A Dark and Stormy Night

Linda Ho

It was a dark and stormy night. The fierce wind swirled relentlessly around the rustic oak cabin nestled in a lonely valley of the Smoky Mountains. By nightfall, snow drifts covered the three small windows of the one-room lodge built by the early pioneers of the Tennessee Valley.

Five-year-old twins Jeremiah and Johanna were huddled next to the fireplace, mesmerized by the crackling sounds of pine logs set ablaze and their brightly dancing embers. The warmth of the fire snuggled them in a cocoon of safety against the frightening storm.  (More…)

Cut, Copy, Paste

April is National Poetry Month and we’ll be sharing a variety of “locally grown” poetry with you over the next four issues of OLLI Connects. And you’ll be able to enjoy it all from the comfort of your home computer. Or on your smartphone.  On the sofa. With your feet up.

It wasn’t always this easy to make poetry available to OLLI members.  Let Ara take you back to the distant past of the previous millennium and remind you of how it used to be done. — Editor

Ara Rogers

“Hans wants to produce a book of poems by his class. I told him you would work on this with him.”

It was early 1996 and I was working with the Learning in Retirement Institute as a part-time graduate assistant. Hans Juergensen had retired several years earlier, and he was a “get” for LIR. Hired in 1961 as faculty in the Humanities, Hans had been a consultant to the Nobel Prize Committee on Literature, and was an esteemed poet. Lee, renowned for her arm-twisting abilities, had worked on Hans for a while to get him to try teaching for LIR, a program now in its second year. Hans agreed to focus on poetry writing.  (More…)

The Adventures of Leslie Merriweather

Marilyn Myerson

Leslie Merriweather’s dream slipped from his grasp as he tried in vain to capture it. There was a retreating glimpse of colour and a vague hint of scent. But, alas, the fragments dissolved, and all was lost. Day 180 of dreams forgotten. On his 95th birthday six months ago, his beloved nephew Jeremy had gifted him with a dream diary. “Try it, Uncle Les; you never know what you might dredge up; you might even remember where you buried that gold.”

Not that Jeremy, his only heir, was greedy, but that he knew his uncle fretted about losing the memory of the treasure’s location. Truth be told, Jeremy was not completely sure there even had been any gold to begin with. Leslie was full of stories of how it had been in the old days. From his youth, Jeremy was fascinated by his uncle spinning tales of his adventurous past. As he grew older, though, Jeremy began to wonder how much was real, how much was fanciful.  (More …)

Nudge

Peter Terzian

Here I am, miles away from Earth on the space ship Astra Zenica.  I’ve been here before with other friends.  This time it was to help them avoid a small disaster.

Normally, I’m in a home office, or the garage, or in one of several schools or theaters… looking, listening, helping.  They always need help.  Sometimes they listen.  Sometimes they don’t.  Most of the time, actually, they don’t listen. One friend is particularly astute at responding to my help. He gets an idea, knows what he needs, but doesn’t know where to look. I simply nudge him in the right direction and there it is!  He smiles.

One time I was checking on one of my friends, when he caught me on his new security camera. I knew about his old cell phones aimed out his front and back doors, and avoided being seen on those.  I didn’t know that he had bought a new camera that he found on the bargain table in a department store.  That one has night vision!  Now he can see me move about even in the dark!  (More…)

An Unforgivable Mistake

Junia Ancaya

A knock on the door and a voice wakes me up, “Por favor, Doctora, come to the men’s ward. A patient is in pain.”

It’s 1961. I’m a last year medical student and my position in the hospital “on-call-hierarchy-ladder” stands firm at the bottom. I’m “el ultimo perro,” the last dog, the one who gets called all night long at Hospital San Miguel, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. I’m also a young Polish immigrant in Argentina, not familiar with many of the local expressions.

I rush downstairs and ask a nurse what is going on. “It’s that old Sicilian patient, Señor Giuseppe Coconato, the one who throws kisses to every nurse. He seems to have abdominal pain,” she says.

I find the patient’s bed among rows of thirty snoring men. He lies still, holding his distended stomach. Bushy pure-white hair, eyebrows, and whiskers dominate the dark Mediterranean features of this miniature old man. He thanks me for coming. I examine him, evaluate his history, signs and symptoms, and promise him he’ll soon get medication for gas pains and indigestion.

