Alaska! Hello! (A Prompt Challenge)

Karen Craven over at Table for One issued a prompt challenge for me and Dale of A Dalectable Life. The whole thing was based on snippets of an overheard conversation, because writers are pacifistic spies at heart and we ain’t afraid to admit it. Karen’s prompt post can be found here. I tucked this snippet turned prompt into the block quote that begins with Thank you Andrew. 

I’m just thankful prompts are graded on a lenient curve, because man did I veer. Imma blame it on Larry King and a tee-totaling weekend.

Vegas odds could not have talked me into this shit. Me, ending up in a musty old bunker in Battle Creek, Michigan at the end of the world. The writer in me must admit the locale is Napoleon fucking Bonaparte perfect, I mean . . as far as irony goes. As far as yours truly is concerned? This bunker is a cosmic middle finger to every Goddamn day I’ve been on this earth, all 19,072 of ’em. That’s a lot of middle fingers, and I would trade every single one of them for a single thumb so’s I could hitchhike to any other planet in the universe right about now.

The first nukes hit the major cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia. Everything in and around those places went Edvard Munch, and the rest of time came calling on all the other places in between with loud, shaking fists. In two days, I made it as far as here. Along the way I bogarted a bottle of Woodford Reserve, a Ziploc bag of Xanax, a ’78 El Camino and then a late model Jeep Liberty whose good graces saved me from Cleveland.

When the Jeep ran out of gas, I schlepped for miles until I came upon a residential hive of American made dreams that seem as useful as nursery rhymes now. I found a rancher with NRA stickers in the windows and guessed right on the fallout shelter. The occupants were long gone, probably due North with dreams of building a kingdom in some middle of nowhere place that had zero appeal back when things were running smoothly and borders were meant to keep people out.

From the looks of it, this shelter was constructed during the rolling thunder of Cold War implications otherwise known as the eighties. Updated several times and in fine shape for just this sort of nightmarish scenario. But really, what are the chances this glorified soup can is gonna save my ass from gamma time? The truth is, Jesus ain’t walking through that door, and this clusterfuck is way above Superman’s pay grade.

On a positive note, the pantry was stocked and the generator worked. The bonus round was the TV and VCR. When a VCR feels like Christmas morning, that gives you a pretty good idea of how things are going.

The ham radio stopped working this morning. But not before I learned the nitty gritty about how the country had come apart at the seams with little chance of being sewn back together again. Death toll estimates run the gamut- anywhere from eight million to half the nation’s population. All I know is that I’ve seen a lot of ghost towns along the way. This morning’s transmission between Buck from East Lansing and Andrew from Cincinnati was akin to being on the deck of the Titanic after they ran out of lifeboats.

“Thank you Andrew. I’m not quite sure what you are hearing, but the real answer is, there is not a definitive answer yet. Alaska is working it and they are trying to salvage it.”

According to Buck- a National Guardsman whose intel seemed solid enough- the refuge in Anchorage had been overrun with people fleeing the left coast. Mass rioting ensued after which the ferries were lost and chaos turned Anchorage into a paradise lost.

I pop a Xanax, take a swig of my well worn bourbon and fire up the VCR. The former occupant owned the largest collection of Larry King videos in the world, I have to think. I pop in a tape that reads “Larry King: Alaska”, because why in the blessed fuck would I deny myself a macabre chuckle at this point?

“Alaska, Hello!”

“Hi Larry, this is Joel Fleischman from Cicely and I’m a big fan of your show . .”

It takes me a hot second to put it together. Joel Fleischman was a fictional doctor on a show called Northern Exposure.

Wait a minute! This guy was a prank caller? 

“What’s your question?” Larry barks with enough gravel in his voice to sell it wholesale to a construction company.

“Well it seems our local disc jockey here is planning to build a trebuchet in the hopes of tossing a cow . . .”

Fucking A right this is a prank call! If that ain’t top of the world with a Julie Newmar cherry velvet kiss on top of the last stand righteous! 


The generator takes a shit and I light up some candles now. It looks like the world is fresh out of def-cons, which means it’s time to double down on my bottles of happy and get to stepping inside a galaxy far, far away. Here’s hoping whatever comes next has a welcome mat and fresh linens. A starched Martini and a Cohiba would be supreme, but I don’t want to be greedy.

I just wish the upstairs neighbors would’ve let Joel Fleischman from Cicely get to the piano punchline. But hey . . I got to spend my last night on earth in the home of a Robert Zemeckis character whose pursuits included prank calling the great Larry king and collecting every last artifact from the eighties.

