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A Vacation for Mom - A Poem

I wrote this poem for mom as part of her birthday gift.  She gave me permission to share it here.

A Vacation for Mom

For your Birthday,

I’d love to take you

To Rehoboth Beach

For a week

So you could relax.

Close your eyes

And let my words

Take you away…

Under the balmy sun

Rising in the clear sky,

You walk across the

Toasty beige sand as

The cool, salty surf

Washes up a purple seashell

That you pick up.

Overhead, seagulls call

To each other and

Argue over French fries.

The sea breeze is rich with the

Scent of fresh peanut butter fudge

And caramel corn from Dolles’.

You stroll to the boardwalk

And sit on a bench with

A sparkling Orange-Lemonade

To sip in your hand.

Out in the distance,

Three dolphins jump

And play in the ocean,

Their joy making you laugh.

You lean back on

The bench and figure

That today was the

Perfect Day.

My Aunt and Uncle's cat, Sadye, has been very sick since last May. But she is fighting back.  This is the poem I got from her:

“From Sadye”

Curled up on Daddy’s

Lap, I heard the noise outside.

“I’ll protect you, Daddy!”

I marched to the front door

With Daddy as he opened it.

Then I saw THE BEAR!

I hid behind Daddy’s legs.

“You can protect me, Daddy.

That’s why you have all

Those belts, right?

To protect kitties like me?”

Sitting next to Mommy

While she types on her lap.

Always working is my Mommy.

But I’m a good supervisor for her.

I get pats on the head

While she works and she types more.

“You can take a break from

Typing on your lap,

Mommy and give me

My mousie to play with.

We both need some time to cuddle!”

A long ride to the Camper Place.

I sniff and explore.

“I am Queen of the Camper!”

I sit in a new window

And watch people relax.

It’s been a long year.

Longer than most, I think.

Santa Claws came since

I was the best Kitty ever!


Thank you, Mommy and Daddy

For loving me!





Visit to the Johnstown PA Flood Museum

My Mom, Dad and I went to the Johnstown Flood Museum in Johnstown, PA as part of a rare family outing.  We’ve all always wanted to go there and never had been able to find the time until now.
First of all it’s a very sobering experience.  There is a mural alongside the back wall of the first floor showing the debris.  Wheels, wood and bodies jumbled all together.  They even have a bottle of flood water that someone saved from the day after the flood and sealed.   I should mention that the flood happened on 31 May 1889.  Can you imagine water saved from then?  And not clean water either, flood water. 

They also had the Victorian precursor to the FEMA trailer: the Oklahoma House, tiny 1.5 story houses used out in the plains brought into the area so that the people had a place to live while they rebuilt after the flood.
But my main memory of the museum will be watching the film of the flood.  Not because it was well done, although it was.  It was because half through, someone kicked me twice in the back of the chair. The only problem? No one was sitting behind me.  I stood up, turned around and said “Who is kicking me?”
My mom looked at me and said “April, there is one here.” And she was right. Mom and Dad were sitting beside me and on the far other side of the theater were some other people who were looking very annoyed at me for interrupting them, but no one behind me.  But I felt them. Two very solid and hard kicks.
After looking at the other items on display, I asked the cashier at the front desk if the building was haunted. She told me it was.  She said that she had heard people going up and down the steps behind her to the bathroom when there was no one there.  And voices in the rooms when she knew she was alone. Also she, informed me, that she avoided the third floor all together.  There was also a ghost of a librarian there, but she’d never seen her.  I told her about my experience and she said that she wasn’t surprised at all.
You see, the building the museum is in now was in the main path of the flood and destroyed by it.  It was rebuilt after the flood and used as a library.  So I have no idea who kicked me. It was probably a child killed in the flood and scared by the film.  But I probably scared him or her even more by calling out “Who kicked me?” I’m sorry if I did.
So the Johnstown Flood Museum is worth seeing.  And who knows, you might see or feel a ghost or two.

Dog in a Hot Car

It reached near 90F today in Latrobe, PA with intense July sunshine.

Mom and I went to the Eat N Park restaurant on Route 30 and parked next to us was a silver Jeep with a small dog inside. The windows were open a crack, but not much. Definitely not enough to cool the car's interior on a hot afternoon like this. Mom called 911 and was redirected to the Pennsylvania State Police. They said they didn't want to come out for a dog. Mom went to the manager and he said that Mom was welcome to ask around the Eat N Park to see if anyone owned the dog.

Mom and I did and a woman with her children said it was her car. Mom told her that it was way to hot out side to have a dog locked in the car while she was in the air conditioning. The woman smiled blankly at Mom and said "Oh, have a nice day." And went back to her meal!!!!!!!

Just recently a police dog died after being left in a hot car for two hours! It has been all over the news with warnings not to do that to your pet. I guess this woman doesn't watch the news.

Shame on her! Shame on the manager for not helping the dog! And shame on the Pennsylvania State Police!

