The story of the stowaway mouse is much like that of every orphan. His untold story has no happy origin, few happy memories, and rare are fairy tale endings in the lives of the lost and lonely. It began bitterly enough for this lost soul, however, and his tale is a hard one to tell.

The mouse’s life began on December 25th, 1900 in the cargo hold of a tramp steamer called Lucky Star just as the sun cast its eye down upon the City of Belfast. Just in from Madagascar on the 22nd, she was silent and empty. Her crew had been given 3 days shore leave for Christmas. While they were wherever they were, the mouse was born, just as he would die. All alone in a filthy engineering compartment of a ship.

His mother, already frail, and diminutive from a prolonged lifestyle of malnutrition and deprivation suffered throughout the pregnancy. In the end, her legacy was her undoing. The Mouse would be her second baby, her only living heir, the last of her hard life’s greatest sorrows, and the final light in her dying eyes.

The first baby born to, Charlotte Mouse that morning came into the cold dank world with her fraternal twin brothers umbilical cord wrapped around her tiny throat. Nothing could save her.

Two minutes later the mouse was delivered in a gout of dark red blood as Charlotte began hemorrhaging from a fatal tear inside of her. As the mouse drew his first breath of fetid air their gazes met and he stared up at her, watching silently, without a care or a name. As the spark went out in his mother’s dying eyes her blood soaked his skin warming him. It sustained him when his natural curiosity and intense hunger pangs lead him to taste it.

The mouse’s luck truly ran out when the ship’s Engineer found him lying in a pool of coagulated blood, cold, hungry and near death. The old Scotsman took the scene in and assessed it quickly, as engineer’s will. Pragmatically he set to putting his ship aright again. His heart took pity on the orphan and he cleaned the mouse up dried him, fed him sweet cream, and then stowed him away in a wooden crate he’d fashioned to look like a toolbox to the casual eye. No sailor onboard would dare touch it as the old man’s temper was legendary when it came to his tools or his machinery. The ship was his world and in it, he was a man you’d not trifle with but once.

Even so, he knew what would befall them both should the mouse be discovered onboard the ship. Sailors are a superstitious lot as tradesmen go and that included the crew of the Lucky Star. They would view the baby which the engineer had named Mouse in his mind as an evil omen due to the circumstances of his birth and if he was discovered at sea the men would throw him overboard like he was a dead albatross that had fallen from the clear blue sky. They might throw him off too; just for the sake of argument.

Happily, baby Mouse was quieter than a church mouse, so he sailed with the Lucky Star until 1908 when the hand of fate intervened again and the Engineer took his own life rather than wait to die from Consumption. A company paid physician assured him he had weeks to live during a routine check-up ordered by the Captain who suspected as much.

He was ordered to pack his things and disembark in three days when the Lucky Star sailed for England wat dawn. The last thing the old Scotsman did before he drank an entire bottle of Laudanum was to write a note to an old friend from college and paid a boy to deliver it. The note bore no explanation, simply a dying old man’s last request for his long-time friend to smuggle Mouse off of the Lucky Star and turn him loose on the waterfront. The note stated that the mouse was to be left there where he could forage and fend for himself with the rest of the mud hens and the wharf rats that permeated Belfast’s shoreline. The secret of the Lucky Star’s invisible mascot has gone untold until now.

He made the transition smoothly and adapted to waterfront life like a duck takes to water. Few people saw him; nobody took notice of him. To human eyes the mouse was invisible so it was easy for him to vanish into the booming yards of Harland and Wolff; shipbuilders, when they began laying the keel for their biggest contract to date March 31, 1909.

The mouse made himself right at home in the vast expanse of lumber and steel and soon discovered he could move around unseen more easily at night. Oftentimes he would venture into one of the many break rooms where the crews gathered for lunch and sample their wive’s cooking. He was especially fond of cheeses and sweet treats but he never ate enough that any of the tradesmen noticed food was missing.

For three years he haunted the passageways, catwalks, and ductwork inside the immense structure which got bigger and more complex by the day; without being spotted more than once. On that one occasion, the mouse bolted for the fence when a security officer spied him going into a breakroom in front of the prow of the massive ship. Satisfied that he had chased the vermin away for good, and had single-handedly saved lunch from a fate worse than death to use the parlance of the times. James Heath, retired flatfoot retired to the lunchroom and helped himself to an apprentice riveter’s cold beef sandwich. He told himself he could blame it on the mouse if push came to shove.

