Currently viewing the category: "Arts & Entertainment"

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

8: A Surprise Visitor

Stacy Lawrence turned in her two weeks’ notice to Kevin Poland, the owner of the Thurmont tavern where she worked. He was disappointed she was leaving so soon, but he realized that her new job managing Bobby Hennessey’s farm was a good opportunity for her. In the meantime, Stacy used her free time to get to the cabin, where she and Peter would be living on the farm, ready to live in.

The job switch affected Stacy less than switching homes did. It felt odd leaving the tavern because the apartment above it was her first place to live in Thurmont. The apartment had been in worse shape when she moved in than the cabin was in, but she and Peter had fixed it up and turned it into their home.

 Once her work on the farm started, she slipped into the job easily. She also had to admit to herself that she liked running a farm more than bartending and waitressing in the tavern. Her priority was to take stock of what Bobby had on the farm and make sure that it was taken care of. He had already done a good job with that, but she needed to know what she had to work with before she could know what the farm needed. She made a list of what could be done quickly to generate revenue for the farm and what they would have to build up to.

She talked everything over with Bobby a few times a week to get his okay and his own input on what he would like to see done.

They sat on his back patio in the evenings talking about the farm and life. Once, she asked him why he hadn’t ever remarried.

He had tipped his chair back on its rear legs and said, “It never seemed right.”

“Oh, so you do date?”

Bobby grinned. “Are you asking me about my personal life?”

He was older than her, but he couldn’t be that old, even if he wouldn’t say what his age was. She realized she may have crossed a line, though, and quickly apologized.

Bobby waved it off. “No need. It’s always nice when someone is direct. It keeps the grapevine trimmed.”

“Are you a popular topic on the grapevine?”

He sipped at his beer. “I can be. I’m a single man and divorced women and widows like to know who’s available and worth their time.”

“I suppose you’re quite a catch,” Stacy said with a bit of sarcasm.

“It depends on who you ask. Anyway, the ladies I’ve seen from time to time were in Hagerstown and Frederick. One was in Westminster.”

“The local ladies aren’t good enough for you?”

“No, they’re fine. Better than fine. I consider many of them wonderful friends, but I don’t like feeling those same friends are watching me on a date and commenting on it. It’s uncomfortable enough when they talk about it my face. My life isn’t a season of The Bachelor.”

“So will I see one of these ladies at the farm?”

Bobby shook his head. “No, there’s no one right now. Hasn’t been for months.”

“None of them measure up to your wife?”

He shrugged. “Maybe. It just never seemed right to take things any further. I could see some of them being a possibility if I lived in Thurmont, but not up here.”

“What’s wrong with up here? I love it.”

“Farming’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I can barely handle it myself.”

“So, you haven’t found the right woman to fit with your life?”

Bobby thought for a moment. “More like I haven’t found the right feelings to fit with the women.”

Stacy could understand that her boss was being careful. He had chosen a good wife, and he couldn’t help that fate had had other plans for him when she and his daughter had been killed in an accident. Stacy had been the opposite. She’d been willful because she thought she had known better than her parents. She’d chosen the wrong husband and got pregnant at the wrong time. She didn’t regret having Peter. He was wonderful, but she had had to grow up quickly, even quicker when Jack had left her.

Bobby seemed to be enjoying not having the burden of the farm hanging over him. She often saw him painting, but he would also disappear into the house for hours at a time. He said it was to check the markets for his financial work.

Occasionally, he would come out while Peter was in school and ask her if she needed help. Even if she didn’t, she would find something for him to do. She enjoyed his company. He would tell stories of his childhood and Thurmont when it was even smaller than it was now. He had told her how he had gone to high school when it was in the middle school building. It had been falling apart at the time, but he assured her the school board had fixed it up when they turned it into a middle school. He talked about old businesses that were no longer around and the funny things people in town sometimes did.

Peter especially enjoyed Bobby’s stories of when he was in school without computers. Peter seemed to think it had been in the Dark Ages. When Peter needed help with math homework, Bobby helped him, and Peter was actually excited when he understood algebra. Stacy would catch them sitting on the front porch from time to time whittling. Even if she didn’t know what they were creating, they did, and they had fun doing it.

After a month of working on the farm and starting to feel comfortable, Stacy noticed something else.

“You aren’t going out as much,” Stacy said to Bobby.

Bobby raised an eyebrow. “Are you my mama now, watching when I leave and get back?”

Stacy blushed. “No, but you used to be in town, it seemed like all the time. Eating in restaurants. Going to the American Legion. Playing Bingo at the ambulance company. Now, you always hang out around here painting, whittling with Peter, or sitting with me on the patio.”

“I still go to town sometimes.”

“But usually with me and Peter to get pizza.”

“I like pizza.”

Stacy shook her head and sighed.

About a week later, she pulled into the driveway that ran past the main house where Bobby lived and went back to the cottage. She had picked up Peter from Thurmont Middle School, and he sat beside her.

She saw Bobby sitting on the front porch with someone. At first, she thought it was a woman. Maybe Bobby had taken their talk to heart and started dating again. Then she realized it wasn’t a woman. It was someone she knew.

Peter grabbed her arm. “Mom, stop! It’s Dad!”

Stacy stopped the car. Peter jumped out, yelling, “Dad! Dad!”

Peter ran across the yard. Jack hopped down the front stairs and spread his arms wide. “Petey!” Peter ran into his arms, and Jack lifted him up and swung him around.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

7: Making a Deal

Stacy Lawrence and Bobby Hennessey set up a time to meet at the Kountry Kitchen restaurant the day following his job offer to her.

Stacy had wanted time to think about the offer and think of any questions she might have about managing Bobby’s farm on Catoctin Mountain.      

Stacy and her son, Peter, showed up first since it was close to where they lived in Thurmont, and Peter insisted that she be on time. He already did odd jobs for Bobby, and the youngster wanted his mom to work full-time at the farm.

Since Stacy often ate at the tavern where she worked, she hadn’t been in the restaurant before. She felt like she was stepping back in time. It had a friendly atmosphere that felt like it was a 1950s diner with checkerboard floor tiles, wood paneling, and counter seating along one wall.

They took a seat at a table. A middle-aged woman with brown hair pinned on top of her head in a large bun brought them some water to drink.

“Hi, Gail!” Peter said when he saw the woman.

“You know her?” Stacy asked.

“Bobby brought me here a couple times for pie when he was bringing me home.”

Stacy ordered sodas and said, “We’ll wait to order. We’re meeting someone here for dinner.”

“Bobby? Are you meeting him for dinner?”

“How’d you know that?”

The waitress smiled knowingly. “He called earlier and said he may be running a little late. He’s helping May DePaul move some furniture.”         

“Oh. Is she his girlfriend?”

The waitress chuckled. “No, she’s an old friend of his who is downsizing to a smaller place. Actually, most people thought you two were an item.”

Stacy felt a slight blush creep up on her cheeks. “No, we’re just friends. I’m actually considering managing his farm.”

“About time someone does,” Gail remarked. “Bobby doesn’t have much interest in it anymore. He only keeps it because his wife and daughter are buried there.”

“They were his wife and daughter, right?” Stacy asked.

The waitress nodded. “Their deaths nearly killed him, too. First, he got depressed, and then he got drunk and stayed that way.”

Stacy couldn’t believe what she was hearing about gentle-natured Bobby turning to alcohol. “That must have been tough for him.”  

The waitress nodded sadly. “It was. But we all rallied around him – you know how he’s always helping others. We wanted to repay the favor and show him that he’s appreciated in this town. Eventually, he got back to his old self.”

As if on cue, the front door opened and Bobby walked into the restaurant, his friendly face breaking into a smile when he saw Stacy and Peter waiting for him.     

“Speak of the devil,” Gail said, her voice tinged with playful sarcasm.

“I love you, too, Gail,” he replied with a mischievous smile.

She smirked in response. “Take a seat and I’ll bring you your usual.”

“You know me too well,” he joked.

Diane’s gaze flickered to Stacy. “I suppose I do.”

Bobby settled into the chair next to Peter. Peter reached into his shirt pocket and brought out a smooth piece of wood, carved into the vague shape of a four-legged animal.

“Have you been working on that? Looks like you’ve made some progress,” Bobby observed.

“A little, but the knife isn’t cooperating as well as I’d like,” Peter admitted.

