Papa is a Soldier

A family member listens as Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, and Alpha and Bravo Troops, 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry, New Jersey Army National Guard, sing the Army Song after the farewell ceremony at the armory in Westfield, N.J., Jan. 21, 2019. The three units are deploying to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in support of Operation Spartan Shield. (New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

Top Photo Caption: A family member listens as Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, and Alpha and Bravo Troops, 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry, New Jersey Army National Guard, sing the Army Song after the farewell ceremony at the armory in Westfield, N.J., Jan. 21, 2019. The three units are deploying to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in support of Operation Spartan Shield. (New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

The following is a work of fiction. The papa in this children’s story is not any particular one individual but all of the troops that Americans honor on Memorial Day, as the child is all of their children and grandchildren.

Papa is a solider. He went away to war. Every day Mama and I put an X on the calendar and count off the days until he comes home. It is so many! But each day there is one less day. Still, I miss him.

Papa is a solider. He fights brave and true. He fights for peace. He fights for me and for you.
We turned the page on the calendar today. One month down in Papa’s tour of duty. Still forty more. So many! But each month there is one less month. Still, I miss him.

Papa is a solider. He fights so very far away. It is hard to remember. Will he ever come home?

photo credit: DC Public Library Commons Unknown Soldier via photopin (license)

Mama got a letter today. I don’t know what it said. Mama stopped marking off the calendar with me. I don’t understand. I liked that. It helped me understand the big, long wait until Papa comes home.

What does this mean? It has been so very long. It seems like Papa is never coming home. Mama cries all the time. I think she is afraid Papa is never coming home, too.

Today, soldiers brought home a big, long box, with an American flag draped over it. Papa was a soldier. He fought brave and true. He died for peace. He died for me and for you.

Break In


photo credit: country_boy_shane The Citadel – National City Building via photopin (license)

The street lamp lured the two young vagrants towards their only hope of warmth in the dark night. The store was closed, but a lock pick fixed that in short order.

Inside, the young man cursed. “It’s as dark in here as it is out there. Find a light.”

“How?” the shabbily dressed girl asked. “I can hardly see my hand in front of my face.”

Maybe they couldn’t. I could see just fine. Not that there was much to see, besides me, anyway. I was the main thing for sale around here. This place was generic Corporate America. No different from any other corporate headquarters, other than everyone but upper management having all gone home for the night. Even the janitor had taken off.

The young man sighed. “At least it’s warm. Let’s find what we came for already.”

Blind eyes glanced around as they turned in a slow circle, struggling to see through what to them was a dark gloomy night that the lights should have kept safely outside. The girl’s eyes landed on me, peering hard. “I think I might see something.”

No, don’t. Not this way; you’ll set off the security system.

The girl’s companion shivered. “Let’s get out of here. Something doesn’t feel right.”

The fools ran forward, towards me.

Blue sparks flew from the ceiling and zapped the youths. They didn’t even have time to scream before the ionizer had dusted them both. Gone, just like that.

That was it. No more of this.

A swift kick, and my display case shattered. I rolled out and hit the ground running. No time to mess with the hassle of going upstairs the normal way, and they’d be expecting something like that. But I knew a better way to get into upper management.

Dashing around the corner, I found the grate covering the old service elevator’s shaft. A screwdriver had the bolts off in two minutes flat. I climbed inside and shimmied up the service elevator shaft’s stainless steel rails. On the second floor, at my easy tug, the rusty service elevator doors creaked apart with a groan.

The light from the office glowed golden yellow from the open door. It was a perfect square. Three feet square.

I scrunched down and limboed through the door. Easy for me, but no one should have to jump through hoops like this, and I bypassed the normal steps to management.

At my entrance, the resident Woman in Charge, in a perfectly pressed power suit, came flying at me, red faced and flustered that some miscreant got past security. “You can’t come in here!”

I regarded the manager calmly. “Sure I can.” I pointed at the door to the owner’s office. “That’s my office.”

At the sound of my voice, my manager and her associates assumed a posture that was far more appropriate for employees in the presence of their boss. Finally, upper management had figured out I was the guy that gave them the keys in the first place—the same keys they used to lock me out and treat me like a product to market and sell.

[tweetthis]Break In #FlashFiction based on a dream. A sentient product for sale confronts his managers.[/tweetthis]

UPDATED A New Easter Tradition–Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Someone else’s attempt at this classic, which is usually round.


In 2016, when I originally posted this, I was recovering from second degree burns and had been rather ill from them all week. Pretty much everything suffered, with my poor, sweet husband having to pick up some of the slack for me. God used a friend I hadn’t seen in forever to get me the meds I needed, and I finally had enough energy to clean my house.

I finished the Easter centerpiece I’d been working on in bits and pieces (flowers made from green straws and #2 cone coffee filters soaked in leftover Easter egg dye and left to dry. Carefully tear it open, fold accordion style 1/2 way, then wrap the other half around, tucking in the short corner. Twist bottom into a point, stick on straw, arrange in a vase or suitable substitute) I stuck saved cracked egg shells in the dye, too, and arranged them in the vase and on a plate (paper) around the vase, crumpled up a few extra dyed coffee filters to go with them. Cute and inexpensive. Not bad at all for a first try, while I’d been ill, really.

You know, this reads exactly like every recipe online where I get annoyed by the blather and skim to the actual recipe, lol.

A few years back, I decided to start a new family tradition of serving pineapple upside down cake on Easter. This new tradition is based upon my short story “Pineapple Upside Down Cake,” loosely based on actual events from my childhood. Namely, shortly before she died of Parkinson’s disease, my paternal grandmother promised to bake my dad said concoction when she got better. In the story, the local church sends a care package full of food to the family (as mine did) and among the items is a pineapple upside down cake. Not sure how much of this is fiction, but to the children in the story, the cake is a reminder of, and assurance of, the funeral preacher’s assurances Grandma was now in Heaven and was well again there. Thus the spiritual meaning it has for me makes it perfect for Easter.

That treat isn’t exactly kosher on my current diet (for health reasons). So I made a few modifications that seem to have worked.

Healthier (Gluten-Free, Dairy Free) Pineapple Upside Down Cake

1 hour and 10 minutes to make 9 servings


¼ cup Smart Balance® Omega-3 margarine (or butter substitute of your choice. Use Butter if not avoiding dairy)
2/3 c a natural brown sugar (Or make brown sugar by adding 1 tbs molasses to 1 c sweetener of choice)
9 pineapple rings, drained (reserve juice)
9 maraschino cherries, destemmed. (I add extra)
11/3c Gluten-Free flour mix (I use Pamela’s Products Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Blend)
1/2 cup Swerve or Pyure sweeteners (OR 1 c of your preferred sugar or 1:1 ratio sugar alternative.)
1 1/2 tsps aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 c almond or cashew milk (increase pineapple juice if omitting)
1/2 c reserved pineapple juice (increase non-dairy milk if omitting)
2 eggs
2-3 tbs olive oil or avocado oil

1) Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9 in round pan, melt the butter substitute in the oven. (Trust me, do this FIRST). After it is melted, remove pan from oven. Ensure all surfaces are greased well to avoid the cake sticking. Sprinkle in the brown sugar then arrange the pineapple over the coconut sugar. Place cherries in the center of each pineapple ring. Note you can use a square brownie dish for this recipe but you’ll have to do some squeezing to get them to fit. Otherwise, the 9 in round pan is best.
2) In a bowl, stir together the flour mix, sweetener, the baking powder, and salt. Add in the oil, the nondairy milk and/or pineapple juice, and 2-3 eggs. Beat lumps out of the batter with an electric mixer on high, about 3 minutes, scraping bowl 2-3 times. Pour batter over the topping mix that’s on the bottom of the pan.
3) Bake 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately place a heatproof serving plate upside down over the cake’s pan. Quickly flip over the plate and the pan. You may need to gently bang on the pan to get the cake to fall off it onto the plate upside down. Leave the pan on over the plate to let the caramelized sugar-oil mix drizzle down; you may need to scrape some off. Note I used a pizza pan as the serving plate before I bought a cake box that includes a serving plate. Cake tastes best warm but it is delicious cold, too.

Adapted from the classic Betty Crocker recipe.

[bctt tweet=”Discover why @andreajgraham makes a Pineapple Upside Down Cake each Easter. Includes #recipe #glutenfree #dairyfree” username=””]

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Biases: Free Flash Fiction Friday

random deli not affiliated with this fictional story.

random deli not affiliated with this fictional story.

The door chimed as a male, non-Jewish customer entered Rivka Cohen’s kosher deli. Her stomach churned. George’s dad was well known for anti-Semitism but surely he didn’t take after his dad. After all, she knew George’s wife from synagogue, though her friend hadn’t gone since they were little. She grinned and waved. “Hi, George. What can I get for you today?”

A light gleamed in his eyes. “Turkey and Swiss on rye with the works, please.”

“Coming right up.” She rang up the turkey on rye sandwich separately from his special request, the slice of cheese. Her stomach tightened as she made his order. His special request wasn’t kosher but he wasn’t of her faith, she didn’t have to eat it and surely she wouldn’t become ceremonially unclean over cheese. It wasn’t unclean according to Torah. It was the Rabbis who had interpreted “Don’t boil a kid in it’s mother’s milk” to mean not to even put cheese on a sandwich. They might judge her at her synagogue, if they found out, but no one would see.
turkey sandwich
She wrapped his sandwich, passed it to him, and gave him his total. After he paid, she handed back his credit card and said with a bright smile, “Have a good day!”

“Thank you.” He tapped his fingers. “My daughter is having a bar mitzvah at our interfaith synagogue in four weeks.”

Ugh. Maybe she had misunderstood, and his daughter had decided to practice her mother’s abandoned faith? Muscles tensing, she forced her smile to stay put. “You mean a bat mitzvah. Girls have bat mitzvahs, not bar mitzvahs.”

“That is so sexist. Our interfaith synagogue practices true equality. Girls have bar mitzvahs, too, and you don’t have to believe Torah is the word of God or commit to keep the Torah to get one.”

That was absurd. She took a deep breath. This wasn’t the place for a religious argument.

The door chimed again as another customer came in. She waved. “Be right with you, ma’am.”

George cleared his throat and leaned over the counter. “You cater, right?”

A bat mitzvah being ignorantly called a bar mitzvah that made a mockery of her faith. She swallowed. It was surely unintentional. Best to let it go. She got out her pad of catering order forms. “Yes, we cater special events. What would you need?”

“Oh, about two hundred shredded pork sandwiches.”

Her face fell. That was it. She put away the catering order forms. “I’m sorry, I’d suggest you go down to Ted’s Barbeque. We don’t serve pork.”

“Excuse me? You got a problem with my love for pork? How dare you! Who are you to judge?”

Huh? “You’re not a Jew. What you eat elsewhere is your business, but we are a kosher deli. It says so on all our ads and signage. Pigs are among the animals of which Torah itself says, ‘You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.’”

“That is bigoted discrimination. A deli is a deli. I have a right to walk into any deli I please and order a pork product and get service, not judgment and hate over my love of pork. Besides, I am a long time customer, and you’ve regularly broken kosher laws for me.” He pointed at the turkey and Swiss on rye. “Thanks to that, you have to be willing to make me anything I order, for any occasion, or it’s discrimination. If you can’t make me shredded pork sandwiches for my daughter’s interfaith bar mitzvah, then you shouldn’t be in business.”

The bell rang as the customer who had been waiting behind him left.

“Sorry you feel that way, sir,” she said in the most professional tone she could muster.

Her childhood friend’s husband tossed his sandwich in the garbage. “I won’t eat what the hands of hate made. I will issue a stop payment with my credit card company.” He stomped out. “And I will sue and take you for everything you’ve got!”

She gulped. Thankfully, she wasn’t one of the hateful, discriminatory Christians who refused to cater gay weddings at their secular bakeries. Only others who hated Jews wouldn’t see through the ploys of the hateful, bigoted false friend seeking to ruin her financially over her faith. Surely her right to practice her religion at her Jewish deli would be upheld and his lawsuit dismissed.

[tweetthis]Kosher Deli owner is betrayed by antisemitic spouse of her childhood friend in Biases[/tweetthis]

Author’s note: let’s each work on being aware of our own biases. Let’s each work on respecting the rights of others to earn a living according to their own conscience even if we disagree with them on political, religious, or any other controversy of the day.

The Ring



16 pages
Sixteen year old Adriana Malone has been best friends with Abraham Desmond for as long as she can remember, but ever since she’s started seeing Duke, Abe’s been acting strange. Can she balance the needs of both of the guys in her life, or will she have to chose between popularity . . . and her own convictions?

A light came on and my next-door neighbor’s voice boomed, “Adriana Wesley Malone, get out of that bed! It’s time to go and I’m not leaving without you. If I don’t go, our moms and Eliza don’t either. And you know what they’ll do to you if they don’t get to go to church.”

I turned over in bed and hid underneath my pillow. “Abe! Who let you in? Go away; it’s too early, I’m asleep!”

Abe grabbed for the pillow and a tug of war ensued. He won. “Dear, it’s almost ten. Get up and shower, or I will pick you up and put you in the car and you can go to church barefoot and in your PJ’s. Your choice.”

“You wouldn’t!” He would. Abe never made idle threats.

Eliza came in. “Hurry up, Adriana. The big lug refuses to leave you behind.” At fifteen, patience wasn’t her strong point.

Groaning, I sat up and pulled myself out of bed, every muscle crying out in protest. I looked around, bleary eyed and sleep-sand crusted.

Abe steered me towards the bathroom. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”

I glared. “Abraham Desmond, you are a royal pain, you know that?”

“You’ll thank me later.”

I stuck out my tongue. My cheek anticipated a smart-aleck kiss even though Abe put that sort of behavior to a stop over three years ago.

By the time we reached the church five minutes after the services were to start, I was fully awake. I should’ve known better than to stay out so late. I needed to stop letting Duke talk me into these things. If Abe knew how late I was out the night before, he’d be furious. Thankfully, I was often difficult in the morning, so he didn’t seem to find my behavior out of the ordinary.

As we entered the sanctuary, Abe grabbed my left hand. “Where’s your ring?”

I blinked. “Eliza stole it out of the bathroom a month ago.”

Hurt flashed through Abe’s clear blue eyes. His mother frowned. “Abraham, come sit next to me.”

Sending another hurt look at me, Abe trotted to her side, clear on the other side of our party.

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