Naturally, push came to shove soon afterward because it was such a fine idea, the low paid rent-a-cop supplemented his meager diet at the expense of many a man. Soon the legend of the mouse who raided lunch boxes with impunity grew faster than the great ship itself. Still, nobody ever laid eyes upon him. This increased the growth rate of the rumor exponentially. Soon, some of the workers in the shipyard were leaving a plate of food out on the table in every lunchroom on the job site in a futile effort to lure the chow hall chupacabra away from their own food.

Several attempts were made upon the life of the mouse by way of offering poisoned sandwiches, which were clearly labeled so that no human being ate one by mistake. After 3 weeks in a row. The baits had gone untouched, while the lunch buckets started coming up short of food again, and the mouse’s legend grew rapidly.

By the time the White Star Line’s legendary ship was ready for her owners and arrived in England, Titanic was ready to sail for New York.  By April 12th, 2012 the mouse had been in and out and all around the ship to the point he might have been considered the world’s foremost expert on the majestic super-structure.

He was familiar with the entire ship, and every piece of her machinery including her three massive, coal-fired engines that could propel the mighty ship through the frigid North Atlantic at a speed of  23 knots, or roughly 25 miles-per-hour per hour. Historians say Titanic was speeding along at 22.5 knots when she struck an iceberg and sank on the night of April 15th, just 3 days after embarking on her maiden voyage she went to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean.

When Titanic left that morning amidst the biggest public spectacle England had seen since the coronation of her last monarch, Titanic’s manifest listed 2,223 passengers on board bound for New York. The unofficial total, however, was 2,224. Counting the mouse.

By then the crew had been working on the ship while she underwent sea trials, upgrades final fittings, and final shakedown cruise. They were used to seeing the mouse around the ship in places where he could not possibly have been. Yet time and time again, there he was, begging for a treat, which the stewards were more than happy to provide him with. Soon the mouse was starting to bulge noticeably about his belly. He was absolutely corpulent some might even say but nobody did of course because to the crew the Mouse was an omen of good luck and they all had an uneasy feeling lingering in the backs of their minds that Titanic was cursed.

Anything that might chase that bad luck away was good enough for the men and women who staffed the mighty ship, so the mouse was living the lifestyle of the filthy rich, and famous. Nobody else on board, Titanic, not even Captain Smith was any the wiser for it.

The mouse stayed hidden well out of the sight of all of Titanic’s passengers, and a few of the crew members as well. They had expressed an unbending disdain for their unofficial mascot whom they knew only as, The Official House-Mouse To his Majesty’s ship, the mouse. Some tried to say it was an ill-portent but they were shouted down by the vocal majority who felt he was full of it and said as much within the range of the mouse’s hearing.

He didn’t really understand the intricacies of human interaction having no real frame of reference to go on. But he instinctively understood what hatred was, however. He had seen more than his share of that during the time he spent living along the waterfront.

To the mouse, the opulent appointments and fixtures in the first class accommodations were not lost completely because he often found things here and there like a ball, a stray jack, and other toys that had fallen out of a careless child’s pocket. Things left there unnoticed by its owner to appropriate as his own. In his secret living places strewn throughout the big ship, the mouse had amassed quite a unique collection of worldly goods of an eclectic nature to be sure. In one spot you would have found only a small red rubber ball or a few bent, and partially mutilated rivets that had been rejected by Titanic’s builders.

In another part of the ship, you might have found another stash that consisted of several chunks of coal, an ivory button from an officer’s custom-tailored tunic, a small wrench some mechanic had dropped below decks, and an official Titanic playing card. The Ace of Spades.

In one compartment, low down on Titanic’s starboard side between the prow, and engine room, you would have found nothing but the bed where the mouse slept every night no matter what was going on. It was warm all the time from the fiery furnaces that turned coal into horsepower. And it was there, more than anywhere else, that he felt the safest because it reminded him of the ship where he was born and raised. The thrum and vibration of Titanic’s massive walking beams marching around and around in perfect harmony lulled the mouse to sleep better than anything in the world. This was his world and in that world, he was safe and warm. That, he instinctively knew, was not to be trifled with lightly.

One child was rumored to have befriended the mouse. A young girl whose real name has been lost in the tangled issues in the days following the wreck of the “unsinkable” Titanic. For the sake of convenience, we shall call her Allison. Both of them were, by their nature, painfully shy and retreating and so it was only natural they would find one another and become fast friends on sight. It takes one to fully appreciate one.

