by Audrey Breshears

            The bar of soap was just a sliver.  The sinewy man turned on both faucets in the tiny stainless steel sink and wet the bar as he rubbed it between his chaffed hands. He lathered his half inch hair and washed his stubbly face and moved down to his neck and chest. He clawed at the stubborn Mom tattoo scrolled on his deltoid until it bled, but it was no use. It was there for good. He managed to conjure up more lather for his hairier lower half, taking care to clean each crack and crevice.  With cupped hands, he collected water and splashed it over himself handfuls at a time. It was like rinsing a washed car with a thimble – not the best way to take a shower, but it was the only way. The soapy water ran toward the drain in the concrete floor like it was in a hurry to get away from him and his skin was chapped and tender from the series of five daily baths. He couldn’t help himself.

After he carefully put on the orange uniform and placed his wire framed glasses on his long nose, he picked up a well-worn book, flipped it over and carefully opened the back cover. There was a slit next to the binding.  He lifted the inside cover away from the leather and pulled out a packet of white powder. He bit a tiny hole in its corner poured a two inch line on the last page of Revelation. He felt under the metal bed frame for his straw and brought one end to his nose and the other to the dust.

One more hour and his nineteen year sentence would be over.


The fan belt squealed rhythmically on the Dodge Caravan as Dick St. Helen’s wife drove through the razor wire gates at the prison. “Mom, are we gonna get locked in here?” Tristan asked nervously as the gates slid together behind them.

“No! Jeez, shut up, will ya?” she said. “Christ!” The cigarette that hung from her crimson lips sprinkled ashes on her cleavage when she skidded to a stop. She flung open the door and grunted as she heaved herself out of the van. One last drag and she flicked the cigarette to the asphalt. “Stay in the car,” she said to Tristan as she slammed her door. He drew his jacket around him and locked the doors on the van.

Jolene stomped up to the guards. “Go ahead,” she said, blowing out the smoke and spreading her massive arms and legs. “You know you want to.” They exchanged a disgusted glance and frisked her.

“Clear,” one of them said and the buzzer rang loudly as the doors slid open and admitted Jolene St. Helen to the prison. She gyrated down the hall like a roller derby queen.

Dick sat grinding his teeth and clenching and unclenching his fists as he waited for his online wife to pick him up. She was late. “Here you go, St. Helen,” the guard said and handed him a manilla envelope. He unwound the string that tied it shut and poured the contents out on the bench. He hadn’t seen this stuff in nineteen years. It contained the contents of his pockets when he was arrested for kidnapping and raping a prostitute. He still didn’t get that. How could you rape a prostitute? There was a pair of glasses with a cracked lens, a Speidel ID bracelet that his mom had given him and never bothered to put his name on, and the only present he ever got from his dad – a set of dummy keys. They were leftover from a promotion at his car lot where customers were lured with the chance to win a car if their key fit the ignition. Catch was, none of them unlocked anything. He felt foolish for keeping the childhood gift, and hurriedly crammed the useless items in his pockets.

When he saw Jolene, he stood and glared at her. She just raised her eyebrows at him and marched to the desk. Dick silently watched over her tattooed shoulder while she signed stacks of papers and answered question after question.

“Jesus, are you gonna take a kidney or give me an ex-con?” she asked. While they waited for the supervisor to examine the papers,  she tapped the toe of her stiletto, which was no easy task, seeing how she could barely balance in them and her feet were spilling over the edges. The sweet scent of her body spray assaulted everyone in the room. Dick had begun to sweat.

He did not respond when the guard said, “OK, St. Helen, you’re outta here.” He simply turned and walked down the hall toward the door in long purposeful strides. She had to trot to keep up with him.

“Hey, Dickie, you’re not gonna believe Tristan. He’s so handsome! And so big for fifteen! Bigger’n you!” Dick said nothing. He cared nothing for his stepson. He tucked his cocaine laden Bible under his armpit and threw the empty manilla envelope on the floor as he strode through the bullet proof glass doors.

Jolene got in the driver’s side and Dick slammed his door so hard the visor fell in his lap. “Where’d you get this Lamborghini?” he asked her as he glanced around. Tristan’s face paled when Dick’s eyes settled on him. “I thought you said he was handsome,” he sneered. “He looks like a fag to me.”

“He ain’t no fag!” she said indignantly. “You’re the fag – I bet you liked some of those big ole boys, didn’t ya?”

“Shut up, you whore,” Dick said. “I’ll slap the pis out of you.”

Tristan rolled down his window. He looked like he was about to puke.


Mary Steele picked up the pistol. It was lying on the table at the gun show next to the jewelry case. “How much is this?” She asked, even though the price tag was dangling from a string tied to the trigger guard. “I can do $925 out the door.” It was marked $999.

“Throw in a box of shells?” She had been looking for a Kimber compact 45 ever since she had decided to get her concealed carry license. She pointed it at the floor, closed her left eye and looked down the sights. It fit her small hands and wasn’t all that heavy. It should have plenty of knock down power and be relatively accurate.

He looked at the young woman with the pony tail and glasses. She was about five feet tall. He wondered if she could handle that gun, but hey….

He sighed and squinted his eyes at her. “Okay.”

“Great,” she smiled.

“All right,  now we’ve got to do the paperwork,” He handed her a clip board and a pen. She answered the absurd questions on the yellow background check form. “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” No. “Have you been adjudicated mentally defective or have you ever been confined to a mental hospital?” No. “Are you a fugitive from justice?” No. “Are you under a restraining order?”

She asked the dealer if anyone actually ever answered yes to any of these questions.

“You’d be surprised,” he said. “There’s a lot of nuts out there.” She finished the form, showed him her driver’s license and he copied the number down.  He put the gun in its hard plastic case and handed it to her just as Joey walked up.

“What’d ya get?” He asked, smiling. She handed it to him.

“All right. Just what you wanted,” he said.  “Did you get some bullets?”