Pop, Done in Third Person POV

I rewrote Pop for the 3rd person. Again feed back is welcome.


By: April M. Richards


     Juliana Payne lay in the soft summer grass in the woods surrounding Scaeton Hill, Pennsylvania, her chest barely moving. A dark figure stood over her.  “You’ve been a very, very bad, haven’t you, Little Girl?” The dark figure growled. “And now, you have to be punished.” The dark figure leaned over Juliana.

     Juliana gasped out.


     Elizabeth Fern sat up in bed, her heart pounding against her ribcage.  “What is going on with me?” She asked herself. Her cat, Goldie, meowed at her.  Elizabeth petted Goldie and went back to sleep.

* * * * *

     The next day, at the tiny, one room school house that Elizabeth attended, she found her best friend, Sarah James, waiting for her. Elizabeth and Sarah both had the same rich auburn hair and were often mistaken for sisters. Sarah let loose with her trade mark laugh and played with the ivory cameo necklace that she always wore. “Hey, Elizabeth, you look tired,” She said, worried about her friend. Elizabeth smiled weakly at her friend. “Well, don’t fall asleep in class or Mr. Hargrove will whip you a good one.”

     “I know.”

     Mr. Hargrove, the mild-mannered teacher, rang the bell to start the day. The children filed in and sat in their chairs. Elizabeth frowned and looked over at the oldest students. One chair was empty: the chair that Juliana Payne sat in three years ago.  Sarah nudged Elizabeth to get her to pay attention to the prayer and Bible reading that started each day. Elizabeth bowed her head and blushed.

     The day dragged on for Elizabeth. Her mind kept flashing back to her nightmare.  Why would she keep dreaming about Juliana Payne? She wondered to herself.  She failed to hear Mr. Hargrove call out her name to answer his question.

     “Sir?” She asked. “I didn’t hear the question.”

     “Elizabeth, what is one hundred and twenty multiplied by twenty-three?” Mr. Hargrove repeated the question.

     “It’s two-thousand and seventy-five, Mr. Hargrove,” Elizabeth answered after some thought.

     “Correct, Miss Fern. Please try to pay attention.”

     “Yes, Mr. Hargrove.”

     Finally, the day was over and Elizabeth started her long walk home.  The townspeople were quiet with grim looks on their faces that disturbed Elizabeth.  Sarah skipped beside her as they hiked to their families’ farms.  Luckily, the James farm and the Fern farm were next to each other. Sarah hugged her friend as they stood on the fork in the road.  “See you tomorrow.”

     A coldness surrounded Elizabeth’s heart.  “I hope so,” She murmured as Sarah hurried away to do her evening chores.  Elizabeth blinked her eyes. For a second, she thought she saw that same dark figure from her nightmares following Sarah. But when her vision cleared, the figure was gone. Elizabeth ran home and was greeted by her Aunt Rose Daniels, her mother’s older spinster sister.

     “Oh, Beth, it’s almost dark out. What took you so long?” Aunt Rose asked her niece.

     “I stopped to talk with Sarah,” Elizabeth answered honestly.

     “Maybe you two shouldn’t do that. Talk during recess but don’t linger on the way home. Your mother needs you.” Rose took Elizabeth’s coat and hung it up for her. 

     “Yes, Aunt Rose.” Elizabeth nodded her head.  She ran to her parents’ bedroom and found her mother resting, her eight month pregnant belly swollen. Elizabeth slipped back out.  “I’ll help make dinner.”

     “Good.” Aunt Rose smiled. The two worked on making a simple dinner of pork and sweet potatoes. 

     After eating, the town leaders came to the Fern farm and knocked on the door.  Mr. Fern put down his tea and said “I’m going to the barn. If I catch any of you out there, I’ll tan your hides. Yours included Rose.”  Elizabeth and her younger brother, Simon, looked shocked at their father.  His face was set in hard lines, so different from the gentler man they knew. 

     Elizabeth went back to her studying, but she could not focus on the history of the ancient Greeks.  She put away her book and slipped out of the house, staying in the shadows. She slipped into the barn, over hearing “…Missing now. She didn’t come after school.”

     “Do you think she just ran away?” Mr. Stephen Hargrove asked.

     “NO!” Mr. James exclaimed.  “She’s never done something like before!”  Mr. Fern put his hand on Mr. James’ shoulder.

     “We’ll find her,” Mr. Fern said.

     “What do we tell the women and children?” The town doctor asked.

     “Tell them that a rogue wolf is loose in the area. That will keep them indoors,” Mr. Fern suggested.

     Elizabeth sneaked out of the barn and back into the house.


     Sarah James scurried through the woods, a dark figure pursuing her.  Sarah stopped beside the massive oak tree on the Fern property, panting hard and unable to catch her breath. Elizabeth tried to scream, try to urge her friend to keep running, but no words came out.  The dark figure slid up behind Sarah and wrapped his figures around her throat. She clawed at those fingers but could not break free.  She gasped for air.    After several minutes, Sarah’s eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed, hanging from the dark figure’s hands. The dark figure stroked Sarah’s hair. “I’m sorry, Little Girl, but you were bad for your Pop.”


