Five, four, three, two, one…

Wind rips at my face as I dive off the balloon. Adrenaline surges through my veins. Free fall, the ultimate thrill. Then the rope jerks up. I whoop as my body springs up toward the teetering balloon, then down again. Each bounce of the bungee decreases in stride until I sway upside down a thousand feet above the ground. Blood rushes to my head. Life as an accountant is boring. This is anything but. I continue to hoot as they pull me back into the swinging basket.

“You idiot!” The balloon pilot’s face is almost purple and his eyes bulge. “Are you insane? You almost tipped the basket.”

Three other sets of eyes glare at me. The looks alone make me burst out laughing again. None of them knew of the stunt until my leap to freedom. A young couple huddle together, ashen faced. Their hands clench the tethers holding them in the basket. The third is my date of the week.

“Hey, Marlene, wasn’t that a blast?”

Marlene walks the three steps across the basket and slugs me so hard I almost fall out of the basket. Maybe it would have been better if I had. She follows it up with a sharp kick that sends daggers of pain from my groin to my fingertips. That destroys the euphoria.

“Kill yourself on your own time, Janus.”

A second later she me hogties me. The fun wears off when they land and leave me tied up in the basket. Last time I date a rodeo champ.

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“Leave him be, Billy.”

“Dumb wolf cur always stares at us.”

“It’s just his way.”

Billy hurls another rock, but I knock it down with my book. Not a sound comes from the fenced in junkyard, but I know from the look on Billy’s face that Midnight is showing off his pearly whites.

“Fine,” he yells, then disappears around the corner.

Midnight’s golden eyes meet me when I turn. “Sorry, Midnight. See you tomorrow.”

Silence greets me, as it has every day for the past five years. I smile anyway, then hurry to catch up with Billy.

A hand slaps over my mouth and I’m dragged into a dark alley. I crash into a wall. My head spins. Three masked figures loom over me. Hands dig into my pockets, yank off my sneakers. A fist slams into my gut. My heart pounds as a knife flicks into view, arm ready to strike. Billy’s body lies nearby. I clamped my eyes shut, and wait for death.

Screams fill my ears, but they aren’t mine. When I finally open my eyes, my attackers lie in a pool of dark liquid. A pair of glowing gold eyes stare at me from across the alley. Then they vanish.


The police never found Midnight and the junk man claimed he never had a dog. I don’t walk that way anymore, but sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I see Midnight in the shadows, watching out for me.

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Restaurant Review: Chutney – Warm Inviting Atmosphere – Good Indian Food

Looking for some good Indian food? Look no further than Chutney, a new Indian restaurant in Columbia MD. Located at 9400 Snowden River Parkway, the golden yellow walls, decorated with framed posters, reminded me of a warm sunny day. Their attentive and welcoming staff made me and my family feel at home.

We started our meal with Sev Poori Chaat. This crunchy dish made of puffed rice, and vermicelli was cool and refreshing, a perfect way to start a meal. Next up was a light and crispy vegetable samosa with just the right blend of seasoning. The ratio of potatoes to green peas was spot on, and it was probably one of the best samosas I’ve had in a while.

For dinner we ordered Daal Tadka, yellow lentils cooked with ginger, garlic and cumin seeds. While tasty and perfectly spiced for my daughter and husband, it was a little too spicy for my palette. Our waiter noticed me suddenly guzzle water and offered to have the chef prepare a second, less spicy version which was just right. He also brought out a taste of Chana Masala, a chick pea dish cooked with their house blend of spices. It was delicious.

Our favorite of the evening, however, was the Goat Curry. Tender chunks of goat were simmered in a tomato based, piquant gravy.  It had a fresh flavor with a slight kick that went well with the seasoned rice.

We managed to save enough room for Kheer, a rice dessert prepared with nuts and saffron. This creamy creation is a perfect way to end a meal.