“Yep. HydraShoks,” she said.

She handed the man her credit card and he swiped it on his phone cube. He looked at Joey and said, “I’ll make ya a deal on a pair of those.” Joey laughed and said, “Can’t afford it!”


            At the range, Mary put on her shooting glasses and hearing protectors. She gripped the Kimber

with both hands and held it in front of her. She widened her stance, looked down the barrel and lined up the white dot on the front sight with the flat U of the rear sight. She placed the X on the center of the target on top of the front sight, held her breath and squeezed. She shot six more times before she was out of bullets and the slide stayed locked open. She laid the gun on the carpeted table and slid off the hearing protectors.

Her instructor pushed a button and the target slid up the track to them. “You’ve shot guns before,” he said. The holes were all in the center of the silhouette’s chest.

“Yeah, me and my dad used to shoot a lot,” she said.

“Yeah, I can tell. Let’s see that again,”

She smiled, a little proud of herself. “Okay.”

He clipped a new target on the track and sent it away, further this time. She put on the glasses and muffs again and reloaded. Showing out this time, she doubled tapped the face of the silhouette and the other five went in the center ring on its chest.

The instructor grinned. The classroom part of the concealed carry course was boring, but he loved the range, especially when he had a good student.

“All right. That’s good enough to qualify,” he said. “It takes about four to six weeks to get your license. They’ve gotta have time to process your background check and all. It’ll come in the mail, directly to you. Then you’re good to go.”

“Okay. Hey, I appreciate you,” she said as she shook his hand.

Mary picked up her pistol and popped out the empty magazine. She pushed in seven new bullets and shoved it back in the gun, pulled down the slide release and clicked on the safety.  She put the gun in the pistol rug and zipped it.

In the Land Rover, she opened the over-sized glove box and put her gun in and locked the lid. Emanuel was too little to even open the compartment, much less unzip the case and fire the gun, but

she wanted to be safe.

She called her husband as she pulled out of the parking lot. “I’m done,” she told him.

“Great!” Joey said. “I got the oil changed in your car. You gonna pick up Manny or you want me to?”

“I’ll get him. I’ve got to get gas on the way home. You’re sitting on empty.”

“Okay,” he said. “You want me to get us a pizza?”

“Um…” she was thinking of something healthier, but she relented. “Sure. See you in a little bit.”

Mary hung up as she pulled up to the farmhouse where she grew up. Manny was toddling from one flower to another pretending to smell them. His grandmother picked him up just as he was giving one a taste. “Shoo wee,” she told him. Mary got out of the SUV.

“Was he good for you?” She asked her mom.

“Oh, yeah. He’s always good,” her mom said as the baby reached for his mommy. Mary got a poop report and heard about what all he had eaten that day. Then her mom  laughed and said, “Oh, I gotta tell you something. Emanuel got into the trash.” She shook her head and covered her smile. “I had bought a Spiderman cake at Kroger on clearance. It was just four dollars because its head was kind of messed up, but I thought it would still taste good. Well, me and your daddy and Manny had some after lunch, but your daddy didn’t like it. You know how he is – so I chunked it. It did taste kind of funky – it was probably something they found way in the back of the case and decided to get it out and let it go. They figured it would make its way into someone’s cart, I guess.

“Anyway, I was in there folding clothes and Manny came around the corner. He was just covered in that red icing. It was in his hair, on his shirt – all over him. He was crying, trying to get it off him. Poor baby. He didn’t like being all messed up, did you, Baby?” She picked Manny up.  “He was fine, though, after I got him cleaned up.” Emanuel grinned as if he knew exactly what they were talking about.

“How was your class?” her mom asked.

“Oh, fine. I got qualified for my license.”

“Good. You be careful with that gun around the baby. I know Daddy taught you about guns.”

 “I will, Mom.” Mary’s mom carried the diaper bag to the car. They hugged goodbye. “Give Granny a kiss.” Manny puckered his little lips and his grandmother gave them a quick smack.

“Bye, Sweetie. Granny loves you!”

Mary fastened the baby into his carseat. He said, “Bite?” Manny was always hungry.

“Daddy’s getting us some pizza. We’ll have some in just a minute.” She got in the truck and started it. Jake Owen was on the radio as she pulled out on the street. She turned the rear view mirror where she could see Manny nodding his head and pointing his index fingers in the air. She laughed and started singing, “She was the one that got a-way”  She looked at the gas gauge. and remembered she had to stop and fill up. Joey didn’t like to get below a quarter tank. She pulled into the Valero station on the corner as the notes faded.

She hummed as she got out and went to the passenger side and opened the fuel door.


            Jolene just about pulled the bumper off the Caravan when it drug in the pothole. The gravel drive to the sagging mobile home between the gas station and the adult video rental store was dry and bumpy. Dust clouded behind them as if it were trying to obliterate their very existence. “Whose car is that?” Dick pointed at the old Cadillac.

“Your mom’s,” Jolene said. “She wanted to surprise you.”

“Why would I want to see her?”

Norma stepped out onto the porch. She was wearing a red wig, huge white framed sunglasses, tight flowered Capri pants and her shirt was tied around her waist. She waved and hollered, “Dickie! Hey!” She was waving a Kleenex like it was a pom pom and he had just made a touchdown.

            “Tell her to get out of here,” Dick said and sat in the van like he may just spend the night there.

            “Oh, come on, you baby,” she scolded. “She’s old.

Tristan and Jolene got out of the van and walked toward the trailer. Norma gingerly came down the steps. “Where’s Dickie?” she asked them.

“In the van.”

Dick watched his mother jiggle toward him. She moved a lot slower than she did nineteen years ago. The red wig reminded him of the real hair she had when he was a teenager. He remembered his sixteenth birthday party. His mother had fawned all over him and his friends, feeding him cake and licking the frosting off the knife while she looked into his eyes.

That was during his Bruce Lee period, which was before the Eddie Van Halen period, which was before the ‘I’m just like my boss, the jeweler’ period. He was always trying to be someone else and it had never worked.

