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musings of madness

it's a bumpy ride

First NJ Forest Fire of the Year.
There is always news of forest fires in the North West and California, but not much is mentioned about those on the East Coast.

My state, NJ, amongst all our faults is the fact that we have a propensity for forests fires in our over 100,000 acres of protected Pine Barrens.

The fires have started early this year...https://www.nj.com/burlington/2019/04/massive-nj-pinelands-forest-fire-declared-fully-contained-with-11000-acres-scorched.html?ath=aa76597cb2eba0394f804b221b9d09a6#cmpid=nsltr_strybutton

Corinna's thatched roof and white washed cottage sat in a glade of the woods close to the brook. She had planted an herb garden to use for the 'simples' she needed for various illnesses, amongst other roots and vegetables. Corinna was an excellent herb witch and mid-wife, whose remedies worked with magical reliability.

Inside her snug cottage, dried herbs hung from rafters and vied for space with her cooking utensils. The door to her one room home opened on an oak table set with a bowl of sweet herbs and wildflowers in the middle, with two matched chairs (the set a debt paid for healing a flock of sheep). There was a curtained off section, with her bed behind it, covered by a thick embroidered quilt (made for her in gratitude of a simple given for fever), a night stand and chamberpot.

Rough hewn chests lined much of the empty space along the walls and held most of her belongings. One kept her divining sphere safe, wrapped in silk and nestled on a satin pillow.

The cottage was quite cozy with her small forge sitting beside the fire pit. She crafted all types of tokens and talismans there, and infused them with the 'manner of power' her patrons requested. Corinna could give a talisman to spur their crops' growth, or to find hidden wells of water, as well as brew teas and tinctures for aches and pain.

All she asked in return was a favor to be granted either in their lifetime, or in their descendants'. Should the talisman be gifted to the hands of another, the power would shift to its new owner, but so did the obligation.

Break the compact however, and all branches of your lineage would end with you. This wasn't meant to be cruel, so much as to keep the villagers from taking magic's power lightly.

Most of the souls who found their way to her cottage wanted a token for love, or luck; some people longed to be beautiful, so that they may experience the adoration they felt they missed out on and deserved. These people didn't realize that beauty had to come from the heart of them, and no spell of hers could ever mimic that. The same was true for those who tried to force a love to bloom where its heart was not inclined --only dissatisfaction rose from that taking that course.

A few requested wisdom, and to these she also threw in a little taste of fortune. People thought to be wise didn't pay close attention to money (it's all those thoughts and theories to chase in their minds), so she made it a little easier for them to find work in households needing teachers.

Those who asked for a means of vengeance -- she gifted them with understanding, mercy, and compassion, but asked them for nothing in return.

Rarest of all were those who asked for truth. Truth seekers saw everything, all three dimensions to a tale, with rose colored glasses removed. You could not lie to them!! They were highly prized as judges in all communities. One might think they'd patronize or act with righteousness, but they were incapable of self aggrandizement as that simply wouldn't be truthful.

Today's customer wanted Corinna to fashion a thumb ring to be worn for safety. For this she needed three droplets of blood from the customer, to infuse the ring with the patron's 'signature' and tune it for her alone, but the girl was reticent, afraid of the prick of Corinna's needle.

"Now, may I see your left thumb please?" Corinna requested with a gentle smile toward the nervous young woman. The girl's foot tapped constantly beneath the table, and her eyes took on the panicked look of a deer ready to bolt.

"Will it hurt? I know it's going to hurt!?" The girl asked breathlessly.

"Not at all." Corinna reassured her, as the young woman presented the finger requested. Corinna captured the thumb and held tightly.

"Oh! Look at that spider!" Corinna gasped and pointed over the girl's shoulder -- and as the girl's reflexes took over and she turned to look, Corinna pricked her finger, squeezed the required three drops of blood for the spell, all before the young woman could protest.

The poor girl looked flummoxed when she turned back to face Corinna, caught between being grateful and indignant.

"It didn't hurt now child, did it?" Corinna quietly asked the girl.

"No, but you didn't have to trick me." The young woman sulkily replied.

Corinna patted the girl's hand gently, and told the child. "I had to break through the wall of fear you built in your mind. I'm sorry."

Corinna walked to a small chest, opened its small puzzle lock and removed the felt bag with this client's thumb ring in it. She closed the box, and pricked her own finger, and added three droplets of her blood to the girl's, and coated the ring with the mixture.