I pop another Xanax and take a Vegas helping of bourbon and I hope like hell the bastard who called this place home made it somewhere better as I plug his Walkman into a Three Dog Night drip. But instead of chill, my bones are restless to the curiosities above.

“Fuck this shit!” I say as I grab my necessaries before breaking the seal on my tomb and climbing up into the early winter. It’s late July and a thick snowfall coats the ground as spearmint colored snowflakes float across a sunless sky. I walk down to a lake and loose a boat from its moorings while talking the outboard into going my way. When I make it to the middle, I kill the engine and sit back to ponder life’s great mysteries. Like, how did the fates allow Boston to win the last World Series ever played? And would Shakespeare have dated a Kardashian? And why was I so infatuated with my Fitbit? All I know for certain is I hope to hell I left the stove on this time.

I pop a couple more Xanax and finish the bourbon and then I settle into what’s left of not much at all. Just me and my thoughts and a rumbling sound from some place not so far away and getting closer. There’s nothing left to pray for and yanno, I’m glad. Because I got a peach song cooking, just for the occasion.

Timing really is everything.

Expiration Date: A Writing Prompt

The Mistress of Prompts is at it again. Karen Craven over at Table for One shot off an email to me and Dale from A Dalectable Life last week in which she described a scene she had been privy to whilst on the train recently. As writers, we behave very much like detectives; culling and parsing and piecing together evidence from snippets of conversation and body language. Unlike detectives, our observational skills need not get it right. All we’re concerned with is creating a story out of the scraps.

So I took three simple lines that were uttered by a woman on a train and I constructed a world around it. Apologies for going long, but as writers, we don’t always have a choice. Sometimes we take the story, and sometimes, as in this example, the story takes us.

-“Yes, I really like my box of macaroni.”
-“Give me all my expired things.”
-“I need you to get a job.”

She sits alone on the F train, a flip phone nestled between her ear and her shoulder. She wears no jewelry, not even earrings. To the discerning eyes of a stranger, you can tell this is a self-prescribed departure from baubles and bright, shiny objects. Because the rest of her appearance is moneyed suburbia: Olive green double breasted wool coat with riveted pleats and envelope collar. Black straight leg trousers with rippled cleats frame her figure in an attractive pinch. Black leather pointy toe pumps that reveal a dime sized tattoo of a star on the top of her foot.

“Yes . . yes I know Caroline. I promise not to clash with House Rules. I’m really quite proficient at towing the company line. I was married to your father for thirty eight years, remember.”

“No. No don’t worry, I’ll make sure to speak in code. We can refer to him as Goebbels, how does that sound?”

“Okay . . not even that. Promise.”

“Honey, you know full well I am thankful that you and Bobby were able to maintain an amicable relationship with your father. After all, it’s not your fault he’s a cheating, lying, manipulative cock sucker,”

The chatter on the other end of the line increases in volume and intensity, as the recipient of mother’s bitter pill voices her disapproval in boldfaced adjectives. It seems the invite is being threatened with Olivia’s rant, and she quickly retreats.

“I’m sorry . . .”

In that instant, all the fight is stolen from her face; the scowling mien had been nothing more than a defense mechanism. Her porcelain complexion turns ashen with worry. Her majestic cheekbones become fallow as sunken treasures, and her piercing sapphire eyes become distant lights as she tries to steal back the chapters.

In her previous life, Olivia Trufant had lived a Good Housekeeping existence. She had been the poster Goddess homemaker whose perk was always feisty and whose neighborhood cache was the stuff of legend. These modern day Gucci mamas who get all dolled up to go to Target have nothing on that Mrs. Trufant; The mother whose kids were polished cherubs, whose husband was tall, dark and upwardly mobile and whose perfect ass was something all the other married men wanted to hit.

“I’m sorry for dropping out of your lives . . I just . . I needed some time. After your father left, I realized I had lived my entire adult life for him. I had nothing . . .” 

“I don’t mean it that way, Caroline. But you and Bobby . . you have your families and your own lives. I had your father,”

For better or worse, Olivia received the latter when her husband Stephen came home one day and informed her he wanted a divorce after thirty eight years. She had protested initially, before realizing there was no going back. He fast tracked the process, agreeing to pay her a generous stipend as if she had been one of the employees in his company. She was too numb to fight, too lost to care.

Within six months, he was married again. It had been going on for a half decade and Olivia had known about it for most of that time. She kept silent out of fear and pride, and so once she learned of their engagement, she understood that silence was her only option. It started with Stephen, and quickly metastasized into everyone else.

