Poem: The Holidays Are Gone

The Holidays Are Gone

Malls full of people, shopping now
Going their own way, credit cards in hand
Decorations hanging, red and green
The holidays have come and gone

Malls full of people, crowds never end
Blank stares on faces, in lines they stand
Displays in windows, people stop and stare
The holidays have come and gone

Long time ago, on Main Street downtown
Streets full of people throughout the land

Malls full of people, both young and old
Walk store to store, Christmas bonus in hand
Back in the mall, some dressed for show
The holidays have come and gone

Malls full of people, babies fast asleep
Mothers with latte, talk on the phone
Choirs sing carols, perform on demand
The holidays have come and gone

Long time ago, on Main Street downtown
Streets full of people throughout the land

Malls full of people, cold north winds blow
Some children crying, tired and it shows
The food courts are full, no table clean
The holidays have come and gone

Malls full of people, soon they’ll be gone
Exchanging gifts, sizes and colors wrong
Postman leaves bills, then goes away
The holidays have come and gone
Now the holidays are gone

© 2011 Jimmie Kepler

Writer’s Life: Be Encouraged

One way a writer can become successful is by having a more established writer as a mentor. Writing groups can serve the function of mentor. Let me share an example of the influence a mentor. In 1919 a young veteran returned from World War I. He moved to Chicago moving into a particular neighborhood for the purpose of being close to the author Sherwood Anderson.

The young beginning writer was impressed by the critical praise for Anderson and his book Winesburg, Ohio. He had heard that Sherwood Anderson was willing to help aspiring writers. He worked to met Anderson. The two men became close friends. They met almost every day to read newspapers, magazines, and novels. They dissected the writings they read.

The aspiring writer brought his own works for critique having Anderson help him improve his craft. Anderson went as far as introducing the want-to-be writer to his network of publishing contacts. The aspiring writer did okay with his first book The Sun Also Rises. The aspiring writer was Ernest Hemingway.

Sherwood Anderson didn’t stop there. He moved to New Orleans where he met another aspiring writer. He took the young man through the same steps and paces of the craft. He actually shared an apartment with this young man. He even invested $300 in getting this writer’s first book Soldier’s Pay published. This young author was William Faulkner.

Anderson would later move to California and repeat the process with John Steinbeck. Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell were also mentored by Sherwood Anderson. Ray Bradbury says Winesburg, Ohio was on his mind when he wrote The Martin Chronicles. He basically wrote Winesburg, Ohio placing it on the planet Mars.

Only Mark Twain has had a greater influence in shaping modern American writing than Sherwood Anderson. Anderson didn’t do too badly, did he? William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck each won the Nobel Prize for Literature and there are multiple Pulitzer Prizes between them.

If you are serious about writing I encourage you to find a mentor or join a writing group. The encouragement of my writer’s group and critique group keep me motivated.

The Martian Chronicles – Chapters Twenty four to End of Book

Chapter Twenty four – The Watchers (November 2005/2036) first appeared in The Martian Chronicles. The colonists witness a nuclear war on Earth, from Mars. They immediately return out of concern for their friends and families.

Chapter Twenty five – The Silent Towns (December 2005/2036) first published in Charm, March 1949. Everybody has left Mars to go to Earth, except Walter Gripp — a single miner who lives in the mountains and does not hear of the departure. At first excited by his find of an empty town, he enjoys himself with money, food, clothes, and movies. He soon realizes he misses human companionship. One night he hears a telephone ringing in someone’s home, and suddenly realizes that someone else is alive on Mars. Missing the call, and several others, he sits down with a phone book of Mars and starts dialing at A.

After days of calling without answers, he starts calling hotels. After guessing where he thinks a woman would most likely spend her time, he calls the biggest beauty salon on Mars and is delighted when a woman answers. They talk, but are cut off. Overcome with romantic dreams, he drives hundreds of miles to New Texas City, only to realize that she drove to find him on a back road. He drives back to his town, and meets Genevieve Selsor as he pulls in.

