he leaves on Sunday, we will just concentrate on the training we had to postpone while he was here.”

“Good. President Roosevelt comes to the mountain to rest and get away from the politicians in Washington. He doesn’t need to hear a lot of gunfire and explosions,” Col. Smith said.

“Yes, sir.”

Brian stepped away from the building and hurried on. He had heard enough. He knew that President Roosevelt was coming to stay somewhere near enough that gunfire would disturb him. He also knew the President would be here soon and staying until Sunday. That gave Brian a small window of opportunity.

He knew what he can do to further the cause. Kill Roosevelt.

by Rebecca King

Velvet feather strands
sliding in between
two cupped hands like sifted sand
she’s filled, full, doesn’t reminisce

This queen…

White like an angel’s heart
living in a promised land
her knees drop to heavens harp
weeping that she’ll never stand

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

1: Recruitment

Seaman Brian Johnson hurried across the campus of Miami University to a meeting in Hall Auditorium. This was a change in his routine of learning to operate and repair radios for the U.S. Navy. Change could be a good thing. It meant something was happening.

He followed the group of other Navy seamen through the triple-arched entry into the stately brick building in front of them. It was primarily a music hall, but the Navy used it when they had large meetings of all the sailors attending radio school at the university.

He took a seat and waited patiently. Once the room was full, a lieutenant he didn’t recognize walked out on the stage. The room fell silent.

“I am Lt. Harcourt,” the lieutenant announced. “I need a show of hands of anyone in this room who can speak a foreign language. It doesn’t matter what language that may be.”

Hands went up. Not a large number of them, but more than a couple dozen out of the two hundred or so seamen in the auditorium. Brian hesitated a moment and then raised his hand.

“Everyone with their hands up, follow Ens. Greene.” Lt. Harcourt motioned to the tall officer standing off to the side of the stage.

About four dozen young men stood up and started shuffling to the ends of the rows and then up onto the stage, where they formed a line. The ensign led them behind the stage and out a back door. They entered another building, where they stood in a line as Ens. Greene pointed one after another into one of three classrooms.

Brian guessed each sailor was being interviewed about something to do with knowing another language, but each interview seemed to be going relatively quickly.

When Ens. Greene pointed Brian into a classroom, he entered and saw another lieutenant. He stepped in front of the man and saluted.

“At ease, sailor.” Brian relaxed, but remained standing. “What language other than English do you speak?”

“German, sir,” Brian replied.

“How well?”

“Very. My parents immigrated here after the Great War, sir.”

The lieutenant stared at him a few moments and then asked, “Would you like to try something different, sailor?”

“Different, sir?”

“Would you like to become a paratrooper?”

Brian’s eyes widened. “I’m in the Navy, sir. We don’t have paratroopers. We’re… swimmers.”

The lieutenant exhaled in what might have been a stifled chuckle. “Well, this is something different. It’s a special training course. Are you interested?”

Brian was right. This change did seem to be leading to something useful. “Yes, sir.”

“What’s your name?”

“Seaman Brian Johnson.”

“Go back to your room and pack your bag. Report back here in two hours. You’ll see a bus out front of the auditorium. Give the officer who will be there your name and get on the bus.”

Things were changing quickly. Brian wondered what was happening.

“Yes, sir. May I ask where I am going, sir?”

“All I can tell you right now is that you will be going on special assignment, and you will be in the states until your training is complete. You’re dismissed.”

Brian saluted. “Yes, sir.”

He spun around and walked back out into the hallway with a confused look on his face. There were about a dozen sailors still waiting to be interviewed. He wondered how many of them would be joining him on the bus in a couple hours.

Had any of them been told any more than he had?

He walked back to the dorm room he shared with another sailor named Jack Witherspoon. Brian hadn’t noticed Jack raise his hand that he spoke another language, so Brian guessed his roommate would be remaining behind to continue studying radios.

Miami University and many colleges and universities had lost a lot of their students when they started being drafted or joining the armed forces to fight in the war. Some of the schools were lucky enough to make up some of the lost tuition by helping train soldiers, sailors, and marines in some of the academic studies they might need.

Brian stuffed his seabag with his clothes and toiletries. He didn’t have much, so it didn’t take long.

He ran down to the cafeteria to grab three sandwiches and a pair of apples. He ate one of the sandwiches in his room, but he packed the other stuff. He wasn’t sure when he would have the chance to eat again, and he appreciated not having to eat Navy chow while he was there.

He sat down at the desk and wrote out a short note, carefully considering the words he used. Then he lifted the bottom of the left curtain on his window and draped it over the curtain rod.

He clipped his seabag shut, slung it over his shoulder, and headed out of the dorm.

As he exited the building, he stepped over the side and squatted down to tighten up the laces on his boots. He quickly scanned the area around him and then quickly shoved the note he had written underneath a flat stone next to the sidewalk.

He stood up, shouldered his bag, and then headed for the bus.

He wasn’t sure what good it would do, but he needed to keep his superiors informed.

A shore patrolman was standing at the bus when Brian arrived. He hesitated for a moment, but he knew no one knew about him. He approached the man.

“I was told to report here for a special assignment,” Brian said.

The patrolman nodded and pointed to the auditorium. “You’ll need to leave your bag in there.”

“What? This is all my gear.”

The shore patrolman shrugged. “Orders. No one but sailors in brown get on this bus and only them. No gear.”

Brian sighed. This was getting weird. He walked into the auditorium and saw seven other sailors milling around.

Lt. Harcourt walked over, so they snapped to attention and saluted.

“At ease, gentlemen. Before we leave for your special assignment, we have to get you ready.” He waved at three ensigns who walked over. “These men will help you. You will change into khaki uniforms and then pack everything, including your current uniforms in your seabags, which will be sent home.”

“Sir?” one seaman asked.

“Yes, sailor?”

“Does that include our wallets?”

“Are wallets part of everything?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then what do you think?” The sailor blushed but said nothing. “These ensigns will help you get ready. I repeat, everything will go into your seabags. The only things getting on that bus are you and the clothing we give you. Now get ready.”

The ensigns each grabbed a group of sailors and headed off to a classroom. Brian walked with three other sailors into a classroom.

“Strip down and tell me your sizes,” the ensign said.

The sailors did so, and the ensign left the room. He returned with uniforms, underwear, socks, and shoes.

“These are khaki,” one sailor said.

“Yes, they are.”

“We’re Navy, not Army.”

“You’re not anything now.”

Brian saw what the ensign meant. There was no insignia on the uniform to identify the branch of the military.

What was going on?

His superiors would want to know about it, so he would need to find a way to contact them at some point, but for now, he had to discover what was happening.

He changed into the non-descript uniform, put his remaining clothes in his seabag, and then walked back out to where Lt. Harcourt was waiting. When all the sailors were changed, Harcourt led them onto the bus. Brian noticed curtains covered all the windows and blocked off the front of the bus from the passenger area. They wouldn’t be able to see where they were going.

As the bus drove, Harcourt stood in the aisle and spoke to them. “I know you have questions. They will eventually be answered, but not here and not now. This journey to your training camp will happen in stages and take most of a day. I won’t tell you not to talk amongst yourselves, but don’t voice your questions or speculation about this assignment. Also, I don’t know if any of you know each other, but from now on, you are strangers. Don’t exchange names or any personal information. None of that will matter where we’re going.”

The sailors looked at each other, but didn’t say anything. Brian wasn’t sure how long they drove because he no longer had a watch. When the bus finally stopped, the sailors exited and found themselves at a rail siding. A train waited for them, and they boarded it. They were assigned rooms and went in to go to sleep. A steward came by with a trolley cart and handed each of them a bagged meal. He also filled a cup with hot coffee for them.

Brian tried to watch where they were going through the window of his room, but the train didn’t slow for any station. He knew they were generally traveling east by the way the sun set, so he assumed they were moving across West Virginia and Pennsylvania, but he couldn’t be sure.

