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Reading the north

Alaska Quarterly Review

Edited by Ronald Spatz (University of Alaska Anchorage, $8.95)

The blurb: Alaska Quarterly Review is one of America's premier literary magazines and a source of powerful new voices. Works originally from AQR have appeared in "Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards," "The Pushcart Prize," "The Beacon Best," "The Best American Mystery Stories" and more.

Excerpt: "Buried" by Ryan Cannon. Our fathers worked at Hanford, the nuclear site where plutonium was manufactured for the bomb that leveled Nagasaki. Our fathers had no part in this except their own fathers, who were the men in the planes, the men with their hands on the helm of the world. We remember them, still thin, with winter beards, our fathers -- janitors of the nuclear age, their doctorates framed on the study walls.

They buried nuclear waste in the desert. They pumped water from the Columbia River through the nuclear reactors to keep them cool. When, one by one, the reactors were decommissioned, our fathers entombed them in concrete, sealed the reactor domes, welded the steel doors shut. Our fathers bought appliances they couldn't afford and irrigated their lawns with river water, trying to blot out the killdeer cries and the dead brown hills with something green. They cursed the wind and planted trees, as many trees as they could -- maple and ash and poplar -- and drank too much, watching them grow ...

During the Cold War, Amy Sutherland's mother passed on. Bone cancer, rare enough her oncologist could never fully hide his zeal from Amy's family. The same year, her father dug a bomb shelter in the backyard, lined the walls with sacks of lentils and drums of wheat, a poker table, a hand-cranked radio, and a snub-nose .38. He reinforced the walls and ceiling with 16-pound sheet lead, a quarter-inch thick, bonded to plywood, bedded in the concrete. The lead would stop whatever penetrated the soil and concrete -- radiation from a nuclear event at Hanford, fallout from a Russian bomb.

Sutherland boasted his shelter could protect us from Chernobyl.

He predicted that, when the Commie warheads rained down, we'd all come running. Amy believes her father secretly hoped for such an event. Reset the counter. Baptize us in radiation and see what we looked like washed clean. Sutherland would tell you that at one time the Columbia River was the most radioactive river in the United States. He filed over a dozen lawsuits against Secretary of Energy Donald Hodel on his wife's behalf. She was a swimmer, Sutherland said. She loved the water. I wish I could say which river is the most radioactive now -- we should warn them -- but probably only Jesus and the Department of Energy knows.

Sutherland is dead now, and his daughter Amy is my wife.



The Phantom Poodle of Rainy Pass

Dan Levinson; illustrated by Ginger Nielson (CreateSpace, $9.95)

The blurb: Inspired by the true life adventures of John "The Poodleman" Suter, this is the story of an Iditarod poodle that's gone missing. A mystery, an adventure, a rescue and a new best friend -- what could be better?

The Poodle Trilogy continues with the release of book two. This story is about two young girls who meet and become best friends. On a winter adventure, they discover a lost dog and the rescue begins.

Excerpt: The next morning after breakfast, Rose and Heather were making plans to return to the rock on the hill by the trees where they had seen the strange dog. Yesterday's snow had been light, but it was enough to cover their tracks. Even so, they found the exact rock they had been sitting on. Heather brushed away the snow.

"They're gone! Our sandwiches and cookies are gone! That dog came up and ate 'em."

Rose thought a moment. "It could be a raven -- or a fox," she suggested.

Then she changed her mind and said, "It's gotta be that dog. Let's go down to those trees and try to find it!" Heather said.

"Eeee," replied Rose. "It might come after us."

"It's shy," argued Heather, "and it hid out from us when we were down there yesterday." And with that, she started down the hillside with Rose following.

When they reached the trees, they found the snow was softer under the branches and it seemed darker, colder.

"Look,'' called Heather. "Dog tracks!"

"Yeah," replied Rose, "and yellow snow!" Both girls laughed.

They soon found tracks leading every which way, and one trail led to a section of creek that had not frozen over; but the dog that made them was nowhere to be seen.

Rose and Heather climbed back to the rock and rested.

Their half-frozen candy bars had been gnawed and crunched on the way up to the rock, and now they were working on ice-cold peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Rose looked up and whispered, "Heather -- down at the trees -- look!"

... She didn't have to clean her glasses; she could see the strange, dark dog now standing out in full view. They studied the animal very carefully. It didn't look exactly like the poodle drawing in the encyclopedia, but it sure wasn't any other dog in their book.

"Suppose we hold out our sandwiches and whistle for it?" asked Heather.

"It might work," replied Rose, and holding out her half-eaten sandwich, she sent out a whistle that was so loud, sharp and strong that Heather, forgetting her sandwich, put both hands to her ears.



#CoxWisdom

Mark A.G. Cox (Xlibris, $15.99)

The blurb: From Bartlett High School football state champion to author, Mark A.G. Cox has chronicled the lessons learned on his path. The premise of the book is to influence the desire to pursue one's dream while still holding oneself together. It teaches the value of time, family, respect, friends and much more. It is aimed at those without direction, like most high school students in transition to college, and college students to life.

Excerpt: Time, what a fickle subject to start with. In school I was exposed to a little bit of it. First learning how to read a clock in elementary school. I slept through the lesson on "The History of Daylight Savings Time" in middle school. Then I used a ton of it in high school when I took physics and AP physics, amazing! I know. I, and probably most people, have learned most about time through life.

From your first funeral, to the first time being late for a flight, then the first time being late for class, and then the first time being late for work. Time has been the source of either good or bad feelings due to circumstances. Wasn't time the most fascinating thing to think about as a kid? It was for me. The idea of having so much of it, and being so young. "You had so much time that at one point you wished it would go by faster. Ever since then, has it not gone by so much faster?" #coxwisdom. Be careful what you wish for. Ever since then, life got serious. Time soon meant when things were due, when you were supposed to be somewhere, when you had to see something, and when time was up.

"I used to remember time was so precious, and that it shouldn't be wasted, but then came YOLO." #coxwisdom. The only reason I wanted to drop some knowledge on the subject of time is because I want people to realize again that we need to take it slow. Yes, you do only live once, but that doesn't mean you should make every rash decision possible before the age of 21 or even after for that matter. Logically speaking here, but wouldn't that make your life expectancy decrease? "Good things come to those who wait" -- some genius.

-- Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News