If a person is still a person no matter how small,
Is a virus still a virus no matter how tall?

Is a pillow still a pillow no matter how lumpy?
Is a person still a person no matter how grumpy?

Is left still left even when it turns right?
Is the dark still the dark once you’ve turned on the light?

Finally, as promised the much ballyhooed, long awaited Crudmuffins recipe. Furnished by culinary genius and human being extraordinaire, THE Aunty Katherine.
Let me tell you they are flipping delicious. My favorite one had biscotti bits on top and I think Nutella in the middle. It was un-be-lievable.
I’d love to hear if anybody comes up with some differant falvor combinations. Just leave me a heads up in the comment box.

Pandora’s Crudmuffins

~~Preheat oven to 375 degrees – bake on middle rack
~~Butter the muffin tins (timing is for the smaller, 2 oz tins… makes 14-16 per single recipe)

Single recipe Double recipe
2 cups 4 cups All purpose flour
¼ cup ½ cup sugar
1 Tbs 2 Tbs Baking powder
½ tsp 1 tsp Baking soda
¼ tsp ½ tsp salt
3 or 4 6 or 4 Grated rind of oranges (single recipe @ 4 oranges = 1 cup)
1 c 2 c Mini chocolate chips
~~ mix above ingredients in large bowl
~~ in small bowl mix:
1 2 Large egg
1 cup 2 cups Buttermilk
¼ cup ½ cup Melted unsalted butter
1 tsp 2 tsp Vanilla extract
~~ Pour over flour mixture and fold in until just moistened
~~ Spoon a heaping Tbs in each cup, and flatten

~~ add Pandora’s gift:
• Small scoop of Marmalade
• Small scoop of Nutella
• Hershey Kiss
• Hunk of chocolate bar
• Fruit slice – apple, strawberry, blackberry…
• “Plumped” fig, prune or apricot
• … anything nice!

~~ cover with Tbs batter (cups should be pretty full), and then add Crud to the top, and press in slightly… any combination of:
• broken biscotti bits
• broken chocolate covered espresso beans
• chocolate covered pomegranate seeds
• broken chocolate covered almonds
• coarse granola (avoiding raisins or nuts)
• … anything that adds crunch (but not nuts… they roast too much in the cooking)

Stripped, immobilized, laid out like a slab of meat in a butcher’s window, people milling about, examining me as if I were. I couldn’t conceive of anything more humiliating. A couple of gangly young men dressed in bits of uniform from both sides broke off from the group to my right and approached me, cold tears bathed my face as I considered the possibly that perhaps my captures could.

Young men as it turned out had been a generous assessment; they were no more than boys really, much too young to be party to something so unconscionable, so grisly. Fear overwhelmed mortification as they levered their clammy hands under my naked body, their groping fingers pawed places no other human had touched since I was a babe. Grunting with the effort and snickering at rude jibes about my situation they hefted me into a waiting wheel barrow. Incapable of so much as crying out against them I began to silently pray, as we lurched into motion, pleading with the Almighty, “Please, God. Please don’t let this happen.”It was a litany that gained in desperation the further afield they took me.

The dark woods, the uniformed clad backs moving laboriously before me, even the metallic taste of fear in my mouth was all so like the flight that had brought me to this state, I could almost have laughed out loud at the bitter wit of providence had that power been left to me. As it was all I could do was brood over the alarming similarities and wonder, had this been part of God’s plan the whole time and if so why? It had been at least as cold then, maybe colder, though I can’t say I remember feeling the bite of it then as I did now. Pursuit dulls the senses to such discomforts, while constraint sharpens them it would seem.

Outnumbered, overrun and demoralized the Major had ordered our retreat last twilight. Throughout the night the Major had used one fox trick after another to keep us ahead of our pursuers, but in the blackness just before dawn, with bullets whizzing through our ranks I had feared even his guile had dried up. I had almost resigned myself to my fate and was making my piece with God, when the Major laid his hand on my shoulder and muttered in my ear. “Un-muffle the horses hooves and muzzles Johnny.” In my ignorance I’d started to protest, being keener than me he was ready for it, the hand on my shoulder went over my mouth and he went on in a hurried whisper. “Then you point their noses northwest and whip em hard Johnny, make sure you get a good scream out of em.”