While the little girls’ parents were in the parlor taking their “fancy-schmancy dinners, dances, and brandies with stinky old cigars which Allison said, “smelled like burning horse manure,” to her. She had to stay in their suite with the butler to watch her. Allison and the mouse played together for hours on end until 11:00 o’ clock when her mother and father would drunkenly roll and stroll back to their luxurious first-class suite filled to the gills with champagne and brandy.

Allison’s mother was invariably draped in a glamorous evening gown that in some countries, represented half of their gross national product. That didn’t even take into account that she was dripping diamonds and pearls., and wrapped herself in enough mink and fox fur to reupholster a full-grown Clydesdale. Or that she wore each gown once and then threw it away like other’ people toss out their used toilet paper.

They could hear Allison’s parents coming down the companionway a mile away so on the two nights, they spent together, the mouse was able to escape their notice by slipping out through the heat ducts. Meanwhile, Ali, as she said everyone called her, would distract their attention and cover his getaway. The mouse didn’t know what would happen if he was sighted in first-class. But Allison knew they would throw him overboard. That was what the butler had assured her when she saw their suite for the first time and looked it over.

“The better class of people must be protected, Miss, Allison.” He explained to her in that special stuck-up way Jarvis, the discriminating English butler, had with words.

“What? Oh, I see.” she had replied, her face set as hard as if it had been carved out of the same stone from which Jarvis’s face was chiseled. Allison faced her butler and pinned him to an index card with a pushpin in her mind. “But of course.” she quipped, her voice dripping with unfiltered vitriol. “We simply cannot have vermin in the woodpile now can we?”

Quite so Miss, Allison.” Jarvis replied. Allison’s venom dripping from his visage like water rolling off of a duck’s back. One of his less endearing qualities in, Allison’s eyes. But, just as she asked herself all the time, ‘what could she ever hope to accomplish by arguing with an old stick-in-the-mud like, Jarvis anyway?’ All she had to do was keep the mouse out of sight for a few days and, Bob’s your Uncle, they’d be in New York and it would be irrelevant.

On the evening of April 14, Allison’s parents returned to their suite five minutes past eleven o’clock. They were in their usual state of inebriation and feeling boisterous in their cups. Behind them came a crowd of their upper crust “friends” from the salon and they were in the mood to party. They sent Allison to bed and called for Jarvis to bring a round of drinks.

Meanwhile, the mouse wended his way down through Titanic and to the lower decks where the third class passengers were having an impromptu celebration of their own. Unable to join in the fun, he sat there watching, mute but filled with a sense of longing he would never understand.

He swayed to and fro in time with the music which was also something to which the mouse was unaccustomed, but he knew liked it. There were couples dancing up a storm in the confined spaces of the lower staterooms and everyone was laughing and singing so joyfully that it began to make his little heart fill with longing again. 

He took one final look at the festivities and then walked away. He made his way carefully down to his bedroom, such as it was, and curled up in his bed. Within minutes the mouse was fast asleep and dreaming those sweet dreams the lost can only dream of. Meanwhile, high above him on Titanic’s foremast the two men standing watch in the Crowsnest noted the time was 11: 35 P.M.

Titanic’s destination would have to wait forever because her destiny was waiting for her five minutes, full-steam, ahead. The mouse slept peacefully for the first time in his life below while the watchmen strained their eyes through binoculars at a flat-calm sea. By the time they did spot the iceberg, it was dead ahead and coming on fast. The call went out to the bridge and the First Mate ordered all stop, full reverse to port in a vain attempt to avoid the collision. But Titanic was never meant to be maneuverable, she was built for speed. 

As the iceberg raked down the mighty ship’s side, ice sliced through riveted steel plates like they were made of wood. A report came into the bridge from down below. The iceberg had breeched Titanic’s hull and water was pouring in through the breaches faster than they could pump it out again. The first Mate closed all the watertight doors below decks and Titanic’s compartments began to fill.

The first passenger to die that night was sleeping like a baby beside the hull where the worst of the damage was felt. The shock of the impact knocked him from his bed but before the mouse could gather his wits about him a 6-inch steel pipe was ripped away from its hanger above his bed. The mouse died instantly as 1200 PSI of live steam scalded him ending his sad story as abruptly and violently as it had begun 12 years before on the Lucky Star.

As the ice cold Atlantic filled his home his burned body was tossed around the steel-sided room like a rag doll. Above him, Titanic’s passengers were unaware that 1,517 of them were going to die.

 Belfast, Ireland. April 16, 1912.

Two wharf rats stare at a discarded newspaper whose headlines read, “GOD WINS BET! TITANIC LOST!” The two crud encrusted mud hens looked at one another in silence for a moment before one orphan asked the other. “Wasn’t The Mouse on Titanic?”

