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Archive for November, 2016

I was a prisoner in North Vietnam for almost six years. I am very familiar with the treatment of POWs in North Vietnam during those six long years. Today most people think that the North Vietnamese tortured me 24/7 for six years. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I describe my treatment as a nightmare for the first two months, a country club for the last three years, and like law school the two and a half years in between, your basic miserable existence.

Jane Fonda visited us during the summer of 1972.  She told the world, “The American POWs are being treated well.” I listened very carefully to what she said. At the time the North Vietnamese treated us better than the Geneva Convention required. We got outside five to six hours a day, we received three meals a day including sweet toast or sweet milk for breakfast, we received water buffalo meat once a week with gravy, we wrote home every month, and we received packages from home every other month.

The POWs called Jane Fonda a liar. Go figure!!

I have tried to tell the whole truth about the treatment of POWs in my book, Unexpected Prisoner. When we first came home, our government and the senior American POWs told the world and the American people that never in the history of warfare have POWs been treated so badly. That was just wrong.

Many senior American military and political leaders knew that the Vietnam War was a loser but said nothing, because they did not want to jeopardize their careers. Instead they preferred to have American boys die on the battlefield. Those same senior military and political leaders ridiculed and demeaned those brave and courageous Americans who opposed the Vietnam War including Jane Fonda.

Thank the Lord for Jane Fonda and those courageous Americans who opposed the Vietnam War. But for them, we would still be in Vietnam.

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Title: UNEXPECTED PRISONER: Memoir of a Vietnam Prisoner of War

Genre: Memoir

Author: Robert Wideman

Website: www.robertwideman.com

Publisher: Graham Publishing Group

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About the Book:

When Unexpected Prisoner opens, it’s May 6, 1967 and 23-year-old Lieutenant Robert Wideman is flying a Navy A-4 Skyhawk over Vietnam.  At 23, Wideman had already served three and a half years in the Navy—and was only 27 combat days away from heading home to America. But on that cloudless day in May, on a routine bombing run, Wideman’s plane crashed and he fell into enemy hands. Captured and held for six years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, Wideman endured the kind of pain that makes people question humanity.  Physical torture, however, was not the biggest challenge he was forced to withstand.  In his candid memoir, Unexpected Prisoner, Wideman details the raw, unvarnished tale of how he came to understand the truth behind Jean-Paul Sartre’s words: “Hell is other people.”

A gripping, first-person account that chronicles the six-year period Wideman spent in captivity as a POW, Unexpected Prisoner plunges readers deep into the heart of one of the most protracted, deadliest conflicts in American history:  the Vietnam War. Wideman, along with acclaimed memoirist Cara Lopez Lee, has crafted a story that is exquisitely engaging, richly detailed, and wholly captivating. Unexpectedly candid and vibrantly vivid, this moving memoir chronicles a POW’s struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, lost dreams, and ultimately, himself.

With its eye-opening look at a soldier’s life before, during and after captivity, Unexpected Prisoner presents a uniquely human perspective on war and on conflicts both external and internal. An exceptional story exceptionally well-told, Unexpected Prisoner is a powerful, poignant, often provocative tale about struggle, survival, hope, and redemption.

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About the Author:

Robert Wideman was born in Montreal, grew up in East Aurora, New York, and has dual U.S./Canadian citizenship. During the Vietnam War, he flew 134 missions for the U.S. Navy and spent six years as a prisoner of war. Wideman earned a master’s degree in finance from the Naval Postgraduate School. After retiring from the Navy, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Law, practiced law in Florida and Mississippi, and became a flight instructor. Robert Wideman holds a commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating, belongs to Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, and lives in Ft. Collins near his two sons and six grandchildren.

Connect with the author on the web: Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn

 

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Inside the Book:

in-jesus-arms
Title: In Jesus’ Arms
Author: Mary E. Keenan
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Religion
Format: Ebook

What if you could literally see Christ and listen to Him answer some of your deepest spiritual questions: Who receives eternal life, and why? Are we still “us” after death? What happens in heaven? And is there an unseen dimension here on earth?

In In Jesus’ Arms: One Woman’s Trip to Heaven, author Mary E. Keenan shares here amazing journey being in the arms of Jesus Christ. Opening with the story of her life as an unworthy sinner who once rejected God’s forgiveness—but who found restoration through a relationship with Christ—she reveals her experience of being held and carried by Jesus as she and Christ walked together on the earth and ascended to heaven. There, Mary receives Christ’s lessons and is able to offer a glimpse into the inner workings of heaven, the mind of Christ, the preparations for the second coming, and the important messages God wants individuals and churches to heed today about the difference between faith and religious practice.