Their meeting is the opposite of what he had hoped for in his dreams — he finds her thoroughly unattractive (due to her weight and pallor), foolish and insipid. After a sullen day, she slyly proposes marriage to him at dinner, as they believe they are the last man and the last woman on Mars. Gripp decides to run, driving across Mars to another tiny town to spend his life alone, ceasing all contact with Genevieve.

Chapter Twenty six – The Long Years (April 2026/2057) first published as “Dwellers in Silence” in Maclean’s, September 15, 1948. Hathaway (the doctor from the Fourth Expedition) is living retired on Mars with his family, even though everyone else has departed. Hathaway is a mechanical tinkerer, who has wired an old town below their house to sound alive at night with noise and phone calls. One night, he sees a rocket in orbit, and sets fire to the old town to signal the rocket.

Captain Wilder (also from the earlier stories about the Fourth Expedition) finally returns to Mars after twenty years exploring the outer solar system. They land and have a reunion with Hathaway, who is troubled by his heart. Undeterred, Hathaway brings the crew to his house for breakfast. Wilder remarks that Hathaway’s wife looks exactly as she did many years ago, as he knows her real age and knew her in the past. One of Wilder’s crew pales when he sees Hathaway’s children, knowing that the son should be the same age as he. Wilder sends the crewmember off to check some headstones that he saw when they landed. He returns, and says that the adults now before them are buried.

Wilder offers Hathaway a rescue back to Earth, but Hathaway’s heart fails and he dies, begging Wilder not to call his family because they “would not understand.” Wilder then confirms that Hathaway’s wife and adult children are androids.

As Wilder prepares to depart, one of the crew returns to the house with a pistol, but shortly after returns, having been unable to bring himself to kill the robotic family even knowing that they were not truly human. The rocket departs, and the android family continues on with its meaningless daily life.

Chapter Twenty seven – There Will Come Soft Rains (August 4, 2026/2057) first published in Collier’s, May 6, 1950. The story concerns a household in Allendale, California, after the nuclear war has wiped out the population. Though the family is dead, the automated house that had taken care of the family still functions.

The reader learns a great deal about what the family was like from how the robots continue on in their functions. Breakfast is automatically made, clothes are laid out, voice reminders of daily activities are called out, but no one is there. Robotic mice vacuum the home and tidy up. As the day progresses, the rain quits, and the house prepares lunch and opens like a flower to the warm weather. Outside, a vivid image is given: the family’s silhouettes were permanently burned onto the side of the house (as occurred at Hiroshima) when they were vaporized by the nuclear explosion. That night, a storm crashes a tree into the home, starting a fire that the house cannot combat, as the municipal water supply has dried up and failed.

The title of the story comes from a poem, randomly selected by the house to read at bedtime, also titled “There Will Come Soft Rains”. The theme of the poem is that nature will survive after humanity is gone, reflecting the theme of the story; that even the vast cities of humanity will eventually be reclaimed by nature. In the original story in Collier’s, the story took place 35 years into the future, on April 28, 1985.

Chapter Twenty eight – The Million-Year Picnic (October 2026/2057) first published in Planet Stories, Summer 1946. A family saves a rocket that the government would have used in the nuclear war and leaves Earth on a “fishing trip” to Mars. The family picks a city to live in and call home. They go in and Dad burns tax documents and other government papers on a camp fire, explaining that he is burning a way of life that was wrong. The final thing to go on the fire is a map of the Earth. Later, he offers his sons a “gift” in the form of their new world. He introduces them to Martians: their own reflections in a canal.

