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Strange Companion
by Dorothy MacAulay

SHE WAS LYING on the sofa, watching him paint.

“Who is that woman?”

“Mrs. Huntley Mannings,” he replied absently.

“You must have started that portrait before I knew you. I don’t recall seeing her here.”

“She’s been dead for twenty years. I did this from a photograph her husband brought in. The man lives in a fog. He’s in love with a ghost.”

Her glowing eyes took in his every move as he daubed at the canvas, stood back to get a different slant, dragged on his cigarette. He exuded that air of superior contentment worn only by those who manage successfully to do as they please.

“You’re always happiest when your subject is a beautiful woman.”

“Meow!” he teased, fondness oiling his voice.

“Are you jealous, my pet?”

She turned her back with mock disdain and looked out the window toward the frozen beach.

There was a five minute silence between them.

“It’s been a long winter,” she murmured. “Spring can’t come too soon to suit me. This snuggling by the fire is alright, but give me the great outdoors when the sun is warm and earth throbs with life.”

He chuckled, mischief dancing in his eyes.

“Summer’s my favorite season. No money problems then. Just set up the old easel on the beach, and every girl that comes along wants her picture painted.”

She sulked, remembering how annoying it had been last summer when every day he was surrounded by young girls in bikinis, leaning over his shoulder or kneeling beside him in the sand, pretending their main interest was in his paintings.

Deep inside her lurked the fear that someday he would fall for one of these transients. One of them might even move in with him.

She recalled cruel men in her past who had given her a rough time. In two short years his gentleness and generosity had changed her from an emaciated, nervous wreck into a sleek, haughty beauty.

He was thinking about the first day he saw her. He had turned from his easel to see her standing on the beach, watching him with a wildness in her eyes that was almost frightening to him. Wisely, he had feigned exaggerated unconcern. After that she had come every day, sitting a little closer each time in shy silence as she watched him paint.

Then one golden evening, just as the sun was about to slide into the lake, she leaned toward him from her seat in the sand beside him, and murmured a compliment. He remembered how her sweet voice had startled him. He had begun to wonder if she were dumb.

That evening she had gone with him to his shack, shared his supper and then his bed. From then on she had been his permanent guest, possessing an elusive quality that made each day with her a challenge, as he wondered how long he could hold her.

He turned to look at her now. She had raised herself to a sitting position and was peering intently through the window.

“See anything?”

“Those damn gulls. They’re out there by the thousands messing around the barbecue. I’ll go and chase them off.”

She slid from the couch with a silky fluidity. As she walked gracefully toward the door he hurried to open it for her.

He knew she would be back soon. There would be a cool freshness and the scent of ocean air about her. It would be time to eat. After supper she would curl up on the couch and listen to records while he washed the day’s dishes.

Around eight o’clock, as usual, he’d go down to the tavern to get a little drunk, always cutting it off before he became too garrulous. He wanted to tell the boys about her, but he knew he’d never have the nerve. They’d say he was nuts.

Few men have ever known a talking cat.

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Leaves of Green
by Bren Corliss

Leaves of green
Change color in fall –
To reds, yellows and then to brown.
Then they shrivel and drop to the ground.

But in the spring
New buds begin,
And whence come summer’s green leaves
Again and again.

Mulch
by Paul Burns

Before the season of seedlings,
I must prepare a bed of mulch,
Made of old leaves, grass shavings and weedlings,
Seared by a sun that soon turns into a gulch.

The whole bed looks terribly disheveled,
With all that unlovely, discarded grass;
As if the garden itself had become bedeviled
By ignorant ghosts – both retarded and crass.

Here and there can be seen outcroppings
Upon which have been dropped, without grace,
Casual and haphazard bird-droppings
That merely make more primitive this place.

Though I’m the furthest thing from a farmer,
I’m quite conversant with various mulch,
Though from all this experience, I’ve not been able to garner
A bed of mulch that doesn’t resemble a nefarious gulch.

Life Up Your Eyes
by Marian M. Poe

STAND IN Basin Circle Park in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and look up. See the hills of the town – the hills I love.