Whether you are a curious and skeptical unbeliever, a believer who avoids the church, or an active church member involved in the pastorate or other Christian organizations, In Jesus’ Arms will compel you to delve deeper into the scriptures and provide you with a joyous, hopeful account of a victorious Christ—where His lessons from the past are still current, where His plans are being carried out, and where heaven is still very much involved in our lives.

 

Meet the Author:

Mary E. Keenan was born and raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and she has a master’s degree in adult and technical education from Marshall University, West Virginia. Now retired from a career in nursing administration and education, she loves to paint and lives with her husband, Dale, in Weirton, West Virginia.

 

Giveaway

Mary is giving away a $25 Gift Card!

 

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins November 14  and ends on November 25.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on November 26.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

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We’re happy to host Dani-Lyn Alexander’s BATTLE FOR CYMMERA Book Blast today! Dani-Lyn is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card.  Enter
below!
Title: Battle for Cymmera, Kingdom of Cymmera Book Three
Author: Dani-Lyn Alexander
Publisher: Lyrical Press/Kensington
Pages: 226
Genre: YA Fantasy
With Chayce Maynard on the run, Ryleigh and Jackson can finally begin rebuilding their kingdom. But when a cryptic message suggests Chayce was seen in Argonas, chaos creeps back into Cymmera once more . . .Jackson knows Cymmera will never be safe until Chayce, guilty of treason, is detained and executed. After ordering
Cymmeran guardsmen to scour the land, he and the Death Dealer team brave wild Argonas in search of the informant who spotted his foe. And in his absence, Jackson not only leaves the throne empty, but the kingdom vulnerable to attack. . .As a vicious army descends on Cymmera, Ryleigh is forced to flee to an uncharted realm with a small group of survivors—a place Jackson has no chance of discovering. Alone, but for the few people she was able to save, Ryleigh
must decide whether to reclaim her kingdom or remain in the new realm forever, forsaking all she left behind . . .

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Book Excerpt:

As she slid past her throne, Ryleigh’s sword caught on the
arm, and she took a step back and untangled it. She’d never get used to wearing
the stupid thing everywhere she went. If not for Jackson’s
insistence, it’d probably be stuffed under her bed beside the baseball bat she
kept hidden there.
She pulled open a drawer on the side table behind her throne
and rifled through the papers she’d stuffed in there in search of her leather
appointment book. If she couldn’t find answers, may as well get some work done.
It was either that or dwell on Jackson’s
mission and the terror it brought. She pressed a hand against her heaving
stomach. No. She couldn’t think about that. She had more immediate problems she
might actually be able to do something about.
Several meetings had to be scheduled, and without writing
them down, she’d never keep track of where she was supposed to be. Especially
with her mind so jumbled with images of Jackson
going up against Chayce.
She snatched the book, shoved the drawers shut, and turned to
leave.
Ryleigh’s vision blurred. The air shimmered in the center of
the throne room, and her ears popped.
She ripped her sword from its sheath even as the portal
opened.
A seven-foot-tall beast built of solid muscle tore through
the portal. A triple headed flail swung from one massive hand.
About the Author

 

Dani-Lyn lives on Long Island with her husband, three kids and three dogs. She loves spending time with her
family, at the beach, the playground, or just about anywhere. In her spare time, which is rare, she enjoys reading and shopping—especially in book stores.
Some of her favorite things include; Bernese Mountain Dogs, musicals, bubble baths and soft blankets. She’s an incurable insomniac, and she has an addiction to chocolate.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

            Giveaway Details:

Dani-Lyn Alexander is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • This giveaway ends midnight November 22.
  • Winner will be contacted via email on November 23.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

 

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Inside the Book:

an-enlightening-quiche
Title: An Enlightening Quiche

Author: Eva Pasco

Release Date: August 22, 2016
Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Format: Ebook/Paperback

Dysfunctional. Deceptive. Demure. More than meets the eye at face value, Augusta Bergeron, stuck in a holding pattern, engages in morally destructive behavior she attributes to maternal abandonment. In for a rude awakening upon eggs-huming her mother’s quiche recipe, she unravels its significance and forsakes erroneous assumptions. Enlightened, Augusta feels compelled to redress all the havoc she’s wrought in the aftermath of a tragedy.

