Longer Stories

TO THE MOON, ALICE!


For as long as I can remember my Uncle Bobby was my idol – the self-proclaimed “Poster Boy for Home Depot”. In fact, I can’t recall a time when he wasn’t fixing this or repairing that. He was the neighborhood handyman, the guy everyone called to replace a broken window or unclog their toilet. He could paint a room like nobody’s business, his cutting-in seams done to perfection without the use of that “sissy painter’s tape”. Yep, he was like a magician, my Uncle Bobby was, and I loved following him around on his odd jobs, delighting at his request for me to hand him a Phillips head screwdriver or a roll of duct tape. 

Uncle Bobby was a no-frills kind of guy; what you saw was what you got with him. He was my dad’s brother, living with us in the spare room of our old rambling Victorian house. He must have replaced just about every board of the huge porch that wrapped itself around the house. My mom would complain that the decking looking like a patchwork quilt with no two pieces of wood being exactly the same. Uncle Bobby would always say the same thing: “Don’t worry ‘bout nothing, Margie. They’ll all weather with age and you’ll never be able to tell ‘em apart.” But they never did and the porch truly looked like a jigsaw puzzle.

The biggest problem with Uncle Bobby was the fact that he couldn’t truly fix anything that required real skill, like a washing machine or a radio or a power lawnmower. Whenever he attempted such jobs, he’d inevitably have a couple of pieces left over even after he finished putting the whole thing back together! He’d toss all the unused parts into a ten-gallon drum in our basement which was also his workshop. Funny thing was everything he repaired would work fine for a while, then breakdown after several weeks anyway. Uncle Bobby would explain that he “fixed the dang thing but it was just its time to go”. I think I was the only one who knew about his stash of leftover essential pieces which doubled in size on a weekly basis.

Truth was Uncle Bobby had more crap in our basement than Carter had liver pills and he was slowly but surely inching his way over to the cramped corner where my mom had her washing machine. She finally put her foot down one day and demanded he either clean up his crap or build a wall around her laundry area so she wouldn’t have to look at all his crap. Rather than clean up the place, Uncle Bobby built mom a wall. Even she had to admit it was the best looking wall she’d ever seen, with a door and everything!

Believe it or not, Uncle Bobby was a genuine ladies’ man and he “cleaned up real nice” as old Mrs. Jenkins liked to say. He’d wash up in the basement using Lava Soap, shave with menthol Barbasol and splash on the Aqua Velva then head out to Kelly’s Place for ribs and a few beers. All the girls liked Uncle Bobby but his favorites were the Andrews twins, Patty and Paula. They didn’t seem to mind the perpetual ring of dirt under Uncle Bobby’s fingernails; no matter how many times he washed his hands that grime stayed put. He said it was “the mark of a hard-working man”.

Uncle Bobby loved watching those old black and white tv shows like Flash Gordon, Superman and The Twilight Zone. He had a real fascination with outer space and anything that could fly. That’s probably why he loved “The Honeymooners” – that classic Jackie Gleason comedy show; he’d laugh his head off every time Ralph Kramden roared his trademark tagline “To the moon, Alice!”

I’ll never forget that one Christmas when I got a remote control airplane; I think Uncle Bobby spent more time playing with that damn thing than I did. He was happy as a pig in slop the day he found a used one at the church tag sale. He’d tinker with that thing every chance he could, making it fly higher and faster. He’d inevitably forget to include a piece or two which he’d just toss into that catch-all drum of his.

So one day out of nowhere right in the middle of dinner Uncle Bobby announced he had his mind set on building a rocket ship. Well, I think it came as a shock to everyone but me and they all laughed it off as him just joking around as usual.  But I knew Uncle Bobby better than anyone and he was dead serious. He told me he was gonna use all the bits and pieces and spare parts he’d collected over the years. And what he didn’t have, he’d scavenge for in dumpsters, rubbish piles outside people’s houses or the garbage bins behind Home Depot. Those places were like a magical treasure trove for Uncle Bobby and he always came home with something. “You never know when this might come in handy” he’d declare, proudly showing me a discarded catalytic converter or a manual typewriter.

Well, true to his word Uncle Bobby started construction on his rocket ship the morning of April 1st and the neighbors howled that it was the perfect April Fool’s Day joke ever. But it wasn’t no joke to Uncle Bobby and he worked on that craft every day. He pitched a tent in the backyard, rolled out that giant ten-gallon drum and went at it like a man possessed. And I was his helper; my special assignment was to find him a really good helmet and a cooler which I filled with Hawaiian Punch, bologna sandwiches and Twinkies.

By July 4th Uncle Bobby’s rocket ship was finished. To be honest it looked like a pile of junk but he thought it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever made. He painted it red, white and blue and named it “Independence Day”. By now word had gotten out and the whole neighborhood was there to watch Uncle Bobby attempt to take off into the wild blue yonder. Sporting his best overalls and the cool viking helmet I found for him, he climbed in, waved goodbye and slammed the door shut. 

Well, the damn thing sputtered and smoked and made all kinds of weird noises but it suddenly started shaking and actually took off. It was kinda wobbly at first but it just kept on going higher and higher until it disappeared into the clouds. We all stood there with our jaws hanging open, expecting to see the ship come crashing down any second – but it didn’t. We stayed out there for a long time, then gave up and went inside thinking Uncle Bobby would probably just waltz back in when he was good and ready with some great adventure tales to tell.

Damn thing was, we never did see the rocket ship or Uncle Bobby again. Boy, do I miss him!

Here’s to you, Rocket Man! Hope you had a great journey, wherever you are.

Independence Day
500-750 Words

GUEST POST: FORBIDDEN LOVE – PART 1: SEPARATED AS ONE


It is a thrill and a delight to post a story written by my 11-year-old granddaughter, Mckenna Richy. A smart, funny, talented and loving young lady, Mckenna can be just about whatever she wants to be in life, excelling in whichever profession she chooses. It’s obvious she’s already a very good writer! I’m extremely proud of her for writing this incredible love story. I hope we get to read Part II very soon!

“Hello.”

Jasper heard a voice. He looked up to see a girl angel about the same age as himself on the other side of the border. “Who are you?” he asked.

“The opposite of you” she responded.

“Yeah, I get that. I mean, where did you come from?” Jasper said.

“I came from my home on the side of the border that I am standing on” the girl replied.

“I’m Jasper” the boy angel said, hoping to make an unusual but true friend.

The girl angel smiled. “I’m Cameron.”

EIGHT YEARS LATER

“Cameron! Could you come here please?” called Cameron’s mother, the Queen of the Angels. Cameron walked down the hall of the palace and approached the throne room where her mother was seated.

“Yes, mother?” she said.

“I would like you to meet someone.” Her mother motioned to a boy angel about the same age as Cameron. “This is Alex. He will be your husband” her mother said.

Cameron was taken aback. “H-husband?” she weakly said. “Uh … can I use the restroom? I had a huge glass of dragon fruit juice!” and with that Cameron ran out of the throne room and flew out the window.

Cameron flew to the edge of the border, the place where she first met the love of her life, Jasper. She sat down near the edge and started crying.

Cameron?” she heard Jasper say. “Are you okay?” he asked.

No, I’m really not, Jasper! I’m sorry” cried Cameron, “but I’m being forced to marry someone else – someone I don’t love!” Cameron continued to cry.

“Is there any way out of it?” Jasper asked, trying to help.

None that I can see. I’m doomed!” Cameron whined.

“I’m so sorry, Cameron” said Jasper.

Cameron got up and stood on the edge of the border. “What’s to stop me from jumping over?” she quietly asked.

Huh?” said Jasper. “If you jump to this side there’s no going back!”

“That’s the point” Cameron replied.

You really want to be with me, don’t you?” Jasper asked.

Yes, Jasper. I do” Cameron responded.

I’ll be waiting for you” said Jasper.

Just as Cameron was about to jump, Alex came out of nowhere. “There you are! Everyone has been so worried about you!” he said.

Cameron was surprised to see him. “AHHH! How did you get here?!” she asked, clearly annoyed.

“Your mother sent me to find you. Besides, I would like to get to know my future wife” responded Alex.

Yeah … no!” snapped Cameron.

Well, get used to it. In two weeks you’ll be stuck with me forever” said Alex in a sarcastic tone.

“Well, as you can see I’m fine! Can you please leave? I’m trying to talk to someone who actually means something to me!” said Cameron.

“Ooh. He just got roasted” said Jasper quietly.

“Cameron, you’re friends with this monster?” asked Alex.

Cameron got angry. “He’s not a monster! I’m in love with him!” she firmly said and without thinking she pushed Alex away and jumped off the edge of her side of the border. When Cameron opened her eyes, Jasper was standing over her. “Jasper, did I do it?” she asked.

Jasper helped her up. “You did it, Cameron!” he said.

Cameron hugged Jasper without any care that Alex was watching from what used to be her home.

“What did you do to yourself?” asked Alex, as white as a ghost.

Cameron was confused. “What do you mean?” She looked at herself. She had wings and horns almost identical to Jasper’s and her blond hair had become as black as coal. “Looks like crossing over has some benefits” Cameron said with a grin.

Alex ran back to the castle, probably to tell Cameron’s mother that her daughter was now a demon. But Cameron couldn’t care less. She and Jasper were finally united. Cameron didn’t care what she looked like or what side of the world she was on.

And neither did Jasper.

Poems

THE HAPPIEST WIFE


There’s a quaint little road not too far from me
Where the sign by a hedge reads “Love Lane”.
People travel for miles and miles to see
The street with that enchanting name.

The houses all look like fairy-tale homes
As psychedelic butterflies flutter by.
Statues of toadstools, angels and gnomes
Make passersby grin and contentedly sigh.

There’s never a cloud-filled sky o’er Love Lane
And the flower gardens bloom all year long.
A gentle breeze spins the old weather-vane
While a cardinal whistles his song.

At the end of the street is a sweet little church
Which has seen brides and grooms come and go.
A duo of lovebirds comfortably nests on their perch
Cooing greetings to all those below.

Alongside the church is a babbling brook
Where ducklings are happily splashing.
A couple cuddles close with their poetry book
While their children are playing and laughing.

Love Lane can fill every heart with great joy
Like it’s Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
Sweet as a crush for a young girl and boy;
It’s just puppy love, or so people say.

Can a place like Love Lane really be true
Where peace, joy and harmony reign?
Is it possible to never feel lonely or blue;
To not suffer heartache or pain?

Someday as I walk down that storybook street
I’ll happen upon the true love of my life.
All the luckiest spouses on Love Lane do meet
And I know I’ll be blessed with the happiest wife.

500-750 Words

HEADLINE STORY: AN UNLIKELY HERO


February 23, 2020

A fictional newspaper report

May 24, 1865 – The day started out as any ordinary sunny spring day in Fantasy Land but by noon the town was in a frenzy for the news was out that 9 year old Mary Andrews had lost her lamb, Snowflake. Mary had Snowflake for only a few months but they had become attached to each other immediately, so much so that he followed her to school every day, even though Mary knew it was against the rules. Teacher Sarah Johnson had this to say: “Mary’s such a lovely girl and Snowflake is so sweet with his fleece as white as snow. I didn’t mind the fact that the lamb followed Mary to school because she always tied him to a nearby tree but today for some reason he followed her right into the classroom. As you can imagine all the children wanted to do was laugh and play.” Pressed for more information, Miss Johnson went on to say that she took Snowflake outside herself and tied him to the tree but when the children went out to play the lamb was nowhere in sight. The three blind mice who live across the road from the school became rather indignant when questioned about the incident. “Of course we didn’t see anything, you fool! But we did hear some strange noises near the tree shortly before the children came outside.”When asked to described the noises one mouse said “It sounded like pulling or tugging” while another thought it was more like a snapping sound. The third mouse added “There was definitely a scuffle of some sort. Poor little Snowflake.” Mary’s parents, Abigail and Wyatt Andrews, rushed to the school to console their daughter. Mr. Andrews was visibly upset to learn that the teacher had taken Snowflake away from Mary. “She had no right touching that lamb. She’s a school teacher, not a farmer and has no idea how to tie a proper knot. She should have asked Mary to tie Snowflake to the tree like she always does.” Moments later Little Bo-Peep arrived on the scene and was asked her opinion on the incident. “Well, I’ve been a shepherdess for a long time now and if there’s one thing I know it’s this: If you leave them alone they’ll come home bringing their tails behind them.” By mid-afternoon all the town’s residents had gathered at the school and formed search parties to look for Snowflake. Even Humpty Dumpty was there, sad and terribly broken up. In all my years as a reporter I’ve never seen such an outpouring of support. A new development as Hansel and Gretel just arrived at the school. “Wait! We think we can help!” they cried and tearfully reminded those of us still at the school of their traumatic encounter with the evil witch who held them captive in her gingerbread house. “We all know how much Snowflake loves herbs” Hansel said. Gretel added “They’re growing all around the witch’s house. Snowflake may be headed there. If the wicked witch catches Snowflake he won’t stand a chance.” With great trepidation we entered the forest and came upon the witch’s house. There she was, all gnarled and bent over, dragging a bleating Snowflake behind her. “Stop!” the witch shrieked, “I’ll kill him right before your eyes!” Suddenly, Humpty Dumpty ran up to Snowflake and grabbed him from the witch’s clutches. Snatching Humpty  the witch cackled “Fine! Take your precious lamb! I’ll feast on scrambled eggs tonight!” and she disappeared into the dark forest with Humpty. Such bravery by Humpty Dumpty! He was indeed a good egg. 

500-750 Words

WHEN GYPSIES CRY


October. 10, 2019

Normally I don’t take the subway to work but I heard there was a bad auto accident backing up traffic for miles on the highway so driving wasn’t an option. My train was already at the station when I arrived. Every seat was taken except for one in the corner. I quickly sat down as the train began filling up with passengers. 

Glancing around I caught a glimpse of a man seated several feet from me reading a newspaper. He looked over in my direction and gave me a big grin, his light blue eyes twinkling. He bore an uncanny resemblance to my late father, Gino, and I was unable to resist smiling back at him. He was well-groomed with a thin mustache and I imagined he was a barber like my dad. He went back to reading his newspaper and when he turned the page I was surprised to see it was La Stampa, the Italian newspaper my father used to read.  

Suddenly the subway stopped and the lights went out for a few minutes. When they  came back on I looked over at the man but he wasn’t there. I looked all around but didn’t see him. We were stuck in a dark tunnel – where could he have gone? 

The train started up again and at our next stop many people entered, including two women with five young children; they looked like gypsies. One woman was younger, obviously the mother of the children, and the older woman was their grandmother. The mother protectively held a toddler while the other children clung to her skirt and the grandmother clutched the handle of a baby carriage. The women whispered rapidly in a foreign language as their wide eyes frantically searched the train. They were clearly frightened as though they were running away from someone or something.   

The ride was choppy and the children were getting restless; the women tried desperately to quiet them. At the next stop people brusquely shoved their way off and on. Suddenly a swarthy-looking man pushed the old gypsy woman, snatched the baby carriage and dashed out the train just as the doors closed. The hysterical mother screamed what sounded like “My baby! My baby!”  but no one paid her any attention. I stood up to see if I could help but the train jerked to a start. I was thrown back into my seat, hitting my head.

The harsh train whistle jolted me and I was amazed to discover I was in my bed; the whistle was my alarm clock. It was only a dream! Sleepily, I shuffled to the door to collect my newspaper and turn on the tv. Opening the newspaper my eyes widened in disbelief as I saw the banner La Stampa, the same paper my father used to read. The date was November 17, 1992, the day my father died. 

A voice from the tv roused me from my trance: “A happy ending yesterday for a Romanian woman whose baby was snatched from a crowded subway by her estranged husband. Witnesses directed police to an alley where the man was found hiding in an old abandoned barbershop called “Gino’s”. The baby was reunited with its ecstatic mother.” There on the screen was the same gypsy family I saw on the train!   

Stunned, I dropped the newspaper and collapsed onto my bed. So it wasn’t a dream after all! From the corner of my eye I noticed something sticking out of the newspaper. With trembling hands I gently pulled out a white feather.

Dad!” I whispered tearfully. “It was you.”

500-750 Words

RULES OF ATTRACTION


June 2, 2019

“Credited for my prize-winning chili” was probably the last thing I heard my speed date say before I zonked out, my head hitting the desk with an impressive “thwack”.  

DING!” went the timer and my arm automatically shot up as I shouted out “Check please!” Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. “Yeah, I’m crazy alright for agreeing to go along with my friend Nadine’s cockamamie idea and she never even showed up.” 

I looked up to see my next date arriving – an Elvis impersonator replete with spangled jumpsuit, a ton of hair and heavy cologne. Whoever invented the jumpsuit should be shot. “Well, hello there, little lady. I do believe fate has brought us together. You are the spitting image of my Priscilla.” 

“Oh Lord! Get me outta here!” my mind screamed. Quickly I jumped up. 

“Hey, toots! Number 9! Whaddya think you’re doing? You can’t just break outta line like that!” shouted the hoody-wearing overseer with the pronounced nose. He pointed an accusatory wizened finger at me looking every bit like Charon the Ferryman from the River Styx. 

I shoved passed him, walking out into the fresh night air. “Another wasted Friday night. Wonder what there is to do” I murmured. Looking around I noticed a movie theater down the street. “Well, better than nothing.” As I got closer I saw the movie was “A Hard Day’s Night” and it was about to start. I got my ticket and bought some popcorn. There were clusters of people scattered about and I chose a secluded seat in the back.

Just as the theater lights dimmed, some guy sat next to me. “Jeez!” I’m thinking, “Of all the seats, you choose that one!” Looking straight ahead, eating my popcorn, I assess the situation. I never know what to do at times like this. Do I move? What if he’s a pervert? “This is all your fault, Nadine” I whispered. 

Excuse me. Did you say something?” asked the guy next to me. 

I turned to answer and immediately began choking as I inhaled popcorn. The guy was a carbon copy of my one true love – George Harrison. 

Are you ok? Here, have some water.”

Finally able to breath and talk again I said “I’m awfully sorry! You shocked me. Has anyone ever told you you look exactly like George Harrison?”  

“All the time. And has anyone every told you you look exactly like Priscilla Presley?” 

“Hardly ever.” 

We sat there laughing at the movie, then walked out together deciding to get a drink. 

Who’s in the club? Nadine. 

Spotting us, she came running over, gushing “Oh my God! Has anyone ever told you you look exactly like George Harrison? Giving ‘George’ the once-over, she drooled “Maybe I should have gone to speed dating after all. Mighty slim pickings here tonight. Wanna dance, handsome? Olivia won’t mind, will ya, hon?” 

Grabbing ‘George’s’ hand we ran from the club, laughing and tripping over ourselves just like in the movie.

500-750 Words

THE GIRL WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES


March 3, 2019

Instantly, the second I say the magic words and tap my hat with this wand, you will turn into a blackbird!” declared my brother, Derek. “Are you ready, Lucy?” 

“Sure, David Blaine” I replied with about as much enthusiasm as a rock. 

Ok here goes. Ob-La-Da!” TAP! And nothing happened. “Hey, what’s going on?” wailed Derek, truly stumped. 

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe you got the words wrong” I suggested. “Take a look at this and profit from my knowledge of all things Beatles”, and we Googled the White Album. “See, you got it wrong.” 

“Oh yeah! Ok, let’s try again. Ready?” Derek ceremoniously whirled his wand and said “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da!” TAP! 

And the next thing I knew I was a soaring through the sky, flying across the universe. Here, there and everywhere I gazed in amazement at the clouds, the water, tree tops and strawberry fields. I spotted a row of houses below and gracefully swooped down, perching on a windowsill.  Hopping inside I landed right on top of a piano.

“Well, hello! What have we here! A little housebreaker?”  exclaimed a man behind me. 

“No, silly! I’m a blackbird” I said and turned around to see — Paul McCartney!! 

Welcome, blackbird!” Paul said, not at all surprised to find a talking bird in his parlor. “You remind me of a little ditty John and I wrote. Would you like to come with me to visit the Lads.” 

“You mean John, George and Ringo?” I warbled with excitement. 

Well, actually just George and Ringo. John went to see Doctor Robert and he’s in quarantine. But do try to act naturally.” 

“Oh no! What happened to John?” I asked in misery. 

 Paul whispered “Do you want to know a secret? John was following the fool on the hill and he couldn’t slow down. He landed face first, he did, into a sty filled with piggies and they bit him all over!” 

“Wasn’t there anyone to help.” I asked tearfully. 

Just the two of us!” exclaimed two voices in unison. We turned to see George and Ringo grinning broadly. 

“You’ll be happy to know Johnny’s getting better all the time.” explained George. 

“So tell us, little blackbird. Do you have a name?” asked Ringo

“Something tells me it’s ‘Mother Superior”. Am I right?” inquired George. 

“Nothing quite as lovely as that. I’m just plain Lucy”. 

“Just plain Lucy!? Rubbish! Much more genteel than Sexy Sadie!” exclaimed Ringo. 

George suddenly took out a teeny pair of pink glasses and gently balanced them on my little beak. “Perfect! Kaleidoscope Eyes! Let’s go show Johnny!” 

And off we went singing “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”. 

Suddenly I was in my bed and I wasn’t a blackbird at all. And the Lads weren’t here. It was my iPod playing my wake-up song. 

Then I saw them on my nightstand – a teeny pair of pink glasses.  

500-750 Words

THE LONG WAIT


January 20, 2019

Mike, the cabbie, was relieved. He just dropped off his last passenger and was going to pick up his wife, then head home. And not a moment too soon, he thought to himself as a nor’easter was headed their way. 

Suddenly the wind whipped Mike’s cap off his head and he chased it down the steps. Turning back to go to his cab, he spotted a figure huddled in the corner. Another drunk, no doubt, but then he heard crying. He inched closer and the streetlight revealed an old woman wrapped in a shawl. 

“Oh, shit! I swear I got the worst luck in the world!” Mike muttered under his breath. Knowing his wife Laura would kill him if he didn’t help the old lady, Mike called out over the wind – “Excuse me. Are you ok?” 

A weak voice replied “I’m lost and scared and forlorn. Please help me!” 

“I can take you to the police station” suggested Mike. “They can help you.” 

No! I need to see my son. Please take me to my son.” 

“Look, lady, I wanna help you, I really do, but my wife’s waiting for me and the weather’s bad.” 19/195

The old woman started sobbing and it was too much for Mike. “Okay, I got an idea. What’s your son’s address. If it ain’t too far, I’ll take you – otherwise, it’s the police station.” 

Immediately the lady responded. “Renwick’s. That’s where my son is.” 

“Your son’s at Renwick’s!? Laura works there! C’mon … we don’t want to be late!” 

“Jack is very patient. He knows I’ll be there” replied the old lady. 

“Well”, said Mike, “my wife ain’t so let’s skedaddle.” 

The woman had a little box which she placed on the back seat next to her. The rain and wind were terrible as Mike made his way to Renwick’s. He called Laura to let her know he was coming and filled her in on what was going on.  The old woman hummed softly in the back seat, as in a trance. It sounded like a haunting lullaby, tender and sweet yet mournful and lonely. 

Finally they arrived at Renwick’s. Laura was waiting under the awning but she was alone and the store was dark. Mike flashed the lights and Laura made a mad dash for the cab. Laura turned around to greet the mysterious little old lady but the back seat was empty. 

“Well, where is she?” asked a surprised Laura. 

“Where’d she go?” stammered Mike. “I was here the whole time. No one left this cab!” 

Laura reached for the box. On the outside was scrawled Jack McGuire, Pediatric Unit, Bed #27 and the note inside read – “For my precious baby boy, Jack. Sorry I made you wait so long. My work is done. Mommy’s finally coming.” Inside was a tiny gold lantern with glass panels etched with cherubs.

“OMG! You’re not gonna believe this, Mike. This was once the site of the Renwick Smallpox Hospital. I believe you were touched by an angel.” 

11

500-750 Words

MY BROTHER’S KEEPER


January 6, 2019

Invisible in the temporary blackness of the night, the trio of soldiers separated from their regiment crept silently through the rain-soaked jungle. One had an injured leg as the result of a skirmish and was in excruciating pain. He knew his injury would impede their progress and he pleaded with his comrades to leave him to die alone with dignity, as was their ancestral custom. The steadfast friends were adamant and refused to abandon him in the middle of enemy territory. Instead they worked in tandem to  carry their wounded brother – a selfless act that did indeed slow them down but they would have it no other way and refused to discuss the topic any further. 

Exhausted and frightened, they persevered through the seemingly endless night, scrambling for cover as quickly and quietly as physically possible whenever they spied the opposition or heard murmurings in the darkness. Soon the slowly rising first light would inevitably dispel their cover and finding shelter for the day would become a priority. Looking around they took stock of their surroundings – trees, bushes, and marshlands – none of which would provide adequate  concealment or refuge. 

Walking on, the soldiers spotted a large rock in the distance and as they drew nearer they noticed a small aperture. The decision was agreed upon that one would investigate the opening while the other two hid beneath the shelter of the low hanging branches of a weeping willow tree. After a while the scout returned with good news – there was a small cave inside the rock with room enough for the three of them to take shelter. Painstakingly, one soldier carried his injured brother on his back and squeezed through the crevice while the third searched for something for them to eat. Finally for the first time in hours the exhausted trio was able to get some rest. Huddled together, they eventually drifted off to a fitful sleep. 

After a few hours, the wounded soldier awoke with a fever, his leg swollen and throbbing. Since it was now midday, it was too risky to leave the cave. Outside was sweltering and humid and the chance of them being caught, especially hindered by a wounded friend, would be great. No … they would stay where they were until it was safe to venture out. To pass the time they talked about life back in their village and the family members awaiting them. All they knew was army life, following in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers. It was not an easy life and they were in constant peril but they soldiered on. 

Suddenly their wounded brother heaved a ragged breath and died. Saddened yet aware they must move on, the soldiers covered him with rocks and began the slow crawl out. Without warning the long sticky tongue of a giant anteater slithered through the crack and swallowed the startled army ants. They struggled bravely, as courageous ants are wont to do, but in the end they could not prevail. 

Poor little buggers. 

300-500 Words

INEFFABLE


July 22, 2018

Piano music drifted up to her as she leisurely strolled the aisles of the exclusive Manhattan department store .. not the unremarkable, annoying background Muzak one usually hears in waiting rooms and elevators. No, this was definitely different. 

Being a devotee of the piano, she was convinced no one else in the world could possibly love its sound more than she. Enchanted, she felt compelled to find the source of the music. 

As she approached the escalator, the volume increased minutely. Gliding down, gently floating closer and closer, she realized “this is LIVE music”.

Arriving at the store’s café level, she stood still, tilting her head slightly in the direction of the beckoning music. Sensing an invisible hand on the small of her back, she swayed slightly as the unmistakable melody of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” trickled above the polite chatter of the ladies who lunch. 

 “Someone is definitely playing the piano” she thought, quickly adding “Oh, please, don’t let it be one of those self-playing digital pianos.” 

Now the music was clearly audible and she followed the winding hallway from the escalator into the center of the café area. Suddenly standing before her in all its glory was a glimmering ebony Steinway baby grand. The lid was open, revealing the hammers and strings, but concealing the pianist .. if there even was one. 

As if on cue, she heard a silky rich voice as smooth as Maker’s Mark Bourbon singing and she imagined Harry Connick or Frank Sinatra. As she made her way around the curves of the Steinway, the illusive piano man came into view. She kept her eyes downcast, afraid to look, and just listened as this sorcerer cast his spell on her. 

Slowly she raised her head to surreptitiously glance at the singer. He wasn’t the handsome, debonair Harry or Frank .. actually, he looked more like Woody Allen .. but when he caught her eye everything fell away and all that mattered was the here and now. She approached him tentatively, her hand gliding along the piano, eyes still locked with his. 

Ruefully she thought to herself “Why do I always fall in love with musicians? I would follow this man anywhere.” The feelings deep within her heart, her body, her soul were ineffable ..  impossible to comprehend. She sat beside him on the piano bench, their legs touching. 

Please”, she whispered in his ear. “Don’t ever stop playing!” 

300-500 Words

THE RIDDLES OF LOVE


July 8, 2018

PRINCES OF MAGONIA!

YOU ARE SUMMONED TO VIE FOR THE HAND OF PRINCESS AMIRA!

Fifty answered the royal command. Upon seeing Amira, everyone gasped; she was stunning. The double of her late grandmother, she grew more beautiful every year .. skin as white as porcelain, eyes as blue as crystal waters and hair the color of the stars. Her loveliness was surpassed only by her cleverness. She longed to be married but found men boring and inane. 

Amira motioned for everyone to sit and in a confident voice addressed them: 

“One among you will be my husband! Marriage is not based solely on appearances. To win my hand, you must be clever and smart. These fifty parchments, one for each of you, contains three riddles. You have two days to solve them. Record your answers on the parchment, returning them to my secretary. Use your brain; only a clear head and clever mind will win my hand.”

Forty succumbed on day one. On day two, the remaining ten reported to Amira’s secretary. Nine answered incorrectly and were dismissed. Only one had all correct answers. Placing the parchment in her desk, the secretary presented the victor to Amira. 

“Greetings, clever prince! What is your name?” 

“I am Khalil but I am no prince. I am squire to Prince Wahid. He could not answer your riddles.” 

“And YOU can? Let us begin!” 

   “I can only live where there is light but will die if light shines on me. What I?”

Khalil answered “A shadow.”

“The more there is, the less you see. What am I?”

He replied  “Darkness.”

“What disappears the moment you say its name?”

Khalil said “Silence.”

“Excellent, Khalil! All correct! But you tried to fool me.” 

“Wahid is a dolt, besotted only by your beauty. He is not worthy of you. Please afford  me one opportunity. I have a riddle for YOU. If you answer correctly, we shall marry. If not, I will leave immediately.” 

Intrigued, Amira agreed. 

“He loves a princess though his blood is not royal.

He has nothing to give, just a heart that is loyal.

He has no earthly treasure but is clever and smart.

And can promise his bride all the love in his heart.”

“Who am I, Amira?”

 Reaching for Khalil’s hands and drawing him closer, Amira whispered:

“The answer is YOU.

You are honorable, clever, fair of face

AND

my future husband.”

300-500 Words

THE POKER GAME


May 27, 2018

“How do, ladies and gents? Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dougal James MacTerrier, but everyone calls me ‘Mac’. I’ve been top dog at Barktower Manor for ten years now. You see, his lordship, Hound Ruff Branan saved my life one night after that fleabag Angus ‘Scotty’ Montgomery caught me sniffing around his bitch and nearly tore me apart. In my clan, when another saves your mangy life, you’re beholden to them forever. Truth be told, I’ve had a good life here. 

Tonight I’ll be donning my vest and tam as I’m the greeter for the weekly poker game. Sir Ruff and the boys always have a great night playing cards, drinking whiskey and smoking cigars. Well, there was that one game a few weeks back that didn’t turn out so well. 

That particular night started out like any other. Sir Ruff, his four cousins the Hounds of Baskerville and the two Boxer Brothers were having a grand time. M’lord’s sweetheart, Madam Pompadour, owner of the fabulously successful pup salon Shampooch, and her saucy poodle assistants were there to cater to everyone’s needs. They looked extraordinarily fetching in their French maid outfits. Tails were wagging, for sure! 

It was no secret that the Boxers were in debt big time to loanshark Weezy “Pit Bull” Mulally, and had cooked up a scheme to win back their losses that night.  The game was going strong and the pot was getting bigger when one of the Boxers slipped the other a card under the table. Things were looking good for them and they surreptitiously exchanged a few more cards without anyone noticing. The hounds were growling their displeasure as the Boxers won game after game. 

Just then Madam Pompadour and her delightful maids came in carrying silver trays of bones, kibbles and bits. When Sir Ruff looked up from his paw of cards, he caught the reflection in a tray of the Boxers passing winning cards. M’lord began barking and howling loudly, alerting the other hounds who immediately pounced on the cheating Boxer Boys. The two connivers were no match for the five rabid hounds and things did not end well for the brothers that night .. but they did end permanently. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear our guests scratching at the door, eager for tonight’s game. Let’s hope the night goes well. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, you know!” 

300-500 Words

FIELD DAYS


April 29, 2018

Justice, Fergus and Eustace were little triplets, abandoned at an early age. They never knew their father who was the ‘love em and leave em’ type and their mother was a floozie who ran off with a smooth-talking rat. They were in dire straits for a while but now they lived on a farm and life was pretty good. 

Days were spent romping in the tall grass eating berries, seeds and an occasional bug. At night they slept in the barn loft – a discarded half-filled bag of mulch as their bed. And they always kept an eye out for cats, snakes, owls and other creatures of the night .. the typical life of a field mouse. 

Justice was the self-elected leader. Fergus was somewhat dim-witted, obviously not the brightest bulb. Eustace, the only female of the trio, was a free spirit who apparently took after their mother. Most nights Eustace could be found across the yard getting it on with the Hamster Boys. Eustace was not very discriminating but size definitely mattered. One night she took off with one of the hamsters; her brothers never saw her again. 

Sometimes the farmer’s teenage son and his friends would come into the barn, hanging around smoking some funny smelling stuff and laughing their fool heads off. One day Fergus noticed something the teens had left behind – shiny and glittering in the sun. He climbed down to investigate and discovered a long glass tube with a bowl attached to the end which contained remnants of something that looked like weeds. ‘Lunch!’ thought Fergus and began chowing down.

It wasn’t long before Justice heard Fergus’s excited giggles and went to see what nonsense the dimwit was up to. There he was, chasing his tail all around top of a well. Suddenly Fergus screamed ‘CANNONBALL’ and jumped into the deep well. Justice heard a tiny squeal followed by an almost imperceptible splash .. then silence. ‘Poor little twit’Justice muttered to himself and slowly walked back to the barn.

Alone now, Justice bid farewell to the barn. Along the way he met a young couple enjoying a picnic. Like a magician, the woman produced a piece of cheese. He gingerly took it, then ran off. 

Justice had been served.

Once he was far enough away, he sat down, nibbling happily on the cheese, staring at the wispy clouds. 

That day Justice had prevailed. 

300-500 Words

CHUNK ‘O BURNING LOVE


March 4, 2018

Out of chunky peanut butter again!”  Ralph had just woken up and all he wanted was a cup of black coffee and toast with chunky peanut butter. Was that too much to ask? Standing there in front of the open cabinet scratching his substantial stomach, he began searching the kitchen shelves but there was no chunky peanut butter to be found. Oh, there was creamy but nobody likes that crap except wusses and prissy women like his wife, Marge.

MARGE! WHERES THE GODDAMN CHUNKY PEANUT BUTTER?” He listened closely but got no reply. Probably at her stupid writing club…..as if she could ever be an author!”  

“Gotta do everything myself around here”  Ralph muttered as he got dressed and went out for his beloved chunky peanut butter. First stop – Acme Grocers. No luck. Shit!”  grumbled Ralph. On to Shoprite. Again no chunky peanut butter. Ralph was starting to get really pissed off, the hair on the back of his neck standing straight up. Another stop at Wegman’s….they have everything. There were all sorts of butters….peanut, almond, cashew, walnut, sunflower…..even that hoity toity natural stuff…..and it was all creamy!“Where’s my fucking chunky peanut butter?” – the words raged through Ralph’s pounding brain. 

“What is this .. a freaking conspiracy?”  Ralph started frantically searching the shelves, knocking all the jars onto the floor. Broken glass flew everywhere and Ralph yowled in pain as huge shards ripped into his hands. That’s when he completely lost control. Customers ran from the the store in a  panic as Ralph began morphing into The Incredible Hulk. He stormed out of Wegman’s and bounded down the street toward Walmart, ripping the doors off the store in his fury. 

People cowered in terror as Ralph trashed the store in his frenzied search. Just as he reached the peanut butter aisle, Ralph woke up in his own bed, sweating and panting. Oh, sweet Jesus! It was just a nightmare.”

Slowly Ralph got out of bed, splashed cold water on his face and shuffled into the kitchen. Marge came through the back door with an armful of groceries just as Ralph poured himself a cup of coffee. 

Then, as though off in a distant fog he heard Marge speaking in slow motion: “SORRY……RALPH…… THEY……WERE……OUT……OF……CHUNKY……PEANUT……BUTTER.” 

Ralph’s roar and Marge’s blood-curdling screams could be heard all the way down to Wegman’s.

300-500 Words

FORMULA FOR DISASTER


February 18, 2018

Eugene was a wreck – disheveled, bloodshot eyes, tired, hungry and freezing. He had been working in the lab nonstop throughout this sleety and wet January night, frantically perfecting the classified formula. He still had 500 small black-capped vials to fill, hide inside porcelain statues, pack in boxes and deliver to the storage facility before dawn. A TOP SECRET ASSIGNMENT, he was told.          

Just then the harried chemist was startled by a swift scurrying motion across the room. A rat? “Keep going – no time to dilly dally” he muttered to himself, choosing to ignore the unwelcome intruder. 

There it was again .. that scampering scurrying movement! Eugene glanced in the general direction of the noise, then did a double take, squinting. He removed his thick glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. Putting his specs back on, he slowly snuck a peek. On a shelf, partially hidden behind urns and sculptures, sat a leathery-skinned troll with enormous eyes and pointy ears. 

“Great”, Eugene mumbled. “Now I’m hallucinating.” 

“Working too hard, you are. Weebly, I am. Help, I can”, whispered the troll in a raspy voice. 

“What the…? This is insane!”

“Finish, you won’t. My help, you need. Watch.” Raising one scrawny finger, Weebly pointed to the formula and magically poured it into the vial, sealed it, carefully hid it inside a statuette and gently placed it in the box. Eugene was too stunned to move. 

Understand now, you do? Work together, we will. Four hands work better.” 

Despite his incredulity, Eugene realized this clever troll was his only hope to finish in time. Swiftly they got the job done. Eyeing the clock, Eugene saw he had ten minutes to carry the heavy boxes to the warehouse around the corner. 

Weebly’s help, you need. Too heavy, they are. Transport you, I will”, offered the sage intruder, but Eugene ignored him. Straining, he placed the boxes on a hand truck and walked toward the stairs. 

Beware the stairs! Frozen, they are!”

But unwisely he ignored Weebly’s warning. Struggling up the frozen stairs, Eugene’s feet suddenly flew out from under him and he lost his grip on the hand truck. He tumbled backwards, crashed into a shelf and knocked over a basilisk statue which crushed his skull, killing him instantly. The hand truck landed with an incredible THUD, spilling its shattered contents everywhere. 

“Listened, you should have” said the wizardly troll before scurrying away. 

Longer Stories

LAPIS LAZULI SKIES


Graphic by Peter Runfola

February 4, 2018

Arabic lanterns surrounded the palace high up in the hills of Qatar. Some were on the ground lighting the maze of pathways leading to the palace. Others dangled from the multi-layered eaves and swayed gently in the breeze, creating shadows that danced in the night. Still other lanterns stood atop the parapets, casting a diaphanous cloud over the entire fortress, encasing it in a shroud of the palest turquoise blue imaginable. And the largest lanterns of all were mounted on the high palace turrets, their glow reaching up to the heavens and down into the deep forest below. 

As enchanting as the palace looked on the outside, inside was filled with sorrow and despair. Within the great walls of the palace lived King Abdel, the royal family and a countless number of servants. King Abdel resided in the palace since the day of his birth, the first child born to his parents, King Aali and Queen Nuha. Tragically Queen Nuha died in childbirth, leaving her husband alone with their newborn son. Abdel was cared for by the queen’s wet-nurse and handmaids but King Aali was too heartbroken over the death of his only wife to take an interest in his newborn son. Burdened by anguish and grief, the king lost his will to live and he, too, died .. leaving the infant orphaned and King of Qatar. 

Abdel grew to be a strong and handsome man. He was a brave warrior and commanded a huge army of loyal soldiers.  Abdel married twenty-seven times, each wife lovelier than the last. Sadly, no children were conceived and Abdel was childless with no heir to assume the throne. At last, when Abdel was sixty years old his newest bride, Queen Yaffa, presented him with his first child .. Her Royal Highness Princess Fayruz, the Arabic name for turquoise – the color emanating from the palace lanterns as well as her incredible eyes. 

“By Allah, our Lord, to You belongs all praise. You are the Sustainer of heaven and earth. But could you not have given me a son?!” cried King Abdel in a combination of frustration and joy. 

But once Abdel looked at his daughter, he was enchanted .. besotted by her perfect beauty. Her skin was a warm mocha color, her downy hair just a shade darker and her eyes, like two turquoise gem stones, were bewitching. She was the treasure of the palace, worth more than any fortune in all of Qatar. 

Weeks turned into months and months into years and, as if ordained by the gods, Princess Fayruz remained the only child of King Abdel. She was a delight to everyone in the palace, loved by all from the cooks in the kitchen to the great advisors of the king. Having no siblings, she became friends with the children of the palace workers, all the while being groomed to one day assume the position of Queen of Qatar. 

Of all her many friends, her dearest one was Dabir, the son of the palace teacher. Dabir was a handsome boy with skin and hair the same color as Fayruz. And just like the princess, Dabir also had the most amazing eyes .. his a twinkling amethyst violet. All the children shared a classroom, played together and napped on cots in the large rest area. The princess’s handmaids were always with her but it was Dabir whom Fayruz would run to when she had a nightmare. The two children huddled together as Dabir calmed her fears. His tenderness and gentle spirit did not go unnoticed by the palace physician and it was decided that when he turned thirteen  Dabir would begin to study medicine. 

Dabir was an exemplary student and at the age of fifteen was ready to continue his studies at a university hundreds of miles away from the palace. The day of his departure was the saddest day in Fayruz and Dabir’s young lives and the two dearest of friends vowed to write to each other daily. Fayruz cried every night for two weeks after Dabir left but the arrival of his first letter brought her much happiness. They wrote each other frequently but as time went on the letters became few and far between as both became more involved in everyday life. 

Now Fayruz was seventeen and “High time that she be married”, declared King Abdel. Arrangements were made for princes from far and wide to call upon Princess Fayruz in the hope of winning her hand. She was a stunning beauty and all her suitors were smitten with her, but Fayruz was not interested in any of them. Two more years passed and still no husband was chosen by Fayruz. King Abdel was nearly eighty years old and his health was failing. He begged Fayruz to choose a husband so he could die in peace .. a bit of an exaggeration which was always King Abdel’s nature. 

As Abdel’s conditioned worsened, the palace doctor was at a loss to help him and other doctors were summoned to treat the king. Once again he pleaded with Fayruz to choose a husband and this time she acquiesced, promising to select someone by the end of the month. Perhaps love between her and her chosen one would come after marriage. 

