The Magazine of the Bethlehem Writers Group
Issue No. 56, Spring, 2019

The
2019 SHORT STORY AWARD
is now closed.

Watch this space for annoucement of our winners!

See the SHORT STORY AWARD tab above for more information.

Editor's Note

 Carol L. Wright,
Executive Editor

Loyal Roundtable readers might remember when we first started with Issue 1, in September 2011. It was the brainchild of Jerry McFadden and Bernadette De Courcey (see this issue's interview). At that time, we didn't know how well we'd be received, or if anyone would submit their work to us. We weren't a paying market then, and always felt a little guilty asking authors to allow us to publish their work without compensation—just for the credit and to show the world what they had to say. 

Now we've published 56 issues and have been gratified to have many authors entrust their work to us. We've received far more submissions than we could ever publish, and have come to know what our voice is and how to select the works that best fit our needs. (We've included some of these insights on our Submissions&Contacts page.)

We were overjoyed when we were able to become a paying market, thanks, in part, to our Short Story Award competition that we run each year. (By the way, our deadline for submissions to the 2019 competition has been extended through April 15. Hmm--that sounds like a familiar deadline date. So you still have time to send us your animal story to win cash and publication!)

We have come a long way, and during that journey, I have had my hand on the rudder. But now it's time to pass that duty onto others. I am very happy to announce  A.E. Decker will be Roundtable's new "Chief Editor." In consultation with our editorial board, she will make the tough calls about what each issue will contain. She will have the loyal assistance of Dianna Sinovic, who will handle our layout and presentation for each issue. Jerry McFadden—one of the folks who inspired Roundtable in the beginning—will help make sure everything stays on schedule. 

While I'll remain on the editorial board, I know I am leaving the executive functions in good hands. On behalf of myself and BWG, I thank each of these folks for stepping into their important jobs--offering writers a place where their work can be shared and appreciated. 

In this issue: We're happy to bring you a story from Emily P.W. Murphy about the trials and tribulations of a shoe-store manager who can't stand toes! Our featured poem comes from Les Bernstein giving us insight into the passage of time. Our &More stories from Joyce Frohn, D.L. Willette, Philip D. Giacomo, and Mike Murphy give us their takes on our theme: Shades of Green. And, as always, Betty Wryte-Goode give us her take on Spring and where writers get their ideas!

We wish you all a happy and healthy Spring—and many more such seasons to come.

 






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The
2019 
SHORT
STORY
AWARD
competition
is now closed.

Watch for announcement of the 2020 competition, opening on 
January 1, 2020.

Win cash and publication for your animal story of 2000 words or fewer. See the SHORT STORY AWARD tab above for more information.












Our Mission is to present the work of established and emerging writers. Feel free to submit your work using our 





Our Featured Story . . .            
https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Emily+P.+W.+Murphy+is+the+Featured+author+on+Bethlehem+Writers+Roundtable+at%3A&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2FuvQALJ&via=bethlehemwriter+%23TheBWG+%23amwriting


Emily P. W. Murphy 
is a writer and freelance editor. Her short stories appear in A Christmas Sampler: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Holiday TalesOnce Around the Sun: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales for All Seasons; A Readable Feast: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales for Every Taste; Once Upon a Time: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales for All Agesand Untethered: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of the Paranormal, among other publications. After growing up in Pennsylvania, she has relocated to the Baltimore, MD area with her husband Adam, their two children, and their cat. Visit  Emily's website here



Sandal Season 

Emily P. W. Murphy


You know, I've had this business for ten . . . no eleven years now, and you'd think I'd get used to them. How can I? They're gross. Disgusting. Warped. I knew I hated mine for a long time, but only when I went to college did I realize how much I hate them all.

What do I hate? Why toes of course. How could you do anything but hate toes? They're stubby, mutated fingers that never grew. They have disgusting nails. They have toe jam. And don't even get me started on the smell. I'm telling you, they have nothing to recommend themselves to discerning human beings.

So, you ask, why on Earth did I ever get involved with shoes? Well, I always knew I wanted to help people, but it took me a while to figure out just how. As a child, I flipped through the possibilities, a new idea each week: fireman, policeman, doctor, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Peace Corps; they all seemed trite, overdone. I wanted to really help people. Then one day I noticed an opening for a manager at the Shoe-Less store 257 in the Acorn Valley Mall, and I knew in my soul that I had to apply. 