Augusta:Tarry in northern Rhode Island with us unpretentious French-Canadians, eh?

Tried-and-true friendships tested. Quest for Mr. Right. Impoverished mill. Unleashed secrets.  Enriched by geographic entities, historic references, and regional culture–Blackstone Valley beckons.

PURCHASE AT: AMAZON|BARNES &NOBLE

Excerpt:

Augusta: Just as a note from Mrs. Blais had enticed me to sift through stowed away sagas inside a leather crypt and revived my dormant flair for writing, Tante’s recent memoir had me scrambling inside the keepsake box for the index card bearing the brunt of a quiche recipe whose basic ingredient of spinach packed a Popeye punch to knock the wind out of a brute. I glided my fingers over the scanty fragments of my mother’s legacy, absorbing her wretchedness through parched ink still resolute in its faded glory.

Genetically endowed with Simone’s temperament, exotic features, and allure, I followed in her footsteps. Both of us derailed off righteous paths and marginally skirted brinks of disaster from having suffered the scourges of maternal abandonment.

Tante’s memoir illuminated the significance of a recipe I intended to follow exactement in revival for my birthday gathering.  Though a breakthrough for me at the time, it hadn’t yet sliced all the way through the custard as to why Monique felt compelled to salvage this from a trash basket at my mother’s last known whereabouts for me to warrant its reclamation an enlightening quiche with far-reaching effects.

***

An arrow’s fly shy of America’s fowl tradition, a presidium of pulchritudinous birds of a feather flocked together at my place to feast and frolic in observance of my birthday sans gifts per my request, same as last year and every year since turning the screws past thirty. Engraved-in-stone inductees Estelle and Paul held court at the heavyset dining room table while Noel and Jenny set up camp in the adjoining parlor, away from the adults and in control of the television set with chips and dip all to themselves. The honorable Marchands, add-ons by ultimatum as in “you’re coming or else,” seated themselves accordingly according to chivalric order with Norm and Oncle prevailing as heads of state at opposite ends of the mahogany ball & claw.  Though Lindsay made the A-list of invitees, she reserved weekends for spending time with her dad whom she affectionately tagged an absentminded professor. Monique, permanently exiled from attending family functions, prevented Tante from squaring off with the gal she squarely blamed for exerting her libationary influence on me through our pigs-in-a-poke camaraderie.

Oncle prefaced the sit-down repeating aloud his last year’s wish for me to make an honest woman of myself by getting married well in advance of my setting down chocolate mousse cake with dulce de leche cream and truffle ganache, another triumph by Pâtisseries Évocatrices.  Everyone with the exception of Norm let his comment slide by rewinding their stalled conversations.

Crediting my landlord with the memory of a non-Republican elephant and a disposition to get even, I believe he expelled an untoward remark as overdue payback for my having bested him in front of Lindsay when I divulged his struggles to squeeze into an army uniform and blabbed about his scrapbook.  While placing a serving platter of bite-sized slices of French bread hors d’oeuvres alongside a large bowl of salade verte, his jab stopped me in my tracks en route to the pantry for the quiche, stingily allocating a split second for me to reload and fire back a retort of last resort.

“The other day Bernard Paquin mentioned he saw you and some fella leavin’ Chuggers by the light of the moon makin’ a run for it. Maybe he’s the one!”

Well, if that didn’t divert their attention again! “Oh, was Bernard oot and aboot making one of his special deliveries at the Post?”

My Vancouver Canuck slapshot summoned the hokey expression, “the eyes have it” through the blank stares of those dumbfounded and confounded by an innuendo.  Norm’s eyes threw daggers at me, confirming his wife hadn’t confronted him about the girlie mags.  Yolande’s eyes darted everywhere and ultimately fixated on her hostess. “Tabarnak!  What are you waiting for? Bring out the quiche!”

Meet the Author:

eva-pasco
Undergoing a midlife renaissance, Eva Pasco rekindled her passion for storytelling by featuring flawed and feisty women over forty who grapple with, confront, and overcome their personal dilemmas to become empowered in making profound life changes for the better.
 VISIT HER AT: AUTHORS DEN|GOODREADS
VIEW THE BOOK TRAILER

 

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PHIL!
By: RP Momsen

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A very funny science fiction adventure that will change the way you look at life, the universe and why we’re all here.