     “NO!” Elizabeth shouted, sitting straight up right. Her mother, Ida Fern, waddled into her oldest daughter’s room.

     “Elizabeth Michelle Fern! What is your problem?” Mrs. Fern demanded.

     “I’m sorry, Mother. I didn’t mean to wake you up,” Elizabeth apologized.  “Is Father home yet?” She asked. After the meeting in the barn, the townsmen came into the farm house for some lanterns and said they’d be out searching.

     A worried look crossed Mrs. Fern’s face. “No, he’s not.  Go back to sleep,” She advised her daughter and left the room.

     Elizabeth lay back down, but could not go back to sleep.

* * * * *

     The next morning, the town leaders gathered around a cloth covered lump by the tree. Elizabeth, already up and finished with her morning chores gathered her school books and slate.  She walked out of her house and saw the doctor’s cart near the old oak tree. There was something in it.

     “Elizabeth Fern!” The doctor’s driver called out.  “Going into town?”

     “Yes, to school.”
     “Then, I’ll give you a ride,” The driver said.

     “Sir, I can walk.”

     “Well, we’re going the same way.” He held out his hand and helped Elizabeth aboard the cart’s front seat. “All I ask is that you don’t look in the back.”

     “I won’t.”


     Sarah James was not in school today.  Mr. Hargrove’ normally kind blue eyes looked grim and tired. He did not call out Sarah’s name during the roll call.

     Recess was canceled.  Mr. Hargrove said that a wolf had been seen near the area. Elizabeth frowned. She could tell that Mr. Hargrove was lying.

     After school, Mr. Hargrove stopped Elizabeth before she left.  “How are you getting home?” He asked her.

     “I’m walking. Ginger is about to foal and Father doesn’t want her out pulling the buggy right now.”

     “How about I give you a ride home?” Mr. Hargrove offered.

     “No, sir, I couldn’t impose. You live on the other side of town from my father’s farm. I can walk.”

     “There’s that wolf…”

     “There is no wolf. Excuse me.” Elizabeth dashed out of the school house and started home. She ran into Joshua Payne, a tall, lanky southerner who moved up to Scaeton Hill after the War Between the States, on Main Street.  He looked down at her, his blue eyes darkening.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Payne. I wasn’t watching where I was going,” Elizabeth apologized. She scurried off, his eyes following her.

     Mr. Hargrove saw the incident and frowned.  He grabbed one of the older students and told him to run as fast as he could to the Fern farm with a cryptic message. “The wolf has new prey.” Then he started following Mr. Payne and Elizabeth.

     Elizabeth stopped into Mr. Wang’s laundry to pick up her father’s good suit. It was machine made in Pittsburgh and he had just worn it to his father’s funeral a week prior.  Elizabeth walked up to the counter.  “Ah, Miss Fern,” Mr. Wang smiled at the girl. “You here for father’s suit?”

     “Yes, sir.”

     “I get it.”

     “Thank you, Mr. Wang.”

     Mrs. Wang came out of the back of the shop with gold-embroidered red handkerchief in her hand and her eight month old daughter, Ming, on her hip. “Hello, I have more sweet nuts you like.” She gave Elizabeth the nuts.  Ever since Mrs. Wang’s brother in Hawaii introduced the macadamia nuts to Elizabeth and her friends, they had become popular with the young people of the town, especially when they were drizzled with a hint of chocolate.  Elizabeth popped one nut into her mouth and put the rest away to share with her younger brother, Simon.

     “Thank you, Mrs. Wang,” Elizabeth smiled at the Chinese lady.

     “You welcome. Now, get home. Dark soon.”

     “I will.” Elizabeth took the suit from Mr. Wang and left the store. She did not see Mr. Payne in the shadows.

* * * * *

     Elizabeth strolled through the forest, reflecting on the nightmares that plagued her almost every night.  Why had she dreamed about Sarah and why wasn’t Sarah in school today? What was going on in the town?  She knew the history of Scaeton Hill. That the Shawnee Indians considered the ground that the town was built on filled with evil spirits. She knew about the curse that the murdered witch, Aethelreda Hand, put on the land before the Callaghan brothers lynched her.  She had heard the stories that floated around the fire places of town about a devil, maybe the Devil himself, which haunted the abandoned cemetery in the middle of town.  But, why were Mr. Hargrove and the rest of the townsmen willing to tell a lie about a wolf loose in the area?

     WHOOOO!” An owl hooted out as the sun set.  Elizabeth jumped, startled. She looked around and groaned softly. During her musings, her feet took the wrong path and, unthinkable as it was, she was completely lost.

     “Damn,” She swore and blushed even though there was no one around to hear her swear. Behind her she heard the sharp crack of some one much heavier than her stepping on the dead branches and dried leaves.

