Article from Zara Miller, author of the YA historical novel I Am Cecilia

HERO VS. VILLAINS

“Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

So, Martin Scorcese compares Marvel movies to theme parks. And honestly, what a mood.

True, this isn´t exactly the newsworthy material, Ricky Gervais discussed Scorcese´s top-notch diss of superhero culture movies during his monologue at the 2020 Golden Globe Awards.

But it recently popped up in my recommended videos because the Youtube algorithm works in mysterious ways and got to thinking – is it just about shallow screenwriting and the allure of cheap CGI action, the mindless fun?

And I realized that the problem of Marvel storytelling runs even deeper than the genius director conveyed to us out loud – that it heavily influenced the type of novels we get to read – and it´s not exactly Marvel´s fault … Not entirely.

ONE-DIMENSIONAL CHARACTERS

One-dimensional characters or flat characters do not change or grow from the start of the story to the end. Their purpose is to highlight the main character, to be a plot device, or a tool, and they typically are simpletons with a one point of view on life – they only see one dimension – hence one-dimensional characters, hold a simple and small perspective about life or the situation in the story. Their character is often used as a literary device to keep the narrative moving – many times when the script has written itself into a corner, or the writer has run out of effective ways to move the plot forward.

Now, Marvel, from the three-hundred and seventy-two movies total from which I´ve seen eighteen, does not suffer from one-dimensional characters on the hero side of the story. All the good guys go through trauma, they learn, they grow, they develop new opinions (ehm-ehm- some of them).

Marvel has been criticized for sucking at writing an effective villain but the problem is not the villains, the problem is the root of the Marvel storytelling – the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad.

One would think that they would take their own advice and write all the villains the way Loki is written – which is the reason (not the only one, yeah, Tom Hiddleston is awesome and all that) why audiences flock to him so much. He has a strong motivation, he´s smart and his character is a rainbow of personalities – just like a regular human being, which makes him likable and most importantly, relatable.

But Marvel is not the inventor of one-dimensional characters.

William Shakespeare is.

Benvolio from Romeo and Juliet, Gertrude from Hamlet, Shylock from The Merchant of Venice very effective plot devices with one stubborn character feature that poses an obstacle to the protagonist.

However, Shakespeare didn´t have Hollywood studios behind him to balance out the lack of personalities in his stories with raging beam in the sky and generic CGI armies. To give a complete experience to audiences, he had to support the narrative by creating strong protagonists, interesting antagonists, and villains with complex personalities (Lady Macbeth, Hamlet, Portia). And when you do that, your story not only allows for the one-dimensional character to make sense, it makes it even more immersive and realistic – because we all know that one blank person who is just sort of … there. Existing, with one opinion on all the debatable, morally grey, complicated stuff we deal with in life.

And that´s why people will never have such a raging allergy if a Marvel movie turns out bad and will keep watching them and paying for the next one and the next one and the next one.

Low stakes, low damage.

Now compare that to a show heavily driven by character development where there are no villains and heroes like the Game of Thrones. 

Feel like re-watching it? No? Me neither. And no one can blame us. That show became un-rewatchable due to replacing the complexity of the human heart with a hero vs. villain storytelling and adding some explosive Marvel-type action as the final lethal, cyanide-like icing on the cake. 

IN BOOKS

All the teenage apocalyptic series. Thank you for your time, good night.

….

I really didn´t want to get into this but there is no better example than the popular doomsday book series where children hunt each other in a world that no longer resembles a rational society. And they gave us all the subsequent movie franchises in which those very same teenagers are at least twenty-six years old, of course.

However, there is a silver lining on the horizon in a form of Shadow and Bone. I´ve never read the books but the popular fantasy book series The Grisha has been picked up by Netflix and the first book has been adapted in a form of a limited TV series.

And if the source material is as strong as the adaptation, we might just be plunging out of the lazy storytelling brought about by the likes of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey.

DOES I AM CECILIA DO BETTER THAN THAT?

Cecilia used to think that being born to a small fortune, accompanied by chrysanthemums on the way from the hospital and surrounded by exploding fanfares of affection, would set her up for a never-ending life of lottery wins, parades without rain, and smooth slides on the slopes of adoration. She never realized how slippery that slope of adoration was. Maybe money was not the root of all evil. Family dysfunction was.

  • An Excerpt from I am Cecilia by Zara Miller

As promised last time in the first article, I would reveal a little bit behind the story and the inspiration behind writing this YA novel.