She uttered a quick incantation, placed the now slippery ring on a pair of tongs and thrust it into the fire. She gave it three turns to 'seal' the spell, removed the ring, and doused it in a cup of water. She removed it when cool and handed it to her client. They both marveled at the different colors imbued throughout.

With a last admonishment to keep the ring in a safe place, like a chain around her pretty neck, and indeed, wear it to ward off highway men, she waved and happily shut her door as the young woman's carriage lumbered from her courtyard.


A few days later, there came a loud thud at her door. She opened it to discover an unconscious, wounded man, and quickly cleared her table to lay him upon it. The stranger was tall and dressed in chain mail, and his shoulder had an errant arrow still embedded there.

She snapped the offensive shaft free, cleaned it with a yarrow tincture to ward off infection, and stitched the wound closed. She applied a salve and tightly wrapped it with strips of clean linen. That should heal easily enough, she thought as she cleaned the rest of his wounds. All there is to do now is wait."

While she waited for her uninvited guest to stir from his stupor, Corinna decided to use her scrying sphere. As she pulled her mind to focus, she held the remains of the arrow in one hand, and a strip of the man's ruined shirt in the other. Corinna's mind opened and the cyrstal clouded, then swirled clear.

Corinna asked it her questions: What happened?

Her guest sported trappings of the courier to the King. He carried a declaration of war and was handful of days or so ahead of the invaders. He stopped only to assist some people waylaid by ruffians. He helped a young woman mount a horse (the same young woman Corinna made a talisman for), and sent her to safety just as the arrow struck him. The last image of him, was of him falling from his horse, to land at her door.

Her next question of what could be done to prevent the war, was answered by a vision of her at her forge hard at work. A clear image of copper, concealment sigils, and her feverish creation of them, was shown to her, and she knew what she must do.

She released the objects in her hands, and sat back. Where would she find the copper? A search through her chests and purse for copper pennies and farthings, along with a few hair ornaments did make a tidy pile she could start with.

Copper was malleable and wouldn't require as much manipulation to form. The metal was also a spell enhancer, and if they could spread and bury enough of the sigils around the countryside, the farms and townspeople could be hidden. There might be some copper left over to make individual concealment rings for king and his family.

With everything gathered together, she began the great project. She tended to her patient whose name she learned was Luca, as she took her infrequent breaks. Corinna and Luca drew up a plan to distribute the talismans throughout the kingdom.

It took Corinna three days to finish her task. Each day she bled herself a little more to soak the talismans in and make the spells stronger. On the last day she collapsed, and Luca carried her into bed with a pitcher of water and some waybread on her nightstand.

He'd grown very attached to Corinna the past few days, and if the circumstances weren't dire he would stay.

Morning came on the fourth day, Luca and Corinna shared a tender embrace, and Luca slipped out the door, As he readied his horse, he buried a copper sigil in her courtyard to keep her safe.

The war came, and Luca faithfully ferried messages back and forth for King, soldier, and the enemy's replies. He had given Corinna's talismans to the Monarch, who distributed them around the countryside. Hopefully, farms and grain stores wouldn't be laid waste,and the people would not starve come Winter.

When the war ended, and the kingdom took stock of their losses, they found them to be nominal compared to other kingdoms. They knew they had Corinna to thank for this.

In gratitude the King wrote her a note:

Mistress Corinna,

I owe you my kingdom. If not for you, there would be grief, and immeasurable sorrow. Nothing could repay the debt I owe you, but if you wouldn't mind, may I give the rest of this man's Lucas Marino, contract to you-- if you would accept this man from me. He should be at your side in time for Spring planting. I would be delighted to hold your wedding at the castle should you so decide. Goodbye for now,
Your Humble and Grateful Sovereign,
Edward Castillo

Luca indeed returned the next Spring to Corinna, whose heart smiled wide to see the truth of him.

All about Yarrow

It's always AFTER i write something that a video turns up that would've complimented the piece!
This video would've paired nicely with Vigilance.Yet as with much in my life, it showed up a little too late!
Ah well.

But in case anyone was interested in some of the inner machinations of Foster Care, and aging out, this is a decent presentation.The

The only thing they really fail to convey is how terrified these kids are all the time, and how it becomes an underlying scent on their skin permanently.

Anyhoo, I digress! (imagine that) here's the video.https://www.facebook.com/StandTgthr/videos/394185791378616/

(no subject)





Took some time. (And a lot of profanity, but I figured how to link them together on one page! I feel so proud of me!)