She made it to the van. “Dickie, get out and hug your mama!”

He got out all right, but he just pushed her into the hood of the van and stalked into the house.

“Wait a minute!” she shouted at his back. “Come help me a minute! That’s no way to treat your mama!”

He slammed the door behind him and went straight to the refrigerator. He opened a beer and drained the can without stopping. Norma opened the door slowly and stepped into the living room. Her wig sat crookedly on her head and she breathed heavily. “Well, I thought you’d be happy to see me,” she said between pants.

Dick looked hard at her. Here was the reason he had spent nearly twenty years in prison. She was the reason he hated women and could not sleep at night. Mothers were not supposed to be   like her.

“Happy to see you? Happy to see you?” His voice grew louder. “No, I’m not happy to see you! Just get out!” he shouted. He went to the bedroom in the house where he had never been before. He would have slammed the door if there had been one. He jerked open a dresser drawer and saw stacks of

Penthouse magazines and red lingerie. Whose room is this? He looked around. There was a large unmade bed between two crooked lamps. A back pack was on the floor next to a worn out pair of Converses and a woman’s house coat was flung across the bed. A clock on the bedside table flashed the time in red numbers.

He went across the hall to the other bedroom, but there was only a TV and an Xbox and two bean bag chairs.  “Who sleeps in there?” he shouted at Jolene, pointing at the room with the bed.

“Me and Tristan,” She said quietly. “We only have one bed.”

“No!” he screamed, thinking of his own teenaged bedroom.

Norma, too, was remembering those dark years as she watched her son tearing through the trailer. His dad was always at that god forsaken car lot and then he was gone altogether. She had been desperate for love and here was its aftermath. Her face and shoulders were heavy with the burden as she moved trance-like to the drawer where she knew Jolene kept her pistol. She turned and stood with her arms limp at her sides with the large revolver hanging in her right hand. Streams of black mascara ran down her white powdered face. She slowly raised the gun to her temple. “I’m sorry, Dickie.” The walls of the trailer volleyed the piercing blast.

“Mama!” Dick’s voice was suddenly childlike. He ran to her collapsed body and lay over it, sobbing. “Mama, Mama!” The gun came into focus through his tears. His rage reignited and he snatched the pistol up and wiped his nose with the back of his sticky red hand.  Jolene was hugging her knees and screeching like an owl perched on a limb, shaking her head violently. “You’re just like her!” he screamed and fired two rounds into his buxom wife’s chest. The blast spread eagled her across the sofa, knocking it off its propped up legs. Tristan covered his ears and scrambled for the door, but he tripped over Norma’s body. Dick fell to his knees in the middle of Tristan’s back and touched the barrel to the back of his head. “You’re better off,” he said, and pulled back the hammer and fired.

Dick held onto the door facing and pulled himself up. He staggered to the sink and looked out the window and then frantically began to wash his face and hands. People were milling around. “Did you hear that?” he heard on man ask another. “Where’d it come from?”

He picked up the gun and ran wildly out the door, across the yard into the Valero lot next door. A young woman was putting the nozzle into a big SUV.

“Get in the car, lady.”

Mary Steele’s heart dropped as she turned to the voice. A man with  wild eyes and a blood spattered shirt was pointing a gun at her. “Hurry up!” he shouted as he opened the door. He shoved her

in and slammed the door behind her and pointed the gun at Emanuel as he came around to the driver’s side. Mary looked around and saw several people watching, frozen. She was so startled she couldn’t think.

He slammed his door as he got in and threw the automatic door locks. The keys she had left in the ignition jangled as he started the car and screeched out of the parking lot, leaving the gas nozzle bouncing on the concrete. She said, “What do you want? I’ll give you my purse, I’ve got about a hundred dollars and some credit cards. You can have all of it. You can have the truck. Just let me and my baby out.”

“Shut up, you whore!” he shouted. “Just shut up!” They sped down the rural highway faster than Mary had ever gone in a car. Her heart pounded and Emanuel started wailing. “Shut that kid up before I shoot him between his little eyes!”

“Manny,” she tried to console him, “Hush, baby.” Her heart raced, horrified at the thought of Emanuel being shot. The Kimber, how can I get it?

            She looked over at Dick, but he was holding his pistol on her and glanced at her every couple of seconds. “Keep your hands where I can see them!” She quickly put her hands on her knees.

She looked back at Manny and he reached for her, opening and closing his little hands. The man was trembling and he reeked of cigarettes and beer.

The notes of Dixie rang out from her pocket. “Give me that!” he shouted. She took the cell phone out. It was Joey. She handed him the phone and he threw it out the window and it shattered on the asphalt. He was gaining speed when they came upon a lumbering old truck loaded with hay. St.Helen passed it on a double yellow, in a curve, swerved to miss an oncoming car and squeezed back into his lane. “God help us,” she prayed.    

A siren and flashing lights were fast approaching behind them. Dick looked in the rear view mirror and stomped the accelerator. Mary grabbed the handle over the glove box on the Rover to keep

from getting thrown around in the truck.  Emanuel wailed loudly. “I swear to God I’m gonna shoot that kid if he don’t shut up!” He waved the pistol.

“Can I get back there with him?” she asked.

“Yeah, yeah, just shut him up before I do!”

She climbed between the two front seats and fell into the backseat as he took a sharp curve. She held onto Manny’s car seat and pulled herself next to him.

The dispatcher radioed the police cars. “Be advised that suspect is armed and dangerous. Reports of shooting at suspect’s home, two females and a juvenile deceased. Recent parolee from Cummins.”

Mary took Emanuel’s hand and tried to calm him. His face was red and his nose ran mucous into his mouth. He was getting hoarse from screaming. She wiped his face with her hand.

Son of a bitch. She glanced at the fuel gauge and hoped he would run out of gas soon.


