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Linda Andrews

Coincidences in Life

Our Trip to St. Augustine, Florida

I remember during the end of the first trimester of the pregnancy with my son, my husband, Vince, and I took a much-needed trip to Florida. This trip was planned and paid for before I found out I was pregnant, so we could not cancel it. It was like a second honeymoon for us, and Vince had planned it as a reward for surviving the medical complications of two previous pregnancies. Two years previously, we spent a week in Disneyworld on our honeymoon and then went on a Caribbean cruise. We planned to spend a week at Disneyworld and spend a week touring various parts of Florida during this vacation.

On Sunday, June 5, 1983, we decided to drive to St. Augustine, which was about an hour and a half away from Daytona Beach, where we were staying. We read that this was America’s oldest city, discovered in the mid-1500s by Spanish ships. It was the city where Christianity was first established in the New World Shores of what would become America.

We left early in the morning and had lunch at a motel along the way. We spent some time in the afternoon at the famous fort of Castillo de San Marcus and toured the Gonzalez Alverez House. We walked through downtown St. Augustine, admiring the old stores and buildings. I became hungry later in the afternoon and begged Vince to take me to a Woolworth’s lunch counter because I had an intense craving for a breaded chicken sandwich. I ordered the sandwich from the lunch counter and found it to be a greasy mess that I could not eat. We bought candied fruit slices that I quickly devoured. We headed back to the car late in the afternoon, feeling sad that we didn’t have enough time to explore this city of historic wonders full. We decided to come back on some other vacation and spend a week in this city.

We were tired and had an hour’s drive ahead of us back to Daytona Beach. We drove down US 1 and immediately a big gold cross caught our attention. Vince wanted to find the Fountain of Youth and thought this could be the entrance. We turned into the entrance and were initially disappointed that it appeared to be a cemetery that we were entering. Vince was curious and wanted to see what this was, so I reluctantly agreed to get out of the car and walk around.

We walked through a wooded section surrounded by very old graves, some dating back hundreds of years ago. We saw several tombstones that had a woman’s name inscribed, and alongside the woman’s name was an infant’s name. Many of these women died in their twenties, the same age I was. These women apparently died from childbirth complications as beside their graves were infant’s graves. We stopped and stared at these tombstones in silence.

I started to reflect on their meaning. I felt grateful that I lived in a time when medical knowledge and technology made it possible to survive the complications of childbirth. But I also reflected that these women who died in childbirth did not have to experience the emotional, physical, and spiritual complications that I had endured. I was grateful for the medical technology that was in place as had I lived during that time I would be in a grave. But I also felt I was unlucky to live in the modern era and experience all the grief and pain. I concluded the available medical technology was a double edge sword. On one side, it had the power to save lives, and on the other side, it could cause the most unneeded suffering. This was much to ponder.

Vince finally took my hand, and we walked away. In a small clearing, we caught sight of a stone structure covered with beautiful green ivory. A small cross adorned the roof. It appeared like a welcoming place, so we decided to check it out. As we approached, we saw that it was a small chapel. We entered the tiny doorway and found an altar that was surrounded by hundreds of candles with a shrine to the Blessed Mother.

Vince found a rack of pamphlets that gave information that this was the Shrine of Our Lady of Le Leche. It was founded in 1565 by Spanish missionaries, and it was preserved by an order of priests who pray daily for the health and well-being of high-risk pregnant woman and their unborn children. Near the entrance was a bulletin board containing many prayer requests and letters of gratitude from women who had good pregnancy outcomes.

In silence, we knelt at the shrine and said a prayer that God would protect this baby from the complications that I previously suffered, and we lit a candle We signed a card and gave a small donation asking the priests to pray for us during these next few months.

In the car on the ride back to the motel, we asked ourselves, “Was this a coincidence, or did God lead us to this place for some reason?” Are there coincidences in life or are events in life sometimes orchestrated, we wondered? It would be some months before we knew for sure.

Linda Andrews

Linda Andrews is a retired social worker who enjoys writing about her life experiences and feels the Writer’s Circle has given helpful support and encouragement. 


Jack Barnette

Uvalde, Mon Amour

Was it possible to see beneath it? Could anyone see through it? There was a chill in the air and the world grew colder. A million faces turned away. Two million eyes became blind and no longer bothered to look. Reality was not faced, it was ignored. Human folly at its most obscene is repeated on a weekly basis. Will we ever rise above it or are we cursed to wallow in it for eternity?

The whole world is red with God’s blood. The blood that stains the ground we walk on.

Babi Yar (again)

The acrid smell of death and war emanates from the ravines at Babi Yar.
Thirty thousand souls cry out from the depths.
The repetition of the horrors of history is before us.
I am the old man who was shot in the back as I walked my dog. I worry about my dog. I hope someone will feed her.
I am the fourteen year old who lost a leg at Mariupol.
I am the girl who lost an eye.
I am the ten year old who lost his home and his life to artillery fire.
I am the young mother of two who was raped and beaten in front of her children.
I am a witness to the marriage of young soldiers who march off to war.
I am the spirit of hope and freedom, but there is war and rumors of war.
A war between democracy and dictatorship. A war between freedom and slavery. A world war that must be won. A war we can’t afford to lose.
Babi Yar is not a relic of the past. Babi Yar is alive.

