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March 2019 Writing Challenge

  • 22 Mar 2019 6:39 PM
    Reply # 7240648 on 7204963

    Oliver, I enjoyed this wonderful fusion of prose and poetry.

  • 22 Mar 2019 10:53 AM
    Reply # 7240057 on 7204963
    W. Oliver Barkley


    Coming Home


    Desiring to become a published Author, while serving one weekend a month, and two weeks in summer as a Platoon Sgt. in the United States Marine Corps Active Reserve, Marine Corps Reservist SSgt.Tyler Emerson faithfully departed Plymouth every first weekend of each month at zero dark thirty in the morning. The most direct route to the capitol city and his reserve center back in those days was U. S. 64 West, a two lane lonely country highway that took him through downtown Rocky Mount to interstate 64 west, and then, on into Raleigh in time for his pre-drill meeting that began promptly at 07:30.

    By the time he’d maneuvered his way through downtown Rocky Mount onto the interstate, daybreak had begun to unfold ushering in a brand new day, Tyler’s favorite time of the morning, and also the favorite time of his journey when he could behold that great ball of fire as it subtly rose up from behind the eastern horizon spreading light, warmth, and new life, onto God’s magnificent creation so wonderfully bright at each and every early morning dawn.

    While traveling down the interstate in personal thought and taking in the scenery along the way, just before entering into Raleigh’s city limits, Tyler pulled to the shoulder of the road, reached for pen and paper, scribbled out a few lines, and as he pulled back onto the interstate he declared; “This is another day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it believing beyond a shadow or a doubt that there is nothing that can happen to me today that the Lord and I cannot handle.”

    Three years divorced from a seven year marriage that never came together on one accord, Tyler had spent those years getting to know himself and what he want out life, while working toward enhancing the quality of his writing. But on this particular Sunday morning, Tyler had good reasons to speak his faith, and also to have  new hope as he thought about the Sunday morning before when he unexpectedly met a lovely sister whose presence captivated his attention as soon as he laid eyes upon her.    

    As he traveled up New Avenue through the streets of Raleigh, after turning onto Western Boulevard, the through-fare upon which his reserve center sat only a couple of miles ahead, Tyler mentally recalled how he stumbled upon her beauty.


    Being a lover of all music, Tyler had served as a gospel DJ at a local AM radio station for the better part of five years. So with a fair amount of broadcasting knowledge and experience, he decided to join his church media ministry as a sound technician.

     After several weeks of training, on the Sunday morning of his solo gospel music mix and gospel message recording, Tyler nervously entered into the sound studio and was surprisingly taken aback when he discovered that the early morning worship service technician whom he was scheduled to relieve was an intriguingly beautiful sister.  

    Her presence demanded his attention as her fragrance filled the atmosphere inside the recording studio refreshingly toxic and sweet. She reminded him of sisters who came of age during the Civil Rights Struggle back in the late sixties, early seventies. 


    She wore a well-groomed, nicely shaped, medium size afro, huge dangling earrings, a warm facial expression along with an eye-catching smile that was delightful to behold. Her Patel colored dress rose just above her knees, while her body language was in agreement with her genteel sensual femininity.

    “Lord Hamm Mercy” Tyler mumbled, barely parting his lips.

    Struggling to keep his composure, he somehow managed to find the presence of mind to humbly muse, “Good morning my sister, How art thou?”

    Removing her headphones while turning more in his direction, her optimistic eyes sparkled with a glowing warmth, a God presence, while a shy elusive uncertainty appeared to rise-up from way down deep within her Afro-centric soul.

     She greeted him with a strong, healthy, yet soft loving tone of voice. “Good morning” she said exposing a gold plated star shaped tooth that complimented her ebony skin complexion, and her lovely black womanliness. 

    As she wrapped-up her head phones, and recording session, Tyler nonchalantly continued to stare upon her wondering if heaven was missing an angel.

     After gathering her personal belonging, she exited the recording studio not uttering another word walking toward the main sanctuary dragging Tyler’s heart along behind her as he watched.

    Smiling, Tyler drove onto the reserve center parking lot about 30 minutes before his pre-drill meeting was scheduled to begin. So he reached for his pen and paper, scribbled out a few more words, and then, made his way into the drill hall for another day of Marine Corps Drill.