Billions of years ago, our universe was born. Not really that terribly exciting for most life forms except of course yourselves… and, well, Phil. The poor bastard who’s had to watch over all you people the last billion or so years.


Well, finally after years of listening to all your griping, bitching and whining, always with some imaginary being getting all the credit, he’s finally had it!


Phil has decided to explain what the world is, why you’re here and how you can evolve finally into a species worth talking about at parties.


In this hilarious actual account, Phil takes two unwitting Physicists on the adventure of their lives, which isn’t saying much for a couple of physicists, and shows them what life, the universe and lovely little corner pubs really is all about. They’re transported to other dimensions to meet their better looking selves, get taken prisoner by an evil but very good looking race, fly through black holes and help the creation of a new planet all while their greatest challenge hangs in the balance, saving earth from the most evil, and best dressed, species the universe has ever seen.


Will they save earth? Has all the years of hard work Phil has done creating you beings be lost? Does any of this really matter?

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Exclusive to  Amazon 

 

 

 

Author Info242919_10150272411688060_897035_o-1


R.P. Momsen was lucky enough to meet Phil in a very lovely but rather smelly pub a few years ago. After listening to the most amazing story of his life, and a half dozen pints, Rick agreed to bring Phil’s story to the world and finally get Phil a vacation. Through an arduous process over the next couple years of intense notes, grand philosophical debates, lengthy trips through multiple universes and numerous beers this masterpiece of answers was named Phil and finally released. A great friendship has been created and Rick has agreed to continue to write the real truth about everything, why it’s kind of a good thing to know and what humankind could do to be invited to the really cool parties.

Author Links: Website | Twitter |Facebook | Goodreads

Other FB: https://www.facebook.com/rickhunterBM

 

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don-weeksFor over thirty years, Don Weeks was among the most popular radio personalities in the Capital District region of New York State. He received a Marconi Award for radio excellence in 2005 and was inducted into to the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame four years later. He had just completed a rough draft of Scarecrow on the Marsh when he died of Merkle Cell Cancer in March of 2015. Author royalties from this project will be donated to the WGY Christmas Wish Campaign, which benefits a variety of charitable causes. Weeks worked tirelessly over the years to help raise money for the campaign.

jonathan-weeksJonathan Weeks has published several books on the topic of baseball–four non-fiction projects and one novel. His latest work, a mystery-thriller entitled Scarecrow on the Marsh, is a posthumous collaboration with his father–former radio icon Don Weeks, who passed away in 2015. Weeks finished the book in fulfillment of a promise he made to his father before he died.

Visit Don at:

FACEBOOK

About the Book:

scarecrow-on-the-marsh

Title: Scarecrow on the Marsh: A Cape Cod Thriller
Author: Don Weeks
Publisher: All Things That Matter
Pages: 192
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

When the mutilated body of renowned cosmetic surgeon Randall Landry turns up at a secluded bayside marsh in the town of Sandwich, Police Chief Thom Burrough’s life is turned upside down. While investigating the murder, he and BarnstableCounty coroner Abby Rhodes will uncover a plot more sinister than anything they could have imagined. On the outskirts of Chatham, a group of terrorists has assembled to unleash destruction on Cape Cod.

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Would you call yourself a born writer?

No—I may have been born with the ambition to write but I don’t consider myself a natural writer. The process has always been grueling for me. I’m one of those guys who tampers with everything as I go. I can’t get to chapter 2 before fixing Chapter 1.

What was your inspiration for Scarecrow on the Marsh?

Scarecrow on the Marsh is actually my father’s novel. It was his lifelong dream to be published. He was able to complete a rough draft before he fell seriously ill with Merkel Cell Cancer. As he lay dying, I promised him I would finish the book and try to find a publisher. It was the most difficult project I have ever taken on.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like stories that feature underdog characters beating overwhelming odds. I think this is a theme that has universal appeal.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Scarecrow on the Marsh took about six months to complete. I honestly thought it would be an easier process. But I was wrestling with the grief of losing my father. We were very close. And every session with his manuscript opened up fresh wounds. The changes that needed to be made went beyond grammar and punctuation. I struggled to preserve every element of his story. I think he would have been pleased with the final product.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m rather obsessive about writing. I usually get up around 5 am and go straight to my computer. I often wake up with fresh ideas. They don’t appear to me in dreams or anything. They’re just there when I wake up. If I don’t start writing quickly they fade away. I usually spend two or three hours writing every day. I also work 40 hours a week at another job.