     “Naughty, Little Girl,” A deep voice echoed through the woods.  “You know you shouldn’t use bad words.” Elizabeth shook. She knew that voice.  She had heard it in her dreams enough times. The crunch of the leaves came closer. Elizabeth took off running. Branches whipped against her, tearing at her long skirts and tangling in her hair.  The heavy footsteps remained steady behind her.

     Elizabeth panted, her breath caught in her corseted ribs. Suddenly, her ankle twisted underneath her, causing her to fall down in a mass of skirts and petticoats. She struggled to her feet, unable to put weight on her right foot.  She gasped, leaning against a maple tree.

     “Hurt, Little Girl? Don’t worry. Pop will get you.” The voice sounded even closer this time.

     Elizabeth pushed off from the tree and hobbled deeper into the woods.  A large thorn tore a gash into her left leg, leaving a ragged hole in her brown flannel dress. She struggled through the underbrush, stumbling until she fell into an icy stream. Elizabeth sat up with a yelp.  Water streamed down her face. She wiped her face off with her hands.  She strained to get up and collapsed back into the water. She looked around the stream and found a cave buried deep into the bank.  She crawled over to the cave and curled up in it, trying to warm up.  Exhausted, she drifted off.

* * * * *

     Elizabeth found herself floating over the woods.  She heard a familiar laugh and turned to find Sarah James floating next to her, wearing a diaphanous white gown. “Sarah?” Elizabeth asked.

     “Elizabeth, you must wake up now. He’s near.”

     “What are you talking about?”

     “I’ll explain later.” Sarah floated away from Elizabeth…

* * * * *

     Elizabeth awoke with a start. An oddly soft hand grabbed Elizabeth’s sore ankle and pulled her towards a dark figure. In the faint moonlight, Elizabeth could see that it was Joshua Payne.

     “Mr. Payne, what are you doing here?” Elizabeth asked, shaking.

     “It didn’t have to be like that, Juliana,” He held Elizabeth close and stroked her hair.  She could smell the bourbon on his breath. “We can start over again. Be like it was before you were a bad girl. Do you remember when you were Pop’s Little Girl?”  Elizabeth screamed and kneed Joshua Payne in the groin. He grunted but did not let her go. She clawed his face and neck, her nails snagging something around his neck. She pulled away breaking whatever it was she caught.  “Naughty, Little Girl, give Pop back his pretty trinket,” Payne scolded, showing real anger for the first time since the chase started.

     Elizabeth sunk her teeth into his wool covered arm and kicked him in the shin at the same time. He dropped her finally. She tossed cold water into his face and scrambled away. Joshua Payne recovered quickly.  He followed Elizabeth out of the stream. “Run while you can, Little Girl. Pop will find you.”

     Elizabeth sobbed as she ran into the marsh, the dead plants bogging her down.  She scurried into a shorn corn field, unsure if it was her father’s corn field or Mr. James’. In the distance she could she a twinkle of light, some one’s house. She ran into a scarecrow and screamed. 

     Suddenly, a gloved hand clamped over her mouth, bruising her.  “I have you, Little Girl,” Pop whispered into her ear. Tears fell down her face. Elizabeth struggled against Joshua Payne. “Don’t fight me, Juliana!” Pop admonished her.

     Elizabeth squirmed and managed to free her mouth. She shrieked out “HELP!” Her voice echoed in the field. Pop tightened his grip on her.

     “No one is going to help you, Juliana,” He gloated.  “I’ll take you away from here and we’ll be together again.”

     Just then, a bang echoed in the air. Something hit Joshua Payne dead center in his chest and he dropped Elizabeth. Payne crumpled to the ground, a shocked look on his face. Mr. Hargrove dashed up to Elizabeth. “Miss Fern, are you all right?” He asked, holstering his .38 pistol.  Elizabeth wept and Mr. Hargrove took off his coat and wrapped it around her.  “It’s over now, Miss Fern.”

     Joshua Payne groaned and lurched upwards. Elizabeth hollered in warning. Mr. Hargrove spun around and shot Joshua Payne in between the eyes, killing him instantly. “Let’s get you home,” Mr. Hargrove said. Elizabeth nodded meekly.  Mr. Hargrove helped Elizabeth up and let her lean on him as they walked through the corn field and onto the back porch of the Fern farm house.

     “Elizabeth!” Exclaimed her Aunt Rose.  She helped Mr. Hargrove bring Elizabeth into the house.  “She’s half frozen.”

     “I’m afraid she fell into Hand Creek and got soaked,” Mr. Hargrove said.

     “Thank you so much for bringing her home, Mr. Hargrove,” Aunt Rose said.  She ushered Elizabeth into her bedroom.

     “Stephen!” Mr. Fern boomed. “Come in, have a brandy. You look shaken.”

     “Thank you, Ralf,” Mr. Hargrove sat down after removing his coat and boots.  He accepted the brandy and swirled it in its glass.  “The, uh, wolf, is dead. I shot him in your cornfield.”