He also had no way to contact his superiors. He knew a number he could call, but with as strict as the Navy was being about this assignment, Brian doubted he would have the opportunity to use a telephone or send a telegram. He was going to have to play things by ear until he could get back in contact.

The train finally stopped about what seemed like a day at a small station that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. The sign on the station read Lantz, but that meant nothing to him. He didn’t know what state he was in or even what rail line they had traveled.

The sailors were hustled from the train into the back of an Army truck with a canvas covering. Not surprisingly, when they were all in the back with Lt. Harcourt, he pulled the canvas down so they couldn’t tell where they were going. All Brian knew was that the road was bumpy.

“It won’t be long now,” was all Harcourt told them.

The truck stopped once, and Brian heard the driver speaking with someone. After a short time, it moved forward once more. When it stopped again, the driver turned the engine off.

Harcourt threw open the back canvas, turned to the men and said, “Welcome to the Office of Strategic Services. You are about to become America’s secret weapon in this war.

by Rebecca Adelyn Rutherford

The skies were gray

And full of rain


As I drove down the highway,

I looked at both sides

Of the road

All along the way.

While the showers poured over

Each and every thing,

I saw the wet wild flowers

And how their beauty overcame

The rain.

They were not beaten down,

But stood tall and elegant,

Their roots still firmly planted in the ground.

The white lacy clusters of the

Queen Ann’s Lace,

A lovely thing to behold,

Brought a smile to my face,

As I shivered from the cold.

I will never forget today.

I started my journey with a hopeless soul

And found great solace in the wet, muted colors

That dripped around my heart

And made it feel whole.

submitted by E. A. Eyler

My wife doesn’t like me to drink

She cares about what others think

    When our pastor comes over

    I must appear sober

So I hide my bottle under the sink.

While driving one day to Graceham

My car into a deer did slam

   The deer walked away

   But sorry to say

The body shop is now richer than I am.

I was an ugly baby

That set my life’s course, well maybe

   But sad to say

   I’m still that way

Still ugly but not a baby.

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

7: The Love of Your Life

Jessica Weikert walked up next to Thomas Hamilton, who was standing in front of the Loys Station Covered Bridge staring at it.

“Who are you talking to?” she asked.

“I wish I knew.”

Thomas had met the old man on the bridge twice. The first time, Thomas had crossed the bridge at the old man’s suggestion months ago and wound up in the 1950s. This time, the man had said he could come back to 2023 if he crossed the bridge again.

It couldn’t be that simple. Thomas had crossed the bridge at least a hundred times over the past two months, and he was still in 1951. Something more was involved with getting home than simply walking across a historic covered bridge in Frederick County.

The problem was Thomas believed the old man. Fog covered the other side of Owens Creek while this side was bright and sunny, just as it had been when Thomas crossed to 1951. If he crossed now, Thomas could cross the bridge and be back in his house in a few minutes.

However, with Jessica standing at his side, he knew he couldn’t do it. It didn’t matter that she was engaged to marry George Kirkpatrick, the son of a store owner in Thurmont. Thomas didn’t want to leave her.

Jessica walked up to the bridge to get a better look at the man.

“You look familiar,” she said.

“And you are as beautiful as ever,” the man replied.

“Do I know you?”

The man smirked. Then he turned and walked back to the other side of the bridge. He faded into the fog until Jessica couldn’t see him.

She turned to Thomas. “What was that all about?”

Thomas scratched his head. “I am not really sure.” He paused. “Jessica, do you want to marry George? Do you love him?”

Jessica said nothing. She just frowned. “He’s a good man and will make a good husband.”

That hadn’t answered either of Thomas’ questions. “Do you want to marry him? Do you love him?”

“No,” she said forcefully, as if she was being made to admit something she didn’t want to.

Thomas closed his eyes and sighed.

“Then why are you going to do it?” he asked.

They sat down there next to the road and talked for the next two hours. It got tense at times, but they had a deeply personal conversation. Thomas probed for why she was going to marry George, but only came up with that she wanted to please her father. Thomas also suspected it might be that she didn’t see another option. She wasn’t going to inherit the farm. John Weikert would leave that to his son, not his oldest daughter, who had proven herself capable at running it.         Thomas told Jessica about Paula, and how she had hurt him by breaking up with him using a text message, which led to a side conversation about what smartphones and text messages were. It also led to Thomas telling Jessica about Loys Station Covered Bridge and the first time he met the old man.

“That doesn’t make sense,” she said when he finished telling the story.

He nodded. “I didn’t say it did, but it’s what happened.”

“You mean, if I walk across that bridge, I’ll be 70 years in the future?”

“It doesn’t work all the time. Believe me, I tried. All I know, is that it seems to have something to do with the bridge, the fog, and the old man.”

“And you.”


“Well, you’re the only person this has happened to, right?”

Thomas drew back, caught off guard. “I don’t know.”

“So why didn’t you go back if you had the chance?”

Thomas looked down at the ground. Then he reached over and took her hand. When he looked up he said, “Because home is where you are.”

They married in 1952. John Weikert wasn’t pleased that his daughter chose a farm hand over a successful merchant, but he understood being in love, and he respected Thomas.

Jessica and Thomas married on Loys Station Covered Bridge on a sunny day without a fog bank in sight. No one understood why they wanted to marry on the bridge rather than a church. They knew why, and that was enough.

Over the decades, they had five children, three boys and two girls. Thomas stopped visiting the bridge as his work and family duties took over. He wasn’t sure why he had even continued visiting the bridge after he married. Did he want to see the old man again and thank him? He certainly wasn’t thinking about going across the bridge. He was hesitant to cross it, in even the best weather. He didn’t want to chance losing his family.

At some point, Thomas realized his life was overlapping when he saw his parents walking along Main Street in Thurmont one afternoon, holding the hands of a toddler. He recognized his parents from pictures he had seen of them when they were younger. It took him a moment longer to register that the toddler was him.

Thomas stared at the little boy with the curly brown hair and wondered if he should introduce himself. He decided against it. Not only would his parents think him crazy, but revealing himself might change his future (or past; he wasn’t sure how that worked). He only knew that he loved his life and didn’t want to risk changing it.

The doctors diagnosed Jessica with breast cancer in 2018. She fought it as best she could, but in the end, whether it was the drugs or the disease, she seemed to wither away right before him.

As he sat beside her bed, clutching her hand in his, she whispered, “It’s not over, Thomas. It’s just beginning.”

He wanted to believe her. He wanted to share her faith in an afterlife, but staring at her on the bed, he just couldn’t.

“You don’t see it, do you?” she asked.

“See what?”

She smiled. “Sometimes you can be so blind, but I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“I know, and we will continue loving each other.” She coughed. It was a raspy sound. She lifted a frail hand and pointed to the water pitcher.

Thomas grabbed the pitcher and filled the glass. When he brought it to his wife, her eyes were closed.

“Here’s your water, Jessica.”

She didn’t stir. He stroked her cheek and then felt at her neck for a pulse. There wasn’t one.

His children told him that the funeral had been large because so many people wanted to say goodbye to their mother. Thomas had barely noticed. He had stared at the casket and felt the growing emptiness inside him.

The children did what they could to help him, and they did, but not in the ways they thought. He could see his Jessica in all their faces, and if it didn’t make him forget that she was gone, it brought him comfort that she was still around in some way.

It took months, but eventually, he started coming out of his grief. He would remember Jessica and then put that memory in a box in his mind. It was something he would be able to look back on, but it wouldn’t be ever present.

He was watching the Weather Channel one morning when he noticed the date: February 4, 2023. That date nagged at him. He knew it wasn’t one of the children’s or grandchildren’s birthdays. It definitely wasn’t his anniversary. He had never once forgotten that day.

His eyes widened. He hurried to his truck. His kids had been asking him to stop driving, but he wasn’t ready to give it up yet.

He drove out to the Loys Station Bridge Park. He climbed out of his car and walked to the bridge. Then he saw himself running down Old Frederick Road.