9400 Snowden River Pkwy
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: 410-381-3600
Hours of Operations
Mon – Thu:     11:30 AM – 2.30 PM (Lunch)
                          5 PM – 10 PM (Dinner)
Fri – Sun:        12 M – 3:00 PM (Lunch)
                         5 PM – 11 PM (Dinner)
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Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Star


Congratulations to A. L. Kaplan, whose entry “Blood and Ice” won this week’s Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge.

The voter-selected story was recognized with a special feature at and wins a place in there 2014 Flash Fiction Anthology, which will be published as an e-book when this year’s challenges are completed.

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“This one’s a sceptic,” said Yenta.

Clarence looked at the man curled up on the hay in Pete Forrester’s barn. “He’s here isn’t he?”

“But he doesn’t believe.”

“Yenta, look at him. All alone in a dilapidated barn. The man’s desperate for love. He needs our help.”

Yenta pulled a pair of glasses from her carpet bag and scrutinized the sleeping man. He wore faded jeans and a Frank Sinatra t-shirt. Gray hairs dotted his head and a pair of red cowboy boots sat on the floor next to him. “I don’t know, Clarence. This one might be beyond us.”

“Think of it as a challenge. Just last week you complained this job was too easy.”

“All right. No need to kvetch. Who are we going to pair him with?”

“Merry is about the same age.”

“She’s a cup half-full girl. He’s half-empty. They’ll never agree on anything.”


“With his vinegary attitude?”


“Too explosive. He’d get buried alive.”

“Fine. Ginger.”

“Be serious, Clarence.”

“I am. Lord knows he needs some spice.”

“I don’t know.”

“Where’s your sense of adventure, Yenta?”

“I left it at the shtetl.”

“And then you found me.”

“So you always remind me.”


“Okay. You work on him and I’ll go yell in Ginger’s ear.

“I think you mean whisper.”

“No, Ginger is a heavy sleeper. I’ll need to yell to get through to her subconscious.”

“Well good luck, then.”

Yenta rolled her eyes. “Ginger and Al, a match made in heaven.”

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Grogan yanked the huge oil drum up another step. He was almost to the top of the lighthouse now. Pain lanced his arm, but he ignored it. He had to light a beacon and save the ships headed for the rocks.

Outside the hurricane hammered the old lighthouse. For thirty years he’d been her keeper before they were both declared obsolete. Who needed a lighthouse when everyone had electronic guidance? Now the fancy new phone his granddaughter gave him spewed nonsense. It looked like the ships were fouled up as well.

Good thing they hadn’t forced Grogan to leave when they cut funding and stripped her clean. But now the only way to make the lighthouse shine was to burn her. Tears streamed down his face as he pulled at the drum.

“Sorry, Love. You know it’s the only way.”

Another wave of pain shot through his chest and his foot slipped on the smooth stone steps. He watched with dismay as the barrel clanged to the bottom. Grogan doubled over in pain.

“How can I warn the ships? I need help, Love.”

Suddenly the pain stopped and warm arms pulled him up. Grogan took the last few steps in one stride. He knew what to do now. Fire radiated deep inside him. It burst outward in a blinding light. Almost as one, the storm-tossed ships turned away from the rocks.

“Thanks for your help, Love. You’ve always been there for me. We’ll be together forever now.”

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LailaBrown eyes look up at me, filled with such longing. They seem to ask “Are you the one?” Do you want me?” Black fur, smooth and shiny. My fingers sink into its softness. A small spattering of white decorates her chest and paws. Two ears perk, their tips folded softly like a tulip. Her fluffy tail swishes ever so slightly. Tentative, hoping without much hope.

I open the window and hang my hand down and am greeted with several licks. Silently she puts her paws on the sill and reaches out to kiss me. I glance at the sign. They think she’s a year old and their best guess for breed is a Border collie mix. Those eyes look into my heart and I freeze. Why am I here? Am I really ready for this? It’s only been nine months since Arthur passed.