The hero vs. villain in the Marvel movies is something that was always on my mind and tried to avoid during writing. Blurring the lines in the protagonist/antagonist/villain/anti-hero characterization. Not just because it´s a lot of fun but because it makes for a rich experience.

When you find yourself disliking the hero yet rooting for them anyway, or loving the villain yet understanding that they have to be stopped – the writer is probably doing it right.

I am Cecilia is now available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/I-am-Cecilia-Zara-Miller-ebook/dp/B094519D7T/ref

You can follow me on Instagram @zaramiller_author, or on LinkedIn under Zara Miller for more news and swoon-worthy fiction content. Looking forward to meeting you all!

White woman in a brown top with brown hair and grey pants squatting down.

Poetry from Sushant Thapa

Under the Sky

Sky observes daily

Below it.

Many walkers

Looking around do not

Know about the gateway to man-made heaven.

It should not be a poem every time to

Talk about sky, rain and the sun.

Cracks on my ceiling

Climbs down to my spine

I search coherence in my papers

Grasses are gentle

Thorns sometimes pain the eye

Without pricking the finger.

Most of the time it is the beating heart

Afraid of the vastness above the clouds.


Homeless World

Homeless still people live

No lights are lit to turn off

No sheets and high held pillows

To wipe the tears.

No time to set an alarm for the morning

No morning to rest for the day.

How to live without staring at the ceiling?

Makes me wonder about the stars

 Sky of vast blanket can rain

Can cause the unwanted pour

Still life is carried

To sail like the every other leaf

Swept by the rain water.

Poetry from Susie Gharib

 
 Sanctions
  
 I walk my dog four times a day.
 There is nothing special about such a routine, 
 but if I tell you I feed my Loulou Spitz
 at the expense of my nutritional intake, 
 would you call me insane?
  
 This is my outfit for these daily strolls, 
 a woolen jumper to match her fluffy coat,
 a baggy jeans due to heavy weight loss, 
 and hair in a knot for absence of gloss.
  
 We wait for justice to ascend its throne,
 for sanctions to be lifted
 for a sun-born dawn,
 for wreckage to be sifted
 to salvage unburied bones, 
 for the return of electricity to current-less bulbs,
 for the advent of bread to hungry households
 without the discord that long queues invoke,
 for our dignity to be restored.
 
   
 If I fly, I will first class
  
 For eleven years, we have played our portion of the Hunger Games,
 and having survived these plights, 
 who says I am ready to depart
 from my own homeland
 for a better world?
  
 I might,
 but not before I am equipped with a beautiful, stone house
 and a well-fed bank account,
 a life to return to 
 should you humiliate me as you did in past times,
 for we will always be refugees in your own misapprehending eyes.
  
 If I fly, I will first class,
 but I am done with flights.
 They evoke a poor student’s unhappy times.
 Instead, I shall travel in a luxury car
 and have as many stops as there are stars in our night sky, 
 accompanied by my un-quarantined little dog,
 even if it takes years to reach the designated house,
 which should be totally devoid of other inmates
 and accessories that remind me of a poisoned past.
  
 You will probably respond by stating that I am in position to dictate what I like
 I say: “Suit yourselves, for having blasted our lives,
 you cannot make things any worse”.
 Bonne Chance !
 
 Reminiscence
 [In memory of my father]
  
 A few words would sum up my childhood:
 strawberries, chocolate, toys, and a rowing boat, 
 a chimney whose logs roaring glowed,
 the huge mirror before which I danced in our hall
 and rivers across which we tried to build bridges of stone.
  
 My dad had Da Vinci up the wall.
 He played his golden trumpet and silver saxophone.
 He prepared our breakfasts, our evening popcorn
 and set up a banquet for us before he dined outside our home.
  
 He never grew tired of wearing blue,
 enchanting us with his aftershave and Brut,
 and I could not help wearing his expensive perfume
 despite his gentle pleas to stop depleting his fragrant store.
  
 His few business trips abroad
 brought us accounts of travel that enthralled,
 the Château of The Count of Monte Cristo
 and the glamorous yachts of Monaco.
  
 He looked like Rock Hudson in his teens.
 Some opt for resemblance to James Dean.
 I say regardless of his handsome mien,
 he was the most generous dad that ever breathed.
 
   
 Finales
  
 Finales vary in their various tints:
 the tragic, the comic, and the open-end.
 Very few can boast an apocalyptic bend
 or a happy content.
  