“Yes, I do understand and accept it. What choice do I have? I hope Bobby changes his mind some day, but he knows I love him,” 

“Okay, let’s change the subject. As for dinner ideas, I am happy with my boxed mac and cheese. You guys don’t need to make a big production for my sake . .”

“All I’m saying is, these mail order meals that are all the rage are really no different from a box of macaroni and cheese!” 

“Yes, I really like my box of macaroni,” 

Olivia turned thirty one in October of 1986 and Stephen had surprised her with tickets to Game 6 of the World Series between her beloved New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox at the old Shea Stadium. They stuck it out when the announced attendance of 55,078 dwindled after the Sox pulled ahead in extra innings. They booed when the scoreboard operator crowned the Boston Red Sox as champions before the final out had been recorded. And they cheered like a couple of kids on the last day of school when Mookie Wilson dribbled a ball down the line and stole back a baseball season. They chased all that magical energy by going to the Palladium on East 14th and dancing the top off of a brilliant fall night that felt to her like a tale penned by Dickens.

“I can’t wait to see them either. They are getting so big . .” 

Olivia’s voice almost breaks with the idea that two years have passed since she last hugged her grandchildren. How cold a person can become when their heart loses its place, she thinks solemnly.

She trudges back into small talk with Caroline, because the familiarity warms her senses.

“I let it lapse since I’m not driving any longer.”

“Where do I go that mass transit can’t get me there, Caroline? I don’t need it, I don’t need a passport either. So as far as I’m concerned . . give me all my expired things and I’ll put them in a photo album for safe keeping . .” 

Olivia laughs at the thought, but her face wrinkles with the recognition that she’s busy throwing chairs overboard to keep it from sinking.

“Yes, we are going to get along swimmingly. I am very hip when it comes to the times. So hip in fact, that I recognize it isn’t hip to say hip. But seriously, don’t you worry, me and the kids will be fine. No talk of Goebbels and no boxed mac and cheese. I just . . I need you to get a job . . this one. I need you to get it, for you.” 

“I had the chance, yes. But I was worker bee mom getting everybody else’s shit straight . . and I know it’s not an excuse. It’s just that . . . well, Caroline . . you just never know. You think your life is going to play out a certain way, and then, well . . you just never know . . .” 

In the spring of 1986, Olivia and Stephen had moved to Armonk- an apple pie hamlet of wraparound porches, community softball games and growing young families. It would be the first of several moves they would make as Stephen climbed the corporate ladder. It had been six months since they’d put their three bedroom apartment in Long Island City on the market, with nary a prospect. The romance of their first abode had quickly given way to frustration, and before long they were cursing its existence.

That is, until a night of baseball and dancing had lasted far longer then they expected. It was five in the morning when they arrived at the seventh floor apartment. They foraged for sustenance in a kitchen once so full of life and schedules and now mostly barren, and then they grabbed a forgotten Pyrex bowl and a couple loose plastic forks and made way for the roof. They watched the early morning sky grow ruddy as it got busy chasing the moon to the other side of the world. They watched the city of Manhattan wake up right in front of them as they feasted on a couple boxes of macaroni and cheese because it was all that was left in the cupboard. And in that moment, Olivia remembered thinking that she had the world by the tail.

She wondered if it would always be that way.

There’s Something About Mary- A Prompt Challenge

Welcome to Sunday, and a brand spanking new prompt challenge entry we like to call “Word UP!”, on account of the fact this ain’t no ordinary prompt challenge.

Back in the day (a couple weeks ago) we used to host prompt challenges that involved a single word. And then the Irish Mafia (Karen Craven of Table For One) made the decision to expand the business. She joined forces with the Queen of the North (Dale Rogerson of A Dalectable Life) and the prompt challenge would never be the same.

Me? I’m just the intrepid reporter who was recruited by these lovely word bosses, and Imma do my damndest to keep up. Same goes for Frank of A Frank Angle, who shattered the last prompt challenge by delivering up all the words in half the count!

This particular prompt came about out of an email exchange I was having with Karen about water and Twinkies.There are eleven words involved; one for each commandment and a bonus power-ball word. They are as follows . . .

Jesus, holy water, drive-thru, twinkies, wine, dinosaurs, passion, busybody, clubhouse, cross, absolution

Posting this on Sunday just might make me a heathen, but I don’t think God is going to be scoring me based on a silly old post. Not when he has the likes of Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen to deal with. Those peeps best live it up on God’s dollar while they can, because if there is a judgement day to be had . . well, it ain’t gonna be pretty for ’em. Anyways . . here’s my story.

                                       There’s Something About Mary

Joe wanted absolution. Having his good name stapled to a cross ever since Conception-Gate, he figured it was time. Being the ‘earthly’ father to Jesus Christ came with more pitfalls than disputing the existence of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian.

The kid from Nazareth knew a thing or two about turning water into wine, having transformed his passion for carpentry into an online goliath. His marriage to the Virgin Mary- her rapper name- was holy water to the unwashed masses who loved their busybody news served up in drive-thru fashion, and they made news right out of the clubhouse.

Post-divorce, Joe lost the spotlight while Mary partied with Joan Osborne in the Hollywood Hills and Jesus sat court side at the Garden. Now, Joe was writing a tell-all pilot for Pontius Studios.

Joe always said life was like a box of Twinkies. The stories are tasty and the guilt immaculate.

Meta-Monday (A Writers Challenge Prompt!)

Prompts are push-ups for writers. It’s an exercise that tones the creative gut by cutting away the fat. Not all prompts are created equal. There are good prompts that challenge you, and then there are prompts that will leave you balled up in a corner, laying waste to a package of Oreo cookies. I dig the latter, obviously.

Karen Craven from Table for One gained the inspiration for this prompt whilst watching Nature on PBS. So a special thank you to PBS, and your pledge check is in the mail. Check out her post here. And then a certain trouble maker (Ahem . . that means you Dale) from A Dalectable Life took up the challenge and delivered the smoothest Canadian import since Crown Royal. Read her up right here.

Okay, the prompt. Use the 10 words listed below in a post. And to add some hilarity to the occasion, I opened my big trap and exclaimed . . I’ll do it! And then I followed that up with in 150 words! Because I am a tad bit unhinged.

Painted Lady


So, without further ado . . . Metamorphosis.

Here she was, Pamela Gilbride . . the virgin. And she was taking flight, loosing herself from the barbed wire existence of high school senior in the City of Angels. She was saying goodbye to the little girl who gave it up free of charge. Graduation from juvenile pursuits meant taking control of your own destiny and steering your rudder into uncharted territory.

‘John’ would be her first. She could feel his hover in all the places that counted- as if he had an antenna tuned in to her deepest desires, And his touch . . it was a thunder clap that stirred her innocent soul. And so what if all this was make believe? She was a painted lady now, and she was getting paid. Her previous existence as bubble gum posse ring leader had undergone a radical metamorphosis.

“Aaand . . cut! An Oscar’s in your future, Miss Gilbride . . .” Said the director.

Buttoned Up Man

If it’s Tuesday, it must be time for a prompt inspired post. Well . . it should have been posted last night but that’s neither here nor there, soooo . . . Tuesday morning it is homies!

The prompt for today’s post is “Buttoned Up”.  That trouble making lovely from Montreal way, Dale of A Dalectable Life and the Irish Mafia wild child from Chi town, Karen Craven, of Table For One were culprits in this here mayhem, so go blame them. But I warn you, stepping foot in their digs is habit forming. 

And now, as Ed Sullivan used to say . . let’s get on with this mofo! 

When you do a job, it’s quite straightforward.

You are presented with a biography, and you are asked to still its advent. There is no emotional presentation to be culled from the transaction of personal information, only the rubric of habits and patterns . . as well as any current fascinations which might prove either problematic or expeditious to the task at hand.

It’s like closing a real estate deal; you are transferring the deed from one realm to the next. It’s not your business to think about the next realm since it’s just a job; you simply refer to the calculations . . mathematical . . cold and straightforward with no mystery or intrigue attached to the equation.

So here I am, studying a person’s life out of a manila folder. Fifty eight years, seven months and thirteen days . . . presented in quadrants, which makes me think of that Godfather song about birth, school, work and death. Every parcel of information is important so I read it thoroughly. And then I peruse it again as I sit in my apartment and crank up some Verdi and open a bottle of Merlot in order to catch a buzz. I like to prosper the information from various states of mental acuity. Dulling the senses is simply a matter of slowing down the thought processes. The byproduct of such a strategy is to introduce another vantage point. I call it recon sourcing.

The wine is doing its unpretentious best to dismiss all serious thought, which is why I chose Verdi for my musical carpet ride. Depressing compositions allow me to remain linear when my brain is ready to salsa dance.

I call them numbers. He will be Number 28. A semi-retired contractor who is busy living the American dream. He owns three homes, a couple of successful businesses, a trophy wife almost half his age and a creamy side dish he keeps hidden in a posh condo in town.

The sonofabitch has no idea it’s all coming to an end.

It’s ten minutes to midnight, and in a little more than nine hours I’ll be waiting for him in the parking lot of the Silver Leaf Construction Company. He’ll make the scene a couple minutes before nine because he is never, ever late . . even when he should be. On Thursday mornings, he usually sleeps at the office- which happens to be located downtown, in that posh condo with the creamy side dish. So he’ll bring his candy crush- a cardinal red metallic Mercedes-Benz SL roadster. It percolates on a twin-turbo V12 whose drip is 621 horses. He opened this bad ass up on the Autobahn before having it shipped to the states. On this side of the pond, it opens up everything else so to his way of thinking it’s worth the price of admission.

So he’ll swing into the parking space two spots to the left of the double doors. There’s no nameplate on the parking space, but it’s understood who parks there, simple as that. And that’s when I’ll remove myself from a nondescript late model and make my way to the double doors, meeting him somewhere in between.

I practice my preach in front of the mirror, bringing my best Clint Eastwood out to play. The words I know by heart, it’s the tone I want to cleave into something sinister sounding. Because we’ll only share the space of a moment together before I end things, so I want to fetch the best possible reaction. It’s the little things.

Isn’t it amazing how three little words can change your life for the best and the worst? I chuckle at the thought as the clock strikes midnight before delivering the words that will end the life he knew.

“You’ve been served . . .” 


The Truth about Rubber and Glue

The following prompt is working in the vein of the old “I’m rubber, you’re glue . .” riposte. This chummy challenge was created by those two mistresses of mayhem- Dale of A Dalectable Life and Karen of Table for One

Do not ask me how these ladies come up with the craziness. But I’ll try ‘me best to keep up with ’em. This here is ALL dialogue, because I’m tinkering some. So welcome, to my warped mind . . .

“She’s great,”

“But . . ”

“Nothing. Rachel is really great. No addendum . . ” Billy said, as he put his phone on speaker so he could grab a beer from the fridge.

“If you say so. Where’d you guys go?” Andrea asked while doing her nails and sipping on Shiraz.


“Oh, the new place downtown, cool! Whatcha have?”

“Octopus, and a pie . . the Palermo. Rustic, tasty and pricey as all fuck,”

“Smart, first date, communal dishes . . I taught you well. What was her drink?”

“Iced tea,”


“Lemon, she doesn’t drink alcohol,”

“Oh no, no . . no . . no . . no . .no!”

“It’s fine, I don’t need a drinking partner. I have you,”

“She doesn’t drink because she has a medical condition, I hope,”

“Andy, slow your roll to the fiery pits girl!”

“So her not drinking alcohol is a personal preference? Like . . for funzies?

“Yeah, and I dig that,”

“Oh please Billy! Do I have to remind you of your theory on women who smoke cigarettes?”

“Because that happens to be true, Andy. A woman who smokes possesses a natural oral fixation . . hence, there is a greater likelihood she’s got the freak gene. It’s a scientific fact, don’t mess with the science . .”

“Far be it from me to dispute your One Eye Science Guy thesis . . .”

“Alcohol is different. And besides, she doesn’t care if I drink . .”


“What are you saying?”

“She’s a woman, and these things are subject to change. Like, the minute things get serious,”

“Anyway . .”

What?! You guys had sex on the first date? Really?!” Andrea squealed.

“How did you jump there?”

“Your tone, it was measured. And you segued much too easily . . you chose a stand alone qualifier, which is a dead giveaway,”

“It’s amazing how a penis stunts our thought processes . . but a vagina, it comes with a library . . ” Billy laughed.

“Don’t be bitter. Sooo, how was it?”


“Oh my God, I’m sorry hon,”


“Good sex is like a spork . . it’ll get the job done but you’re not going to invest in place settings . .”

“She has an allergy to rubbers,”

“Oh, girl ain’t down with the latex delivery method, huh?”

“It’s not funny, Andy . . .”

“No you’re right . . it’s hilarious!”

“You’re a bitch, you know that?”

“That’s what my mother says, every day in fact,”

“The worst part is, she referred to her allergic reaction to condoms as a rubber allergy.”

“Well that’s silly . . I mean, not all condoms are created equal,” Andrea said.

“I know . . ”

“So she’s either ditzy or depraved . . which means there is a chance for you two after all!”

“I really don’t think she knew . . .”

“How old is this Rachel chick?”

“Old enough,”


“You think I should cut my losses . . .” Billy said.

“I didn’t say anything,”

“You sure as hell did. Your hmmmm is equivalent to the nuclear option . .”

“Oh hell no, I won’t be the judge and jury to this love gone wrong. It’s all you Billy boy!” Andrea giggled as she poured herself a second glass of Shiraz and checked her Netflix queue for romantic comedies and horror flicks. It was same difference as far as her jaded self was concerned.

“Well, thank you for your pennies on the dollar romantic advice, Andy . .”

“De nada, homie. Oh way, way . . WAIT! So . . what did, you guys end up doing?”

“Instead of sex we went out and robbed a liquor store. Had to take out the owner, but we got away with a shopping cart full of shit and sixty seven dollars,”

“You’re such a child,” Andrea snorted.

“We umm . . ”

“No you didn’t. Billy tell me you didn’t!”


“You did the pulling out thing?

“And so what if I did? . . .”

“Pulling out is not an exit strategy unless you’re a soldier in the middle east . . that’s what,” 

“What was I supposed to do? Go to the twenty four hour vasectomy clinic?”

“You could’ve knocked over a liquor store for reals . . that would’ve been smarter . . .”

“You’re being dramatic,” Billy laughed.

“Okay, pro tip. Don’t call a woman dramatic when she’s drinking wine. It’s never a good idea, but even less so in my present state. Because these happy grapes turn quick-a-lee when their mellow is harshed in the slightest . . .”

“Withdrawal is not my preferred method, but when in Rome, yanno?”

“Listen Caligula, I’m just saying. If you two plan on moving this thing forward, you gotta tighten things up.”


“Slam, bam . . I’d like to make a withdrawal ‘maam!” Andrea giggled.


“Oh Bill . . I don’t mean to be a nudge, baby . . daddy!” She laughed.

“Very funny,”

“When are you seeing her again? In nine months?”

“It’s amazing you’re still single, woman . .”

“Do you think I’d get a reaction from her if I told her I was rubber and she was glue?” Andrea guffawed.

“G’night Andy,”





















Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys- A Prompt Post

The following post is the result of a writing prompt that was concocted by Dale Rogerson and Karen Craven. These two ladies are nothing but trouble, so it’s a good thing I was raised Catholic and can appreciate this kind of company.

Seriously, these gals represent when it comes to the written word. I’m just honored to be in their club. As for the post, it went longer than expected, so apologies ahead of time. The good news is that a lot of it is dialogue, and thus . . easily traversed.

Monday Afternoon 3:15

Liam McLeary had been exposed to the disease.

In his twenty years state side, the Irish emigre had become accustomed to the thankless savagery of Washington D.C.. He had come to America seeking refuge and had been hired as a special liaison to the CIA by a high level US official who was quite familiar with his work. The deal with McLeary was a simple one- take the job or get extradited back to Ireland, which would have been akin to a death sentence.

Everything in America was a deal, even the legislative morass that elected representatives got rich on. The shit McLeary had witnessed in his time here made his previous existence as a button man for the IRA seem like a fucking James Joyce novel in comparison.

At least the Catholics and the Protestants had no dispute as far as God was concerned. Those who fought in that decades long war knew their catechisms and believed in epiphanies. The same couldn’t be said of American politicians. They had no morals . . they had no souls.

There was no winning a fight against a man with no soul. And now Liam McLeary was learning that lesson all over again. The one Sister Elena had instilled in him after his many scuffles outside St. Vincent’s Day School in Dublin. The one his father had beaten into him on many a drunken night when Liam came to his mum’s defense. The one he learned as an apprentice to the legendary Tom “Lucky” Halloran, back when killing in the name of a united Ireland meant something.

That time in his life felt like a million years ago as Liam took his seat on a park bench, and waited for the suit to get on with it.


“Mr. Dunphy . .”

“Please . . no need for formalities . . call me Richard,”

“Alright Dick . . . I’m out. I made it clear after the last job that I was done with this fucking cesspool.”

“Where will you go?”

“To that cafe across the street . . ”

“After that,”

“Fucking Disney World.”

Dunphy laughed dimly as he pulled out a pack of Camels and lit one up. His smile was a horror show and his black pearl eyes a bottomless pit.

“You’ve been a valuable asset to the agency, I . . ”

“Cut the shit, Dick . . you know I’m serious. Just have the fucking decency to tell me what happens next.”

“Hey . . not my circus . . not my monkeys,” Dunphy said before removing himself from the park bench. He made no eye contact with Liam as he strolled away and disappeared into the back seat of a black Ford Lincoln.

Liam jogged across the street to the cafe and ordered a double espresso and two flans. Then he waited for the end to come to him.

Monday night . . 11:55

 “What . . the fuck?”

Richard Dunphy awoke from a drug induced sleep to find himself dangling over a wall upside down, tethered to a nylon rope and dressed in just his skivvies. When his location became familiar to him, that’s when the screaming commenced. He was hanging precariously over the side of the Primates Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Zoo.

“Yo Dick! . . . up here,”

Dunphy raised his head up to find Liam McLeary smoking one of his Camels and wearing a Cheshire Cat grin.


“Well, your boy was easier to spot than a virgin in a whorehouse. I get it . . times are tough, Uncle Sam can’t afford the bill . . but Jesus,”

“Where is he?”

“Dead. He’s dead. I spotted him while I was talking to you, after which I jogged across the street, ordered up a sugar rush and then waited for him in the loo.”

“You can’t fucking DO THIS!!”

“Pipe down or I’ll cut this fucking rope, I swear to God!”

“Okay, okay . . what do you want?”

“Let’s start with who ordered my hit,”

“I don’t know,”

Liam began splaying the nylon rope with a hunter’s knife as a couple of gorillas looked on with great interest.


“These micks . . they’re western lowland gorillas . . quite tame in comparison to some of their compadres. Shit of it is, a few of the gals in this pen are in . . shall we say, the come hither stage of horizontal negotiations, and as such the fellas are feeling rather . . . possessive.”

Dunphy told him everything, most of which Liam already knew. And then his captor lit up another Camel from Dick’s suit jacket.

“You’re letting me go now, right?” Dunphy said, almost crying. Funny how it took certain death to get this cocksucker to show any emotion.


Liam began cutting at the rope with his hunter’s knife once again and Dunphy let him know this wasn’t the response he was looking for.

“What?!” Liam shrieked.

“You . . you . . you can’t . . you can’t fucking . . do THIS!”

“Listen you stuttering putz, you’re in no position to tell me what I can and cannot do,”

“I’m sorry, alright? I’m . . I’m sorry!”

“Apology accepted,” Liam said as he began cutting at the rope once again.

“WAIT! Okay . .  OKAY GODDAMMIT! I’ll give you whatever the fuck you want if you just stop cutting that rope!”

“Like what?” Liam smiled, as he tugged at his Camel.

“Ten million dollars . . . cash.”

“Is that what you’re worth? Fuck if you don’t have a high opinion of yourself!”

“Twenty . . . twenty five!”

“Dick . . with all respect, how do you think I was able to arrange this visit tonight? See . . . it cost me three million dollars . . in cash, divided between three individuals in the employ of this fine zoo. For that sum, they killed the camera feed. After which they will gather your remains and dispose of them all neat like. It will be like you . . and I . . were never here,”

“You can’t fucking do this!” Dunphy spit.

“It’s done. And I must say, if not for the sterling treatment accorded me by the US government, I would never have been able to afford a night such as this one. But hey . . you give a mick a cushy government job and then staple a tax free bonus to that for every clean up job . . shit adds up.”

“They’re going to fucking find you and barbecue your balls for dinner!”

“I’m already dead. And my dead self is partial to South America . . the place has character,”

“Those gorillas are going to fucking kill me . . you motherfucker!”

“Hey . . not my circus . . . not my monkeys,”

Liam cut deeply into rope until it went slack. The screams were glorious sounding things, while they lasted.







Re-purposing the ‘stragglers’ in my draft folder- A Writing Challenge

We all have them. Stragglers. Those loose thoughts we jot down and store in our draft folders for future reference. It could be a word, a line, a paragraph that just hits us in a given moment.

Problem with yours truly, is that I oftentimes forget what in the hell I was thinking in that given moment when I go back later and read it. Sooo . . . Karen Craven had this pretty cool idea about how we, as writers might find some value in the stragglers-her term. And then I came up with a method for my madness, and it goes something like this.

I’ve created a short story using a straggler from my draft folder. And since I forgot what its original intent was, I re-purposed it. And so for this post, my straggler is the will abides to its ransom demands. I hope you enjoy, and thank you Karen for the idea!

Ghost Story

Jasmine Savoy was looking right into the eyes of a real life ghost . . and it was calling to her.

Savoy had become a national phenomenon in quicksilver fashion. But she was still that little girl from Porter Street. Her friends called her Jazz because she always had a song in her voice and a shimmy to her walk. She was born to a drug addicted mother who, she was told, died before she was old enough to walk. Her Aunt Tere stole her away from that death sentence in Fort Wayne Indiana; she moved her to New Orleans where Jazz learned to read and write by memorizing the songs of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday, Sara Vaughn and Nat King Cole. She learned math by helping out her Uncle Desmond at his bakery on Magazine Street. She was reading Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath when her friends were learning Dr. Seuss. Aunt Tere taught her Spanish, French and Italian while showing her how to cook dishes from around the world without need for recipes. Her cousin George taught her how to play poker, and she knew how to spot a sucker when she was still in elementary school.

The French painters who peddled their talents in the French Quarter taught Jazz painting and poetry. The lovely ladies who worked in the brothel on Oliver Street taught her all about fashion and etiquette and the mysteries of the opposite sex. The musicians who played the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street taught her how to play piano, guitar, violin, harmonica, drums and the saxophone. The gift of song . . . well, that was something she brought with her from the cosmos. She was a crazy diamond who spun lyrics borne from the Godless places. Her voice was like a velvet rainstorm, bathing every soul within its reach in the ethereal cradle of Higgs boson. It was a purr delivered from the ancients, a roar proclaimed by kingdoms . . it was moonshine in the blessed middle of the brightest day.

And all that talent, it swirled into a full out bloom whose fingertips painted moments, inspired the hopeless and provided heavenly testimonials to all her many teachers in a life whose schooling was equal parts textbook and street savvy. At the tender age of twenty one, Jasmine Savoy was saying hello to the great big world.

She attended Juilliard School for two years, after which she scored a record deal that put her on the map, officially. Everyone who knew her understood it was only a matter of time for Jazz. Some lights shine on a patch of grass, and then there are the ones that light up a sky. That was Jazz.

Her record deal was only the beginning. Within months she was performing at Radio City Music Hall. She had bookings at the Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, The Kennedy Center and the Royal Albert Hall in London, among others. She was a natural in her guest appearances on the Jimmy Fallon Show and SNL. So much so that she was rumored to be close to signing on to appear in a romantic comedy starring Bradley Cooper. Jasmine Savoy no longer pondered the future, she was the future.

And then the shadows spoke. And the one shadow, it came thanklessly and specifically and dead center with Jasmine Savoy now. This shadow became less blurry with each relentless step, until finally . . it became known. In a much too late kind of way, because the clock was busy striking midnight before Jazz realized what was happening.

Jasmine had been receiving hand written letters for months, from a woman who insisted she was her mother and that Tere had stolen her away and had been feeding her lies all along. These correspondences were dismissed outright by Jazz, who never even bothered her Aunt with the details because it was all just too ridiculous.

Until now.

Now, she was learning, how the will abides to its ransom demands. She was learning it firsthand. Jazz watched the world go small, slow and black and white. Small to the touchstone of Hemingway’s writ. Slow to the pace of a Peter Paul Rubens brushstroke. Black and white to a world that was losing its color inside the horrible moment.

The shadow was standing in front of her when a revolver appeared.

‘Quaint shit’ Jazz thought to herself. Funny, the things that flood your brain at the end. Funny like sunflowers in winter. Funny like knowing what comes next before the lights go out.

This shadow had broken free of the paparazzi and all her many adoring fans and was standing right in front of Jasmine Savoy as she was being interviewed outside Rockefeller Center for a morning show segment. And that’s when Jasmine knew. Everything.

That face, it was her face . . twenty years older but her face in every single way. And now that gun . . quaint shit as it was, showing up and doing its business for all the world to see. Delivering Jasmine Savoy back to the cosmos from whence she had been delivered. Savaging a lazy Wednesday morning into a mercurial tale of heartbreak and loss. Winning the angels another round.

Jasmine Savoy was buried on her twenty second birthday. Musical dignitaries from around the world came. The Governor of Louisiana too. A billion fans from around the world mourned for a talent whose legs were full of marathons, but whose victories would never come.

Gloria Savoy was charged with first degree murder. The breaking news pursued the entrails of this story like locusts, feasting on every detail. How Gloria had gotten clean after more than a decade of addiction. How she divorced herself from her previous life for another decade, until the need to reconcile with her estranged daughter became too much to bear. They told the story of Tere Savoy, who had rescued her niece from the depths of hell, only to return to that very place twenty years later.

It was a tragic ending to a brilliant ribbon of times and people, places and things. All those many wishes, gone to the ashes. All those many dreams, stolen away.

At the end of the service for Jasmine Savoy, a Monarch butterfly nestled on her casket. Its wings burned bright colors into the gray afternoon sky.

And then it flew away.