Bobby took the wooden creation and examined it closely. “Give yourself some credit, Peter. This is your first attempt at whittling. You’ll only improve with practice.”

Curiosity sparked in Stacy’s eyes. “What are you two discussing?”

“Bobby has been teaching me how to whittle,” Peter answered proudly, offering the carved animal to his mother. “This is what I’ve made so far.”

Stacy smiled warmly, though she couldn’t quite make out what the object was meant to be.

“It’s going to be a great likeness of Hershey when it’s finished,” Bobby chimed in, as if reading her thoughts.

Nodding in agreement, Stacy asked, “When did you learn how to whittle, and where did you get a knife?”

“Bobby sometimes teaches me after we finish our work on the farm.”

“I gave him an old pen knife. It’s a good way for him to practice handling a knife,” Bobby explained.

“With you painting and Peter whittling, I have to ask – how much work are you two actually getting done up there?” Stacy teased.

Bobby nudged Peter playfully. “You see? She’s already sounding like the boss.”

“That’s her ‘mom voice’,” Peter chimed in, causing Bobby to chuckle as Stacy blushed.

“So have you thought about my offer yet?” Bobby asked, changing the subject.

“Are you really willing to let me manage the farm on my own terms?”

“Well, it’s still my place,” he said, “so you’ll need to consult with me about any major expenses and plans for the farm. But day-to-day maintenance is up to you. I trust you’ll do a great job.”

Stacy nodded, taking another sip of her soda before asking about the cottage Bobby had told her she could live in with Peter.

“It’s in good shape,” Bobby replied, “my grandparents lived there after my father took over the farm. It has some furnishings, but the appliances will need updating – which I’m happy to cover.”

“And the big question,” Stacy hesitated, “is how much are you willing to pay?”

Bobby thought for a moment before answering. “I’ll give you a base salary that includes rent and utilities for the cottage. And since the farm isn’t generating anything right now, I’m willing to give you 50 percent of any profits you can generate.”

Stacy did some quick calculations in her head and realized it was a fair offer compared to other jobs in the area. It would be more than she was making at the tavern.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked.

“I told you yesterday,” Bobby replied calmly.

Stacy shook her head, disbelief etched on her features. “Things like this don’t happen to me.” Her life was a testament to that. She was divorced, she had lost her job in Gaithersburg, and then couldn’t afford her apartment any longer.

“That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t or can’t,” Bobby reminded her.

Stacy turned to Peter, who had been sitting quietly throughout their conversation. His eyes held an anxious look as he waited for Stacy’s decision. She could tell he wanted her to take the job.

With a deep breath, Stacy held out her hand. “Fine. You’ve got yourself a farm manager.”

Bobby smiled and shook her hand, relieved and grateful. The future of his family’s farm was now in her hands.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

6: A Job Offer

Bobby Hennessey and Peter Lawrence entered the bustling Thurmont tavern, their boots tapping against the wooden floorboards. The warm, inviting scent of freshly cooked food filled the air, mingling with the sound of glasses clinking and people chatting. Behind the bar stood Stacy, Peter’s mother. She smiled a wide smile when she spotted them and made her way over.

“What brings you two in here this evening?” she asked.

“Dinner and discussion,” Bobby replied, taking a seat at the bar.

Stacy raised an eyebrow playfully. “Oh? What’s on the menu for conversation tonight?”

“A Cherry Sprite for me,” Bobby ordered confidently.

Peter cleared his throat and straightened his back, trying to look more mature than his years. “I’ll have a beer,” he said confidently. Stacy raised an eyebrow at him, causing him to quickly add, “Root beer!” before bursting into laughter.

“Always the jokester,” Bobby remarked with an eye roll. “He’s been working on that one all the way down the mountain.”

Stacy shook her head with a fond smile and went to fetch their drinks. As she returned, she asked, “So what’s the discussion going to be about?”

“Do you enjoy working here?” Bobby asked earnestly.

“I’m grateful for the job and Kevin treats us well,” Stacy responded. Kevin Poland was the owner of the tavern and the building it occupied.

Bobby nodded thoughtfully. “Kevin’s a great guy, and he runs a friendly business, but do you truly enjoy your work? People have jobs they do for necessity and jobs they do because they love it. For example, Peter loves working on the farm while I… not so much. I mostly do it to remember my parents.”

Stacy ruffled her son’s unruly brown hair affectionately and smiled at him. “I’m glad he loves it.”

Bobby chuckled. “So, is this your ‘Bobby’ job or your ‘Peter’ job?”

Stacy shrugged, thinking. “I guess it’s my Bobby job. I don’t mind it, but it’s not my passion or what I see myself doing for years. Why are you asking?”

“You did a fantastic job with Hershey last week,” Bobby complimented her.

“How is he doing, by the way?” Stacy asked with concern.

“He’s fine,” Peter assured her. “But you were in your element helping him. You had complete control of the situation.”

“I told you I was a vet tech in Gaithersburg and grew up on a farm,” Stacy said modestly, though a hint of pride shone through.

Bobby’s face lit up with a smile, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “Oh, I remember. That’s why I have an offer for you.” He leaned in closer, his voice dropping to a whisper. “I want you to come manage and work my farm. Turn it into something more than it is.”

Stacy’s heart skipped a beat as she processed Bobby’s words. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She had left Gaithersburg for a chance to start anew, but she hadn’t imagined that chance would be on a farm. It sounded like a dream.

“There’s even a charming cottage on the back end of the property where you and Pete can live,” Bobby added with a knowing grin.

Stacy turned to look at her son, who was beaming and nodding in agreement.

“Is this another one of your jokes?” Stacy asked incredulously, looking back at Bobby.

He shook his head earnestly. “No, it’s a serious offer.”

Stacy stepped back from the bar in disbelief, her mind racing with all the possibilities that this new opportunity presented.

“I’ve never done anything like that before,” she admitted.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t,” Bobby reassured her.

“And I can help you, Mom,” Peter chimed in eagerly.

Stacy hadn’t even thought about that aspect: being able to spend more time with her son while also pursuing a new endeavor. Ever since they moved from Gaithersburg, she had wanted a fresh start for both of them… together. But with her job at the tavern taking up most of her time, they hadn’t been able to truly bond like she had hoped.

She turned to look at Peter, his excitement infectious.

“What would you need me to do?” she asked Bobby, curiosity getting the better of her.

“Just take care of the animals and the property,” he replied. “Start getting it generating some income, even if it’s just by selling eggs at the farmer’s market in town. And maybe we could also board a few more horses or sell some crops. I am open to any ideas you might have.”

“That sounds like a lot,” Stacy pointed out, feeling slightly overwhelmed by the responsibility.

“You can take it one step at a time,” Bobby reassured her. “I just want to see the place productive again. I’ll help out whenever I can, but farming and ranching aren’t exactly my strengths.”

Stacy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This offer seemed too good to be true. “Why are you doing this? Really?” she asked, searching for any ulterior motives.

“Just like I said,” Bobby replied with a genuine smile. “I’ve owned this place for years and could have done this a long time ago, but I think it’s meant for someone like you to bring it back to life. I could have taken care of things on my own, but having Pete around showed me that having help could give me some much-needed free time.” He rested his hand on Peter’s shoulder, a gesture of appreciation and pride. “And let me tell you, this one is a hard worker.” Bobby’s tone was filled with admiration.

Stacy watched the exchange between the man and boy, wondering what kind of bond they had formed since Peter had started working for Bobby. What stories did they share? What lessons had they learned together? She couldn’t help but feel a sense of curiosity and admiration for their relationship.

“By the way,” Bobby continued, “my hard-working years are past. I want to enjoy things now.”

“You talk like you’re dying,” Stacy blurted out before she could stop herself.

Bobby chuckled, a deep rumble in his chest. “Aren’t we all?” He paused, his expression turning serious. “But no, I’m not. I just want to savor my remaining years. That’s part of the reason why I worked so hard all the years up until now.” His voice held a tinge of regret, but also a sense of fulfillment.

Stacy couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt for assuming the worst about Bobby’s health. What was she to think? He was older than her, but he didn’t look old enough to be worrying about dying. Besides, she felt a sense of warmth towards him, knowing that he wanted to enjoy his later years after all the hard work he had put in.

“So,” Bobby turned back to her with a smile, “are you interested?”

Stacy looked back and forth between Bobby and Peter, feeling a sense of gratitude for their offer. “Okay,” she said with a grateful smile.

written by James Rada, Jr.