Good luck everyone! May the odds be ever in our favor! Oh, and everything is open for concrit!

The Happy Place
"Good day, Ms. Allan, might I enquire as to what you are doing?" A curious James Eckard asked, tipping his hat her way.

He'd been watching Ms. Allen, a sturdy, buxom woman, with a wealth of mahogany hair for a while now. She was threading ribbons through some sort of crystal, and tying them to the branches of the tree growing on the western side of the schoolhouse.

"Well Mr. Eckard, I'm trying to create an area where the children can sit, read a book, think, or just look at the rainbows dancing in the wind - hence the prisms! Children need a place to think and revel in their imaginations."
"Don't you agree, sir?"

"I must tell you Ms. Allan, I actually haven't given it much thought. But I certainly do understand the appeal of the application." James told her, thinking she was very interesting to look at as he stepped closer, plucking an already be-ribboned prism from her hand and hanging it.

"Thank you Mr. Eckard, but I ..."
"James, you must call me James."

"Thank you, Mr. Eckard, but pardon me, if I don't do so. People would say we were overly familiar, you see. A teacher must absolutely be above reproach, or her students would lose confidence in her." Ms. Allen matter of factly told Mr. Eckard.

She had heard many things about Mr. James Eckard. Most telling of how much of a cad he was - but those rumors came from women he rejected, and Diana paid them little mind.

She knew for a fact he was fair, and generous in his dealings with his customers at his lumber mill and , and in giving credit to families struggling. Diana believed this was his true measure.

"Hmm, I see. So, how do we get around such a quandary then - of your inability to use my Christian name- without becoming a scandalous woman of low morals?" James asked in mock seriousness.

"I don't know Mr. Eckard, but I'm sure you- being a man- would think of some grand gesture, leading the people to wonder why, yet again, the gesture had been made. Especially when it would have been simpler to meet me at church on Sunday, and for you to ask me to go walking with you." Diana told him, hanging another prism on the tree.

"Oh, I see. How foolish of me, completely forgetting my chivalry. I humbly beg your forgiveness Ms. Allan. I didn't mean to be forward... or rude." He said smiling awkwardly.

Removing his hat, and bowing with a flourish, he asked, "Ms. Allan, would you do me the honor of walking with me, after church on Sunday?"

"Why Mr. Eckard, I'd be delighted to go walking with you after church. I feel I must warn you, however, I usually have little escorts walking with me, my own little entourage if you will!" Ms. Allan's laughter pealed, brightening her demeanor, and James thought her the most extraordinary woman, indeed!

"Will providing us with a picnic lunch fall under the heading of too forward? Just a light repast for us, and the children?" James inquired.

"That would be lovely Mr. Eckard. Until Sunday, then?" Diana said, giving Mr. Ekard her hand to shake on the deal, and blushed as James unexpectedly turned her hand over to kiss the inside of her wrist; And though not immune to intimacy 's effect, nevertheless Diana felt the need to admonish Mr. Eckard.

Diana pulled her hand away, and taking a step back, shot Mr Eckard a withering look, telling him, "Sir did we not just have a conversation about taking liberties, and being too forward?"

"We did. I, was only leaving you with something to fondly remember me by. Once more I apologize for taking advantage." James told her, trying to look contrite, but not quite pulling it off.

"Hmph, I accept your apologies Mr. Eckard, as for walking after church this Sunday, I'll have to think carefully. I don't want to be out strolling with a 'rake' who has nothing but conquest on his mind." Diana, having little patience left, smartly told him.

"Now, I bid you sir, to be about your business, and I'll go about mine. I have homework to grade." Diana turning on her heel, serenely walked over to the steps, and into the schoolhouse.

Pushing the door closed, and sneaking a peek at Mr. Eckard, she had to stifle her giggles. The poor man looked pole-axed, and she was quite pleased with herself.

Some might say she was playing games when she wasn't, not truly. Growing up with four older brothers, she spent a lot of her younger days spying on them, while 'walking' with their chosen prey.

Ammunition for teasing her brothers with had been her ultimate goal, but she'd inadvertently come away with bits and pieces of knowledge about the behaviour of men. Such as, males - while finding it amusing when you bat your eyes, or do everything but throw yourselves at them, rarely married this type. Her brothers liked chasing the women they married. They went tripping all over themselves trying to get her sister-in-laws' attention.

The smart, sober ones, or the quiet, sassy, intelligent, women, who call their men out for playing games, these were the strong women men choose to marry. Thank goodness too, for she wasn't much of an actress, and portraying a simpering ninny, she simply could not pull off.