The final week of the month arrived and Fayruz met with possible suitors while doctors examined the king. On the last day of the month Queen Yaffa rushed into her daughter’s drawing room to tell her the king was much improved and was asking to see her. Fayruz hurried to her father and as she approached his bed the doctor turned to bow before her. To Fayruz’s amazement the doctor was Dabir! Crying tears of joy, Fayruz and Dabir ran to each other, embracing – reunited after so many years. 

One month to the day Fayruz and Dabir were joined in marriage. That night King Abdel slept as peacefully as a newborn babe while the palace lanterns glowed in a delicate fusion of turquoise and amethyst. 

300-500 Words

GREAT GIG IN THE SKY


January 7, 2018

Well, I have a burning question. How many of us can honestly say we’ve seen God .. not just seen Him but had a full-blown conversation .. a religious experience replete with images and epiphanies? One, twenty, fifty, one hundred people, perhaps .. unless of course, while under the influence of mind-expanding, hallucination-inducing psychedelic drugs .. in which case the number would increase exponentially.

That is exactly what happened one night when a friend of mine emerged from his  bedroom after an hours-long LSD trip .. the squeaky clean beaming beacon of a national televangelist .. and announced to all in the living room, “I have just seen God and I now know the Pythagoreans were on to something.”

Being in various stages of synthetic delusion, our reactions ran the gamut from “Heavy, dude!” to “WTF?!” to fits of hysterical laughter. Undeterred .. although somewhat  unsteady.. my friend wound his way through the pillows strewn about the room and situated himself in the middle of the floor like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

All glazed-over eyes watching him, my friend went on to explain how God revealed to him that the followers of Pythagoras were extremely superstitious and mystical. They believed that the human soul was trapped in a continuous cycle of death and reincarnation ..  that although the body dies, the soul lives on, lying dormant in a constantly spinning dimension of the universe where it patiently waits to be catapulted back to earth, implanted into one form or another of the female species .. and is reborn. And this cycle of death and reincarnation can go on an infinite number of times.

Minds officially blown, we all agreed this new-found knowledge was indeed “heavy” and required more contemplation while listening .. again .. to Dark Side Of The Moon. But I, who was always somewhat preoccupied and frightened by the thought of dying and ceasing to exist for all eternity, wanted to learn more about this amazing concept. I found it calming, hopeful and profound. So my friend and I discussed this astounding, all-encompassing theory which I took fully to heart. Suddenly I was filled with a warm peace .. a divine intervention that the soul lives on, returning after mortal death. How ineffably  comforting.

Soon I found myself drifting off to sleep as Pink Floyd played softly in the background:

“I am not frightened of dying. Any time will do, I don’t mind.”

300-500 Words

THE HAUNTED WIND


October 29, 2017

Monastic specters floated seamlessly between the leafless trees of the old forgotten cemetery. Round-eyed owls hooted from crooked branches while huge black crows swooped in and perched on weathered headstones. Sensing their imminent demise, the Blind field Mice scurried to and fro, frantically searching for safety. Alas, not fast enough for that one pathetic rodent chasing his own tail. The crow snatched him up and carried him off into the darkness. The weak and small have no rights in this most dreaded of places. 

It wasn’t always this mist-enshrouded wind-swept graveyard. many years ago the cemetery was a pastoral spot surrounded by blossoming trees and shrubs.  It was lovely and visitors would come by frequently to pay their respects and linger for a while on a nearby bench. 

high on a hill above the cemetery stood the old Dutch church. The property was expansive with an outstanding view of the Hudson river. The focal point of the church Was the belfry with Its majestic wrought iron weathervane that could be seen for miles.

One stormy night In late October while parishioners were awaiting services for the feast of All Hallows’, a giant thunderclap boomed, followed by an enormous lightning bolt which struck the weathervane. The lightning coursed its way down to the belfry, Instantly setting it on fire. Within moments the entire church was engulfed in flames, imprisoning all inside. horrified townsfolk who were still outside tried valiantly to save their friends, to no avail. 

the wind blew sparks into the cemetery, setting the trees ablaze. the smoke was black, the air thick with an acrid stench. Those outside the church fell to their knees crying pitifully, covering their ears to block out the agonizing screams of the tortured. Finally, after what seemed an eternity in hell, the screams stopped and an eerie silence followed. 

Suddenly what was left of the church came crashing down, leaving nothing but a mountain of ashes and the grotesque twisted remains of the once glorious weathervane. 

forty seven souls perished that ghastly night. no bodies were found to be buried and The church was never rebuilt. eventually People stopped coming to the cemetery. the only denizens there now are the interred, the owls, the crows, the blind field mice and the forty seven specters seeking final rest. 

The haunted wind is eerily unsettling this Halloween eve……….or Is It the wind? 

300-500 Words

CHANCE ENCOUNTER


September 10, 2017

Waves of glorious flaxen hair rippled down her back, swaying and bouncing with every high-heeled, leggy stride she took.

Never one to shy away from attention, especially that of the male population, she confidently waltzed down Fifth Avenue toward Saks, stunning in red Manolo’s and a parchment white dress. 

Admiring looks didn’t intimidate her; quite the contrary. They titillated her, challenged her to be more daring and quite a bit risqué. It was all a game and she loved to play.

As she strolled the avenue, stopping to look in this window or that one, she noticed the reflection of a man leaning drowsily against a parked car. Accustomed to men looking her way, she thought nothing of it at first but found herself glancing at the reflection once again. Sliding her Ray Bans a little down her nose, she gave this mystery man’s image a furtive peek. Intriguing. 

Repositioning her glasses, she continued window shopping, collecting all the longing glances cast her way and storing them in her bag like so many colorful Easter eggs. Every so often she’d linger at a quaint little shop or gallery, acutely aware of her mystery man shadowing her along the way. Now this is getting interesting. Slowly she removed her shades and gave his reflection a long look. 

Why not? Slipping her sunglasses on, she turned around to a vision that caught her breath … from head to toe the epitome of elegance and charm. Black hair, tanned skin, charcoal grey pinstripe suit, crisp white shirt, black and silver Art Deco tie and Italian shoes … not black but the exact color of his suit. Nice touch.

She smiled. He smiled. She turned slightly, continuing on her way, no longer with a mysterious shadow – now with a companion to wherever. 

Every man wanted her. Every man wanted to be him.