Someday Morning

Someday things will not be different

In the everyday scheme of things.
Life and humans are as they have always been.
Someday that ship may or may not come in.
Someday the entire World may have changed

From sources outside our control.
But these daily limitless nows, these Somedays here, have possibilities.
This Someday I can make better than those before it.
This Someday is filled with adventure, and promise, and hope

For myself and the reality I can achieve for some others.
These doable small realities come from our dreams

And are built on our actions.

The Forms of Things Unknown

One of the beauties of the mystery of life is that it is a mystery.

We can barely predict the weather, much less what will happen tomorrow, or a year from tomorrow.

The future is an unknown country.

We know that we live on a planet that revolves around a star we call Sun.

In ancient times, the Sun was a deity. God was named Sun.

How we got here or why we are here, will never be known.

In time, our species will become extinct just like every other species that has existed on our planet.

Life will go on after we are gone. Sentience may persist, but whether it will be natural, technological, or a hybrid, the mystery is unsolvable.

We are passengers on this globe, not drivers.

Our human activities will damage the earth but we will not destroy it. The planet will continue to do what planets do according to the laws of physics and we are just along for the ride. We are no different than any other life-form. We just need to make it comfortably through the day. We need to be fruitful. We need to multiple.

Scientists, philosophers, and sages will continue pondering the mysteries of things unknown.

I am waiting for Karma or the Universe to send me a sign. I’m still waiting.

Mysteries are all we have. Embrace them.

Jack Barnette

Jack Barnette is a longtime Park Ridge resident.  Barnette, now retired, was an environmental scientist with the EPA for more than 30 years. Jack writes under the name of J. Bennett.


Janice Bratt

My Kitty

My kitty is a great little bloke,
But surely is no joke.

He hatches no eggs and does no tricks.
Just sleeps a lot and watches the flicks.

Well truthfully she is a girl,
And does a cute little twirl.

Then she waits by the wall,
And dashes down the hall.

So as a rule,
It is me who’s the fool.

Trying to grab the little thing,
As she makes her fling.

Janice Bratt kitty painting

Having gone for a run,
To have some fun.

But as it ends,
We are best friends.

She’s actually for real,
And warm she makes me feel.

Janice Bratt is a retired CPA, enjoying friends and family, especially her 3 children and 6 grandchildren. She has recently found 2 new hobbies – writing and painting. She lives in Park Ridge with her cat, Tianna.


Mary Pat Cashman

A Brown Teapot

Ah, Tea, what cures all ails. Why ‘tis alway’ that ice cold water goes firstly into the kettle to boil is one of life’s enduring Irish mysteries. But I do so, as I follow the ancients. Start with a good brown teapot. And never drink tea out of any but a proper china cup. Honor and blessings follow a good cuppa.

Ice cold becomes scalding when the kettle begins to scream. Slowly pour boiling water into the brown teapot to heat up. This is essential. A cold pot can never produce a fine tea. Never forget it. Once the outside of the pot becomes hot to the touch, empty it and place a good black tea in the bottom.

Then comes the magic. Pick up the brown teapot by its handle and gently swirl the no longer boiling but steaming water onto the tea leaves to create a living brown goodness that reflects what is inside as it is outside. Unity. Wait patiently for the color to deepen and fragrance to arise calling the senses and body to partake in the earth’s bounty.

Brown Teapot

My Belleek china cup and saucer, spilling their shamrock loveliness together as one, await patiently their moment of truth. I add warm milk and simple sugar syrup into my proper cup and place a single anise cookie rightly on the saucer. Respect the tea. Boiled milk creates a film, granulated sugar grainy sips, and the wrong biscuit destroys all taste. It’s almost ready.

My brown teapot, my faithful friend, has been with me through every up and every down. I am now ready again for life’s pick me up and respite, a comfort, relaxation, sure guidance and the assuage from hunger. I pick up my flaming hot brown teapot with a single cotton glove and pour all of its goodness into my cup, stirring the Irish brew ever so slightly with a small silver tea spoon. It emits a soothing clink as it is set a’place askew my anise biscuit, which is for tiny bites later, on the saucer.

A proper upbringing breeds good manners; and the tea exposes all. My Beleek china exemplifies all that is Irish and true, and serves a fine cup of tea. I gently lift the saucer, and while curling my pinky just so, raise the cup in peaceful anticipation. The heat and delicious aroma surround me as I take my first sip of this glorious nectar. Heaven.

My Best

It was our favorite thing to do. We pulled out the box of pictures from out under the bed and opened it up. Envelopes containing the pictures and negatives all arranged in rows by date, marked in their respective envelope sleeves, all awaiting our rush to discover the captures of my life.

Why was my life was so interesting to her I could not know. Lovely Shay Alana, named after me, sat on my lap; my ever-constant companion. We patiently awaited the memories, which would enfold in my family and friends timelines from birth through our blessed departures and all those who journeyed with me in my life. People, places, things that left hints of celebrations or of matters best left untold.

