Archive for March 2013

A Cross and a Tomb



A cross lays prone

on Golgotha’s Hill,

bloodied, scarred,

the body, gone.

A tomb sits empty,

a cold slab of stone

now bare but for the

shroud of one scorned.

An angel stands guard,

God’s messenger chosen.

“The Savior is not here.

He’s alive. He is risen!”

The gates of Heaven

shake thunderous acclaim to

the resurrected Christ, the crucified one,

Jesus, redeemer, sacrificed lamb.

Angelic hosts shout forth their praise,

“He is here. Glory to God!

Hallelujah, He reigns!”

His accusers stand silenced,

feeling shame, in awe.

“How could it be

that the one who was slain,

  the one proclaimed

to be King of Kings

now lives and reigns?”

“Surely He is the prophesied one!”

“Praise to the Father, and Praise to the Son!”


Poem by: Joyce E. Johnson (March, 2013)

Photo credit: Joyce E. Johnson (2001)

Note: I took the above picture while on my trip to Israel in May, 2001 when my husband and I traveled to Jerusalem and other places in and around Israel with other members of our church. Seeing all the sites from biblical history and the birth and death place of Jesus with my own eyes was an unforgettable, moving experience.  This picture shows the actual place and tomb of Jesus’ burial after his crucifixion.


When I look out my window

And I see fresh snow

I wonder when, and where is spring.

But, to every season

And for all, I know

There is a right time

For all that blooms has yet to open.

Maybe not now: they are but buds,

But nurtured they will grow,

And with that they promise

That spring is here,

The season will blossom,

And the time is right

For my lilies to bloom.


Joyce E. Johnson – 2013

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Bender’s Garage, Chapter III, Part 2

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN (Historical Fiction)

Chapter 3, Part 2

Bender’s Garage, Seattle, WA. 1966


“OK, then. I’ll meet you inside, when you’re ready.” Jennifer said to Scott.

“I’ll hurry.” He said.

“I’m sure. Am I the motivation you need to work a little faster?” She smiled.

“Something like that. Do I need another reason?” He said, grinning.

It grew quieter as they talked. The banging under the noisy heap stopped when she saw the pair of legs from under it slide out revealing a face dirtier than Scott’s grinning up at her. He quickly got up from the mechanic’s creeper as if hopeful to get an introduction.

Other mechanics stood watching as she turned to walk across the work bay to the door of the customer service center. Their staring made her feel uncomfortable, but she knew they were just harmless big boys in dirty overalls.

“Hi, fellas.” She said, giving them her winning smile.

When she approached the door she noticed a wadded greasy shop towel thrown across the bay area smacking the mechanic with the dirty face. It phased him little. His eyes barely blinked, still on Jennifer as he stood like a fixture in stone, on the concrete under him.

She knew Scot could still pitch. He’d pitched all through high school, fast ball, slow curves, all while on the school softball team. He seldom ever failed to strike out players on opposing teams, anticipating their moves, judging his next pitch. But, this time he was unable to move the guy, or wipe the lascivious smile from his dirty face.

She punched in a quarter for the soda machine, and waited as a lever inside lifted and released her choice. The Coke rolled down into the slot.

Arnie Bender, Scot’s uncle came through the door and greeted her, picked up his mail from Shirley, the receptionist and entered his office.

She settled down in a chair to read the book she’d brought. But, the newspapers on a side table caught her eye. She read the titles, and subtitles of enclosed articles, “Stepping up troop movement for escalating war in Southeast Asia,” “Fighting results in increased college enrollment,” “Mothers weep at departure gates; their sons promising to write,” “Debate over U.S. involvement causes division in Congress,” “Parades and demonstrations take to the streets.” Pictures showed hippies holding signs, “Make Love, Not War!Some had those with their two middle fingers raised in a ‘peace sign.’ Others stood defiant, in their face using just their middle finger raised in a lewd gesture. The scenes and news reports were coming with more regularity for the times they lived in.

She stopped reading when she heard Scot’s name mentioned in the adjoining office. She knew it wasn’t right, but couldn’t resist listening to the conversation between Mr. Bender and the receptionist.

    “Mr. Bender, there was a call for you earlier from an Army officer by the name of…”


    “Yes. He asked if you had filled out the necessary papers regarding your nephew, Scot’s employment here. He wanted to remind you that those papers they sent you requesting confirmation of his employment needed to be filled out and sent back ASAP to their office here in Seattle, by the deadline date.”