            The reporter’s cell phone rang in his pocket. “Get Bob and get on the chopper. There’s a high speed chase on Highway 10 just west of town.. Carjacking. Some guy’s got a girl and her baby.” Ethan James ran down the hall of the news station and met the helicopter pilot on the way out. The cameraman was already on the helipad. They were in the air in less than five minutes.

“There they are!” By the time the men on the news chopper spotted the blinking lights chasing the Land Rover down the road, the pursuit had gone on for thirty miles.  Bob dived in closer so the cameraman could get a shot. The Pulaski County’s Sheriff’s cars were bearing down on the SUV. They could hear the banter on the police scanner in the helicopter.

“Visual on vehicle’s occupants. Woman in rear with baby. Suspect driving. Over.”

“10-4. 76, maintain distance. We don’t want a crash.”

“Roger that.”

In the Rover, Dick looked in the rear view mirror. There were three cop cars in a tight line shadowing him in a ramped up Follow the Leader game. Police cars were approaching from the other direction now, too. The setting sun glared mercilessly in his eyes. He tried to shield his face but he couldn’t see anything. He slowed a little and made a sharp right into the ditch and plowed through a barbed wire fence into a hayfield.

“Going live!” The producer shouted into Ethan’s earphones. The local channel interrupted CSI to broadcast the scene.

The Land Rover bounced across the field and Mary’s head hit the side window in the back and her knees rammed the back of the seat. She grabbed at the head rest but didn’t catch hold.  Emanuel’s little arms and legs flailed about helplessly. He had stopped screaming. The police cars slid to a stop in the gravel beside the highway.

“Back up!! Send the pickup out here!” A couple of them stomp-ran through the field, following the tracks in the grass.

The Land Rover lurched and stopped. Dick St. Helen looked over his shoulder at his hostages. He raised the revolver over the headrest and pointed it at Emanuel and cocked the hammer. The baby  whimpered as Mary was struggled to get up out of the floorboard. She raised her head over the seat and  saw her kidnapper pointing the gun at Manny. She shrieked a stream of obscenities that she didn’t even know she knew. Her face was streaked with mascara and the setting sun lit her hair giving it a reddish cast. But Dick didn’t see Mary – all he saw was his mother with her head half blown off. A guttural yell escaped  his throat and he jumped out of the vehicle and ran through the waist high grass.

            Blind fury engulfed Mary Steele. The baby was sweaty and pale, but he was alert. She got out of the backseat and threw open the front passenger door and reached across and jerked the keys out of the ignition. She unlocked the glove box and took out the pistol rug, unzipped it and grabbed the 45. She jumped out and wildly fired two shots at St. Helen and missed. She took a deep breath, held the gun with both hands and rested her arms across the hood of her truck. Just take your time, hold your breath and squeeze, she could hear her dad’s voice in her mind. Three bullets were in Dick St. Helen’s back before he could fall headlong in the bloody grass. The gun fell from her hands and went to Manny. She unbuckled him and hugged him like she had never hugged him before. The live feed from the helicopter cut to quickly cut away to commercial.

            The paramedic’s heavy boots thudded across the sagging trailer house floor. He knelt next to the    body lying face down in a bloody pool and carefully palpated its neck for a pulse. He was bent over and listening intently for any sign of breathing when he noticed the red stained tattoo on the back of Tristan’s neck. The image of a Phoenix rising out of the ashes became clear just as he felt the faintest flicker of a pulse.


Audrey Breshears Bio:

Native Arkansan Audrey Breshears is a registered nurse and a 1989 graduate of National Park Community College. She and husband Danny have a farm at Hollis Arkansas, where they have an off the grid cabin, a small herd of goats, sheep, miniature horses, chickens, homing pigeons and bees. Breshears enjoys shooting hand guns, hiking, re-purposing furniture, collecting vintage alarm clocks, and spending time with her three grandchildren. She plays bass guitar and is a licensed ham radio operator. Intriguing people and the psychology that motivates them are the subject of most of her writing. Her first book, Living at Hollis, is under construction.

Posted in Nannette's Creative Writing Class

Camera For Sale

Cannon EOS Rebel K2 35mm film camera.  I used it for both Beginning Photography and Intermediate Photography.  It has been a great camera for my two classes, but I no longer need it.
I am wanting to sell it for $100.00
Phone # is 501-915-2039.
Sharon Phillips
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Posted in Want to Buy/Sell

Webmaster Interviews of Staff Members: June 2013

Webmaster Interviews of Staff Members – June 2013
by NPCC Webmaster

Lisa & Brad HopperInterview Part One:  Brad Hopper, an explorer, outdoors-man, gardener, engineer, husband, father, and grandfather, Poppy.  When I think of Brad Hopper I see so many things in common with myself and a lot of men too, who love the outdoors, who fish, hunt, play golf, who wrestle grizzly bears and do all of that other manly stuff we love to do or perhaps only talk about or dream about with all of those other tall tales we share about how big that fish was.  Then we make those masculine sounds like Tim Allen in ‘Tool Time’ when we fire up that engine or turn on that new tool or piece of machinery.  Then we laugh as something blows up or explodes.  Fortunately, for us, Brad Hopper is not at all like Tim Taylor, for he actually knows how to fix things and make them work right.

Brad is an engineer, another thing we have in common, who loves to tinker with things in the garage or backyard.  He loves to figure things out and make them work better.  He has worked in an office behind a desk but prefers the outdoors and to work at a place where he gets to be outside most of the time which is like a dream come true for him.  I think we all go through that phase or have those situations in life where we try to figure out what we want most and what is most important in life.  For Brad, I think it’s the boy in us that is just curious or saw something shiny and off we go.

When I think of shiny it reminds me of the look in his eyes when he talks about his wife and his family.  That is what I saw that rises above all else, although as men we hardly like to admit this out loud. His love for his wife, Lisa, his childhood sweetheart from the first grade and that is when I knew where the story was and what I needed to write.