As I walk away, while scribbling orders on his chart, the patient asks in Spanish, speaking in his near-unintelligible Sicilian accent, “Me van a poner la chata esta noche?”   (More…)

A Dark and Stormy Night

Marilyn Myerson

It was a dark and stormy night. The dull beam emanating from the hilltop lighthouse shivered, blinked, and finally sputtered all the way off. The crew of the small craft now had no light to guide them through the treacherous Canadian Maritime shoals. That they might hit the rocks and capsize or be torn asunder was unthinkable. Not only did they fear for their own lives but also for the safety of the special cargo entrusted to them as they had set off on this lengthy voyage. Cargo that was so precious that when the uniformed strangers placed it in the cargo hold, they swore the crew to utmost secrecy.

“Aye, aye,” had claimed the captain, “What cargo, eh?” with a conspiratorial wink which the serious strangers did not reciprocate. In truth the captain had no idea who the strangers were nor what lay secret in the ship’s hold.  All he knew was that this voyage would result in the crew filling their pockets with decent silver.  (More…)

The River – Book Review

Lucinda Knox

I am not an outdoorswoman, and my skills with an oar or a paddle are negligible. The last time I fished was with my dad when my family spent summer vacations in Wisconsin. I have never fired a gun, although I was good with a bow and arrow at one point. However, I loved this book. Peter Heller, who is an adventure writer, an outdoorsman, whitewater kayaker, fisherman, a recipient of an MFA in fiction and poetry, and much more, uses his background to good advantage. He has created a thrilling, poetic work with memorable main characters whose wilderness canoe trip is upended by a wildfire and men intent on killing them.

I was immediately hooked by the prologue:

“They had been smelling smoke for two days. At first they thought it was another campfire and that surprised them because  (More…)

Walking In a COVID-19 Wonderland

Diane Henrikson Russell

I drove over nine speed bumps daily on a major street in my subdivision as I impatiently commuted to my USF Career Counselor job, which was 21 miles away. I barely gave the homes or the intersecting streets a glance as I focused on my destination in the pre-dawn hours.

Fast forward from August 2014 to Fall 2020: I now leisurely stroll along the sidewalks of that same street as I watch impatient commuters drive over those same speed bumps.

The stark contrast in my change of pace was not caused by retirement. The COVID-19 virus has made walking a safe and enjoyable way to exercise outdoors while we “vulnerable” folks try to remain isolated from others and still exist on the planet.

Walking has been my preferred method of exercise for decades. As a USF employee, I strolled the sidewalks of the Tampa campus on breaks and at lunchtime. Before moving to Brandon, I even walked to and from work when I lived 1.5 miles away from the campus. I lost my campus walking routine as a retiree, but last year I began walking on the outdoor track at Bay Care Health Hub in nearby Valrico.  (More...)

The Ancient Desert Curse

Marilyn Myerson

Part the First

All signs and portents spoke of disaster befalling the project. Rumors abounded, warning of the ancient curse.

Easily disregarded was the curse as fictitious superstition if you were on the dig for money or fame. Both were promised in abundance if the early research proved to be well-founded. Not as easily dismissed was the curse if you were a knowledgeable local worker, recruited to help dig through the age-old ruins for the usual paltry wages and miserable working conditions. But other jobs were scarce and there were mouths to feed. You swallowed your foreboding so the young might swallow their ration of bread.

Me, I observe the scene with detachment, as is my wont.  (More…)

How I Almost Worked for the President of the United States

Robert Strozier

In 1979 I was hired as a writer by a well-known and flamboyant marketing-and-sales-management consultant named Stanley Arnold, who over a long career had created many a successful promotional campaign for various blue-chip companies, such as:  “Win Your Height in Dollar Bills” for Lever Brothers, “Win a Bathtub Full of Cash” for Dove Soap, and “Win a Mattress Full of Money” for Simmons.

One of Arnold’s more memorable promotions helped introduce a new line of specialty foods from General Foods, and the unveiling of the “horse-of-a-different-color” theme to marketing executives featured just that—a white horse dyed a bright blue. Another client of his—a man seeking a high-paid position at an advertising agency—brought a belly dancer along to the job interview…his resume written on her undulating abdomen. The list goes on and on.  (More…)