     Mr. Fern looked up, shocked. “What are you talking about?”

     “Didn’t you get my message? I sent Grover Jessupson to tell you. He never arrived?”

     “No he didn’t and it’s not like he’d get lost in these woods.”

     Mr. Hargrove sat back.  “Looks like the wolf claimed another victim.”

     “What wolf? What are you talking about? Who was after Elizabeth?” Mrs. Fern demanded.

     Mr. Fern and Mr. Hargrove looked at each other.  “I’ll explain later, Ida,” Mr. Fern said. “Once Elizabeth is resting.”

     “Please, Father, tell me, why did Mr. Payne chase me?” Elizabeth asked, standing in the door way from her bedroom.  She wore a flannel night dress and robe.  Her hair was down in waves.

     Mr. Fern sighed.  “As you know, Joshua Payne’s wife died giving birth to his only daughter, Juliana, sixteen years ago. He spoiled her, called her his…”

     “Little Girl,” Elizabeth whispered, shuddering.

     “Correct. Then three years ago, Juliana died mysteriously in the woods surrounding Scaeton Hill.  Payne was a suspect but it could never be proven.  He started to loose his mind after Juliana’s death. It was steady but slow. Then a year ago, girls from other towns who resembled Juliana started disappearing and turning up dead in these woods.”

     “Why didn’t the mayors make an announcement on this?” Mrs. Fern demanded.

     “They did not want a panic on their hands,” Mr. Hargrove ran his fingers through his hair.  “That’s why I was sent to Scaeton Hill. To see if I could stop Joshua Payne with out creating a panic or more girls getting hurt. I failed,” He sighed.

     “No you didn’t, Stephen. You saved Elizabeth,” Mrs. Fern said. “Who should be in bed right now.”

     “Yes, Mother,” Elizabeth agreed.  “Thank you, Mr. Hargrove for saving my life.” She curtsied and left for her bed. She crawled into bed and fell asleep.

* * * * *

     Elizabeth floated above the town of Scaeton Hill.  Sarah James hovered next to her. “It’s over now. He’s dead so you can rest.”

     “Sarah, will I always have those nightmares about Pop…”

     “Don’t say his name!” Sarah cautioned her friend.

     “About him I mean?”

     “No. All the other girls were practice, you know,” Sarah said.


     “All the other girls were practice for you.”


     “Because of all the girls he hunted, you looked exactly like Juliana,” Sarah explained.  Elizabeth looked horrified at her friend.  “Don’t worry, I’ll always be watching over you.” And Sarah faded from sight…

* * * * *

     Elizabeth sat up and winced.  Her ribs and ankle still hurt from her night in the woods.  She reached over for a glass of water on her nightstand and saw the “pretty trinket” she had stolen from Joshua Payne.  She picked it up and looked it.  She screamed. Everyone rushed into her room.

     In her hand was Sarah James’ locket.


A Revised Pop, still in First Person POV

I've revised Pop again.  Feed back is always welcomed.


By: April Michelle Richards


        I saw Sarah Jones scurrying through the woods, a dark figure pursuing her. She paused by the ancient, twisted oak tree that was so near my house that I could see it from my bedroom window to catch her heaving breath. I screamed for her to keep running, but no sound came out of my mouth.

        I watched in horror as the shadowy figure slid up behind her. I hoarsely shouted “Sarah! Run! Go!” But Sarah could not hear me.  I tried to look away as the long fingers closed around her throat, but I couldn’t. I watched as the fingers choked the life out of my friend. She gasped for air, clawing at the fingers, but it was too much for her. Sarah crumpled to the ground and a harsh voice rumbled through out my mind “I’m sorry, my little girl, but you were bad for your Pop.”


        “NO!” I yelled, jerking awake.

        “Elizabeth Michelle Fern, what is wrong?” My mother, Ida Fern, demanded of me, waddling into my room.  She was eight months along in her most recent confinement and was having problems.

         “I’m sorry, Mother, I didn’t mean to wake you,” I apologized. “Is Father back?” I asked. Earlier this evening, several grim-faced men from the town and surrounding farms came over to our farm and met in our barn with Father. Father said he’d tan our hides if we tried to listen in on the meeting or if we wondered out of the house during the night.  That level of intimidation was rare for Father.

        “No, he’s not. Go back to sleep, Elizabeth,” Mother said.

        “Yes, Mother,” I acquiesced and lay back down on my pillow. My mind kept wondering back to the nightmares I had suffered from in the past few weeks.  Every night, I saw unknown girls running through the woods by my house, being chased by the same shadowy figure I saw tonight. Some nights, I was the one being hounded through the woods. Tonight was the first night I’d seen some one I knew.

