I remember the last words he ever said to me as he headed out the door.

“I’ll be back in a bit.” He flashed me his silly little smile. “If I don’t get hit by a meteor, that is.”

Who would have ever thought?

(c)2014 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.


I am currently in the midst of a reformation, or perhaps a recalibration. I let a lot of things go to pot over the last year – the yard, my weight, my language. During the course of Cyndi’s illness I became something of a short fuse, and could spew forth curse words at the slightest provocation, not at Cyndi mind you, nor the girls, but certainly within their hearing. I was circumspect enough to hold my tongue in public, but it was an effort.

Dropping a knife on the floor while loading the dishwasher would garner a few muttered choice words. Breaking the pull ties on a trash bag would generate a brief, though quite vocal, soliloquy. More serious matters would likely result in a regular diatribe of profanity.

I always apologized to those around me after one of these outbursts, and I felt bad for losing my temper, still the cursing went on.

After Cyndi died the cursing did not stop, nor noticeably decline all that much, despite the lower stress levels. Until one day, after apologizing to Em for going off on some insignificant matter within her hearing she said to me, “It’s like you don’t have a filter anymore.”

That really gave me pause.

That is not the person I want to be.

So, I have been making a concerted effort to cut down on my cussing. It had turned into a bad habit, and one I need to break.

Breaking bad habits is not easy, but I am making steady improvement. As silly as it sounds I try to give myself positive reinforcement simply by saying, out loud to myself, “I didn’t cuss.” It seems to be working.

Know what? I actually feel better about myself now. I only wish I had seen the light sooner, so my wife did not have to listen to my foul language in her final months. But regrets get one nowhere. All I can do now is continue to try to improve.

I am making steady improvements on those other fronts as well. I am slowly losing weight, and the yard looks much better.

I think Cyndi would be pleased.



I was saddened when I heard that a young unarmed black man was shot and killed by a City of Ferguson police officer. My initial thought was, oh no, not again. Very shortly afterward I thought, while the incident would certainly elicit angry protests, that this being St. Louis, the lid would not pop off into violence.

St. Louis is known for its calm demeanor. During the riots of the 60′s St. Louis was one of the few major cities in the US not to experience rioting. When we win the World Series or (infrequently at best) Super Bowl, the St. Louis fans do not spill out onto the streets to overturn cars and set dumpsters on fire. So the last thing I expected was an overnight riot and looting.

When I learned of the rioting mid-morning the next day I was stunned. I really didn’t expect something like that to happen here, in suburban St. Louis. I guess that just shows how out of touch I really am.

I am not so out of touch that I don’t know there are deeply wrought racial divides in this community, or that the frustration level of the powerless and disenfranchised is probably running near record levels. I simply did not expect violence. The shooting of Michael Brown, and the official police response to it, seems to have been the final straw to bring everything down.

The rioting left me saddened, both for the store owners whose businesses were violated, and for the community around them, for there will be long term negative ramifications, both economic and social. And being aware of some of the racial sentiments of this town, I knew certain elements would use the riot and looting to paint an entire segment of our society with a broad stereotyping brush. Reading some of the comments on local news stories proved me right. Please, people, don’t go there.

Yes, there were people who destroyed and stole property. Yes, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But there were also people who came out the very next day, black people mind you, who helped clean up, who offered apologies, who pleaded for calm. Unfortunately many of these efforts were met with suspicion, if not downright hostility. Perhaps that is understandable considering the hurt the business people had just gone through.

But what white America must come to see, must come to understand, is the hurt the black community goes through all the time. Remember my first reaction – oh no, not again. How many Trayvon Martins, Eric Garners, and Michael Browns does it take to make us realize something is drastically wrong?

I have yet to verify it, but one thing I read said Michael Brown was initially stopped for jaywalking. Jaywalking? I jaywalk almost every day, sometimes in front of police cars. I have never been stopped for it. Not once in over 50 years. Why is that, do you think?

Jaywalking is not a capital offense. Yet this young man ended up dead. I certainly understand that outrage.

Yes, the rioters and looters should be prosecuted. But so too should police officers who cross the line in the use of reasonable force. So too should police officers who threaten the very core of our democracy by attempting to suppress and intimidate the press.

We all need to step back, black and white, and stop looking at each other as the other. We are all in this together folks. We all desperately need to learn to listen to each other and take each others concerns with the seriousness and respect they deserve.