It’s not over, Thomas. It’s just beginning.

He walked up to himself, who was staring through the bridge at the clear skies beyond. Thomas was tempted to walk across the bridge to see Jessica again. He knew she was walking along the road just on the other side. That wasn’t what happened, though, and he would see her again.

“Hello, Thomas,” he said to his younger self.

Yes, the love of your life awaits you across the bridge.

by Sue E. Clabaugh

My Grandmother used to have a quilt that she would wrap me in.

She told me it was hers now and made by folks back when.

Said it was all made out of remnants and each and every patch

meant something to someone that nobody else could match.

Some patches were cut from feed bags that they got from the mill,

And some were old velvet with little golden frills.

Each patch was sewn with thread of the sewer’s heart

That nothing in the whole wide world could ever tear them apart.

I always felt that I was loved as my fingers felt the cloth

What a memory for me to keep –

Something that can’t be bought.

Years later I walked into the old back room

Where the children always played.

And there were remnants of the past

From how they spent their days.

The old blue cart that pushed the things that they had bought

The old green doll carriage that one was proud she got.

And over in the corner – the big stuffed bear, with just one eye,

When he was so much younger,

he really was some guy.

The little yellow cradle handmade by Uncle Bill

Was just as sturdy as when he made it from remnants from the mill.

And in another corner laid a raggedy old quilt,

It had been used for such a long time

But loved by many still.

It was used for picnics, and dolly’s little bed

Where many times while playing – they would lay their little heads.

How would that pretty quilt from so many years ago,

Know just how much joy it would bring

To children while they grow.

I cried when my eyes saw it lying there and I remembered Granny’s words

That I now share –“it was all made out of remnants” were the words she said.

Oh, what I’d give to be wrapped up in that old quilt

And rocked by my Granny again,

To feel the love from those old remnants

That were some things that were just left over

And put together – something that can’t be bought.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

6: The Decision to Cross

Surprisingly, Thomas Hamilton found it easier to accept that he was stuck in the 1950s than to accept that his boss’s daughter, Jessica Weikert, was going to marry George Kirkpatrick, the son of a store owner in Thurmont. Thomas had met the man. Not that George was mean or boring, but he wasn’t a farmer, and Jessica wanted to farm. It was in her blood, just like it was in Thomas’s. George wanted to take over his father’s store, not John Weikert’s farm.

Thomas kept working on the farm through the harvest. It was easy and hard working beside Jessica at the same time. Easy because he enjoyed talking with her, laughing and thinking about life while they shared the labor. However, it was hard knowing she left the fields to see George in the evening. Did he make her laugh? Did George know how much Jessica was tied to the land?

Thomas felt those conflicting feelings helped him decide. Since it appeared he had no way to return to 2021 and no farm in Rocky Ridge, he had no reason to remain in Thurmont. He had no life here any longer. His farm was somewhere in his future. His parents were children at this time. He was alone.

Thomas often went running after work. He wasn’t sure why since he was usually pretty tired, but the run worked different muscles in his body and got his endorphins flowing. It allowed him to familiarize himself with the new, or rather old, Rocky Ridge. He often ran by his old farm, feeling nostalgic about it.

One day, he was running near Loys Station when he saw fog on the other side of the covered bridge. He stopped and stared at the bridge. It was the exact opposite of what had happened to him two months ago, except he was standing on the clear side and looking at the fog on the other side of Owens Creek.

Thomas walked along the road until he could see through the bridge. He saw an old man standing in the middle of the bridge, a stupid thing to do in the fog. If a car came along, it would hit him before the driver could see him.

Somehow, though, Thomas didn’t think a car would come along. This was the same old man he had seen on the day he walked across the bridge and back in time.

“This is my way back, isn’t it?” Thomas asked.

“Back, yes, but not forward,” the old man said.

“What do you mean?” Thomas wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his arm.

“You fought to get Paula back after she dumped you with a text, but if you cross this bridge, you’re letting Jessica go without a second thought.” Paula Clark had been his girlfriend. They had been dating for a year when she dumped him with a text message and didn’t return his calls.

“Jessica’s engaged.”

“So? Engagements are broken.”

Thomas stepped closer to the man, who looked familiar. “Who are you?”

“Someone who made the right decisions and still got hurt. Sometimes, you have to gamble. You may not win, but if you try to understand the game, your chances are better.”

“I understand the game. If I cross this bridge, I will be home.”

The old man shook his head. “You’ll be in 2021, but you won’t be home.”

“Who are you? Are you the one making this happen?” Thomas paused. “Are you an angel?”

The old man laughed. “Does this look like heaven?”

“No. It’s Rocky Ridge.”

“Then I’m not an angel.”

“No, you’re a cryptic smartass.”

The man laughed again. “I’ve been called worse. So, are you going to cross?”

Thomas looked around. He saw the nearby farms, but he knew he was looking for something farther away. He wasn’t looking toward his old family farm where he had scared his very young grandmother when he walked in two months ago. He was looking toward the Weikert Farm where Jessica Weikert was probably out in the fields checking on crops before she got ready for a date.

“Why won’t you explain things to me?” Thomas asked.

“You’re an adult. You need to make your own decisions.”

“You said the first time we met that if I walked across the bridge, I would find the love of my life.”


“I only wound up going back in time, apparently.”


“So, where’s the love of my life?”

The old man gave him a look as if to say, Are you that stupid?

“Jessica?” Thomas asked. “An engaged woman who can’t wait for me to leave her farm is the love of my life? How do you know that?”

“Does it matter?”


The old man shook his head. No, I think it only matters how you feel.”

Thomas hesitated. “Okay, so I like her. I like her a lot.”

“More than a girl who broke up with you via text?” the old man asked.


“Then I think you know whether you should cross this bridge right now.”

“What will people think if I just disappear?”

He wasn’t sure whether he meant the people here in 1951 or those in 2022.

“I don’t know,” the old man admitted. “I can’t tell the future, and it’s still the same day here that you left.”

Movement caught Thomas’s eye. He turned and saw Jessica walking along the road towards him, but she wasn’t looking at Thomas. She was staring at the fog bank across the creek.

Could Thomas break her engagement to George? Could he really be in love with Jessica, or was he just fooling himself like he had with Paula? Jessica didn’t seem to be in love with him. Yes, she had held his hand the one time, and they had grown close enough to call each other a friend. That was a lot different from her being in love with him, though.

The love of his life. Could it be?

Thomas turned to the old man. “I want to stay and see what happens.”

The old man smiled and nodded. “I knew you weren’t an idiot.”

Andrea (Myers) Mannix wins 1st place for her photograph entitled “Independence Day Sunrise with Round Straw Bales” in the 2022 annual National Grange Lecturer’s Photography Contest.

At the November 2022 National Grange Session in Las Vegas, the annual National Grange Lecturer’s Photography Contest winners were announced.

From the 81 entries in the Agriculture Category, Thurmont Grange’s Andrea (Myers) Mannix won 1st place with her photo entitled “Independence Day Sunrise with Round Straw Bales.”

This photo was taken by Andrea at her family’s Catoctin Mountain View Farm, established in 1962, which is owned by C. Rodman and M. Jean Myers and family.

Andrea painted an oil painting of “Independence Day Sunrise with Round Straw Bales,”and notecards of her oil painting are available.

   For the 24th year, all Maryland middle-school students are invited to enter a statewide writing contest focusing on the themes of peace and social justice. Seventh- and eighth-grade students enrolled in public or private schools in Maryland and to homeschooled students corresponding to the same grade levels are eligible. Four cash prizes will be awarded ranging from $350 for first place to $100 for fourth place. The winners will be honored at a special ceremony, although attendance is not required to receive an award.

