The Magazine of the Bethlehem Writers Group
Issue No. 44, July/August 2016


Congratulations to our 2016 Short Story Award Winners

See the list of winners at the 2016 Short Story Award tab above


Editor's Note

Paul Weidknecht, 
Co-editor

The twin acts of travel and exploration have always inspired writers to create, whether detailing the happenings within the journey or focusing on the events once the destination has been reached. Some of the most acclaimed books in literature address these two themes: Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, Moby-Dick, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Heart of Darkness, to name a few. In these works, the aspects of travel and exploration are central and unmistakable, surrounding us as we read, yet travel is not limited only to these kinds of stories, as fantasy tales like A Christmas Carol, The Time Machine, and The Wizard of Oz accomplish the same by transporting the reader to another world by playing with the concept of time and place.

Maybe writers think of home as being boring, and if not outright boring, then possibly as commonplace compared to other locales, a sort of literary version of ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. Visiting different places and the people who live there ignites imagination, bringing forth undiscovered ideas, infusing old concepts with new and original nuances. Travel portents change, and change invites the notion that something will happen that doesn’t normally occur at home, in short, drama. Of course, as storytelling goes, change and plot are close kin.

Perhaps the power of the travel story is most vividly conveyed as I recall a statement one of my nephews made when he was about three, just prior to our drive up from his home in the mountains of North Carolina to New Jersey for a vacation. As we were about to climb into the van, young Wade exclaimed, “We’re going to New Jersey! This is the best day of my life!”, surely words never uttered in the history of humankind—nor since—but still a pretty good illustration of why we like to write about travel and read about others doing the same.

In this issue: Our featured author is our own Josie Myers, with her hilarious tale that shows how vacations can be planned one way and, of course, go another. This issue’s interview is BWG member, A. E. Decker, talking about her engaging debut YA Fantasy novel, The Falling of the Moon, the Moonfall Mayhem series, and her creative process. Also, in our & More section we feature two fine stories; Asha Azariah-Kribbs’ story, “Lara’s Tree”, which placed 2nd in our 2016 Short Story Award Competition and 3rd Place story, “Scarecrow Moon”, by David M. Simon.



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Our Featured Author      
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Josie Myers is a freelance writer and sometimes educator who can often be found wandering comic conventions. She was raised in and resides in Bucks County, PA, with her three children and husband. She received an MA in English from West Chester University where she won an award for fiction and publication in Daedalus. A realist-fiction writer, she is currently working on short stories with an eye to the absurd and is crafting her first novel.


Flashy Moments from Maine

Josie Myers

Making a Reservation

We chose a calm respite just outside of Acadia where the towns were small, the trails long and the lobsters plentiful. As veteran campers, we decided to tent for the week.

“Yes, hello. I am interested in a camping spot in July, but I need to find out if you allow two tents on one site.”

The woman on the other line sounded like she had forgotten to wake up before work. “What dates are you looking for?”

“Well I’m looking for the 17 th through the 24 th , but I need to know if I can have a large tent and a pup tent for two extra people on the same site. I also need water and electric, so I know I may need to use an RV site.”

“OK Ma’am (I cringe), let me me see what we have.”

Forced listening to Kenny G dragged out an already painful pause.

She returned with even less pep. “OK Ma’am (ugh), we can put a large tent and a pup tent on our premium tent sites.”

“Sounds great. Those have water and electric right?”

“Umm…. (click, click, click), no. Only our RV sites have water and electric.”

“Well, like I mentioned, I need water and electric. Can I put two tents on an RV site instead?”

“You would like to bring an RV and two tents?”

I put my hand to my forehead and rubbed. Was it my brain or hers? “No. Just two tents.”

“So you want a tent site?”

“No. I want an RV site with tents on it.”

“Oh, I see. You are bringing a pop-up tent trailer and a tent?”

Scenes from Monty Python rolled through my head. “No. I’m bringing a van and two tents.”

“But we don’t offer water and electric on our tent sites.”