What did you find most challenging in writing this book?

Like I said before, my father and I were close. I considered him my best friend. We shared similar interests in everything and gave each other advice on just about every topic. We lived over three hours apart, but I would visit him regularly. We would talk on the phone for hours at a time. Losing him was devastating. Though he had a very successful career in radio, this novel was a lifelong dream for my father. So that put a lot of pressure on me. I wasn’t sure if I had the emotional fortitude or the writing skills to finish it.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love the escape that writing provides. There’s no better therapy (at least when your writing is going well). I love the feeling of triumph you get when a publisher offers you a contract. And the first time you get a copy of your own book in your hands—it’s a real high.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, a small press or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I knew my father would have wanted his book to be traditionally published. I didn’t have a literary agent so most of the big publishing houses were closed to me. Since his novel was set on Cape Cod, it fell into the genre of a “cozy mystery.” I started to reach out to publishers who specialize in that sort of thing. In the end, I chose a small indie publisher with a print-on-demand format. I really like the arrangement. It decreases publishing costs and increases author revenue. All of my author royalties will be donated to my father’s favorite charity—the WGY Christmas Wish Campaign. It benefits sick and underprivileged children in upstate New York. My father was part of the annual campaign throughout his radio career, which lasted for thirty years.

Where can we find you on the web?

I’m not promoting any of my own work at this time. I created a Facebook Author Page for my Dad with links to purchasing information and book giveaways. There are also pictures from his radio career and private life. Anyone interested can go to Facebook and search for Don Weeks.

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23 Minutes

Title: 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.
Author: Robert J. Dornan
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 550
Genre: Historical Fiction

In the early morning of her sister’s wedding day, Mila Kharmalov stared in stunned silence at the coloured sparks streaming from Reactor Four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. At that very moment, her life and the lives of everyone she knew changed forever.

Years later and on another continent, Adam Byrd was writing biographies for everyday people looking to leave their legacy in book form. When the woman he loved phoned from Kiev offering him the chance to write the story of a lifetime, he jumped at the opportunity not realizing that his voyage would be a bumpy ride through a nations dark underbelly. With the help of his friend’s quirky cousin, Adam is nudged into a fascinating adventure of love, greed, power and psychotic revenge, culminating with a shocking finale.

23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is a work of fiction based on factual events from Chernobyl and villages throughout Ukraine.

For More Information

  • 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M. is available at Amazon..
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter

 

Byrd Brain

“Oh, for the love of God… shut up!”

Okay, I didn’t actually say that, but I was thinking it. Trust me, if you were in the same situation, you would be thinking the same.

My name is Byrd. It’s a surname that has inherited a great amount of teasing from a young age but if there’s any consolation, it’s spelled with a “Y” like the Renaissance composer and not an “I” like the Boston Celtics basketball player or your common flying rodent. My friends get a kick out of it and have recently begged me to join Twitter because whenever I send a message, my followers can brag they received a tweet from a Byrd. When trends are catching up to you, you gotta know you’re riding the edge of something or worse – falling off the aforementioned edge.

My tiny name insecurity has led to me ask everyone I meet to call me by my first name, which is Aaron. Yet, like everything else in this world, when you think you’ve got it bad, you can rest assured that someone has it worse. I have suffered the à propos amount of name calling but nothing – and I mean nothing – like my cousin, whom I adore simply because of the courage she has to wake up in the morning. Why you ask? Her first name is Robin.

Some parents don’t deserve their children.

A few years ago, I had an epiphany of sorts and decided I would go into business for myself, writing biographies for average, everyday people who wished to leave some sort of legacy for their children and family. Pretty good idea eh? Not really but I guess Lady Luck shone upon me as the business took off fairly quickly. Word of mouth spread and I was soon juggling three clients a month. When I launched an Internet site half a year ago, my clientele shot up to eight a month. Do the math at fifteen hundred bucks a crack and minimum costs. Even I can’t believe how fortunate I am considering any other writing adventure I have finished in the last decade has been a dismal failure.