A NASA concept image of a space station.I hovered just outside the circle of Dockside officers surrounding Captain McGuire, trying to catch his eye. No doubt they were busy, what with launch just six hours away, but I really needed to bring this issue up with him post haste. McGuire was known for his temper, as well as his disdain for civvy staff members. Since I’m definitely a civvy I dared not interrupt. Hendricks, our Chief Operations Officer here on LF-4, finally left the little cluster of uniforms and the Captain cast me a skeptical glance.

“What is it, Abbot? You’ve been dancing around there like you’ve had to piss in the worst way for the last half hour. Get it off your chest.”

Clearing my throat, I stepped forward, close to the remaining circle, yet not actually joining it. Fleet boys have an overdeveloped sense of personal space and have been known to deck anyone stupid enough to intrude. The three remaining officers stood nonchalant regarding me with smiles, bordering on sneers. I paused, uncertain of myself, of the situation. “Get it off your chest,” was a questionable invitation at best.

“Sir, I need to talk to you about the supply situation.” The sneer on Lieutenant Du Val’s face melted into a blank, unreadable expression. Lieutenant Anderson looked at her watch.

As Dockside Logistics Specialist for this launch it was my job to make sure everything was properly procured, delivered, and stowed aboard the ship before we sent her on her way. Once launched there’s no turning back, no resupply. First Crew would not emerge from stasis until the ship reached its full cruising speed, in about three years. The survival of the colonists depended upon a full manifest.

I cleared my throat again. “There seems to be a problem.”

Lieutenant Du Val frowned, folding his arms over his chest. Sub Lieutenant Gamble assumed Parade Rest, hands behind his back. His half smile-half sneer remained on his face. Anderson looked like she suddenly remembered something needing doing, and departed at a good clip.

I did not interpret the officers’ body language as good signs, and felt my situation growing tenuous.

“May I speak to you in private?”

Captain McGuire scowled, ever so briefly, then jerked his head to the side, dismissing the others. Du Val saluted and walked away, casting a black glance my way. Gamble stood off to about 3 meters and resumed his at ease position.

“What’s on your mind, young lady?” McGuire asked, his countenance all sincerity and concern.

“I’ve just finished my inventory, Captain, and there are critical shortages in the supplies.”

McGuire looked puzzled and stepped a bit closer to me. “What do you mean? Last week you told me everything was well accounted for.”

“Last week everything was well accounted for. I supervised that inventory personally, and everything was there down to the last gram of coffee.”

“Then how can there possibly be any shortages?” he asked, scratching his graying beard. “And what kind of shortages are we talking about here? Food? Medicine? Materials?”

“Yes. Yes to all of that. Plus equipment. Two tractors are missing. Otherwise, about 30% of the food and building materials have disappeared, and fully half of the pain killers.”

He shook his head in disbelief. “That can’t be right. All those supplies have been under guard and seal since their arrival. Either you must have made a mistake upon delivery, or are mistaken now. I can’t see how they could have just gotten up and walked away.”

My stomach dropped.

“With all due respect, Sir, there was no mistake. Then or now. Obviously someone has stolen these goods, and in doing so put the lives of hundreds of colonists in peril.” I could not help letting my eyes drift toward Sub Lieutenant Gamble. As if being reminded he was there, Captain McGuire turned and signaled the Officer over. As Gamble approached I took a reflexive step back.

“Yes, Sir?” Gamble stood rigidly at ease.

“Joe, Liz here seems to think there is a problem with the supply inventory.”


“She says close to a third of it has disappeared.”

Gamble’s face remained a study in stone.

“You can confirm that Warehouses 6 and 7 have been under 24/7 security?” McGuire looked stern.

“Yes, Sir!”

“And that the contents were moved, in their entirety, aboard the SS Hudson last night?”

“Yes, sir. I observed the transfer personally.”

“But–” McGuire cut me off with a gesture.

“And that the hold has been under constant guard since being sealed?”

“Yes, sir.”

McGuire turned to me with a skeptical, half bemused look on his face. “I think you must have made a mistake, Ms Abbot.” I opened my mouth to object, but he cut me off again. “Now don’t fret. We’ll double check everything, and believe me, if anything is missing – one, I will personally lead the investigation, and two, we will not launch until any shortfall has been filled. Thank you for coming to me with this. We’ll get on it right away.” He turned to Gamble. “See to it, Joe.”

“Yes, Sir!” Sub Lieutenant Gamble saluted, smirked at me, turned on his heal, and marched away.


McGuire glared at me. “I think we are done here, Ms Abbot. Dismissed.”

He walked off, leaving me drained and shaken.

I knew what I needed to do. I had to downlink right away. I turned and rushed back to my quarters.