        Tomorrow before school, I would have to tell Sarah about my dream. I was sure she’d laugh at it…

* * * * *

        I walked the path to school. I noticed different foot prints leading to the old oak tree near the house. One set was large and the other smaller. The smaller prints ended just under my window. The large prints deepened under my window then left. I noticed several more prints and wagon tracks going into town. I shivered and ran the mile to town and to my school.

       Sarah Jones was not in school today.  Mr. Willis, our teacher, stared at the empty seat next to me, but didn't call out her name during roll call.  Nobody talked about Sarah during school at all.  It was strange. My nightmares came back to me but I dismissed it with some effort.

       Once school let out, I hurried over to Mr. Wang's dry good store.  Mr. Wang had recently moved here, Scaeton Hill, Pennsylvania, from the mainland of China with his wife, Sung, and their little daughter, Ming.  Since my mother was laid up with complications in her most recent confinement, Mrs. Wang did the laundry for us.  It was my job to drop it off before school started and then to pick it up after school to take home.

        “Ah!  Hello, Little One!”  Mr. Wang said as I entered his shop. He called all the young people in the town “Little One,” since he had a hard time with American names.

        “Hello, Mr. Wang,” I said, bowing my head politely.

        “You here for laundry, yes?”

        “Yes, sir,” I answered. 

        Just then, Mrs. Wang left the back room with the laundry in my mother's good basket.  Little Ming was riding in it, laughing and waving her chubby arms.

        “Ming!” I scooped up the little Chinese baby and hugged her.  Ming laughed and pulled at one of my braids.

        “Ming like see you,” Mrs. Wang smiled at her child.  Then, Mrs. Wang took Ming and laid her in a cradle behind the counter. “You mother all right?”

        “She's fine, I guess.” I answered with shrug.

        “Here,” Mrs. Wang placed a red and gold silk handkerchief into my hand.  It was warm to the touch.  “More sweet nuts you like,” She said.

        I opened the handkerchief and gasped.  Mrs. Wang filled the silk with roasted macadamia nuts that had been dipped in chocolate and decorated with colored sugar.  Mrs. Wang introduced me to those sweet morsels after her brother visited her from Hawaii and brought not only the nuts, but also some baby trees that would grow them.  I stuffed two into my mouth and put the rest into my tin lunch pail.  I planned to share them with my younger brother, Simon, who was too little to go to school.

        “Get dark soon,” Mr. Wang cleared his throat. “Must go home, yes?  Father pick up you?”

        “No.  Ginger's about to foal, so Father doesn't want her out riding.”

        Mr. Wang's face darkened.  “Not good,” He muttered.  “I take you home, OK?”

        “No, Mr. Wang, that's not necessary,” I protested. “I can make it home in plenty of time.”

        Mr. Wang shook his head and muttered in Chinese, but did not push his offer.  I gathered up my books, the pail, and the laundry and left the store with a cheery “good bye.”

        As I left Mr. Wang's store, I ran into someone.  I looked up, embarrassed.

        “I'm so sorry, sir,” I said.

        The man looked down at me.  He was tall and gaunt with long gray hair pulled into a tail at the base of his neck.  People were staring at him and whispering.  He was Joshua Payne, a Southerner who had moved up from South Carolina after the Civil War, twenty-five years ago.  He lived alone in a room in the only hotel in Scaeton Hill.

        I blushed again under his gaze, whispered: “Have a good evening, Mr. Payne,” and scurried off.

* * * *

        A late November snow had started to fall as I paused at the beginning of the woods that surrounded Scaeton Hill.  I looked back at the town and the massive hill, dotted with tombstones, that was the town's namesake.  According to the town legend, Widow Scaeton, the founder of Scaeton Hill, named the massive hill after her husband’s ancestors.  Since then, it has been used as the family’s burial ground.  Ever since the old Widow died, rumors abound about a devil, or maybe The Devil himself, roaming the through the crumbling tombstones.  I shivered and turned into the woods. The path through the woods was well marked and worn down by the generations of farmers, including my own family, that had trod on it.

     Behind me, I heard the soft crunching of boots on dead leaves. A soft hand grabbed my shoulder.  I spun around, my long skirts brushing against someone.

     “Mr. Payne!” I gasped.  Joshua Payne looked down at me from his great height.  In the dim light, his eyes glittered.

     “I never meant to hurt her,” He murmured.  He tightened his grip on my shoulder.  I winced and tried to pull away, but he was too strong.  “You know that, right?  You know that I’d never mean to hurt anyone.  If she only hadn’t screamed.  It didn’t have to hurt.  Not at all.”

     “What are you talking about?” I cried. “Let me go!”

     “It will be different this time, Juliana.  I promise it will be different this time.”  Mr. Payne pulled me close and tried to kiss me.  I could smell the whiskey on his clothes and his breath.

     “No!”  I screamed and scratched at his face.  Darkness descended over Mr. Payne’s face.

     “Bad Girl,” He growled.  “You shouldn’t try to hurt your Pop, Little Girl.”

