Sunday, August 31, 2014


It's that time of year again (college football season) when I write about sports.

For years the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors have been one of the worst teams in Division I college football. Last year they won one single game (their last). So when I saw that my beloved University of Washington Huskies' first game was against Hawaii, I thought it would be a nice warm up game for the Huskies and new coach Chris Petersen.

Petersen came from Boise State and during his tenure there had many undefeated seasons.  He had an overall record as a head coach of 93–12. Admittedly, Boise State was in a weak conference, the Mountain West (which Hawaii was usually the doormat team of). It would have been interesting to see what Boise State could have done in, oh, the PAC-12. One clue was that Petersen's bowl record was only 5 wins out of 7 games.

So all of us Husky fans had high hopes for Petersen after Steve Sarkisian bailed to go coach at USC. The Huskies even started the season ranked, albeit ranked #25, for the first time in many years.

But last night's game was ugly and showed that the Huskies and Petersen have a long ways to go if they want to become an elite team again. The Rainbow Warriors received the opening kickoff and marched down the field almost as if the Husky defense didn't exist, getting a touchdown. In short order the score was 0-10 with Hawaii on top.

The one great play but the Huskies led to one of their touchdowns, a 91-yard pass on the first play after getting the ball back on downs.  The Huskies managed to get another touchdown before the end of the half and Hawaii missed a field goal making the score 14-10 at the half.

But the second half became a defensive grind with both teams having many 3-and-out series. Hawaii did manage to make two more field goals bringing the score to 14-13. There were no turnovers and no spectacular plays, just fundamental football. Washington managed to run out the clock and barely win the game.

Not an auspicious start to the Petersen era and not the beginning many Husky fans were looking forward to.

Next week we play Eastern Washington, an arguably better team than Hawaii. While Hawaii is one of the worst teams in Division I, Eastern Washington is one of the best teams in Division II. There's going to have to be a lot of work by Petersen and the Huskies to get ready for that home game.

And the new poll comes out Tuesday and we'll see if the Huskies drop out of the top 25 due to their lackluster performance. The game started at 10:30 P.M.  EDT so maybe a lot of people didn't see it and will only look at the win. Even though it was only by one point.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Song

Today's Flash Fiction Friday is The Song. It was inspired by this:

The aide-de-camp touched a box that was set on a low table in the middle of the hotel suite's main room.

"Now, even their NSA cannot hear us, Ambassador General," he said, speaking in Valgarian. They weren't sure the humans could understand their language but they weren't taking chances.

The Ambassador to Earth was adjusting his dress uniform.  The Valgarian race was military and all government jobs came with a rank and uniform, no matter how uncomfortable they were.

"Are you sure this is necessary?" the Ambassador growled, trying to fit in the bright purple tunic.

"We have to keep the humans unaware of our plans," the aide-de-camp replied. "We have to humor them until our fleet is in position to destroy this planet and take from the humans all the riches of this solar system. They are so weak and pitiful they haven't even started exploiting their near moon or the asteroid belt."

"Again, why do have to go to this 'concert'?" The last word was in English, there is no Valgarian equivalent.

"We were invited. Apparently, it has something to do with their culture and they wish to show off to us."

The Ambassador growled. "The sooner we wipe these puny humans out the better."

"Yes, Ambassador General."

There was a knock on the door of the suit.

"Come," the Ambassador said in English. He'd used a learning machine to download it into his brain before arrival. That and all of Earth's major languages. It took a time period the humans would call "thirty seconds."

The door opened and a tall human in those funny clothes they wore with the colorful piece of cloth tied around the neck stepped in.  It was the United States Secretary of State. "It's time to go, Ambassador," he said. If the Ambassador knew more about human emotions he might have noticed the man's haughty air and been offended.

"Yes, we'll be right out," the Ambassador replied, trying to get his last rank insignia straight. The gravity on this planet was more than he was used to and it made every little movement a chore.

