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Flash Fiction from Allison Spooner


Senior Newsline




Trivia & Facts


Comfort Foods


Paws Corner



Additional Information


Flash Fiction from Allison Spooner

A Pest Problem

"It’s just the house settling,” the man says, barely looking up as the woman glances toward the creaking coming from the ceiling. 

“It’s a new building, how much settling does it need to do?” 

He doesn’t respond, engrossed in what he’s working on. With one last glance at the now quiet ceiling, she rolls over, pulls the covers up to her neck and closes her eyes. 

“That’s definitely something scratching,” the woman says the next night, pulling back the covers of the bed. 

“But there’s nothing up there,” argues the man, “No attic space.”

“There doesn’t need to be a lot of room for something to burrow in.”

The man shrugs and rolls over, “I think it’s just the house settling.” 

The next night, books held aloft, the quiet falling around them, their eyes dart up at the sudden scratching. They look at each other. The woman raises her eyebrows and they both wait in silence, listening. The scratching takes on a more fully-formed sound and moves from one side of the house to the other. 

“It's running around up there,” she whispers. 

“What is?”

“I don't know, a raccoon or something? I've had squirrels get into attic spaces in old farmhouses before.”

It scratches again before once again scurrying across the floor and their eyes follow its progress. 

“I think you're probably right,” he says. 

“I know I am.”

“Guess we better call someone?”

“I'll call tomorrow.” 

The next night he sighs as he pulls the covers back, the woman already dozing off, her book resting on her chest. 

“You're sleeping,” he says.

“No, I'm not.” She lifts the book and sets it next to the bed, reaching for the light. 

Then, it comes again.

“Our friend is back,” he says, pausing by the edge of the bed and looking up. She nods sleepily, trying to ignore the scratches and not lose the sleep she's already found. 

“I called and left a message today,” she mumbles. Then her head shoots off the pillow and her eyes throw the last of sleep from them as the scurrying creature attempts to make itself known. 

“What was that?” he asks. 

She shakes her head. She doesn't know. The large bang was different than the sounds they were used to. 

She jumps again as the thumps move along above them. 

“Is it...walking?”

“Well, yea…” he's looking to the ceiling too, “but, all critters walk.”

“No, critters scurry. This doesn't sound like scurrying.”

“Well, it's not like it grew overnight.” He crawls into bed and kisses her cheek. “We'll just follow up with them tomorrow and get someone out here to get rid of it.”

“I left a message and filed a work report. They're new buildings, they've probably never had this happen before.”

“It's going to tear up any insulation that's up there.”

“Well, it's up to them to get it taken care of. But maybe you shouldn't put a hole in the ceiling while we wait.”

He's standing at the end of the bed holding a broom, watching the ceiling with interest.

“Maybe we'll scare it off. These animals are always more scared of us than we are of them.” He bangs the end of the broom against the ceiling, twice. 

She feels her heartbeat in her throat as she stifles a gasp. From above, a response. Two identical bangs seem to shake the foundation around them. 

Neither of them says anything as they wait, almost pray, for the scratching and scurrying of the nights before. It doesn't come. Instead, there is a moan from the wood above them, the house like the man originally thought, but its protesting under a heavy load, something that seems to be shifting its weight from a settled position to...standing?

“Put the broom away," she whispers. "Come to bed.”

He does. For some reason, he doesn't want to be standing out in the open but would rather be protected by the covers, somewhere warm...he's suddenly very cold. 

He moves slowly and quietly though he doesn't know why and once he's in bed, he puts his arm around the woman's shoulder. She has goosebumps. She shifts closer to him, both watching the ceiling. 

Then, he whispers, “It's moving.”


But he's right. No longer the quick, scratching movements of a small creature, these movements are deliberate, methodical... 

His arm tightens around her shoulder as the noises, (they're footsteps, there's no denying that now) move from directly above them, to their left, toward their closet. 

“Isn't there a crawl space door over there?” she asks, her whisper almost choked. 

“It's fine, it can't open it.”

She nods. "I'll go to the office tomorrow. I'll make them come take a look." 

He nods and they lean back in bed together, their eyes never falling from the space above them. 


"Not sure what happened," he says as he unlocks the door for the carpet guy.

"They'd only just moved in. But they just up and left one day, left all their stuff, too."

The second man lifts an eyebrow and the landlord shakes his head. "Police ruled no foul play, buddy. No signs of forced entry, no struggle, no blood, nothing. Just gone." He shrugs. "It happens, I guess." He looks down at his hand, still resting on the door handle. "It's a little strange that all the doors were still locked from the inside, though…" he doesn't notice the man's eyes widen behind him and he again shrugs off any prickliness. "Come on, let's get started in the bedroom."

As the carpet cleaner plugs in his machine and the property manager inspects the area for any damage, a noise from above draws the gaze of both men. It's just scratching, a little bit of a scurry, but it's enough to make the manager swear under his breath. 

The carpet cleaner shakes his head, "Sounds like you've got a pest problem."

"The Problem With Humans: And Other Stories"

One of Mid-Michigan's brightest authors, Spooner’s stories have been called “unique works of art,” “brilliant, disturbing, and thought-provoking,” and her latest book is a “truly fantastic collection of short stories.”

In her second collection, she offers something for both lovers of humanity and those who are entirely fed up. From deadly mistakes and crass crimes to the sweet moments that once again give us faith in humanity, the stories in this collection will both break your heart and make you smile. 

Senior NewsLine


Senior Flu Vaccine Leaves Us Vulnerable

By Matilda Charles   

You got your flu shot this year, right? Even though it's no longer the beginning of the flu season, it's never too late to get your shot. At this point we're only in the middle of an elevated-level flu season with months still to go.

Flu hits seniors harder than any other demographic. More of us end up hospitalized and with complications if we get the flu. At least 70% of deaths from flu are seniors.

There's a special shot for us with three types of vaccine at four times the strength. Our shot contains two A virus strains and one B. I asked my pharmacist, "Why don't they give us all four vaccine types?" His answer was that decision makers calculate each year which flu three strains will be strongest and go with those ... to save money. 

This year, however, a B virus, which usually comes out in February, was the flu that launched the season.

How do we get the flu? From others, often by breathing air that has the virus in it from someone's sneeze or cough (from 6 feet away and airborne for several hours) or by touching a hard surface that has flu germs on it from someone else (for 24 hours).

Some of the ways of protecting ourselves are so simple we have no excuse for not following them. Take sanitizing wipes with you in a baggie when you go to the store and wipe down the cart handle. (Then throw the wipe away.) Wrap sanitizing wipes around the doorknobs in your home and let them dry overnight. Wash your hands often. And get your flu shot.

The next time you talk to your senators, tell them we need a four-way four-strength vaccine for seniors. Saving lives and hospitalizations makes it worth the extra cost.

Hollywood! by Tony Rizzo


HOLLYWOOD -- Even before "Richard Jewell" opened, Clint Eastwood and Warner Brothers found themselves being sued by Cox Enterprises' flagship newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The film is basically about Richard Jewell, a security guard at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Georgia, first proclaimed a hero, then accused of planting a bomb. The film has a disclaimer at the end of the film that says, "This film is based on actual events. The dialogue and certain events and characters in the film were created for the purposes of dramatization."

Allegedly, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution rushed to judgment on Richard Jewell's guilt. Jewell, who died in 2007 at 44, was cleared of any involvement in the bombing, which killed two and injured over 100 people. Nonetheless, there was always a cloud hanging over him because of the accusations. You'd think the newspaper would've learned something from the experience and would be wary of taking on powerhouses like Warner Brothers and Clint Eastwood.


On a happier note, Robert Redford is having second thoughts about retiring. If he hadn't gone public with his retirement, he might've directed instead of only producing his latest project, "109 East Palace." The film deals with the rise and fall of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, hailed as an American hero when he created the atomic bomb in 1945, but later disgraced during the McCarthy Era and was made to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Oppenheimer admitted he had associations with the Communist Party in the 1930s and was villainized by them. "109 East Palace" refers to the address in New Mexico where the A-bomb was created. Redford developed the script and says he'll only produce.


Get ready for a sequel to "Aladdin." The recent remake, with Will Smith as The Genie, cost $183 million and grossed $1.05 billion. Already set to star is Billy Magnussen, best known for "Into the Woods" and the current 007 film, "No Time to Die."

The Golden Globes try to second-guess what the Oscar nominations will be. They have five drama and five comedy/musical nominees in every category, and still every year Oscar pulls out two or three nominations they didn't see coming. The Golden Globes are decided by only 78 foreign press people.


Billy Bush may have lost his job (at "Entertainment Tonight") and his wife because of that infamous incident with you know who in The White House, but only three years later he has recovered and is back as the new host of "Extra," the show Mario Lopez hosted. How was all forgiven and forgotten? Must be because "Extra" has moved to the Fox Network. That's joke enough!


Trivia & Facts


NOW HERE'S A TIP by JoAnn Derson

* Mayonnaise can stand in for cooking oil in a recipe. Use in an equal amount. It works especially well in brownies.

* "When flossing, cut a length of floss, then tie the loose ends together. Now you have a circle and can hold it open with your fingers rather than wrapping the loose ends around your fingers and cutting off the circulation. All it takes is a little tension on the circle to keep the line taut." -- C.E. in Kentucky

* "If you have to wash dishes by hand, here's a tip for rinsing utensils: Clean silverware together and toss into a colander. Then you can rinse the whole thing together instead of each fork, knife or spoon. This will save time, and water." -- M.V. in Ohio

* Apply car wax to shower walls to keep soap scum from hanging around. Petroleum jelly can be used in shower-door tracks to lubricate them, since it won't wash away easily.

* "I like to use metal cans for storage in my shop. To make them safer, I file the rims and dip them in a shallow disk of melted wax. When the wax hardens, it fills in all the potential jagged edges that might lead to a small cut." -- F.J. in Florida

* Here's a fun plumbing trick: Use a wad of soft white bread (centers only) to plug up a pipe you are working on. The bread disintegrates quickly but will stop up any trickle of water long enough for you to seal two pipes together.