Shay grabbed an envelope and opened the contents. “Oh Nan, you were so pretty when you were young.” The honestly of a babe’s utterances. I smiled. How time had etched the inevitable changes in my face, hands and body that seemed incomprehensible many decades ago. Was I ever that young, that carefree, that pretty? Did I ever foresee the changes, happiness or sorrow that awaited around the corners of my life after a twist here and a turn there? Or around every travail I turned, certainly never I expected the joy of my life that now sat comfortable in my lap who looked up at me with such love, such innocence, such expectation of every one of our communications. My Shay Shay, who loved more than anything than to be with me and bask in my presence. Whenever did I ever earn such an honor, the revel of such celebrity. How I loved every minute with her.

“Who is that?” she asked. Hesitant, I decided to tell her the truth. “I don’t remember.” I replied. There I was, at a party of sorts, where I searched my mind for some type of recognition clue. None. I was sitting at a table with a handsome young man who had positioned his arm around me for the unknown photographer with great familiarity. My dress, a deep olive, matched my eyes perfectly and draped my frame in an elegant manner. My hands and legs leaned gracefully yet modestly into him.

He was in a dark charcoal suit with a crisp white shirt and dark maroon tie. We looked dressed and made for each other. The chemistry between us was obvious and I looked smitten, both of us smiling happily for the camera. Youth, the exuberance of life and being out in the world with others generated an excitement from each of our beings that was obvious in our faces. Yet for the life of me I could not remember him or the occasion.

But we were looking our best, captured forever in one singular moment in film, catapulted across time many years later, to appear to a growing older gracefully but still lovely woman and her adoring and precocious granddaughter, instilled for all time together in a singular moment to create a time and life event, when we loved our lives, the society we kept, all the while looking our best.

Shay Shay shifted her focus into the moray of loose photographs. We leaned into one another and went on to the next picture.

Nothing Can Convince a Kook

Nothing Can Convince a Kook.
Try as ye may,
Try as ye might;
For ye risk a fight
and be at the end ‘a their bite
That ye n’er expected,
Nor w’an projected!
So stivel ye limbs ‘n
Down the road whistling’ ye go
Knowin y’er right
Look at That! Now ‘tis Bright!
Damn their lack of sight
For
Nothing Can Convince a Kook

Mary Pat Cashman

Mary Pat Cashman grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois. After moving to the beautiful state of Utah where she raised her family, obtained a law degree at BYU and practiced law, she has come full circle back home to Park Ridge. Upon discovering the amazing Kelly Mayer’s writing class, she has since developed a passion for prose, poetry and mythological fiction. When not pursuing her many business and legal interests, she is the voice to paper of our angels, fairies, giants and fluffles of bunnies.


Wally Cwik

The perception of the past helps us to analyze those precious moments that change our lives. Unaware of how events shape us, the visions through the veils of a long-ago time bring us a new perspective.  From sitting at a banquet at a boys club and watching the distribution of trophies to a profound feeling for others, one can discern the direction of life. 1953 was a watershed year. Friendship became a tantamount factor; direction and purpose were developed, but most prominently, compassion for those less fortunate became a defining characteristic. Yes, the view from the west side of the mountain is enlightening.

Red Ryder BB Gun

Walking home from school, a snowball hit Angelo in the back of the head. He spun around and saw his pal, Puggy, laughing and running toward him.

“Got ya, buddy,” Puggy shouted.

“Yeah, very funny.”

“C’mon, this is the first day of our Christmas break. No homework for a couple of weeks. Let’s stop by the billboard. Maybe some of the guys are around,” Puggy said. The large advertising sign stood on an empty lot at Erie and Ashland, the favorite gathering spot for the gang from St. Columbkille.

“Okay, but I can’t stay long. I have to shovel the sidewalk and the parking spot before my old man gets home,” Angelo shouted to Puggy, who started running into old lady Zito’s yard. They raced up Ashland to the billboard as the streetcar pulled up to the island. The passengers departed from the front exit, and the two boys battered the rear door with snowballs. They dove behind the sign as choice epithets rained down on them from the conductor as the streetcar rattled away.

“So, Angel, what do you expect from Santa?”

Angelo rolled his eyes and gave Puggy the evil eye. “I’ve been giving Pa hints and leaving the comic books ads about the Red Ryder BB gun.”

Wally Cwik's drawing

“What, do you want to shoot out your eye,” Puggy said.

“You sound like my Ma. Give me a break. What are you getting?”

“I don’t know. The best thing would be my dad coming home from Korea.”

Angelo put his arm around the shoulder of his best friend.

A boy’s longest week is the one before Christmas. Finally, the day arrived. Angelo hurried to the living room. The multi-colored tree lights twinkled off the aluminum tinsel hanging from the branches. He rummaged through the packages and doled them out to his parents. No long gift box anywhere. Oh well, thought Angelo, at least I won’t shoot my eye out. He turned toward his Pa sitting on the sofa – a slender, long box with a bow on top nestled between his legs.

