Longer Stories

EVENING IN PARIS

July 5, 2020

Grandma Lila and I always had a closeness few people get to experience in their lives.

My mother Zoey learned she was pregnant with me when she was 14 years old – too young to drive and too old to play with dolls. The boy she said was the father did what any teenager would do in that situation; he denied everything and bailed on her.

Abortion was not open for discussion. Grandma Lila told my mother in no uncertain terms that getting pregnant was irresponsible but ending a baby’s life was unforgivable. As far as Grandma was concerned Zoey had two choices: she could stay home and help earn money by doing piecemeal work with her – sewing pearls and little bows on ladies panties – or go back to school until it was time for her baby to be born. She’d rather die than be seen in her condition so Zoey opted to say home with Grandma.

Even though it was the lesser of two evils, as far as my mother was concerned staying home was like being in prison. She and Grandma Lila sewed for hours while watching soap operas, cleaned the house and cooked meals. Zoey didn’t go out and never saw her friends. She got bigger and more uncomfortable with each passing month and couldn’t wait for the pregnancy to be over. Finally on a chilly November morning just before Thanksgiving Zoey’s water broke and Grandma Lila brought her to the hospital. Zoey was in labor for almost two days when the doctor finally decided to do a C-section. Then the unthinkable happened: there were “complications” and my mother bled out. She died in the delivery room.

Grandma Lila was devastated at the loss of her only child. My mother never had the chance to see me, hold me or delight in that new baby scent. When I was placed in my Grandma’s arms, she swore to protect me for the rest of her days. She took me home and held me tight as she settled in her rocking chair, her soft woolen shawl draped over us both. That’s where our bond began, wrapped in a shawl delicately fragranced by the hint of gardenias from Grandma Lila’s perfume, Evening in Paris.

From day one Grandma Lila was my champion. It was she who fed and bathed me, watched me take my first steps and sat up with me all night when I had scarlet fever. We baked cookies, played in the backyard sprinkler and laughed together watching I Love Lucy. Grandma put me on the school bus in the morning and greeted me every afternoon when I got home. She took me to piano lessons, Girl Scouts and soccer practice. Grandma was there for every concert, spelling bee and sports event. As I got older she sweetly explained the “birds and bees”, careful to answer only the questions I asked and not overwhelm me with too much information.

When I started dating, Grandma Lila would give me a little wink if she approved of the boy or a “thumbs down” if she didn’t but she never interfered. Then I met Steve and she told me he was “a keeper”. Steve asked for Grandma’s blessing before he proposed to me and she walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. And she was the first to hold our daughter Jenna just hours after she was born.

Months turned into years and Grandma Lila started spending more time in her rocking chair wrapped in her beloved woolen shawl. She was old and frail now but the thought of putting her in a nursing home never crossed our minds. Steve and I took care of her until the very end, just as she took care of me for so many years.

A few months after Grandma passed away I returned home from shopping and noticed the familiar fragrance of gardenias wafting through the house. As I walked by the living room I saw Grandma’s shawl wasn’t in it’s usual spot on the sofa; it was draped over her old rocking chair; neither Steve nor Jenna had moved it. I picked up the shawl and held it to my face, inhaling the fresh scent of Evening in Paris. Tears filled my eyes; I knew that Grandma Lila had visited us. I miss her so very much.

Longer Stories

PAPA-LOGIC

June 28, 2020

In 1930 at the age of 15 my dad emigrated to the U.S. from Sicily. He spoke no English, had very little money and knew a bit about barbering. He settled in Brooklyn, moving in with friends from his home town in Sicily, but dad couldn’t live off the kindness of his friends forever; he needed to find work. Fortunately his friend knew of a barber who was looking for help so dad applied for the job and started work the next day.

When dad showed up at the barber shop he had a copy of the Italian newspaper Il Progresso under his arm. The barber said to him in Italian “Hey, Vito. If you want to learn how to speak English, do yourself a favor and stop buying that newspaper. Instead buy the New York Times and read it every day.” My dad took that advice to heart; reading the Times and dealing with some English-speaking customers is how be became fluent in English. He was a self-taught man; in fact, after a few years he hardly had any accent at all.