    That evening, as Tyler drove away from the reserve center, once outside the city limits and onto  64 east toward home, he stared into his rearview mirror and behind him, beyond the trees, the western sky was aglow of crimson, appearing as though that magnificent ball of flame in its descent had set the world on fire, as a misty gray coloration intermingled with a pinkish tint gave character to the colorful Carolina blue shy that lingered over head. Tyler smiled, again pulled to the shoulder of the interstate and then completed:  

    Your Smile


     Like sunrise, your smile rises up from the eastern horizon of your

    heart miraculously transforming dark despairing midnights

     into joyous hope-filled sunny days.


    Peacefully bright, radiantly warm, intriguingly lovely, your smile

     spreads out across the sky of your face, charmingly cute,

    subtly soft, alluringly sincere,  inspiringly



    And then, your smile, like sunset, gently settles down into the twilight

     of peaceful happiness; illuminating your countenance with

     unspeakable joy so much so that your smile seemingly

     whispers…“All is well with my soul.”


    Like sunrise at early morning dawn, and through-out each and every

    hope-filled sunny day, your smile sets my soul on fire as

    a glowing warmth lingers just above my captivated

    melting heart at the sunset of your

    tantalizing loveliness.


    Tyler smiled, pulled back onto the interstate and continued his journey toward home with a picture perfect sunset and western sky at his back. “Thank you Lord Jesus” he said as he recalled the successful weekend he had had preparing his platoon to be ready (if need be) to defend and protect the rights, privileges, and the ideals we hold true and dear to our hearts as Americans.


    W. Oliver Barkley

    Dream-A-Vision Designs

  • 17 Mar 2019 6:52 PM
    Reply # 7228828 on 7204963

    Sherri, Thank you for your kind comments. This tale was inspired by a true story.

    On New Years Day in 1943, two white Navy sailors in Elizabeth City, NC encountered a young black man named William Poole. They accused him of looking like the police sketch of the suspect in an unsolved rape, bullying and beating him before he managed to get away.

    He went home and got a shotgun to – in his words – “sting the sailors.” He shot both of them, killing one. The manhunt continued for 11 days, but because the surviving sailor described the shooter as a black man, tensions rose to such a fever pitch that the National Guard had to be called to protect black citizens from vigilante groups like the KKK.

    Eventually, Poole confessed to a friend and was arrested. After a trial that drew much media attention, he was convicted, and in due course, was put to death in the gas chamber.

    Once I dreamed about a parade sparking a riot, and about the uniformed instigators riding in an open-cab “American Defender” (fictional name inspired by the open-cab Land Rover Defender often seen on shows about African safaris). Open-cab ½-ton Dodge 4x4s were introduced in WWII and were still in common use during the war in Southeast Asia. As a side note, I hesitated to use the word “Japs” because some consider it to be an ethnic slur, but it fit well in context.

    The story of William Poole is told in the self-published novel “A Deadly Night in the Harbor of Hospitality” by Javon Brothers. You should read this novel if my tale piqued your interest.

    Last modified: 19 Mar 2019 9:32 AM | Michael Worthington
  • 17 Mar 2019 12:52 PM
    Reply # 7228501 on 7204963
    Sherri Hollister (Administrator)

    Michael, you bring the horror of the race wars to life. Unfortunately, I was blind and believed that because I was not prejudiced, the rest of the world was not either. Then you see the killings on the news, black churches, synagogues and mosques targeted because of what? Your story takes place in the 1940s, but it could have just as easily have happened today. This saddens me. I am not so blind that I don't know there are bad people in the world. I know that it is not the color of one's skin, or their religion that makes them bad. Fear, poverty, entitlement, these have more to do with the evils of men than does skin color or religion. Thank you for sharing your story, as always you do more than entertain, you make us think.  

  • 09 Mar 2019 2:21 PM
    Reply # 7208269 on 7204963

    Fire in the Soul

    Jerry noticed the glow over the treetops as soon as he got off the evening train.

    “What’s going on?” he asked the porter who was helping with his luggage.

    “Oh, that?” the porter said. “They set fire to a store.”


    The porter shook his head. “It's owned by a white man, but where we gonna get groceries now?”

    The gaggle of other reporters who had arrived on the same train made a mad dash for the payphones to summon taxis, which probably didn’t even exist in this small town. Jerry slipped the porter a fiver, a princely tip in that day.

    “Can you find me a driver for hire?” Jerry asked.

    “Yes suh,” the porter replied. “My cousin would be happy to drive you around. Come this way.”