 Those that are weaved on misfortune’s wheel
 appeal to the lachrymose, the morose, the realist,
 who attribute their plights to a vengeful god
 like the afflicted Mayor of Casterbridge.
  
 Those that are blessed with a humorous twist
 lend each mishap a sardonic concept,
 breeding a troop of permanent grins
 on contorted lips.
  
 The open-end titillates each wit,
 some wishful thinking to compete with a naturalistic trend,
 leaving the interpreter caught up in net
 of inner conflicts.
   

Poetry from Ivan Jenson

Dusty Dusk

These days
I often melt into
the arms of chairs
and I find myself
gripping the banister
as I head down the stairs
and I prefer
to have guests
visit my thoughts
rather than actually
having them here
and I am selfish
with moments and often
search under furniture
to see if happier times
like my long lost dog
might be hiding
somewhere
and I was going
to keep these
dark musings
to myself
but after
careful, tearful
consideration
decided
to share


Jaded Journey

I move
through a dusty
cluttered room
to a paint-peeled door
that leads to a driveway
with weeds
punching through
where I get in
my old jalopy Ford
with its tattered seats
and start the elderly engine
which clears its metallic throat
and then I drive aimless
through the rain
on an errant errand
and distracted
by the rubbish
of redundancy
I briefly forget
that my to-do list
will one day
be all checked off
and come to
a bitter end


Low Profile

There is a lot
I could, should,
or would do
if I was brave
and bold
and outgoing
like cliff or
social climbers
but I tend to stick
close to home-base
rather than step outside
and chase
elusive opportunities
disguised as
attainable goals
most nights I stay in
and count wolves
in sheep’s clothing
and I never cease
to be amazed that
all my ambition
amounts to nothing more
than pillow fluffing


Flip Side

By day
I am that guy
who you assume
is alright because
he is gregarious
and seems like
he really could
care less
and by night
I am the
phantom gentleman
who carries himself
like a Casanova castaway
who kissed the world
and made it cry
sadly smiling
with an overbite
on a defunct
online dating site
a lonely non-smoker
who often asks
the darkness
if it would
like a light


Ivan Jenson is a fine artist, novelist and popular contemporary poet. His artwork was featured in Art in America, Art News, and Interview Magazine and has sold at auction at Christie’s. Ivan was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to make a painting titled Absolut Jenson for the brand’s national ad campaign. His Absolut paintings are in the collection of the Spiritmusuem, the museum of spirits in Stockholm, Sweden.  

Jenson’s painting of the “Marlboro Man” was collected by the Philip Morris corporation. Ivan was commissioned to paint the final portrait of the late Malcolm Forbes.  Ivan has written two novels, Dead Artist and Seeing Soriah, both of which illustrate the creative and often dramatic lives of artists. Jenson’s poetry is widely published (with over 600 poems published in the US, UK and Europe) in a variety of literary media. A book of Ivan Jenson’s poetry was recently published by Hen House Press titled Media Child and Other Poems, which can be acquired on Amazon. Two novels by Ivan Jenson entitled, Marketing Mia and Erotic Rights have been published hardcover. 

Essay from Robert Thomas

B-26 plane taking off in a field.

My father, Technical Sargent Stanley F. Thomas flew a total of 60
missions as a bombardier and tail gunner on a B-26 Marauder, twin
engine bomber in World War II. The minimum Air Force requirement
of missions to be served was 25-30. Since my father never
discussed the war with his children, I never knew whether he
exceeded the mandate out of patriotism, or he was just an adrenaline
junkie. In either case, along with an Air Medal, he was awarded the
Distinguished Flying Cross. The medal bracket on his uniform also
held numerous unit citations with oak leaf clusters. Along one side of
the front of his leather jacket, a number of bombs were stenciled
indicating direct bombing hits, while an adjacent row of swastikas
evidenced enemy planes downed by his unit in combat.

The B-26 Marauder was designed and put into production a number
of years prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Army Air Corp 1
(AAC) prepared itself for any possible contingency. Specification for
the plane included a speed of between 250-350 mph. Because the
plane was to be used as a strategic bomber, the plane had to be able
to out pace the then known top airspeeds of German and Japanese
fighters. The plane also had to have sufficient arms to repel any
attack by fighters as it performed its mission. Thus, both nose and
rear 30 caliber machine guns, as well as a top turret gun was
mandated. Later, the 30 caliber guns were replaced by 50 caliber
weapons. Additionally, the plane had to carry a sufficient load of
bombs, enough to cause significant damage to designated targets.
This meant that weight was of crucial importance. The desire for
maximum bomb load resulted in a short wing span. A shorter wing
meant greater takeoff and landing speeds. Since the landing gear of
the B-26 were in a tricycle-like position, particular attention had to be
paid to making sure the rear wheels touched down first, with the nose
wheel gently allowed to touch down last. This was no easy feat when
coming in at 150 mph or better. Doing so in a damaged plane made
the task even more difficult.