My parents were married in 1939 and dad was drafted soon after. He served overseas during WWII, something he never liked to talk about. The one thing I did know about dad’s army days was that he drove a jeep – a little fact that’s rather ironic; dad never learned how to drive! Many years later something came over dad and he decided to give driving a try, probably thinking “how difficult could it be?” He sneaked into mom’s car, turned the key and floored it, immediately driving in reverse onto the front lawn of the house across the street! Thank goodness no one else was on the road at the time.

During the 1950s we had fresh Italian products delivered to the house including olive oil imported from Sicily. Dad was jealous of the handsome salesman and demanded my mom stop the olive oil delivery. Mom was a good-looking woman and men were naturally attracted to her but she was very proper and never gave them a second look. She wasn’t a flirt and the thought of cheating on my dad never crossed her mind; killing him, yes, but cheating on him? Never!

Our family was very musical; we all sang, my sister and I played the piano and dad played the mandolin. He surprised us by auditioning for our church’s production of The Mikado – and he landed the role! What a riot seeing this mustachioed Sicilian guy made up to look Japanese wearing an authentic kimono and singing Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs. He was the hit of the show!

We’ll never forget the day two officials from our church came to the house to talk to dad; he was the church treasurer at the time but what no one knew was he had zero math ability. Dad botched the books terribly and had to account for his multiple mistakes. After a grueling two-hour meeting dad was relieved of his position as church treasurer. Fortunately for us mom always handled the family finances; left to dad we would have landed in the poorhouse.

One of my worst memories happened the morning after I had my first period. Dad came into my room and with a stage-worthy dramatic bow said “Good morning, young lady!” He thought he was being complimentary; I thought it was gross and humiliating.

Then there was the time dad was mowing the lawn with his brand new electric mower. Well, the mower got jammed and dad turned it over to clean it out; however he forgot to turn the damn thing off and lost the tip of this thumb in the process.

Dad was very protective of me and my sister and every guy we dated had to pass inspection. Throughout my dating years I had a curfew and dad waited up for me every night – right up to the night before my wedding day!

When my sister and I had kids, they started calling dad “Papa”. Dad was an affable guy, always coming up with corny jokes or comments which soon became know as “Papa-Logic”. We would roll our eyes when he would intentionally order an Al Pacino instead of a cappuccino. Dad loved being controversial, too, and took great pride in getting his point across. I remember one day he saw a sign in a pizzeria window which read “WE HAVE THE BEST PIZZA IN TOWN!” Nothing wrong with that as far as we were concerned but dad felt differently and made no bones about it. He started a heated discussion with the pizzeria owner demanding that the sign should read “WE THINK WE HAVE THE BEST PIZZA IN TOWN!” Dad wouldn’t back down but the sign remained unchanged. And to make matters worse, we were never allowed in that pizzeria again.

Another time dad and mom went to an art auction while on vacation. Dad was dressed nicely and wore dark glasses, a big watch and a couple of rings. He won a bid and the auctioneer exclaimed “Sold to the gentleman in the sunglasses!” then asked my dad his name. Dad said “My name is Vito“. Then jokingly the unwitting auctioneer asked “Tell us, Vito. Are you The Godfather?” Well, dad couldn’t possibly resist an opportunity like that. He stood up and replied in his best Marlon Brando voice “Now let me ask YOU a question, Mr. Auctioneer. Do you really want to find out?” The poor auctioneer started sweating, his hands literally shaking in fear! The staff meticulously wrapped dad’s painting, walked it to mom’s car and very carefully placed it in the back seat, all under the close scrutiny of my dad. They refused the tip he offered and practically fell over themselves in their hurry to get away from “Don Vito”. Of course dad thought it was hysterical; mom had a completely different opinion of the incident.

My dad was a good guy, a clown at times but he had a heart of gold. Even though he could get on our nerves big time all his friends enjoyed being with him. He adored his family and loved being Sicilian but I think the proudest moment in his life was the day he could do the New York Times crossword puzzle – in ink!

 

 

500-600 Words

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY

June 10, 2020

Originally the Chelsea Piers evening boat tour was scheduled to depart at 6:00 but was cancelled due to dense fog. Disappointed, Emma consulted her tour guidebook for something else to do. She read:

The Vortex. Not your father’s watering hole. Located at 15 Christopher Street in the heart of Chelsea. Smoking prohibited in accordance with the New York Clean Indoor Air Act. Other than that, anything goes! 

“Hmm. Now that’s intriguing” Emma thought “and it’s nearby.” 

After a brief stroll Emma arrived at The Vortex, a secluded and rather alluring place. Finding a seat at the bar she ordered a dirty martini. Reflected in the mirror behind the bar was the image of a retro-looking poster. Sliding off her barstool she casually walked up to the poster for a better look. She snapped a photo and returned to the bar.

More people were in the place now – gays, heteros, bisexuals, interracials. Emma found it all so exciting and very New York! When the bartender brought her drink, Emma commented on how electric the atmosphere was and asked “Can you tell me something about that poster?”

“Sure! It’s a beauty, isn’t it?” he replied. “The Vortex is a play written by the literary giant, Noël Coward. It premiered in London in 1924 garnering Coward great critical and financial success. It’s a story about a nymphomaniac socialite and her cocaine-addicted son. Many thought the drug was a cover for homosexuality. As you can imagine it was considered pretty shocking back then. Rumor has it that Princess Margaret owned the original poster for a while. She was a free spirit and loved a good lampoon, especially those directed at the upper classes and British aristocracy.”

“That’s fascinating!” Emma exclaimed. “Something tells me there’s more to the story.”

“Oh, there is” the barkeep agreed. “During the run of The Vortex, Coward met an American director and producer named Jack Wilson. They ran with the same crowd where drugs, booze and homosexuality were prevalent. Wilson became Coward’s business manager and lover. We thought The Vortex was a cool name for the bar. My mother recently brought me that poster; there’s a showing this week.”

“Your mother!” Emma remarked with surprise. “Sounds like you might have a personal connection to this story.”

“Yeah, in a circuitous way I do. My great-great-grandmother was once a chorus girl and she got on famously with Jack Wilson – so much so that she and her husband named their first baby Jack Wilson Morrow and asked Jack to be his godfather. The tradition continued through the years; lots of my relatives were named Jack Wilson so-and-so. In fact, my name is Jack Wilson Connors.”

“Pleased to meet you, Jack Wilson Connors” Emma laughed as she extended her hand. “I’m Emma Louise Kennedy and you have officially blown my mind!”

“I like you, Emma Louise Kennedy! Always nice making new friends. How about another drink – on the house?”

Emma blushed a little and said “Yes, I’d love one.” 

While Jack was preparing Emma’s drink all sorts of thoughts were running through her head … he’s cute, friendly, great personality, no wedding ring. I wonder ­– should I?

“For my new friend, Emma. One perfect dirty martini” Jack said with a flourish.

Trying to sound nonchalant, Emma said “You know, Jack. There’s a performance of The Vortex tomorrow night. How about we make it a date?” 

“I’d really love to, Emma, but I’m married and I don’t think my husband would approve.”

“Oh my God, Jack! I’m sorry! I didn’t realize………”

“No worries, Emma. It runs in the family.”

500-600 Words

GREY’S ANALOGY

 June 10, 2020

Originally I was considering letting nature take its course and stop dying my hair. After all, being in isolation all this time because of the Coronavirus has kept me from going to the salon and now my grey roots are prevalent.

I asked my husband for his opinion. Regardless of the situation his answer is “You always look beautiful!” Liar! I adore him but he tells me what he thinks I want to hear. Give it to me straight! Contrary to what Jack Nicholson declared in “A Few Good Men”, I CAN handle the truth!

Time to weigh my options. First, I look young for a woman in her sixties; will going grey age me or will I look chic? My husband’s hair has yet to turn grey; I much prefer looking like his youthful wife as opposed to his older sister! Second, I’ll save beaucoup bucks at the salon if I go au naturel; just need to pop in for the occasional trim. And last but not least I’ll leave myself wide open for a good-natured lampoon offered up by my oh-so-witty friends.

Since my hair is professionally dyed brown with golden highlights, I was reluctant to pick up a box of Clairol and give it a go at home. I recalled the one and only time I tried to dye my hair. The color was called “Iced Mochaccino”’ which sounded like a delicious shade and the model on the box look dazzling. What could go wrong? My hair came out an unattractive shade of dull cocoa so ixnay the home dye job.

Let’s try this: I consulted Google and found a site where I could see what I’d look like with grey hair. I had no idea there were so many shades of grey – everything from silky white to smokey charcoal, even some with hints of purple or green. I was starting to get very confused. Then I downloaded a copy of “Custom Hair Color at Home” – a literary masterpiece guaranteed to “help you find the perfect hair color”. It did not.

Suddenly I had a brainstorm. Click on good old reliable Amazon for a hair product specifically designed to cover roots, something easy? You can get anything on Amazon from an air fryer to zinc ointment. I typed in “root” and abracadabra, there it was – L’Oréal Magic Grey Root Concealer – the answer to my prayers (unless in turns out to be like the infamous “Hair in a Can”)!

Just as I was about to place an order for the root cover up I got an email from my hair salon:

“In accordance with the guidelines of Phase 2, we are delighted to announce the reopening of “We’re Hair For You” on Monday, June 15.”

The email went on to welcome their clients back and describe changes in the salon. I immediately grabbed my cell phone to call my stylist (she’s on speed dial!) and make an appointment for the following week. Goodbye drab grey roots! Hello luscious brown hair with golden highlights! I was thrilled.

The next day I received a sobering email from the salon:

“Please call the salon from the parking lot upon your arrival. You will either be told to come in or asked to wait until we call you back. Clients are required to wear a mask at all times and will have their temperature taken before entering the salon. Please come to your appointment alone as we have eliminated our waiting area. We apologize for any inconvenience. The safety of everyone concerned is of utmost importance. Thank you.”

Shades of future past.

500-600 Words

A COLD CASE

May 31, 2020

Word on the street was Louie “No Nose” Lombardo was sprung from the slammer. His early release spelled big trouble; besides seeking revenge Louie heard his sworn enemy Tony “The Cutter” Tedesco had been sniffing around his wife. 

Louie and Tony weren’t always enemies. In fact when they were kids they were inseparable. They would ride their bikes down to the empty lot where they’d scrounge around for discarded cigarette butts with just enough left for a couple of drags. They played stickball in the street with a broom handle and a spaldeen. During the summer they’d hitchhike to Orchard Beach and sneak in through an opening in the fence. 

One day around Christmas Louie got caught in Woolworths trying to shoplift an angel ornament for his mother. When the store manager realized Louie’s father was held in high regard by the members of La Cosa Nostra, he looked the other way. And he let Louie keep the ornament saying “He didn’t want any trouble”. 

Tony’s father was a mortician for the Sisto Funeral Home and you better believe he knew where the bodies were buried. He wasn’t called “The Undertaker” for nothing. Sometimes the boys would sneak in after a wake to check the big sofa cushion for loose change. 

Louie’s father was the manager of Luca’s Ristorante, a well-known mob hangout. Luca Lombardo knew what side his bread was buttered on; syndicate bosses like Rocco “TNT” Randazzo and their soldiers were all welcome at Luca’s. 

For the first 19 years of their lives nothing or no one could come between Louie and Tony – that is until Rocco brought his  daughter Rosanna to the restaurant. Rosanna was a vixen – long chestnut hair, flawless bronze skin, emerald green eyes and a body that could melt the mozzarella right off your pizza. 

Rosanna was a real tease and Tony and Louie fell hard. She hooked up with both, enjoying the game of pitting them against each other, watching their animosity grow like rival nations. After stringing them along for over a year, Rosanna chose Louie. He hungrily kissed his future bride’s lips as Tony glared at them. 

Rocco gave the couple his blessing along with an extravagant wedding, a lavish honeymoon to Italy and a beautiful house. It wasn’t long before Rocco brought Louie into the family “business”. A year later Rosanna had a baby and Tony was invited to the christening party. Louie paraded Rosanna around the room on his arm like a trophy while Rocco proudly displayed his first grandson. Tony lost it. He and Louie starting fighting. Pushing and shoving led to punches, then the switchblades came out. Suddenly Tony’s brother Angelo lunged at Rocco and Louie intervened, fatally stabbing Angelo. Tony whirled, slicing off most of Louie’s nose. 

At his trial Louie was charged with manslaughter and sent up the river to Dannemora. Rocco told Louie to sit tight; he’d take care of everything. He called in some favors, greased a few palms and reminded the Governor about his sex scandal that Rocco made disappear. It worked and Louie was pardoned and released. Rocco was indebted to Louie for saving his life. “Whatever you want I’ll make it happen” Rocco pledged. Louie whispered in his ear and Rocco replied “Consider it done.” 

Two weeks later Louie was staring at a portrait of Tony next to his closed casket at Sisto Funeral Home. The photo of his one-time best friend had to suffice; after being blown to bits by a car bomb there was nothing left of Tony to look at.  

The police have no leads. 

500-600 Words

A LITTLE RAY OF LIGHT

May 17, 2020

It was a blazing hot day in August of 1971. Sweaty air conditioners were working overtime, filling the streets of Manhattan with an unrelenting drone. I was in the elevator of my apartment building having just returned from physical therapy. There were four other people in the elevator – an exterminator, a mid-twenties hippie chick I knew only as “Rain”, elderly and bitter Abe Samuelson and a very pregnant Asian woman I didn’t know. Abe made a point of moving away from the Asian woman, spitting out the words “savage gooks!” Abe usually wisecracked about my missing arm but today his vitriol was directed elsewhere. Ignorant man. 

The doors closed and we began our slow ascent. Old buildings, temperamental elevators and a heatwave – a bad combination. Somewhere between floors 3 and 4 the elevator jolted to a stop. Before Abe could utter a curse word the elevator churned back to life, coughed a bit and stopped again with an ominous screech. Except for a few groans no one said anything. I pushed the alarm button and reached for the elevator’s emergency phone. Halfway through my call the electricity went out, the AC shut off and my phone connection died. Blackness engulfed us and it started getting uncomfortably warm. 

Abe started cursing and banging the walls, all the while ranting“goddamn fucking dinks – I hate them!” The exterminator was praying in what sounded like Haitian Creole and Rain softly hummed “Let It Be”. I tried unsuccessfully to pry open the doors and reminded everyone that at least part of our emergency call went through so help had to be coming. It was then that I became aware of low guttural moans coming from the Asian woman and in Vietnamese she gasped that the baby was coming. 

I asked exterminator man if he had a flashlight, which he did. Turning it on he handed it to me and everyone calmed down a bit. Amazing what a little ray of light can do. The pregnant woman eased herself onto the floor; I told her I understood Vietnamese from my days as a medic in Nam. I said my name was Jack; her name was Thanh. We talked softly as Abe carried on about his son who died in Vietnam – “And for what?? This trash??”he screamed. The exterminator became more agitated and Rain sat by him holding his hand. 

Thanh told me she married an American soldier in early November 1970 and he brought her back to live in the U.S. with his parents. After two weeks he returned to Vietnam; he was killed November 21st in Operation Ivory Coast. Thanh soon learned she was pregnant. Relations with her in-laws became strained and she moved in here with her cousin. As we sat quietly I thought of that November day. I remembered a soldier flung himself on me as I worked in the MASH unit. He was blown to bits while I only lost my arm. Could that have been Thanh’s husband? 

Suddenly Abe stood up and screamed racial slurs at Thanh. The exterminator sobbed while Rain sang to calm him. I yelled for everyone to “shut up!” And that’s when we heard faint voices. 

“Anyone in there?” 

“Roger that! We’re down here!” I shouted and was rewarded with a resounding “HUA!” 

Haltingly the doors were pried open and a rescue ladder was lowered into the elevator.

“The pregnant lady first.”

Gingerly Thanh made her way up the ladder and was rushed to the hospital. The rest of us climbed to safety.

Call it crazy intuition but I had to get to Tranh

500-600 Words

SOMETHING

May 17, 2020

(An imaginary interview with George Harrison)

Interviewer:  What was your early connection to music?

George: From the time I was a child being a musician was all I ever wanted.  I didn’t care about the fame; that was just a bonus. Music brought out my inner soul. I wanted what Paul and John had – to play in a band. 

Interviewer: How is your relationship with Paul? 

George: Paul’s a genius and he’ll be the first to say so! Seriously, we love each other like brothers but we can really get on each other’s nerves … to this day. Regardless of what people think, wealth doesn’t matter to Paul. What he craves is mental stimulation … and public adulation! From the day we met I felt Paul was truly great and I just had to play music with him. 

Interviewer: How’d you get along with John? 

George: John was brilliant, incredibly creative. He was also surprisingly insecure and withdrawn. He was a saint and I loved him but at the same time he could be such a bastard! And that was the great thing about him, you see? After the split our paths rarely crossed. Then that psycho shot him. This man of peace … killed so violently … the very thing he vehemently opposed. I think I’m a forgiving man but that I will never forgive. 

Interviewer: What about Ringo? 

George: Ha! Ringo! Just saying his name makes me smile. He’s a great drummer but he didn’t have the same confidence as the rest of us. John could get cheeky with him but Ringo was just happy being in the band. We were good mates until I had an affair with Maureen. I was not a very decent person at the time and I made a grave error in judgement. He forgave me because that’s how Ringo is but we never had that real closeness again. Listen, let’s call a spade a spade – he had his share of infidelities. We all did! Ringo is all about being peaceful and happy. Peace and love … that’s him. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Ringo. 

Interviewer: Tell me about Eric Clapton. 

George: Eric. Well, he’s my brother, you know. We have a connection like the fine strings on a guitar, that’s how close we are. 

Interviewer: What about his affair with your wife?

George: Well, it wasn’t exactly a stellar period for any of us. Eric was obsessed with Pattie. She was delicious, impossible to resist! I was disappointed with them, sure, but how could I judge when my behavior was no different? We all just moved on. 

Interviewer: Which of your songs do you think rises above all the others? 

George: You probably think I’m going to say “Something”, right? That and “My Sweet Lord”, my first solo number one release, were both on the album for Bangladesh which I honestly think was my best work. It wasn’t about just writing songs; I had an important message to get across to people. It was a very fulfilling moment for me. 

Interviewer: After the break did you think The Beatles would ever get back together? 

George: No. We four guys – we came together to create something special and we ended up making history! But we lived a lot of lifetimes in a short period. As a group we were burned out – ready to have a go as solo artists. I didn’t need any more material things. I needed spiritual fulfillment. I just wanted to be the best person I could. I’m dying, you know. Cancer. My days are numbered. Those years with the Lads – they were brilliant. I’ll never forget a moment. 

500-600 Words

THE GRAND OPENING

May 3, 2020

“Looked only! Didn’t touch!” wailed Eddie, the dishwasher at the Q.E.D. Lounge. The waitstaff came running into the kitchen upon hearing a crash. Shattered crystal covered the kitchen floor – the new shipment of assorted glasses for the lounge’s grand opening. 

Eddie huddled in the corner wiping his runny nose on the sleeve of his sweatshirt, whimpering like a frightened boy. Due to that one decisive extra chromosome, Eddie was very much like a child – a 30 year old man with the mind of an eight year old. Just a little thing called Down Syndrome. Eddie’s brother Jay, the maitre d’, crouched down next to him while everyone stood in stunned silence. 

“Bud, accidents happen. It’s gonna be ok” Jay said calmly. “C’mon. We’ll help you clean up.” 

Without hesitation the crew grabbed brooms and dust pans – everyone except Lou, the belligerent bartender. 

“Don’t look at me. I ain’t helping!” snarled Lou. “It was that Goddamn retard’s fault. He shouldn’t even be around normal people, fucking mongoloid!” 

Jay clenched his fists, eyes glaring at Lou.”Shut your filthy mouth, you miserable son of a bitch! Don’t ever talk about my brother like that!” 

Martin Byrnes, manager of the Q.E.D., stormed into the kitchen. “What the hell’s going on?!” Slowly he looked around, taking in the whole scene.  Martin asked everyone to leave except Eddie, Jay and Lou. 

Martin spoke softly. “Eddie, I’m not mad. The way you help out here represents everything that’s good in this angry world of ours. Can you tell me what happened?” 

Eddie glanced over at Lou then shook his head ‘no’

“Mr. Byrnes is real good to us, Eddie. He deserves the truth” Jay added encouragingly. 

Eddie sniffled and rubbed is swollen eyes. “I saw all the boxes so I went to look at them but I didn’t touch them, cross my heart. Lou, he came in the back door and pushed me into the boxes and they fell.” 

“You lying freak” yelled Lou. “I was out back chasing that tramp who’s always looking for a handout. Eddie’s mangy mutt was there and he tore a hole in my pants cuff!” 

“Yeah, after you kicked him, I’m sure” declared Jay.  

“Ok, Lou. What happened when you came back into the kitchen?” asked Martin. “Were you so ticked off at the dog that maybe you bumped into Eddie?” 

“Look, Mr. B. I’m telling you I didn’t do nothing” sneered Lou. “Who you gonna believe?” 

“Alright. What’s done is done” sighed Martin. “Jay, you and Eddie finish cleaning up in here. Lou, go down to the basement and bring up whatever glasses you can find. We’re opening tonight as planned.” 

Disgruntled, Lou headed for the basement. He remembered a prior shipment of glasses that Martin didn’t like. Rather than return them they were put in storage. And there they were, two towers of boxes at least six feet fall. 

“Why am I stuck doing this shit job? Where’s that lazy spic busboy?” Lou grumbled. He walked to the delivery entrance and shouted “Hey, Manuel! Get in here!”  

Manuel didn’t answer Lou’s command;  Eddie’s ‘mangy mutt’ did and he growled, hurt by the kick in his ribs from Lou’s patent leather shoe. 

Lou backed up as fast as he could but not fast enough. The dog sank his teeth into the bartender’s calf and wouldn’t let go. He meant business and was out for revenge … for himself and for Eddie. 

Lou was thrust into the stacks of boxes, splintered wood and jagged glass crashing down on him. Eddie’s dog lifted his hind leg, pissed on Lou and trotted out the door. 

500-600 Words

DAD’S DESK

May 3, 2020

“Looked at them?! Are you kidding me? They’re phenomenal!! I thought my eyes were gonna bug outta my head!”  laughed my twin brothers Paul and Patrick. I obviously walked in on them in the middle of a private conversation – probably about girls or sports – two subjects constantly on their 15 year old minds. They quickly shuffled the books and papers on Dad’s desk into one big pile, their faces turning red.

“What are you doing here, Jenny? Aren’t you supposed to be at math club?” Patrick asked nervously. 

“Yes but today’s session was cancelled because our math teacher had a meeting. But what I’m doing here isn’t nearly as interesting as what you’re doing here in Dad’s study.” 

Paul and Patrick both started talking at once, turning bright red and getting more nervous every second while fiddling with the mound of papers on the desk. “Who, us?” asked Paul. “Just the usual. We were talking about who represents the greatest baseball players of the ‘90s … you know like A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Roger Clemens.” 

“Yeah, that’s right” agreed Patrick. “We were looking at our baseball cards and magazines and comparing stats. No big deal.” 

“Oh, is that so?” I challenged. “Then explain to me why you sounded so excited if it was ‘no big deal’ and why you’re here in Dad’s study using his desk – which you know is off limits – when all your baseball cards, magazines and what have you are upstairs in your bedroom?” 

My brothers started squirming as I continued. 

“I know you boys and I’m sure you’re up to something. Where are all your cards? Where are all your magazines? I don’t see anything baseball related at all. So you see by this simple matter of deduction, your lame answers are wrong and my reasoning is right. Q.E.D.!” 

The boys looked at each other, quickly gathered their piles of papers and books and began running to the stairs and the safety of their bedroom. In their haste to get away from me, everything they were holding slipped from their arms and fell to the floor. 

And there it was … the thing they were so desperately trying to hide … the latest issue of Playboy with Farrah Fawcett in all her glory on the cover. 

I gasped in righteous indignation. “I’ve never been more ashamed of you two! That’s a filthy sex magazine! Do you know what she is??” 

Paul sighed deeply and whispered “She’s a goddess.”

“A goddess” repeated Patrick breathlessly. 

“She is not a goddess!” I yelled. “She’s a Hollywood slut, a tramp … at least that’s what Mom says.”

“I don’t think Dad would agree with that” replied Paul. “After all, it’s his magazine.” 

Dad’s?!?” My hands flew to my face in shock and all my books fell to the floor. 

“Well, what have we here?” quipped Patrick. “Playgirl magazine, Jenny? I’m appalled!” Paul pretended to faint. 

“Oh, you too think you’re real funny. I bet you won’t be laughing when I tell you it’s Mom’s magazine!” 

Mom’s?!?” the boys shouted in unison. “But she’s … Mom!!” 

“I’d say we’re at a standoff, wouldn’t you, boys?” I said conspiratorially “Let’s put both these magazines back in the desk where we found them.” 

“And no one will be the wiser” agreed Paul. 

Just then we realized our parents were standing right there! 

Dad spoke seriously. “Well, obviously you’ve broken the rules and can’t be trusted. You were caught red-handed and now you must pay the price. You’re all grounded for one month. Q.E.D.” 

I’m sure on my way upstairs I heard Mom and Dad laughing. 

500-600 Words

FISH OR CUT BAIT

April 19, 2020

When I was a toddler my family moved to City Island, a little place in the Bronx, New York. And when I say little, I’m not kidding – 1.5 miles long by 0.5 miles wide. There was one main street and the houses were on the narrow side streets, each with a small beach at the end. Just about every day we would play for hours on the beach at the end of our street. As far as I’m concerned there was no better place for a kid to grow up. 

My Granddad “Pops” was a retired commercial fisherman and he taught us the ropes. We learned how to tie knots, cut bait, fillet a fish and just about everything there was to know about boats. Every weekend we’d row over to Sullivan’s Marina where Pops’ fishing boat “Sea Devil” was docked and spend the day fishing … mostly. I can still remember him scolding us when we dawdled: “Hey, you clowns! Fish or cut bait!” 

When we were first learning how to cast our rods there wasn’t a single time that Pops didn’t get stuck by an errant hook. Our collection of his favorite curse words grew on a weekly basis. So many memories of days on the “Devil” like the time my brother sliced off the tip of his finger while cutting bait or when the anchor chain snapped and we drifted until someone gave us a tow. 

But nothing compared to that Saturday in April. The sun was blazing and it was extremely hot for a Spring morning.  My Dad had the rare Saturday off because it was Easter weekend so he joined us. It was me, my two brothers, Dad and Pops crammed into a rowboat headed for Sea Devil

I don’t know if it was the heat or the dormancy of the day but the fish weren’t biting. We were sweating bullets and out of bait. That’s when Pops noticed the dark clouds in the distance and figured we better just count our losses and head home. 

We climbed into the rowboat, Dad and Pops manning the oars. The sun was obscured by clouds and there was an eerie stillness around us. We heard roars of thunder and Pops and Dad rowed faster. We heard it before we saw it … pouring rain, strong winds and swelling waves. They rowed like madmen but not fast enough. Suddenly we were engulfed in a raging storm and a giant wave crashed into us, picked up the rowboat and flung us into the water. 

The fast-moving rains headed toward shore and the waves quickly subsided. By some miracle we were all alive and the boat was floating upside down. Pops and Dad scooped us up in their arms and swam to the boat. Uprighting it was impossible so they dove under it to find that precious pocket of air.  

Hold onto the seats, boys, and keep your heads above water. Dad and I are going back out and we’ll push this boat to shore” instructed Pops. We clung to the seats for dear life while Pops and Dad struggled with the boat. After what seemed like an eternity they felt the sand beneath their feet and the air pocket became bigger. Eventually we also felt the sand beneath our feet and we all carried the boat to shore … to safety. 

That was almost 65 years ago and I’ve never forgotten that day though it didn’t stop me from going back out to sea. I have a boat and love fishing. And every time I’m cutting bait I’m thinking of Pops.