To enter, students must submit an entry of up to 1,200 words on this topic: Some students have engaged in school “walkouts” to express their views on an issue on which they have a strong opinion. The “climate strikes” proposed by Greta Thunberg calling attention to the challenges posed by climate change and the “March for Our Lives” advocating gun control are examples of this tactic. School officials have responded in different ways. Some have allowed it, some have “scripted” the actions with specific guidelines and limitations, and some have declined to permit it. You are asked by your principal to serve on a committee at your school to develop a policy governing student actions on important issues such as climate change and gun control. What would be your suggestions be and why?

Entries must be accompanied by a separate cover sheet, including the student’s name; address; phone number;  email address; school’s name, address and phone number; and the name of the teacher sponsor if applicable. Entries must be postmarked no later than May 15, 2023 and mailed to Peace Writing Contest, 310 Riverview Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21403-3328. Anne Arundel Peace Action and the Maryland Peace Action Education Fund are affiliated with Peace Action, the country’s largest grassroots peace and disarmament organization.

For more information, please call 410-263-7409 or email [email protected].

written by James Rada, Jr

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

5: Thomas or George?

Jessica Weikert might think Thomas Hamilton was a hobo who had jumped off the Western Maryland Railroad train as it passed through Thurmont, but she had to admit he was a good worker on her family’s farm. He hadn’t been lying when he said he knew about farming. He kept the equipment in good repair and, most times, better than new. He had even introduced her father to some new concepts that she had never heard of before, like no-till farming. Her father was skeptical about most of them, but Jessica understood the points that Thomas made and saw the merit in them.

Thomas and her father got along well together. They talked farming during the day’s meals and played chess on the front porch at night. Sometimes, they would argue about both, but they were more like loud disagreements.

Her father definitely liked Thomas better than George Kirkpatrick, although he was very supportive of her engagement to George. He should be. He was the one who had set them up. She suspected he hoped to get better prices at the Kirkpatrick’s hardware store once she was married to George.

“He’s a good match for you,” John Weikert had told her after George had asked for John’s permission to marry Jessica.

“But you don’t like him,” Jessica had said.

“I don’t hate him either.”

“Then why are you okay with me marrying him?”

“Because I want you to have a good life, and I think George will provide it for you.”

But George didn’t make Jessica laugh. He didn’t make her heart beat faster. He was polite and handsome, and he was considered a very eligible bachelor. Jessica’s friends considered her very lucky. When Jessica tried to picture herself 20 or 30 years into a marriage with him though, she didn’t see herself on a farm with fields of crops ripening under a blue sky. She didn’t see George walking with her along the rows of corn to see how they were maturing and making sure they were healthy. She saw herself sitting behind a counter, pushing buttons on a cash register or stocking shelves in a store cut off from the land she loved.

Jessica walked into the barn and saw Thomas bent over a blade from the harvester, sharpening it. He worked hard, even when he didn’t have to.

“Why do you do that?” Jessica asked him.

Thomas looked up and brushed his brown hair out of his eyes. “It needs to be done. I don’t mind. It keeps my mind occupied.”

“Why do you need your mind occupied?”

He shrugged. “I’ve got some things I need to figure out.”

“Like what?”

Thomas set his whetstone to the side and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his arm.

“I thought I knew what my future was going to be. It seemed all set, and then it all changed in an instant. Now, I’ve got to figure out what I want to do. My future is no longer certain, so I have to ask myself, what do I want to make it?”

Jessica nodded slowly. “I can understand that.”

“Really? I thought your future was planned out. You’re getting married, right? That’s what your father said.”

“It doesn’t mean it was the future I wanted or planned.”

“Is someone making you get married? You’re not…” He glanced at her belly.

When Jessica realized what he was implying, she blushed and punched him in the shoulder. “Of course not!”

“Then if you accepted the proposal, why isn’t it the future you wanted? You made the choice.”

“I wonder if it’s the right choice.”

Thomas rolled his eyes. “Well, if you break up with him, do it in person. Don’t text him.”


Thomas shook his head. “Nevermind. It’s not important. So, what is the future you want?”

No one had ever asked Jessica what she wanted. Everyone just assumed she would be happy with a good match. Sure, she had enjoyed dating George, but she hadn’t ever fallen in love with him. Her mother said that would come with time as long as they were well-suited. Jessica didn’t want to have to wait for it to happen years from now. Being well-suited was no guarantee of future love.

“I wanted to take over this farm. I enjoy farming. I enjoy seeing things grow. I enjoy knowing that this farm not only feeds my family, but dozens, maybe hundreds, of other families. That’s satisfying.”

Thomas nodded. “It is, but it’s not an easy life.”

“I know that. I’ve grown up on a farm.”

“Most people would want an easy life. I love farming, but sometimes even I wish life could be easier.”

She thought about that. “I think most people want a happy life, and they think if their lives were easy, they would be happy. I’m happy now, despite it being hard. Maybe I need the challenge.”

Thomas smiled. “A true farmer.”

“You’re mocking me.”

Thomas held up his hands. “No, I’m just stating a fact.”

“What about you? What will you do when the harvest ends?” Jessica asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I hadn’t planned on being here.”

Her father was impressed with Thomas’s knowledge. He knew equipment and how to improve its performance. He had interesting ideas about how to increase the farm yields without even tilling the soil.

He enjoyed the work. She would watch him singing in the fields, and sometimes, he would encourage her to join in with him. She would, when she recognized the songs. It helped the work go faster.

However, there were other times when he would leave the farm. At first, she wondered if he had just up and left, but he was always back for work in the mornings.

Then, one day, she had followed him. He had walked out to the covered bridge at Loys Station, where she had first seen him. He would stand at one end of the bridge, staring across it. Sometimes, he would walk across it and back a few times. Each time he emerged on one side, he would look around and back the way he had come.

Jessica didn’t understand it all. Whatever his fascination with the bridge was, it didn’t interfere with his work.

One day, they were working in the field when Thomas stopped for lunch. Instead of going to the house, though, he laid a blanket on the grass and lay on his back. He ate his sandwich as he lay on the blanket.

Jessica walked over. “What are you doing?”

“We spend so much time looking at the land, I wanted to spend a little of it looking at the sky and think about my future.”

“Does it help?”

“It does. The sky is like a blue chalkboard and the clouds are white smears of chalk across it because someone used one of those felt erasers to wipe it off. But it’s a clean slate that I can imagine my future on.”

Jessica looked at the sky. She would love to see her future written in the sky. A message from God telling her what to do.

She lay down on the blanket next to Thomas and stared at the sky. “So how do you make your future appear?”

“It’s not a crystal ball. It’s just when you stare at the blank space, your mind fills it with images. If you’re thinking about your future, those images will sometimes be about your future, almost like a waking dream.”

Jessica stared at the blue above her and wondered where she would be in five years. Would it be a store or the farm? She saw herself on the farm, but it wasn’t with George.

At some point, she had reached over and grabbed Thomas’s hand, not clutching at it, just holding it gently. She also realized that he hadn’t pulled his hand away. Not in real life, not in the vision she saw in the sky.

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

4: You Can’t Go Home Again

Thomas Hamilton was in no rush heading back to Rocky Ridge because he had no idea what he would do when he got there. All he knew was that the bridge at Loys Station was the key to him getting home. Scratch that. He was home. He needed to get back to his own time, and the bridge was the way there.

The problem was that he didn’t know how it worked. He had wound up in the 1950s simply by walking across the bridge at the wrong time.

It didn’t make sense to Thomas. He only hoped it was all part of a bad dream he was having and that he would wake up. Maybe a car had hit him while he had been jogging in the fog. He rolled his eyes. How worried must he be if he was wishing he were unconscious by the side of the road?

Until he figured out what was happening, his body still told him he needed to drink and eat. He inquired at the farms he passed whether they needed a hand. Thomas knew farming. He was a farmer, so it was work he could do. No one needed help. Some paid him for odd jobs that he did, like sharpening plow blades or chopping wood, but they were one-time jobs. Thomas wanted to find steady work in the area while he tried to sort through what was happening to him.