5: Helping Out

Peter Lawrence seemed to mature before his mother’s eyes, and she wasn’t sure if she was proud that he was growing into a fine man or sad that he was losing his childhood.

Stacy Lawrence had reluctantly given her son permission to work part-time on Bobby Hennessey’s farm. So far, Peter said he was enjoying the work, and Bobby had promised Stacy not to overwork the 12-year-old. Each day, Bobby would pick up Peter and drop him off, and for a few hours in between, Peter would take care of the animals and complete odd jobs around the farm–nothing too physically demanding.

Despite this, Stacy couldn’t shake off the guilt she felt. She would have loved to see her son out skateboarding with friends at the Thurmont Skatepark. Peter had chosen to help out on the farm after seeing how much Stacy was struggling financially. It was both heartwarming and bittersweet to see her son take on such responsibility at such a young age.

When she looked at her son, she saw glimpses of Jack, her ex-husband and Peter’s father. They shared the same unruly brown hair that never seemed to lay straight and bright green eyes that shone with kindness. But what really made them look alike was their smiles—wide open and friendly.

Thankfully, Peter had inherited his mother’s strong work ethic. He didn’t shy away from hard work and always gave it his all. With such dedication, it was no surprise that he proudly handed over most of his weekly pay to Stacy. And even though she knew they needed the money, she couldn’t bring herself to spend it. Taking Bobby’s advice, she opened a savings account in Peter’s name at PNC Bank. One day, he would have a nice nest egg thanks to his own efforts – and knowing Peter, she had no doubt he would use it wisely.

In the quiet moments while she tended the bar, Stacy’s thoughts often drifted to her son. She couldn’t help but miss his presence, even if he spent most of their time together, hunched over his tablet while she worked. Thankfully, Bobby was more than willing to match Peter’s days off with hers, so they could still enjoy some quality time together.

One day, after finishing work early, Stacy swung by Bobby’s farm to pick up Peter and save Bobby a trip. As she pulled up, she saw Peter feeding the animals and Bobby sitting under a tree with his easel and paints.

Curiosity getting the better of her, Stacy approached him and peered over his shoulder at his current creation.

“Not bad,” she said.

Bobby smiled warmly. “You’re kind. I enjoy doing it, though. I find it relaxing.”

“What do you do with them once you finish?”

“Half the time I just paint over them again.”

“And the other half?”

“When you go into the barn, you’ll see them hanging for the horses to enjoy.”

Stacy chuckled at the thought of a horse staring at Bobby’s paintings.

Putting his brush in a jar of water, Bobby stood up. “Would you like a glass of iced tea?”

She nodded, and they walked over to the house and the back deck. Bobby motioned to a cozy patio chair with a worn but comfortable cushion, inviting Stacy to have a seat.

“Have a seat, and I’ll bring out the tea.”

Stacy settled into the chair and took in the view of the farm. It wasn’t sprawling, but it had its own charm, with two rustic barns and a large fenced arena. She couldn’t help but feel relaxed as she sat and gazed out at the peaceful property. In the distance, she spotted Peter pushing an empty wheelbarrow into one of the barns before disappearing inside.

When Bobby returned with a tray carrying a pitcher of tea and two glasses, he joined her at the table. He set it down on the table between them and poured each of them a glass before taking a seat next to her.

“You really have a lovely farm,” Stacy remarked.

“Thank you, but it’s too much for me, really.”

“Then why not sell it?”

“I grew up here. I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories of my parents here. If I sold it, I would feel like I’m losing a part of myself. That’s probably why I have no interest in leaving Thurmont. Everywhere I turn, there are buildings, parks, houses that hold special meaning for me because of the memories attached to them.”

“I’ve never lived in a place like that.”

“Too bad.”

“Maybe, but can you miss something you never had?”

“Maybe not, but you can yearn for something you’ve only dreamed of having. In some ways, that can be even harder because it’s an ideal rather than a reality.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Peter jogging out of one of the barns.

“Bobby, I think you should take a look at Hershey,” the boy said.

“What’s wrong?”

“He’s been acting strange. I’m worried he might be sick or something.”

Bobby and Stacy quickly got up and followed Peter into the barn. “You named a stallion Hershey?” Stacy couldn’t help but ask.

“He reminded me of milk chocolate,” Bobby explained with a fond smile as they approached the stall where Hershey was housed.

Bobby’s four horses were housed in a spacious, rustic barn, with each stall adorned with fresh hay and a clean watering trough. Peter stood at the stall of a large, chocolate-colored stallion, its muscles rippling under its glossy coat. The horse kept shaking his head and biting at his flanks, clearly agitated and uncomfortable. Despite Peter’s attempts to soothe him with calming words and food, the stallion showed no interest.

Stacy entered the stall with cautious steps, her experienced hands lightly running along the stallion’s side. He nipped at her hand, but she quickly pulled it away. She noticed Peter hadn’t yet changed the bedding in the stall, which appeared crushed and dirty.

“I think he may have a mild case of colic,” she said to Bobby.

“What should we do?” he asked, concern etched on his face.

“Let me take him out to the arena and walk him for a while,” Stacy suggested. “Movement can sometimes help with mild cases. In the meantime, Peter should clean out the stall and remove any remaining food. A sick horse shouldn’t be eating.”

With a halter in hand, Stacy led Hershey out of the barn. The horse was hesitant at first, but with gentle words and slight tugs on the halter, he reluctantly followed her lead. As they walked around the arena, Stacy explained to Bobby how walking can help relieve gas and stimulate bowel movements in horses experiencing colic.

“Do you have any experience with this?” Bobby asked.

“I’ve dealt with it before,” Stacy replied. “But I’m not a trained vet, so if this doesn’t work, you’ll need to call one out here.”

“You seem pretty knowledgeable.”

“I’ve been around horses my whole life,” Stacy shrugged modestly. “But I wouldn’t want to risk your horse’s health.”

“I trust you,” Bobby said sincerely.

As they continued their slow laps around the arena, they talked about their pasts. Stacy was surprised to learn that Bobby had been married, but tragically, his wife and daughter had passed away in a car accident several years ago.

“Doesn’t it taint your memories of the town?” she asked sympathetically.

Bobby shook his head. “No. The town helps me remember them. They’re buried in a small family cemetery back behind the barns. Sometimes it makes me sad to visit their graves because of the memories associated with their gravestones, but you have to take the good with the bad.”

Bobby came to a sudden stop, waving his hand in front of his face as if trying to ward off an invisible attacker. “Now that’s a something I can do without.” Hershey had let out a belch of gas, the putrid odor hanging heavily in the air. “Smells like a dead skunk that’s been left out in the sun for a week.”

Stacy couldn’t help but laugh at Bobby’s pained expression. “Like you said, you have to take the good with the bad.”

She paused and ran her hands over Hershey’s belly, relieved when he didn’t snap at her. “I think he’ll be fine. Let’s walk him a little longer and see if he gets rid of anything else.”

“If he does, I might just lose my lunch.” Bobby grimaced as they continued their stroll.

They walked for another 10 minutes before Stacy led Hershey back to his empty stall. “Leave it empty for tonight, no bedding or food. Just to be safe and make sure everything is okay. If his manure is soft or watery in the morning, then we’ll take him to get checked out. But he should be fine.”

“Thank you,” Bobby said gratefully. “I really appreciate you helping Hershey and potentially saving me a vet bill… or even losing my horse.”

“I’m just glad I was here to help,” Stacy replied sincerely.

“I want to pay you.”

Bobby reached for his wallet, but Stacy quickly placed a hand on his arm. “Don’t you dare. You’ve already been so kind to me and Peter. This is the least I can do.”

“Well…” He thought for a moment before an idea struck him. “At least let me order us some pizza, and we can have dinner on the back porch?”

Stacy smiled, nodding in agreement. “That sounds lovely.”

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

4: A Hard-Workin’ Man

Stacy Lawrence liked life in Thurmont, mainly because there was little drama. The worst that she had to deal with was the occasional bar Romeo trying to pick her up while she was working. So far, they had all taken “no” for an answer.

She was surprised she needed this slower pace of life. It gave her a chance to take a deep breath, regroup, and rebuild her life. Having her car break down on Catoctin Mountain might be the best thing to happen to her since she divorced Jack, Peter’s father. She hadn’t even bothered to tell Jack that she and Peter were moving. He hadn’t paid any alimony or child support, so she didn’t feel she owed him anything.