For the past six years now he gets to travel the 40 miles from Pencil Bluff, Arkansas every day to work where his wife does.  To be able to see her every day and be closer to her now than when they worked in separate places…well that is where the story becomes the dream!   (Our writer clears his throat and wipes his eyes)  Ok, before we get too mushy with all of that romantic stuff, this first interview is about Brad so we will talk more from the man’s perspective and tell his story first. Of course, their stories are one in the same so don’t worry we will get to Lisa’s story next and read more about the real tale, as sappy and romantic as it is.

Now, smiling our author asks you, “let’s all take a look around us and notice where we are.  We are in our offices, or in our classrooms, or outside driving in. Whoops! You better not be reading this while you’re driving, whew! Ok you are walking outside and what do you see?”  Flowers, trees, mountains, beautiful landscapes and don’t we have such a beautiful campus inside and out? Are we not blessed that we have Brad and his department taking such great care of us?  So much of what we have is due to the tireless efforts of Brad Hopper, our Director of the Physical Plant and his skillful and pleasant workers. They are like busy little bees keeping this campus well maintained, spic and span, well oiled, and bristle fashioned.

The Hopper Family

Brad is a father of two children with Lisa, a son Dalton who is 21, a senior at Arkansas Tech in Russellville who is studying engineering; of course…good job Dalton! They also have a daughter, Megan, who is 24, a graduate of NPCC and Henderson State University in accounting.  She worked here at NPCC for our Counseling and Purchasing departments then received her MBA from Henderson.  Good job, Megan!  They also have a granddaughter who is four named Isabelle Faith…Awww!  Can you picture her holding up her tiny hand to show us how old she is?  Or does she exclaim it most precociously.

Brad really loves his job here at NPCC and it really shows.  He is such a pleasant person to be around, always so helpful and kind, always so busy helping us here.  It’s a remarkable quality worthy of imitation.  He is in a good place to show that quality too because as he says, “It’s what we do.”

To our 2012 Outstanding Staff member for NPCC and to our Explorer, Outdoorsman, Gardener, Engineer, Husband, and Poppy we say thank you for you being you and taking such great care of our beautiful campus!

Interview Part Two: Lisa Hopper, a country girl and financial motherboard.  Lisa is a country girl from Oden, Arkansas where all of the recent tornadoes have wreaked their havoc on our neighbors.  As Lisa tells this story, she met her husband Brad, not in first grade as related to me by her husband Brad, but from the womb.  Her mother was friends with Brad’s mother and while they were both in the womb the starry heavens already had a plan for them both.  Yes that is correct. I warned you this was going to get romantic.  You can run but you cannot hide, it’s here and you must read on because it gets even better.

Before we get to that part, you are probably wondering about the title of this interview.  A country girl we can understand, financial something or other, we can too, but a what?  A motherboard, huh! What? I don’t get it!  Well if you were a student in my PC hardware maintenance class you would.  I use this illustration to help my students:

Just like Mom who makes everything run just right at home, where we all go to when we need help, for a hug, for food, when we can’t find something, or when we just need to cry.  The motherboard on a computer is much the same.  The processor, the memory, the video, the keyboard, and everything else all goes through the motherboard to get what it needs just like we do with Mom.  Where would any of us be without our mothers?

Dad may be the breadwinner but Mom knows how to bake it, make it last, and make it do a million other things.   Lisa is that and much more.

She has certainly been that for our Financial Aid department here at NPCC for the last 15 years.  It was hard not to have my mouth open in awe as she told me the things she has been doing along with her awesome staff.  Of course, I already knew this part–we have an awesome Financial Aid department here at NPCC.  As a student I experienced that right away.  I would love to read many of the letters her department receives from students whose lives have been forever changed and improved by the efforts of our Financial Aid staff.  We may have the best educational programs in the world but the world runs on gasoline, or ‘dinero’, ‘moolah’, or whatever words you want to use, and without it everything comes to a crashing halt.  Just like life without Mom, it either never begins, or it becomes nearly impossible.  How thankful we all are and should be for Lisa and our Financial Aid department and for their efforts to help us.

We have all witnessed that in our lives and if you have taken a Macro Economy class you would have learned or perhaps have learned from life that the efforts of one department, town, or even a nation are not enough.  It’s a global economy and unless we work together we will always have more problems than we should have.  She relates that our recent economic situation, resulting in federal regulation changes in the default rate calculation method which changed from two years to three. This plus the fact that it is hard to pay off your loans when you don’t have a job, these and other factors far beyond our little campus, in comparison with this big world of ours, seem to be the cause of our financial aid default issue.  Pausing now to catch my breath…We may have our concerns and our own opinions as to why this is all happening, and we may even have some truths to tell but we have to remember as Obi Wan said to Luke, “Much of the truths we cling to, are based upon our own point of view.”  (Movie Quote, 1983) These are such true words when you think about it and apply it to your own life.

In fact, our campus is what others are calling a ‘Poster Child’ for our region.  Yes, that is right!  Lisa relates this with a sense of pride as president of this region in financial aid.  We are an example to other colleges in our region and our nation for Default Prevention.  For those of you not aware of what that means, we have a federal limit that we cannot exceed.  We have come close she relates as she gives credit to the determined efforts of our Financial Aid department along with other key faculty and administrative personnel here at NPCC that have helped with this. The results are this:  We have reduced that default rate of 31.8 to 28. It is dropping fast with projections of 27 to 24 in the next year or so.

“Awesome job” is all I can think of to say to our college and to Lisa’s department!  She has related to me so many things they have done to improve this for us and other colleges too, way above and beyond the call of duty. The use of technology has been an important factor as well in these efforts.  Our website, social media, and even PeopleSoft have been used to help with this. Well done and thank you!

Now back to our epic love sonnet we all love to read about and better yet experience in our own life.  ‘We can learn to read and write all we want but without romance and the arts, we wouldn’t have much to read and write about’.  I am a movie buff and just love that quote from the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus (Movie Quote, 1995).  When I think of the love story of Brad and Lisa Hopper, I think about the many movies my wife and I love to watch.  Not the action and adventure types which are cool too but the romantic ones like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Where the Heart Is and so many others that touch your heart.