“You forget this one, Angelo,”

Angelo jumped up, grabbed the box, and ripped off the wrapping paper. Red Ryder, in his white cowboy hat holding a carbine, stared back at him. Angelo took the BB gun out of the box and carefully nestled it at his shoulder. Peering down the aiming sight, he turned slowly. His Ma and Pa raised their hands in mock fear. “I’m going outside,” Angelo yelled.

“You eat you breakfast first,” his mother admonished.

Angelo slurped down a bowl of Wheaties and a glass of milk before bolting to the door.

Angelo lined up a couple of tin cans on the fence in the alley and shot at them until they dropped to the ground. He slunk behind the elm and shot at the snowman. Spying a sparrow pecking at the last of the berries on a bush, Angelo crept just like Frank Buck in the jungle. He raised the BB gun to his shoulder and shot at the bird. It dropped from the bush and fell into a pile of snow. Angelo scooped up the bird and stroked its fluttering wings until they stopped. He carried the limp carcass to the corner of the yard and buried the little creature.

Angelo picked up his Red Ryder BB gun and went home. He placed the gun inside the box with Red Ryder in his white hat staring at him and slid it under his bed.

Wally Cwik

Wally Cwik is semi-retired from the Engineering profession and has performed for over 25 years with the Park Ridge Players, a community theatre. He has written some radio plays performed with the Those Were the Days Radio Players, a group that recreates old-time radio shows around Chicago. He has appeared as a featured reader at the Twilight Tales in Chicago and has published stories in some small anthologies. He has teamed with Janette Avila, a recent Maine East High School graduate, to illustrate a soon-to-be-published book, The Mishaps of Angel and Puggy which this episode will appear.


Ralph Dellar

The Corpulent Comedian’s LAST ACT

Saturday Morning, August 17, 2019
Rand, Illinois

Demolition crews gathered on a bright, cloudless Saturday morning and prepared to bring down the stage house of the old Lee Street Theater to be replaced by an upscale condominium building. Before demolition could begin, all the utilities had to be shut off and capped.

Among the crowd that gathered on Lee Street to watch the demolition, three cousins (Nancy, Neal, Michael) whispered amongst themselves “I wonder what great grandpa hid in the old theatre when he worked there?”

Finally, the wrecking ball began to swing. “One” shouted the crowd in unison on the first swing; “Two” shouted the crowd on the second swing. “Three” shouted the crowd as the wrecking ball crashed into the brick stage house enclosure that toppled into a heap of bricks and debris. As workmen began to clear the rubble, a pair of oversized, long, floppy red shoes appeared – attached to a mummified body rolled up in an old stage backdrop. All demolition ground to a halt; someone called the local police.

The first Rand detective and a patrol officer on the scene quickly realized by the condition of the body under the rubble that this was would be a very cold case, and immediately contacted the County Cold Case Unit and the County Medical Examiner’s Office for help.

Saturday Morning, August 17, 2019
Chicago, Illinois

As I was preparing to leave for my weekly Saturday morning motorcycle club rally, I looked around my half of the living room in my large apartment filled with computers and printers for my DNA-based forensic genealogy business.

I had been attracted to forensic genealogy because I’d been good at creating genealogy family trees and using genealogy resources since I was a teenager.

My apartment is located on the top floor of a 19th century mansion, in a neighborhood adjacent to the DePaul University campus on the north side of Chicago.

Before opening the door to leave, I checked my short stocky self in the mirror – blue-black lipstick and nails, nose and ear rings polished, DNA Detective T-shirt partially hiding my body art, multi-colored short frizzy hair. Then my mobile signaled an incoming call from an ‘unknown’ caller id.

“Kaitlin Sinclair, this is Detective Sergeant Jessica Caldwell of the County Cold Case Squad. As the on-duty detective this weekend, I just received a telephone call from the suburban Rand police department about a body discovered under the rubble of a just demolished theater. I know you aren’t scheduled to report until Monday, but I could really use your help and expertise with this one.”

“OK, what’s the address? And, please call me Katt.”

“Katt, you can call me Jess. Take the Kennedy Expressway outbound toward O’Hare Airport. Exit northbound at Lee Street and head north. Look for a construction crane. You can’t miss it.”

I ended the call with “I’ll see you in about an hour” before adding “Jess” to my caller id along with her number. Then I left a note for my roommate, Darcy, set the alarm to protect all our computers, locked the door, and headed to the garage when I kept my Harley-Davidson vintage Fat Boy. Then I hopped on my Fat Boy, kicked its starter, and vroomed out of the garage into traffic.

Saturday Morning, August 17, 2019
Rand, Illinois

First to arrive at the scene was Detective Sergeant Jessica Caldwell from the Cold Case Unit, who slowly and awkwardly climbed out of her car. Jess signed in with the Crime Scene Recorder, took out her detective’s notebook and pen and began taking notes while “eyeballing” the rubble at the crime scene. As lead detective, she began barking orders in a booming voice to everyone within earshot.

“Out of my way! I’m in charge here! Where’s Katt?”