Peter was making new friends. He had been thrilled to discover Thurmont had a skateboard park that was close enough to their apartment that he could go on his own.

Stacy finished her work closing the tavern, locked up the place, and went upstairs to her apartment. She had stopped in earlier during her break to make dinner for Peter and put him to bed, so the place was quiet and dark when she entered.

She turned on a lamp next to an old armchair and sat down. She soaked in the quiet. She enjoyed her job, but it was noisy. After work, she just wanted to get off her feet and enjoy the quiet. She picked up a novel by Sherryl Woods and started reading until she fell asleep.

She woke the next morning and saw Peter watching television and eating cereal. “Good morning, kiddo,” she said, wiping the sleep from her eyes.

“Hi, Mom.”

“I’m going to the library for some new books today. Do you want to come along?” she asked.

She was off today and tomorrow, and she planned to enjoy it.

“Can I get some DVDs?”

“I suppose so.”


It was a sunny day, so the walk to the library was pleasant, and Stacy was happy to be spending time with Peter. She was working so many hours that she didn’t get to see him much, and when she did, it tended to be in the apartment or the tavern.

At the library, Peter hurried off to the DVDs while Stacy strolled through the stacks, looking for something that caught her eye. As she walked by one of the large windows that looked out on a back porch, she heard a trio of musicians playing music.

She walked out onto the porch to listen. About a dozen people were gathered around, sitting in chairs.

“They’re pretty good, aren’t they?”

Stacy looked over her shoulder and saw Bobby Hennessey, the older man who had helped her when her car broke down on Catoctin Mountain. He had also given her a good recommendation to Kevin at the tavern to help her get her job.

She smiled at him. “I’m surprised. I thought libraries were supposed to be quiet.”

“Technically, these people aren’t in the library.” He paused. “How’s the new job?”

“Busy, but I like it. The tips are good, and I can use all the money I can earn right now.”

“Why’s that? It’s a lot cheaper to live here than in Montgomery County.”

Stacy nodded. “It is, but I have a lot of debt that Peter’s father left me with.”

“Doesn’t he pay support or alimony?”

Stacy snorted. “He’s supposed to, but you have to be working to do that. So, I’m having to work 50 hours a week. It helps that I can live above the tavern. It makes it easier for me to watch over Peter.”

“Watch over? When I was a kid, I’d come home from school, do my homework, and disappear until dark with my friends. Sometimes, my mom didn’t even know where I was.”

Stacy put her hands on her hips. “When was that? The 60s?”

He pointed to himself. “I guess I’m doing pretty good for a dinosaur.”

“I didn’t mean it that way; although, you never did tell me your age.”

“And don’t think I will now.”

“You can’t be that old.”

Bobby shrugged.

A man walked by and clapped Bobby on the back. The man had thin, white hair and a full beard and mustache. He wore a baseball cap that read: Vietnam Veteran. “Haven’t seen you at the legion lately.”

“I was there two nights ago, Mack,” Bobby told him.

“Well, I wasn’t there.”

“I know. Why do you think I went then?” Mack laughed. “Mack, this is Stacy Lawrence. She’s new in town.”

Mack turned to Stacy and smiled. “How do you do, young lady?” It had been a while since she’d been called young, and even longer since she felt it. If this man was a Vietnam Veteran, he must be in his 70s.

“Nice to meet you,” Stacy replied.

“What brings you to Thurmont?”

“I was looking for a new start, and Bobby convinced me to give this place a try.”

Mack nodded. “Yeah, he got out for a while, but now that he’s back, he’s our best advertisement for the place.” The musicians started playing a new song. Mack turned back to Bobby. “I’ve got to go, but stop by and see me.”

Bobby nodded. Mack left and Stacy said, “Does everyone in town know you?”

He shrugged. “Maybe not everyone. I think the kindergartners at the primary school haven’t had the pleasure yet.”


Two days later, Peter came in from playing at Community Park, excited. “Mom…Mom, Bobby offered me a job.”

“What? Who?”

“Bobby. You know, the man who helped us on the mountain. He asked me if I wanted to help him on his farm.”

Stacy laid down the clothes she was folding, trying to take in what Peter had just told her.

“You’re too young to have a job.” He was only 12.

“No, I’m not. Besides, he said it wouldn’t be too much. I can help you now, so you don’t have to work so much.”

Stacy hugged her son. “That’s sweet, Peter, but I don’t know. I think Bobby was just being nice.”

“Please, mom. Bobby said it wouldn’t be too hard, but I had to ask your permission. He’s in the tavern waiting to hear what you say.”

This was all coming at Stacy so quickly that she could barely take it in.          

She went downstairs and saw Bobby talking with a couple at one of the tables. When he saw her, he excused himself and walked over to her.

“I can’t tell if you are mad,” he said.

“I’m not mad, but why would you offer my son a job?”

“He asked.”

“Peter asked you for a job?”

Bobby shrugged. “Well, he asked me for a recommendation like I gave you because he wanted to help out, so you weren’t working so much. I admire his enthusiasm, but he’s not likely to find work at his age, so I offered. I have plenty of odd jobs around the place that a boy his age can do.”

Stacy shook her head. Peter wanted to work to help her. She also didn’t want to discourage his initiative, but she wasn’t sure it was the best thing for him.

“I can’t be running him up the mountain every day, even if I wanted him working,” she said.

Bobby grinned. “No worry there. I can pick him up and bring him home.”


“I grew up on a farm, but I never had to run one. There’s a lot that needs doing, and honestly, there are other things I’d rather do.”

Stacy nodded. “I know. I spent my summers with my grandparents in Western Maryland, helping them on their farm when I was growing up.”

Maybe that was why she was enjoying Thurmont. It reminded her of her summers in Western Maryland.

“I never took you as a country girl,” Bobby said.

“I’m not anymore, but it is the reason I like animals.”

Bobby nodded, but said nothing.

Stacy sighed. “Fine, we’ll see how it goes.”

Bobby put a hand on her shoulder. “It will be good for him.”

“I hope so. I don’t want him to grow up like his father.”

Stacy looked over toward the kitchen and saw Peter standing, waiting. She nodded. He cheered.


Peter took well to his new job. He was tired some evenings when Bobby dropped him off, but he never complained. From Peter’s description, Bobby had him doing odd jobs around the farm. If he didn’t know how to do them, Bobby showed him how and watched him until he got it right. Most of them were just basic chores. Peter said he enjoyed feeding the animals the best because he got to spend time with them, and they appreciated him more since he was feeding them.

After his first week as a working man, Bobby brought Peter home, and the boy came into the apartment with a smile on his face. He handed Stacy an envelope filled with money.

“That’s my first week’s pay, minus $20,” Peter said. “I want you to have it. I want to help out, so you don’t have to work so much.”

Stacy looked over at Bobby. “He earned it all. He’s a hard worker and a quick learner.”

Peter smiled at the compliment. Stacy did, too, as she passed the envelope back to Peter. “I can’t take this. Like Bobby said, you earned it. It’s yours.”

“But I want to help,” Peter said, with a bit of pleading in his voice.

“Uh, Stacy, can I ask you something over here, please?” Bobby said.

“Right now?”

Bobby nodded. She walked over and he whispered, “He’s been excited about giving that money to you since day one. It’s the reason he took the job.”

“I can’t take his money, though. It wouldn’t be right.”

“You’ll hurt his feelings if you don’t,” Bobby warned her. “He’s stepping up. He said since he’s the man of the house, he’s doing what he can. If you won’t take it, it will discourage him. Take it. Open the boy a savings account for when he gets older and wants a car or needs money for college. You don’t need to tell him that, though.”

Stacy looked at Bobby, then Peter. She couldn’t believe that her baby was growing up. She walked over and swept him into her arms and hugged him tightly as she cried.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

3: Job Hunting

Saturday morning, Stacy Lawrence slowly woke from her slumber, feeling disoriented and unsure of her surroundings. She looked at the ceiling and then at the nightstand. She didn’t recognize them. With a jolt, she remembered that she and her son, Peter, were holed up in Thurmont for the weekend while their car underwent repairs.

With a heavy sigh, Stacy relaxed back into the pillows, but then realized that she had no plans for the day ahead. Apartment hunting in Pennsylvania had been on her agenda, but the unexpected car trouble had derailed those plans. She mentally scolded herself for not having a backup plan.