Walk the streets of Eureka Springs. Walk the bridges, the stairways, the steps. Feel the upward climb in your thigh muscles, stop to rest on a bench beside a fountain of clear water. Smell the air. Look at the sky. It’s blue over Eureka Springs. You are close to the top of the hill.

Watch the pink and red, the purple and gold flowers growing up and down the hillsides. You see a kaleidoscope of color.

Marvel at the houses snuggling along the hillsides, built among the tall trees. Your eyes can’t stay on one level as you walk the streets. There are too many houses and people, above and below you. Each house and person is individual.

There is a quality to the homes and shops, to the public buildings and parks, that only the people living in these hills can bring to a community.

Absorb the friendliness, the openness, the pride and delight the citizens take in Eureka Springs. Mingle with the tourists; watch the artists, musicians, crafts men and women. Buy an ice cream cone.

Visit church, drive to the Great Passion Play, stand beside Blue Spring on the Indian Trail of Tears. See Beaver Dam and take the tours to surrounding areas.

Then come back and lift you eyes again to the hills of Eureka Springs. Whichever hill you climb, there will be another hill calling you to come investigate, come rest on its summit, come drink from its pure flowing water, come touch its trees.

It’s the call the psalmist heard when he wrote, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills.” It’s the call my great-grandmother, Carry A. Nation, heard in 1908 when she decided to live in Eureka Springs. It’s the inner magnet enticing you, no matter where you are, back to the hills, back to the springs, back to the trees and valleys.

It’s the experience you know when you lift up your eyes in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

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Turtles
by Bren Corliss

Tiny creatures with a
House on their backs,
Always on the go
And doing it oh so slowly,
Crawling in the mud and the water.

Some are small, others are huge.
These creatures called turtles
Haven’t a worry in the world.
If someone tries to eat them
They just crawl back into their houses of shell.

Reverie
by L. P. V. Johnson

FALL again, already, and summer dying… dying. A time when an old man thinks of life. At nearly ninety, one doesn’t look ahead; that road is too short – time for only a few faltering steps. But the road behind! Ah, that’s a long trail, reaching back and back in a brightening course. And one’s footprints thick upon it!

Memories of the youthful time, of the first hard frost of a fall long ago. Fall plowing over for the year, and that meant hauling wheat. A warm time shoveling at the field granary, and a cold ride into town. And still colder as winter came on: wheels creaking in the snow, horses steaming from their nostrils to coat their sides with frost. Then the rewards of grain cheques at the elevator and of money in the bank!

And then the long winter evenings of leisure and the courting. Courting! The cutter, like a large armchair on runners, with shafts offset outrigger fashion so that the single horse (Old Jim!) trotted in the runner track. And the buffalo robes. And Jane. Jane! Again the happy ringing laugh, the warm body and the shining eyes. Then the school house dance. Bright lights (hissing gas lanterns), fiddle sawing away with a droning organ in the background, nasal singsong of the caller (“… Lady round the gent and the gent don’t go…”), and Jane. Married in spring, spring in all its tender and hopeful beauty. Of all memories this is the pleasantest. And the kindest – in dreams, the kindest, for now Jane is gone.

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And the Sunday dinners! The warm kitchen (Jane’s kitchen!) and a famous aroma. That’s the fried chicken! No need to mention the potato salad, but something should be said of the angel-food cake. Baked yesterday and turned upside-down overnight. Beyond that – indescribable! And the creaking crank of the freezer. A little more salt there, and a tamp or two at the ice. REAL ice cream! Ah, for the old food – and a younger stomach!

Now another fall. Chores all done for the night, with the lantern blown-out and hanging on the kitchen wall. Evening at home with Jane and the children. Cold enough to light the heater in the parlor. The mantle lamp on the table and a ring of young faces. They changed as they grew up – and yet they never changed, not really. Never changed any more than Judy did. Scarlet fever… Strange about Judy: the happiest and liveliest of all, as though she had to live in a hurry. Ah, the little Judy of sixty years of dreams! The soft delicate light of heaven, and she is there, happy as ever, and waiting; waiting with the old love, and something deeper, shining in her eyes.

Then another scene of this same sad fall, poignant, too, because of Judy. A point of light shining across dark fields, burning all night, night after night. That was the Bensons, watching at little Allan’s bedside. The crisis came, and went – and Allan lived. He’s a lawyer now, right here in the city.