Laughing at the image of herself acting the ninny, another thought intruded, this one bringing a completely different train of thought... Will Mr. James Eckard be brave enough to still go walking this Sunday? Or will he conveniently forget? She smiled to herself, no, he wouldn't be able to resist the challenge.


The Sunlight was blinding after the dimness of the church, and Diana struck her parasol, shaft her eyes. Looking around, her stomach sank with disappointment, and she was thinking she may have overplayed her hand, when Mr. Eckard's buckboard came rolling into view, braking at the Happy Tree.

Mr. Eckard jumped to the ground, and securing the reins, retrieved a large picnic basket and blanket from the back. Spotting Ms. Allan he waved, and rushed her way. Diana giving him a tepid smile in acknowledgment, gracefully stepped down the stairs toward him.

James, his mouth suddenly dry at the sight of her, swept off his hat, and mashing it against his chest, bowed asking, "Ms. Allan, will you do me the honor of walking with me?"

"Why yes, Mr. Eckard, I'd be happy to walk with you. Here, let me carry that blanket for you." Diana said, smiling, glad to use its weight to hide her trembling hands.

"Thank you Ms. Allan. May I prevail upon you once more, to call me James? And don't look now, but we are gaining that entourage you spoke of." James, informed her.

"That didn't take long at all, the cheeky little buggers ... !" Diana remarked dryly,
She glanced at James, laughing, until they were sharing a laugh together.

Reaching the perfect, mossy, clearing beneath a willow, they spread the picnic around the blanket. The clearing was not far from the swimming hole, and in mid-September it still was hot enough for swimming and cooling off. Some children were swinging on a tire, and doing tricks mid-air as they flew off into the river, providing the adults with entertainment.

The day's passing was quite pleasant, with Ms. Allen ( "Please call me Diana"), and Mr. Eckard ( "Then I must insist you call me, James"), filling each other in on the particulars of their respective families.

Diana told James of her four older brothers, and he feigns fear saying that he would endeavour to please her, lest he be met with four angry men set on protecting their sister. Diana nibbling on cucumber sandwich, smiled enigmatically,

She also told him of her decision to keep on teaching, even after starting a family. James jokingly told her she needed a husband as liberal as she is with her intentions. Diana said yes, she had been thinking the same.

James spoke of growing up with three younger sisters, so he had an inkling about the mysteries of women's ways, but still found the opposite sex baffling.

How his lumber mill had been in the family for three generations, and his fervent hope was to see it with the fourth sitting at its helm. Confidence and pride in his work shone through his face, Diana noticed, transforming its appeal.

And so, a dozen Sunday's passing with the day's activities being dictated by the weather, the young couple spent walking, riding, or even skating when there came a flash freeze.

Two weeks before Christmas, after a night of singing carols and wassailing around town, James and Diana were walking arm in arm; James making sure of her safe arrival at the boarding house. Glancing at her in the moonlight, James thought she was the loveliest woman he'd ever come across, and his mouth went dry from nerves.

Along the way they passed the schoolhouse, and James gently began steering them toward the 'Happy Place' she and the children made together, at the beginning of the school year. He was watching her face for her reaction as she first looked upon it!

James had fashioned a beautiful bench, over the fall, complete with carvings of character's from Aesop's Fables. James asked her to sit for a moment, he needed to remove a stone that had fallen into his shoe, irritating him.

Diana sat, smoothing her skirts, humming and astonished at the work the children had gotten away with her not noticing!! They had strung together chains of popcorn and berries now hanging around the tree for the animals and birds, and many more crystals and shiny bobbins were hanging now, than when she'd first started. It made her heart sing.

Diana, being preoccupied, forgot James for a moment until his clearing his throat brought her back to him. Looking into his eyes, for the first time, Diana actually saw a vulnerability there, and James, still on one knee took her hands in his.

"Ms. Diana Allan will you do me the immense honor of marrying me? Of taking my name and loving me ... nearly as much as I love you?" James asked earnestly.

"Oh" Diana cried. "My brothers have been threatening to thrash you if didn't propose by Christmas! Oh, Yes! Yes, I will." Diana told him, quickly swiping away a tear. "I love you James. Your heart has filled mine with joy, making this a truly Happy Place."


Tossed Salad
There are times when you come to realize your spirit is being broken down to its very essence. You don't know why, or understand what, you've done to anger the Gods, you only know that you must have, to feel so ...defeated.