“But sir, the wounded in the wagon,”

“Will get medical attention faster if they are captured than they will if they stay with us.” My disquiet must have been plain for he’d grabbed at my coat front and shouted with as much volume as the situation allowed. “This is the only way any of us get out of this alive Jonny, do you understand.”

I would not have liked to admit it then, not even to a priest but in a shameful way I was relieved, not just that they were no longer my responsibility but that the decision to abandon them on someone else’s shoulders. Once freed of the wagon finding a way forward in the dark became less trouble some, even so briers, the natural slope of the landscape and the sound of distant musket fire on our left, kept us moving to the right for what remained of the night. By the time the small farmhouse appeared on the pink tinged horizon it was clear the rouse had worked like a charm.

I had to chuckle at the evidence of my own fallibility as we raced each other toward the only home comforts any of us had seen in weeks. A young woman, fresh faced, well built and already dressed despite the earliness of the hour, like any good farm wife, met us halfway across the dooryard. “Good morning gentlemen.” She called an understandable trepidation evident in her voice.

The Major, endeavoring to put her at ease, signaled for the rest of us to hold back while he spoke with her. “Good morning Miss, I assure you we mean you no harm, if we could beg food and shelter from you for the day and perhaps a night, just to rest and regain our strength; I promise we will be on our way come tomorrow morning, with no trouble.” She considered him and us still obviously disinclined to allow us on the property. I wasn’t sure what would happen if she said no but I doubted the Major would simply order us to peacefully move along. When she finally gave him a sharp nod I was glad for all our sakes. We must have wondered into friendly part of this split state in the night. Perhaps that partly accounted for why the enemy had given up chasing us.

“Any wounded I’ll tend in the house but I’d thank you to send the able bodied men to the barn please Major.” She instructed. “There’s more room out there and plenty of fresh hay for them to bed down in.”

“Much obliged to you Miss” The Major told her politely, waving most of the men off with one hand and snapping his fingers at me to help him get the half dozen or so men with wounds that could use stitching into the house.

Though she was certainly still frightened it was nice not to have to force our suite with her and so I readily agreed when she asked if I would take the soup she had simmering on the stove out to the barn. It was steaming hot and smelled so savory, I couldn’t blame the others when they mobbed me practically the instant I came through the door, all fighting for a turn to dip there tin cups in to the brim, truth was I was dying to do the same myself, but I wanted to make sure there would be enough for the men back at the house as well as the Major.

“I did my best to ration it Miss but I am afraid the bottom of your pot is shinning up at me.” I called out coming through the door. She didn’t answer back and it took me a moment to locate her in the dark room. When I did I can’t say I was happy with what I saw. The Major seemed to have forgotten he was in the company of a well brought up young lady and not a camp follower. From the cornered look in her sweet hazel eyes she was at a loss as to how to deal with the situation. “There were some Indian prints out behind the barn sir.” I called to him lighting on the first solution that came to mind.

Eyes lit up like he had a fever the Major headed for the door, clapping me on the shoulder on his way by. “That ought to give him time to remember his manners.”I told her, placing the pot on the table I tilted it scraping out a little more than half a tin cups worth of soup. Looking at me sideways she patted down her dress and seemed to be deciding whether or not to trust me. “My names Johnny” I offered holding out my hand. “I’m from Delaware.”

After a moment she took my hand, shaking it firmly she replied, “Beth. Where about in Delaware are you from Johnny.”

“Does it matter?”

She hummed a tiny little laugh, covering her mouth with one hand. “No, I suppose not.”

“I’d like to offer you my thanks Beth. It was both brave and kind of you to take us in this way.”

“It’s no more than any good Christian woman would do.”

“You put me in mind of my sister.” I told her truthfully. “Quiet little spitfire she is our Jane. I miss her so much. Can’t wait to see her again.”

“You put me in mind of my beau.” She said with a sad kind of smile. “I miss him too. He passed first month of the war.”

“I am truly sorry for your loss Miss Beth.” I muttered, embarrassed, thinking maybe I should just drink my soup and get out to the barn, I made to turn away but she stopped me with a hand on my wrist.