He finally came upon a farm along Myers Road that could use his help.

“What do you know about farming?” John Weikert asked him. John had broken his leg earlier in the week and needed help. His daughters and wife were doing their best, but they had other things to do besides work in the field all day.

“I’m a farmer,” Thomas said. “I have a degree in agriculture.”

John snorted. “My youngest has a coon-skin cap, but that doesn’t make him Davy Crockett.”

“I grew up on a farm. I’m working my way out to Western Maryland to help my brother with his farm near Grantsville.”

“I need someone to help until I get this thing off.” He slapped his cast. “I won’t hire someone only to have him leave in two days.”

“I understand, sir.” Thomas didn’t know how long it would take him to figure out what was happening at the bridge. He doubted it would be something he figured out quickly, though.

In the end, John hired Thomas. Thomas got room, board, and what Thomas assumed was a fair wage for the time. He had to adjust his thinking about money. Even expensive things in 1951 seemed cheap when he compared them to 2021 prices.

John showed him to a room in the barn that had been built for a hand to live in, although the Weikerts hadn’t used a hand regularly for years. Thomas unpacked his clothes and sat on the bed. The room was small but comfortable. It was well-lit with a bed, bureau, sink, chair, and desk. John explained that Thomas still had to use an outhouse and the claw-foot tub behind the barn for his other needs. The barn had power, but the waterline had only been run to a spigot behind the barn.

Thomas came into the house at 7 p.m. for supper. He was looking forward to having his first full meal in two days. Up to now, he had been living off what he could scrounge from farms he passed, but the fruits and vegetables weren’t always ripe.

As he walked into the kitchen, John said, “This is Thomas. He’s going to be our hand around here until I get the cast off.”

Thomas looked around at the Weikerts. John and Amelia had three children, and one of them was the young woman Thomas had frightened when he came across the bridge yesterday. Her name was Jessica. He saw by her expression that she recognized him. The Weikerts also had a 10-year-old named Nathan and a 6-year-old daughter named Emily.

As soon as Thomas smelled the sausages and vegetables on the table, his stomach growled loudly.

Amelia laughed. “Someone’s hungry.”

“I guess I am, ma’am,” Thomas said. “It smells wonderful.”

He ate dinner quickly, or as quickly as he could between answering questions from the family. He tried to keep his story as close to the truth as he could. He didn’t want to have to remember too many lies.

He woke up early the next morning and dressed in his sweat clothes. He had washed them in the sink the night before and hung them in his room to dry. They would have to serve as his work clothes until he could find something else.

When he walked into the kitchen for breakfast, Jessica laughed at him. “I thought you knew farming.”

“I do.”

“You don’t look it.”

“It’s all I have right now. I’ll buy something else when I get paid.”

Amelia laid an arm on his shoulder. “Ignore her, Thomas. She’s just mad.”

“About what?”

“She is learning she can’t run this farm by herself.”

Jessica blushed. “That’s not true,”

Thomas tried to suppress a grin. She looked like a young child who was pouting.

John gave them instructions on what he wanted to accomplish for the day. He had Thomas harvesting the corn using a Massey-Harris combine Thomas had only seen as an antique, although this model was fairly new. The children, including Jessica, much to her chagrin, picked tomatoes. John tended their roadside stand, freeing up Amelia to handle the additional work around the house that the children usually did.

It went smoothly. Thomas enjoyed driving the old combine. It also gave him time to think about his predicament.

After dinner, Thomas walked over to the Loy’s Bridge and walked back and forth across it, hoping to find a way to trigger whatever had sent him into the past. Nothing happened.

When he came across the bridge a third time, he saw Jessica standing to the side.

“What is it with you and this bridge?” she asked.

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Why are you here?”

For a moment, Thomas thought she was asking why he was in the 1950s, but then he realized she meant the farm.

“I needed work,” he said.

“We don’t need your help.”

“It looks like you do. Your father can’t work in the fields, and he probably needed the help when he was healthy.”

Jessica put her hands on her hips. “It’s going to be my farm someday.”

Thomas cocked an eyebrow. “Okay.”

“Just in case you had any ideas.”

“About what?”

“About trying to take my farm.”

“Your farm? I think you have quite a few years before it becomes your farm, and even then, your father might split it between you and your brother and sister.”

“No, it will be mine. They won’t want it. I do. I can turn it into a first-class operation if my father would just listen to me. There is so much being done that is helping farmers get more from their land. I intend to grow our farm and make it larger and better.”

“It sounds like you’ll need help.”

“Not from you.”

“Why not me? What do you have against me?”

She stared at him for a few moments and then she said, “I don’t trust you. You are lying about something. You say you’re a farmer, but you don’t dress like one. You say you have a college degree, but you don’t have anything more than the clothes you’re wearing. And you keep coming to this bridge.”

Thomas was about to reply, but Jessica turned away.

And this was the woman who was supposed to be his future. It didn’t look too promising to him.

Look for what happens next in our March issue

by LA Worthington

The face in the mirror’s beginning to droop,

I walk with a wobble and stand with a stoop;

Is this the same body that once was so fit?

I cannot believe I am living in it.

My vision is blurry, my hearing is dim,

I’ve lost all my vigor and most of my vim;

I assume all these changes are time’s souvenirs…

I wonder who said these are our “Golden Years”?

April 2022

written by James Rada, Jr.

A new serial fiction story for your enjoyment

3: Lost in the 50s

Thomas Hamilton couldn’t believe he had simply walked back in time by crossing the Loys Station Covered Bridge. It made no sense. How many times in his life had he driven, jogged, and walked across that bridge? How many times a day did other people cross that bridge? Not to mention that time travel was impossible!

He looked around Main Street in Thurmont and shook his head. This was not the Thurmont he knew. The cars were bulkier. The streets were more crowded with people, and none of the businesses were the same. Mechanicstown Park hadn’t been built yet. The lot had a small garage and gas station on it. When Thomas looked down Water Street, he could see the marquee for the Gem Theater, which he had never seen in his Thurmont.

Thomas took out his smartphone from his armband. It had power, but no signal. He had no money and identification on him because he had been jogging. The only reason he had brought his phone with him was because he had been listening to his running playlist while he exercised.

He noticed the odd looks people gave him. He wondered if it was because of the way he was dressed or the smell of dried sweat on him.

“Excuse me, sir.”

Thomas turned and saw a police officer walking along the sidewalk toward him. He looked like Andy Griffith in his uniform on The Andy Griffith Show, which now that Thomas thought about it, wasn’t even on the air yet.

“I don’t believe I know you,” the officer said. “Do you live in town?”

“No, I live out in Rocky Ridge,” Thomas said.

The officer looked him up and down. Then he sniffed. “You don’t look like a farmer.”

“I am. I’m just making a trip into town for a break.”

“I’m not sure how much the store owners and customers will appreciate you in their shops.” He pinched his nose.

Thomas frowned. “Well, that’s rude.”

“I’m just trying to head off any vagrant complaints the police might get, sir. If that happens, we’d have to ask for identification, and things could get unpleasant. I wouldn’t want to see that happen. After all, you’ve done nothing wrong… yet.”

Thomas nodded. He also didn’t want to have to produce a driver’s license to show who he was. Not only didn’t he have one, but if the police checked the address on his license, they would find someone else living there and expiration date 70 years in the future.

“Thank you, officer. I guess I should have showered and changed before I came. I’ll head home and remember to dress for the occasion next time.”

The police officer nodded. “A good idea, I think.” Then he continued walking down the street.

Thomas headed in the opposite direction. People kept staring at him. They had certainly seen sweaty people, and they wore sweat clothes from time to time, perhaps not outside in public, judging by the crowd he saw, but it wasn’t unheard of. Then he remembered his smartphone. It was in a case attached to his arm so he could run with it. He grabbed it, slid it off his arm, and stuffed it in his pocket. He couldn’t do much about his reflective vest unless he wanted to stuff it in a trash can, which he didn’t want to do.