Brad and Lisa never dated anyone else and I just love that!  It was the same for me.  I never dated in High School, met my wife, Lizzette in college, and when you find that right person, first time right out of the gate, you just know it!  You don’t need to shop around and play the field, or sow your wild oats or whatever those expressions are that I have never liked.  That is the way it was for Brad and Lisa.  Their families were friends, they grew up together and they went to school together–from the very beginning.  They met, they played, they laughed, they learned, they kissed, they fell in love, they did all of that and more–together.  Ok get out the tissue because here it comes!

I believe in a world and I hope you do too whereas D’Artagnan says, ‘You can love only one woman your entire life and be the better for it.’ (Movie Quote, 1998)   I did warn you about the sappy romantic stuff.  Of course, sadly, it does not work out for most of us that way.  We have to search for a long time and far too often never find it. The Hoppers are a couple that truly believes in that.  They are active church going people that are always busy helping others. They live in a rural area where honor and your word still mean something.  They are not just words we say in passing but they define who we are.

Lum & AbnerBrad and Lisa live just 12 miles from Lum & Abner’s Jot ‘em Down Store.  You pass by it after you turn left at Pencil Bluff on Highway 88 heading to Mena in a town called Pine Ridge.  For our younger reader, you probably have no idea what I am talking about.  This little store still exists and is open on certain days was where Columbus Edwards ‘Lum Eddards’ and Abner Peabody played by creators Chester Lauck and Norris Goff had a radio show that aired from 1931 to 1954 (See Picture – Wikipedia, 2013).  My mother and grandmother used to listen to this radio show and I remember them talking about it when I was a kid.  Lisa’s grandmother’s “Aunt Spider” used to sing in a band on that show.  This was a time when we had no television, and certainly not all of the gadgets we have today but a slower time when everyone listened to radio broadcasts like this one.  It was a time when people really talked to each other, spending time on the front porch and in the living room together really listening to each other.  Not like we see today where many of us are glued to TV, computers, cell phones, and go out to eat at restaurants and spend the evening texting others rather than speaking to their friends or family?  “Now don’t we really and truly miss the good ‘ol days?” he asks with a sigh.

I have to say I really enjoyed these two interviews as I have them all.  It is such a pleasure to visit and talk to those who really love being here at NPCC.  I have never worked at a job where we use words like family and really mean it.  Elsewhere, we use words like colleagues, and co-workers but never family.  Here at NPCC– it is true–we are a large family that really loves what we do, where we work, and making the world a better place through education. We have our good days and our bad days, like any family. How much better we feel when you get a chance to visit and talk to the many special people here like Brad and Lisa Hopper that have been married for 29 years now. It is encouraging to visit with ones that have devoted their lives to helping so many people besides their immediate family and their family here at NPCC.  When you take the time to listen to others and learn about what they have gone through and what they have been busy doing for such a long time it just makes you smile, it makes you feel good inside…it warms the heart!  Home is where the heart is and with family whether you are here at NPCC or at the home of Brad and Lisa Hopper sitting on their front porch, you can truly feel that warmth.



1         Return of the Jedi, 1983 by Sir Alec Guinness.

2         Mr. Holland Opus, 1995 by Richard Dreyfus

3         The Man in the Iron Mask, 1998, by Gabriel Byrne

4         Lum and Abner, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lum_and_Abner

Posted in Webmaster Interviews

Webmaster Interview of Faculty Member: May 2013

A Mom, a Wife, and an Instructor Who Believes in a Quality Education for All

— Interview by NPCC Webmaster

darlene-gentlesDarlene Gentles is a full time faculty member for NPCC Math & Sciences Division where she teaches classes in General Biology, Botany, and Zoology. She was the 2012 NPCC Outstanding Faculty Member.

Darlene is no stranger to education. She practically grew up on this campus. Her father, Victor Kingery, was nearly one of the original faculty members. He began

Darlene receives NISOD Award

teaching Chemistry here shortly after the college opened up in 1973 and served as Division Chair for many years. As a result, Darlene visited the campus all of the time for almost as long as she can remember.  Often helping her father set up labs, she spent summers alphabetizing chemicals and organizing glassware – and thought it was fun!  Is it any wonder why she herself has become such an advocate for a quality education after literally growing up on this campus?  In addition, Darlene and her sister Catherine Moushon, who teaches math at Elgin Community College outside of Chicago, both received the National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Award this year and both serve as Division Chairs.

Darlene with her family.

Darlene began her college education here at NPCC and continued at Henderson State University for her graduate work. She is married to David, who is a “solutions analyst” for Xerox (an IT person)…hmm an IT person…I like him already although we have never met. They have two daughters, Lauren and Emily. Emily is a junior at Lake Hamilton and Lauren is a senior at UA Fayetteville studying…..yup…Biology!  Darlene has always been very involved in her daughter’s lives especially in regard to their education, often volunteering at their schools, teaching “mini-labs” and science prep sessions to their science classes and consulting with their instructors.

She has taught at NPCC for 21 years about which she says, “At NPCC you get to know your students well; they’re not just a student ID on a roster. They get personalized instruction here. We almost customize the education to the needs of each student with respect for both learning style and multiple aptitudes. It is a place where the quality of our teaching, the success of our students really is number one.”  I cannot agree with her more and have heard many students echo those same words as they comment on their education at NPCC and the success in life their college completion has brought them.

Darlene riding an ostrich

Darlene has other hobbies, besides the involvement in her daughter’s lives. She is a certified fitness instructor and teaches Stretch & Relax, Pilates and Boot Camp (cardio / weight) classes at First Baptist Church. She also likes to travel and spent five weeks in South Africa for a Rotary Club Group Study Exchange to better understand other cultures. Working with teachers in other countries and contrasting their facilities with our beautiful NPCC campus was very humbling. “We are so blessed here” she says. I prefer to say we are spoiled when we consider how so many live in other parts of the world but blessed is true too.