     “Go away!” I screamed and dashed off down the trail.  I paused after covering half the distance and listened.  No one was following me.  I sighed and continued home.

       As my feet walked the trail, my mind wondered back towards my strange encounter with Joshua Payne. Because I was so preoccupied, I failed to notice when my feet turned prematurely and lead me deep into the forest.

        "WHO!"  Wailed a near by owl.  The owl's cry jerked me out of my revere.  I looked around.  I was lost and it was dark out.  The fresh snow covered my tracks.

        “Oh!” I wailed and kicked out at a rock. 

        Just then, I heard a branch snap and a deep, throaty voice say: “Don't worry, Little Girl.  Pop will get ya!”

        I yelled and started to run.  The tough, thick grass that snagged my long skirts and petticoats hampered my running.  I tripped over a root and cut my leg.

         "Oh, great,” I muttered as I tied Mrs. Wang's pretty handkerchief around my gash.

        Crunch!  Crunch!  I heard it again.  I picked myself up and ran as fast as I could.  It was becoming colder and harder to move.  I had to find shelter soon or I would freeze to death.

        "Little girl, I know where you are.  You can't hide from Pop forever."  A deep, rumbling voice said.

        The darkness made it nearly impossible to run very fast.  I covered the thorny stems that hit my arms and face, and the thick carpeting of roots and dead branches that kept tripping me. The gash on my leg was the least of my worries.  In the few hours that had passed since Pop had announced he was out to get me, I had twisted my ankle and injured my knee.  My face, arms, and legs were a mass of deep, oozing scratches.  I was starting to gasp for air.  The intense cold had numbed all of my physical pain.  I had to stop and rest ... NO! I couldn't.  If I did, Pop would surely catch me.

        I don't know how long I had been on the run, but I was exhausted.  There was no way that I could go on any farther.  Just then, I fell into a small creek.  The shock of the frigid water snapped me out of my terrified stupor.  I sat up and looked around.  I was waist deep in an icy stream, strewn with small boulders.  For the first time that night, I noticed how hungry and thirsty I was.  I eyed the water I sat in.  In my limited moonlight, it looked clean.  I scooped some up to my parched lips and drank.  I stopped the fire in my throat, but the water made the pain in my stomach more acute.  I opened my battered little pail and found the nuts that Mrs. Wang had given to me.  It would have to do.

        "Rest while you can, Little girl.  I'll find you, don't worry about that,” Pop’s words floated to me from somewhere in the gloom.  I started to cry.  What sin had I committed to deserve this?  "Don't cry, Little girl.  Pop will come to you,” His teasing voice seemed even closer. 

        I had to hide from Pop, but where?  I felt around the stream for a hiding place.    I quickly found a small, muddy cave in the bank.  I said a little prayer and crawled into it.  It was cramped and chilly, but at least I was safe for the time being.  I curled up and tried to get some sleep.  I hoped that dawn would come swiftly.

* * * * *

        I found myself floating above the woods, facing Sarah, wearing a diaphanous white gown. “You must wake up, Elizabeth. He’s near.”

        “What are you talking about, Sarah?”

        “I’ll explain later. Wake up!”

* * * * *

        Elizabeth! A voice called out and I woke up, looking around.  For a second I thought I had heard Sarah’s voice.

        "Little girl, wake up," Pop sounded like he was right in front of me.  I let out a scream and kicked at the shadowy figure.  I heard Pop grunt.  Suddenly, his oddly soft hands grabbed my leg.  "Little Girl, don't you know that it's rude to kick people?" He asked as he pulled me closer.  "Come with me," He whispered and put his hand over my mouth.  “It will be just like it was before, Little Girl.  Before you were a bad girl.  Remember when you were Pop’s Little Girl?”

       I wasn't about to let Pop take me anywhere.  I would never see my family again if I did.  I struggled against Pop's rough wool coat.  I clawed at his face and snagged my nails on something that was on his coat. I ripped my hand away, not looking at what I had taken from Pop. 

        “No, no, Little Girl. Give Pop back his pretty trinket.” Pop scolded lightly.  I kicked Pop in the shin with my high-heeled boot and he dropped me.  I flung some icy water into his face and ran down stream. As I had mentioned before, the stream was rocky and full of well-hidden holes that I fell into.   It was after tumbling over a small waterfall that I found my first piece of hope.  The clouds cleared out to reveal a bright full moon.  In the flood of new light, I discovered a piece of plaid cloth.  It was my dad's handkerchief that he had lost the other day while out hunting.  I had to be near home.  I stoop up and saw the old marsh by my house.  I started running again.  On the other side would be home.  Because of the darkness, I must have gotten confused, for when I burst out of the marsh; my home wasn't there.  As I stood in a state of total confusion, I felt some one snatch me from behind.  It was Pop.

        "I have you now, Little girl," He laughed his horrible laugh. 

         That's what you think.  I thought to myself.  Soon we would be passing the old mountain lion's cave.  Any noise would send her roaring out of there.  I suddenly developed a plan. 