If Thomas was going to get by until he figured out a way to get home, he needed a change of clothing and money. He might look like a beggar, but that didn’t mean people would feed him.

He turned down an alley because there was no one down there to stare at him. He needed to think, and he couldn’t do that if he felt like every eye in town was watching him. He saw laundry hanging on clotheslines behind the houses that were built along the alleys north of Main Street.

He wasn’t a thief, but desperate times called for desperate measures. He slowed his walk, studying the laundry, trying to guess the sizes as best he could. He didn’t need long johns or socks. He could get by with a pair of pants and a shirt. He would look passable with those, even if he kept wearing his running shoes.

He saw a set of clothes he thought would work. He looked around, opened the back gate, and quickly took them off the line. The pants were still damp, but they would dry. He jogged out of the yard and headed down the alley and crossing the railroad tracks. He ran into a field of corn and changed into his new clothes.

One problem solved.

The next one was more difficult. He started walking to the farms he saw to the north and east of town, asking if they needed any field help in exchange for a meal. Thomas knew farming. He was a farmer, so it was work he knew he could do. He made up a story about his own farm failing and heading to Western Maryland to help his brother with his farm.

He only wished it was true. Things would be so much easier. He could walk to Western Maryland if need be. He couldn’t walk to 2023.

He didn’t find any takers for his services that day. He did manage to snag an apple off a tree while walking away from one farm. It turned out to be his dinner for the day.

He found a place in the woods away from the roads where he bedded down for the night. Once it got dark out, he worried he might twist his ankle in an unseen hole. He ignored the smell of his dirty sweat clothes and wadded them up to use as a pillow.

It was all about the bridge, he decided. The bridge had been a tunnel through time. It had shown him a clear scene on one side while all around had been foggy. He had known something was weird, but how many people traveled over that bridge in a day? Certainly, they all didn’t travel back in time.

Also, did it only work one way? He had gone back in time when he crossed over, but he hadn’t come back to his time when he crossed back. Still, if there was a way to travel back in time, there had to be a way to travel back to his time. He just had to figure it out.

Look for what happens next in our February issue

written by James Rada, Jr.

A new serial fiction story for your enjoyment

2: Times Past

Thomas Hamilton walked across the Loy’s Station Covered Bridge, ignoring the wooden beams around him. He focused his attention on the other side of the bridge, where the sky was clear and the sun shone. It stood in stark contrast to the thick fog on the side of the bridge he had just left.

He reached the other side and shook his head. It was a cloudless summer day in Rocky Ridge. It wasn’t even overly hot. He looked across Owens Creek and saw that it was now clear. The fog had lifted in the time it took him to walk across the bridge.

He couldn’t see the old man who had encouraged him to cross the bridge and find the love of his life. How could the man have walked away so quickly that he was out of sight? Thomas looked back across the bridge, wondering if the man had followed him, but it was empty.

He shook his head. This was turning out to be an unusual day. First, his girlfriend had broken up with him via a text message. Then, he had met the old man with his message that Thomas would find the love of his life on this side of the bridge. And, finally, Thomas had seen the odd fog that had moved in quickly, stayed on one side of the creek, and disappeared just as quickly.

The woman he had seen walking across the field was closer now. She was an attractive redhead who had her hair tied up in a kerchief. She wore overalls and work boots. He had grown up in the same house his father had grown up in. He thought he knew just about everyone in the area, but he didn’t recognize this woman.

“Where did you come from?” she asked.

Thomas shrugged. “I just walked across the bridge. You had to have seen me. You were looking right at it.”

“I must not have been paying attention. It was clear and then, suddenly, you seemed to be standing in front of it.”

She looked him over and then her nose wrinkled. Thomas realized he must still be sweaty from his run.

“Sorry about that. I was running earlier.”

“Running? From what?”

“For exercise.” She looked at him like he was crazy and stepped back. “I don’t recognize you. Do you live around here?” he asked.

“All my life. You’re the one who’s not from around here.”

“Of course, I am. My name is Thomas Hamilton. I live out on Old Mill Road.”

“I know the Hamilton Farm, but not a Thomas Hamilton.” There was only one Hamilton Farm on Old Mill, and it was his family’s farm. The woman cocked her head to the side. “You don’t look like a farmer. You look like someone dumped a can of fluorescent paint on you.”

He looked down at the reflective vest he was wearing. He didn’t think it looked that unusual, and it helped protect him from getting hit when he ran.

“You should talk. You look like someone trying to imitate Rosie the Riveter.”


“It doesn’t matter. What’s your name?”

She raised her chin and glared at him. “I’m not sure I should say.”

Thomas shrugged.

“Whatever.” He had been crazy to give that old man any credence. This woman was the love of his life? Not likely.

He turned and walked back across the bridge. When he reached the other side, he still didn’t see the old man, but other things were different, too. The road wasn’t paved. It was macadam. And the playground in the park off the right was gone.

“What gives?”

He hadn’t thought things could get weirder. He was wrong.

He jogged back to his house to shower and change. Even the house looked different, particularly when he walked inside. All of his furniture was missing, replaced with the type of stuff he would see in an antique store. Wallpaper, not paint, covered the walls. He smelled ham cooking when he knew he had left nothing in the oven.

A woman screamed, and Thomas spun around. She had walked out of the kitchen, her face red from the heat from the oven and stove.

“What are you doing in my house?” she shouted.

“I–I live here,” Thomas said, even though he wasn’t sure of that any longer.

“You do not! This is my family’s house. Leave this instant before I call the police.”

“But this is the Hamilton Farm. I…” He was about to say “I live here” again, but while the house itself might match his home, these furnishings and the wallpaper all said someone else lived here and had for some time. Certainly, longer than the hour Thomas had been out.

“Can you…?” he started to say.

The woman ran back into the kitchen and came back with a rolling pin covered in flour. She waved it at him.

“Get out now!”

Thomas held up his hands and backed toward the door. Once he stepped out onto the porch, the woman slammed the door, and Thomas heard the lock engage.

He sighed and walked back down the driveway to the road. He headed toward MD 77, although he wasn’t sure what he would do when he got there. Something unusual was happening, but he had no idea what it was.

He walked along the road toward Rocky Ridge when a vintage truck pulled up alongside him.

“Need a lift?” the driver asked. “I’m headed to Thurmont.”

Thomas didn’t recognize the man, but he had friends in Thurmont who might help him, or worst-case scenario, that’s where his doctor’s office was located.

Thomas climbed into the truck bed, and the driver started off. A confused Thomas looked over the countryside. He recognized the landscape and many of the buildings, but others were different. It was like he was in Rocky Ridge, but not his Rocky Ridge. It became very obvious as they entered Thurmont. The two elementary schools, police station, and housing development on the east side of town were all missing. The truck pulled over to the side of the road and stopped across from the middle school, which now had a sign that said it was the high school.

The driver hopped out and said, “This is as far as I go. I have to arrange for some lumber.”

Thomas jumped out of the bed to the ground. “Thanks. I appreciate the ride.”

He walked toward the center of town. He grew more nervous with each step. This was all wrong. He stopped when he saw a sign in the window of a clothing store. “New Styles for 1951 Are In!”

Thomas staggered and had to lean against the wall. It couldn’t be, but in the back of his mind, he had been seeing the signs and ignoring them.

He was in 1951…48 years before he was born.

Look for what happens next in our January issue

Cassidy Miller, a freshman at Catoctin High School, won first place at The Great Frederick Fair in landscape photography. Her photograph was taken on a morning walk at the Thurmont Community Park.

Cassidy started enjoying landscape photography when she would travel to visit her Pappy Leach, who lives three hours away in the mountains of West Virginia.

written by James Rada, Jr.

A new serial fiction story for your enjoyment

1: The Crossing

Thomas Hamilton reread the text message on his smartphone. He called Paula’s number a third time, and the call joined the other two in her voicemail. He texted, “Can we talk?” He doubted it would be answered.