By Chris Richcreek


1. Kendrys Morales set a Toronto Blue Jays record in 2018 by homering in seven consecutive games. Who had held the franchise mark?

2. How many consecutive seasons did Boston's Wade Boggs have 200 or more hits?

3. Who was the first offensive lineman to twice finish in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy balloting?

4. Name the first woman to coach a championship-winning team in the WNBA.

5. Who was the oldest player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL playoff MVP?

6. Jill Ellis set a record in 2019 for most games coached with the U.S. women's national soccer team (132). Who had held the mark?

7. From whom did boxer James J. Braddock win the heavyweight title from in 1935, and who beat him for it in 1937?


1. Jose Cruz Jr., with six consecutive games in 2001.

2. Seven consecutive years (1983-89).

3. Pittsburgh's Bill Fralic (1983 and '84).

4. Anne Donovan, with Seattle in 2004.

5. Boston goalie Tim Thomas was 37 when he won the award in 2011.

6. April Heinrichs, with 124 games coached.

7. He won the title from Max Baer and lost it to Joe Louis.


* On Jan. 26, 1918, soon after the Bolsheviks seized control in Russia, the former Russian state of Ukraine declares its total independence. In 1922, Ukraine became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; it would not regain its independence until the USSR's collapse in 1991.

* On Jan. 25, 1924, the first Winter Olympics begins at Chamonix in the French Alps. Spectators were thrilled by the ski jump and bobsled, two of 12 events involving six sports.

* On Jan. 24, 1943, German Gen. Friedrich von Paulus, commander in chief of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, urgently requests permission from Adolf Hitler to surrender. Hitler refused. Of more than 280,000 men under Paulus' command, half were already dead or dying. Paulus held out until Jan. 31, when he finally surrendered. 

* On Jan. 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence ship, is engaged in a routine surveillance of the North Korean coast when it is captured by North Korean patrol boats. Eleven months later, negotiators reached a settlement to resolve the crisis and free the surviving 82 crewmen.

* On Jan. 21, 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter grants an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. Some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early '70s to avoid military service.

* On Jan. 20, 1980, bleachers at a bullring in Sincelejo, Colombia, collapse, resulting in the deaths of 222 people. The deadliest tragedy at a sporting event in Colombia's history was the result of overcrowding and poor construction.

* On Jan. 22, 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau releases detailed statistics on race and ethnicity showing that the Hispanic population was the country's largest minority group. Some 29% of immigrants in the U.S. had come from Mexico alone.


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Comfort Foods


By Healthy Exchanges

Homestyle Meatloaf


Meatloaf is as comforting as food gets. If you agree, then take comfort in this easy homestyle recipe.

16 ounces extra-lean ground sirloin or turkey breast

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon dried fine breadcrumbs

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium ketchup

1 (12-ounce) jar fat-free beef gravy

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter-flavored cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine meat, breadcrumbs, celery, onion, parsley flakes, ketchup and 1/4 cup beef gravy. Mix well to combine. Pat mixture into prepared loaf pan.

2. Bake for 45 minutes. Evenly spoon remaining gravy over meatloaf. Continue baking for 15 minutes. Place loaf pan on a wire rack and let set for 5 minutes. Divide into 6 servings.

* Each serving equals: About 167 calories, 7g fat, 15g protein, 11g carb., 531 mg sodium, 1g fiber; Diabetic Exchanges: 2 Meat, 1 Starch.


Paws Corner


Expert: CBD Oil Could Damage Pets' Eyes

By Sam Mazzotta

DEAR PAW'S CORNER: Your recent article about giving CBD oil to pets omitted an important factor: its effect on the eyes. Past research has shown that CBD causes eye pressure to spike in humans, and the same issue was noted in a study with rodents. Popular media has not noted this. CBD oil should be given to pets only with appropriate oversight from an animal specialist able to measure eye pressure. -- Dr. Denise Valenti

DEAR DR. VALENTI: Thank you for the update. I had not seen the research on this, and it is important for pet owners to know about this possible side effect of CBD (cannabidiol).

A 2006 study at the University of Aberdeen of human glaucoma patients found that a fairly high dose, 40 mg of CBD oil, administered sublingually (under the tongue) caused a temporary rise in intraocular pressure. (A lower dose, 20 mg, did not cause the same problem.) And a more recent study at Indiana University found that mice given CBD oil experienced a similar rise in interocular pressure. The study found that when THC and CBD were given together, the THC blocked CBD's effects on eye pressure -- but because THC also IS the component of marijuana that makes a person (or pet) high, it opens a whole other kettle of fish.

If you're currently giving your pet CBD oil, contact your veterinarian to ask about checking and monitoring your pet's eye pressure. High interocular pressure can cause serious damage to the eyes. If your dog or cat has glaucoma, avoid administering CBD oil until you've talked to the vet about all possible side effects.