Saturday, January 18, 2014



Gil Stephens saw tiny blinking light flashes, then felt pulsations in his head. A rush of sound followed and stirred him, then it quieted down. He opened his eyes to a blurry field of view. No. He was looking out of just one eye. Sounds clicked behind him and fogged faces appeared, then torsos and arms. He felt himself lifted and placed on something soft. Voices murmured. I'm sliding, he thought. He tensed.
"Mr. Stephens," he heard echo somewhere. The voice repeated his name. He tried to grasp its meaning. Mr. Stephens, he thought. He tried to shake his head to clear it but the pain jolted him. Oh. This is a hospital. The accident, the highway, the snow. Alicia. What happened to Alicia?
He tried to speak, frightened, and attempted to raise himself. Another jolt of pain, now up his left side. He couldn't move his arm.
"Mr. Stephens," the voice repeated again. "Can you hear me?" It was a female voice. Someone lifted his right arm and connected a tube. He felt attached and detached at the same time. The image of the crash consumed him. He tried to speak.
"Is she alright?" he heard his voice, slurred, say. "Is Alicia alright?"
"Your passenger is fine. She was injured, a couple of cracked ribs, but went home yesterday."
"Oh," he said. "Oh." He shuddered at the torrent of emotions that swept through him. "Where am I?"
"You're in the ICU at Oquaga General. You've just had an MRI. It looks like you'll recover. You've been pretty banged up."
"Helen," he said. "Does my wife know? She's in The Netherlands." A sense of clarity returned. I need to think straight, he thought.
"She was here earlier today, came right from the airport. She went home to change. She said she'd be right back. I'll call and let her know you're conscious. How do you feel?"
"Overwhelmed. Totally overwhelmed."
Stephens tried to see who he was talking with. Her image was still blurred.
"I'm Jeanine, a nurse," she said. "You have a broken upper arm and collarbone. We've got you bound up. Your left eye and the left side of your head is bandaged. We put you on a morphine drip."
"How bad? How bad are my injuries?"
"We need to monitor you to check for any swelling inside your head. So far, so good. Your vital signs are positive. We're not sure about your eye yet?"
"My eye," he said. He felt his awareness slipping away. "I'm having trouble."
"Go ahead back to sleep. It's okay."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I’ve been invited as Social Justice Forum guest speaker this Sunday 1/19 at the Chattanooga TN Unitarian Universalist Church at 9:30 a.m. I’m going to tell stories about human-rights journeys Eileen and I undertook. Such as:
1) Meeting with Nicaraguan survivors of a Contra attacks supported by the USA - particularly those is one community near the Honduras border.
2) Our accompaniment of Mayan survivors living in a refugee camp on their return to a massacre site to commemorate the dead from a paramilitary attack in southern Mexico.
3) Stories of the “disappeared,” tortured and oppressed, as well as murders of street children, picked up from a journey to Honduras.
4) What harassment we witnessed children encounter from the Israeli military on the first day of school in Beit Ommar, Palestine, as well as other episodes, including the ramming of a Lutheran orphanage by a tank.
5) Observations from our role as international observers in the El Salvador 2004 presidential elections.
6) An invitation by a Mexican Catholic bishop to consecrate the Eucharist with him at a celebration of a 25-year-effort to uplift lives of indigenous poor, me a Protestant clergyperson.
Probably won’t be time for all -- memories …
Taking note of a story I wrote about a Nicaraguan Contra attack that was recently published in the Black Earth Institute’s About Place Journal:

Monday, January 13, 2014


Another draft passage from 2nd Elrod story:

Elrod negotiated his new, used mountain bike through shopping center traffic to a circular shaped city branch library, checked it out, it felt accommodating, then, at the nearby bus stop, he loaded the bike onto the front rack of the waiting bus and headed downtown.
Aboard, a feeling emerged as he looked out the window: he felt homesick, but from where? Though he spent a few years on the streets of this southeastern USA city, he felt exiled. At this moment, though, he also felt compelled to try his hand again at “investigation.” He wanted to find out about kids used as drug couriers on city streets, about the connection between the Russian mafia and drug traffic in the city, and about the man who shot at him at the convenience store. But looking into his feeling of homesickness -- yes, this is important, too, he thought.
He oriented himself as the bus approached his stop.
“I’ll just ride around. I might not be so recognizable in a bike helmet and sunglasses,” he said to himself. Off the bus, he slipped his knapsack on, put on the helmet, and rode into the periphery of the troubled Oakdale district. Two blocks in he noticed a disturbance and watched from behind a tree. A small group of young men shouted at a faded black sedan parked in the middle of the road. Rival gangs, he thought.
A gunshot. The car raced off in a direction away from Elrod. One of the young men on the street fell. Another fired a shot at the car. Elrod took out his smartphone and reported what he witnessed to 911, watched the young men crowd around the man shot, the people come out the old duplex homes to take in a familiar scene, and eventually a patrol car and an ambulance arrive.
How many like that this week? Elrod wondered. He’d check the local news reports.
The wounded young man stood up as Elrod rode slowly through the scene along a sidewalk. He recognized one of the others, the convenience store robber, who faded into the background to Elrod’s right as two patrolmen and two EMTs approached, then walked behind one of the duplexes. Elrod continued riding, passing another approaching police car, turned right at the corner, then right again, and caught sight of the young man entering a duplex. Elrod quickly wheeled a U-turn, took note of the street and duplex, and rode away.
Minutes later, he traveled along 23rd Street past Motel 23, and noticed the Venus Appliance van and large black SUV parked in its lot. From alongside the convenience store hit by the robbery he snapped a smartphone photo of the vehicles then continued to the community kitchen through the virtually abandoned industrial section that was the scene of the murder of the homeless woman.
Inside, he picked up a sandwich and coffee available in the dining area, sat in an easy chair, pulled his small laptop out of his knapsack, emailed his smartphone photos to himself, downloaded them into the laptop, and began to jot down his observations. I’ll compose all this for the blog later, he thought. Yes, my head is definitely clearing.
He looked up from his laptop. Patrolman Bo Carter pulled up a folding chair and sat in front of him.
“We tracked your 911 call. They figured you’d be here and sent me to get a statement about what you observed in Oakdale.”
Should I tell him about the duplex and the suspected convenience store robber? Elrod wondered. He decided he should.

(c) 2014 Wes Rehberg

Friday, January 10, 2014


The kinship of invisibility ...
Pondering invisibility in a culture when one ages or has a certain kind of status or job -- the invisibility in which a person is disregarded and not considered relevant or appealing. The thought came from my spouse Eileen when she spoke of the phenomenon of the invisibility of older women.
There’s common ground in that …
It’s also useful (one example: Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple) ...

Thursday, January 09, 2014



I've reworked this short story and am now circulating for publication in a literary magazine ... here are the opening paragraphs ...

Cedric Malcolm drove his rust-colored pickup over the broken asphalt at the bottom of the hill, the camper in the truck bed rocking the vehicle side to side. The asphalt gave way to a mix of gravel and dirt in a rutted series of steep upward bends. Wet days, like this one, it was gravel and mud.
“Damn,” Malcolm swore, steering wheel jerking his hands as the truck pitched and yawed and strained with the camper’s weight.
He had just retrieved the pickup camper from the edge of cleared woodland off another rural road where he worked with a logging operation. He parked it there just after he was released two years ago from the New York maximum security prison in Seneca Springs where he spent 11 years convicted of manslaughter in the accidental death of his brother during a fistfight. It was his home until a year ago when he negotiated a deal with two elderly sisters his age for a vacant single-wide mobile home on this road, Claw Valley Pike. The logging operation ceased since then, the land was sold, and the new owner wanted the camper removed.
First time up this hill he almost passed the aged small frame house on the right where the reputedly ornery sisters lived, obscure behind the beech trees, the evergreens, the thick brush, even in winter when foliage was gone. Across the way, a swamp nested where ducks once dwelled. No more. Muck and mire took over, with still enough seeping water from a spring for tadpoles in the ditch alongside the road, for cattails on its edge. When weather warmed, Malcolm could hear the awakening peepers at dusk and into the night, shrill waves of sound. Winter it would be coyotes and owls, and the occasional shriek of their prey.
On the hilltop, at the entryway to the rutted drive that led to the sisters’ house, a rusted white mailbox leaned backward, likely shoved in that direction by a snowplow. Beyond, Claw Valley Pike narrowed downhill to a tight two lanes, When lumber trucks roared through, Malcolm pulled over to the side away from the ditch into the blackberry brush that lined the road. He’d tap the peak of his ball cap, greeting the drivers. They’d wave back.
“Bastard,” he’d mouth with a grin.
Under the mailbox hung a faded wood sign that said Perkins. Perkins, Malcolm now knew, stood for sisters Ella and Marie, and more recently, for their tall, gangly and somewhat backward and very troubled nephew, Elijah. The sisters, usually ferociously protective and obstinately private, took in Elijah reluctantly when their brother Sam and his wife Margaret left town unexpectedly. The couple, owners of the single-wide Malcolm now occupied, dropped Elijah off as they always did on Sunday on their way to the Crossroads Community Church of the Redeemer, about 5 miles away on old Route 17. Ella told Malcolm the story when he negotiated lodging in the single-wide.
“‘Y’all doin’ OK here?’ Sam asked me then” Ella said. “‘Can I get you anything from the grocery.’”
“I said, ‘I think we’ve got what we need, Sam, Don’t be gone long.’ I had no idea they were taking off.”
“The two never showed up at church. Two days later, I filed a missing persons report, resulting in a search for my brother’s truck. They could identify it by a sign on the doors that said Perkins Contracting.”
"Not that Sam did much independent work contractors do - his business skills weren't all that reliable," Ella told Malcolm. "He generally worked for other contractors or helped in logging operations around here."
“Two weeks later, border police reported they crossed at Niagara Falls into Canada, destination Alberta,” she said.
Ella had then reached for a key to the single-wide, hanging on a nail on the rough-milled kitchen window frame. She put it into Malcolm’s palm and smiled. Malcolm’s hands were as heavily calloused as hers. She liked that.
"Margaret didn’t really want to leave Claw Valley, or Elijah with us - we never really were friendly,” she continued. “And, as me and Marie worried, who knew what Elijah might do when he found out she and Sam abandoned him." She paused.
“Of course we had to take him in."
Marie later told Malcolm "He makes me uneasy, rocking back and forth and talking to himself like he does. He seems to be everywhere."
“For now, he’s in the attic room,” Marie said.. “We had to turn the heat on” ...

(c) 2014 Wes Rehberg

Tuesday, January 07, 2014



While thinking about how my mother liked to read mysteries, this little 2-family house in Queens, New York City, came to mind - where my mother, brother, and I lived with my grandmother and grandfather in the three-room upstairs flat for about seven years --

One of my published short stories came out of this experience, “Halloween Eve 1945” -- here's the link ...