“I don’t want to see you anymore.” Her message earlier had been short and direct, but it made no sense to Thomas.

Paula broke up with him using a text and then ghosted him. Who does that? Didn’t he deserve an answer as to why? He could drive over to her apartment but doubted she would even answer the door.

Thomas glanced at the ring box sitting on his desk in the den. What was he to do with that? It was his grandmother’s wedding ring. He had been planning on giving it to Paula on the first anniversary of their first date next week. He didn’t see that happening now.

He pulled open a drawer in his desk and dropped the ring box inside. Then he walked back to his bedroom and changed into sweat clothes.

He went outside and started jogging down Old Mill Road to Old Frederick Road where he turned right toward Loys Station Park. He ignored his anger, sadness, and confusion and just ran. If he could exhaust himself, maybe he could ignore things for a while.

Thomas wore a reflector vest over his clothes because the shoulders were almost nonexistent on the roads around here. There wasn’t a large amount of traffic, but it only took one careless driver to put him in the hospital, or worse.

He crossed over the old Western Maryland Railroad track. He did not know who used it nowadays, only that if he wasn’t careful, it could trip him up.

He was glad he had worn his reflector vest because, as he neared Loys Station Park, it quickly grew foggy. He reached the parking lot for the playground at the park and started walking. He had run further than he planned, which was fine, but he needed to rest before he headed back to his house.

He hoped the fog would burn off soon or at least move on to somewhere he wasn’t jogging. It would only make things that much more dangerous for him.

As Thomas walked in a large circle around the park, he came upon an old man sitting on one of the stone walls that bordered the road and led up to the Loys Station Covered Bridge. The bridge was one of six covered bridges remaining in Maryland, of which three were in Frederick County. The 141-year-old Loys Station Covered Bridge spanned 90 feet over Owens Creek.

Thomas had noticed no cars in the parking lot, so the old man must have walked here and was probably waiting for the fog to lift.

The man raised a hand and waved. “Hello, Thomas.”

Thomas stopped his loop and walked over to the man. He didn’t recognize him, but he looked familiar.

“You look done in,” the man said.

Thomas nodded. “I just ran three miles.”

The old man chuckled. “You might be planning on running three miles, but you’ve only done two miles so far.”

“How do you know that? Do I know you?”

The old man cocked his head to the side. “I imagine you think you know me, but I know you a lot better.”

“Really?” Who did this man think he was? If he was a stalker, Thomas would have wished for someone prettier.

“Paula just broke up with you, didn’t she?”

Thomas’s eyes widened. “How could you know that?”

The old man grinned. “And she did it with a text. Who does that?”

“That’s what I thought.” Thomas paused. “Who are you?”

The old man stood up. “That’s not important right now. What is important is that you need to believe that you will find happiness again.”

It was easy to say, and it might even be true. Thomas didn’t feel that way right now, though. It would probably be a long time before he felt that way again.

“You didn’t deserve to be treated like that,” the old man said.

Thomas nodded. “No, I didn’t.”

“Do you want to know why she did it?”

“How would you know?”

“Because I saw it happen. Not the text you got, but I saw why she broke up with you. She was at the Ott House last night and met one of those big wigs at FEMA. He was all-right looking, I guess, but he was flashing a lot of money, and he took an interest in Paula. He was buying, and the last I saw, they were making out behind the bar and heading back to the FEMA campus.”

The old man said it clinically with no emotion, but every word cut into Thomas, and he winced from the pain. He wanted to scream for the man to stop talking, but Thomas knew the man was telling the truth. Paula liked to go to the Ott House because she had worked there a few years back. She was also very focused on making a lot of money while Thomas was happy running his family farm. It would never make him wealthy, but it made him happy.

“I know it’s hard to hear,” the old man said. “But what would you say if I told you the love of your life is on the other side of this covered bridge?”

Thomas moved closer to the stone wall and leaned over so he could look through the opening of the bridge.

On the other side, he could see a young woman walking along the sunlit road. He leaned back and looked down the side of the bridge. He couldn’t see the other side because of the fog, but what he saw looking through the bridge was clear and sunny.

“What is going on?” Thomas asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean there’s no fog when I look through the bridge.”

The old man shrugged. “Some things can cut through the fog we see and focus our attention.”

Thomas rolled his eyes. “You’re too tall to be Yoda, so don’t try.”

The old man chuckled and stepped onto the road. “I’ve told you everything you need to know.” Then he walked across the street and kept going until Thomas couldn’t see him in the fog.

Thomas climbed over the wall so that he could see more easily through the bridge. It was still clear on the other side. He could see the young woman walking across the field beyond where the road turned to the left.

He leaned over and looked down the side of the bridge. The fog was as thick as muddy water, probably even thicker on the other side of the bridge than this side.

Yet, Thomas wasn’t seeing that through the bridge. He walked across the road and looked down that side of the bridge.

Still foggy.

What was going on?

Was that woman the love of his life that the old man had been talking about? Not that he believed the crazy man, but Thomas was curious about how the fog looked from the other side.

Was it a dark wall or like a fluffy cloud that had settled on the ground?

He started across the bridge and changed his life.

Look for what happens next in our December issue

On Sunday, November 13, artist and art restorer Kateryna Dovgan will offer a Ukrainian Icon lecture at Mount St. Mary’s Knott Theatre in Emmitsburg for the benefit of Ukrainian war victims. 

Ukrainian-born Professor Dovgan teaches art and art history at McDaniel College. The lecture will be held from 2:00-4:00 p.m., and a goodwill collection will be taken up. The public is warmly invited to attend. 

Sponsors are the Town of Emmitsburg and the Mount St. Mary’s University Center for Service.

Author James Rada, Jr. will present a benefit Book Talk at EOPCC (the Emmitsburg Osteopathic Primary Care Center) on November 6, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Copious desserts and a silent auction will be held for the benefit of Dr. Bonnie Portier’s EOPCC at 121-123 W. Main Street in Emmitsburg (entrance on Lincoln Alley). 

James Rada, Jr. will speak at 2:30 p.m., so come at 2:00 p.m. for refreshments! Entrance is $12.00 per person at the door, but please RSVP to [email protected] or at 301-447-2690 and leave a message after the gruff warning to telemarketers.

EOPCC is a 301c nonprofit and a 20-plus-year gift to our community.

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

7: The Last Fight

Tim Ross wandered from window to window in the basement of the nurse’s building of the State Tuberculosis Hospital in Sabillasville. The foundation of the building was stone, but except for load-bearing walls, the inner walls in the basement were all frame construction. Most of them were empty, but some had been converted to storage.

Tim looked out the windows, expecting to see Dr. Vallingham or one of his personal orderlies/guards approaching the building. Tim had already been down here overnight, but no one had come into the basement, not even Frank Larkins, the orderly who had hidden him here.

It was probably better that way. If someone saw Frank coming into the basement, it would be suspicious. Tim was getting hungry, though. No one had brought him food, and he hadn’t found anything to eat down here, although he did find a half-filled pint bottle of moonshine. It slaked his thirst and calmed his nerves.

While he hadn’t seen anyone other than nurses approach the building, Tim thought he heard sirens at one point. He also saw more vehicles driving around than he had seen in his short time at the hospital.


Tim jumped. He spun, holding a fireplace poker he had found in one of the storage rooms. He relaxed when he saw it was Frank.

“Give a guy some warning,” Tim said.

“I did. I said your name and stayed back from you,” Frank told him.

“You didn’t bring me breakfast by chance?”

Frank shook his head. “Sorry.” Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out an apple. He tossed it to Tim. “You can eat that for now. I’ll get you something to eat.”

“Does that mean I have to stay down here?” He bit into the apple. It was sweet and crunchy.

“Not for too much longer, hopefully. Someone saw Vallingham drive away last night. I’m hoping that means he knew the game was up and won’t be coming back.”