Poem: Classic Rock

Classic Rock

Classic rock takes you back in time
Back to when the music rhymed
Singing of love and feeling good
We’d see them in concert if we could

It transports you back to the drive-in scene
Dancing popcorn boxes on the movie screen
Singing let’s go to the snack bar
Trying to get your money and you out of the car

Each song reminds you of a special girl
Holding hands and soft serve ice cream with a swirl
Her hair in a pageboy flip
From one Cherry Coke with two straws you both would sip

Classic rock keeps you forever young
Some of the best music ever sung
It carries you back to a simpler day
Before life’s responsibilities got in the way

© Jimmie A. Kepler 2007
Originally published in:

The Martian Chronicles – Chapters Eighteen thru Twenty-three

Chapter Nineteen – Usher II (April 2005/2036) first published as Carnival of Madness in Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1950. “Usher II” tells of Bradbury’s and other writers’ fear of censorship. A literary expert named William Stendahl retreats to Mars and builds his image of the perfect haunted mansion, complete with mechanical creatures, creepy soundtracks and the application of many tons of poison to kill every living thing in the surrounding area. He is assisted by Pikes, a film aficionado and former actor whose collection was confiscated and destroyed by the government and was subsequently banned from performing. When the Moral Climate Monitors come to visit, Stendahl and Pikes arrange to kill each of them in a manner reminiscent of a different horror masterpiece, culminating in the murder of Inspector Garrett in a sequence reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”. When Stendahl’s persecutors are dead, the house sinks into the lake as in Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher”.

Bradbury hints at past events on Earth, set in 1975 – 30 years prior to the events in “Usher II.” A government-sponsored ‘Great Burning’ of books is described, followed by the emergence of an underground society of citizens possessing small hoardings of books, the ownership of which had been declared illegal. Those found to possess books had them seized and burned by fire crews. Mars apparently emerged as a refuge from the fascist censorship laws of Earth, until the arrival of a government organization referred to only as “Moral Climates” and their enforcement divisions, the “Dismantlers” and “Burning Crew”. Bradbury would reuse the concept of massive government censorship (to the point of abolishing all literature) in his book Fahrenheit 451.

In 2010 Los Angeles artist Allois, in collaboration with Bradbury, released an illustrated copy of Usher and Usher 2 double feature.

Chapter Twenty – The Old Ones (August 2005/2036) first appeared in The Martian Chronicles. It is a very brief prelude to the following story, describing the immigration of elderly people to Mars.

Chapter Twenty one – The Martian (September 2005/2036) first published in Super Science Stories, November 1949. LaFarge and his wife Anna have forged a new life for themselves, but they still miss their dead son Tom. A night thunderstorm startles the elderly pair, who see a figure standing outside their home in the rain. Anna retires to bed afraid, while LaFarge believes that somehow, Tom is standing before him. He leaves his house unlocked.
That morning, “Tom” is busy helping Anna with chores. LaFarge sees that Anna is somehow unaware of Tom’s death, and after speaking privately with him, LaFarge learns that “Tom” is a Martian with an empathic shapeshifting ability: it appears as their dead son to them.

Later that day, Anna insists on a visit to the town. “Tom” is deathly afraid of being so close to so many people. LaFarge promises to keep him close, but at the town they become separated. While searching for “Tom”, LaFarge hears that the Spaulding family in town has miraculously found their lost daughter Lavinia. Desperate to avoid a second devastating heartbreak to his wife, LaFarge stands outside Spaulding’s home and finds “Tom” now masquerading as Lavinia. He is able to coax “Tom” to come back, and they run desperately back for their boat to leave town. However, everyone “Tom” passes sees a person of their own — a lost husband, a son, a criminal. The Martian, exhausted from his constant shape-changing, spasms and dies.

Chapter Twenty two – The Luggage Store (November 2005/2036) first appeared in The Martian Chronicles. The story of Mars and its inhabitants is continued in a discussion between a priest and a luggage storeowner. Nuclear war is imminent on Earth, and the priest predicts that most of the colonists will return to help.

Chapter Twenty three – The Off Season (November 2005/2036) first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, December 1948. On Mars, former Fourth Expedition member Parkhill has opened a hot-dog stand, when a lone Martian walks in. Parkhill panics and kills him. Suddenly, numerous Martians appear in sand ships. Parkhill takes his wife to his own sand ship and flees. The Martians catch up and give Parkhill a message: he now owns half of Mars. Unfortunately, the fleet of rockets filled with “hungry customers” won’t be coming to patronize his restaurant, as the nuclear war has begun on Earth.