Next to arrive was Crime Scene Investigator Rebecca Dekland. Becca, a tall and willowy woman in her early 30s, climbed off her old Kawasaki bike, and removed her leather helmet, which revealed her short flaming red hair. She retrieved her camera equipment and crime scene gear from her saddle bags, joining other CSIs looking around the rubble. She began meticulously examining and photographing the corpse and its surroundings from all angles.

Last to arrive was Katt Sinclair on her vintage Harley-Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle. She looked for Jess. Jess wasn’t hard to spot. She was the only officer with silver-streaked black hair, who was wearing a tracksuit and running shoes and limping around the crime scene with a cane, barking orders.

“Reporting for duty, Detective Sergeant! What do you want me to do?” Kat asked.

“Nice to meet you, Katt. We need your help in identifying the deceased. I look forward to working with you. Meanwhile, please create a new case file labeled RedShoe2019Aug17 into which we can collect downloaded photographs and crime scene notes. And please stop at the local library to find newspaper articles regarding today’s demolition, the theater’s history, who performed there, and maybe who went missing so we have a time-window when this crime could have taken place?”

Katt complied, then she used her mobile to snap her own photos and texted herself notes and ideas on what to do using her computers later tonight.

After the body and its wrapping had been removed to the Medical Examiners lab for processing, Jess called a 9AM meeting in her office on Monday so she, Katt and Becca could plan their joint investigation.

“Sounds like a plan” Katt and Becca chorused.

Jess roared home to enjoy the rest of her weekend with her dog, Sarge. Becca followed the Medical Examiner’s vehicle to begin collecting and processing DNA samples from the crime scene as well as from the corpse while the weekend medical examiner autopsied it. Katt stopped first at the local library and found local newspaper articles about the demolished theater, before vrooming back to her pad in the Windy City to jumpstart her online investigation.

Author: Ralph Dellar (find_liaboe@msn.com) writing as Evan Talcott (evan_talcott@outlook.com)
BOOK 1 of DNA Detective Series: The Corpulent Comedian’s LAST ACT

Last/Final Act = A final performance or accomplishment, before one’s retirement or ultimate demise

Alternate book name:

“Last Act Death of a Corpulent Comedian”

Ralph Dellar

Ralph Dellar grew up in Park Ridge and never left (except to attend college). He joined the virtual Writers Group in July 2020 with an idea for a crime novel, and stayed for the writing exercises and encouragement received from all the friendly members.  A retired software quality assurance test engineer, his other hobbies/activities include family history/genealogy and 27 years as a Des Plaines 1645 Toastmasters club member.


Sandee Drake

Class E   Poetry

  1. Alone
  2. Another chance
  3. Hide in caves
  4. Rekindle
  5. See a rainbow
  6.  Still here
  7.  Snow covered mountains
  8. Seasons of life
  9. Shadows before sunrise

Alone

Lake water shimmers
Lights twinkle
Snowflakes fall
Wood burns
Silence.

Crisp air
Invigorated and chilled
Wolf yelps while dog barks
Wind whistles around me
Alone

Winter wonderland, dark and light
You gone . . .
Fire roars warmth yet
Insides shiver
Come back

Another Chance

Smile, attraction
Happy, love
Together, marriage
Excite, enthrall
Thrilled, together

Challenges, childbirth
Sleeplessness, stray
Days, weeks
Months, years
Differences, daily

Pets, school
Homework, sports
Shopping, cooking
Housework, endless
Responsibility, only mine

Letters, shock
Anguish, betrayal
Change, discomfort
Effortless, finality
Separation, divorce

Sleeplessness, empty
Fear, alone
Struggle, work
Hope, endless
Smile, attraction
Another chance

Hide In Caves

Rain runs down a slippery slope
Wanting to win a one person race
Moving piles of muddy dirt can barely cope
As pebbles and ragged rocks tumble through space
Shatter onto pavement and break into pointed pieces

Daily life stumbles along at same fast pace
As we are challenged to be the best
Yet always compared to another family or face
Knowing tough choices challenge us
We need time to rest

Tumultuous thoughts run through brain waves
Pondering, questioning, wondering
Will we survive another day?
Would many leave it all and hide in caves
Daring, hoping, wishing there’s another way?

Rekindle

Fingers flicker as flames
Shins shake with silent sways
Heartbeat races unsteady
Eyes flood with tears
Unbearable ache fills body
Which can’t comprehend reality
Words flow from her letter as shifting sands,
Producing overwhelmed feeling of numbness
Who is she?

Possibility unrealistic, non-existent
Reality stares through me, showing
A deep hole, wider and sinking fast
Body moans in pain, a shiver shakes
My spine
Our life, our children, changed forever
Elicit romance, price too high

Tears stopped, trembling over
New feelings flow from brain
Years of trust, believing , now
Hanging by thin strand of once
Heavy rope which was steadfast
Caresses no longer, touches few

Passion ebbing . . . waning
Love weaker, yet still a beat
Rekindle faded flame?

See A Rainbow

A quiet storm simmers inside
The turmoil of the daily grind
Churns and boils over in my mind

Who, what, where and why
Questions repeated daily
Continue the commotion

Answers not possible
Logic can’t prevail
There must be a resolution

Dark clouds, rain, wind eventually subside
Clear skies and sunny days return
I can see a rainbow

Still Here

Expectations unrealistic for us;
Need to escape like pus filled zit.

Everyone agrees changes unrealistic;
We signed on and expected fun.

Each day challenging choices
Can’t answer with silent voices.

Years passed, we are still here;
A life time to finish, so never shed a tear.

Snow Covered Mountains

Wait, watch, stand . . .people in line
Dangle, move, sit  . . . chair only mine
Whistling wind, sunny sky, chilling cold,
Snow covered mountains, tempt me to be bold
In ski paradise many years old

Bend, observe, touch . . .shape of snow
Crunch, slide, whoosing . . .sounds make me go
Powder packed, perfect in form
Snow covered ground awaits another storm

Advance, glide, speed . . .down gigantic hill
Quiver, shake, relish  . . . a new thrill
Too soon, run ends, causes a chill
Upward again —make it?  I will

Seasons of Life

Winter, spring, summer, fall
Seasons begin, end like clockwork
Snuggling inside in front of warm fire watching snow fall
Singing while strolling in spring rain
Self conscious in stupor of hot sun of summer
Fatigued as flowers fade and leaves fall

A lifetime together
Happy, content
Changes, uncomfortable
Struggling to conform
Knowledge is proof
Door closes, frustration then freedom

New challenges, hope comes alive
Differences  adjustment to why
Snow, rain, flowers, leaves
Cold, warm, hot, chilled
Rekindle faith, a newness of life
Love as seasons, recharged, renewed, rebirth

Shadows Before Sunrise

Up, down all around
My heart feels militant movements
Betrayal, broken promises, yet
Smiles change my upside down fretful feeling

Shadowy sunshine filters through
While whistling wind falls into confluent clouds
Weary waves wrap around, caress
My battered body

Up and down and all around
Water moves this body
Now empty of emotion as
Pain is gone

Sandee Drake

Sandee Drake is a retired high school French and Spanish teacher whose very first story written in a creative writing class won first place in the university writing contest in 1996. After retirement, she wrote her first novel, Greenebriar’s Garbage under the name S.M. Drake, and the children’s books Where Are We Going? Short Stories for Girls, and Short Stories for Boys. She has just finished the third and final book in this trilogy, Short Stories for Teens. She and her husband have lived in Park Ridge for four years, moving from Flagstaff, Arizona.


Francine Gross

A Sunny Morning

A warm, dark and very early morning…

I rise as my body shakes with excitement, a new adventure as a tourist in my own town…

I fly out of bed; hurriedly change the clothes I have set out the night before…

Grab my photography gear, the breakfast I packed, my coffee and water…

One would think I am going on a stakeout ….

I got downtown by the Adler Planetarium in a flash…

There are just a few scattered shutterbugs nearby…

Sunset over the water

I pick an area a little bit away from them…

Methodically take everything out; making sure the tripod and camera are fully erect and attached…

The spot I found also had a place to rest my legs, have my breakfast and coffee…

I see little peaks of gold bars hitting the lake….

It’s go time …

Real Life

Several weeks back I started donating blood through Vitalant; someone who is afraid of watching her own blood spill from her vein into a little vial was going to take the next step but this time watch it go from her vein into a tube that is clamped off in a grotesque manner. I’ve now given blood 3 separate times. After that third donation, Vitalant let me know I am A+ I am a great candidate for giving platelets, which get donated to cancer patients.

I didn’t even hear myself say yes I would like to without knowing what was involved. I figured I’ve been through most life-threatening events since 2018, what is one more poke.  I made the appointment for May 23 before I even left the center. As the date got closer, I must admit I was nervous. The nurse told me the entire process will take about 2 hours. What is 2 hours in the big scheme of life?!

Platelets are colorless fragments called thrombocytes. Platelet donation uses a machine to extract just your platelets and then returns the rest of your blood back to you. Because there is such a shortage, this process can be done every 7 days. I am already on the books to give platelets again on June 6th.

It’s quite an empowering feeling in a most nontraditional manner.

Francine Grossi

Francine Grossi has lived in Park Ridge for 13 years.  She made the move temporarily but ultimately that turned into a permanent stay. She suffered a severe illness that almost cost her life.  She is a now disabled/retired and working on her memoir.  Francine bounded back but with many struggles and challenges along the way that will remain permanent.

She joined the Park Ridge Writers Group in 2020 with the idea to write “her story” and is ever grateful to have found the workshop and very appreciative of the critique & commentary from its members.


Nicole Sandoval/Gurgone

Bye Bye Butterfly

Fly fly fly so high

Fly away little butterfly

Wings open and close

So big and wide

You are never in disguise

Colors like

Red

Orange

Yellow

Green

Blue & purple

No two are the same

No two fly the same

Wherever they go

Wherever they may be

They always have a place right here

In our home always with me ❤️

Mother

Mother you are a joy to me

You are the one who nursed the seed

It ended up being me

I will for grow up strong

Remembering all our songs

You taught me well

You showed me great love

Certain things were shown

Others just inherited

Gifts I will hold forever  and treasure

I love you now and forever

The best gift you gave me

Was your whole heart

Giovanni Bear

His name is Giovanni

A boy with cheer

Eyes as wide and bright as a full moon

Face so round

An absolute perfect circle

Born as bubbly as could be

I chuckle every time he looks at me

His auntie gave him this bear

A red and green sweater lay across his breast

It’s white block letters read his same name

Giovanni and he called him “My Giovanni Bear”

To his surprise when he took him by his paw

Giovanni teddy bear

He sang his Italian song

Singing good night and goodbye

With the promise of seeing him the next morning

His bear was his friend

Through thick and thin

Never left behind

Always sitting on his bed

He is there in the morning

He is there when he lays his head down at night

How mommie loves that bear

That protects my Giovanni

All through the night

Nicole Sandoval/Gurgone

Nicole Sandoval/Gurgone

Writes reflective poetry, children’s poetry and short stories

Starting my first writing group in California Laguna Niguel

Now writing with the Park Ridge Writers Group

Follow on Instagram @poetry_nicole_suzette


Mike McGovern

Baby Blue Eyes

She entered my bus. She displayed the super transfer that would allow her to ride all night. She was young, maybe twenty-two, and beautiful. A child of the streets, mixed race, a blend of Caribbean black and Latina, long limbs, and beneath her plain, soiled, thin housedress, were hints of the body of a goddess, full breasts, firm belly, and wide hips. Her face had fine features, her hair was light brown, soft and kinky. And her eyes, her eyes were those of a fawn, wide and baby blue. Blue. Blue as the color of the Caribbean Sea itself. A large colorful crochet bag hung from her shoulder, within it the contents of all her earthly possessions. She passed by gracefully and moved to the back of the bus.

Time passed, a very short time. I was suddenly embraced by an aroma, a stench, that left me gasping for air. It was as though I had inhaled the metallic aerosols of a can of hairspray. In a panic, I opened the window next to the driver’s seat. Still overwhelmed, I opened the bus’s front doors. No cross-current and coughing now, I left the bus for the night’s sweet, fresh air.

After I had regained my breath and composure, I wondered about the source of the plume that had invaded my bus. I walked outside to the front of the bus and checked under it. Had I parked above a sewer? No. No sewer there. I looked around. No signs of a possible source, anywhere. I tentatively ascended the stairs and took my seat behind the wheel. The gas and its associated stink had passed.

A glance in the mirror revealed the young woman coming up the aisle.

“Would you let me know when we get to Ashland?” she asked.

“Yes. I’ll let you know when we get there.”

As she returned to her seat, coughing, and gasping for fresh air, I realized she had been the source of my ”suffocation.” She took a seat in the last row, a safe distance from me.

I reopened the window and opened the front door. A clean-cut, young man stepped through it.

He was drunk and smelled of vodka. He paid his fare and slipped into the jump seat. We exchanged a little small talk.

It was time to leave. I closed the door, released the parking brake, put the bus into drive. I departed the Jefferson Park terminal, took a left onto Milwaukee, a left unto Lawrence and we travelled east; just the three of us, driver, young man, young woman.

Sitting at the red light at Elston avenue, I noticed the young man gazing intently at the woman. He could not take his eyes off her.

I guided the bus into the stop at Pulaski, looked into the inside mirror and observed that the young man had now moved to the center of the bus. He and the young woman were now in conversation. Her voice had a lilting, comforting tone.

When we hit Western, the young man and young woman were seated side by side. He had gently taken her hand. She removed the crochet bag that had been between them.

When we arrived at Damen, they were gently kissing.

When I arrived at Ashland I called out. “Ashland!” No acknowledgement. “This is Ashland.” They were busy.

They exited the bus at Sheridan, at the stop next to the Travel Lodge.

Perhaps he rented a room for them. Maybe she had taken a hot shower to cleanse the grime of the street from her body. Maybe he had folded back the sheet and covers on the bed. Maybe he had taken a shower too, and meanwhile she had washed her clothing, that housedress, in the sink. Perhaps they encountered each other in bed and woke the next morning, glad of their decisions of the night before. Perhaps he would take her in, take her from the streets.

Or maybe, not.

I’m hoping for the former.

Author’s Notes

The description of the young woman, and the lack of description regarding the young man is a “Guy thing”. The main character in the story is the bus driver. The story is told through his perspective. As a man, he is more interested in the young woman and her appearance.

The driver is also the main character of the story, for he is the one who experiences the greatest transformation.

At the beginning of the story, his relationship with the woman is base, a product of his own sexual attraction and desire. The relationship of the driver to himself and to others transforms as the story progresses, beyond one limited to his own desires, toward a genuine empathy for both the young man and young woman, as a couple. He develops a sincere desire for their well-being and the future of their relationship.