I really enjoyed my interview with Darlene Gentles, who seems to be a very kind and caring person. She is someone who works very hard to excel in life but also strives to enhance the welfare of others, her family, her students, and her community.

Posted in Webmaster Interviews

Results for Questia’s 2013 Most Valuable Professor

Read about the results here:  http://www.cengagebrain.com/blog/2013/05/americas-top-ta-2013-competition-by-cengagebrain-awards-impactful-tas-with-scholarships-in-their-names/

Posted in The Parkbench

Questia’s 2013 Most Valuable Professor

NPCC is very proud to share the news that Professor Larry E Clowers, PhD, Social Sciences Division Adjunct Faculty has been nominated for Questia’s 2013 Most Valuable Professor competition. Questia is an online provider of research and paper-writing tools for college students. Three professors will ultimately be crowned MVP and a $2,500 scholarship will be given by Questia to three students in each of the professors’ names. The three student winners will be announced on May 21st.

The NPCC student who nominated Prof. Clowers had the following to say about him:
“He is the Most Valuable Professor because he has helped me very much in my sociology class. I am from Ukraine and for me the English language is not easy. Dr. Clowers has been very patient with me, as I have struggled to understand some of the terms and the slang phrases. He always took extra time to answer my questions and expand my knowledge. Dr. Clowers is a very pleasant, personable, and cheerful individual. He lends a positive and enjoyable element to class. I strongly recommend to give him what he deserves–the MVP title.”

Stay tuned to the Parkbench blog for our next update about Dr. Clowers nomination!

Posted in The Parkbench

My Emphasis of Emotion Moves with Kosher Satisfaction

erik-brendelandMy emphasis of emotion moves with kosher satisfaction,
by Erik M. Brendeland



My emphasis of emotion moves with kosher satisfaction

But my feeling did rapture when I happenstanced upon the answer—

Of why I feel this way about you:

It’s elementary my dear—

It’s not that I do not

Digest emotion well

Which why I explode with it, NO!

But rather, I say

Rather embarrassed, almost dismayed

That I should break your heart, but

I had a slight case—



Indigestion did me in at approximately to a tee of the same time you walked in—

I do apologize, really—

I hate to eat and run

“Waiter!?” Hand gestures, attentive.

“Check please!”

Posted in The Parkbench

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time by Erik Brendeland

Once upon a time… in a land,




“What’s that?”

“I don’t know”

“D-u-d-e! That’s sick!”

“Ha-ha, right?

“Stop, stop, you’re going to make me sick.”

Tony jabs at it one more time, and Danny runs for a park trashcan, only making it as far as he could spew lunch in bits across a latent green.

“Ha-ha!” Tony picks up the mushy banana and chucks it at Danny. “You’re weak, ha!”

The banana hits Danny in the back.

“D-u-d-e!” he pulls at the shoulder of his shirt, trying to catch a glimpse of the mess on his back that was sticking to his skin. “Why’d you do that bro-man?”

Danny and Tony had only begun their walk through downtown parkway half an hour ago to talk of this dis-ease called a love bug (not the fad, now spanning across America, with low gas mileage, no— the illness in a man’s bones for some sweet little chickadee), and Danny had it the worse he’d ever had it in a lifetime.

“Though there was this one time bro, in preschool man…”

“Dude you were in diapers. Probably just a hiccup or gas you experienced.”

“NO, bro, N-O, I was standing at the arts and crafts table when I turned round and WO BRO… in walked Miss Sweet.”

“I bet man…” Tony chuckles “Miss sweet thing, huh?”

“Not Miss Sweet thing man. Just Miss Sweet.”

Danny tries comparing past experiences to understand this turning in his heart, and the flightiness of his mind making him feel woo’d bubbly-fizz psychotic for a girl he’d just met. His experiences were far and few to pick from, and the stories— quite a stretch from reality. Danny explains to Tony that he had a thing for Miss Sweet for quite some time and worked up the nerve to approach her one day

“D-u-d-e, way audacious bro-man, you asked your teacher on a date!?” he playfully nudges Danny off balance. “What’d Miss Sweet say to that?”

“I think she picked me up at twelve-noon and took me to the cafeteria for P.B & J’s” Danny’s brow works a backlash of self-skepticism “Maybe I was— WAY young, bro-man.”


“Don’t know…”

“Probably got your gases mixed, huh?”

“Yeah.” Danny nods agreeably with the realization that his new affair with a girl is a passing flash of fantasy, and is hardly— a match made in story books.


Posted in The Parkbench

Polished Fads

Polished Fads by Erik M. Brendeland


NESS! Is this mess even a word!?


Ficial, Fiscal cliff

Super so goober

Super dab, B-L-L-ISS–TER!

Thumbs, two


Holding smile

One of many

A crowd stretched miles

Piers’ like children


Awaiting proof

Approval, way-charged

He for her, “S-i-i-r, Dummy DUKE!”

And she for he, “M-i-s-S! Prince-esS Fessy Pubescent!”

Flashy fads, presumptuous had

Down casting outcast,

Masters of their own pestilence

Sporting me, sporty


Give me a break!

High school is NOT


Copyright ©2013 Erik Brendeland

erik-brendelandA brief bio on what brought me to write this poem is this: I went to McDonalds one night and I had not even been there for more than a few minutes wanting to escape the tight living space of a 30 foot camper trailer (my living space) and find some open space, breathing room, to read and relax, when I was tight-knit-weaved amongst a bunch of hormonal teenagers talking about this guy and that, this girl and that, or whatever else they think is important and emphasized as such with such pomp and presumptuousness that I was starting to feel dizzy with all the chemicals floating around the room, so I felt inspired to make fun of the high school mentality through satire. So Hope you enjoy.

