J.P.’s father had given up the ghost. Or at least his body did. His heart carried on the struggle.

John Panella, Sr. had battled liver cancer for the last four months, relinquishing fourteen of the months he had been allotted. But he had lapsed in and out of consciousness, flirting with coma for the past three days.

Here lay a man who had been the pinnacle of who J.P. wanted to be. He wondered how a man of such lofty stature could fall so far, so quickly. Sedated now, morphine became his extreme solution in heavy doses.

“To make him comfortable” the nurse offered.

“To render him unreachable” John Jr. thought.

As so he sat at his father’s right side; his sister on the left. They took turns talking to the man who had given them every bit of life he could.

“I love you, Daddy!” his sister Louise whispered to her un-hearing father.

John smiled at the sentiment. But the reality hit him sharply. He couldn’t remember the last time he and his father had exchanged such words. It just wasn’t the way the men in his family handled things, he thought. He surely knows, J.P. thought.

Hours spent clamped to their father’s bony hands, black with necrosis and faintly gripping back. Breathing was a chore he had no energy to undertake, but it kept insinuating itself into his routine. The elder John gagged and gurgled. His children thought it was his last gasp. They held their own breath as well. But his chest fell and rose again. Still erratic, but still expelled.

John Panella, Sr.’s face was ashen and his eyes occupied deep depressions in his skull. His lips were turning blue and his hands were cold and still. His eyes flashed momentarily and a slight smile graced his face. His chest rose one last time ending in a long drawn-out exhalation. His last breath.

J.P. noticed that death felt the same as life did mere moments ago. His father’s battle was over. He needed not fight any longer. Now John Jr. and his sister could breathe easier.

The young man leaned close to his father’s right ear to whisper what had always remained unsaid.


Copyright © Walter J. Wojtanik – 2012



The hospital was in a rundown section of the city. Streets wore litter like a torn overcoat – all tatters and held together by spit and chewing gum. The sum of all parts was still another negative, no matter what rule of mathematics you choose to ignore.

Louisa had spirited herself on-board the No. 13 bus heading up William St. She was worn and abused by her boyfriend. (She did her share of self-abuse as well). Her jacket was clutched to her breasts, doing a poor job of hiding the bump that protruded through the broken zipper. Louisa was cold and high and very pregnant.

So pregnant in fact was the reason she had boarded the bus at all. The Michigan Avenue stop would put her a block away from the Memorial Hospital. Ninety steps to decide if she was willing to go through with her responsibility.

The ride was bumpy. The upper end of William had been neglected and the potholes that remained from winter’s salty tirade gave the impression of riding through downtown Beirut.
Bloodshot eyes stared vacantly, flinching slightly as her labor pains intensified in strength and duration. Louisa’s bus was nearing her station.

The other riders, oblivious to her plight were absorbed in their self-importance to care that another crack whore was going to give birth to another addicted baby. The clinic could only do so much for the dark haired girl; she needed to step up and pay the price of motherhood.

Motherhood in the hood. Too many hoods to see straight. Mindlessly, Louisa disembarked the metro liner, shuffling feet in the direction of sanctuary, albeit for a brief moment. She stopped clutching her mid-drift. Doubled over in agony. She couldn’t do this.

Her scream pierced the moist night air as she plodded slowly toward the double glass doors. Passers-by paid no heed. A gruff nurse dragging on her cigarette turned her back to the wind and Louisa, shielding herself from both. The rickety doors slid closed behind her.

Louisa found a seat in the waiting area, in the corner of the room out of view. Sweat poured down her brow and the wince of child birth graced her face. Reaching between her legs, she clutched as her daughter came into the world in the waiting area, in the corner of the room out of view.

Nurses rushed to the weakened sound of a newborn’s first cry. They found her laying in the rack of the local newspapers, under the banner “Take one – FREE!” She had a slim chance to make it past midnight.

Louisa’s lifeless body was found at the end of a trail of blood where she had waited for the return bus in the shadow of a “DEAD END” sign.

DECEMBER 22, 2012

Amazing Images

The Dark Rift they called it. We all waited for it, but we didn’t anticipate it. It was a freight train looking to leap the track and level what we had come to know. Yesterday seemed to be the longest day of any in our lives.