He was taken by a large black wheeled vehicle to the venue for the "concert."  Secret Service agents followed the "limousine" in larger black vehicles called "essuvees." At the concert hall, puny humans stepped aside at the orders of the Secret Service agents and the Ambassador was led to a balcony, walking on the cilia of his underside. Waiting there was the Ambassador Lieutenant, another aide for the General, who had been studying the humans longer than anyone else on the Ambassador's staff.

The Secretary of State hovered about, making sure both of the Valgarians were comfortable before he sat in a "chair" next to the Ambassador.

The Ambassador looked over the large room. Rows and rows of humans sat facing a raised area where more humans sat. Each of those humans was holding a device the use of which the Ambassador could not fathom.

The lights dimmed, a man walked out in even funnier clothes, with long tails hanging down where the feces comes out. He bowed to the people in the rows of seats and the humans all smacked their hands together repeatedly.  He stood in front of the humans with the devices.

Two women came out. Human women, the Ambassador scoffed to himself. This entire race was repugnant, he thought. He had no idea how they manged to breed. They even had fur on top of their heads like some base animal.

The man with the funny long tails on his clothes raised his hands. In one was a slender white stick. The people with the devises, both human male and female, the Ambassador noted, moved their devices. Some put them against their mouths or even put one end in their mouths. Others held them with sticks over them. Still others just stood by them with sticks. The Ambassador was interested despite himself. What kind of barbaric ritual was this "concert"?

The sound started then. It was soft and seemed designed to lull a being.

"What is this sound?" the Ambassador General demanded of the Lieutenant.

"They call it 'music,' Ambassador General," he replied.

"Gentlemen," the Secretary of State whispered, a forced smile on his face, "It is customary to be quiet during a performance."

The Ambassador General snorted.  But he became quiet and started listening again to the sound, the "music." And one of the women began speaking.  But it wasn't speaking, it was almost wailing. It was, the Ambassador General realize, the most beautiful thing he'd ever heard. He'd had planetary leaders beg him not to destroy their planet and, yet, this sound was even more beautiful than that.  When the second woman joined in it became even more lovely and then, to his amazement, when he didn't think he'd ever experienced anything this beautiful, the women wailed at the same time and he closed his eye stalks and let the sound wash over his body.

When the sounds and wailing stopped, again the humans smacked their hands together and some in the audience below hollered.

The Ambassador General opened his eye stalks.

"We will not destroy this race," he said to the Lieutenant.

"Sir General?"

"We cannot destroy something that produces sounds such as these. We will not destroy this race."

"But our entire civilization, culture, heritage depends on destroying inferior races to cleanse they galaxy of their stain."

"This is not an inferior race," the Ambassador General said with anger lacing his voice.  "Call off the fleet, we will move on from this place and leave them in peace."

The Lieutenant lowered his eyestalks in a sign of obedience. "Yes, Ambassador General."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Movie Review: Divergent

When I first saw ads for the movie Divergent, I wasn't interested. It looked like one of those dystopian teenage books, a rip off of Hunger Games in a more urban setting. But upon recommendation of a friend, I put it on my Netflix queue near the top.

And I must say, I enjoyed it. Divergent is about a society centered in a post-apocalyptic Chicago. The people are divided into five groups called "factions" based on personality type and predisposition. One group are farmers, one are the one who function as courts and lawyers, one is the scientists (the "Erudite"), one the police/military (the "Dauntless"), and one runs the government because they are honest, plain, and have no personal ambitions, and are selfless (the "Abnegation"). The Abnegation are so selfless, they lock mirrors to discourage vanity.

At a certain age, teenagers take a test to see which faction they should join (their "predisposition") and then at a ceremony, join the one they wish but are strongly encouraged to join the one they have a predisposition for.