Demons chase you, yet you still refuse to relinquish your last thread of hope for spiritual peace. Hope is the key for survival, giving man the ability to assimilate negatives, and find the positives.

Frustration and anger provokes your soul's unrest, especially when you can't immediately find the resources you need to combat those negatives. Is that what breaking of the spirit means?

A human's ability to bear suffering in tireless stoicism is valiant ; yet man's inability to learn from suffering IS tragic.

Many a religious text has it written, to view, and live, your life as a child; But this is for the child wanted and loved.

A child that's had a chance to grow through the years, surrounded by the safety of their parents arms; Secure in the knowing that someone stronger who loves them will take care of things that go bump in the night, or boo in the day.

But what if one never had the chance to be that happy child? What if you're innocence was spoiled and abused? What kind of perspective would that child have?

Regression? Or envy toward those that did have love?Would you even have innocent hope left?

If one can't get through a day and acknowledge the beauty of a bird's flight, the curve of a toddler's cheek, or the laughter in a dog's eyes or discover the simple joy of blowing bubbles?

Is it to try and help you find your way back to simple things? Are we to fill up on the rainbows and bubbles, and share that simple joy with others? Is that what it means.

To make others smile even while your heart is filled with anger and frustration, sorrow and madness?

To not denounce the deities, but to give thanks for the bubbles in the breeze? The very breeze itself?

To understand there still is love and hope out there. That someone will hear our cries, and dry our tears, kiss the boo-boos to make the hurt go away, or at least help to find a peaceful resolution for the frustration.

As for me, I will endeavour to somehow find the strength to abide, that things will simply be, what they are supposed to be.

Homework -
For this prompt I wrote a poem everyday for a school week, just as I would need to for homework!

Wind Whispers:

Spirit walking,
Soul talking,
Wind whispers
It's comfort.
I hear it's voice
I am called,
To journey again
Through mind.

Fingers brushing,
Breath touching,
You shiver
Mind knowing
It's not only wind.

Gently calling,
Spirit falling,
To drown in 
Unseeing eyes.

Peace awakens,
Past forsaken,
What are these threads 
That bind?

The Wind whispers
Listen close,
For I am at your side.


Mother's Mistake:

Hurtful words, hung between
Broken hearts and tears
Seasoned with shame and failure

Truth is in the mirror
Visage of guilt
Salty, bittersweet and stale

Must breathe in clean again
Sins of the mother
Choking on gall and remorse

Swallowing the darkness
Rejuvinate hope for
Whole unconditional love.


Prejudice's Casualties:

Wizened countenance
Adores sweet Innocence. 

Marvels in artless pleasure,
Of child's hand given in trust. 

Sweet Innocence adores
Wisdom's aged and lined face.

Without biased view or stricture,
Confident in Wisdom's love.

Their hearts may be colorblind,
But society sees them as prey

Aged Wisdom steps aside
To keep danger to Innocence away


Silent Screams:

Keep the silence,
hold your peace.
You know if your
Mouth opens,
It will spew
Forth nothingness
You're screaming
Without creating a noise.

Truth withers away

Crying tears of sand
Each grain rubbing
Vacuous eyes
Absorb little light.
Blinded by lies
And grandiose dreams.

Truth withers away

No, you prefer blinders.
Not wanting to view what's
CLear and present.
Shame, is preferring fantasy
To the reality.
While others die for
Your comforts.

Who will listen?
Who will dare?
To speak of the atrocities?
To speak of the dangers
And abuse of all flavor?
You scream and there isn't sound

Truth, just withers away.


Spilling Ink:

Spilling the ink,
 for creating works
    of heartfelt emotions

It's not for money
 but love of word craft
    do we bleed our devotions

It boils our blood
  Until our very souls
    Give life to a word ocean

We birth each line
  With labored pen
    To express such lofty notions

Road of life is training
For the Writer's lot
To which we do aspire

Critiques that cut,
  Reject and bite.
    Plunge the heart into mire. 

Writers know they may
Never a fortune make
  nor riches will acquire
Still, that quill,
  Must paper etch,
    With words meant to inspire.

**All concrit welcome...

Monster Magnate Brigade
The friends raced single file along the bike trail. All of them carried backpacks outfitted with snacks (growing teens were always hungry, after all), canteens, comic books, and other doo-dads kids their age picked up.

Their services had been requested! But first they had plans and strategy to work out.