She got up and went through her morning routine, the hot water from the shower soothing her tense muscles. As she dressed, she glanced over at Peter, still sleeping soundly. He would probably be content spending the day lounging around and watching TV.

Downstairs in the breakfast room, Stacy sat alone at a table with a cup of coffee and some toast. She wracked her brain, trying to come up with a new plan. She was someone who needed structure and organization to function properly, but lately, her plans seemed to crumble beneath her.

Pulling out her phone, Stacy pulled up a map of Thurmont. It was a charming small town, but its size limited the options for things to do. She thought back to what Bobby Hennessey had suggested last night at the pizzeria: Why not consider finding work and settling down in Thurmont?

Intrigued by this idea, Stacy began researching businesses in the town and potential apartments to rent. Unfortunately, there were only a few places available within her budget.

Frustrated, but determined to make the most of her weekend in Thurmont, Stacy decided to explore all possibilities and make a decision once they got their car back. After all, she had nothing else planned for now.

When Stacy returned to the room, Peter was awake and engrossed in a TV show.

 “They have waffles in the breakfast room,” Stacy said.

Peter’s face lit up. “Awesome!” Waffles were the 10-year-old’s favorite breakfast.

“Before you go stuff yourself with waffles, I need to talk to you about something. Can you turn off the TV for a minute?”

Peter complied and sat up, curious about what his mother had to say.

 “I know I said we were going to live in Pennsylvania, but what would you think about staying here instead?”

Peter shrugged. “I haven’t really seen much of it.”

Stacy nodded. “I know, but I’ve been doing some research online. It seems like a nice place to live. It’s almost what I was looking for, although it’s a little smaller.”

“What would you do for work?”

Stacy sighed. “That’s a good question, and the answer is: I don’t know. If you were agreeable to staying here, I was going to spend the weekend looking for a job. Bobby said there’s a veterinarian in town, so I can apply there. I also saw there’s a zoo—maybe they could use some help.”

“Do I have to walk around with you?”

Stacy shook her head. “No, you can stay in the hotel room as long as you promise not to wander off by yourself. And, don’t forget, you can’t order room service without my permission.”

“That’s fine. I can watch TV.”

She tussled his hair. “I didn’t think you would mind that. I’ll leave you some money, so you can order a pizza for lunch if I’m not back.”

Stacy spent most of the day trekking from one end of Thurmont to the other. Her first stop was the veterinary hospital that was near the high school. Even though they weren’t hiring at the moment, the office manager accepted her application since she had experience in an animal hospital.

Walking back through town, she stopped at stores, banks, doctor’s offices, and restaurants, asking if they were hiring and filling out applications. She even followed signs to the public library and applied there. She wasn’t picky, and she had worked a variety of jobs in high school and college, so she had experience in a lot of fields. However, she doubted some of the jobs would pay well enough to live on.

She also took the time to inquire about apartments or rooms for rent wherever she applied for a job. Thurmont had a few apartment complexes and many businesses downtown that appeared to have living quarters above them.

Luckily, the weather was pleasant, with plenty of sunshine and no extreme heat. This made the walk enjoyable for Stacy as she walked around town.

After submitting her application at a local tavern, she settled onto a barstool and ordered lunch while scrolling through the Internet to find potential places to live. The bartender, Kevin, struck up a conversation with her.

“So, why did you decide to move here if you didn’t have a place to live?” he asked curiously, wiping down the already spotless counter.

It was after the lunch rush, but before dinner, so there were only a handful of people in the tavern.

“My car broke down yesterday, and a friend convinced me that I could live here as easily as Pennsylvania.”      

The bartender, Kevin, nodded. “He’s right, but why isn’t he helping you search? If he lives here, he would know where to look.”

“He’s not that good a friend. I just met him yesterday. He helped me out when my car broke down.”

“What’s his name?” Kevin asked, filling a glass with ice from the large machine behind him.

“Bobby Hennessey.”

Kevin smiled and nodded. “Bobby! Everyone around here knows Bobby.”

A small smile tugged at her lips. “He ate dinner with me and my son last night at Rocky’s, and it seemed like everyone knew him there, too.”

“Not surprising. He’s one of those people who makes small towns worth living in.” The bartender paused and then added, “I tell you what. If Bobby vouches for you, you can have this job.”

“I don’t know that he will.”

“I’ll give him a call and see what he says. He’s a good judge of character.”

She hesitated, unsure of whether Bobby would actually vouch for her after only meeting her yesterday. But before she could respond, Kevin disappeared into the backroom. When he came back out, he was smiling.

“Bobby said I should give you a chance and that I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

“I have to be honest, Kevin, I’m not sure why he said that. Like I said, we just met yesterday.”

“Well, do you want the job or not? I’ll see for myself if you can handle it, but I hope you don’t make a liar of Bobby.”

The bartender gave her a sly wink before turning to tend to other customers.

Stacy started her new job at the tavern the next day. Kevin even arranged for her to stay in an apartment above the tavern. Although it was far from luxurious and desperately needed some TLC, it was a roof over her head that she could afford. The walls were riddled with holes and peeling paint, but she was determined to make it her own.

Kevin had struck a deal with her. He would keep the rent low if she put in some work to fix up the place. It wasn’t a glamorous offer, but it would allow Peter to be nearby while she worked. Stacy was grateful for the opportunity, especially since she had bartending experience from college and knew she could make decent tips.

Although it may not have been her dream job, it provided some much-needed breathing room. She could start saving money and get back on her feet, all while searching for a more permanent living situation.

For now, this was what was available, and Stacy was grateful for any chance to rebuild her life.*Read what happens next in our March 2024 issue*

by Christine Maccabee (Songbird)

                        It feels like a fairytale

                           a “once-upon-a time”

                              my life with my children

                            so long ago.

                        At the store yesterday

                           I saw a mother with

                              a child upon her hip,

                                  and I saw myself as I once was…

                        Carrying my children safely

                           like some big ship,

                        they precious cargo,

                            so dependent

                            so innocent.

                        Devoted Mother,

                           knowing only to love

                           and to protect,

                              my life consumed

                              by doing all that was needed,

                                     never questioning why.

                        Through good times and bad times

                           I sailed through those years

                        riding the swells,

                                  the joys and the tears.

                        But today we are different

                           for they are nearly grown

                              and we have all lost our innocence,                                                but… Never the Wonder.

                        Yes, it feels like a fairytale,

                           a “once upon a time”

                              my life with my children

                                  so long ago.

written by James Rada, Jr.

2: Age Old Issues

Stacy Lawrence and her 12-year-old son, Peter, climbed out of the tow truck when it stopped in front of the Super 8 Hotel. They waved to Jack, the driver, who had a friendly smile on his face as he drove away.

Stacy put her arm around her son’s shoulders and said, “Looks like this will be home for a few days.”

Peter shrugged. “It doesn’t look bad.”

It seemed all he needed nowadays was wi-fi to stay connected to his games that he played on his phone or tablet.

Stacy had to agree about the hotel, though. Even though they were next to a highway, it didn’t seem busy or loud. They walked inside the lobby. Stacy paid for a room through Monday morning when she hoped that her car would be repaired, and she could move on.

 “Is there a bus stop nearby?” Stacy asked as she signed the registration card for the room.

The older woman behind the counter laughed. “No need for one. You might find someone who does Uber near here, but I wouldn’t count on it. No need for it. You can pretty much walk from one end of town to the other in an hour if you don’t have a car.”

Their hotel room was on the back side of the building. It was clean and quiet. Stacy flopped back onto one of the queen beds, enjoying the softness of the mattress. It helped ease some of the tension of the day from her body.

They had driven north from Gaithersburg looking for a new life somewhere it was affordable to live and where she could find a job. They hadn’t even gotten out of Maryland before her old car had broken down. Now they were stranded in Thurmont over the weekend.

Peter had the television remote in his hand. He scrolled through the channels available, looking for familiar ones.

“Can we get something to eat?” Peter asked. “I’m hungry.”

Now that her son mentioned it, Stacy realized she was also hungry. Food was one more expense they would have to manage. Between the hotel costs and repair costs, she wouldn’t have a lot of money left to get settled somewhere. They needed to eat, though, especially Peter. He always seemed hungry.

