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I wondered where that sound came from as I wheeled the stroller out of the playground on York Beach, Maine. The playground is above soft white sand that is incredibly clean.

Since I had to roll the stroller over the sand I pulled it down and decided to roll it on the front wheels. The next sound I heard was a blood-curdling screech coming from the direction of my wife. I still had no clue as to where the ‘Eeeee’ came from. I also noticed the stroller seemed a bit lighter.

Watching my wife run toward me I noticed this slight bump of sand between the lines made by the wheels of the stroller. My wife then scooped up this lump of sand and held it close. I immediately knew the lump of sand had a name and it was my grandson Jack. I later found out as I tipped the stroller gravity took its toll and off slid poor Jack. He was not hurt because he landed in the sand.

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Aleena, a teenage peasant girl, is lured into the mysterious and scary Gleaming Forest of Lost Souls where Good is at war with Evil. Queen Goodwende, ruler of the Good Spirits and the creatures of the countryside, are constantly battling against Archlord Pheande, master of the Evil Spirits.

His army, led by the Knights of Mayhem, is seeking to gain control of the local mortals and eventually those in the world beyond. Queen Goodwende, in order to save Aleena from his clutches, endows her with a power which changes her into a firefly whenever she is in danger.

Unfortunately Tayne, an evil lantern maker who uses fireflies to power his lanterns, catches her and decides to use her extra brightness to power a special golden lantern that he intends to sell to his king.

When Tayne’s cart is damaged, he visits the nearest smithy and meets the blacksmith and his two teenage sons. While he is there, he shows them the lantern and, although not realising that a girl is really the source of its light, the younger son, Kenelm, immediately falls under the spell of the lantern’s beauty. He begs his father to buy it for his birthday but Tayne refuses to sell it.

Later that night, a spellbound Kenelm leaves home to follow Tayne and plead with him to part with the lantern. When they meet, Tayne dupes Kenelm into going to the Land of Farbeyond, to work as his apprentice, by promising to give him the lantern when his apprenticeship is completed.

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Tthe sun has long been set behind the tall, forest trees and the stars are in quilted abundance above. It is dark inside too. My hand feels along the wall until I find the switch to the porch light.

I open the door as quietly as possible and the light streams in from outside. A swarm of night-time bugs has gathered, in the short time that the light has been on. I make my way off the porch and into the yard.

The cool grass feels good on my bare feet compared to the humid summer air as I make my way over to the wooden fence that separates our two yards. The house on the other side of the fence has been vacant a while. I am by now out of the small circle of light from the front porch as I feel my way along the fence. It is a short time until I am at the end. I have reached the hill at the end of our property and run down, feeling like a kid again. Countless times I have run down this same hill. When I reach the bottom, away from the houses, I pull out the flashlight from my pocket, and it stretches to the trees that mark the beginning of a small wood.

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Eeven though society is attempting to diminish the line between men and women there are certain parts of our society that will forever distinguish between the sexes.

The most obvious is how each group shops. Women are and have always been the best shoppers. I assume it is in their genes. Men don’t shop; they pick. When they are forced into the stores they get out of there as soon as possible by finding what they need and evacuate the store and parking lot as soon as possible.

The other day my wife and I went out to pick up a few things we needed around our house. Like all women, she made up a list as to what we needed. She also scheduled out what stores we would travel to. Looking over her shoulder I noticed a very neat and specific list. I, on the other hand, found a crumpled up sticky note in my wallet that was supposed to remind me to pick up some sand for our walkway. I’m not sure but I think that was for last year.

We just made it through our first store when I noticed my wife veer off into a department that had little to do with what we had on our list. I figured something caught her eye and followed her into a labyrinth of merchandize I did not know existed. This is where the demarcation line exists between a man and a woman.

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Aas the war raged on around him, Jack closed his eyes tightly and prayed for it to end. His gun suddenly felt like lead in the lifeless stubs that once passed for fingers. He tried to leave this barren world, tried to let the battle go on without him, but found that lacking.

He had been told stories of war by his grandfather but never believed that he would find himself fighting for something that had never even mattered to him. Something that he didn’t want to believe in, but, even now, as he heard the bullets zip around and the bombs explode, had started to realize that he didn’t have to believe in it, only had to fight for it and protect the mere idea of it.

His eyes flew open as his squad raced by him, guns smoking. A hazy fog had begun to pollute the air and he blindly followed his friends, family, and still others, who were merely in this war to get away from the abuse of home. When he had first heard of the war he thought it was like a disease, infecting the very air around him, killing off any and all that he cared about.

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         Join us now; we’re on a marathon.
        We’re always dancing when the music plays.
        Join us now; we’re on a marathon.
         Dancing, dancing through the nights and days.  

Jjacques Brell began his world famous lyrics with this description of lives of our past, present, and future. In his musical compilation he laughs and cries about our history and how we never are bothered about learning from our past.