The trail widened, and curved to the left to follow along the river bank. A white slat fence marked the outside of the curve's belly. Someone had drawn a caricature of the consequences if a person barreled into the fence -- and went airborne-- to land in the river on the other side.

Set thirty feet back from the bank, on the inside of the bend and nestled between two swamp cedars, was their pride and joy: The Clubhouse.

Made of planks from discarded pallets, sawed to size and hammered together with nails and tools donated by their parents, the kids built themselves a sturdy place to plot.

Designed by Will, who wanted to be an architect, and with the pulley system engineered by Joey, the supplies and equipment were hoisted into the clubhouse, courtesy of George's muscles.

Two girls, Hannah and Lisa, joined the club and seemingly made it their mission to keep the boys from their natural state as slobs. The boys often muttered 'about gosh darned women and their hare brained ideas' but the girls lent a different perspective (and they smelled good) to the business Joey started -- The Monster Magnate Fighting Brigade.

Their families, former monster magnates themselves, pitched in and bought them matching hats, t-shirts, and fishing vests with a lot of cool pockets. Perfect for the Brigade. There were places for vials of holy water, salt, garlic, and of course Monster Spray.

They began a new spell book to pass down to any future Monster Magnets they may have. Joey's mom let him use hers, and it came in handy more than a few times. All of the kid's parents gave their children talismans infused with magic to ward off evil. Joey's, a silver chess pawn, came from the set his father gifted him with three years ago, after he had used it in his very first monster battle.

In fact, all of them became Monster Magnets within the same year, and were pulled together by their paranormal power. The same power tugged the monsters and spooks to them.

Joey skid to a halt at the base of their clubhouse, and easily shinnied up the rope ladder on one side, letting down the steps built on the other. Together they gathered their supplies, double checking they didn't miss anything.

"What do you think we need to bring, Joey? Besides the usual stuff?" Hannah quietly asked him. She clearly favored Joey, but no one had known about it until after her battle with Evilein the Black, and her psyche had sustained severe damage.

"What do you think we need, Jo-o-ey?" Someone teased.
Hannah turned bright red. Joey noticed.

"Leave off, you guys. Hannah's off limits you know that. Remember, her abilities were almost shredded by the strongest black monster we've faced so far, and we should be grateful she banished it. Every time you raz her, it sets her recovery back."

Hannah timidly flashed him a grin and mouthed 'thank you.' Joey nodded in response, and gave her a half smile back, and moved toward the front, closer to the ladder. He had a crush on Hannah forever, but didn't want to take advantage of her.

"Now, let's get basic kits, rope, flute, slingshots, and the largest balloons we have. Oh and Monster Spray, two bottles each." Joey finished and looked around.

"Alright everyone, listen up. We've been asked to take on the bug that's haunting Henry's Holstein Dairy Farm. Their cows are frightened and won't let down their milk, or use the Automatic Milking System, which has been funked, and is full of ectoplasm.

It's been a couple weeks now and they've been milking by hand, but it's too slow and the yield isn't good. Plus the milk's of poor quality. Our job is to find this thing, and to neutralize it!" Joey finished, turned to leave, then turned quickly back.

"Oh, one more thing-- all cattle prods must stay home! This is for your protection, as much as for the cows. No one needs to get kicked by a ticked off cow."

"Ready? Let's go ex-or-cise! So they can pasteurize!" Joey settled his backpack between his shoulders once more, grabbed the ladder, whooped, and was gone.

Hannah started right behind him, but Lisa's hand on her arm stopped her. "Hannah, Uhm, we all would like to apologize. We were wrong, and..." Lisa found herself hugged by Hannah, who signed for her to hush, and that she forgave them.

The two girls smiled and hugged again on reaching the ground, they climbed onto to their bikes, and pedaled as fast they could to catch up with Joey and the boys.


They were exhausted. Hours had passed and still they hadn't found a solution, at least not one that worked. Will tried to build an airtight containment system, but it wasn't flexible enough, and gave out. Now he had another idea.

Meanwhile, the girls kept the cows calm. They sang to the small herd (cows are a big fan of music), and with help from the Henry's, they managed to milk all of the cows. Immediate relief and gratitude brightened the bovine faces, and their lows no longer sounded of pain.

Hannah's cheeks were red again, but the reasons were different this time; the cows, and the torrents of giggles she and Lisa, shared in their antics!

Lisa asked, "Who knew cows dance? Goodness, they're so silly!" She broke into an impromptu dance all the way up the hill; to her delight a heifer danced and bounded toward her in joy.

Joey asked George if he would ride back to the Clubhouse, and pick up more supplies. Salt, garlic (both oil and bulbs), and Holy water. The basic trio, but they also needed more balloons, and insta-ties for them.

The extra duty fell to George because of his size and enormous strength -- the added weight from the supplies wouldn't slow him down. People often associated George's deliberate caution with mental deficiency, and this group of friends never did. The Monster Magnates seemed to understand his placid nature, and what dwelled beneath it, and he loved them for it. Sure, they used his size, but not in a 'dumb pack animal' way.

While on the hunt for the items needed to help the fight at the dairy, George found some wide coils of re-enforced steel hose, and draped them pistolero style around his chest. On a whim he picked up the new extraction device, and extra strength thirty gallon trash bags. Lastly, George placed a few bottles of cold water in his pack, and headed back to the farm.


Gathered in a loose circle around the malevolant AMS the boys Joey, George, and Will stood and surveyed the modifications they had made to the machine.

Fitted by hose, and clamped onto the back of the AMS, was the new Monster Extractor, two more hoses, and the now doubled, heavy duty trash bags were clamped tightly onto the extractor's side valves.

They planned to catch the critter using its own curiosity. Monsters, the Magnets knew, couldn't resist different and shiny toys, especially when it would come with some 'Caca de Cow' on the menu.

Joey, had gotten samples of cows' urine, and hormones from sweat glands [don't ask], which he mixed together with holy water, garlic and salt, these 'additives' would help fuel the spell a hundred fold.

Now all they had to do was attach dewey eyed Nell, the cow, to the AMS and wait. It didn't take long before Nell scratched her hooves, and rolled her eyes in alarm.

The team all felt the thing's heavy thud into the AMS, and signaled to each other to stay alert. The new monster spray concoction was ready in their holsters, and the nozzles were set to stream. Yet as prepared as they thought they were, the brigade almost missed the ghoul's transition from the AMS- into the monster extractor.

it was a close thing, but they did manage to trap it between the AMS hose, and extractor hoses. They decided to transfer from the trash bags, to waste management cans, and filled three, before the extraction slowed and stopped halfway through the fourth.

The extractor began to shake, and shimmied so hard, they were afraid it would overfill with ectoplasm, and explode. Its sides puffed out like a trumpeter's cheeks, and then sucked back in.

The team hurriedly filled the inside of the extractor with monster spray, and all of the AMS re-access points were sprayed to force the fiend to move toward the containment wastecans. They came prepared to 'ghost' these ghosts!


Everyone linked arms, held onto their talismans, and began to firmly chant:

Gremlins who love to sour milk
Tell the creatures of your ilk
Those who scare poor bovine souls
You fallen under our control

Upon these words, we all agree.
By our will, so mote it be.

The air became charged with electricity, everyone moved a little closer and louder this time chanted:

Monster in the milk machine,
Who's filth and slime we must clean
This place is for the cow's alone
And you will leave their barn and home.

Upon these words, we all agree
By our will, so mote it be!

Roiling thunder followed their chant, and the air crackled with energy. The Monster Magnets tapped into the charge and tightened their circle, and raising their voices to drown out the thunder, chanted:

Fiends who dine on cows fears,
You are not welcome here
Know now, the bill's come due,
The end has come for all of you!

Upon these words, we all agree
By our will, so mote it be!

[CRACK!] A bolt of lightning struck the milking machine and bored far into the ground; fractured into hundreds of beams, and, followed and fried every fiend it found.

The Magnets, who had been tumbled to the ground when the bolt struck, stood and looked at each other, and burst into giggles and laughter.

Everyone's hair stuck straight up, or out, frizzed, and along with their clothes, steamed.

Joey managed to croak "Everyone okay?" at everyone's nod or answer of yes, "Let's go home."

The cows, clip-clopped their way back to the dairy barn, and as they came closer they could sense their milking stations were no longer haunted! The teen's watched as the cows happily lined up, sniffed at their milking station, lowed in approval, and danced into line.

Later that night, after everyone had gone to sleep, the herd had a happy cow celebration, and laughed as they jumped, high over the moon!

LJI Wk17? Vigilance
"Hello there Desiree, do you remember me? I'm Doctor Mena, a psychiatrist here in Oakwood," the man, dressed in JC Penny's best combination of slacks, shirt, and tie topped off with white coat, asked in a bored tone. He rifled through a clipboard full of forms as if the answers could magically appear on the papers instead of from Mouse herself. Or require any exertion on his part.