They left their room and found a pizza restaurant at the top of the hill. The aroma of freshly cooked pizza wafted from the kitchen, filling the dining room with a delicious scent that made Stacy’s stomach growl the moment she walked in the door. They ordered a medium Chicago-style pepperoni pizza. Then they found a booth to sit in.

Bobby Hennessey, an older man with some gray hairs, walked into the pizza restaurant and waved at the other patrons. He greeted a couple sitting in a booth and clapped the man on the back. He waved to a family eating at a table, and they waved. Then he saw Stacy and Bobby waved. Stacy and Peter followed him with their eyes as he made his way to their table.

Bobby had helped Stacy and Peter when their car broke down on Catoctin Mountain. He was older than Stacy, although she couldn’t say how much older. He moved like a young man, but his hair had some gray hairs mixed in with his dark brown hair. He also had a lean body with wide shoulders and not the man body Stacy expected to see with older men. His face showed some lines, but she couldn’t tell whether it was because of age, working outside, or from a lifetime of smiling and laughter.

“Did you get checked into the hotel?” Bobby asked.

“Yes, it seems like a nice place.”

“You’ll love it. I promise. What did you order?”

“Chicago-style pepperoni.”

“Good choice.”

Stacy hesitated, then asked, “Would you like to join us? It’s the least I can do for you for helping us.”

Bobby smiled and nodded. “Well, that’s mighty kind of you. Thank you.”

Bobby slid in next to Peter.

“So, have you considered what you’ll do this weekend?” Bobby asked.

“Not really, but whatever we do, we’ll have to walk.”

Bobby shrugged. “Not a problem.” He then rattled off some sites in town that were within a mile or two of the hotel. It was a surprising number of things for a small town.

The waitress brought the pizza and drinks out. Bobby ordered himself a diet cola. Not surprisingly, he knew the waitress. The pepperoni pizza was cheesy, with a tangy tomato sauce and crispy crust.

When she left, Stacy said, “You seem to know everyone here.”

“Small town, and like I told you earlier, I’ve lived here all my life.”

“It looks like a nice town from the little I’ve seen.”

Bobby nodded. “It is. It is. Hopefully, you’ll see for yourself this weekend.”

“You really like it here.”

“Why would I live someplace I didn’t like?”

Stacy had. She had hated the noise and traffic in Gaithersburg. And the crime! She had watched three teens walk into a Wal-Mart, throw as many items as they could into a bag, and then run out of the store without worry they would be stopped.

“I’ve been asking myself that question lately,” she said.

“Where do you live?” Bobby asked.

“We’re… in transition. We were living in Gaithersburg, but we’re heading into Pennsylvania to find someplace new. I was thinking Lancaster.”

She didn’t know much about the city, other than that’s where the Amish were. She figured it had to be a nicer place to live. Amish wouldn’t run into stores on shoplifting sprees.

“You like cities?” Bobby asked.

Stacy shrugged. “I like where I can afford to live and find a job.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I am… was a veterinary technician.”

“Large or small animals?” Bobby asked. Then he bit into his slice of pizza.

“Mostly small pets, although occasionally the vet had to work on horses.”

Bobby swallowed the pizza and smiled. “Not too many farm animals in Gaithersburg. We have a good veterinarian in town, but I don’t think they’re hiring.”

“I’m not looking for a job here.”

“Why not? You said you were looking for something new, and you said you think Thurmont is a nice town, which I can attest to.”

Stacy hesitated. He was right. She had wanted to get away from the bustle of Gaithersburg and Jack, her ex and Peter’s father. Of course, that didn’t stop him from dropping in unannounced when he needed money. She should have said “no,” but Peter loved his father. He got to see Jack so infrequently that Stacy was loath to turn him away when he showed up. And if she was being honest, Stacy enjoyed his visits. Jack could be charming when he wanted, and he brought excitement to her otherwise day-in, day-out life.

“How old are you?” Peter asked Bobby unexpectedly.

Stacy stared at the man, wondering about that herself. Bobby was older than her, but by how many years? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? Wow! Could he be twice her age?

Bobby grinned and said, “I’m old enough to know better, as they say.”

“That’s not an answer,” Peter said.

Bobby shrugged. “Well, what does your mother say when you ask her how old she is?”

Peter glanced at her and smiled. “She says she’s old enough to be my mother.”

Bobby chuckled. “Well, there you go.”

“That’s no answer either. She is my mother, so she has to be old enough.”

“Then let’s say I’m old enough to have seen a man on the moon. I still have record albums, which is nice since they are popular again, and I remember what a rotary dial phone is.”

Peter rolled his eyes. “So you’re old.”

“It depends on who’s asking. You think I’m old. My daddy thought I was young up until the day he died. What do you think, Stacy?”

“I think you could teach women a thing or two about avoiding saying their age.”

“And how old are you?”

Stacy hesitated and looked between the two of them. “I’m old enough to be his mother.”

*Read what happens next in our February 2024 issue*  

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

1: Breakdown

Stacy Lawrence glanced anxiously from the dashboard to the winding road ahead of her, as the temperature needle steadily climbed. She had been a teenage mom, but now she was trying for a fresh start. The rising gauge reminded her, though, that you couldn’t always escape your past.

Raised in Gaithersburg, where the cost of living was skyrocketing, she had wanted to stay in the county for the good schools, hopeful that her son could get a good education. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cost her her job as a veterinarian assistant and apartment lease, forcing her to pack up the car and leave for some place affordable to live.

She and Peter headed out on an uncertain path, northwards. They drove north on Interstate 270, leaving Montgomery County. As she drove through Frederick, she took some side roads to explore towns on the map as a possible place to live.

However, she stopped in Catoctin Mountain Park, just to relax. She felt drawn to its beauty—it was like nothing was weighing her down. She and Peter hiked one of the trails up to a scenic overlook that took her breath away. She had seen nothing like this in Montgomery County.

 Once they were back in the car and driving further up the mountain, her car struggled. The engine sputtered, and the temperature gauge rose. Before long, the car came to a stop. Stacy had no one to call for help, and she wasn’t a member of AAA. She and Peter were stranded in the middle of nowhere. The scenic vistas and country setting no longer seemed so inviting. She did not know what to do, and the sun was setting.

Stacy sat on the side of the road, cursing her luck. She knew she should have gotten the car checked before leaving Gaithersburg, but she couldn’t afford it. She leaned her head back against the headrest, closing her eyes and taking deep breaths, trying to calm herself down. She had been through worse than this. She was a survivor.

“It can’t be that bad, Mom,” Peter said.

She rolled her head to the side and looked at the 10-year-old. What should she tell him? He wasn’t dumb.

“Probably not. I just need to consider what to do,” she answered finally.

“We could walk back to the visitor’s center.”

“They closed at five o’clock.” Besides, she would rather not walk on the twisting road with narrow shoulders. A careless driver could easily hit them.

However, she knew they couldn’t stay here on the side of the road, either. It was getting dark, which would make the road that much more dangerous.

She turned to her son and said, “I’m going to walk further up the road and see if I can find a house. I’ll call you if I do, so don’t play games and run the battery down on your phone.”

“I can come with you.”

Stacy shook her head. “No, you stay here in the car with the doors locked. If anyone comes by, talk to them through the window. See if they know someone who can help us and call me.”

Peter nodded. “Be careful.”

She nodded and kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Stacy got out of the car and started walking uphill on the road shoulder. She was hoping to find a gas station, but she would settle for a house where someone was home. All she saw were trees and rocks. Occasionally, a car passed, but none of them slowed to help her. They probably thought she was a hiker.

After a while, she saw a light in the distance. She could make out the silhouette of a farmhouse and hoped for a phone to call for help. As she trudged up the dirt driveway, chickens clucked and the smell of pork drifted from the porch, where a man sat in a rocking chair eating.

“Hello,” Stacy said. “Can you help me? My car broke down on the road, and I need to call a tow truck. I have no idea who to call.”

The man set down his sandwich and waved her forward. “Hope you haven’t been walking long on the road. It can be dangerous. Some idiots take the turns too fast, thinking it will get them into Thurmont faster.”

“I was nervous, but I didn’t see many cars.”

“Would you like something to eat? I make a great pork barbeque.”

Stacy shook her head. “No, thank you. I left my son in the car. I’d like to get back to him.”

The man wiped off his mouth. “Well, let me get my keys, and we’ll drive down and see what’s wrong.”

“Are you a mechanic?” Could she be that lucky?