I found myself sketching a little picture of two tents next to a water hose and electric cord and wished I could will the image through the phone. “I understand that. Usually, I can put a tent on an RV site so I can have water and electric.”

She now understood. “Oh, yes. You can put a small tent on a site with your RV.”

I momentarily thought about purchasing an RV. “Nevermind. I’ll rent a cabin.”



A Quick Nap

We had just enough room for the family to drive together in my parent’s van, The Van: Mom, dad, me, my husband, our toddler son, my younger brother and my sister. I sat by the big open window and remembered when it had been covered by tan curtains. We were pimpin’ back in the day with our fully loaded conversion van: a black and white TV with a VCR, little side tables with cup holders and plush reclining seats.

Now, the curtains and tables were long lost and the van was nearing the end of its life. Where there would have been arguments over seat space years ago, my siblings sat plugged into their headphones likely wondering if there would be time for a beer after we arrived that night. My mom patted the engine cover located between the passenger and driver’s seat. “One more big trip old girl.” The engine, which had been replaced after the first 200,000 miles, rumbled with what was either a deep purr or an agonized groan.

The Van was packed full of camping supplies or rather, food. Our parents always traveled as if there were no grocery stores where we were going. There were boxes and bags stuffed with a week’s worth of groceries, sheets and blankets and clothing for six people and a toddler. It was so full that I was riding with my feet propped on a cooler and two gallons of water between my knees.

The drive was long and boring and most of the family decided to check out for a nap. Mom and dad always stayed awake in the front to let the kids sleep, even though we were all technically adults. I figured I would take advantage and get a little nap in myself.

I was shocked awake by cold and wet. My eyes focused and I saw a red light ahead of us and my mom smacking my dad on the arm. “Jesus Christ what are you doing?” She yelled at him.

He was disoriented. “What? I was just taking a quick nap.”

“You are driving, you idiot.”

He blinked and looked around. “What the heck?” In front of us, a driver was getting out of his car to look at the back where dad had run into him at a stoplight.

I looked down. The water bottles that had been between my knees were crushed. In my sleep, I had clenched to brace myself from the impact and squeezed the bottles tight. Everyone in The Van was soaked by an eruption of water from the bottles out over all of us.

The other driver waved, pointed to the back of his car and shouted, “Its Ok!” to let us know there was no damage.

“I must have dozed off and taken my foot off the brake.”

Mom leaned her head back and shook it against the seat. She sat up and unbuckled. “Get out. I’m driving the rest of the way.”

When she got out of the car, dad looked back at us in all of our dampness and made the face I call “pop pop face” because my grandfather used to make it too. His lips stretched out in a half grimace half smile with his eyes open wide, “Oops.”



What is That Smell?

The campground where we had booked a cabin seemed perfect. It was rustic but modern enough that we had a small refrigerator and a stovetop, with running water and quaint indoor bathrooms. We had very few amenities otherwise, but this was still a step up from tenting.

We unloaded our gear, made the beds and settled into our home for the week.

After everything was unpacked, we went onto the porch to observe the lake and our surroundings. The quiet swish swash of the lake was a backdrop to the few loons calling out over the water. The trees rustled, the water lapped and the breeze came in across the lake.

“Holy Crap. What is that smell?” My husband winced

I almost gagged. My siblings ran back inside with the kid.

“Oh. My. God. It’s like…. wait, I know that smell….”

It was crap. Literally. Sewage smell.

We called the owner who came out in a Maine minute which, for those who aren’t familiar, is significantly longer than a New York minute.

He walked around and stood with calm solemnity. “Ayuh. That’s the lake.”

I balked. “There’s no way that is the lake. It smells like sewage.”

“Ayuh. That’s the lake.” He pointed to a sludgy looking area next to the cabin. “See, that’s wheyeh the lake watah floods up aftah rain. It smells wicked bad, but ouwah sewah line isn’t ovah theyah whatsoevah.”