Bombs Away!: The World War II Bombing Campaigns over Europe

Zenith Press‘s “Bombs Away!: The World War II Bombing Campaigns over Europe” by John R. Bruning is a must have for all World War II and aviation buffs.  The book is large, coffee-table size volume. The book is full of amazing pictures.  The photographs give greater coverage of the people in the war than most books. The coverage is more about the aircraft crews and ground support personnel than the aircraft specs. You learn about the people who endured the bombardment as well.

“Bombs Away!” takes account of the fascinating human element. It also describes the types of aircraft used on both sides and used in every major bombing campaign in the European Theater.

The author discusses strategic bombing theories.  John R. Bruning provides a foundation by taking the reader through the different air campaigns in the Spanish Civil War, Blitzkrieg attacks on Poland, France and Britain before applying the majority of the book to the American and British assaults on the Third Reich.

Mr. Bruning gives the particulars on how each command determined on their own approach to bombing Germany (the US daylight vs. the UK night-time), the aircraft they employ, their particular achievements and disappointments. We learn of the eventual impact of the combined strategic bombing campaign.

The book’s manuscript provides a first-rate rundown of bombing campaigns in the European Theater. However, the book’s selling-point is the illustrations. While some of the pictures have been seen before and are familiar. The author collects them in one place. The volume contains nearly 480 black and white plus color photographs and maps. They describe both Allied and Axis aircraft, aircrew and the commanders. You experience in-flight air battles. You understand the damage to different targets.

Mr. Bruning covers the major campaigns, the plans, the planes, and the people. He does this with fine prose, wonderful quotes, and dazzling photographs that bring the story to life. The book is a must for both military and community libraries.

Poem: Migraine


 I wake up in the morning
In my head there is a pain
And I know it is a migraine
It hurts like pouring rain

I take two aspirin
Drink a glass of water too
Hoping the pain will go away
Feels like I was hit in the head with a shoe

Now the hurt is so intense
And the throbbing never ends
A bright light and any noise bother me
I feel I am paying for my sins

I wake up in the morning
The pain is gone
Where it went I don’t know
But off away it runs

I hate it when it comes back
To visit again with me
I hate when it comes back
Wish it would sail out to sea.

Copyright © 2008 by Jimmie A. Kepler

The Martian Chronicles – Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Eighteen – The Naming of Names (2004-05/2035-36) first appeared in The Martian Chronicles. Not to be confused with the short story “The Naming of Names”, first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1949, later published as “Dark They Were, and Golden-eyed”.

This story is about later waves of immigrants to Mars, and how the geography of Mars is now largely named after the people from the first four expeditions (e.g., Spender Hill, Driscoll Forest) rather than after physical descriptions of the terrain

The Martian Chronicles – Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen

Chapter Sixteen – The Wilderness (May 2003/2034) It first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1952. Two women, Janice Smith and Leonora Holmes, prepare to depart on a rocket to Mars, to find husbands or lovers waiting for them there. Janice muses on the terrors of space, drinks in last memories of the Earth she will soon be leaving, and compares her situation to that of the pioneer women of the 19th century American frontier.

This story only appears in the 1974 ion of The Martian Chronicles by The Heritage Press, the 1979 Bantam Books illustrated trade ion, and the 1997 ion of The Martian Chronicles. In its original form, the story was dated 2003, and this date is consistent with the other stories. As it appears in the 1997 ion, the date (together with all the other dates) has been shifted ahead 31 years, to May 2034.

Chapter Seventeen – Way in the Middle of the Air (June 2003/2034) It first appeared in Other Worlds, July 1950. In an unnamed Southern town, a group of white men learn that all African Americans are planning to emigrate to Mars. Samuel Teece is an obviously racist white man who loudly decries their departure as he watches a great mass of humanity passing his shop porch. He tries to stop several black men from leaving. One man is harassed because of an old, unneeded debt — other black passers-by contribute money to relieve the debt. Teece then tries to keep a younger black man (named “Silly”) from leaving, claiming that his work contract (signed with an “X” on a contract, as it is implied that Silly could not read or write) forbids his departure from Teece’s business. After an argument and a threat to lock him in a shed, some of Teece’s white companions stand up to Teece and force him to let Silly depart with his family.