    “OK. Is there anything else, other calls, or messages?” he asked.

    “No sir. That’s all. The rest are on your appointment calendar, or spindle. This one I highlighted because of its importance. I thought you would want to know. He said it was vital they get those papers back by that date. He left his number for you, to call.”

    “Thank you, Shirley. That is all.”

    Shirley walked out to resume her work behind the ‘Information’ desk.

    Jennifer sat, the newspapers still in her lap, with little interest in them, or her book. She quickly tossed them back onto the table in a heap, as if she’d just been bitten or stung by an angry bee. She decided she would not tell Scott what she overheard or knew, about the ‘confirmation’ papers with his employment status requiring his uncle’s ‘immediate attention.’

    When Scott was finished, he walked inside, took his time card, clocked out, and peeked into his uncle’s office telling him, “Goodnight, uncle Arnie. See you tomorrow.”

    “Sure thing, Scott. I’ll get someone on her car first thing tomorrow.”

    “Thanks. I’ll get her home tonight and pick her up tomorrow when it’s done.”

    He turned back to Jennifer, smiling. “All ready?”

    “Yes. Thanks for the ride home, and promise of dinner.” she said.

    “My pleasure.” He said, grinning.


Joyce E. Johnson


WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Bender’s Garage, Chapter III, Part 1

BENDER’S GARAGE (A scene from – WHEN DARK CLOSES IN), Chapter 3, Part 1

Jennifer pulled into the lot at the automotive body and repair garage. A sign read:

Bender; Tender with your Fender,

Committed to Care what we Repair,

Reasonable rates; Always fair.

She thought the sign kind of funny considering all the noise coming from inside. The music blaring from a radio perched on a cluttered shelf with various auto related tools and parts could barely be heard above all the pounding and thudding. But, she could make out the popular Beach Boys hit, “GOOD VIBRATIONS.” Their song was on the top 10 of hit parade stations everywhere. The sound of an engine turning over, sputtering to life under the shaking hood made it seem all the more crazy, and she laughed at the thought.  She could imagine the Beach Boys with their own cars rattling roof tops with their gyrating, noisy engines. “Good Vibrations.”

Seattle’s June temperatures in the high eighties, along with high humidity levels hovered around for ten days straight. Large fans hung from metal beams, but did little to cool the inside. It still felt like a sauna. The lingering smell of greasy engine parts, oil and sweat from mechanics working at their stations permeated the atmosphere.

A pair of legs in coveralls protruded from under a car, where she guessed most of the banging noise came from.

Under the hood of another car were the head and shoulders of another mechanic. That’s him.

“Hi. Scott.”

He backed out from under the hood, bumping his head on the hood latch. His smudged

face and overalls wore the residue from the old car he worked on. He rubbed the back of his


“Oh. Hey. Jen?” he said. grinning. His eyes scanned over her slim, tanned figure in white shorts and navy tee shirt.

“Wow! You look great! How long have you been back?”

“Since last week. I’m sorry for sneaking up on you. I didn’t mean to startle you.” She laughed. “Are you O.K.?”

“Sure.” He wiped his hands on a shop towel.

“I made an appointment last week to get my car tuned up. I talked to your uncle and he told me you were working here during the summer. Are you still attending ITE?”

“Yep. But, I’m taking the summer off from classes, too. My uncle wanted me to come work for him, so here I am, getting my hands dirty again.” He laughed.

“Who’s assigned to work on your car?”

“I’m not sure. Your uncle said he’d take care of it. The receptionist was out when he took the call. I asked him how things were going with the business. He said he was having, ‘a good season’. It looks like it. Expanded the business and number of employees? Hey, I like his cute poster sign he put up. Has a catchy little rhyme sound to it.”

“Oh, that? That’s a joke. He didn’t do that. One of the other mechanics made that. Thought it would be good for the new advertisement in the yellow page listings, you know? Hey, if you leave your car here, I will take you home later, if they can’t do it today. But, you have to agree to come back to the apartment with me, wait for me to shower, clean up, and let me take you out to dinner.”

“Well, OK. I will want to let my mom know I won’t be home for dinner. How long will it be before you can leave?”

“Not long. Wait inside for me. Get yourself a coke and I’ll knock off after I’m finished here. This old wreck has been a real piece of work.” He checked the big clock on the wall opposite him. “Can you give me a half hour or so?”

“Sure. I’ll wait inside. I brought a book along in case they got it in today.”