The man chuckled. “You have to be a bit of everything around here. I can keep my tractor and truck running. If you don’t need new parts, I might be able to help.”

“Thank you, Mr. …”

“Hennessey. Robert Hennessey, but people call me Bobby.”

He opened the screen door, reached inside and grabbed his keys, which must have been on a hook next to the door.

“I’m Stacy Lawrence,” Stacy told him.

Bobby hopped off the porch. “Nice to meet you. Truck’s over here.”

They walked around the side of the farmhouse. Bobby’s truck was an older model, probably older than Stacy’s car, but she bet he kept his car maintained.

They climbed into the cab, and Bobby started the engine. He turned the truck around and headed toward the road.

“This looks like a nice farm,” Stacy said.

“It’s been in my family for generations, but that might change soon. I’m the last one left.”

“You don’t look that old.”

He smiled. “I don’t think I am, but there’s no next generation getting ready to take over. Truth is, I have thought about selling it.”

“Seems like that would be a shame.”

He shrugged. “Maybe, but I never planned on being a farmer. I was a financial consultant in D.C.”

“What happened?”

“My parents got COVID. I came back to take care of them, but then they died, and I wound up staying here.”

“You could sell it,” Stacy suggested.

“I could, but I feel an obligation to my parents to keep it going as long as I can.”

Stacy couldn’t imagine feeling that type of obligation to her parents. They had kicked her out of the house when they found out she was pregnant. She had moved in with Jason, Peter’s father, and they had lived in the basement of his parent’s home. They had moved out of there as soon as they could.

Bobby passed Stacy’s car and found a place to turn around. Then, he came up behind it and put his hazard lights on. They got out of the truck, and Stacy hurried over to make sure Peter was all right.

Bobby had her unlatch the hood, and he lifted it up to look inside. After a few minutes, he looked under the car.

He then stood up and shook his head. “I’m surprised you got this far in this heap.”

“That bad?”

“You’re dripping oil and have a leaking radiator. It also looks like a few other things are either ready to go or have gone. When was the last time you had this car serviced?”

“The last time I had enough money to do it, and that was a while ago.”

Bobby sighed and said, “Well, I’m sorry, but it’s not an easy fix. It will need to go into the shop.”

“For how long? I was heading to Harrisburg.”

“Given that it’s Friday, you won’t find anyone to look at it until Monday, probably.”

Stacy closed her eyes and slowly shook her head. She wanted to cry. How was she going to afford the repairs, plus the hotel?

Bobby called for a tow truck and waited until it came. Then he talked with the driver. He walked back to where Stacy and Peter waited, sitting on a hill beside the road.

“Jack says you can ride with him back to Thurmont. He’ll drop you off at the Super 8 Hotel. Tell them I told you they would give you their best rate. They’ll take care of you. Jack’s a good guy, too. I talked him into taking a look at the car tomorrow, but it probably won’t be until Monday at the earliest before your car is ready.” He paused and smiled. “Welcome to Thurmont.”

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

6: Escape

Brian Johnson waited, hidden in the treeline around President Franklin Roosevelt’s secret mountain retreat. The night was quiet, but the area around the one-story home was still well lit. He could also see two guards patrolling the perimeter of the house.

He needed to move soon. Every minute he waited was another minute someone might find the Marine he had attacked on his way here and another minute closer to sunrise.

He had the element of surprise on his side right now, but he would only have one chance to achieve this victory on behalf of the Fuhrer.

Once he accomplished that goal, he would need to make his getaway. It would be too dangerous to return to the OSS training camp bordering this retreat. Once Brian had assassinated the president, the camp would go on alert. They would realize he was missing. He would be a hunted man from that point.

No, he would need to steal a Jeep and drive as far away from here as he could, even though he didn’t know where he was. He had been brought here to train with the OSS in secret. He would just have to find a road and head east. If he could reach the coast, he was sure he could board a ship.

Now that he was in place, Brian wasn’t sure what to do. This had been more a mission of opportunity rather than one he had been assigned. He was closer to the President of the United States than any other German agent had got.

However, close only counted with horseshoes and hand grenades, and he had neither. Not that either would have helped him right now.

He had to get closer to the house, identify the president, and kill him. It sounded easy in his head, but looking at the house and the guards, Brian knew he might have taken on a suicide mission or worse yet, he might fail.

One thing he had learned in the OSS camp was that the best way to not be detected was to act like you belonged there. Acting suspiciously drew attention.

Brian took a deep breath and stood up. He looked at his fatigues. They had no identification on them and wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny if one of the guards got too close.

He had been timing in his head how long it took the guards to make their rounds. He waited until they passed the closest point to the house where he was. Then he walked out of the trees and across the yard to the side of the house.

He glanced in one window and saw the kitchen was empty. Brian moved to the next window and saw a den. He saw a man with thin hair and spectacles sitting at a desk writing something.

It was President Roosevelt!

Brian raised the pistol from the guard he had attacked. He smashed it against the glass in the window and fired at the president. He sat upright suddenly and then fell over to the side.

Brian had hit him!

He didn’t have time to try to fire another shot at him, though. He heard shouting. The guards would be running this way.

Brian started running around the side of the house. “The president’s been shot!” he shouted. He wanted to take the attention off him and get the guards more worried about the president.

Brian saw guards running in his direction and he waved toward the house. “He’s in there. The president’s been shot. He needs help.”

The guards veered off toward the house. Brian saw a car parked beside the house and ran to it. He jumped into the driver’s seat. As he expected, the keys were in the ignition because many people might need to use the vehicles on the property and didn’t need to have to go searching for keys.

He started the engine, turned on the headlights, and followed the driveway. He kept following it when it reached a road that allowed him to speed up.

As he sped down the road, Brian’s mind raced with adrenaline and fear. Brian had just assassinated the President of the United States. He might have changed the course of the war. He wanted to be around to see how his heroic action would play out, but he was fleeing into the unknown. He had no idea where he was going, but he knew he had to keep moving and stay ahead of the authorities.

Brian saw a swing arm blocking the road ahead of him. He sped up and crashed through it. A Marine ran outside from a small shack and fired a rifle at him.

The road ahead of him twisted and turned through the mountains, and Brian’s driving skills were put to the test. He headed downhill, pushing the sedan to its limit, taking curves at high speeds and narrowly avoiding crashes. His heart raced, and his hands were slick with sweat on the steering wheel.

He drove as fast as he could, trying to put as much distance between himself and the Marines who would surely be following.

As he drove, his mind raced with thoughts of where to go next. He needed to get as far away as possible, but he couldn’t just drive aimlessly. He needed a plan, a destination, but first, he needed to discover where he was.

The slope of the road leveled out and suddenly, he was on the outskirts of a town. It wasn’t large, but there were other cars, homes, and people. All of which could help him escape.

Brian parked the car and got out. Because of how late it was, the streets were empty of people. He ran between two homes and headed down an alley. He needed to find a phone and call his contact to see what he should do now, but the town was too small for anyone to be up this late.

Brian could steal another car, but he still did not know where he was.

He heard a car race by on the main road. The Marines must have followed him into town. They would search it, trying to find him.

He saw a small office for a doctor. Surely, a doctor would have a phone.

Brian looked around and saw the street was empty. He used his elbow to knock a glass pane out of the front door. Then he reached in and opened the door. He didn’t turn on the lights, but there was enough light from the streetlights to make out objects.

He found a phone on the desk and sat down on the floor, so it wouldn’t be obvious anyone was in the office.

Brian lifted the receiver and jiggled the button to alert the operator.

“Okay, doc,” the operator said. “Is there an emergency?”

Brian thought quickly. “Yes, he my father is sick. He’s getting him ready to go to the hospital, but he wanted me to call Dpont 4397.”

“That’s in Washington, D.C.”

“Yes, we were driving there when my father fell ill. I need to let my family know what happened.”

“One moment, please. I will try to connect you, but it is late. Who should I say is calling?”

“Brian Johnson.”

“One moment, please.”

Brian heard silence.

He waited, silently urging his contact to pick up. He wanted to turn a light on and try to find something that would say where he was, but he couldn’t risk the light attracting attention.

“I am not getting an answer,” the operator said. “Would you like me to keep trying?”

Brian clenched his fist and pounded it on the floor. “Yes, yes.”

Suddenly, the front door crashed open, followed a moment later by a door in the back. Marines rushed into the office, shining their flashlights all around until they focused on him.