As he drives off, Silly yells to Teece, “what will you do nights now, Mr. Teece?” Teece realizes that Silly is referring to his nocturnal visits to black homes, destroying houses, and lynching black men. Enraged at Silly’s comment, Teece and his father set off to get him. After giving chase in a car, the road becomes impassable, blocked by the discarded belongings of all the departing African Americans. Teece and his father walk back to the shop, after which the rockets for Mars lift off. Teece, saying that he will be “damned” if he looks at the rockets, sits back in the quiet afternoon, and wonders what he really “will do nights.”

This episode is a poignant depiction of racial prejudice in America. However, it was eliminated from the 2006 William Morrow/Harper Collins, and the 2001 DoubleDay Science Fiction reprinting of The Martian Chronicles.

Poem: It Rained On My Parade

Alas, the Christmas Parade scheduled tonight in my fair city of The Colony, Texas was canceled. If there was a baseball like “box-score” for the day it would say “post-phoned by rain”.

I love rain. Most people hate it. I love it. Why should I love rain? It’s not easy for people to understand, but I will try to explain.

Rain is a precious gift from God. It falls from the sky. Sometimes it falls in large amounts. Sometimes it comes from the sky in small amounts. Sometimes it doesn’t visit us for weeks or months at a time. When it does visit it always brings its friend the clouds. Rain can also bring its noisy friend thunder and an its illuminating friend lightning.

Rain is like a guest in your home. At first you’re glad to see the rain, but if it stays around too long, it can out stay its welcome.

Rain can be refreshing. It gives the air and the countryside a shower. It washes the pollen from the air. It washes the pollen off the cars, sidewalks, and driveways. Rain removes the dust from the leaves of the flowers, bushes and trees.

The temperature drops when the rains come. Rain transforms the hot world into a cool, air conditioned environment in the summer and a chilly one in the winter. It helps you appreciate a warm, dry house. It is a muse for Ray Bradbury as he writes short stories about it in “The Illustrated Man” in his short story “The Long Rain”.

Rain also helps a person forget their troubles. You worry less about how you look. After all, the water from the mud puddle may have splashed on you. You enjoy freedom from irritations. Only those people who truly want to see you will come see you in the rain. Most gripers and complainers stay away when it’s wet outside. They wait for a less rainy day.

It is fun walking outside when it rains, especially with an umbrella. “Just singing in the rain” … You can hold an umbrella in one hand, letting it prop on your shoulder. When the rain falls the propped up umbrella can be popped open keeping you from getting soaking wet. It’s fun to take a wet umbrella, hold it at a forty-five degree angle to the ground and spin it around and around. When you spin it around and around something magical happens. The drops of rain the umbrella has collected go flying off in a direction away from the umbrella holder. You can aim the umbrella where the drops spray someone or you can splatter the drops on the ground as you spin the umbrella ‘round and ‘round.

Even if you don’t own an umbrella you can still have fun in the rain. Shopping malls miraculously have parking spaces available closer to the door when it’s raining. The crowds are noticeably smaller. The joy of the mall is intensified as you experience less hustle and bustle. At church, better seats are available.

A sad note about rain is it sometimes cancels baseball games. While this is sad, though not to all wives, it does hold the potential of prolonging our great national pastime’s season and giving the baseball fan the rare double-header (two games on the same day – twice the fun!).

Without rain, there wouldn’t be real green grass on the baseball fields, rain checks from baseball games, manageable crowds at the mall, or great seats easily available at church. Rain makes the world a nice place. Why not enjoy the rain? Without rain the flowers would not grow. Without rain there would be no Fillet of Fish at McDonald’s Restaurants. Without rain there would be no people living.

I love rain!