“Could you help me with this man’s leg?” She asked pointing to the burn on Miller’s thigh. I nodded and she led me over to where he lay, taking my cup from my hand and replacing it with Miller’s lower leg. “Hold it up like this, bent at the knee.” Beth instructed. “That way I can wrap the bandage without disturbing him.”

It was only then that it struck me that every last man was asleep. “You must know a mighty powerful spell Miss Beth.” I teased in a whisper, gesturing around us. “A room full of solders incapacitated by such a modest and dainty maiden, what other explanation could there be.”

Her answering laugh sounded almost relieved. “Yes, in my experience a full belly and a warm safe place to lay ones head works just like magic especially for a bunch of tired solders. It also makes tending wounds less trying for everyone involved.” Suddenly I was unequal to looking her in the eyes. “I was impresses actually; none of these wounds are all that serious really, especially given the direction you all came from. There has been fierce fighting going on down that way for weeks.”

“That is due mostly to the Major.” I told her truthfully

“He’s not a good man.” She said like a warning.

Thinking about our flight during the night I admitted. “I won’t deny that sometimes he has to do things that aren’t good but, I’ve learned to trust that it’s what’s for the best.”

“Have you?” Again her question sounded vaguely cautionary. Before I could work out how to answer the Major burst in.

“You lied to me Johnny.” He proclaimed correctly walking over to us.

Scrambling to my feet I hurried to explain myself. “Sir, I just thought,”

“Ohhh I know what you were thinking.” He declared grabbing Beth by her braided bun and dragging her upward. “But I’m pulling rank on you boy.”

Beth scratched and kicked like a wild cat while he dragged her over to the corncrib attached to the back of the cabin. “Sir.” I yelled “She’s been nothing but helpful to us in our time of need, Sir. Sir this isn’t right.”

Stopping at the door he held her at arm’s length to keep from being kicked in the shin. “I found both blue and grey army issue blankets out behind the barn. Trust me boy, she’s been helpful to quite a few men before we turned up.”


“You can have her next.”


The screaming and thumping was intense after they disappeared into the little room. I had almost decided to go put a stop to it when Beth emerged; the Major was laid out, trousers down around his ankles, obviously sated. Beth appeared otherwise composed as she rewound her braid securing it with her hairpin, so perhaps the Major had been right about her. “That didn’t’ take very long.”I said, not sure who I was most disappointed in. “Couldn’t have been too bad.”

“Drink your soup.” She ordered, not bothering to keep up her modest façade. I did as she directed more out of spite than desire for the food. I gulped it down in two huge swallows, and then gathered my thoughts to give her a round scolding. When I opened my mouth to tell her what I thought of her my dry swollen tongue filled my mouth and I felt my joints collapsed like a limber jack man no one was using.

Beth stomped on the floor three times then came to kneel by me, yanking and pulling at my clothes as she spoke. “Afraid that soup might have had some Devil’s Cherries in it Johnny.” She gloated, behind her I could see the room filling up with other women and children of both sexes. With the precision of long practice they set to the other men in the room, stripping them and checking their mouths for gold. “Such a diverse Herb don’t you think Johnny, I mean you can use it to calm a case of the tremors or paralyze all a man’s muscles ’till his very heart stops beating, you can put it undetectable in soup or make an otherwise ordinary hairpin into a deadly weapon.”

Just then a woman about her own age joined Beth and together they finished disrobing me. “The ones in the barn are all ready for the pit.” The other woman told her.

“Good. Then we’ll wait for nightfall and get them all buried, same as usually.” Beth confirmed.

“All of them, are you sure? It looked like you wanted to keep this one?” Her friend asked.

“I had thought to, at first, but he’s just like all the others it turns out. Get him out side; I don’t want to look at him anymore.”

The wheelbarrow jerked to a halt and being tipped out of it I rolled to a stop on my side a few feet from the edge huge pit, the bodies of the men I had served with filled the air around me as they were thrown one after another into the pit. “Please God. Please don’t let this happen.”

Rough hands pulled me over onto my back and made to lift me up, the tears veritably streamed from my eyes. “Beth. Hey Beth. This one’s still alive.” Called a voice directly above my head.

“Please God, please.”

Suddenly Beth’s sweet hazel eyes were staring directly into mine. Please God. “Don’t worry Johnny.” She soothed patting my hand. “It won’t be that bad. It’s not like it’s going to take very long.”