I locked the door even as I noticed my message board blinking. When I called up the text any hope for support melted away. Instead of a reassuring message from Captain McGuire, it was orders. I was being reassigned. I was the new Logistics Specialist for SS Hudson. I was to report onboard within the hour. As I reached for the communications console my door swept open. Two Marines stepped in, one to each side, followed by a grinning Lieutenant Du Val.

“Good afternoon, Liz. Come with us please. Oh, don’t bother to pack.”

© 2014 by J. M. Strother. All rights reserved.

NASA image believed to be in the public domain.



The West

Alternating bands of brown and green
Leeward and windward
Spare rough country
Magnificent in its own right
Broken by the next ridge
The next valley.
Yet the lush green of forest and field
Will not be denied,
A celebration of the power of life.
Such contradiction
Repeating in rolling waves
As I travel the American west.


I’ll be out on the road soon, embarking on a long overdue vacation. The plan is to work my way west, through South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and on to Washington to visit an old friend along the coast. It’s always more fun to travel with a friend than alone, so another old and mutual friend has agreed to go with me. We can share the driving, and out west that’s an important feature.

We plan to hit the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, then on to The Badlands and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Then it’s on to Devil’s Tower to look for aliens, Yellowstone to try to avoid being eaten by bears, and the Grand Tetons for some fabulous photos. (Is it possible to take a bad photo of the Tetons?)

We’ll work our way though Idaho the long way, then on to Mount Rainier, the Seattle Space Needle, and ultimately a ferry to my friend’s place.

The return trip will take a more southerly route but is less planned in case we have to make tracks. If all goes well though, we will see central Oregon, Idaho again, the Bonneville Salt Flats, Mesa Verde, and Pikes Peak. That’s a lot to take in, so we may have to skip some of the sites on the way back.

The purpose of this trip is two fold. One, of course, is to see our friend. The other is that I hope the change of scene will be restorative for me. You may know that my wife died in February, and the last three years have emotionally drained me. My creative spark is pretty well gone. This trip just may rekindle it, and I know she would be glad for me if it does.

I’ve laid in a two week supply of groceries for the kids, who will be dog sitting for me, and stocked up on a two week supply of The Best of Friday Flash to take along with me. I plan to drop them off along the way, either as public nuisances, err… surprises, or as gifts to anyone who happens to find me along the way. I’d love to run into some of the folks who have been participating in #FridayFlash all these years. So if our paths come close please drop me a line and maybe we can meet up for a chat over a cuppa whatever (I don’t drink coffee).

I hope to give my first one away in or around the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska, on Tuesday, May 21st. I’ll be the fat old guy wearing the ESRI cap and carrying around a copy of BOFF1. Just say, “Hey,” and it’s yours.

I expect the next give away will be in the vicinity of Mount Rushmore. I’ll update, with pics, as we go. Now we just need to hope the snow is finally and truly gone.


Cover of SpillworthyOne of the things I’ve always been terrible about is cross promotion. Chances are if I have a guest post up somewhere else I’ll forget to cross promote it over here. For example, I just did a wonderful interview with Johanna Harness (of #amwriting fame) last week over on Friday Flash Dot Org. I’m not sure that qualifies as a guest post, but nonetheless I failed to mention it over here. My bad.

It is not too late for you to go read it and have a chance to win a nice comment prize from Johanna. She says the offer is good through May 10th. That gives you a whole four more days to make good (and a wee bit of today as well). So go read and comment. Johanna has some wonderful wisdom to share concerning many things including reading, writing, the road to the publication of her first novel “Spillworthy“, teaching, and life in general. There should be something for everyone.



E is for Earth

Weather turns warmer
Snows replaced by thunderstorms
The earth drinks deeply

Yeah, pretty lame. And I’m already a day behind. Here’s F to catch up with.

F is for Fail

Already behind
And taxes are due next week
A to Z may fail

At least I’m trying.




Reliable harbinger of spring
You sit dormant
Refusing to yield even one bud
One glimmer of hope
Others may succumb
To the siren songs of warm days
Greening shrubs
New grass underfoot
But I know you too well
Ever faithful
You have never lied to me
So I will wait
Sharpen my hoe
Hold back on planting
Until you once again reveal
Your own confidence
The weather has truly turned


C is for Cyndi

Two months now since you have gone
Two months which seem an eternity
And though my heart is filled with sorrow
It is also filled with hope
Hope for the future
Hope for the dreams
That you will not be here to see unfold
But which I am sure you will be happy with
Once they do
These dreams are for you, dear Cyndi
And they will, I am certain,
Make you smile.


I don’t plan to get all maudlin with these, but seriously, how could C not be for Cyndi?

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