“He deserves to be in prison.”

Frank shrugged. “I’m sure they’ll catch up with him eventually. I’m just happy he’s not around here interfering with the bootlegging.”

Frank and some of the other employees at the hospital ran a bootlegging operation from the powerhouse.

“And killing patients,” Tim added.

“That, too.” Frank chuckled to himself. “Boy was Dr. Cullen furious when I told him what was happening. His face turned deep red, and he stomped around the office. He called the police himself; I give him that. He’s a good man, and this hospital is important to him.”

“Surprised he let something like this happen then.”

“Well, there’s a lot going on here nowadays. We’ve got the regular TB patients, the children’s hospital, and the nursing school. One man can’t run it all.”

“I suppose not.”

Frank left and arranged for a nurse he trusted to bring Tim breakfast, so that he wouldn’t risk being seen coming into the building again. Tim ate the pancakes and sliced apples with cinnamon and then took a nap. He had been up all night worried Vallingham would find him.

Frank came back after lunch. “Things are in an uproar. They are still searching for Vallingham in the woods. We had to break down our still and store the pieces in different locations.”

“Do you think he’s in the woods?” Tim asked.

“I doubt it. Why would he stick around? They’re just being careful, and so are my people.”

“So, is it safe for me to leave?”

“I suppose you can. The police have been asking for you, anyway. I guess they want to talk to you about everything.”

“You didn’t tell them where I was?”

“I do my best to avoid the police. It’s a habit. I don’t want them recognizing me if they spot me at a still.”

Tim followed Frank back outside the nurse’s building. He looked at his watch and saw it was dinnertime. He went to the dining hall and ate while he listened to the surrounding conversations, as people speculated on why the police had been at the hospital all day.

After dinner, he walked through the connecting hallway to the administration building. The police were eager to talk to him. Tim sat through two hours of questions from Dr. Cullen and the Frederick County States Attorney. Tim explained everything that had happened to him, leaving out finding out about Frank and the moonshiners who operated in the powerhouse. By the time he finished, it was dark out.

He walked back to the shack and wondered if the police were still wandering the property trying to find Vallingham, or if they had moved their search away to other locations.

When he walked into the shack, it was dark. He turned on the light in his ward and saw Vallingham standing there with a pistol.

“What did you tell them?” Vallingham asked.

“Everything. At least everything concerning you.”

Vallingham grimaced. “You have ruined everything. I was trying to heal people.”

“So, if you killed some along the way, that’s all right?”

Tim wondered if he could turn off the lights again before Vallingham shot him.

Vallingham jabbed the pistol in his direction. “What would you know? You just stumbled into something that was beyond you. I tried to get my notes from my safe, but the police were all over the building.”

“They will catch you.”

“Doubtful. I have money saved. I can disappear and start my research again elsewhere. I had hoped to get what I had done so far.”

“You don’t think a new doctor studying tuberculosis might give you away? You want attention.”

Vallingham paused and thought for a moment. “I want…”

That’s when Tim turned the lights off and threw himself backwards into the entry area. He heard the shot fired and the impact when it hit the wall. He scrambled out the door on his hands and knees and then ran.

Tim meant to run for the administration building, although he wasn’t sure anyone was still there, but when he came down off the porch, he slipped and tumbled down a hill toward the woods. Then, he heard Vallingham coming after him and another shot fired. Tim took off for the cover of the woods.

The shots would undoubtedly bring the police if they were still around, but Tim couldn’t wait to see if they would show up before Vallingham shot him.

He ran into the trees, feeling like he now knew what Max Wenschof had felt like when he ran into the woods chased by a moonshiner. He slowed as he reached the woods because he didn’t want to trip on a root. He wasn’t thinking about going somewhere in particular, he just pushed further into the woods. He stumbled once but caught himself on a tree. After that, he moved slower and kept his hands out feeling for trees.

He heard Vallingham coming behind him, but he also heard the man yell when he tripped and fell.

After a few minutes, Tim saw a low light in the distance. He headed toward it, thinking it must be one of the hospital buildings. However, as Tim came into a clearing, he saw it was four moonshiners working by lantern light around a still.

They yelled when they saw Tim, but he didn’t stop. He shouted, “Revenuer coming.” Then he ran back into the woods.

Out of breath, Tim dropped behind a fallen tree and tried to find a place where he might hide.

He heard more shouts and gunshots. When the gunshots stopped, Tim heard voices speaking too low to be understood. He heard metal and wood hitting each other. After fifteen minutes, things fell silent.

Tim pushed himself and walked back toward the clearing. The lanterns that had cast the low light were gone. He tripped again, but this time, he hit the ground. As he pushed himself up, he felt something soft and realized it was clothing. He patted it. It was a body. He felt for a pulse. Whoever it was, was dead.

Tim pulled out his matchbook and lit a match. It cast a small circle of light. He held it toward where the head was. He saw Vallingham’s dead eyes looking back at him.

Tim shook the match out and sighed. Then, he slowly stood and made his way back the way he came, although he came out far from his shack.

Police were walking around with flashlights on. One of them shined a light on Tim. “Who are you?”

“Tim Ross. Dr. Vallingham, the man you’re looking for, is in there.” Tim waved toward the clearing. “He’s dead.”

“Dead? Did you kill him?”

“No, he ran into bootleggers. They shot at each other. He lost.”

By morning, police were swarming over the hospital grounds. In Dr. Cullen’s office, the doctor profusely apologized for what had happened.

“I’m alive, at least,” Tim told him.

“Yes, and like you, I mourn for those other patients who aren’t so lucky. There are doctors from the state right now pouring over hospital records, looking over all patients Dr. Vallingham supervised. Their families deserve to know the truth.”

Tim nodded. Dr. Cullen was right, but Tim had been thinking that he was alive while Dr. Vallingham was dead. This might have been Tim’s last fight, but at least he had won it.

The End

Each year, the VFW Post 6658 Auxiliary sponsors a contest titled, “The Patriot’s Pen,” which is open to students in grades six through eight. Students are required to enter a typed essay of 300-400 words based on the theme: “My Pledge to Our Veterans.” Monetary prizes are given the winners on local, state, and national levels. Judging is based on knowledge of theme, theme development, and clarity of ideas. 

If interested, please contact Annette Wivell at 301-447-3475 for an entry form. Entry deadline to VFW Post 6658, Emmitsburg, MD 21727 is October 31, 2022.

Memories of a Swing

Poem by Sue Clabaugh

Written for the man who made the swing and for my grandson who loved the swing.

My first memories of the swing are joyful.

I am a tot, too small to realize the full meaning of the thing

But aware enough of my feelings to know

It is a joy and it’s fun.

It’s also love. love from my Mother and Father

one in front and one in the back

pushing me from one to the other

a threesome—making one

Showing a family of love.

Years passed—now I’m five.

Old enough to know the swing is the first thing I run to in the park.

I want the thrill of the highs, thinking that each trip through the air

I will be able to touch the tree limbs with my toes.

And the best part is the feeling of love.

A happy love for 

I’m being pushed—to and fro by my Granny

I trust her her—she pushes me higher than my mother does.

I’m brave because she is

the two of us—making one

Showing a family of love.

 Sixteen now—The years have flown.

I sit on the front porch swing

dreaming of the boy I love

The handsome one, the one with the smile,

And quietly he sneaks up behind me

And gives the swing a sudden push.

I scream and he laughs as he sits down beside me

to say hello.

We begin to talk and share each other’s company

We are unaware that our nervous legs are pushing us

to and fro—making us one

Showing our feelings of love.

I’m old now, very old, feeling very alone

sitting here on this rickity old swing.

 It’s the one my man made for me years ago.

It held our children and grandchildren

And then their grandchildren

All cuddled together

Swinging and smiling.

The one place that young and old could be a child.

I wonder what will become of it when I am gone.

Will anyone remember that

It brought a family together—taking turns swinging

to and fro—making us one

Showing a family how to love.