Crews treated their planes as if they were their own possessions.
Nose art with pet names became a standard, giving the crew and
plane a personal identity. My father’s crew named their plane, Kizio
Pofoth 2nd, Eaglet. The name consisted of the first letters of the last
names of the all the crew members (See airplane above photo).
Strategic bombing was considered crucial to any successful outcome
in a war. Before any major offensive (D-Day) the enemy’s ability to
counter attack had to be thwarted. This meant destroying war
materials factories, to limit their production of armaments and
supplies; bombing the enemy’s airfields to minimize their dominance
of the airways; and to knock out transportation venues such as roads,

The author's father in his flying jacket in front of his plane.
Devon Francis, Flak Bait (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1948), xi-xvi 1
10T Sgt Stanley Thomas

bridges and rail yards to keep them from moving supplies and troops
into areas of combat. However, at times, given unforeseen
circumstances, other targets may have to be considered a priority.
This proved to be the case when Germany began implementing the
V-1 rocket attacks on England. The V-1 emplacements were
scattered across the coastal areas of France and the Netherlands,
and had to be taken out, diverting the B-26s from other strategic
targets.

The mission of the B-26 units in WWII was to provide strategic
intervention, both prior to and after D-Day. The 387th Bombardment
Group to which my father was attached, was eventually based in
10various areas of England. A total of 36 or more planes from this
group flew out each day. My father’s squadron, the 557th was
stationed in Chipping Ongar, located thirty miles northeast of London.
From Chipping Ongar, daily sorties of planes flew out over the English
Channel to areas of France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Every mission was fraught with danger, not only from possible
mechanical problems that might render the plane unable to fly, but
also from enemy fire. Anti-aircraft guns protected many of the target
areas. These guns sent up shells that exploded at a given height.
Many of the B-26s were damaged and or brought down by barrages
of flak exploding at the height of the planes. B-26s often came back
to base riddled with holes, their crews sometimes injured or dead
from shrapnel wounds. While less frequently encountered, enemy
fighters were also a challenge. In cases of fighter attack, the skill and
dexterity of the gunners was crucial to the crews lives. Although,
occasionally, the Americans had friendly fighter escorts run
intervention for them. These escorts extended only as far as the
fighters range, which were far less than the B-26s flew to reach their
targets. Luck also played a part in the crew’s survival. My father had
to abort one mission due to severe illness. His replacement came
back deceased from a flak hit.

In addition to operating the tail gun on a B-26, my father had the
responsibility of preparing the bombs for deployment. A safety fuze
pin had to be removed from each bomb before release. The fuze pin
consisted of a cotter pin, to which a paper tag was attached. A short
safety notice was printed on one side, while the other side of the tag
was blank. For each mission flown, Sgt. Thomas saved one tag,
upon which he wrote notes related to the mission. Each tag indicated
The number of mission; the name of the target; sometimes the
weather conditions; enemy fighter encounters; amount of flak;
number and size of bombs dropped; and occasionally other personal
comments. The tags became a diary of his missions.

I sorted all of the fuse tags in order from his first mission to his last,
with only five tags missing. Rather than describe his experiences in
narrative form, I have decided to let my father’s own words tell his
story. Below are his notes as he wrote them for each mission:

1) August 16, 1943, Bernay-St. Martin airdrome, first mission, James
Michael’s first gift (New born 1st child), more to come.
2) September 3, 1943, Lille-Nord Airfield, fighter airdrome, heavy to
medium accurate flak, all safe. Dropped 6, 500 lb. bombs.
3) September 14,1943, Lille-Nord Airfield, fishing trip, plenty of flak,
target under cloud cover.
4) September 14, 1943, Lille-Nord Airfield, turned back when over
target-weather bad, went fishing, light flak
5) September 25, 1943, St. Omer-Longuenesse Airfield, target
under cloud cover, couldn’t see results, cold as hell, 6, 500 lb.
bombs dropped.
6) September 21, 1943, Beauvais-Tille Airfield, two ships hit by
fighters, one lost, one made belly landing on airfield. Also one single
engine landing. We were jumped by 18 FW 190s. Engineer of one
ship bailed out when ship was hit and set afire. Dropped 10, 300 lb.
bombs.
7) October 3, 1943, Woensdrecht Airfield, inaccurate flak, bombed
alternate target on coast. Dropped 10, 300 lb. bombs.
8) October 22, 1943, Evreaux-Fauxville Airfield dispersal area, direct
hits, beautiful morning takeoff, Little flak, no fighters. Sweated out
landing, sick as a dog. Dropped 6, 500 lb. bombs.
9) October 22, 1943, Cambrey-Epinoy Airfield, raining-fog-soup, did
not drop bombs, rear 18 shot down, FW-190, could not see 100 yds
in front, Cambai/Epinoy. 4 1000 lb. bomb load.
10) November 3, 1943 St. Andre de L’Eure Airfield, flak intense, lost 2
B26s and 1 Spitfire. Saw FW 190, Got in some potshots. Dropped 4,
1000 lb bombs.

11) November 5, 1943, Mimoyecques V-1 site, excavations between
Calais and Boulogne, France, flak intense and accurate, one B26 lost
from 386th. Six boxes of 36 planes on this target- secret
12) November 26, 1943, Cambrai-Epinoy Airfield, target X, overcast,
just got into the coast.
13) November 29, 1943, Cambrai-Epinoy Airfield, target X, Buildings
of workers, good hits registered. Typhoon cover, short trip in and out,
pas La Calais, flak heavy, bomb stuck in bay.
14) December 1, 1943. Cambrai-Epinoy Airfield dispersal area, hit her
right on the button, flak over target-light, fighters on way out, spitfires
engaged same. Dropped 6, 500 lb bombs.
15) December 1, 1943, did not drop bombs, in over coast and out.
16) December 2, 1943, Did not Drop bombs?
17) December 30, 1943, Le Meillard-Bonniers V-1 site, target 2X, tour
of France over the Pas De Calais area. Had a good dose of light flak It
was terrifying. Could not locate target. 6, 500 lb. bombs.
18) December 31. 1943, Cormette V-1 site, Pas De Calais
construction works no bombs dropped 6, 500 lb. bomb load.
19) January 23. 1944, Le Grismont V-1 site, no ball (Code for V-1)
target in Pas De Calais area, no flak, no fighters, spitfire escort fair
bombing. Dropped 5, 500lb. bombs.
20) No tag?

21) February 9. 1944, Belleville en Caux V-1 site, no ball in Pas De
Calais , cloud cover, made two penetrations, bomb not dropped,
landed at Friston-emergency-weather bad. 6, 500 lb. bomb load.
22) February 10, 1944, Poix Airfield, no ball in Pas De Calais, cloud
cover, hit airfield no flak, milk run. 6, 500 lb. bombs dropped.
23) February 11, 1944, Amiens marshalling yards at Amiens, France,
cloud cover over target, hit no ball in break through clouds-12 bursts
of flak only in rear of formation. 6, 500 lb. bombs dropped.
24) February 24, 1944, Leeuwarden Airfield, Holland, base of 60
single, and 60 twin engine fighters. Good bombing results. 10 miles
from German border, light to heavy flak. 30, 100 lb. bombs dropped.
25) February 24, 1944, St. Josse Au Bois V-1 site, no ball Pas De
Calais, St Josse Au Bois, dropped 8, 300 lb. bombs, no flak, no
fighters.

26) February 25, 1944, Venlo Airfield, Holland on German border, first
glimpse of Germany, light- heavy flak. Lost 4 B26s over north Sea to
fighters. Box in back of us saw whole show 5 miles back. Dropped
10 250 lb. bombs.
27) No tag?
28) February 28, 1944, Ray sur Authie V-1 site, no-ball Pas De Calais
cloud cover did not bomb. 8, 500 lb bomb load.
29) February 29, 1944, Behen V-1 site, no-ball Pas De Calais hit
target, no flak milk run. 8, 500 lb. bombs dropped.
30) March 3, 1944, Montdidier Airfield, hit field, flak accurate,
received 8 holes, pilot hit by flak in arm. Really sweated on this one.
14 250 lb. bombs dropped.