    The porter lugged Jerry’s suitcases into the station and went behind the desk to use the office phone to call his cousin while the other reporters stood in line to use the payphones. Hiring a local driver was a trick Jerry had learned on overseas assignments because they can double as guides.

    It had all started innocently enough. The Fourth of July parade generated increased interest with so many boys overseas fighting the Nazis and Japs. Most of the floats – trailers pulled behind farm tractors – encouraged people to support the war effort by buying bonds or conserving food.

    The Army even sent some soldiers in dress uniforms to ride in the parade in two brand-spanking new 'Dodge Defenders': open-body ½-ton 4x4s. Six white soldiers sat in each truck with their sergeant sitting beside the driver in the rear vehicle. The men in the lead vehicle sat ramrod straight under the watchful eye of the sergeant, but the men sitting behind him would occasionally exchange furtive waves with cute kids or pretty girls.

    As the parade snaked through town, they passed through a section where black folks filled the sidewalks. There is always one is every crowd, and a wiseacre yelled as they passed, “Look at them pretty boys in their fancy clothes.”

    The soldiers thought he had questioned their manhood and a couple of men jumped off the vehicles to avenge the insult. The heckler tried to blend back into the crowd but the press of people prevented him from getting away. The soldiers dragged him into the street while punching his face and then kicking him after he fell. Some of his friends came to his aid and more soldiers piled off the stationary trucks which now blocked the parade route. Quickly it became a general melee with black women dragging children away while black men rushed forward to defend their friends and families.

    The white policemen who had been directing traffic came to investigate the stalled parade vehicles. The police officers had difficulty separating the combatants until the Army sergeant started dragging his subordinates out of the fight. Then the police arrested several black men who wanted to continue the slugfest, but they left the soldiers to the sergeant’s wrath.

    The smart aleck who had triggered the whole thing lain crumbled on the street. Some good Samaritans drove him to the hospital, where later than night he died.

    The following day was Sunday, and at the AME Church the minister asked people to pray for the dead man’s soul and family, but his request fell flat. Smoldering resentments had burst into flames and soft words couldn’t turn away the wrath.

    A young man stood up in the middle of a pew to ask a rhetorical question. “Did anyone get arrested for his murder? Are them white soldier boys going to be tried for killing him?”

    A surprised hush fell over the assembly because people seldom challenged the preacher, but many shared the young man’s concerns. Then a murmur arose as they discussed the situation with their neighbors. The minister raised his arms in a dramatic gesture and tried to regain control, but emotions ran too hot for his authority to easily overcome. He started to pray loudly until voices finally fell silent, then he quickly closed the service. Angry conversations continued outside.

    That night, crowds of young black men gathered on street corners. When police patrols ordered them to go home, they just drifted away and joined other groups. Soon they had coalesced into a mob too large for the officers to control. Small acts of vandalism escalated into rocks thrown at patrol cars and shots fired into the air. The mass of angry men began to move towards the downtown with all of its white-owned businesses. Windows were broken and looting commenced while the police frantically sent out appeals for help to neighboring towns and counties. The riots continued for two more nights.

    The day after the reporters arrived, the county sheriff held a press conference. Technically the town's police chief was in charge, but the sheriff was an elected official so it fell on him to face the press. After he read a brief statement summarizing the situation, he opened the floor to questions.

    “How are you going to prevent another night of riots?”

    The sheriff replied, “Surrounding law enforcement agencies have sent aid so almost a hundred lawmen will be on patrol tonight. The mayor declared a dust-to-dawn curfew and any violators will be arrested.”

    Then he pointed to Jerry who had raised his hand. “Will the soldiers involved in the death be arrested?”

    “The Sheriff's Department has no jurisdiction over military bases.”

    Jerry quickly followed up, “But you could issue an arrest warrant that the military would honor.”

    “You’ll have to ask the District Attorney about issuing warrants.”

    Jerry persisted, “Will a grand jury be convened to investigate? After all, a man died.”

    “Again, you’ll have to take that up with the DA’s Office.”

    The rest of the news conference was just as uninformative. Jerry hung around for a few more days while the story petered out, but anger still simmered just beneath the surface.

    Last modified: 14 Apr 2019 8:10 PM | Michael Worthington
  • 07 Mar 2019 2:16 PM
    Message # 7204963
    Jim Keen (Administrator)

    Sunset or is the world on fire. Country roads, lonely roads or coming home. Share your one-thousand word story by uploading it here as a reply.

    1 file
    Last modified: 07 Mar 2019 2:52 PM | Jim Keen (Administrator)
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