Blame it on a dead civilization, the Maya (or were they a band of ancient extra-terrestrials?), whatever they were, what was supposed to happen, happened. The Rift.

More correctly, The Galactic Alignment. It was the positioning of the December solstice sun with the Galactic equator. Occurring only once every 26,000 years, it was what the ancient Maya were pointing to with the 2012 end-date of their Long Count calendar.

The Grand Eclipse; the mother of all.

There was a small band of people left from the “Pact”. I mean, let’s be real. I wasn’t about strapping on the Nikes and guzzling grape Kool-aid. If God wanted me that quickly, He was going to have to reach down and pluck me from this treadmill of life upon which He had placed me.

Eight of us here. Me, three women, a teenage boy, two young girls, and Jenkins. Well, OK, it was Seven of us and the robot.

The events of the past 24 hours were a whirlwind. Everything happened in a flash of eternity. The tides swelled. Electricity ceased to be. None of the habitation sectors were livable any more. Radio waves provided static, nothing more. We wandered in the darkness until the world ended.

There was just one problem. We woke up this morning and things seemed very familiar. The earth continued to rotate. Sure it had a slight wobble, but it turned. The moon resumed its orbit and the sunlight flooded the open spaces. The world had ceased to exist. Or at least the world we knew.

It was a revival; a renewal. The New Era had begun with high tides and no bells and whistles. Now we could do nothing but finally get it right this time. Jenkins agreed. We were getting too old for this shit!


“Her tail light diminished in size; distant laser points in the misty rain trained on his heart.”

There’s something about a bad penny always turning up. It makes a lot of cents. But it wreaks havoc on your emotions.

Terrianne came by one more time. To share dinner; to talk. Or as Phillip always called it “The Last Supper with monologue”. Needless to say he did very little talking.

It’s a funny thing too, Phillip had been content in his solitude. He read a lot and wrote some. He had his music and that was all the emotions he needed to handle at this point in his life. His last relationship ended without warning. He was an observant guy; he should have seen it coming. He got caught flat-footed.

So when Terrianne (who had fancied Phillip’s brother for a bit) came by to see him, it stirred up quite the hornet’s nest between the brothers. It also fanned the smoldering ember that was his heart.

But, there was something about someone as creative as Phillip was. They possessed an intensity that few other people understood. And Phillips passion ran hot. He put everything he had into whatever it was he would undertake. He wrote with a fiery flair, and he loved with even more heat.

Frankly, it scared her. She was not used to being held up to that standard. Pedestals gave her nosebleeds. So did most of the other guys with which she usually got involved. Phillip was different. He was clean cut, and respectful. He was considerate and helpful. And Terrianne couldn’t handle it. All Phillip could figure was that she liked bad boys.

She admitted as much during dinner. Terrianne said he was too good for her. That she couldn’t love him like he wish she would. She questioned if she ever really loved him at all.

She had come in and out of his life, she just couldn’t live with him. Or without him. But she needed to.

Nothing was left to say. Terrianne was heading to Vegas where her father had landed (and her last boyfriend too, he later had found). And Phillip could only watch as her tail light diminished in size; distant laser points in the misty rain trained on his heart. The left turn she made out of his life stung like a ten-inch blade through him. And as suddenly as Terrianne had entered his realm, she had left him for dead.


Photo by Justin Jackson

A singular ash tree grows in the hollow at Willoughby Gulch. Proud and majestic, her branches stretch skyward in a graceful flow. Below, the crowd that had gathered starts to disperse; the party is over.

If you asked the buzzards circling high above the mass of humanity, they would tell you that what had just transpired was a major waste of time; a waste of good life. But, they would do it with hunger in their eyes. The sky was a brilliant blue and the wisp of cloud cover gave a hint of a breeze.

Judge Malcolm glanced over his shoulder as he boarded the stagecoach. Justice wasn’t doled out swiftly at all. It took all of fifteen minutes for Rance Calhoun’s legs to cease kicking. His lifeless carcass swayed in the wind, his bulging eyes stared at the departing guests. The devil that possessed his twisting corpse recorded the faces of those in attendance. There will be hell to pay when they cut him down.