My husband was livid. “You have to be kidding me. I’m not staying here.”

The owner shrugged. “If you find somewheyah, go fowah it. Anywheyah on this lake this time ‘a yeaha smells.”

My sister and I searched the phonebook, furiously calling campgrounds as we all choked back the urge to vomit. We found nothing. On our careful budget, we couldn’t afford hotels.

We were stuck.

In a moment of defeat, we sat on our porch and enjoyed the light poop breeze.



Dad Goes to Get Milk

Cereal was calling to be eaten and the kid stood with a bottle of chocolate syrup in his hands. We had run out of milk. Dad said he would run down to the convenience store to get some.

We waited.

The kid cried for “choco milk!”

A crinkle noise came from the cereal bag, which seemed to be unwrinkling itself inside the box.

We waited.

We fed the kid cups of water to hold him over.

Stomachs were growling and my siblings ate dry cereal. The horror.

Still we waited.

I looked on the map and clocked the distance from the campground to the convenience store using the key. It appeared to be about ¾ of a mile. This ten-minute trip was turning into an hour.

An hour and a half after he left, we heard the distinctive rumble of The Van’s engine pulling into the campground. Of course, the entrance of the campground was about ¼ mile from our site, but we could hear it nonetheless.

Dad pulled The Van up, revealing a smashed front corner.

My mom was quick to judge. “What the hell did you do now?”

Dad stepped out and held his hands out to calm her. “Now wait a second. I didn’t do it. I got hit by some lady on the corner by the store.”

She scoffed, “Oh? Are you sure you weren’t just ‘not watching’?”

“No. I was stopped. She came around the corner and ran smack into me.”

Her hands went to her hips. “Well I hope they are going to pay for it.”

“Well here’s the thing.” Dad seemed to know this wasn’t going to go well. “She didn’t have insurance.”

“You have got to be kidding me.” She put her hand up and rubbed her fingers together. “I hope you got her info or some cash?”

Dad shook his head. “Nah, she didn’t have anything. She said she borrowed her friend’s car and she lives in a trailer.”

Mom squinted. “Did you call the police?”

“No.”

Her face was turning red. “So a random stranger with no money, no car, no insurance and maybe even no license got away with having an accident.”

“Well, her friend is going to be pretty upset when she sees her car. I figured, why put someone in jail. No one got hurt. She didn’t have anything. I didn’t want to make things worse for her.”

Mom ran her hand along the front of The Van where the wheel well was bent, the headlight completely knocked out and hanging by wires and the grill snapped in half. “Worse for her? Looks like we got the worst of it.” She scowled. “So how are we going to fix it now?”

Dad held up a roll of duct tape.

The kid wailed again. “Choco milk!”

Dad hung his head.

Mom rolled her eyes. “You never got the milk did you?”

Dad stepped back in the car and started her up, the headlight swinging and rattling away.


Duct Tape Fix


Dad rolled up his sleeves and motioned for the duct tape. “A big piece.”

My brother stood next to him, tearing off pieces of tape. My sister sat on the porch with a beer.

“OK. Now come hold this here.”

I watched while my brother, dutiful if not agreeable, held the headlight in place while dad skillfully taped it into The Van’s crushed eye socket. “Do you really think this is going to hold it?”

“Of course. They use this stuff on NASA rockets and stuff.” He motioned again. “A little piece.”

My brother pulled off another small strip, which dad placed with surgical precision under the headlight and up to the sides to secure it. Dad picked up the broken grill and motioned to follow him.

“OK. I’m going to hold this here.” He placed the grill onto The Van’s back door and pointed to my brother. “And you tape it on.”

Skepticism turned to confusion. “Wait. What?”

“Well we have to bring it home don’t we?”

I was afraid to interrupt the surgery, but logic called. “Dad. Why don’t we just tape it to the front where it belongs?”

“Well, its broken and it won’t fit right with the dent there.”

“So maybe put it in the trunk?”

