Excerpt: The Exiled Soldier

“They’ll be ready the moment we vote for the fight,” Annie replied.

“Figgict voting,” one of the men called out. “Let’s burn the entire place to the ground.”

Three of Annie’s Rebels strolled along the rough streets of SnakeIn near the wharves, talking and laughing, but never losing track of what was happening around them. Two prostitutes who were standing on the corner of the street and a shadowy lane smiled at the men. One of the three companions broke off, spoke softly to one of the women, and then disappeared down the lane with her. When they were securely out of sight, the man leaned to her ear and whispered, “It’s time.”

The other two men continued walking but soon paused to joke with a group of sailors milling outside a wharf-side pub. After greeting each other heartily, one of the two men said, “It’s time.”

The sailors nodded in agreement, spoke hastily, and then split off into pairs, each pair strolling down separate streets, pausing at the doors of shops and the entrances to pubs and saying, “It’s time.”

The man and woman emerged from the lane and rejoined their companions. The woman casually smoothed down the front of her unmussed blouse and said to her friends, “It’s time.”

They moved away from the corner and then, like the sailors, they broke off in different directions. The three men continued down the street, greeting people, and telling various ones, “It’s time.”

The castle in Hilltown was unusually quiet, with only a few servants awake, some in the kitchen, some moving from room to room stoking fires and preparing for morning. When the delivery wagon from the bakery stopped by the kitchen door, the cook’s assistant hurried outside, collected their purchases, and smiled when the driver leaned over and said, “It’s time.

The cook’s assistant brought an assortment of the baked goods inside, paused beside the young scullery maid, and whispered, “It’s time.”

The scullery maid found a reason to dart outside to where a group of servants had gathered, and said to a footman, “It’s time.”

He nodded and strolled leisurely toward the stable until he turned a corner out of sight of the castle. He quickened his pace until he’d caught up with the stablemaster. He greeted him and said, “It’s time.”

From the wharves and tenements of SnakeIn to the mansions and castle of Hilltown, the same two words were repeated and carried forward. “It’s time.”

### End of Sneak Peek ###

If only there were
floor and stamina enough to dance,
if only the music would last
one more hour
one more season, one more life.
Which song would I choose? Which partner
could gracefully twirl me, waltzing
into forever?
There were so many partners and songs.
So much music.
So many dances.
I wonder if regret is a superpower,
a sub-genre of invisibility,
a strength wielded by those
who have grown
too old to take anything back.

Dream State

Even the places here are turning
to dreams.
From the bus window, I point out landmarks:
I used to live on the second floor of a blue house down that street
I used to buy lunch from the hot buffet in that market and then skip dinner
I used to feed the feral cats in that park and was especially fond of a black and white kitten
but I don’t remember
the street address, the best entre, the kitten’s name.
Where I was and
who we were
a decade ago, two decades ago,  
half-a-century past
is nearly unconjurable,
as if it never,
as if you never
at all.

Lost Cat

For thirty-eight years I’ve listened for your cry
at my window, worried whether you were lost in the train yard,
or horrifically crushed by some speeding car, or trapped
in some crazy cat lady’s overabundant kitchen.
By falling back asleep, I failed at the final thing you asked from me.
Let me come home,
you mewed through the glass, Let me inside.
By all things sacred and holy to felines, I swear
that I meant to.
I put food on the patio for weeks.
It went untouched.
I got up every night to double check.
You were never there.
Months afterwards when
my marriage was over and the moving van was nearly full,
I paced the circumference of the yard calling your name
then stood holding the door
open to all my regrets.