31) March 5, 1944, Ray sur Authie V-1 site, no-ball Pas De Calais.
1032) March 6, 1944. Bois de Huit Rues V-1 site, no-ball Pas De Calais,
no flak, no fighters.10, 500 lb. bombs dropped.
33) March 20, 1944, Criel marshalling yards, France, flak inaccurate,
fighter-none attacked, Saw Paris Eiffel tower. 14, 250 lb. bombs
dropped.
34) (no date) Criel marshalling yards hit target perfect, light flak, no
fighters. 10, 500 lb. bombs dropped.
35) March 23, 1944, Haine St. Pierre marshalling yard, hit target
perfect, light flak, no fighters, 10, 500lb. Bombs dropped.
36) March 26, 1944, Ijmuiden E-Boat pens, Holland, Marauders drop
600 tons of bombs. Flak intense, 2 men killed in lead ship, 4, 1000 lb.
bombs dropped.
37) April 10. 1944, Le Havre coastal defenses, gun emplacement, hit
target right on the button- flak intense and accurate, no fighters, 4.
1000 lb. bombs dropped.

38) April 11, 1944, Bonnieres V-1 site, no-ball, hit target, flak intense
and accurate, lost first ship in our squadron, Lt. Pratt- 2 chutes seen,
14 250 lb. bombs dropped.
39) April 12, 1944. Dunkerque coastal defenses, gun emplacement,
hit target, flak intense and accurate, lost lead plane-colonel Caldwell,
no flak holes, really prayed on this one, 4, 1000 lb. bombs dropped.
40) April 30, 1944, Bois d’Enfer V-1 site, no-ball Pas de Calais, Good
bombing, flak accurate, aileron shot up, no fighters, 4, 1000 lb.
bombs dropped.
41) April 30, 1944, Somain marshalling yards, didn’t release bombs,
tour of France, no fighters, no flak, 4, 1000 lb. bomb load.
42) May 1, 1944, Monceaux-sur-Sambre marshalling yards, bombing
fair, no flak, no fighters, 4, 1000 lb. bombs dropped.
1043) May 1, 1944, Louvain marshalling yards, good bombing, no
fighters, flak on bomb run, 8, 500 lb. bombs dropped.
44) May 11, 1944, Hardelot coastal defenses, short of target, flak
hole in right wing, no fighters, 4, 1000 lb. bombs dropped.
45) May 12, 1944, La Parnelle coastal emplacements, short of target,
no flak, milk run, no fighters, 4, 1000 lb. bombs dropped
.

46) No tag?
47) No tag?
48) May 20, 1944, Benerville coastal guns, direct hits on target, no
flak, no fighters, visibility poor at take-off, 2, 2000 lb. bombs dropped.
49) May 20, 1944, Fecamp coastal defenses north of Le Havre, no
flak, no fighters, P47 area cover, 4, 1000 lb. bombs dropped.
50) May 22, 1944, Barfleur/Panelle France coastal gun emplacement,
short of target, bombed on pathfinder, flak moderate, no hits, no
fighters, P 38 escort, 2, 2000 lb. bombs dropped.
51) May 24, 1944 Barffleur/La Parnelle gun emplacements, France,
direct hits, flak, no fighters, pathfinder tech, P 47 cover, 2, 2000 lb.
bombs dropped.

52) May 24, 1944, Etaples-St. Cecily coastal gun emplacements,
direct hits, no flak, no fighters, P47- cover, 2, 2000 lb. bombs
dropped.
53) May 26, 1944, Chartres Airfield, France, hit dispersal area, flak
heavy-accurate, lost Smith, #199 road-on single engine, no fighters,
2, 2000 lb. bombs dropped.
1054) May 28, 1944, Liege-Renory bridge, Belgium, hit north span, flak
accurate, nose hit at gun, no fighters, long haul, 4, 1000 lb. bombs
dropped.
55) May 28, 1944, Maison La Fitte R.R. bridge, Paris, France, missed
bridge, flak terrific-several holes, prayed like I never did before, No
fighters, 2 2000 lb. bombs dropped.
56) May 31, 1944, Bennecourt highway bridge. R.R. bridge France,
Seine, overcast did not bomb, no flak, no fighters, 2, 2000 lb. bomb
load.

57) June 2, 1944, Eperville-France, coastal gun emplacement, fair
bombing, no flak, no fighters, 2, 2000 lb. bombs dropped.
(June 6, 1944, D-Day)
58) No tag?
59) June 10, 1944, St. Lo troop concentrations, St. Lo R.R. bridge
France, invasion area, hit target area, meager flak, no fighters, 14, 250
lb. bombs dropped.
60) June 11, 1944, Pontaubault R.R. bridge, France-invasion area fair
results, no flak, no fighters, 2, 2000 lb. bombs dropped.