     "Be quiet, Little girl.  We don't want the old mother lion to come out, do we?"  Pop teased me.

        Wrong!  I thought grimly.  I broke out of his grip and dashed past the cave, screaming as though the Devil that was rumored to haunt parts of old cemetery was after me.  In a way, he was.   From behind me, I heard Pop's agonized cry.  Was he really in trouble or was it just a trick?  I didn't know.  I kept on running.  Safety had to be some where.  My eyes strained for some sign.  After an eternity of searching, I saw a faint twinkle of light.  I took off in that direction.  I didn't stop until I was on my porch.

        "LET ME IN!!"  I pounded on the door.  I passed out from terror and fatigue as my Aunt Rose opened the door. 

* * * * *

        I found myself floating above the town of Scaeton Hill. I heard familiar laughter and looked to my right. There was Sarah Jones wearing a white dress. “Sarah?”

       “It’s me, Elizabeth.”

       “What’s going on?”

       “You’re safe now. He’s dead so you’re safe now.” Sarah spun around and her dress floated out around her.

       “Why was Mr. Payne after me?” I asked my friend.

       “Because, you looked like his Juliana.  All the rest were practice for you.”


       “I have to go now. I’ll always watch over you…” Elizabeth faded away.

* * * * *

        I awoke with a start and looked around. I was in my bed, my injuries dressed.  Mother rocked back and forth in her rocking chair.

        “Oh, Elizabeth, you’re awake. Your father went out but he’ll be happy to know that you’re all right.”

        “Where’s Sarah? I saw Sarah,” I asked, confused.

        A pained look crossed Mother’s face. “Shh… You’re still upset.  I’ll bring you in a light meal for you to eat.”

        “Yes, Mother,” I sighed.

* * * * *

        "Don't worry about Joshua Payne," Father said as he entered the house later the next evening.   "He won't hurt anyone any more."

        "Why?"  I asked.

        "The old lion got him.  We found his body by her cave, well, what was left of his body anyway."

        "Why did he do all this?"  Mom wanted to know.

        Father sat on the edge of my bed.  He took my hand and frowned.   "Joshua Payne's wife died sixteen years ago giving birth to their only daughter, Juliana.  He loved her and spoiled her. He called her his Little Girl.  Then, when Juliana was thirteen, she died in the woods around Scaeton Hill. The cause of her death was never solved but Payne was suspected in her death. Payne started to lose his mind.  It was subtle and slow.  Then, last year, he started stalking girls who were the same age as his Juliana," Father's voice trailed off. My mind flashed back to what Sarah had told me in my dream. "The mayors of the towns didn't want a panic on their hands so it was kept quiet until now," Father kissed my forehead and left my room as Aunt Rose brought my dinner to me.  A heap of macadamia nuts on a china plate dominated the tray.  Mrs. Wang poked her head into my room. She smiled, and then left so I could eat in peace.

        I should have been relieved that my living nightmare was over, but as I picked up a tin fork, I realized that I was still holding Pop's 'pretty trinket' in my hand. I opened my hand and screamed. Everyone rushed into my room. I held up what was in my hand.

        It was Sarah's locket.


A Poem to Honor Grandma Keller

My Step-Grandmother passed away on the 28th of May.  I wrote this poem to honor her and it will be read at her funeral.

At Peace

In Memory of Elsie Mae Keller

(November 5, 1923 – May 28, 2011)


Once I was young

But Time has aged me.

Now, I’m young again.


Once I knew you,

But Alzheimer’s stole

My memories.

Now, I’ll always know you

In my heart.


Once I held many jobs

But, I am retired.

Now, I’m free to play.


Once I was alone

But now I’m with my husband again.


Once my children were small

But they grew up.

Now I have great-grandchildren.


Once I was

Scared and confused.

Now I’m at peace.



April Michelle Richards

May 28, 2011

The Bully's Lament

Thanks to my friend, Michael, for cleaning up the grammar on this piece.

If you weren't
a faggot
then I wouldn't have to
beat the shit out outta ya!

If you weren't
a woman
then I wouldn't

have to rape you!

If you weren't
a geek
I wouldn't have to
stuff you in your locker!

If you weren't
a witch
then I wouldn't have
to burn you!


It's not my fault!
Don't blame me!
It's all your fault!



NaNoWriMo: Final Report for Nov 2010

Well, I didn't get to complete NaNoWriMo. I made it up to 46,641 words and maybe 3/4 of the way through the actual novel. Basically, my wrists and hands hurt so bad that I couldn't type any more.  I went to the doctor's and found out I have tendinitis in my wrists. So, I'm taking a short break from writing and I'll come back strong I know I will.

My first NaNoWriMo-Day 1 Part 1

Well, I've decided to try NaNoing in November.  This will detail my attempt to write 50,000 words in thirty days. I will be writing a YA science fiction novel about first contact with an alien race.  Wish me luck!

Current Word Count: Zero