Posted in The Parkbench


erik-brendelandWe would like to introduce, Erik Brendeland as a new student blogger:

Erik Brendeland came to Hot Springs, Arkansas from Klamath Falls, Oregon from where he had been attending a small community college for two terms. Erik is here to continue his education after having taken a break from school for a whole year due to the loss of his mentor (like a father figure, used by God, to raise him out of his disheveled mindset and life). Erik now aspires to be a poet, short story writer, and musicians (with time), and he is grateful everyday for the opportunity to pursue such dreams.

Please enjoy his first Creative Writing Post on The Parkbench Blog:  Catchabigen

Catchabigen? I’m confused—The driver said “oyh-yagoing to catchabigen ifya-all awre going fishin-in tha’ there lake.

The man might as well have sent me message via bottle. What little I did perceive of his git-gammer-jaw-jumble draw speech were a few definable words (if one were so kind enough to acknowledge them as words), and a repetitious head-nodding-grin looking over his shoulder while driving to the lake, speaking to me. I may have looked the part of calm and collective, but inside I was grinding my teeth with a vice-grip grasp around his neck.

We made it to the lake, and without invitation I was on the ground like some homesick sailor, thanking God that He had intervened and driven the car. However southerners can carry on a conversation and talk so sporadically surely is a miracle… no wonder they call it the Bible belt down here. You need to wear it, and it takes faith to get there.

All the gear unpacked from the back of the taxi van, onto the ground, I pay the cab it’s fair, and wave him off. Good riddens. Chairs set up at the embankment, on pier and by lake edge, hooks baited, everyone is ready for a day of fishing. I could hear the many cries from porcelain coliseum (men’s bathroom) at the sight so much water. I was there quicker than a crazed squirrel flying on a downward ride a butter-slicked slide towards picnic goodies, set out, left to the birds and insects.

Expanse, so liberating the soul, a pool from which many waters flow and fall, it is pleasant to see the work of God. A cool breeze brisk the trees leaves with a shush for silence. And with a flush, I’m feeling much more relieved.

Just outside, I come to find that that awful Honk-geeing racket was of a lonely goose by waterside, splashing a bath then coming ashore to nestle a patch of grass to sleep, one eye opened and cautious. I snap a few photos of this precarious creature, astounded… as long as I didn’t touch, the thing just watched and didn’t care how close I got. I got the pictures I wanted. I mean, how many pictures does one take before one realizes a goose is a goose, no matter how one frames it? So I head back to fish with the rest of the gang, and the goose protest an attention getting “Hey what about me!? You just snap some photos and that’s that!?”— The honk-geeing fades in the wisp of wind and distance set between, as I get closer to the group I came with.

Well… two hours has past and nothing has bitten at the hook, nor has probably thought about it. I’ve never made the gest “hmm” so many times in the entirety of my existence, and I actually thought of picking my nose. I bet there aren’t even fish in this lake. The sky is a touching blue, and clouds are sparse, yet God could spare some, I pray He does. The suns probably deep fried the fish already. I can’t imagine what this heat does to them, yet alone the southerners. Guess I can learn tolerance. I once read some articles on desert heat, delusions, madness and whatnot, though I don’t remember much, but there isn’t anything good about it.

Cattails sway,

Grass shimmers,

And tree limbs gather in a reef like shelter along the cove for fish to hide beneath, fish hooks baited outside, within sight. Turtle heads prod above the lakes surface choppy, afar off, looking like snakes, then rushing the bobbers. “Well at least someone is getting a bite today.” comment I to Tony, sitting next to me. I didn’t think that bait would be in short supply this day, so I let the turtle snap off a bit, and then reeled it in. This might actually have become my past time as compromise to fishing, either that or feed the birds, there wasn’t much else, yet curiosity and outrage rustled me up from my seat to scope out a new location. I walked a short distance to an isle protruding out into a smaller region, stagnant and clear. It seemed like as good a place to cast from as any, and sure enough… in the somewhat murk of shadows cast by the trees lengthy figures by noonday sun was the outcast of a fish. A beast with whiskers, gray, gliding eloquent, yet the most cunning of its kind, this cat was not easily led off for any dish. I tried to lure it away, playing coy with the bait, to my advantage I could see all interaction, yet nothing I did struck this fish with the slightest fascination. To my amazement, my casting aim was near perfect. I would’ve had better luck knocking the fish out with a sinker than enticing it with any clever devise or any appetizer.

Catchabigen… the drivers words sparsely crossed my mind the same instance a grin cut across my face like murder. I was starting to think he was right about this, and there it is— the bigen. If anyone was going to catch the bigen breed, it was going to be me, even if I had to use crude tactics. The thought of sharing company while fishing this spot soon dropped as an option. I did it for friendship sake wise. Can’t have friends turning to enemies over a single prize, I’ll just keep quiet, I thought. This area isn’t big enough for the lot of them anyways. Especially for a super fish that wouldn’t fall for the steak like massive clump of worms I hung on the end of my hook. It wasn’t thirty minutes past and the taxi cab had arrived as we had planned to take us back to the hotel, and I didn’t even get the fish to look my way. I got the line reeled in and got the camp chair folded, tackle box closed and I was on my way around the bend and up the bank to the cab. I thought about telling the guys about the fish I saw, but I figured they wouldn’t believe me since nothing was biting.

I had much more tolerance for the southern cab driver this time around, though it did help being off in thought, dreaming a different world of wonder: what it would have been like to catch such a fish. I’ll never know, probably. Pure fiction. But the experience taught me something: Made me realize that sometimes there are things in life we just can’t have. No matter how much passion ensues us to pursuit of a dream, our lack dictates our gain, or destiny never had it out for us. No chance. Well, you catch my drift— about the only thing I caught was an earful from the driver, a suntan from sunrays had for hours on end under cloudless sky, and a cool breeze. I think I’ll stick to catchin-a-big nap when I get back to the hotel.

Posted in The Parkbench