I have no information regarding whether my father returned home
after his 60th mission, or if he remained in England participating in
other duties until the end of the war.

Poetry from Marjorie Thelen

   
 Poetry on a Rural Theme:
 Living in the Middle of Nowhere & Wondering Why
  
 by Marjorie Thelen
  
 The Ditch Witch Blues 
 after helping John again
 with some impossible task
 in her estimation
 this time trying to load 
 a 600 pound piece of equipment
 a ditch witch
 its big wheels 
 spinning in the mud
 onto a trailer covered with snow
 that fell overnight, predicted
 that the ditch witch slid off of the first time
 nearly smashing into John
  
 she's thinking a modest apartment
 with an alley view
 in a liberal, progressive community, 
 cultural venues by the boatload, 
 surrounded by people who have been in therapy
 no concern about running out of water
 or neighbors shooting at the devil
 or rabid extremists
 or fulminating fundamentalists
 is beginning to look appealing
 her country gal era may be over
  
 chorus
 oh, she's singing the ditch witch blues
 yes, she's crying the ditch witch blues
 time might be right to hit the road tonight
 because she's singing the ditch witch blues
  
 but
 the silence is nice
 mountain views spectacular
 you can see the stars
 John has plenty of space for his treasures
 but 
 the roads are abominable
 the dust never ends
 and there's the water problem
  
 chorus
 oh, she's singing the ditch witch blues
 yes, she's crying the ditch witch blues
 time might be right to hit the road tonight
 because she's singing the ditch witch blues
  
  
 Damn Coyotes
 I can't believe she left the radio blaring again.
 She thinks it keeps the coyotes away.
 Well, I can't sleep.
 Stop complaining. The treat bowl in the morning makes it all worthwhile.
 It was skimpy this morning. 
 Oh, shut up. Quit complaining. I hear she's going to butcher this fall. 
 You might be on the list. I notice you aren't laying like you used to.
 Ha, neither are you. God, I hate NPR. You'd think she'd at least put on the country and western station. 
  
 Little blind duck
 Little blind duck
 bumps into doors and fences
 but knows the way to the pond
 if John's fire truck isn't in the way
  
 Scarlett is her name
 old Indian runner duck
 now covered with mostly
 white feathers that used to be black
  
 Her favorite foods are tomatoes,
 watermelon, and cooked pumpkin
 she has one duck friend left
 a short, squat mallard
 who sometimes looks out for her
 sometimes not
  
 A turkey gobbler mistook her 
 for a turkey hen
 insisted on humping her
 squashing her into the ground
 and bloodying her head
 he went into the freezer
  
 Then the two hen turkeys did the same
 bloodying Scarlett’s head again
 which caused her blindness
 they went into the freezer, too
  
 Moral of the story:  be careful who you hump
  
  
 Guido
 how can you eat your pet?
  
 because we raised him
 because he got back rubs every day
 because he got orange peels, corn cobs, and cabbage treats
 because he had girl friends
 because he grazed green pastures, ate alfalfa
 because he had nice shade to chew his cud
  
 we nourished him
 he nourishes us
  
 we wouldn’t do it again
  
  
 Purple Potatoes
 We could make a potato dish
 to take to the potluck
 like potato salad or casserole 
 that would be easy
  
 I don't think the guys 
 would like purple potatoes
  
 what? 
 are you embarrassed
 to take something that 
 has been grown in our garden
 organic, local, non-GMO?
  
 no, no, it's not that
 it's just that the guys around here 
 aren't used to purple potatoes
  
 Shooting at the Devil
 the devil flies around the sagebrush at night
 shouting
 the neighbor shouts back
 and orders him to go away
  
 the trouble started 
 when the new people moved in
 when the neighbor comes home 
 stuff is moved around
 they hexed the place
 they grind up animals and
 throw them raw against her house
  
 she called out the sheriff twice
 he was no help
 so she shoots at the devil instead
 scaring the neighbors to death
  
  
 Obituary Notice for the Oregon Frontier
 Burns and Hines 
 old frontier towns in southeast Oregon, 
 died a slow, agonizing death 
 after refusing to acknowledge climate change
 and that they were using water
 faster than it came into the basin. 
  
 The residents of Harney County 
 were among other rural Oregon communities 
 that launched a sustained effort 
 to defeat every carbon emission reduction bill 
 that came before the legislature,
 that squelched every voice that said
 the way they used water
 was unsustainable.
  
 Well, they got their way. 
 They kept their diesel farm equipment 
 and old gas hog trucks. 
 They kept their methane-producing cows. 
 They kept their water devouring pivots. 
 They watched the Harney Basin Aquifer dry up. 
 They scratched their head when their domestic wells went dry 
 and their cows died for lack of water. 
  
 No water. 
 No alfalfa. 
 No cows.
 No way to live. 
  
 You drive through two ghost towns today. 
 Front doors stand open 
 on long deserted homes. 
 Grass grows 
 through the pavement of the main streets. 
 Traffic lights hang dead, unblinking. 
 Tumbleweed is the only thing moving. 
 No one home. 
  
 But they won all those battles 
 to keep fossil fuels cheap 
 and polluting their environment. 
 They won the battle 
 to keep their center pivots operating 
 and guzzling water. 
 But they didn't win the battle 
 to preserve their way of life.
  
 One Hundred Feet Down
 are snail shells
 under layers
 and layers
 of black sand
 remnants
 of an old lake
 thousands,
 millions of
 years ago
  
 then clay rock
 and then clear water at last 
 at 220 feet
  
 how old is that
 water we drink?
 how long has it been 
 down there?
 are we drinking ancient swamp water?
 what have we disturbed 
 with our modern technology?
  
 maybe three toed horses
 will coming galloping out of the well
 or ancient rhinoceroses
 or gigantic cockroaches
  
 The only evidence
 I have
 of ancient life
 below
 from our newly drilled well
 are tiny snail shells
 that were sleeping, undisturbed
 one hundred feet down
  
 Gnats
 on the road from Burns to Bend
 Glass Butte rises to the south, full of obsidian
 that oozed up and hardened into beautiful black glass
 millions of years ago
  
 between Hampton and Bend south of the highway
 lies the Brothers fault swarm
 that runs southeast to northwest across Oregon
 patiently waiting to move again
  
 to the west rise the Sisters, Newberry Crater, Mt. Bachelor
 Mt. Jackson, the resplendent Cascade volcanoes
 to the north across the Columbia River
 lie Mt. Rainer and Mt. St. Helens
 sleeping, waiting
  
 even further west 80 miles off the coast 
 lies the Juan de Fuca fault which last moved
 January 26, 1700 about 9:00 P.M. 
 a 9.0 on the Richter scale
 crating a tsunami
 that left dead cedar trees still standing
 on the banks of the Copalis River in Washington
 and waves recorded in Japan
  
 the Juan de Fuca plate gets unstuck
 on average every 243 year
  
 we think we have problems now
  
 We average 80 years here on planet Earth
 from baby to elementary to high school
 maybe college, maybe marriage, maybe kids
 then old age and we're done
 80 years
  
 The earth is 4.54 billion years old
 we are gnats on the back of time
   

Poetry from Frankie Laufer

 
  Apocalypse Now:
  
 Just like Apocalypse now, heavy breath - 1,2,3, controlled and focused.
  
  Descending steps sounding loud and crisp, only deep reflection floating on top.
  
  In the mind a painting appears, dark, mysterious, Black and Tan.. light too in the center. Don’t disturb this.
  
  A heavy white page is now turning, a story in its own right with no explanation or talking needed.
  
  A sudden revelation emerges but it’s too sudden and too revealing . 
  
 Turning another page now. 
   
 
THE GRACIOUS ROAD
  
 They would talk now. The time had finally arrived. He had gotten what he desired, a chance to express all the hurt and confusion caused by her reckless behavior, a betrayal. She often told him he was so gracious and kind. He would not be today. He would hold her accountable now. 

 The heart in hiding was now unexpectedly stirred by her voice. A meek hello as she answered the phone. Damn, where were the notes he had meticulous jotted down, his shopping list of topics to be covered? Each point meant to be delivered with just the right tone and effect, causing some uneasiness in her, and yes, some hurt, too. He found his pace and words poured out in a frenzy like rapid brush strokes he applied in one of his paintings. He wasn't just saying it, he was reliving the whole relationship. Her silence indicating she was finally taking him seriously. Then he heard a small groan from her, followed by tears. This did not bode well for his script. 

 It felt good...no, it felt bad. This was not his nature. 
 This was a love lost, but not forgotten. Now he did what he had always done in her time of distress. His heart rose to take the wheel, his intellect pushed to the backseat. His voice, his words, comforted them both like a bird's sweet song. She felt better now. He did too, finally. 
 He suddenly located his notes, but realized they were not needed on the gracious road.