Auto-biographies is not difficult work as long as my recorder functions properly and since I’ve created a template of questions, I’ve found I can complete a minimum one hundred page life story in five days or less if the customer doesn’t call with new information, which of course was often the case. Hey, I was taking a crap this morning, and I remembered a crazy night that involved magic mushrooms and a fat chick named Glory. Experience has taught me that editing for future generations of grandchildren is a gentle topic.

My workload is divided between the very interesting and those who had nothing much to be proud of other than offspring who I figure will eventually turn out just as boring. Today’s client fit the latter profile to perfection.

Rhonda Greenberg was pretty for a middle-aged housewife. Actually, she was drop-dead gorgeous and defining her as a housewife is a misnomer. Her hair was dyed blond to hide the grey that sprinkled her natural brunette but to be fair, the blond suit her. She jogged every day and bragged that she could do two hundred sit up’s in a row. Based on what I was staring at whenever she looked elsewhere, I had few doubts of her exercise routine. In fact, before I learned more about her, I would have considered dating the woman if she wasn’t married. That’s the beauty of attraction, ain’t it? Once we get to know someone better our hormones take a nose dive. Well, not always but if I was a betting man I would lay down my cash each and every time.

Anyway, Rhonda fit the profile of someone I would have dived into if she never said a word but once that mouth opened and she started to drop the f-bomb every second sentence, I kind of went limp. I felt like asking her where she hid the moonshine and straw hats but in the end, fifteen hundred bucks will never be something I’ll say no to, so here I was sitting in the expansive dining room with the posh motif listening to Rhonda talk about her cheerleader days.

Yah… big surprise there.

Not surprising was that this gorgeous woman had found herself a sugar daddy and lived in a home that could only be illustrated as a mini palace. Chandeliers hung from the front hall, in the kitchen and oddly enough outside the first floor bathroom. Clearly, sugar daddy did not pay much attention to Rhonda’s lack of vocabulary or design skills and hell, I don’t blame him.

My buxomly client was about to detail how she lost her virginity to her second cousin while their families were observing a religious fast when mercifully my cell phone rang. Looking at the call display, I saw a very long phone number, which looked more like Bill Gate’s paycheck than any phone number I was accustomed to reading. I was tempted to push the Ignore button but my curiosity got the best of me and I answered hello while lifting a finger, asking Rhonda to hold on.

“Aaron, it’s Lena,” the sexy voice began.

I nodded my head after figuring out the long string of digits was coming from Ukraine. Realizing a need for quiet and privacy, I excused myself from the mammoth dining room and headed to the equally huge front hall. I rolled my eyes when a brooding Rhonda exhaled an exaggerated long sigh.

My friend Lena mentioned last week that she had to fly to Kiev but did so in a rushed text message, which was something that has always bugged the shit out of me. I have told her a countless number of times that it is so much easier to pick up a phone and call but for some unknown reason she is more comfortable with impersonal typing on tiny buttons. Personally, I think she’s conscious of her accent and preferred this mode of communication but I gotta tell ya that this is just silliness because Lena’s voice is both soothing and alluring with only a hint of inflection. I’ve never struggled to understand what she’s saying, so that being said I have to believe she persists on texting just to irk me.

I met Lena at a lackluster conference about three years ago and we immediately hit it off. I can’t recall exactly how we met but we sort of bumped into each other and have remained friends since then. We tried dating but something didn’t click and agreed to stop before our friendship suffered. In hindsight, I wish I knew why things were so awkward at that specific time but no matter how I try to piece together those few months, I can’t find an answer as to why we couldn’t make it work. One thing for sure, I’ve always found Lena rather guarded and not willing to share more than she has to. There were other obstacles of course and many had to do with my experiences with Eastern European women. Don’t get me wrong, Lena is extremely attractive and at times hilarious but in the back of my mind I always waited or expected for the crazy temper to burst through. A temper I have witnessed all too many times from pampered Russian princesses. Aside from that, there was a weird stigma attached to these girls, like they were all con artists working for the mob or some Russian pimp.

“Hey Lena,” I answered, “Good to hear your voice. Wassup? Where are you?”

“I have arrived in Kiev yesterday but had no manner in which to call you,” she answered.

Okay, I’m flattered to say the least but not quite sure why she found it necessary to contact me while on vacation.

“Aaron, my aunt is very ill. The doctors insist she has only three weeks, maybe less to live.”

“Oh,” I said still dumbfounded and wondering what this had to do with me.