The story centers on Tris (played by the lovely Shailene Woodley), an Abnegation teenager whose test gives her no predisposition. This makes her "divergent." Her tester tells her to tell no one and marks her "manually" as predisposed for Abnegation. Because, this is a society that frowns upon divergence (and dissent and free will and human nature), she has to keep her test results secret. Despite her parents wishes (and her faked test results), she joins the Dauntless.

While a great deal of the movie deals with Tris' struggles to make it as a Dauntless (if she fails, she becomes "factionless and is essentially reduced to being a homeless beggar), there is something sinister going on (more so than the basic tyranny of the whole system).

The movie drags a little during Tris' basic training (I sort of got tired of seeing her get beat up) but once the conspiracy is revealed, it moves quickly. For a 2 hour, 20 minute movie, it goes much faster (a fair amount of time is spent explaining the society). But the underlying truths that Divergent tells about human nature and the quest of tyrants to suppress it are timeless. The movie climaxes with a confrontation between Tris as a divergent and the head of the Erudites who wants more control of the people of the society.

Between the action and the philosophy, this is a good movie. Not totally popcorn, not totally philosophical discussion, it's a great mix of both. I gave it 4 stars on Netflix.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Turtle

Today's Flash Fiction Friday story is: The Turtle.



"What did you say?"

"I didn't say anything."

"Yes you did," I said.  "You definitely said something."

"No, I didn't."

"You didn't say, 'Who's that?"

"No, you're hearing things."

"No I'm not. You said, 'Who's that?'"

"Oh shut up and drink your coffee."

I scowled and sipped my Starbucks

A few tense moments passed.


"Now what?"

"You said it again."

"Said what?"

"'Who is that?'"

That's when I saw the turtle.  I was green, about the size of a computer mouse.  A computer mouse with four legs a head and a tail extending from it. It looked at me and said, "Who is that?"

I stared at it.  "Who is who?"

"That lady in that chair, who is that?" the turtle asked.

"That's my wife." Yes, I was talking to a turtle. No, I didn't think about how strange that was.

"Well, she's in my chair."

"That's your chair?"

"Yes, tell her to get out of my chair."

"You tell her." There, I showed that turtle.

"She can't hear me, only you can."

I growled.

"What, dear?" my wife asked.

"N-n-nothing," I said.

"Tell her to get out of my chair?" the turtle said in a voice that was so loud it shook the Starbucks.

"Damn, that lightning is close," my wife said.

"Huh?" I asked.

"Lightning.  Didn't you hear the thunder?"

"We should go," I said.  "Get home before it starts raining."

"Yes, go," the turtle said. "Get the dumb broad out of my damn chair."

I stood up.

"No," my wife said, "let's stay here and relax."

"We need to go," I said, looking about anxiously.  Was no one else noticing the talking turtle?

"Get out," it yelled and again the Starbucks rattled.  The baristas looked up with fright etched in their eyes.

"Well, I'm leaving," I said, and walked toward the door, tried to push it open, only to find it was locked.  Not locked with the built-in lock, but someone hand put a chain around it outside and locked the chain with a padlock.  We were trapped.  Trapped in a Starbucks with a manic talking turtle who had powers I couldn't comprehend.

"Fine," my wife said, "we'll leave."

"We can't," I whispered.

"Oh, now we can't leave, and why not?"

"Someone's locked door."

"Really?" she said, and pushed it open walking outside.

That's when it started to rain.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Jester Prince: Brunhilde, a Guest Post by Voss Foster

Voss Foster
Today we welcome once again the remarkable Voss Foster to our humble blog.

The Jester Prince

Arachne clapped. Flames spread out in the space between her hands as she pulled them apart. They cycled through the rainbow, growing brighter until one of the Widows finally turned to look at them. A few wisps of hair, once blonde, but now dyed in permanent dinge. Bright, almost acidic green eyes slashed out of her face.

"You're making a scene." Not upset. Her voice rasped out, air from the lungs of a dead woman. "Why?"