"I apologize, it says here you prefer Mouse? -- yes? Is that the nickname your father gave you?" At her nod, Dr. Mena continued: "The children's court hired me to evaluate what happened, if you will, leading up to and through the events. Do you understand this, Mouse?"

"Yes," Mouse offered shyly. The teen might not know this doctor, but she understood this man was not her friend, and she needed to be careful if she didn't want to fall into any traps. It wasn't like she was a fan of straight-jackets -- or rubber rooms.

The room she's in was standard institutional issue. The walls were painted an over-stocked blue, with white vinyl baseboards (easier for cleaning bodily fluids), white tile floors and sickly yellow, overhead lighting. There were personal touches, photographs, plants (Mouse reached out and touched one - plastic, ugh. The paranoid kids would be checking plants for a microphone or camera, Mouse didn't care.), and neutral-art work meant to soothe the afflicted.

Mouse stayed in plenty of places like this in her fourteen years. Orphanages. Zoos for unwanted children, some even came equipped with bars. Whether to keep the kids from getting out, or to warn potential adopters away, no one knew.

The doctor's voice broke through her fugue. "Do you know why?"

Mouse focused, and asked Dr. Mena to repeat the question.

"Very well, Mouse. Why did you throw those ashtrays, darts, and almost boiling water at your father? Why did you suddenly use violence against him? From what your brother and cousin say, you were always meek around your father. Walked on eggshells so to speak." Here Dr. Mena paused, and looked her in the eyes for the first time since she entered the room. "Do you know why, Mouse? Why you threw those things? Can you help me understand?"

Mouse started quietly at first. " I was coming home from babysitting and I could hear Pop going after my little brother from halfway down the block. I just couldn't handle it anymore, and I, uh, I sorta didn't think about it. When I just picked it up and threw it at him. It connected too." Mouse's voice quavered with anger.

"I could tell it shocked him. I mean, he hesitated long enough for me to get my hands on one of his precious Bavarian beer steins and let it fly. It didn't break. I remember that." Mouse whispered to herself, caught in the memory. "I remember screaming at him, but I don't recall exactly I said," Mouse lifted her head, and sheepishly confided, "but I do know it had a lot of profanity."

"Do you use profanity often Mouse?" Dr. Mena asked. "And what happened after you threw the ashtray, and the -- beer stein, was it?

"Profanity, no -- not usually. Only when it's warranted, I guess." Mouse shrugged her shoulders. Her eyes ached and she wanted him to be done with this, and just sleep. "I grabbed the pot of water tossed it toward him, pushed my little bother out of the house, and we took off running.

"Winded by the time we reached the diner on Saxon avenue, I had some babysitting money, so we went inside to rest and think. I bought my brother a soda and fries, and me some mozzarella sticks. We had just gotten our food when the police showed up." Mouse said as she sat back in her chair. "The rest you have from the reports, I'm sure."

"You mean about the encounter your father had with the police? Yes, I do. The fact that your father was extremely drunk and disorderly, and wanted to box one of the officers, is why you're not being charged with assault. It's clearly a case of self-defense."

Mouse slumped back into her chair after hearing Dr. Mena's words. The knot in her stomach unraveled, and she drew in another breath, this one tasting of relief. She closed her eyes briefly in thanks before she asked where her brother was, how he was, and what came next.

She knew how life 'on the inside' of the institutional foster food chain worked, and she wanted assurances that she and her brother would not be placed in separate homes, and her Pop wouldn't be able to get him, without her. Once Mouse had those, she'd believe the rest of the promises they gave her.

Yeah, sure, maybe she'd even believe things would get better. Maybe now she could finally relax. She doubted it, but at least for tonight, her brother was safe, and she could sleep without fear.

Tangled Lies
See the disillusioned weep with despair.
Deeply caught by the bite of steel teeth,
In a trap of tangled lies. Wrapped within,
The warp and weft of intangible truths.

They'd bought into the Grand
Game, this diabolical farce. Wanted change
And instead, were conned.

They were deceived! They cried.
By one who boldly lied, and preyed
Upon their ignorance, divided them to misdirect
Its malevolent intents, from casual view.

Streams of forgiveness, couldn't cleanse,
The thought that they invited the chaos in
When their need deafened them, to reason

So the anguished dried their tears,
But a streak of jealousy slowly appeared,
Hearts turned to stone, and became viscious
Toward those who were more cautious.

Once again they snarl, and once again they scheme,
And once again they plot, as they begin to weave.