I felt a pang of despair for my friend realizing that these situations are never easy. I peeked around the corner into the dining room and saw Rhonda staring at me with blank eyes wondering when I would be done talking so that she could continue talking.

“I’m sorry to hear this but it’s good that you’re there with her.”

Damn, that was lame. I never have any clue what to say in these circumstances.

“This is the aunt I told you about,” Lena replied, fully realizing that I wasn’t following her. “She lived in Pripyat before the nuclear reactor accident.”

Bells whistled in my head and my attention was now focused entirely on the phone call. Lena had once mentioned that if ever I should write a biography on anyone, it should be her aunt.

“Oh yah, I remember now. Pripyat is close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant.”

“Aaron, she has agreed to speak with you but you must leave immediately. Is your passport up-to-date?”

“Say what?” I replied almost too comically. “You want me to fly to Kiev? Are you kidding me?”

“No, I am not kidding you”, she answered back with a hint of anger. “There is a flight leaving Pearson Airport tonight. I checked for seating and there are still some spots available so if you hurry there will be no problem. Call my friend Anna, she is a travel agent and she will book it for you. I will text you her phone number in five minutes.”

I was uncertain how to reply other than, “Another text Lena?” I knew in my gut that this could be the story I had been waiting for since the day I began writing biographies. More than likely, every other piece of work I had written beforehand would pale in comparison.

“This is gonna max out my credit card,” I blurted sheepishly.

My response did not please Lena and I could hear her grumble thousands of miles away. I coughed hoping she would quickly forget my unintentional rudeness.

“This is going to change your life, stop being so indecisive. Text your flight number and I will meet you at the airport. You will stay with my relatives. If anything Aaron, you will do this for me and our friendship.”

She said goodbye without giving me a chance to defend my position and I was left shaking my head in wonderment as was often the case when dealing with Lena.

I hurried back to the dining room, apologized to an extremely displeased Rhonda, packed my laptop and then sped to my apartment. Lena had already text her friend’s phone number and I called the travel agent the second I walked through my front door. The midnight flight was booked fifteen minutes later. The first thing I did following my phone call was surf the Internet for weather in Kiev and then packed accordingly. I was to expect lots of rain and temperatures between ten and fifteen centigrade, which was normal for mid-April. After throwing whatever clean clothes I could find into a suitcase, my final task was the most difficult, and that was of course, calling my mother and letting her know where I would be. She approved of Lena but not of the culture she came from. No matter how many times I explained that Lena was Ukrainian and not Russian, my mom could not let go of her antiquated beliefs. I took most of this with a grain of salt especially since the day she described Russia as the land that nurtured Stalin and John Lennon.

At six a.m. the next day I was flying over the English Channel, eight hours from Kiev.

As anticipated, Lena met me at Kiev International at 9pm Kiev time. Her blond hair was hanging free of her normal head bands and she wore a short blue skirt that accentuated her near perfect body. When she wrapped her arms around my hips the smell of her hair excited me to no end and I was suddenly wide awake. She didn’t normally dress so revealing so I was surprised, albeit very happy.

“Kiev agrees with you,” I complimented.

Judging from her puzzled facial expression, I could tell she was not certain what I meant but had a general idea and it pleased her. After seventeen years in Canada, Lena had still not caught on to many simple expressions.

“I am worried of gaining ten pounds a day. If the prepared food is not sweet, it is filled with mayonnaise. You’ll need new pants by the time we return home.”

Well, in your case it’s ending up in the perfect spots, I thought to myself. “We’ll have to take long walks after each meal. I’m looking forward to meeting your family.”

Lena smiled at the long walk comment. “And they are excited to meet you; I said some nice things. I should warn you that they may have mistaken my words as you being my boyfriend. My Russian is not as strong as it used to be and not only that, many of my family refuses to speak Russian and will only speak Ukrainian so that makes it even more difficult for me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I liked being your boyfriend when I was actually your boyfriend so you won’t hear me complaining.”

Lena looked me in the eye and half-grinned shyly before turning away. Okay, what I am about to say will sound incredibly vain or perhaps over hopeful but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it. Truth be told, I believe that Lena is in love with me and has been for at least the last two years. For whatever reason, she prefers to remain friends and as I said earlier, I don’t get it, as it makes no sense. From what I know from our circle of friends, she has never discussed her feelings with anyone even though many suspect that she wishes that she and I were still together. Anyone who ever saw the two of us chatting at parties or over dinner would come to the same conclusion. The comfort level, the laughter and the obvious sexual tension are as evident as the nose on your face.