Another famous quotation comes from George Santayana. He wrote:Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The United States is famous for forgetting the mistakes of its past. The classic modern example is the Viet Nam War that promised to remind all Americans that involving themselves in foreign adventures leads to disaster and too much death. I guess we forgot this because we ended up in two more wars that had the same consequences.

The world is proving to have little memory of its own history that led to World War II. The actors have changed but the plot remains the same.    On September 12, 1938, Hitler made a speech saying he would come to the assistance of the oppressed Sudeten Germans, and that he was constructing in the west the strongest defenses ever made by man.  If one exchanges the name Hitler with Putin and the areas of Sudetenland with Ukraine the concept of one part of our history plagiarizing another seems quite rational.

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As a boy, my home life was not the happiest it could have been. My mother married five times and for the most part married losers and alcoholics. My real dad left us when I was a lad of six and I was the oldest of four boys and one girl. It was pretty much up to me to watch over them. I have always envied “Perfect Families,” if such a thing exists! I envied them so much so that I swore to myself I would always be there for my children.

Sometimes I have made mistakes but so far I have at least been there for them. My oldest just graduated and my youngest will, in 3 years. Most of my life, I have dealt with depression in some form or another. I think perhaps I am overly critical of myself. Outside I apply humor a lot, to mask “The Me” inside.

‘Learning To Fly’ is the part of me that longs to be free and happy for a change. If I could make a wish, it would be that all of us never suffer from a lack of love in our hearts! Having children gave me a part of that. I only hope I have taught them correctly.

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Ddust! It was everywhere and in everything: in our eyes, mouths, hair, clothes, food, and water. It was from the medevac helicopters. As the Tet offensive raged on, the choppers just kept coming in, one right after the other: many times all day long, bringing in the dead and wounded from everywhere.

Sometimes three or four helicopters would be waiting their turn to land, so they could go back and tempt fate again, to go get more. They were a constant reminder of what could happen to any of us, at any time. There had always been medevacs coming in, but never anything like this; it never stopped. Whether we were building bunkers, eating chow, or trying to catch a little sleep, the unending river of pain, agony, and death kept right on coming.

The wounded were quickly helped or carried off the choppers in their bloody bandages and shredded fatigues, some quiet, some moaning, some screaming, most just curled up and lost in an agony of pain and morphine; so many of them were handicapped and disfigured for the rest of their lives. Then there was the never-ending train of body-bags. Bags and bags full of dead men, sometimes only parts of dead men. They were hauled off the choppers, dragged out of the way, and laid in a row at first, then stacked as room ran out.

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“Ouch! Damn it!”  I cussed, as the truck hit another deep pothole. Years of removing VC mines and filling the holes of the ones that worked had made the dirt roads bumpy beyond belief. My back and arms are killing me and the choking dust has caked around the goggles on my face, and feels gritty and pasty in my mouth.

I feel that I can’t take one more bounce (but of course I’ll take that and more, because there’s no way out). The roar and rattle and banging of my truck, has long since numbed my ears to the outlandish racket around me. Driving long enough puts me into a kind of nightmarish trance. Common sense tells me to keep an eye on my surroundings and watch for patches of dirt, which could be mines, but it’s getting harder to do anything but hang on to the wheel and keep the damn truck on the road.

The sides of the road are usually steep dirt walls, dropping off into rice paddies and cane fields. Losing it for a second or two can spell real disaster, especially when the roads are slick with mud, or a convoy coming the other way forces us over to the edge of the dropoff. Pulling over doesn’t exist, and you don’t “stop” in the middle of a fast moving convoy with trucks in front and rear and potential ambushes always possible. My God, how many more months will I be here? Will it ever end? I guess I’d better watch what I wish for.

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Tthe starter whined and died again. Gordon jumped out and kicked the front tyre, rattling the raised bonnet. He flung a stone at the door of the four-by-four, and was pleased to see a shiny patch appear among the rusty chips. In this endless desert, there was plenty of black shale and he practised target skills on the vehicle, for half an hour.

Surveying the damage, he smiled. It was not a pleasant smile. Westward lay the barren yellow hills, south of Baharia Oasis with their black caps of ironstone, and the sun was already tumbling towards them, through a red sky. In thirty minutes, it would be as dark as the inside of a Berber tent and then the cold would come. Below zero, cold contracted the naked rocks as swiftly as daytime sun expanded them, shattering them into pieces.

His only shelter was this heap of metal; his bedding was a change of light gear and a thin jacket. Momentarily he wished that one of his girlfriends was with him, with the huge case of sweatshirts, so essential for their holidays. He snorted. He was better off without greedy females. All they wanted was sex and the good life, and gossip with their girlie friends about his prowess in both fields. He, meanwhile, worked tough assignments, currently supervising drilling on an offshore rig in the Red Sea. That was real, that was work requiring brawn, mental agility, and fair dealing among the varied nationalities.

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