To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson


The below story is fiction. It is based upon a word prompt for this week from Woven Dreams – A Creative Prompts Blog.  It is also a newly created scene and chapter I have written for my current longer fiction story, When Dark Closes In. Comments and feedback are welcomed. And if interested in reading the previous chapters and scenes from this story you can find them in the recent posts column and under the Fiction category.


The Attic (Literary Fiction – A Scene from, WHEN DARK CLOSES IN)

1976 – Clear Creek, Wa.

With her parents both, now deceased Jennifer had so much to do to get their house ready to sell. It sat empty, but she could still feel their presence in every room. Where to begin, cleaning out and sorting through things no longer wanted or needed. She started with the attic.

Changing into a pair of old jeans, tee-shirt, and hoodie she took empty boxes up stairs to the second floor. Standing on a three-step stool ladder she reached up and pulled back the attic opening, grabbed hold the attached fold out ladder and pulled it down through the opening and climbed up into the attic. She pulled up empty boxes, and a flash light lantern resting on the ladder rung in case the overhead ceiling light was burnt out. It felt like fifteen or so degrees cooler in the attic without the upper portion insulated. The dank smell of mold and mildew from floor boards permeated the room. She pulled the light switch cord. It still worked but the bulb was weak. It gave little light so she switched on the lantern and pulled it over to a stool and sat down. Cold winds blew, rattling a weather vane attached to the roof, its noise seeming so much louder in the attic than down on the first floor.

She began with filled boxes, going through each, all full of things that went back to the early years before she married. Some of the boxes went back to her years as a teenager before college, while in high school. 1963, 1964, 1965, and on they went, all marked and labeled with the contents. So many things saved, souvenirs from trips, carnival trinkets, programs saved from plays she performed in while in school productions, achievement awards and certificates for various events associated with her drama class, tickets from football games she attended.

She opened another box, with pictures. There were so many of him, many with them together. There were pressed flowers, jewelry and mementos he’d given her, the corsage, the pair of high-heeled shoes and her prom dress, its once vibrant color of the deep blue now faded to a dirty hue, the color of the Pacific ocean washing ashore at Puget Sound when she and he…and there on the top of all were newspaper clippings of the war that had separated them.

She would not allow herself to remember. She had shut out those memories years ago, trying to forget and move on, but she couldn’t. She could not organize her life, much less her thoughts. The memories forced their way back into her head, here in this dark attic with its cold, flickering bulb as if to remind her all she once had, and could not forget. Would there be no escape from the shadows of depression that came over her? The dark dreams, the nightmares that would not stop that oppressed her, clawing at her throat like a pair of hands choking her until she could not breathe. Could she escape the tormenting darkness that closed in around her life? How would she tell her son about his father?

Her own father once said, “Honey, the shadows in our life are a part of the process of growing, maturing. The painful parts and the hurts we will always remember, as we will the good times. In time they heal, making it possible to see the light. But, time cannot heal a wound if first there is no reason to cover the scar.”

She left the boxes siting open where they lay and quickly climbed down the ladder, and went outside. Taking deep breaths of cold air blowing off the Sound from the Pacific Northwest she lifted her face towards the sun.

God, help me find your light.


Joyce E. Johnson – 2013

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Old Friends, Chapter II


Chapter II

1966 – Clear Creek, Washington

Jennifer sat, sipping her coke, watching people coming through the door of Barney’s Smoke Pit. Hazel green eyes, shoulder length dark hair, fair complexion, she was a girl with a vivacious spirit. Her feisty character mirrored the same as her Scotch-Irish father. Her friends claimed she was more her father in a female body than one refined, like her mother of British descent. But, the McAlister family’s unwavering ties to the Catholic Church became more an albatross to Jennifer’s generation than a thread of continuity worth keeping. There was a sense of freedom and coming of age for those in her generation. Her father’s insistence in attending mass, and honoring all the church’s stringent teachings was more like bringing the two clashing together like loud cymbals in conflict and discord.

Jennifer waved to her friend when she came in. Carolyn squeezed through those still waiting for tables to open up. People mingled around outside. The place began filling up, the lunch crowd straggling in.

They hugged. “It is so good to see you again, Jen. I talked with your mom last week, before you got home. Did you have to wait long for the table?” Carolyn asked.

“My mom told me you called. I thought lunch would be fun, like old times. But, no. I didn’t have to wait long. I called ahead so they would have a table ready for three.”

“For three?”

“Yes, I called Dana too. She’s meeting us here.”

“Oh. Well, when you called, you didn’t mention Dana, so I hoped it might be just us two.”