He threw his hands up in the air. “With all the stuff in there? It’ll get more broken.”

I shook my head, out of ideas. He held the grill sideways on the back door and my brother helped him tape it on.



Night Trip

One night, we went to see the Lumberjack Show: a cheesy but entertaining look at a few old-school lumberjacks competing in traditional events to entertain an audience of out-of- towners like us.

It was dark by the time the show was over and we had to drive about half an hour to get back to our cabin. We noticed that lots of the opposing traffic were flashing lights at us. In Pennyslvania, we read this as a sign that either a deer is ahead on the road, or a police car is stationed. Nothing. Not a single deer, elk or moose poking around. Not a policeman. Not even a bear.

The further we went, the more people flashed at us. They beeped at us. They waved their arms at us.Some even seemed to be veering off the road to get away from us.

We got back the cabin completely confused. My husband got out of the car first and walked around to the side towards the front where the dent was. He winced and threw his arms over his eyes.

“Oh my God. I know why they were flashing us.”

We all got out. The headlight had slid over and was facing to the left and slightly up. It was in the perfect position to be shining in the eyes of every car that came towards us. We had been blinding fellow drivers the entire way home.

“Hmm.” Dad walked towards the cabin. “Guess I need more duct tape.”

My sister laughed out loud, which spread to mom who had finally gone beyond anger and into manic indifference. My brother cracked open a six pack. We put on a fire and sat around it looking out over the black lake, laughing as the evening poop breeze flowed.
The 
Top 
Ten . . .
Family
Vacations

Josie Myers 

1. The Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota

A palace-like building where huge portions of the exterior are covered in corn murals. If you like corn and art, this is the place to see. If you don’t like either, you should probably keep driving because there is a whole lot of corn art. Personally, I enjoyed the indigestible beauty.

2. Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Contrary to what some movies may have you believe, it looks nothing like a giant tower of mashed potatoes and we found absolutely no extra-large pianos for extraterrestrial communication. Disappointing. But, the hiking trails were wonderful.

3. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is one of my absolute favorite cities in the world. Driving in Boston is one of my least favorite activities in the world. My mother cursed out every single god available and the city for its poor street planning. Definitely a place to use public transportation or your feet.

4. Rhode Island

We took a lovely picture of ourselves in front of the sign that says “Welcome to Rhode Island.” Then we drove for five minutes and were in Connecticut.

5. Pike’s Peak, Colorado

The drive up miles of two-lane dirt roads next to a 10,000-foot drop-off is excellent for testing your fear of death. My dad clearly had no problem with it as he drove, laughing every time we screamed when he got close to the edge. My mother was less comfortable as she laid on the back bench seat praying, “Dear sweet Jesus, please let my family live through this.” We did.

6. Tombstone, Arizona

An absolutely delightful place to pretend to be a cowboy for a day, with tremendous history and enough bravado to fill your need for Clint Eastwood movies for years. Be sure to visit Boot Hill so your little brother can learn tons of entertaining epitaphs to repeat at school the next week.

7. Salem, Massachusetts

If cowboy kitsch isn’t your thing, then perhaps witch kitsch is. We loved exploring not only the history, but also the modern witch culture that is alive and well around Salem. Best of all, you can perturb all of the ultra-conservative types in your family with this trip to a "heathen” village.

8. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

The perfect place to listen to your children whine about learning history during the summer when you “aren’t supposed to learn” even though you can tell they are having fun. When you tire of listening to them, you can pretend to put them in a stockade or even an available old-school jail cell and walk away.

9. Roswell, New Mexico

For those who believe “the truth is out there,” you must stop in Roswell, vwere even the public trash cans look like aliens. My dad enjoyed an excruciatingly long and unscientific conversation with a local transplant who believed he had the answers in his shed. My mother wisely led us away.

10. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Apart from the natural beauty of one of the most well-known of the US National Parks, we also got to watch stupid tourists trying to take pictures almost be mauled by wild bison. Old Faithful was late.