"To get your attention." Arachne quenched the flames. "It's rather important, Brunhilde."

"I don't really have time."
-The Jester Prince

Siegfried and Brunhilde's story is a timeless one… but not a romance, as I suggest in the books. In fact, Brunhilde is sort of the quintessential single lady… with a bit of homicide thrown in for good measure. Depending on who you ask, she's a valkyrie, a shieldmaiden, a royal, or possibly something else in some version of the story I'm not privy to. In fact, in most versions of the story, Brunhilde kills, or at least plans to kill, Siegfried. I even slip in a joke about the differences between my Brunhilde and the traditional Brunhilde. A free hug to the first one who can spot it.

In The Jester Prince, I introduce the concept of the Other, a sort of soulmate for the immortals. And a lot of the relationships are romantic. Brunhilde has lost her Other, and it sent her into a deep, untouchable depression. But can she break out of it?

To find out, pick up The Jester Prince, Book Two of the King Jester Trilogy.

With the destruction of Zirkua Fantastic, King Jester, the spirit of discord, has been unleashed once more upon the Earth. Only Toby, a fresh, untrained immortal, and the other former members of Zirkua Fantastic dare to stand against his chaos. But their hold is tenuous, and they are only truly safe from his power within the bounds of their camp. King Jester grows more powerful and more dangerous with each passing day. But he's made one mistake. That mistake could be his undoing. He's stolen Toby's soul mate, Marley. When he discovers Marley's location, Toby knows what he has to do. He will rescue Marley, even if it means he has to face King Jester alone.

But the others don't let him go at it alone. Marley has information about the resistance. They can't afford to let him stay in King Jester's control. In desperation, the immortals raise an army to storm the compound. But will it be enough to challenge the embodiment of chaos himself? All they can do is hope. Hope and put their faith in love.

Available now through Prizm Books.


"When did you stop mourning?"

Arachne's hands tightened to fists again. "I've never stopped mourning."

Brunhilde's eyes lost their intensity. "What do you want?"

Arachne kneeled in front of her. "Do you know what's been going on?"

"King Jester broke free of his bonds. He's raising an army. It's the same as last time." She said it like she was reading a grocery list. "Of course we know."

"Then you know that we need the weapons. The ones that Wayland forged last time." The words dripped from her lips, slow like honey. "You're guarding them, aren't you?"

"You don't need them. You didn't need them then, so you won't need them now. Just bind him, again."

"It's not that simple, Brunhilde."

"Yes it is." She stood up. Her limbs shook. "Very simple."

The other Widows rose after her. They all shook, but, in their black, they looked like specters of death. The pull of emptiness let up, but their power still saturated the air, weighing heavy on Toby. He shifted his senses and pulled the chain from around his neck. Please don't come to this.

Brunhilde's eyes sharpened again. "Can't you just leave us alone?"

Dragon marched to the front, pushing Arachne a few steps back. "We have to arm ourselves. If we can't turn King Jester back, it's not just us who suffer. You'll all die."

The shaking increased, Brunhilde's body almost blurring from it. "I died a long time ago."

Dragon grabbed Brunhilde's shoulder, kept her from turning. "Do you think Siegfried would want you dead?"

She slapped Dragon across the cheek, knocking her to the ground. "How dare you say his name?"

"Answer my question."

She slammed her foot down, but Dragon was up and away. Brunhilde tackled her, too fast to track. "You've been here long enough. Get out." Tears showered down, dripping on Dragon's face. "Just let us be. Please."

Pick up your copy of this amazing novel here.

The Voss Foster The Jester Prince blog tour schedule:

Wednesday, August 13th: Voss Foster: Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics (
Thursday, August 14th: Siana Wineland: Siana's Place (
Friday, August 15th: S.Evan Townsend: Writing Thoughts (
Saturday, August 16th: Iyana Jenna: Iyana Jenna (
Sunday, August 17th: TR Goodman: (
Monday, August 18th: T. Strange: T.Strange (
Tuesday, August 19th: Frances Pauli: Speculative Friction (
Wednesday, August 20th: Jennifer Willis: Jennifer Willis (
Thursday, August 21st: Cathy Hird: Open One More (
Friday, August 22nd: J.J. DiBenedetto: Writing Dreams (

Monday, August 11, 2014

Have Your MS Read to You.

In my writing career I have found one method of editing a piece of work very useful: have it read out loud to me.

Now this isn't the only editing I do. I edit the manuscript at least three times the old fashioned way: by reading it. But between edits 2 and 3, I like to have the manuscript read out loud to me.  I listen to it, often with my eyes closed. Having it read out loud to me I notice things I missed during reading it. Things such as word repetitions, awkward sentence structure ("which 'he' am I referring to?"), and even statements by characters that seem out of character. It's a amazingly useful tool.

The method I use is I recruit my wife. She reads the manuscript off her iPad and when I say "stop" she does. I can often just come up with a fix there, she types it into her iPad, and then reads it back to me.  If it sounds good, I say "better" or "great" or something positive and we go on. The downside of using my wife is she won't say swear words, even mild ones such as "hell" and "damn." She'll be reading along and say "To heck with it" and I'll say "I'm pretty sure that's not what I wrote."

Last night we started on my latest work in progress and it took almost 40 minutes to get through the 1,067-word prologue because I kept noticing things that I don't think people would say in 1865 when it's set. I'm hoping the rest of the novel goes a bit quicker.

Someone once said I should follow along reading a copy of the MS as she does this but I don't think I should.  That would be too much like reading. You want to hear the words, not read them.  And don't do this right after doing a reading edit. Wait a while (I wait while my wife and my friend proofread the MS) then start this process.

If you can't get anyone to read it to you, I understand there are programs or online services that will read text for you. And if that doesn't work, at the very least, read the entire manuscript out loud to yourself.

Believe me, there is something about hearing it versus reading it that makes you find things you'll want to improve.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The High Roller

Today's Flash Fiction Friday story is: The High Roller:

He threw the dice down the craps table.

"Seven!" the stickman called out.  He added more chips to Jason's pile.

Jason smiled and held out his hand indicating he intended to keep shooting.  The red dice with the white pips were pushed back to him by the stickman. "Let it ride!" he exclaimed, picking up the dice.

"Baby needs a new pair of shoes," he said, trying to be funny as he shook the dice in his hand.  The incredible blonde to his left laughed as if it were the funniest thing she'd ever heard.  He didn't know where she came from.  When he started winning and winning big, she just seemed to slink in by his side, touching his left hand whenever she could.

He tossed the dice again.

"Seven," the stickman said and more chips were added to his pile.

"Cash me out," Jason said, looking at the pile of chips.  A quick estimate was that there was close to a hundred thousand in that pile.

He handed one of the blue chips to the stickman as a tip.

"Thank you, sir," the stickman said.  Then called out, "New shooter."

Jason stepped away from the table and a casino runner started gathering his chips onto a tray.

"Hey, sweetie," the blonde said, "buy me a drink?"

Jason could almost hear what she was thinking.  He was the high roller and she wanted some of that loot.  She'd take him for everything she could.  He didn't care.  Easy come easy go and it'd be very very fun to use her as she planned to use him.

"Sure," he said.

She put her hand in the crook of his arm as he walked toward the cashier cage.  The casino's runner would bring the chips.

The cashier counted the chips after they arrived.

"Just a moment, sir," she said.  She was about a million years old and desiccated as if she'd been left outside all summer long by a neglectful child.

"Is there a problem?" Jason asked.

The woman didn't answer.

There was a moment when he felt the blonde almost seem to withdraw.  If he didn't have the money she wasn't interested.

An old man walked into the cashier's cage.  He leaned heavily on a cane and his back was curved like a integer sign.

"What is it, Miss Parker?" he asked the cashier.

"I don't have this much cash," she said, indicating the pile of chips.

The blonde started clinging again.  She was nuzzling his neck.

The old man looked at Jason.  "We need to do this in the back.  If you'll go to the red door to the right, sir."

"Of course," Jason said with a smile.

The runner picked up the chips and followed the old man who disappeared through a door behind the cashier's station.

Jason went to the red door, the blonde still on his arm, she was touching his hand with her free hand.

Jason opened the door and the old man was standing there.

"The girl will have to wait outside," the man said.

Jason smiled at her apologetically and she nodded her understanding.

Jason walked in, nearly tripping in the low gravity. As the door closed he noticed it sealed tight as most doors did here, compartmentalizing sections of the casino.

A big man grabbed Jason from behind.

"Now," the old man said as the gorilla in a suit held Jason.  "You Earthers think you can come to our little Moon casino and cheat.  I only want to know one thing before I throw you out an airlock."

"I didn't cheat," Jason said. He noticed the room had an airlock and that there were windows overlooking the sparse, gray lunar plain.

"Right," the man replied.  "And I’m Neil Armstrong."

Jason growled.

"So tell me," the man said, "How did you do it?"

Jason smiled.  "I'm a demon."

The man snorted.

"No," Jason said, "It's true.  Been living on Earth for about 50,000 years.  But Earth is old, all the magic is gone, my powers are weak there.  Here on the Moon, I can do whatever I feel."

"Oh really, Mr. Demon?" the old man scowled.

"Yes," Jason said.

And the room filled with fire, both men screaming in agony as the flames consumed them.
But the hot fire increased the air pressure in the room to the point that one of the windows exploded outward, and the room decompressed.

Jason died trying to breathe vacuum.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Movie Reviews: Lone Survivor and Noah

Last week I watched two movies from Netflix: Lone Survivor and Noah.  It was an interesting juxtaposition as each movie has completely different themes.

Lone Survivor is the true story of a SEAL team mission in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan that went horribly wrong. While on a mission to capture a Taliban leader, the four-man team is hiding in the hills around a village when they are found by three goatherds. After some debate, they let the villagers go which proves fatal as one of them tells the Taliban of their presence.  The team then gets attacked by overwhelming force.

I like this movie for many reasons, not the least of which was its positive portrayal of the U.S. military. Men risk their lives for their comrades, in some cases for men they don't even know. The battle sequences are intense and realistic. These are probably the most intense battle sequences I've seen since Saving Private Ryan. If you can handle the gore and the intensity, I strongly urge you to see this film even though it is tough to watch.

On the other hand, Noah was a mess. Based (loosely) on the Biblical story of the Flood and Noah's
Ark, the movie takes that story and turns it into an ecological "man-is-evil/nature-is-wonderful" message. While the special effects are pretty good (apparently every animal was CGI), the story is plodding and pedantic. For most of the movie, Noah thinks the Creator (the word "God" is never uttered) wants to destroy all of humanity because, well, humans suck and nature is so much better. The Biblical story does talk about man's violence and the movie does address that, but I don't remember anything in Genesis about the ecology.

And if you think nature isn't violent, watch a cheetah take down an antelope. Oh, and there is a lot of violence in this movie, much of it done by Noah and his supernatural helpers.

Add in that there is a lot of yelling a screaming and you have one very annoying movie. I wouldn't recommend this film unless you are a masochistic member of PETA.

Monday, August 4, 2014

You Should Join Toastmasters

There is a wonderful organization out there that can help you be a better writer, a better public speaker, and have more confidence at signings and other public events that as an author you may need to be part of.  That organization is Toastmasters.  There are Toastmasters clubs all over the world (14,350 clubs in 122 countries).  But why would a writer need to know how to speak better in public and communicate verbally.  Well, you might find yourself in front of an audience at:
  • Public readings
  • Con panels
  • Book signings (even if the audience is just one person)
  • Telling people about your work
Toastmasters has an education program that teaches you to be confident in public speaking and all interpersonal verbal communication.  And writing a speech is writing and can help you learn to organize your thoughts and present them in a coherent and understandable manner.

One of my favorite parts of Toastmasters (yes, I'm a member) is Table Topics.  This is where you may be given a topic or a question and you have one to two minutes to speak on it.  It really helps you think on your feet instead of stammering and hemming and hawing.

I've been in Toastmasters since April of 2011.  In that time I have given at least 33 speeches and I have learned so much about verbal communication.  I have two more speeches to go to earn the top speech education award in Toastmasters: Advance Communicator Gold.

Dues for Toastmasters are a very reasonable at $36 every six months (most clubs will round that up to $40 so the club gets $4 to fund their activities).  Compare that with a Dale Carnegie course that can cost thousands of dollars.  It really is a very nice bargain.

To find a Toastmasters club near you, go to their website.  You'll find a fun, friendly, and welcoming atmosphere to learn to communicate better.  And communicating better can and will help you in your writing career. Or any career, really.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: The Dance

Today's Flash Fiction Friday: The Dance

Mortimer looked across the room to the shy yet lovely girl leaning against the wall.  The term "wallflower" never seemed more appropriate for the lass.  Mortimer smiled. He didn't know why she was so quiet and not popular, not being asked to dance by all the boys there.  She was beautiful with long red hair, a constellation of freckles across her nose, and the most expressive and deeply blue eyes he'd ever seen.

Perhaps it was her clothes.  Plain and simple, it was obvious she didn't have the money to spend on accouterments other girls had.  Or maybe she was just painfully shy.  It didn't matter to Mortimer. He knew this girl was going to be his wife, even though they hadn't even yet exchanged a glance.

He walked over, adjusting his bow tie and brushing imaginary lint from his white suit jacket.  He crossed the dance floor, ignoring the couples locked in embraces, holding each other but not too closely so as not to attract the ire of the adult chaperons.

She looked up and saw him approach and he could see the fear in her face.  But he smiled sweetly and walked to her with all the confidence he could muster.

"May I have this dance?" he asked, holding out his hand.

She smiled, it was a very shy smile, and nodded.  She held out her hand and he took it.

They walked to the gymnasium floor, now being used as a dance floor, Mortimer's steps seeming lighter than air as he could feel her hand in his, her skin, the warmth of her body.  He thought he could even feel her heartbeat as they walked.

Picking out a spot on among the other dancers, he turned and took her into his arms, looking into her eyes. She looked away.  It seemed her touch on his back and in his hand were withdrawn as if she were unwilling to be even this intimate with him.

"I'm Mort," he said.

"Penny," she whispered.

They danced in silence after that, but as the movement went on, she touched him more willingly, moved her lithe body closer to his, as close as they both dared.

They finished that dance, then the next, both unwilling to let the other go.  She was now looking at  his eyes, smiling at him and he was gazing at her, his heart swelling with his new and growing love.  They danced and danced . . .

"Time for your bath, Mr. Johnson," the nurse's aide said

Mortimer looked up at the large, black woman in the white uniform standing over him as he sat in his wheelchair.  Then he looked back at the picture on the dresser of the beautiful redheaded woman. It was in a simple plastic frame and the colors had faded with time, turning her red hair pink and her blue eyes grey.

"Let's go, Mr. Johnson," the aide said with growing impatience, her hands on her ample hips. "Just because you can't talk don't mean you can't take your bath."

Mortimer nodded but didn't take his eyes off the picture until the aide turned his wheelchair and rolled him out of the nursing home room.

"Sometimes I wonder what you're thinking, Mr. Johnson," she said as they moved down the corridor. "Sometimes I wonder where your mind is at."

Mortimer just smiled.  The music was playing for another dance.  It didn't matter that it was just in his head.