Jennifer laughed. “You wish. But, I thought it would be good if we all… Oh, there she is.”

“Dana, over here.” Jennifer called over, motioning to Dana.

Dana worked her way through the knot of people near the door, gliding through isles, getting looks and stares from every guy in the place.

“I’m so glad your back. Its been too long.” she said, hugging Jennifer. Then noticing Carolyn already seated, said, “Carolyn, how are you?” and gave her a slight hug.

“I’m good. Thank you, Dana.” Carolyn had the lunch menu opened, saying little.

Dana, the pampered ‘daddy’s girl,’ came from a wealthy Italian family who spoiled her to the core. There was no shortage of the thing she had the most of: money. Yet, lacking in the one thing she wanted most from her parents: an unconditional love, she often went seeking in all the wrong places. There was nothing she had not tried. If it was new, she’d done it first. There was no one she was afraid of if there was something she could gain from the relationship.

Her coal-black hair was styled in the tapered, popular ‘page boy’ cut, turned under on the ends, one side swept behind one ear. Both ear lobes sparkled with gold hooped earrings. Her jade colored eyes were made larger by eye liner and a coating of mascara on her long lashes. Foundation and blush blended well into her flawless ivory complexion. Her lips and nails were painted scarlet, a deeper red than the ‘mini’ skirt that hugged slim hips on her five feet, four-inch frame. Worn with a short bolero vest and balloon sleeved blouse, all making her look as if she’d stepped off a page of Cosmopolitan magazine.

An hour later she’d finished her tales on her exploits with fraternity guys she’d met, ones she’d shared a room with, the parties, and the sorority she’d pledged to, and got in. A couple of times she added a little bit about a class or program she just could not ‘get into.’

Jennifer had made no solid plans for her summer break home from college. But, with Dana around she was sure things would not get dull, and they would find plenty to do, not all of them good.

“But, enough about that stuff.” She went on. I’ve met a new guy. He’s a little older than me, one of my father’s business associates, but so cool. College guys can be kind of immature with all their friends around, but…Paul…well, he seems a little more experienced in things, you know?”

“Now, there’s a pretty lass that finds a party wherever she goes. You be careful now, Jenny.” Her father had warned her of keeping company with Dana.

“I’m fine, dad. I can handle myself. You cannot pick and choose my friends for me.” As an only child she felt as if he still treated her like a child, doubting her ability to make good choices. In spite of Dana’s flamboyant lifestyle and the fact that she walked a little on the wild side, they stayed in touch and hung out.

In contrast, Carolyn, who gave balance to Jennifer’s ‘trolling trolley,’ as her father put it was the one who remained a constant, reliable friend, and always there. Her parents liked Carolyn.

“Jennifer, what’s wrong? What are you looking at?” Dana asked.

A couple of soldiers in uniform walked in and were directed to a table near them. It was hard to avoid overhearing their conversation about the, ‘new developments in South Vietnam.’

“Just looking at the officers that came in. I think they’re Army recruiters. Scott told me he had to register for the draft. He’s kind of worried about being called up to serve.”

“But, he’s at ITE (Institute of Technology and Engineering), isn’t he?” Dana asked. “Won’t they exempt him as they have other students?”

“Not unless he keeps up a 3.5 GPA. Working a job doesn’t matter, either. The draft boards are running out of volunteer recruits, and so implemented the mandatory draft.” Jennifer said.

“It has been in all the news. There’s hardly a newspaper reporting anything else, but the war it seems, except for the hippies, or otherwise called ‘flower children’ who ride around in old Volkswagen buses all painted with big flowers. Most of them get all doped up on weed, are into ‘free love,’ and all that stuff. They drive around the country protesting the war, making ‘peace’ signs, demonstrating wherever they go. Many of them are draft dodgers who have taken off for Canada.” Carolyn said.

Carolyn, from a strict German background, always the honest, outspoken one sometimes tried too hard to win people’s respect and friendship. Her Lutheran synod church seemed to solidify her inherit values, although too staunch in their beliefs. The way she dressed, her simple short hairstyle, and basic, little used makeup never changed. Jennifer always wondered if Carolyn was proof to the old cliche that ‘redheads are hotheads.’ There was nothing striking about Carolyn except for the cranberry colored, red hair and her opinionated thinking. She did not ‘get all dolled up’ as Jennifer’s mother would say, to seek dates or praise from guys. Dana called her, ‘Miss prim and proper’ from the ‘starchy shirts church.’ But, her ‘prim and proper’ often earned her the admiration of many a parent. She excelled in everything she did, because in everything she tried, it turned successful. Her head was all business, her style, modest, and her intentions, – Jennifer believed for the most part– sincere.