I force myself away to look at the other dogs. My husband and daughter have already moved down the hall. A quick walk around only brings me back here, to her. Something about her calls to me so I flag a volunteer.

In the visiting room she jumps around like a puppy, sniffing, playing, and exploring everything and everywhere at once. There is so much to see. I bend down and spread my arms wide. She climbs in and snuggles, buries me with kisses. Then she darts to my husband and daughter. So energetic, so full of love. Who would give up such a sweetheart and why? They are questions impossible to answer, only surmise.

She bounds around the room like she’s never run before. For several seconds a ball holds her attention, then a movement distracts. Off again. Endless energy sends her every which way, but always she comes back to snuggle, to give one more kiss. She’s small, only thirty five pounds, but full of fluffy love.

I fill out the application with shaky hands asking myself if I’m really ready. It’s been a long time since I trained a dog and I wonder whether I can do right by her. When I leave she looks so sad. As if to say, “I knew it couldn’t last. No one wants me.”

Dog proofing the house takes all week. It’s been nearly fifteen years since we needed to do so. Everything at dog level goes away. Gates go up. Several trips to the pet store and everything is ready, toys, food, bowls, crate. Doubts still gnaw at me, but I am happy, excited. Soon my new baby will be here. Her name is Laila.

The skies opened up the day we bring her home. We leave the shelter with her tugging and jumping all over the place. My eldest daughter struggles to keep her under control in the car. Laila dives to the floor and manages to find a stray napkin. The box of tissues is fair game as well. Once home we go straight to the backyard, sliding on the rain-drenched lawn. The downpour has turned all the grass free places into mud pits. Laila is ecstatic. Once released, she circles the yard at high speed, leaving behind a trail of torn turf and mud. Her body stretches out with each stride, long, like a greyhound and just as fast. Thank God for sturdy fences. I wait until she begins to slow before I call her and she tries to jump into my arms. Wet kisses coat my hands as we enter the house for the first time.

Laila is everywhere, or would like to be. I keep the leash on to prevent her from jumping up on the counters, tables, and couch. Each new toy holds her attention for only moments. I can’t leave the room. By evening I sit on the floor, exhausted wondering if I’ve made a huge mistake. Is she too much for me? Too energetic? Then she crawls into my lap, so starved for attention. I sink into those brown eyes and wipe the muddy paw prints off my pants. This is right.

Curled into a tiny ball of fur, she sleeps. So quiet and peaceful. But as soon as we try to leave the room she cries and barks, pawing at the crate door. Pain and longing ring in those calls. It’s a new house full of strangers. Like any child she doesn’t want to be along. My youngest daughter sleeps on the floor beside her.

A new day dawns, rain continues to stream from the sky in sheets. And Laila greets me like a long lost friend. Once again she darts around the back yard intent on reaching the speed of sound. Already she’s learned to stay off the counters. My mind spins with all the other new things to teach her.

This is not a young puppy, yet neither is she a grown dog. Whatever her past, it could not have held much stimulation. Her little head darts back and forth, taking in all the new sights and sounds that greet us on our walk. A leaf blows by and makes her jump. So does the sound of water rushing down the street. A car drives by and she stares, fascinated at the sight. Even walking on a leash seems alien to her. But Laila is a fast learner and soon learns not to pull and tug.

Two weeks later Laila has learned so much. Counters and tables are off limits as are the bathrooms and bed. She goes into her crate voluntarily, sits while her harness is put on and taken off, and stands while her feet are wiped after a walk. In these few short weeks she has worked her way deep into our hearts. She curls up on her bed at night next to me, safe, happy. There are no more doubts, just plans for education, toys to challenge her mind and keep her interested. Slowly she’s learning that mommy will come home. It is a hard fought lesson. Somewhere in her past that fact was proven false. Her head rests on my feet as I write; you’ve found your family at last Laila. Welcome home.


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