The story, yet, is incomplete. What causes the transformation? I have not figured that out yet, except that it has something to do with his being overwhelmed by the stink. At first, he attributes that to the woman. But the smell does not seem to deter the young man at all. Why is that? It’s as though there is no scent. It does not exist. Is it because the young man is enveloped in his own cocoon of alcohol? Or, perhaps, instead, the bus driver smells the sin of his own lust. We can take this story in several directions. I guess I’ll have to figure that out.

The story is grounded upon an actual experience I had one night driving the midnight shift out of Jefferson Park. The young woman and young man are real people. The events occurred as described, including my physical reaction and actions taken in response to a stench in the air.

This event occurred 43 years ago. The story reappeared in my sleep last week. Funny how the creative process works.

Mike McGovern

Mike McGovern is a long-term resident of Park Ridge where he lives with his wife Susan. He is a retired Human Resources consultant who worked for local companies including Abbott Labs, Navistar, Tribune, Amoco, and the Chicago Transit Authority.

Mike joined the Park Ridge Writers Group and began writing flash fiction to “maintain his sanity” during the COVID pandemic. To date, Mike has written fifty-four short stories. He credits his wife Sue for encouraging him to commit his “stories” to paper and is grateful for the support and feedback he has received from his colleagues in the Park Ridge Library writers’ group.

Francesca Pieraccini

Fleeting

We are quantum particles

popping into and out of existence

Our features determined prior to conception

by the random production

of the gametes that formed us

We are unique among their probabilities

Perhaps range bound in our possibilities

Our past unfathomable

Our future certain

and yet uncertain

We quantum fluctuations live

within our equally finite fractal time

Contemplating the uncountable infinity of our universe

with wonderment

Francesca N. Pieraccini

Francesca N. Pieraccini was born in Italy and studied both there and here. Her interests are cosmology, mathematics, writing, evolution, paleontology, and ancient civilizations. Most of all, she is a proud mother.


Victor Zenda

Excerpt from Mason Lake

The infamous Sportsman’s Park race track stood only a couple of blocks from where we lived. It was a race track for trotters. If the wind blew from the right direction you could hear the track announcer describe every race. Sitting on my porch and listening to the loudspeaker from the track was a pleasant way of killing time in summer. It was also fun to observe old men huff and puff… and run down the street to bet on horses.

____ And so on this special Friday night, as we waited to leave for Wisconsin, Marty and I heard the legendary Phil Georgeff call the action at Sportsman’s Park.

He was an older man, a veteran of horse racing. His deep, staccato voice was especially steady and beautiful, flawless and smooth. It flowed from his microphone clean and excited as if Phil had a thousand bucks on the race. He edified and described every horse; he was the best of the best at painting a horse race with life and emotion. Phil was an artist, a better reporter than any writer from the Chicago Tribune or the Sun-Times.

That evening, his melody drifted into my heart… and bit into it. It was nostalgic. It drew upon some long forgotten memory of a memory, perhaps from some painful love affair, perhaps from just the irony of life itself. Its intimacy pricked my soul. As the race wore on, Phil’s voice galloped toward me… twisted and twirled…and pressed me with self-pity. It was a radio broadcast, a late-night broadcast… mystical… forlorn… from a place ten-thousand miles away. He was lamenting the passage of time; his life had passed too fast.

For me… it was a warning; it flooded me with a tremulous, vague emotion. It was both exciting and sad. My gut got shaky… I was confused.

When Phil’s voice trailed off… it was replaced by distant, city noises: the bark of a dog… the screech of car tires… the siren from an ambulance. From a couple blocks away clanked the bell from a locomotive in a railroad yard… wagons squealed… a megaphone boomed with the incoherent shouts of a man. They were casual noises of life I learned long ago not to hear. Lingering in the summer heat and humidity, my hometown this Friday night was rendered slothful and distraught. And along with me, it stood alone… stuck somewhere and nowhere in an immense midwest prairie.

I saw Marty across from me. His lips were moving… but I heard nothing. In a moment of self-reflection ____ an unnerving notion was boiling in my chest, a notion that a big chunk of me and my past had disappeared ____ forever! It saddened me, but I was fascinated by what was to come next. Phil Georgeff told me I was embarking on a new future; I was to live day to day… and forget the past.

Victor Zenda

Prior to retirement, Victor Zenda lived in Park Ridge for over thirty years. Both of his two daughters graduated from Maine South H.S. He is currently a resident of Niles and grew up in Cicero, Illinois: a suburb just west of Chicago.

He is a baby-boomer born in 1947 in a U.S. Army hospital in Frillee, Germany. In Cicero he attended St. Mary’s grammar school, Morton East H. S. and Morton Junior College. He received his B.A. degree from Northern Illinois University majoring in Secondary Education, Fine Arts and French Literature. He also studied Law at IIT/Chicago-Kent and Transportation at the College of Advanced Traffic in Chicago.

Mr. Zenda taught French at Mt. Carmel H.S. in Hyde Park and later went to work for the Burlington Northern Railroad, Bekins Van lines and United Van lines. When he retired he did a stint as a driver for PACE just for “fun” and stopped working in 2020.

He is currently… and has been for the last few years… writing fiction: something he regretted not doing earlier in life. He has been married for forty-seven years and has five grand-children

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