“Yes, he was, Mate.” the younger wharf rat replied, tears falling unbidden from his eyes. They scarcely ran down his muddy face before vanishing into the dirt on his 7-year-old cheeks. Wiping the tears away with a filthy rag, he sobbed wishfully,

“Lucky bastard.”

March ‎6, ‎2019

Sometimes it’s always worthwhile.

Center for Criminal Justice Reform


President Trump gave his second State of the Union Address last night, and it was one for the books. Buzz Aldrin was there and got a nod. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to a Holocaust survivor…

But the moment we will remember most was the President introducing Matthew Charles, the first person released under the FIRST STEP Act.

Matthew Charles

While in prison, he turned a corner after surrendering his life to God. He completed more than 30 Bible studies, became a law clerk, taught GED classes and mentored fellow inmates.

This wouldn’t have happened without your activism.

All of your unwavering perseverance and hard work to get the FIRST STEP Act signed into law paid off, and Matthew Charles is evidence.

So from our team, and from all the people who will get a second chance under the FIRST STEP Act – thank you.  

For Justice,

Pat Nolan and the CCJR team


This poem was written specifically to be sung to the tune of,
"The Battle Of New Orleans," by Johnny Horton.

In 1830 we took a little trip,
Along with Colonel Jackson 'cross the mighty mississip'.
We didn't have no bacon and we didn't have no flour,
Our young and old were sick and starving, dying by the hour.

We owned the land but the white man kept on comin',
Now there's twice as many as there was a while ago,
We won in court but King Jackson just ignored it,
And sent us down The Trail Of Tears into the bloody snow.

Old Hickory said the Highest Court is just for white's,
So it doesn't matter that you won because you have no rights,
You own these lands and we all know that it's so,
But we don't want your kind around here, so you gotta go.

We fired our guns but the white man kept on coming,
Now there's twice as many as there was a while ago,
The Bluecoats came and they sent The People runnin'
Across the Mississippi down the trail of bloody snow.

Well, the Bluecoats came and they threw us off our land,
And they executed anyone who tried to take a stand,
They rounded us up like a herd of their livestock,
Then they sat there on their horses and they ordered us to walk.

The land was ours but the white man had to have it,
Because there's twice as many as there was a while ago,
We beat them in court so they just came and took it,
We have the right by God they said, Old Hickory told us so.

Well, we marched all day till our feet were bloody sores,
Then the Bluecoats pointed guns at us and made us march some more,
They shot the ones who dared to fall behind,
And left them lying in the mud for scavengers to find.

We lived in peace but the white man kept on coming,
And there's even more now than there was a while ago,
Our children died but the Bluecoats kept us marching,
On down the trail of blood until we died there in the snow.

The worst time of all was when we had to go a swimmin'
It was deadly for the children, for the elders, and the women,
We didn't want to do it but they forced us in the river,
Into water that was cold enough to make a dead man shiver.

We gave them land but the white man kept a-comin'
Now there's twice as many as there was a while ago,
Our skin is red so King Jackson doesn't want us,
He sent us down The Trail Of Tears into the bloody snow.

They marched us over mountains, through the valleys and the streams,
But the Bluecoat's ears were deafened to our dying children's screams,
Our people died lying face down in the mud,
Now forever stained red by a noble nation's blood.

We tried to stop but the Bluecoats fired at us,
Now we're not as many as we were a while ago,
We tried once more and they began to beat us,
And chased us down the trail of red tears through the bloody snow.

They made us march through the wind, and, snow, and rain,
But Lord Jackson's heart is blackened stone, it's useless to complain,
The freezing rain soaked right through our ragged clothes,
Blessed were the ones who lay beside the trail and froze.

Our children died but the Bluecoats kept us marchin'
Now we're even fewer than we were a while ago,
Blood fell like rain but they made us keep on marching,
On down the Trail Of Bloody Tears and bodies in the snow.

Charles Ramos Jr.  2004
Yaqi, Choctaw, and adopted by the United Lumbee Nation. 
Bear Clan Warrior First Class.
We shall never forget,
not as long as the wind blows, and the grass grows.

Stranger Paths. The magic in the madness poetry collection. In review.

Dr. R.J. Zarkani – Poet

Greetings sports fans and welcome to the first ever independent edition of Vegas Valley Sports Beat. The little sports column that now stands alone in the wake of the sudden and unexplained demise of

In spite of what may be, I am determined to carry on the name until the ownership figures it all out or hell freezes over.
Given the weather that we’ve been having lately that could very well be tomorrow. But for now, it’s shaping up to be a beautiful day here in the verdant Las Vegas Valley.