I heard the woman before I saw her “Is he ok?”  she asked anxiously. “Is he alright?”

The man lifted me gently, almost like he was scared to. He cradled me with both hands bringing me up to the level of his face. I examined him as he examined me, at first he looked curious, maybe a little confused, and then his breath caught and his hands shook slightly. “My God.” He whispered tears slowly spilling out of his eyes and down his face.

“What?” The woman demanded a little shrilly.

“Oh Sue.” Was all he answered as he handed me over to her. The woman understood more quickly than the man it seemed. She took one soul searching look at me and mewled softly, “oh my baby, my beautiful baby.”

For a time they stood together, with me suspended between them, gazing alternately at each other and at me. Eventually the man pulled away. With the woman’s face in his hands he told her firmly. “We have to pull ourselves together Sue. We have to take care of him. We owe him that much.”

The woman’s face sagged but, she nodded resolutely, setting me down face first on the glass  coffee table, on the other side of it just below me was the boy’s right arm, hand still clutching the gun. In the glass itself I could clearly see the lines he’d etched on my face just before he used it. “Mom, Dad,” they read, “I’m so sorry. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I love you guys. Please forgive me.


I noticed Sam Collins coming up the hill of course, how I could miss him bounding and waving the way he was.  I didn’t see hordes of monsters hot on his heels or anything else similarly problematic, so whatever he had to tell me could wait till we’d finished the sunrise service.

When he crested the rise I held up one hand asking him to hold on, he looked rather put out with the request. He’d get over it. One of the many hard truths I’d had to learn was that I couldn’t afford to fret over one person’s bruised feeling. Not with the close to four hundred followers we’d managed to rescue depending on me, not to mention all of the lost souls out there waiting to be saved.

Besides Sam often had trouble dealing with the fact that I was more than just the secular leader here. Which admittedly was both an asset and a liability in a second in command but at this particular moment he’d have to look on this as an exercise in patience.

The world had descended so quickly into chaos the first few months after the virus hit. Even now almost a year later with a strong group of healthy re-deemed, we still had to keep on the move almost daily. Partially to stay one step ahead of the infected, partially to save the ones we could, as many as we could.

Existing as we did in an atmosphere of such constant threat and uncertainty these little moments were the only anchors of normalcy we had left to hold on to, and the group as a whole needed them, deserved them as a matter of fact.

So Sam could give me all the black looks and grumbling he wanted I wouldn’t hurry through so much as one word of the closing invocation.

“Dear Lord, we your humble servants thank you for our continued safety and prosperity. We thank you for the blessing that is the enlightenment that has allowed us to bring so many of your children back from the pit of insanity that this cursed virus imprisoned them in. Reuniting husbands, and wives, parents, and children, brothers and sisters. We ask only, as always Dear Lord that you grant us the courage to save the ones we can, the strength to let go of the ones we can’t and the wisdom to know the difference.

Right on cue Sam came running over practically shoving five year old Annie Talbot, who as newest member of our congregation was acting as my honorary altar boy, out of his way. Steadying her with one hand I handed her the stole with the other smiling at her ecstatically grateful mother as she scooped her up then scowled sourly at Sam. It was a wasted effort as he’d already launched into his report and until he’d finished nothing else would catch his attention.

“They were everywhere Father James, everywhere. We never stood a chance.” He began shrilly.

Taking him by the elbow I maneuvered him away from the others speaking to him quietly in order to encourage him to do the same. “You’re exaggerating Sam that was a major city, there had to be some of our kind left.” He shook his head vehemently at me. “None. Anywhere. Not even on the outskirts.”

“No Father, I’m telling you it was beyond creepy the entire place was deserted until we got to the heart of the city. Then Father all Hell broke loose. No offense. There were hundreds of them coming from everywhere. We were totally overrun in a matter of seconds. It was almost like they’d planed it. Like they’d lured us into the city and laid in wait for us.”

“Don’t be ridiculous Sam. You know they’ve lost the ability to think logically.”

“Maybe before Father, but I’m telling you something’s changed. This isn’t the first time we’ve been caught off guard lately, the last five cities we’ve scouted were completely inundated with them and it’s been almost a month since we’ve saved anyone.”

“I take that to mean we didn’t save anyone today then.”

“Of the twenty four of us that went out only seven of us came back.” I covered my eyes with a hand but Sam wasn’t finished.  “Those were some of our best people, there is no reason any of them shouldn’t have made it back.”

“Do their families know yet?”

“No, I came here first. Father I’m more scared now than I have been since this whole thing started. I mean I just feel like this could be it, you know, the end for real.”

“No Sam, stop you can’t do that you can’t think like,—“

“But Father what if every place is like that? What if we are the only ones left.”

“Then you’d better buck the hell up son, cause if that’s the case, then that would make us the only hope left for humanity.”

“But Father,”

“No buts Sam no buts. You know God never gives us more than we can handle. So he must have an awful lot of faith in us. The least we can do is return the favor.” He started in on some argumentative statement or other, giving him a stern look I pointed a finger and repeated, “No buts.” Being gentle never worked with Sam. “Now you go tell the families of the people we lost today that the city was empty and that they went on to other cities to find people to save and they will be catching up to us as soon as possible.”

He stared at me for one more moment then gave me a clipped, “Yes sir.” Turned on his heel and marched off to carry out his orders. Watching him go I fingered the now grey collar around my neck and prayed I’d told him the truth.”

The rest of the day went much as any other. People milled about visiting, resting; enjoying the sojourn while it lasted knowing we’d be moving on again come morning.

Or not.

They hit us that night, without any warning what so ever. One minute all was quite the next screaming and the sounds of fighting had broken out on the other side of camp. By the time I made it there over half of my people’d been brought down by the monsters, kicking, shrieking, writhing, and fighting to the last breath.

So many were already lost that it was impossible to pick a target until I saw little Annie being dragged away by a large female, in a hold sickeningly reminiscent of a motherly embrace. It was intolerable. I flung myself at her, knocking her to the ground sending Annie flying directly into the arms of a brutish looking male. Letting go of the female I started crawling toward them not getting three feet before I was covered in the monsters. Sam’d been right this was an organized effort. I yelled for the others to run as the monsters turned me over and held me down. The first sharp bite came in my shoulder. Knowing I could do no more for the others I began praying, for forgiveness for having failed in my mission, for protection for any of my followers who may have escaped, for a clean end to my life rather than becoming a carrier for the infection, for my soul.

I knew the virus was taking hold when the creatures garbled vocalizations started to become intelligible.

“What’s he muttering?”

“It sounds like he’s praying Dr., for salvation.”

“How appropriate. Well maybe there is a God after all. Your prayers have been answered Father, welcome back.”

When people ask me, “So what is that book you’re writing all about any way?” I like to tell them, in a nut shell it’s about witchcraft, karma and what was really in Pandora’s Box. At this point one of two things happens, either the person will smile painfully and change the subject, or they eagerly ask for more details. If you fall into the second group of people, then I graciously invite you to read on.  If you were in the first group, thank you for stopping by.

Most of you reading are no doubt familiar with the classical Greek version of Pandora’s myth, depicting her as a thoughtless troublemaker who’s careless and willful behavior cause plague pestilence and misery to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Sort of the Greek version of eve. Right? Nothing to controversial so far.

And I am sure there are a fare few of you out there who have the Pre-Olympian rendition in which Pandora is the giver of all gifts, literally the emissary of the Gods and Goddesses delivering their gifts to humanity. This older fable, from a more matriarchal time has been gaining positive recognition since I first heard it (we won’t go into how many years ago) but still in some circles will bring if not cries of dissent at the least raises a few disdainful brows.

In The Box I attempt to reconcile and explain how such extreme and disparate portrayals of First Woman could exists and how her true story like most truths probably lies somewhere in-between.

The Box picks up Pandora’s story in the modern day with our protagonist completely ignorant of her own infamy. Like all mythic tales heroic trials The Box is at its core a tale of self discovery. Pandora’s journey encompasses every aspect of the human experience from motherhood to love from defining oneself spiritually to examining the morality of doing the right thing.

I consider the telling of this story Pandora’s greatest gift to me and I am honored to be able to share it with you all. I have included here some of my favorite excerpts from the book to help you get to know our cast of charters and plan on adding some of Pandora’s adventures while on the run from Zeus, as well as some random short stories that have nothing to do with anything  in particular.

That you enjoy your visit here is my sincerest