Shoes. Those wonderful coverers of toes. I thought of all the barefoot children that I could help if I could just get my foot in the door. I'd sell buzz saws if I thought people'd remove their toes entirely, but I figured selling shoes was the next best thing. 

So I applied and got the job because, according to my boss, very few people saw shoe sales as a calling, and she wanted to see how long it lasted.

Well, that was ten . . . no, eleven did I say? Eleven years ago, and here I am, the proud manager of Shoe-Less store 257. Of course, humanitarian or no, I have my limits. I couldn't just toe the line. I had to implement some changes.

I put my best foot forward with my first managerial decree: changing the footies that ladies use when they try on heels. The store was stocked with those transparent nylon ones, but I gave them away to Goodwill and invested in some heavy opaque ones, thus reducing the time that ladies toes were visible.

After the footie success, I kicked up my efforts by increasing the store's stock of slippers and swim shoes. That way people would have their toes covered both late at night and when they went to the pool or beach. No more of that nails-on-chalkboard feeling of some child's toes brushing up against your leg while you're enjoying a dip in the pool.

Thank God.

I'm stubborn as a mule, so I also increased the store's supply of socks. Socks are great, you know, because they hide your toes even if you insist on taking off your shoes.

Despite my little victories, all these battles served as mere preparation for the great toe war ahead. Within months of my hiring, I realized there was a reason God put me on the Earth, in this country, state, and county. There was a reason that He placed me just a short commute from the Acorn Valley Mall. God made me the manager of this very Shoe-Less store to defeat my arch nemesis: sandals.

You see, in Acorn Valley, Shoe-Less store 257 is the primary outlet for toe lovers to purchase their sandals, and, it was clear to me, the reprehensible trade had to be stopped in its tracks.

Now, I knew it would be a mighty task, and none too easy, but I'm no loafer, and, as I saw it, if that was what the Good Lord put me on Earth to do, well then, I'd better do it.

To truly understand the nature of my arch enemy, you must understand that there exist in this world toe junkies who actually think their toes are attractive. These sickos refuse to acknowledge how they nauseate the rest of us by lewdly displaying their toes in public. Some even paint them to attract attention down there.

Exhibitionists. But for some reason, Shoe-Less wants their money, too. Blood money, I say, but then I'm not corporate. No, I am just a lowly foot soldier on the front lines. From my position in the trenches, I realized I couldn't actually eliminate the sandals from the store. I had to come up with a sneaky solution. Somehow, I had to save Acorn Valley from the sandal epidemic without cutting them off at their primary source.

I started out by trying to hide the sandals where people wouldn't find them. I'd stuff them behind boxes of high tops and pumps; between cleats and sneakers. I put the kids' sandals up high and the adult sandals down low. I hid sandals in every way I knew how, but my effort was a flop. When people couldn't find their sandals, they just asked me to help.

I tried lying. I said they were sold out; they weren't in season; we didn't carry them anymore. But you know once people are addicted, they have trouble quitting cold turkey. Sure enough, about a week later, I got a call from my district manager ordering me to stop hiding the sandals. When said she'd drop by for a surprise visit in a few days, and if the sandals weren't displayed as was outlined in the Shoe-Less Display Regulations packet, I'd get the boot.

This decree caught me flat-footed. I wanted to sock her, but she was the boss, so I had to bring out the sandals. 

That day was a nightmare. As soon as I revealed the sandals, the people whirled in on a veritable toe-nado. Scores of junkies plopped down in the sandal section and whipped out their toes. Believe me, I had a tough time keeping my lunch down.

That night I lay awake, desperate for a way to defeat those wretched sandals. I tell you I fussed so much I lost one of my socks and had my toes uncovered for a good five minutes while I looked for it. I thought about sandals the next morning as I made my bed, brushed my teeth, and shined my shoes for the day ahead.

The great solution first whispered in my ear as I was changing from my slippers to my shower shoes, eyes squished closed. I was just putting my toes into the shower shoe when my right pinky, the most mutated of all toes, caught on the ankle of the shoe before I could shove it in properly. The idea started then, but came to fruition as I was shampooing my hair.

Well, it was such a good idea that I nearly forgot to rinse the suds before jumping out of the shower, pulling on clothes, changing my shoes, and dashing to work. I arrived at Shoe-Less only half an hour before opening, and had a lot to accomplish before the toe-obsessed customers came in for their fix. As soon as I arrived, I cut all of the tags off the sandals. I then replaced the tags with those of the sandals a size bigger, so the size eights were now size sevens, the sevens were sixes, and so on.

Now, since there were so many sandals in the store, it took me the whole hour just to switch the tags, so, I opened the store with my task just half-finished. But half-done is better than not started, and it was all I could do in a pinch.

I let the toe junkies in, and you know, it worked about as well as you can expect. The people came in looking for their sandals, and they just didn't fit. Too short, too narrow  . . . too bad. The wilier ones caught on and switched sizes, but a good chunk of the dumb ones left the store disappointed.

That night after closing, I kicked into high gear and went toe-to-toe with the sandals. One by one, I "fixed" them. I used fire, water, and steel, just enough to make them uncomfortable. I melted the plastic sandals so they'd rub those awful toes, I shaved a bit off the cork ones so they'd scrape the heel; I even soaked the leather ones so they'd be stiff and unwieldy.

Now I wouldn't presume to call myself a saint or anything, but if those sandals weren't all altered by opening, I'll show you my toes.

The next day, I was pumped. I waited right in the middle of the sandal section to enjoy my victory. Sure enough, the addicts came in and headed straight for the sandals, and sure enough some figured out about the mixed up tags, and—sure as I'm standing here in our black loafers—Shoe-Less' most popular men's shoe last month; sure as that, I didn't sell a single sandal that day or that week. And I haven't sold a single sandal since—except once, and that was an exception because I threw in a free pair of socks. You see, the sandals just don't fit right anymore. But boy does 257 make a killing on slippers and pool shoes.

Thank God.


The Top Ten Tips for Parenting Twins

by Emily P. W. Murphy
Mother of 4-year-old twins!


1. Strength in numbersYour twins know this already. When they team up against you, they're more powerful than when they work alone. Learn from them. While you're likely to spend much of your time outnumbered, surrounding yourself with other adults can help you manage the chaos. Partner up with other twin parents for trips to the playground. Two adults wrangling four kids using a zone defense is significantly more effective than one adult facing off against two kids "man-to-man."

2. Speaking of playgroundsTry to find places to play that aren't too crowded, have fences or at least ample space separating the play space from cars, and provide age-appropriate play options. There were perfectly lovely playgrounds that we avoided for years simply because I knew my fearless twin would get himself into trouble the second his sister distracted my attention. Also, look for clean bathrooms.

3. Speaking of bathroomsDon't be in too much of a hurry to potty train. Diapers are gross but they are also convenient, and I promise you, taking two newly-potty trained toddlers into a public bathroom is no less disgusting than diapers. (Don't touch that! Don't touch THAT! Don't TOUCH ANYTHING!!!) We waited until our twins were 3 to introduce them to the concept of potty training, then did the "pantsless weekend" method. It was rough, but it worked. Waiting so long meant that they were mature enough to take responsibility for their potty needs, and their bodies were mature enough to be fairly independant in the bathroom. It was a rough few days, but then we were diaper free!

4. You don't need two of everythingbut you do need two of SOME things. In our case it was floor potties. Two per bathroom! Sure, your kids can share a potty, but when you've gotta go, you've gotta go, and that's especially true for preschoolers! But we didn't need two giant matching swings. We didn't need two tricycles. We didn't need two bouncy seats. We didn't need two floor mats. They can share. They always have.

5. Sharing is HARD!You'd think those 9 (okay, 6, 7, or 8) months sharing a womb would have taught these kids to coexist without conflict, but nope! Sharing is just as hard for them as for anyone. The good news is that twins are more or less the same size, so when they get physical with each other, they usually don't do too much damage. Once our twins were verbal, a friend introduced us to this magic phrase "may I please when you are done?" It was a game changer. I mean, my kids are nearly 5 and they still fight over toys, but now when I hear the dreaded "MOOOOOOOOM, s/he won't give me the toy" I just direct the whiny child to use that magic phrase. "May I please when you are done?" The answer is always yes. Now, when one is "done" is a different matter, but it diffuses the "mine, no mine" tension and they are fairly good at taking things from there.

6. Don't hear whiningWhen I was a kid my mom had this odd form of deafness where she simply couldn't hear us when we were whining. What do you know, I have it, too! When my kids whine, they have to take a deep breath and regulate their voice before I can "understand" them. Getting them out of that whiny brain space is sometimes half the battle.

7. Speaking of self-regulationThis is a hard one for kids. Not just twins. When my twins were three I heard of Dr. Daniel Siegel's "Hand Model of the Brain"
 https://youtu.be/gm9CIJ74Oxw. Game. Changer! This way of using your hand to visualize a brain that is in control vs. out of control was so simple that I went home and immediately taught it to my preschoolers. They got it. Instantly. From that point out, when they, or anyone else, started to "lose it" we could discuss it. When some stranger was melting down in the grocery store: "What is that kid's brain doing right now?" My kids held up their hands, fingers outstretched. When my child was getting hysterical. "How can you close your brain?" When I'm starting to lose my cool: "Mommy's brain is looking like this" while holding up a half-open hand model. That one got wide eyes and immediate cooperation, by the way! 

8. Different people have different strengthsTry though you might to treat them entirely individually, people will compare your children with each other CONSTANTLY. It's worse when your children are identical, but even with my fraternal twins, people want to know who's older, who's stronger, who's better at this, that, and the other thing. It's natural, but it can also cause your twins to compare themselves against each other. "I'm better at X" while true, isn't really the healthiest way to go through life. Remind your kiddos that different people are different. They grow in different ways, learn at different rates, and possess different talents. Each of my kids is "ahead" of the other in different ways, and that's just how it should be. 

9. Hey, speaking of comparingBe KIND to yourself. This is crucial. My hardest moment postpartum was when my babies were about 4 months old. I looked around at all the singleton moms in my baby group and they all had it SO TOGETHER! Somehow they'd wake up fully rested, shower, dress like a sane person, tuck their perfect little baby in their perfect little baby carrier and dance through their day saving puppies and spreading fairy dust wherever they went! Okay, so obviously that's NOT what was happening, but that is how it felt when I compared myself and my two little 3-month-adjusted infants who each wanted 150% of my attention. That's 300%! I didn't HAVE 300% WHAT WAS I DOING WRONG???? Obviously, nothing. They didn't have it as easy as it looked, and no one but myself expected me to handle things any better than I was. At about that point, we changed the rules of what "success" meant. "Success" wasn't dancing through the day saving puppies and preforming miracles. It wasn't even taking the twins to a baby group or a playdate. Success was getting the twins into the car. That's it. If we had baby group, I'd succeeded simply by getting us all up, fed, clean diapered (them, not me) and into car seats. And if that was all we could manage, it was still a successful outing. If we actually drove somewhere, that was a bonus. If we got out of the car at our destination, gravy. If we actually did whatever social event we had on the calendar, well, that was AMAZING!!! It helps the twin mom who is trying to be "normal" with two babies screaming in public to realize that she reached her "successful day" point simply by leaving the house. So what if the outing is a disaster of tears and spit up and blowouts? IT WAS STILL A SUCCESS!   

10. Did I mention strength in numbers?I'm going to say it again! There's strength in numbers! If you're not already part of a Parents of Multiples club, find one nearby and join. Parents/Moms of Multiples clubs are more than just those amazing consignment sales everyone talks about. The wisdom (and commiseration) available in such groups is beyond valuable. "How do I feed two babies at once?" They know. "How am I going to get my two 13-month-olds from the house to our car, through a snowy parking lot in the dark?" They know. "How should I react when some stranger takes pictures of my babies without permission?" Oh, believe me, they know! And they're never going to ask you if your twins are "natural" because THEY KNOW. Remember point #9? When I was at that 4-month, self-judging stage, I went to my first Parents of Multiples gathering. One of the veteran moms asked how old my kids were and when I said 4 months, her jaw dropped. "And you're out of the house! Way to go, Mama! How are things going?" I confessed when it was very hard and said I'd heard it got easier around 4 months. She shook her head. I asked when it got easier. She thought for a moment and said "around a year. Sorry." Sorry? That was AMAZING! It was the best news I could have heard! Twins are not easy. They're wonderful, they're a blessing, but they're not easy. And they're not SUPPOSED to be.