So let us turn our attention now to the wide world of literature and today’s featured author, Dr. R.J. Zarkani and her anthology of poems titled Stranger Paths. The magic in the madness poetry collection.

Stranger Paths provides its readers with a unique window on the world of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Iraqi war as seen through the eyes of a child growing up in its shadow as war brought stark reality home to her. Literally.
The book is divided into three parts and each one paints its own vivid portrait by dint of RJ’s economic usage of words which invoke those mental images. 

Part 1- Of Childhood And War.

This section of Stranger Paths “contains more than 30 poems shining a light on the untold truths of war.” It looks back to RJ’s childhood and the shock of a young girl who discovers that her life has been built on a foundation of lies and propaganda as bombs begin falling and she has to avoid soldiers, barricades, and wild dogs just to get to school.

Part 2- Of Positivity & Philosophy A Spiritual Journey.
The second section of Stranger Paths contains poems that RJ says play with positivity to show the good in the bad and the choice of happiness. Which she hopes will inspire thought and happiness in her readers. Such as this poem which conveys a simple yet profound truth called growing up.

GETTING OLDER By R.J. Zarkani The things you were dying for, Are the things you don’t want anymore.

Part 3- Of Magic And Madness
In the final section of Stranger Paths, RJ writes more about coming to America and the culture shock of trying to find a place within a foreign world where hopefully she can find herself.

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, Dr. Zarkani on several occasions and I am still under her magical spell. In the sense that she is a very lovely and personable lady who has been through hell and made it to the other side. 

Not only that, she’s a Pharmacologist just like my best friend and mentor, Dr. James Belvin. She also works with juvenile cancer patients in a hospital I helped build years ago. That makes her a super-duper superhero in my book.

After reading her prosaic tale in Stranger Paths she’s even more of a superhero than ever in my estimation because I was born with a tumor on my left eye, and I recently lost my left kidney to cancer. She’s a warrior fighting childhood cancer on the front lines. Physicians diagnose diseases but it is the Pharmacists who actually treat them.
Doctor Zarkani told me that it was her desire to paint visible pictures in the mind of her readers and I can say, for myself at least, that she succeeded admirably. In Stranger Paths, Dr. Zarkani expresses that in her own words: The author wishes to share her story through poetry in hopes to inspire the survivor in you, the reader.

In the starkness and minimalism of the words she utilizes to relate her emotions and the austerity of her simple black and white photographs and pencil illustrations, you get the feeling of being in her shoes. But without a lot of clutter to dilute the vision and cloud the emotional imagery of the thoughts she expresses.

Dr. Zarkani says it best herself:
“I hope you join the child I was, as she stood watching missiles brighten the darkness of her village, smiling as she hopes for a change. I hope you see the positivity leaking through my pages bit by bit as poems continue on. I wish to share the untold story of my people, of the civilians at war, of the children that had no choice but to accept their fate. Our days are numbered but those numbers mean that we have survived so much, that we’re all the same.” –  R.J. Zarkani

I got my copy of Stranger Paths on Amazon and I read it nearly all the way through in one sitting. I skipped a few of the poems to get an overall picture of the journey but I read most of them. And I am reading the book right now. As this goes to press, Stranger Paths is the #2 ranked poetry offering on Amazon. I have no doubt that it will soon be at #1.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stranger Paths, and I have no doubt that many people will enjoy it just as much as I did. All things considered, I believe that “Stranger Paths” is more than worthy of five of five stars.

Thank you, Doc. Both for sharing your work with me and for being a wonderful friend.

The Numbers (Working Title)

I thought R.J. Zarkani’s poem, “The Numbers” was very provocative and well-written. I can’t wait to read the future episodes, Doc. -Charles Ramos Jr.

Stranger Paths

Draft 1

Episode 1

The explosion would have been heard miles away, if the laboratory facility wasn’t hidden in remote woods somewhere in this earth. Trees burned bright as the metal-enforced concrete shattered extending beyond the dark forest to the mountains surrounding the laboratory. Ashes filled the night sky as we rushed out of our cells. Might have been thousands of us in that vast pale-yellow building, but I only saw few of us run outward. The rush of the escape left us no time to look for our mates nor count how many of us survived the explosion. I ran fast, forgetting that I can teleport. And as more and more of us escaped we joined in a group. We don’t know our birth dates but Four was our leader at the moment. He was pointing us to a safe cave miles from the explosion. We had been running…

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