Now shadows of war gather and darken, and in them Eddie’s boyish face, smudged but shining. Eddie, Jane’s favorite son. But this vision won’t fit into any proper place of reason. The smoke trails and crashing death. All vague and unreal – and unthinkable. But it happened at Caen. And there is a medal, posthumous, to prove it.

Yes, at ninety an old man looks back, back along the trail that has led to his hushed rest of age. And he rests content. Content to dissipate again in the revels of the past, with visions of loved ones all around. Content to have weathered a full life, to have reaped joy from the sunshine as he did wisdom from the blast. And, thus content, to wait patiently for the end.

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Hungry Raccoon
by Bren Corliss

Little raccoon, what do you spy?
Does it walk or hop or maybe even fly?
Will you be able to catch it?
Or will you just quit?

If you’re hungry, little one,
Then you’d better be prepared to run.
I hope you are quick and sly,
Because that little bird is ready to fly.

Coyotes
by Walter W. Hoffman

HOPE RYDEN called her thorough study of coyotes God’s Dog, because that is what the Navaho Indians call this engaging animal.

Coyotes have been much persecuted, and captured coyotes have been hideously tortured. Coyotes have been habitually accused of killing lambs. It is much more likely that the killing was done by uncontrolled or feral dogs. On the contrary, coyotes serve to keep down the number of rodents, which otherwise become a damaging plague.

The family life of coyotes resembles that of wolves – affectionate and highly protective. Again like wolves, coyotes among themselves behave like decent people.

Don Coyote deserves his humorous role in Indian legend, and is an essential part of our sadly diminished wild heritage. Campaigns to eradicate coyotes by shooting, trapping and poisoning are evidence of willful ignorance and crass stupidity. Coyotes are certainly preferable to the perpetrators of such abominations.

Haiku
by Bren Corliss

The rain fell softly.
The mouse crawled under a leaf.
There he slept peacefully.

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Cold Winter Months Offer an Ideal Time to Write
by Marvin E. Reed

I DON’T KNOW about all the rest of you ajay members, but I find the cold winter months an ideal time to write. Some days are so cold, with high winds and other conditions that make many farm jobs impossible, that it gives me a good many hours inside the house during the daytime. I read a lot, meditate some, and often an idea for an article or poem will present itself right there and then.

If I have no new, unread bundle of papers on hand, I have hundreds of old bundles stashed away and I can quickly dig out one or more, and carefully check the papers for items that appeal to me. Many times an idea will spring into my mind for putting my pen into action, and I am also inspired and encouraged by the interest, effort and abilities of the ajay authors to give of my best efforts and writing ability, and to get to the task immediately.

The old adage for writers or would-be writers to write something every day still holds true, and I find it expressed often in current up-to-date books and writing courses covering many different fields of writing endeavor. You can want to write, long to write, dream of writing great things, but until you actually take the pen in hand and start writing you will never accomplish anything. When once you are busy with the words flowing smoothly across the page, you will find your idea expanding, your article or poem taking shape and form, and an urge to continue on until the work is completed, ready for submitting to an editor and publisher, to the Manuscript Bureau, for printing yourself, or for further reading, study and rewrite. And don’t ever hesitate to rewrite any kind of writing you are attempting to do.

I know many of my fellow ajayers have hours and days, maybe weeks at home during the cold winter months, as well as at other beautiful and wonderful seasons of the year. So open up the blinds, raise the window shades, pull back the curtains and drapes and look out at the wondrous beauty of the white and glistening snow, icicles on the eaves, trees and fences, the bare limbs of trees swaying mightily in a howling wind, shout for joy, grab your pen and start writing. You’ll find it easy, inspiring and uplifting, and wonder why you ever thought you just couldn’t find a good theme to begin an ajay contribution.

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FIVE HUNDRED COPIES of this amateur journal are being printed, featuring some material from the NAPA Manuscript Bureau. To satisfy postal requirements, be it noted that this journal is distributed to members of the National Amateur Press Association through the monthly bundle. Other copies may be sent first or third class by the publisher-member, who is Joseph F. Bradburn, La Plata, Md. 20646.

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