I didn’t sleep a wink on the flight and never do on an excursion with moving parts. I once stayed awake throughout a two-day train ride to Moncton. My girlfriend at the time said that by the end of the trip I resembled a ninety-year old Robin Williams on Quaaludes. After a quick stop at a washroom – yah, I was feeling the effects of eight coffees – we stepped outside and found a taxi almost instantly. Lena got in the smallish vehicle first and told the driver where we were heading. I found it odd, and to a certain degree annoying, that she kept looking out the back window. I decided to keep this to myself as arguing half an hour after arriving was never a good idea.

“We can’t visit my aunt this evening,” she said, buckling her seatbelt while advising me to do the same. “It is much too late but I have asked permission for tomorrow morning.”

I didn’t understand the permission remark and like the rear window scenario, my Spiderman senses told me it would be better not to inquire.

“How is she doing?”

“Considering her situation, I would like to say as fine as expected.” Lena replied. “She is in good spirits and burst into tears when she realized who I was. It was very touching Aaron, a moment I will never forget.”

This perplexed me a bit, so I had to ask the obvious. “She has no photos of you?”

“Yes she does but face to face is different. She has been living in the Exclusion Zone for the last fifteen years.”

This piece of information confused me even further and Lena caught on swiftly.

“In time Aaron, there is much to learn. For now I will explain the Exclusion Zone as surrounding villages in and around Chernobyl. It was a very lonely life for her and for the few that choose to live there.”

I wanted to ask why she had preferred such and existence but decided to wait. Even if I had asked, Lena could only have answered what she had been told by her relatives. So instead, I asked the most palpable of questions.

“How does she look?”

Lena shrugged. “She looks like someone who has lived with radiation for twenty-five years. Most of her hair is gone…she has yellowish skin and a few open sores on her arms. The nurses have wrapped the wounds with gauze but she scratches nonstop as if she is filing her nails. She looks like a dying woman, a woman who is prepared and welcome to die yet she has summoned the energy to speak with us.” Lena looked out the rear passenger window for a few seconds and then glanced back at me. “What has both intrigued and disappointed me Aaron is that my relatives are not as anxious to visit her as I. It is disturbing to say the very least and when I question my cousin Boris as to why, he refuses to answer. I want to slap him…but he is a grown man and I am sure he has his reasons.”

Strange, I thought. “I did some research last night, which seems like an eternity ago, but I read that the citizens of Pripyat were not very welcome when they were evacuated.”

“Let my Aunt Tania tell her story,” Lena said quietly. “Hearing it first hand is better than an article off the Internet.”

I agreed and held Lena’s hand. Thankfully, she did not push away and instead held my hand tightly.

Within half an hour, we arrived at the home of Lena’s cousin, a heavy set man with one brow that seemed to begin and end at each ear. He was much darker than everyone else in the room and appeared to me as someone with a Gypsy heritage. He was introduced as Boris Kharmalov, a merchant who owned a successful cell phone store. It was obvious the man was doing well as his apartment in central Kiev was very large with every imaginable luxury. I was amazed at the size of the dwelling considering contradictory stories that clearly said most residents of this city lived in one bedroom apartments. This home had three bedrooms, a spacious chrome kitchen and a living room the size of six pool tables. Original paintings hung on most walls and a large television graced the wall in front of a leather lounger. I was graciously welcomed by several of Boris’s friends including a couple of stunning women who hung on every word Boris spoke. Before I had an opportunity to shake hands with every guest, I was handed a shot glass of Vodka.

“Drink,” Boris said with a heavy accent. “Welcome to my home, Aaron.”

It didn’t take me long to notice that Boris was near fluent in English although I didn’t ask where or when he learned a second language. Three hours and several shot glasses later, I was allowed to say goodnight and sleep came very quickly. The only thing I cared to remember this morning was that Lena never left my side the previous evening and more amazingly, was lying next to me when I awoke.

About the Author

Bob Dornan

Robert J Dornan is someone who wishes to leave a better world to his children. He realizes that the odds are slim but he will do whatever he can to increase the probability of success. He is always open to discuss new and innovative ideas and hopes someday to see the building of a functional solar city as well as a fair and community-driven compensation system.

 

Robert’s latest book is the historical fiction, 23 Minutes Past 1 A.M.

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