How had they found him?

“Hands above your head and slowly stand up.”

Someone turned the lights in the office on.

Brian blinked in the light. When he could see clearly, he saw Lt. Harcourt standing in front of him.

Brian slowly stood up, smiling.

Lt. Harcourt raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see why you’re so happy.”

“You may have caught me, but I killed the president.”

Now Harcourt smiled. “No, you didn’t.”

“Don’t lie. I saw him fall.”

“You saw an actor fall, and your pistol only had blanks.”


“We started suspecting you were up to something days ago, and we took precautions. I would guess the president is just waiting to hear if we were successful.”

“At what?”

“We let you get away. We wanted to wrap up as much of your network as we could. We had someone with the operator. She never placed your call, but we called our people in Washington and sent them out to the address that goes with the phone number you provided us. Whoever is in that home now should be getting a rude awakening right now.”

Harcourt reached out and turned Brian around. Then he put handcuffs on his hand behind his back.

“I don’t know how you thought you’d get away with something like that among the best-trained spies and saboteurs in the world.”

“If you’re so good, why’d you recruit me?” Brian asked.

Harcourt shrugged and then grinned. “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

~ The End ~

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

5: On The Move

Brian Johnson had a plan to assassinate President Franklin Roosevelt. It didn’t matter that Brian didn’t know where the president was. He knew the man would come to him, and when he did, Brian would kill him.

He was a German spy, posing as an American serviceman. Luckily, he had been recruited to be a member of the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, which was America’s newly created spy agency.

Since learning Roosevelt would be at his secret retreat near the camp, Brian had been obsessed with finding the president and assassinating him in the name of the Fatherland. He had found where he believed the retreat shared a border with the OSS camp. An 18-wire barbed-wire fence separated the two properties.

Brian had been digging a furrow under the fence for the past few days and disguising his work with loose dirt and grass. He had considered cutting the wire, but he didn’t have the tools he needed. He also suspected the wires were alarmed. However, because the retreat bordered a military camp here, it didn’t have sentry booths or floodlights like Brian had seen where the borders of the camps diverged. No one expected trouble for the president to come from a military camp.

Brian didn’t know how much time he had before Roosevelt came here. He had given up all his clothing and personal items when he had been recruited, so he had no watch or calendar to know what day it was or even the time of day.

However, he knew when the president arrived because on that day, the shooting range at the OSS camp closed. He had heard Colonel Smith on a phone call say he would do this, so as not to disturb the president during his time away from Washington.

The morning Colonel Smith announced the range would be closed until further notice, Brian knew it was time to act. However, he couldn’t slip away in the daylight hours. It would be too easy for someone to miss him.

He waited until after everyone had turned in for the night. Usually everyone was so exhausted from the day’s training, they fell asleep quickly. Brian lay in his lower bunk with his eyes closed, listening to the other men in the cabin. Their breathing became slower, except for the trainee called Douglas. He snored lightly.

When Brian was sure everyone was asleep, he slid out of his bunk, grabbed his clothes and boots, and walked to the door. If anyone asked, he would say he was going to the bathroom. Outside, he dressed quickly and followed the trail by memory to the fence. Only when he was far enough away from the buildings did he turn on his flashlight. He kept it pointed downward to minimize how far it illuminated. With the president visiting, the guards would be on a higher alert than usual.

He found the fence and then moved along it until he found the spot where he had been digging. He had filled it loosely with dirt and grass, so that it wouldn’t attract attention if a guard happened to stumble on it.

He uncovered some rudimentary tools he had been using and a few sheets of newspaper he had found in the garbage. He folded the pages and twisted them into a point. He had been trained how to do this during his classes on unconventional weapons, where he was learning to turn everyday items like combs and toothbrushes into weapons. His paper knife would probably only work as a knife once, but that was all he needed it to last. He could use it to gain an actual weapon.

Brian knelt down and scooped out the loose dirt. Then he lay on his back and wiggled under the fence. It was a tight fit, but he made it onto the president’s property without creating any noise.

He waited and listened to make sure he hadn’t attracted the attention of a sentry who might be patrolling.

From this point on, he was breaking new ground. He walked away from the fence, deeper into the woods. He tucked his tools into his waistband. He carried his paper knife in one hand and his flashlight in the other hand.

He kept the flashlight off as much as possible. He didn’t want to risk being seen, and he wanted to be able to see any lights in the distance that could lead him to his target.

He had no idea how much time had passed, but he would be noticed missing when all the recruits woke in the morning. He hoped he could complete his mission and make it back to the cabin before that happened.

Brian stopped when he heard movement. He squatted and listened. Then not only did he hear branches being pushed away, he saw a flashlight come on. The beam shone off to his left. A Marine guard was patrolling and must have heard Brian.

He waited, hoping the man would think that whatever he heard was just an animal and move on. He tried to control his breathing and minimize his exhalations.

Then the light swung further away from Brian, only to swing quickly back and land on Brian.

“Stay where you are!” the Marine shouted.

Instead, Brian launched himself at the man. The Marine reached for his pistol.

Brian tackled him and they landed on the hard ground. He stabbed his paper knife into the Marine’s neck. He felt a hard impact, but the paper blade crumpled without penetrating the Marine’s neck. So much for his OSS training. He smashed his fist into the man’s throat so that he couldn’t scream for help.

As the Marine struggled for breath, Brian punched him in the face until the man stopped moving. Brian checked for a pulse. The Marine was still alive. He could regain consciousness at any time. Brian pinched the man’s nose closed and held his hand over his mouth. He counted off two minutes and checked again for a pulse. He didn’t feel anything. He hoped the Marine was dead. Brian didn’t want him interfering with his plans.

He took the man’s rifle and pistol off him and stood up. He didn’t think the fight had alerted anyone. At least Brian didn’t hear anyone rushing toward him.

He continued moving in the direction he thought the Marine had come from. He came to a dirt road. He felt he was getting closer. All he should need to do would be follow the road. The question was which direction should he go?

He made a gut call based on how he felt the Marine had been marching and went left. Within a few yards, he heard a vehicle coming along the road and saw lights in the distance. He quickly hid himself behind the brush along the road. A Jeep drove by without slowing.

Brian walked back out to the road and started jogging the direction the Jeep had gone. This was taking longer than he had hoped and he hadn’t even located the place where the president was staying.

He had to find it soon if he wanted to get back to his cabin in time.

After running for a couple minutes, he thought he noticed light on the horizon. He slowed to walk when he noticed the light was getting brighter as he moved closer. He got off the road and moved into the trees.

Then he reached a slight rise and looked over. The light had been coming from lampposts around a very large hunting lodge. He also noted a few outbuildings that were large cabins.

Brian had found the president’s retreat.

You Won’t Know Until Your Hair Turns Gray

by Sue E. Clabaugh

You won’t know until your hair turns gray, how I’ve loved you

since that first day when I saw you there in your little pink blanket.

How my heart stopped every time you smiled

And what it meant to me to welcome you into my life.

You won’t understand what it meant to see you grow

and to know that I had been a part of those first years.

You won’t know why I took you to church and Sunday School

and the Golden Rule was how I wanted you to live your life.

How learning to walk to the altar to light the candles with your Pappy

gave you courage and made you happy that you had no fears

Which you have carried through the years—in all you do.

You won’t know until your hair turns gray

Why I sat on the bleachers in the heat of the sun

To see you run when you hit your first ball

Or why I froze just to help you make that snowman that you wanted to call Paul McCartney.

Oh and teach you to hold that pinkie up

While holding your cup at our very best tea party.

And then would help you make a cake

With leaves, grass, cinnamon and seeds from the magnolia tree

Just to see you feel like you were the best, when in truth

I needed a rest—but chose you and your joy.

You’ll never know until your hair turns gray

How I loved you day after day

Because you changed my life.

Gave me a cause to be more than just an old lady.

Gave me a reason to live life over again

To be happy when others said “You’re out of your head”

At your age to take on all that.

So, when you grow older and find

that there are days when you are kind

To others and it makes you feel better

Because you did.

When you’re no longer a kid but a woman with children,

Of your own, and teach them to pray

And always say they are brave.

When you have that moment when you play

And pretend that leaves with cinnamon and magnolia seeds will stay

To be shared at your tea party

With your pink plastic cup—with your pinkie up

That’s when you will say

So that’s what she meant when she said

You’ll never know until your hair turns gray!

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

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