Such a contrast between her two friends, and Jennifer wondered if the girls would ever get along.

When they got up to leave Dana sauntered out the door, all eyes and heads watching her moves.

Carolyn excused herself at the door, saying she had an appointment and needed to leave. She gave Jennifer a hug, and promised to give her a call soon.

“Well, let’s just us two go have some fun, shall we? Go shopping, like old times?” Dana said.

“Sure.” Jennifer said.

As the Army recruiters got up to leave too, Jennifer watched them get into a dark car with the military license plate logo. She could not stop thinking about the conversation she overheard between the two men about, ‘the newly enlisted recruits, trained and ready to leave, and the new ones, called up and reporting in, but the numbers are still short of what is needed over there.’

Jennifer didn’t really feel like shopping, but knew she could no longer go off and mope like she did as a child when things did not go her way. Her father would try to console her, give her a big hug and say, ‘things might be tough now, but they will get better, Jenny. You’ll see.’

But, these new feelings overwhelmed her, and she wondered if she was really ready for things ahead.


To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson



Like a word, or a sentence, a phrase or verse

it is but a piece, yet a necessary part;

But to the reader, must impact, or connect

and weave it must, down into their soul,

each word a necessary part of the piece,

like threads or strands fit to the form

they weave in and out, perfectly placed,

side by side, and through the grain,

all coming together like one as a whole

 the story made stronger till unified;

But, if one word weaves not to shape,

hold the story, mold or create,

it must be pulled out, for it will weaken

 the piece of work or art just made;

then the finished whole of a project completed

will stand alone, and be made strong.

Often times it’s much like life

trying to fit together as one

like the phrases or words

created and shaped:

 its become  the lesson for

the weaver in me.


Joyce E. Johnson, 2013

When Dark Closes In – Historical Fiction

When Dark Closes In – Historical Fiction

This is a historical fiction story taking place during the sixties and seventies time period era when the Vietnam War drafted and pulled in thousands of U.S. troops to help South Vietnam in their fight against the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong. The war was over by 1975 when the North Vietnamese advanced on Saigon, claiming it and all of the south. With a casualty count of 58,000 American lives lost and thousands more missing, it became one the longest and deadliest wars in U.S. history. There were thousands more troops (MIAs – Missing in Action) whose bodies or remains were not found or recovered years later, and still some declared missing to this day.  This story is about the lives of men and women who lived and fought during that time when the darkness and shadows of a hated war drew them into the throes of turmoil and despair. It is in the pages of history where names and faces may never be remembered by one generation, and never known by the next, unless we tell their story. This story is fiction, as are the names, and the faces I see, the images of characters created, but their stories could be real. They could be ours.  And, it is because of history that those coming after us can learn and know what happened then, and appreciate what history has taught us all.

I started writing this story back in the eighties and had several chapters written when I attended a writers’ conference in Colorado Springs, Co., my home town. It was held by the Christian Writers’ Guild. I received training, instruction and mentoring through the guild’s instructors, and completed my course work in 2004 with certification for the Journeyman status. To me, that was a big step and plus in my writing achievement for one who was never able to attend college and earn a degree in Creative Writing and Journalism which I had always desired, and dreamed of doing. But, through the Christian Writers’ Guild I received some of the very best instruction and training out there with their online and correspondence courses. While attending the conference I had the honor and privilege of having Jerry B. Jenkins, owner and director of the guild, and author of the best-selling series LEFT BEHIND  (in partnership with co-author Tim La Haye) critique the first chapter of my book manuscript. Jerry is one of my all time favorite Christian authors. It was a highlight for me during that whole writers’ conference. The future of this story depends on a few very important things:  (1) how it is received (in the way of interest) by those reading its first chapters, and (2) how much time I will have or can allow to get it finally finished without having other interruptions interfere.  But, as a writer of fiction it is not only the desire to write for ourselves, and to entertain the reader, but sometimes there is a story out there that will not rest until it is told and a completed final draft finished. It has to be written, and this is one of those kinds of stories. Maybe it is too that I and my husband were eighteen in 1965 like Jennifer, graduating high school, engaged to be married, and waiting the outcome of the draft board’s decision, knowing first hand what it was like to live through that time as young adults.


Joyce E. Johnson

%d bloggers like this: