500-750 Words

UNDER SIEGE

“Board the chopper immediately, Eliza! This is our last chance to make it out of here and get to our safe house on the island. Get in now, woman!” Sidney Longstreet screamed at his wife over the roaring of the helicopter blades.

Eliza glared at her husband; she’d had enough of his misguided and imperious representation of women as weak, mindless, shallow creatures in need of a man to rescue them from every situation, no matter how monumental or trivial.

“Year after year I’ve put up with your supercilious attitude. You’re a pompous idiot, Sidney, and I refuse to take orders from you ever again. You can take all your medals and degrees and honors and shove them up your ass!”

Sidney’s veins bulged out of his neck and his face turned purple. The bitch always had a facile tongue but this time she crossed the line, embarrassing him in front of his pilot, crew and most of all, his lovely secretary, Claire Bliss. His mind strayed briefly as he thought of Miss Bliss and how perfectly her name suited her. Did Eliza have any clue of their office dalliances? Well, the fuck if she did! Their very existence was now in jeopardy and he was getting out with or without his wife.

“How dare you talk to me that way! You were nothing but a guttersnipe from Liverpool when I first noticed you. I was the only one who saw a pittance of hope for you – even with your unintelligible Scouse accent hawking flowers on the docks.”

“Sidney, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss how you transformed me into a proper lady. As you keep pointing out, attack is imminent. I’m not leaving here so just take your darling Bliss with you and get the hell out of here. And by the way, I’m keeping the diamonds and furs. When this siege is over, I won’t need you or your money. Now go! I can just make out the sounds of their approach.”

Sidney barely glanced at Eliza as he slid closed the chopper door, giving the pilot the signal to take off. “She’s sealed her own fate. If they find her she’ll be done for. May God help her. Come Claire, sit beside me. You’re safe with me.” Despite everything, Sidney had to admit to himself that Eliza had more fortitude than he did.

Once the chopper was far enough away, Eliza could hear the invaders approaching. She ran into the house and bolted the door, quickly closing all the curtains and turning off the lights. She then entered a hidden wall panel and descended the three flights of stairs to the wine cellar, making sure all the doors were locked behind her.

The underground room was stocked better than delivery day at Tesco! Eliza could live comfortably there for months, perhaps even a year. In addition to all the food and drinks she could possibly need, there was a small stove, refrigerator, bathroom, a comfortable bed, television, internet, heaters and fans. Every amenity was at her disposal. All she had to do was stay calm and quiet.

As if that wasn’t enough, Sidney arranged for the construction of a tunnel which was a means of escape should any intruders make it through the three flights of metal doors into the wine cellar. Eliza patted the pocket of her jeans for the tenth time to make sure she had her cell phone.

She became aware of the faint sound of vehicles approaching and doors slamming. Eliza could hear muffled voices but couldn’t make out a single word. Suddenly there was pounding on the front door and she heard the bellow that made her blood run cold:

ELIZA! Lizzie, wer are ya? It’s yer dad and mam, Aunty Mimsy and yer cousins Beth, Maureen, Colin and Lil Mick come for the month. Are ya ‘ome? Did ya ferget we was comin’? Sid, ya bastard. Wer are ya?”

Eliza’s father turned to his wife and said “There be norra ‘ere and no sign o’ their cars.”

His wife shrugged indifferently. “Gorra cob on, Tom? Fancy a bit of brekkie in town then? I reckon we can come back later, see if they be ‘ere.’ If not we’ll just bugger off. Who needs ’em?”

“Yeah, sound one, Helen.” Tom spat on the ground. “LIZZIE! Wer are ya, yer fuckin’ Majesty?! We’ll be back!”

Eliza lit a cigarette, flipped on the radio and reclined on the bed. She had no illusions her low-life, demanding, unwelcome family gave a damn about her. She was nothing but their meal ticket. She also knew they’d get good and pissed at the local pub, eventually give up and head home to Liverpool.

Sidney would be in for quite a shock when he discovers the divorce papers waiting for him at the safe house. Eliza’s attorneys did their homework well and had plenty of dirt on Sidney; he’d never contest the divorce and she’d be living a very comfortable life – or perhaps she should say “Blissful”.

NAR © 2021

500-750 Words

REBEL WITH A CAUSE

“Come in here please, Connor!” I called out to my son.

Connor came bounding into the kitchen. “What’s up, Mom?”

“Have you seen the bag of frozen French fries and the burgers we just bought?”

“Not since we left the store. Aren’t they in that bag on the floor by the fridge with all the other frozen stuff?”

“No” I replied. “I just looked through the bag. Funny, I could have sworn they were right on top. You know, this happened the other day; Dad couldn’t find the box of donuts or the hot dogs.”

“Did you check the receipts, Mom?”

“Yes. Everything was listed, even the missing food. Dad said he was going to call Costco but I’m not sure he did. They obviously forgot to pack those items.”

“Yeah, that store was super busy; I can see how they might have overlooked something. Well, good luck, Mom. If I can help let me know.”

“Actually Connor, there is something you can do for me when you have a minute. There’s a box of old photos you can bring down from the third-floor storage room.”

“Sure, Mom, but I was heading over to Joey’s to play video games for a while. OK if I bring the box down when I get home?”

I gave him a “thumbs up”.

I texted my husband to see if he had called Costco; he replied with an eye-roll emoji and wrote that he totally forgot about calling. “OK, no worries. I’ll handle it” I texted back. Now to call the store about my dilemma.

After speaking to a couple of people and being put on hold several times, I was assured nothing was left behind at the store. The manager said I could bring in my receipts and they’d issue a refund. That was fine with me but it still didn’t explain what happened to our lost items.

When Connor came home, he went straight into the den to watch TV. “Excuse me, bud. Aren’t you forgetting something?” He looked at me with a blank face. “My photos?”

Smacking his forehead and groaning, Connor headed upstairs. “And don’t forget to walk the dog!” I called after him.

Not even a minute went by before I heard Connor yelling for me.

“Mom! Come up here – quick!”

I raced up the stairs.

“What’s wrong? Are you OK?” I asked nervously.

“I’m fine, Mom. I heard noises in here; check this out.”

We entered a guest bathroom which we never used.

“Look what I found” he said. Balanced on the edge of the bathtub was our missing bag of French fries – half-eaten.

“What’s going on here?”

“Take a look.” Connor drew back the shower curtain. Peering over the edge of the tub was our golden retriever, Rebel, moaning. Surrounding him were the empty packages of all our missing food. He look at us with those big sad doggy eyes.

“Oh, Rebel! What have you done?” I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. “You little thief! Poor baby. Sounds like you gave yourself a nasty bellyache. C’mon boy, let’s get you to the vet. It’s gonna be OK.”  

Rebel

NAR © 2021

Longer Stories

INSPECTOR MONTALBANO

The king is dead. Long live the king!

He really wasn’t a king; he was the mayor. Well, in truth, he wasn’t even the mayor. His name was Joe Montalbano and he was a royal pain in the ass.

Joe and his wife Pauline were one of the first couples to purchase a house on my street when they were built in 1960. They had a large piece of corner property – plenty of space for their precocious son Joe, Jr. to run around.

Joe was one of those guys who knew everyone and their business and they in turn knew him. A retired firefighter, there wasn’t a store owner, restaurateur or town official who didn’t know Joe. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus, the Kiwanis Club, the local beach club, the town pool, the Italian/American Society and the bocce team. He was a scout leader, coached Little League and marched in every parade. He also attended monthly town meetings and made his opinions known loud and clear. Joe had a lot of opinions.

Joe was the self-appointed inspector of our street. He would drive around in his maroon Bonneville doing 5 miles per hour checking every house for scofflaws. Now if Joe was doing this as some sort of community watch program to protect our little street, well that would have been fine. But that was not what motivated Joe. He was a busybody looking to make trouble wherever he could. Joe wasn’t happy unless he made his neighbors miserable.

If someone was doing a little home improvement, perhaps putting in a patio or cutting down a tree, that person better have a permit taped to the window and all the necessary papers in order. Joe would go out of his way to schmooze it up with the homeowners, make seemingly friendly small-talk and if everything wasn’t kosher, he’d sniff it out and report it to the town supervisor. Nice, right?

So, let’s say the poor schmo didn’t have a permit. He’d have to tear down any new construction he did on his own, apply for a permit and pay a hefty fine. Then if any new construction was approved, he’d have to hire someone to do the job and end up paying out the nose for work he could have done himself! But wait. If the construction wasn’t approved, then everything would come to a screeching halt anyway. And God forbid the building examiner found some unauthorized work that had been done years before; it would all have to come down. Good bye to that ‘illegal‘ den the family has been enjoying the last ten years. Thanks, Joe!

Once – and only once – I parked my car in front of my house facing the wrong direction. I wasn’t going to stay long; just enough time to use the bathroom and gather my dry cleaning. I couldn’t have been inside more than ten minutes when I noticed a police car out front. I ran outside but he cop was just pulling away and he had left me an unpleasant surprise – a ticket for “car facing wrong way while parked”. Who even knew that was a law? Apparently it is and I broke it to the tune of $150! Thanks, Joe!

Let’s talk about garbage for a minute. Collection days on my street are Monday and Thursday; we’re supposed to put our trash out in the morning on those days. God help the person who put their garbage out the night before! Good old snitch Joe would call the sanitation department. You can bet your sweet ass that person would get a serious reprimand and have to drag their trash back into the house. And if it happened again, a lovely fine would be doled out instead of a warning. Thanks again, inspector!

Everyone likes a little party occasionally, am I right? The Fourth of July, Super Bowl, graduation; these are times to celebrate. Invite some friends over, fire up the grill, have a few drinks, play a little music, talk, laugh, maybe even do some karaoke – that’s what people do at parties. Now, there’s a cut-off time for noise in the neighborhood; everything needs to end by 11:00 PM. So let’s say you’re on the front porch saying farewell to the last of your guests and it’s 11:08. Guess who pulls up in front of your house – Officer Krupke with his little ticket book and a big shit-eating grin, that’s who. “Is there a problem, officer?” you ask innocently. “Disturbing the peace by breaking the town noise ordinance” the cop replies as he taps his watch and hands you a summons. “You have a good night now.” You don’t have to ask who ratted you out; he must have all official phone numbers on speed dial.

That’s what Joe did; he went out of his way to make his neighbor’s lives miserable, all in the name of due diligence. Nice guy, that Joe.

So, years later when Joe finally kicked the bucket, everyone except the people who lived on our street went into mourning. The funeral was worthy of Vito Corleone! The fire department, the police department, the Knights of Columbus, the Kiwanis Club and the bocce team pulled out all the stops and paid for the biggest funeral with the longest limos, the most flowers and best catering the town could provide.

But our little street was cheerful as usual – not that we were necessarily happy that Joe was dead – oh, no no no! It was more a sense of relief knowing “Inspector Montalbano” wasn’t breathing down our necks … or anywhere else, for that matter.

Well, that sense of sweet relief lasted about a week. That’s when we saw the familiar maroon Bonneville crawling down the street at 5 miles per hour. And who was behind the wheel? Why, it was Joe, Jr.

The king is dead. Long live the king!

NAR © 2021

Musings

TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE

This is one job I would suck at!

Worker bees are the laborers of the behive. They are all female (figures!) and do not breed (fuck that!).

Their jobs include collecting the pollen and nectar, defending the hive, feeding the queen, drones and larvae, and making the wax (is that all?).

Because they work so hard during the busy season, a summertime worker bee will live for only about six weeks. Six weeks!! Maybe that’s a blessing in disguise.

Worker bees have a stinger but they can only sting mammals once and then they die (oh, the humanity!). They can, however, sting other insects over and over again to protect the hive (hell, yeah!).

That’s the only fun part! Die, bitches!! 🐝 😎

NAR © 2021

Longer Stories

WAYSIDE CHAPEL – My Childhood Memory

On February 11, 1960, Jack Paar famously walked off his show for a month at NBC. Paar abruptly quit The Tonight Show four minutes into programming after discovering that a joke of his that included the letters “W.C.”, meaning “water closet” (a polite term for a flush toilet) had been censored. As he left his desk he said, “I am leaving The Tonight Show. There must be a better way than this to make a living.”

Paar returned to the show on March 7, 1960, strolled onstage, struck a pose and looked right into the camera. “As I was saying”, he said “before I was interrupted.” Of course, the audience erupted in applause.

He continued, “When I walked off I said there must be a better way to make a living. Well, I’ve looked and there isn’t. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like Radio City. Leaving the show was a childish and perhaps emotional thing. I have been guilty of such action in the past and will perhaps be again. I’m totally unable to hide what I feel. It is not an asset in show business but I shall do the best I can to amuse and entertain you and let other people speak freely, as I have in the past. Any who are maligned will find this show a place to come and tell their story. There will be a rock in every snowball and I plan to continue exactly what I started out to do. I hope you will find it interesting.”

Jack Paar hosted The Tonight Show from 1957-1962. He took over the show from Steve Allen and then passed the comedic torch to newcomer Johnny Carson. At the time, Paar was called “The King of Late Night TV”. When Johnny Carson became host, he humbly settled for being called “The Prince of Late Night TV”. Paar retired in 1965. When asked why he didn’t do more television, he replied “I’ve said everything I want to say and met everyone I want to meet. Why hang around?” His trademark catchphrase was “I kid you not!”

As a teenager I remember coming across a book on one of the shelves in our living room called “I Kid You Not“; the author was Jack Paar. The infamous W.C. joke was in that book. Even as a teenager I roared with uncontrollable laughter as I read it, tears streaming down my face. I hope you will find the joke as funny as I did. Have some tissues ready for those tears of laughter!

THE HARMLESS W.C. JOKE THAT CAUSED ALL THAT TROUBLE

An English lady, while visiting Switzerland, was looking for a room for a more extended stay and she asked the schoolmaster if he could recommend any to her. He took her to see several rooms and when everything was settled the lady returned to her home to make the final preparations to move.

When she arrived home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a W.C. around the place. She immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him if there was a W.C. near the room.

The schoolmaster was a very poor student of English so he asked the parish priest if he could help in the matter. Together they tried to discover the meaning of the letters W.C. and the only solution they could come up with was the Wayside Chapel. The schoolmaster then wrote the following note to the English lady:

Dear Madam:
I take great pleasure in informing you that the W.C. is situated nine miles from the room that you will occupy in the center of a beautiful grove of pine trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding about 230 people and it is only open on Sunday and Thursday.
As there are a great number of people who are expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early although, as a rule, there is plenty of standing room. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number of people bring their lunch and make a day of it, while others who can afford to go by car arrive just in time. I would especially recommend that your ladyship go on Thursday when there is musical accompaniment.
It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat ordinarily occupied by one. It was incredible to see the expressions on their faces.
The newest attraction is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all the people since they believe it is a long-felt need. My wife is rather delicate and has trouble attending regularly.
I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by everyone. For the children there is a special time and place so they will not disturb the elders.
Hoping to have been of service to you, I remain,
Sincerely,
The Schoolmaster

NAR © 2021

Information in this post was compiled from the following sources:
“TV Acres Censorship & Scandals; Jack Paar’s Water Closet Joke on The Tonight Show”; Frogstrom “Jack Paar Walks Away”


500-750 Words

TASTY BALLS

“Mohammedan-owned Chinese/Tai/Himalayan/Middle Eastern/Indian restaurant – well, you certainly don’t see too many of those in Lancaster, Pennsylvania but there it is right in the heart of the downtown dining district. This meeting of culinary minds is definitely intriguing and what an original and humorous name –Tasty Balls’. That caught my eye and gave me a good laugh as I read about the new exotic fusion restaurant in the newspaper.

I wondered if my wife Judith intentionally left the paper on the kitchen table conveniently opened to the dining section for me to see. Judith has many fine attributes; subtlety is not one of them.

We met soon after I graduated college. I took a year off to backpack my way through Asia and the Middle East. Money was tight so I had to be frugal while traveling; that’s how I learned to find really good food at cheap prices.

While trekking through China, I stopped at a noodle and dumpling place. I was drawn to the sound of feminine laughter coming from the next table. There were two pretty blondes who looked to be around my age; I asked if I could join them and they agreed. Judith and Eunice were cousins from England on holiday. I hit it off quite well with Judith and we agreed to meet the next night for dinner. After that night we knew we wanted to be together and the rest, as they say, is history.

As I continued reading the article, I learned this new restaurant was operated by the same people who managed a nearby tea house called ‘The Barefoot Magpie’ – another place I’d never heard of. How can this be? I’ve lived in Lancaster all my life and thought I knew every place there was to eat. Obviously I haven’t been getting out enough lately.

What’s this? ‘Tasty Balls’ serves only one item: dumplings. What made it so special was the staggering number of varieties of dumplings on the menu. Now I knew without a doubt that Judith left this article here for me to stumble upon; she knows I am the world’s biggest sucker for dumplings!

Well now, let’s see what else the article says: “Extravagantly yet handsomely decorated … moderately priced … perfectly prepared dumplings … culinary delight.” My stomach rumbled and my mouth watered as I read a description of just a tiny sampling of dumplings offered at ‘Tasty Balls’: 

  • Jiaozi – A Chinese dumpling consisting of delicately sautéed ground meat and chopped vegetables wrapped into a thinly rolled dough-ball which is then fried to a golden brown or gently steamed.
  • Xiaolongbao – A Taiwanese delicacy, this steamed dumpling has meat and broth inside. The small, succulent orb is meant to be eaten whole; one bite and the fortunate diner’s mouth is filled with liquid ambrosia.
  • Momos – A staple from Tibet and Nepal, these delectable pouches are filled with yak, beef or chicken and have become an obsession with the patrons at ‘Tasty Balls’.
  • Shish Barak – Middle Eastern ravioli-like envelopes filled with seasoned lamb, onion and pine nuts, these piquant squares are boiled, baked or fried and served in a warm yogurt sauce with melted mint butter and a garnish of chopped cashew nuts.
  • Muthia – This Indian delight consists of chickpea flour, turmeric, chili powder, curry powder and salt bonded together with oil. Once shaped, these fritters can either be fried or steamed, depending on personal preference.
  • Luqaimat – Originally from Saudi Arabia, this luscious dessert translates into “small bites”. Found in many Middle Eastern countries, this is a treat of fried dough sweetened with date syrup and garnished with sesame seeds. With a scoop of pistachio ice cream, this is a delightful end to an unforgettable meal.

I suddenly realized the newspaper was wet; either I was salivating over the scrumptious description of dumplings or I was crying tears of joy that this heaven-sent restaurant was now located in little old Lancaster. Oh, what joy, what rapture!

Judith came into the kitchen, took one look at my face and asked “What in the world has come over you?”

Holding up the soggy newspaper I exclaimed “This – as if you didn’t know, you little minx! Tempting me with an article about delectable dumplings.  Well, it worked. It’s ‘Tasty Balls’ tonight!”

“Oh, I don’t think so, luv” Judith laughed. “That’s Cousin Eunice’s. She must have left it behind when she returned to the UK after her visit. That paper is from Lancaster, England!

If I had a sword I would have fallen on it.

NAR © 2021

Poems

PHAT ASS RAP

🎤  🎼 🎤 🎵 🎤 🎶 🎤

Weighed myself on the bathroom scale today.
I gained fifteen pounds. No goddamn way!
Eatin’ Dunkin Donuts – now what you gonna do?
With an ass that big no man will look at you.

Planned a two-week vacation in the land of Eritrea.
Lookin’ like a tub of lard they just might mistake ya
For an elephant, a rhino, or a hippo or a pig.
Why’d I ever let myself get so fucking big!

Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught in a trap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught like a rat.

Suppose I could put myself on a damn diet.
I really don’t wanna cos I know I won’t like it.
Why don’t I just get a pass to my local gym?
Hop right on the treadmill and get myself slim.

Lots of them gym rats look mighty hunky;
Maybe one or two will like a girl who’s chunky.
But working out will have me sweating like crazy.
Fact of the matter is I’m just too goddamn lazy!

Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught in a trap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught like a rat.

Got me a pair of some violet spandex pants
But I didn’t look like JLO when she does a sexy dance.
I looked like a balloon in the Christmas Day parade
Or a big fat ass clown in the penny arcade.

At the gym was some guy called Aristophanes,
All greased up and looking pretty as you please.
This guy was hotter than melting candle wax.
I wanna take him home, give his ass a few smacks.

Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught in a trap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught like a rat.

I started warmin’ up and I know I caught his eye
Cos he walked right up to me saying “My, oh my!
You are one fine mama in those pants so tight.
Let’s blow this joint and have some fun tonight!”

I said “Oh yeah, baby. You lookin’ mighty hot.
Come back to my place and show me what you got.”
But when we got home he couldn’t get my pants off
He was a-huffin’ and a-puffin’ like Sir Peter Ustinov.

Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught in a trap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! The phat ass rap.
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m caught like a rat.

My ass got so big it filled up my recliner
And here I was thinkin’ I looked even finer
Than Kim Kardashian and her big ass sister too
But I was plenty wrong! Oh, what’s a girl to do?

Now wait just a minute – there still may be some hope.
That guy called Aristophanes thought I looked so dope.
I’ll go back to the gym in spandex all a-glitter
And this time they will have a nice long zipper!

Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Let’s cut out all this drama!
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I’m a phat ass mama!
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Let’s cut out all this drama!
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Just call me when you wanna!

🎤  🎼 🎤 🎵 🎤 🎶 🎤

NAR © 2021

500-750 Words

BURNING MAN

John and his friend Danny at the grill

We’ve all heard the expression “Where there’s smoke there’s fire”. Well, if you were ever around the vicinity of Hawkins Street on City Island in The Bronx, particularly 50-something years ago, you’d agree that statement is true.

You see, back then John and Gertrude and their four kids lived on Hawkins Street in a cute little white saltbox house with blue trim – emphasis on little as are most houses on City Island, many of which were originally built of wood from dismantled ships. The main entrance to the house was a glass enclosed front porch maybe about five feet deep and 20 feet wide. Inside the porch was a door that led to the living room; for some reason no one ever used the front door. Everyone entered through a side door near the back of the house down the driveway – probably because it was easy to just get out of the car and walk a few feet to the side door.

That side door opened onto a long narrow unheated porch where Gertrude would store fruits and vegetables and other sundry food items. The porch ran almost the entire length of the house and opened directly into the kitchen. From there, heading toward the front of the house, you’d find the dining room, a small step up into the living room and the previously mentioned front porch. A staircase leading to the second floor was situated between the living room and dining room. Upstairs were two bedrooms and single bathroom for six people. One bedroom was John and Gertrude’s; the other was shared by their four kids. The three boys had the main area and their sister’s “room” was a small section off the boy’s room that was originally a closet. The only entry into the girl’s bedroom was through her brother’s room – certainly not much privacy. The house had no attic, basement or any other storage area.

To say the house was “cozy” is an understatement but they managed. It was a happy house and it served them well.

John worked for the New Haven Railroad at the Hunts Point Terminal Market, the largest wholesale produce market in the United States. One of the perks of John’s job was he got to bring home leftover fruit, vegetables and other items that got left behind or “fell off the trains” – a real bonus for a family of six living on one income. Whatever John brought home, Gertrude didn’t have to buy at the grocery store and could spend a bit more on meat and other staples. Gertrude knew how to stretch a dollar and once in a while the family would enjoy a nice steak. There was a cute little dog named Fluff who lived across the street. He’d come running whenever John lit the grill and waited patiently till the end of the meal for the steak bones. If there was one thing John really enjoyed it was getting a good fire going in the old grill.

Gertrude had a clothesline that ran from the back of the house across the yard to the opposite side where it was attached to a section of the wooden mast from the America’s Cup contender “Vanitie”. Hauled up at Jacob’s Shipyard on City Island, “Vanitie” had been dismantled and stripped of everything, even her bowsprit. Nothing remained but the hull and mast of the once beautiful sloop; how that section of the mast ended up in the backyard at 93 Hawkins Street was a mystery to the family but it sure was a conversation piece. Surrounding the mast were a number of cherry and fig trees and an assortment of bushes. Off to the side was an old shack which was barely standing.

One day John decided it would be an easy and enjoyable task for a fire-lover such as himself to get rid of the shack by burning it piece by piece on the grill instead of dismantling the whole thing and lugging all the pieces of wood and shingles to the junkyard. After all, he burned all the detritus in the garage – why not the shed?

The smell was terribly acrid and the amount of smoke was enough for neighbors to call the fire department several times until they finally realized it was just John burning pieces of the shack. Some men spent their spare time constructing additions to their houses; John incinerated dilapidated outbuildings of his house. Fire is mesmerizing and he was getting the job done, albeit in an unconventional manner.

Over the course of several months that old shack gradually disappeared. On the last day of the sacrifice by fire, John got a bit carried away and loaded up the grill with the last remaining pieces. Well, I think you can guess what happened next.

The flames grew higher and one spark leapt up and kissed Gertrude’s clothesline, setting it and all the drying laundry ablaze. The fire continued down to the end of the line, igniting the trees and a few surrounding bushes; somehow the old resolute mast miraculously escaped damage. Hearing Fluff barking his head off, Gertrude looked out the window to see John desperately trying to salvage what he could of the backyard. Billowing clouds of dark smoke filled the sky above Hawkins Street and beyond.

Gertrude ran to the phone to call the fire department; so did a dozen other people. Thank goodness they didn’t simply think “Oh, that’s just John at the grill again”. The fire trucks arrived in time to salvage what was left of the yard. The same, however, could not be said for John’s sorely wounded pride.

Fifty-plus years later and we’re still talking and laughing about my father-in-law John’s adventures at the grill.

NAR © 2021

Vanitie

While I may have exaggerated the facts a bit, there no denying that this story was truly written in loving memory of my father-in-law and mother-in-law John and Gertrude Richy, both taken from us much too soon. My affection for them could never be exaggerated. ❤️

The annual Burning Man Festival is traditionally held from the end of August through Labor Day which is why I chose this date to publish my story.

Longer Stories

MAXIMUS OVERDRIVE

Maximus Gluteus caught a glimpse of his reflection on a sheet of polished tin which his wife Labia used as a mirror. He had really let himself go! He was a disgrace, not just to himself but the entire world of gladiators.

Originally known as Maximus Biceptis, he was no longer the god-like hero of the stadium. Where was that former champion of the amphitheater? Gone were the defined, well-built curves visible through his tunic, the muscles straining against the fabric at the forearms, biceps and chest. His sculpted calves, broad back and wide neck were flaccid, as were other parts of his anatomy which Labia was quick to point out.

Maximus was not only popular with the general public; he was greatly admired by the Roman emperor Sartorius. He won many battles against highly skilled adversaries. Sartorius was particularly impressed by his heroics and rewarded him with more palaces and riches than he could have asked for. Sartorius went so far as to give Maximus his prized solid gold chariot and team of Berber horses.  

If anyone knew how to have a good time it was the worshipers of Bacchus, the god of wine. Maximus and Labia threw lavish Bacchanalia where debaucheries of every kind were practiced freely and enjoyed by all. Members of the cult would spend uninhibited all-nighters dancing, watching circus performers, feasting on fattening foods and decadent desserts, engaging in wild sex and, of course, drinking themselves into a stupor. Surfeited with too much wine, they could be awoken only by the cacophony of the servants crashing cymbals.

Labia, a once-famous gladiatrix, was considered an exotic rarity by her audience. Attempting to maintain her impressively athletic yet feminine physique, she exercised frequently in the gymnasium and swam in the warm baths. Maximus, however, had become lazy and spiritless. He encamped himself in the large atria overlooking the Mediterranean, reclining for hours on end in the lavish gardens which had been planted with olive and fig trees, grape orchards, almonds, walnuts and chestnuts, oranges and tomatoes, etc.

Maximus reveled in the good life, lying on his chaise lounge listening to poetry while the palace harpist played softly. Naked dancing nymphs performed for him, slaves fanned him with exquisite peacock feathers and beautiful servant girls fed him cheese, pheasant, figs dipped in honey, meaty chestnuts and wine. A life of gluttony and pleasure suited Maximus; he was a well sated man.

Maximus became so fat, Labia refused to have sex with him. Even his concubines were repulsed by him but knew they had to do the deed or risk being executed. It got so bad, the poor girls resorted to pulling straws to see who would share their master’s bed. The ladies, however, had little to fear; most nights Maximus was so drunk he was in no condition to get it on.

It didn’t take long before Labia began spending more and more time away from the palace. She would go for long walks along the seashore with her beloved greyhounds, Laconia and Molossia. It was during one of those walks that Labia first laid eyes on the newest and most popular gladiator who recently transferred to Rome – Maximus Erectus.

He was quite a sight to behold, especially when exercising naked on the beach. To say that he was well-built was an understatement. Erectus was perfection from head to toe. Tall, blond and powerfully built, sinewy muscles rippled down his arms and legs and across his Herculean back and chest. He was broad-shouldered with a flat, rock-hard abdomen. His body was bronzed from the sun and glistened with sweat. He was one ripped Roman.

Labia stared transfixed at the spectacle before her; even the dogs sat in quiet attention. Finishing up his routine, Erectus ran toward the sea, jumped into the waves and swam for a while. When he came out, he spotted Labia standing on the beach watching him. Without any hesitation or embarrassment, he walked directly to her. Smiling broadly, he reached down and patted Laconia and Molossia, laughing as they responded by happily wagging their tails. Labia’s tail had already begun to wag.

The two struck up a conversation. All the while they were speaking Labia’s eyes kept drifting down toward Erectus’ magnificent member which seemed to take on a life of its own. When Labia mentioned she, too, enjoyed exercising and swimming, Erectus commented that she looked like she was in terrific shape and invited her to join him on the beach whenever she desired a partner.

Now, there’s no denying Labia had a few years on Erectus, but she was still firm and supple. She decided to join him on the beach the following week; it wasn’t long before the duo became partners in every way.

Labia packed her bags and left Maximus Gluteus for her new lover. Tossing everything into the golden chariot, she clicked her tongue and the team of Berbers trotted off. Labia laughed gaily as she shouted, “So long, you big fat ass!”

But Maximus Gluteus was too drunk to hear her.

Footnote: Emperor Sartorius had a dream that he would be overthrown. He consulted the wisest philosophers and dream interpreters who all agreed this would indeed be his fate. Fearing torture and a slow death at the hands of his enemies, Sartorius made it known that should such an uprising occur, Maximus Gluteus was to be summoned to execute him; he trusted Maximus would end his life as quickly and painlessly as possible. Sartorius was eventually overthrown and Maximus was called. However, since Labia had absconded with the golden chariot, Maximus had no choice but to travel to Sartorius’ palace on foot. Alas, his massive weight slowed him down so much, Maximus did not arrive in time to save Sartorius from an excrutiating death. Due to that unfortunate event, the expression “Lardum Asina” came about. Today we know it as “Lard Ass”.

NAR © 2021

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500-750 Words

REVENGE IS SWEET

I don’t really think of myself as a thief; I’m more of what you’d call an “exchanger“. Has a nicer ring to it, doesn’t it?

See, here’s the deal: I take other people’s lunches from the refrigerators at work and replace them with mine. That’s not really stealing; it’s more like sharing without the other person knowing – kind of like a one-sided Secret Santa.

I’m a terrible cook. The staples in my house usually consist of protein bars, crackers, peanut butter, and microwave popcorn. Even if I could cook, I don’t make enough money in my nowhere job to stock up on the kinds of foods I like to eat.

My job is to deliver the mail to the different departments for the company where I work. There are 15 floors in the building and each floor has two kitchens where the employees can eat their lunch, so I have 30 refrigerators to look through every day. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s pretty easy to get away with if you do it right.

So far I’ve been lucky; I haven’t been nabbed taking anyone’s lunch. And, as I said, I always leave something in its place. Of course, it’s usually a protein bar or peanut butter on crackers but it’s something.

You wouldn’t believe some of the food people bring in for lunch – leftover veal parmigiana with pasta and salad, a nice piece of steak with vegetables, a giant roast beef sandwich – I’m talking real food! One day somebody brought in an entire rotisserie chicken with biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy – the whole nine yards!

I’m not allowed to leave the mail cart unattended; I could lose my job over that. I put my meager lunch on the bottom rack of the mail cart and when no one’s around I go into one of the kitchens and make a quick switcheroo. I always have my water bottle with me so it just looks like I’m in the kitchen refilling my bottle. Unless someone is watching me, there’s no way to know it’s me swapping out the lunches.

The trick is not to look out of place which isn’t hard because no one ever pays attention to an insignificant nobody like me. I’m practically invisible. I’d be shocked if anyone at work knew my name. I’m just “the mail guy”.

I casually wheel the mail cart into the kitchen, snatch something from the fridge and fill my water bottle. I hightail it out of there, leave that floor and head to a different kitchen where I heat up my pilfered lunch. After that I walk to a park by the water. Lots of people eat at the park and nobody knows me. If it’s raining, then I just eat lunch in my old Dodge in the company parking garage. People are constantly coming and going in that garage so I’m just another face in the crowd

My second job at Bob’s Barbecue Pit is where I eat dinner. The pay isn’t great but Bob’s an okay guy; he knows we’re all struggling and he lets us eat for free.

On Friday everything went off without a hitch. I grabbed a lunch, skedaddled outta there and headed for the park. Lunch was great – turkey, Swiss and avocado on a roll, a bag of chips and the biggest brownie I’d ever seen. Just as I was about to toss my garbage, I noticed the name “Chris Phillips” on the bag. Thank you, Chris, for a delicious lunch!

I finished the afternoon rounds, then headed over The Pit but I wasn’t even half-way there when my stomach started churning and I began getting bad cramps. I knew I had to get to a bathroom fast so I decided to go home. I made it just in time! I had the worst diarrhea ever! I spent Friday night and Saturday in the bathroom and all of Sunday recuperating. That’s when I realized it had to be the brownie! I bet Chris took a chance that his lunch would be swiped and he loaded the brownie mix with Ex Lax.

That rat bastard! This called for retaliation!

All week long I thought about how I could get back at Chris, but was it really worth it?    

Maybe it was time for me to move on, try to find a better job, earn more money.

Or maybe I could find the perfect payback for that weasel Chris. After all – I do like my sweets and revenge is the sweetest of all!

NAR © 2021

300-500 Words

SPREAD ‘EM

When I became pregnant with my first baby in 1977, my husband Bill and I were over the moon! We were thrilled and dove headfirst into the whole pregnancy phenomenon – buying furniture and clothes and setting up a nursery. At the time I was 26 years old, weighed 105 pounds and stood 5’4” tall.

Throughout my pregnancy I craved barbecued hamburgers, fresh tomatoes and hot fudge ice cream sundaes every day. After nine months, I gained a whopping 72 pounds and at some point had to remove my rings because my fingers were getting swollen.

Who cared if pregnancy gave me cankles and made my fingers swell? It also made my boobs huge and turned me into a nymphomaniac – a little perk my husband didn’t mind one bit! Besides, as soon as the baby was born I’d lose the weight. I thought I’d immediately jump back into my tiny Jordache jeans and halter tops. How naive I was! It came as quite a shock to discover I could only fit into maternity clothes. I suddenly didn’t feel quite so sexy anymore!

A couple of weeks after the baby was born, we were invited to a Christmas Eve party. It had been a while since we’d been out so I was looking forward to slipping into my fanciest maternity outfit and sliding my rings back on. I wanted to look pretty and festive and it seemed like a good idea at the time but no sooner was my sizeable wedding ring back on when my finger began to swell. Before my eyes it tripled in size and went from various shades of pink to red to finally a pulsating, throbbing blueish purple. And it started to hurt like a son of a bitch, too.

I immediately ran cold water over my hand but the ring wouldn’t budge. Bill filled a bowl with water and ice and I soaked my hand until I lost all feeling. No luck. We tried scrubbing with lots of soap and water – nothing. We dragged out every sort of lubricant we could think of from WD-40 to KY Jelly to olive oil. We even tried the “string thing” (don’t ask; that’s another story). Bill lovingly suggested I try to relax and take deep breaths while he pulled on the ring. I screamed at him to “fuck off” because “This wasn’t Lamaze Class and I felt like I was giving birth again.” Nothing worked. I was now in agony and convinced my finger would eventually shrivel up, die and fall off.

There was only one thing left to do. I told Bill to take the baby to the party while I went to the hospital. Hopefully they’d give me a shot to reduce the swelling. When the nurse noticed my maternity clothes, she told me I was in the wrong department and directed me to Labor and Delivery. I indignantly informed her that I wasn’t pregnant and showed her my ever-expanding finger; she immediately dragged me into one of the rooms in EMEREGENCY.

Doogie Howser, M.D. and his assistants took one look at my digit, gasped and scratched their heads. When you’re on the receiving end of that horrified reaction coming from professionals trained to remove knives lodged in skulls, it’s not a good feeling. Excusing themselves, the doctors stepped out of the room, consulted for ten seconds and returned with the verdict: “We have no choice but to cut it off”.

“MY FINGER??” I gasped.

“No, silly. The ring” they laughed. “We’re going to get Jerry and Ares. If they can’t cut it off, no one can” replied one doctor who immediately regretted his choice of words.

And who, may I ask, are Jerry and Ares?”

Jerry is our top custodian and Ares is the strongest 8” mini bolt cutter in his toolbox.”

Within minutes Jerry appeared; a sparkling red tool which I was pretty sure was Ares dangled prominently from his belt. I was also pretty sure Jerry had just smoked a joint but, hey, he was the best and given my predicament, beggars can’t be choosers. Jerry examined my finger, made all sorts of grumbling noises and proceeded to sterilize Ares before he scrubbed up.

At last the moment of truth arrived. Jerry told me to turn my hand palm facing up and “spread ‘em”. I assumed he meant my fingers and did as instructed. Jerry made the Sign of the Cross, kissed Ares and with the precision of a neurosurgeon gently slid Ares between my skin and my ring.

One loud “snip” was all it took for the back of my ring to be cut in half. Jerry broke out his mini pliers and separated the ring enough to remove it from my finger. We all let out a collective sigh of relief. Tragedy averted.

In case you’re wondering, I never got the ring repaired. It sits in my jewelry box as a reminder that even though it may seem like a good idea at the time, that isn’t always the case.

Ares

NAR © 2021

500-750 Words

THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER

“Cloak and Dagger and a dozen oysters on ice” was the order placed by a vaguely familiar voice in the corner.

Her interest piqued, Judy Lowe leaned in a bit to get a better look. Where had she heard that voice before? Finding it a little too dim to see, she decided to go over and check out the situation. Taking her Bloody Mary with her, Judy casually strolled to the end of the bar and wriggled her curvaceous bottom onto the stool.

“Pardonne-moi” Judy cooed. “The name of your drink is tres intriguing.” The man was older than Judy expected but extremely handsome with silver hair and a rich tan. “Has anyone ever mentioned you look like Cary Grant?” she asked smiling flirtatiously.

Never” he replied in a clipped Bristol accent as he gazed appreciatively at Judy’s decolletage. “Ah, yes. The Cloak and Dagger: the perfect blend of Blackwoods Gin from the Shetland Islands, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, green chartreuse and Extra Brut sparkling wine. It’s the quintessential pairing with oysters.

“I’m Judy Lowe, a model from Los Angeles. And you are?”

“Enchanté, Judy. My friends call me Archie” and he gently kissed the palm of her hand.

Judy gasped; no man had ever kissed the delicate flesh of her palm. It was so European and sexy.

“Archie, would you mind terribly if I had a little sip of your Cloak and Dagger?” Judy asked. ‘A friend once told me the perfect drink with oysters is a Bloody Mary and I’d like to see who’s right.”

“Oh Judy, Judy, Judy! Whoever told you that was obviously terribly mistaken or an uneducated boor” Archie teased. “No, you may not have a sip of my drink; you shall have your very own. Barkeep! Please prepare a perfect Cloak and Dagger for the lovely Judy Lowe from Los Angeles.”

When the bartender set the drink before Judy, she clapped her hands in glee like a little girl and reached for the glass but Archie stopped her.

“Oh, no, my dear. This must be done right! It’s a process. First slide the oyster into your mouth and savor the taste. Delight in the pleasure; it should never be rushed. Now, follow with a sip of the Cloak and Dagger and let the juices mingle. That’s a good girl. Now swallow.”

Judy was in ecstasy. Never had she experienced anything so sensual. “Oh my God, Archie! That was heavenly.”

“Let’s raise our glasses, lovely Judy, to the noble oyster and the Cloak and Dagger. May they be forever immortalized as the true nectar of the gods!”

Archie stood and kissed Judy’s palm. “And now, my dear, I must bid you adieu.” He flipped his hat onto his head, tapped the brim and left.

When Judy came back down to earth she discovered a folded piece of paper in her hand. Gently she peeled back the corners to find it was a cocktail napkin on which was scribbled: “Dearest Judy: The world is your oyster. Always, Cary.”

July slowly exhaled. “Well, I’ll be damned!”

Archie aka
Cary Grant

NAR © 2021

250 Words

TALKING ‘BOUT FIREWORKS, BABY!

Nights in Manhattan. The bright lights of Broadway. The fusion of fragrances emanating from the legion of restaurants. The cacophony of languages of millions of immigrants. The Big Apple – excitement and diversity down to its core.

So how the hell did I end up in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, hopelessly in love with my Amish husband Eli, married for four years with three kids and twins in the oven?

Good old revenge. I wouldn’t “play ball” with my boss so instead of being assigned to photograph Macy’s July 4th Fireworks I was banished for a month to cover the “Plain People’s” Summer County Fair.

What I thought was going to be a nightmare was quite the opposite. When the handsome, lusty Eli Fisher and I locked eyes, it was “Grossfeelich” – a “good feeling” from head to toe and all parts in between.

Being accepted into the Amish community, let alone marrying, is difficult but Eli and I had a few things going for us. I was a city girl but I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty. We weren’t kids. Most Amish were married before age 20; Eli and I were both 26.

But the clincher was the serendipitous aspect of my name: Menno Jakob.

Menno Simons and Jakob Ammann were the most revered men in the Amish religion. The elders were convinced I was descended from them when I was actually an Italian Jew from Canarsie.

That secret was ours alone for I was perfectly “oll recht” as far as Eli was concerned. I was his “little firecracker” .

Talking ‘bout fireworks, baby!

NAR © 2021

Poems

FRENCH KISSING LIFE

There is a place somewhere called Paris
And I’m going there on vacation today;
A city where every useless worry or care is
Forgotten and carelessly tossed away.

I don’t need to see the Eiffel Tower
Or pray at Cathédrale Notre-Dame.
I’d happily pick a delicate wildflower
Or caress a charming man’s arm.

I’d love to stroll through Pére Lachaise,
Have a chat at the grave of Jim Morrison.
I’d play him some tunes like Jimi’s “Purple Haze’’,
Just dishing the dirt with that sexy rapscallion.

You won’t catch me near the Seine for dinner;
Much too highbrow and touristy for me.
Seat me at a bar with the saint or the sinner;
We’ll close the place down at quarter past three.

Mona Lisa is enigmatic in a gilt frame so fine
But the thought of the Louvre is a total bore.
I’d rather be laughing in a park drinking wine
Or sharing a smoke on a bench with a whore.

I’ve got nothing to hide; it’s far from a secret:
When it comes to Parisian men I’m a big flirt.
The playboys in the square whisper “Come, be my pet”
And I purr “Oui, oui, mon cheri! Who will it hurt?”

There is a place somewhere called Paris
And I’m going there on vacation today.
I’ll give life a sultry lingering French kiss;
When I’m in Paris I like to do things my way.

NAR © 2021

Longer Stories

SHOULD HAVE GONE FOR PIZZA

“End of the Line. What a clever name for a seafood restaurant!” declared my mother as we rode down Main Street in Sag Harbor. “Let’s stop for dinner, Mark. I’m starving.”

My sister Mckenzie, brother Jake and I exchanged looks and rolled our eyes. Going to a restaurant with our parents was our least favorite part of vacation.

“Sure, Jan. Looks like a nice little place!” my Dad readily agreed, as usual. “Whaddya say, kids?”

“Why don’t you drop us off at the pizza place and we can meet you back at the hotel?” I suggested knowing that idea would never fly.

“Rebecca Grace, this is the first summer vacation we’ve taken in years and we’re going to dinner as a family. There’ll be no further discussion, is that clear?”

Why do mothers always use our first and middle names when they’re cross with us? That conversation ended exactly as I knew it would but dammit it, I had to try for my sake and my siblings. Being in the company of our parents 24/7 sucked. We have dinner with them back home every night. We’re teenagers; we can handle pizza or burgers on our own once in a while – and some Mike’s Hard Lemonade! (You didn’t hear that from me!)

The restaurant was actually pretty nice – nothing fancy and it was right on the water. Even I had to admit it had potential. The proof would be in the pudding and by that I meant the menu. Mom was the pickiest eater on the planet and Dad, God bless him, had the patience of a saint. My sister, brother and me? Not so much.

First thing my eternally hormonal brother noticed was the pretty young waitresses in their tight white t-shirts and even tighter khaki shorts with “FORE” and “AFT” emblazoned respectively.

“Yeah, baby, this place is a bit of alright” Jake said, practically drooling over a cute redhead who smiled flirtatiously at him. Mckenzie laughed so hard she nearly choked on a breadstick and said “When did you turn into Austin Powers? You’re such a dickhead!”  I thought that was pretty hysterical coming from a 13-year-old. Jake gave her the finger under the table and Mom gasped “Mckenzie Faith! I swear sometimes the devil himself resides in that mouth of yours! Mark, why do you let them watch those nasty foreign movies?”

Dad was nonplussed and mumbled something that sounded like an apology even though he had no idea what he was apologizing for! He was just trying to avoid an unpleasant scene.

Much to Jake’s chagrin one of the head waitresses came over to our table. She wore black pants, a white blouse, a black vest and looked more like Sister Rosetta Stone than Emma Stone! She asked if we were ready to order; Mom gave her standard reply which we all silently recited, our noggins bouncing back and forth like those little bobble-head dolls on car dashboards: “Everything looks so delicious, I just can’t decide! You all go ahead and order first. I’ll be ready by the time you’re done.”

Dad ordered first: “I’ll have the salmon with mixed vegetables and a Sam Adams, please.” BAM! Four seconds flat.

Jake said he’d have the pizza. The waitress pointed out the window to Sag Pizza then announced that ‘our pizza is on the kid’s menu and available only to children aged 10 and under”. She jokingly asked if Jake was 10 years old. I couldn’t resist replying that he only behaved like a 10-year-old but he was really 15. Jake hid behind a menu, his face turning as red as pizza sauce.

Giving Jake a chance to cool down, the waitress asked “How about you, girls? Do you know what you’d like to eat?”

Mckenzie and I answered in unison: “Fried shrimp, waffle fries, iced tea and extra ketchup, please.” BAM! Five seconds flat.

Recovering from his embarrassment, Jake sullenly said “Fish sticks, onion rings and a Coke.” BAM! Two seconds!

Shocker of shockers: Mom wasn’t quite ready! Flustered, she said “Oh, my! That was awfully fast! Let’s see” and she buried her head in the menu which the rest of the family had now committed to memory. Finally her recitative began:

“You know, I’d really love to try that soft-shell crab sandwich but I remember when I was a little girl I ate one and the shell wasn’t soft
at all. I’ve never forgotten that;
very traumatic! Tiny shards of shell getting stuck in my throat!
How’s the blackened swordfish? Is it spicy?
I just can’t tolerate spicy foods.
Delicate constitution, you know?
Sometimes they say it’s not spicy when it really is
so you can’t be too careful.
Uh, sushi? Definitely not! Anyone who eats raw fish
is asking for trouble.
You have to be out of your mind to order that horrid stuff,
no offense.
Oh, now, this looks promising: grilled tuna, but it comes with a horseradish sauce.
Why does everything come with some kind of sauce?
Seems all the rage lately.
I’m not so sure how I feel about that – almost like they’re trying to
cover something up”
(and she laughed at the little joke she just made).
Hmm, baked potato or rice? All those useless carbs!
Can I substitute something healthy and gluten free,
maybe green beans or a salad but no cucumbers, croutons,
onions or dressing?
And absolutely no horseradish sauce!
Oh, yes, water to drink, with a lemon wedge, please.
Not a wimpy slice; a nice big wedge. Yes, that’s what I’ll have.
Thank you, ma’am.”

And she handed the menu back to the waitress whose eyes had glazed over five minutes ago – much like Luca Brasi who sleeps with the fishes.

The blessed waitress, who was even more patient than Dad, innocently suggested Mom try the plain grilled tuna on a bed of fresh salad greens to which Mom replied “Oh, goodness me! I didn’t even see the salad section on the menu. Why don’t you bring everyone their drinks and I’ll just give the menu another look?” I think we all died a little just then.

Jake grumbled “Should have gone for pizza” and we sat there contemplating the scrumptious Sag Pizza right across the street and another two weeks of meals just like this one – all except Mom who still had her head stuck in the menu.

Dad discreetly motioned for the bartender to keep the fortifying Sam Adams coming. Way to go, Dad!

It was gonna be a long night.

End of the Line

NAR © 2021

Poems

KATHMANDU DÉJÀ VU

The other day I got some news that threw me for a loop;
I felt like a headless chicken running ‘round the chicken coop.

You see, I met this awesome guy who made me lose my mind.
A handsome man so witty and sexy can be awful hard to find.

We both had friends from childhood days who knew us oh so well.
They figured if we two hooked up we’d get along rather well.

My friend called me and his called him and we agreed upon a date
To meet at Charlie’s Ribs and Ale next Friday night at eight.

Well, I was pretty keen on the idea of meeting someone new;
The last few dates I had were dull as hell and that would never do

See, I’m the kind of girl who likes to go out and have some fun.
A couple of hours with some boring dude would have me on the run.

I’m really not high maintenance, I just need some stimulation;
The kind that gets my juices flowing and speeds up my circulation.

I know you know what I’m referring to; I can see it in your eyes.
I want a man who knows what’s what, the hows and whens and whys.

So, there I was at Charlie’s, me and my friend waiting for our dates
When in walked these cool guys who made me want to masturbate.

They came straight to my table and I knew right off the bat
This blue-eyed, bearded devil was a curious kind of cat.

He looked at me and I at him and our eyebrows began to rise;
When we thought perhaps we knew each other almost all our lives.

We’d no idea that this blind date would not be so blind at all
For although we thought we knew each other we couldn’t quite recall.

In fact, we never took the time to learn each other’s names.
Our paths crossed countless times before as kids playing kiddie games.

Yeah, we were nameless friends in school in days from way back when.
We even went to church at times, seeing each other now and again.

We attended the same college where we learned a thing or two
But we never said “Hey, what’s your name? I think I may know you!”

Now here we were having loads of fun, hitting it off like two peas in a pod;
But the incredible fact that we sorta knew each other was really very odd. 

The night flew by, we ate and drank; this guy could talk the talk
And deep inside my womanly mind I knew he could walk the walk.

So, I took a wild chance and asked him to come back to my place;
He looked at me, eyes twinkling and a roguish grin upon his face.

We tried to act all nonchalant, no need to rush the night.
He said he was a poet; I said “No kidding? I like to write!”

We sat real close on my old couch and he said “Tell me, what’s your sign?”
I turned to him, said “Pisces” and he said “Yeah? That’s the same as mine!”

He wove his fingers through my hair and slowly pulled back my head.
I opened my mouth and licked my lips saying “Take me to my bed.”

We started slow, real nice and easy, just feeling each other out
But it didn’t take long before both of us were doing the ‘Twist and Shout’.

This went on the whole night long; he was quite the voracious lad.
I met him thrust for thrust and lick for lick and none of it was bad.

We spent the next few days together; we got along really great.
He told me his name was Kevin and I told him my name was Kate.

He said he lived in Baltimore now but was born in Kathmandu.
His eyes nearly popped out his head when I said “Jesus! I was too!”

Things were really getting eerie now; we both knew this was bizarre
Especially when we simultaneously said “On March 10th at Paropakar!”

Now hold on, wait just a damn minute; how could this possibly be?
We were born in the same hospital on the same day in 1983!

Our piercing eyes stared at each other as we silently sipped our tea.
Who was going to ask the next question? Was it me or possibly he?

I grabbed the bull by the horns, so to speak, and said “What’s your mom’s name?”
He lowered his cup rather slowly and replied somewhat warily “It’s Germaine.”

I heaved an enormous sigh of relief which proved to be premature
Cos he was adopted; his birth mom’s name was Faye, of that he was quite sure.

I think I peed my pants right then and nearly fainted as I screamed “No way!
For you see, Kevin, I was adopted, too, and my birth mom’s name was Faye!”

Now this is no laughing matter, dear readers, for I’d just had me a fuck like no other
Who turned out to be to my shock and dismay my long-lost fraternal twin brother!

NAR © 2021

Poems

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND


WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND

Children are a blessing, a fact no one is denying.
They come into our quiet lives all wrinkly and a-crying. 

Parenthood’s a heavy task you never learned in school
And if you think it’s easy then you’re just a God-damn fool. 

You take them home as newborns not knowing what to do.
Warm their bottles, wash their clothes and clean up all their poo. 

Those little babes can tire you out and run you in the ground
And when bedtime rolls around you pray their sleep is sound. 

You do the very best you can to teach them right from wrong
And feed them milk and vegetables to grow up big and strong.

Some kids are such a pleasure, they warm their mother’s hearts.
All they do is such a joy; you can’t even smell their farts! 

They do their chores, their homework, too, and never answer back
And when it’s time to go to bed they jump right in the sack. 

Then there are the nasty ones who don’t do what they’re taught.
Like Harry Potter’s nemesis they act like Lord Voldemort. 

They’re mean to all the other kids like a dog without its bone,
A bunch of little shits who make life miserable at home.

They say that kids learn from their folks to live a proper life
So try to fill your child’s world with happiness, not strife.

And don’t forget in sixty years-time, give a year or two
It’s your kids who’ll be feeding you and cleaning up your poo! 

NAR © 2021

500-750 Words

WHEN IN ROME

Name?” the incredibly bored girl working at the pizzeria asked me indifferently. It was clear she’d rather be doing anything other than doling out food orders. She gave a cursory glance at her clipboard.

Nancy” I replied hoping my order had been received.

No kidding?” the suddenly animated young woman said loudly, slapping her hand on the counter and grinning broadly. “That’s my grandmother’s name! You don’t hear that name much these days. What year were you born in?”

It wasn’t really any of her business but I reluctantly told her anyway. This was a new place in my neighborhood in Rome, New York so I tried to play nice.

Get outta town!” she exclaimed, startling half the people in the place. “Same year as my grandma, too! What are the odds?” she cackled.

I gritted my teeth at the public announcement that I was as old as this girl’s granny. “Little twit” I said to myself.

Well, Miss Nancy, your food ain’t quite ready yet. Just plop yourself down in one of those booths and I’ll bring it over.”

Plop? I may be old enough to be this bimbo’s grandmother but I definitely do not plop!

I found an empty booth, slid in and looked around the pizzeria. There was a hideously unappealing statue of a she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, framed photos of Frank Sinatra, Pope John XXIII and Christopher Columbus. On the far wall was a large mural of a ship with “Nina” emblazoned across the bow – no doubt an homage to the restaurant which was called “Nina’s Place”. The decor was tacky and stereotypical.

There was a sudden pounding on the back of my seat and I turned around to see two toddlers bouncing around their booth, a sullen child of about four years of age, a crying infant in a carriage and a woman, obviously their mother, at her wits end. Food, spilled drinks and toys were everywhere. The woman looked at me, her eyes pleading “Kill me now!” I half-smiled sympathetically at her.

I thought about changing seats but just then the pizza girl arrived with my food.

Here ya go, Fancy Nancy! One caprese salad with grilled chicken and a Diet Coke. If you don’t mind my saying so, you look really good for a gal your age.”

I blinked a few times, unsure if I should say “Thank you” or “Kindly go the fuck away”. I chose the former which she took as an invitation to join me as I ate!

So, anyway, my grandma – she’s named after Frank Sinatra’s song ‘Nancy With the Laughing Face’ ” pizza girl said, pointing to the photo of the legendary singer. “Are you, too?”

No, I’m not. It’s a long story” I explained.

Ooh, I love me a good story! I wanna hear all about it. But first I gotta make sure Mr. Rizzo doesn’t cheat me outta my tip, that old miser! Be right back, Nance.”

I cringed; only a select few called me by my nickname.

Take your time” I replied. It looked like it was going to be a long lunch. I really should have ordered the wine!

NAR © 2021

250 Words

MARCH MADNESS

It was one of those rare March snowstorms, the kind that sneaks up on you after a couple of really nice spring-like days.

Our boys were super excited to see the unexpected snow and ran out to build a snowman. Just as soon as they got outside, the girls who live in the house across the street came out and started building a snow-woman.

The boys decided their snowman would be a basketball player. They packed snow into a pair of shorts, slipped a LeBron James jersey over the figure, stretched a headband across the forehead and placed a basketball on the ground as the finishing touch.

The girls dressed their snow-woman in a cute little cheerleader’s outfit, boots and pompoms for arms. They used blue buttons for her eyes and Twizzlers strawberry licorice for her smile. 

The ’snow couple’ looked fantastic all decked out in their costumes and the neighbors came outside to take photos. It was a really fun day for everyone.

Well, it must have warmed up considerably during the night because the next morning both the snowman and snow-woman had melted.

The strange thing, though, was the inexplicable trail in the snow that led from our house to the house across the street. And strewn about the last remnants of snow were a discarded jersey, shorts, pompoms and cheerleader’s uniform.

There was just a little bit left of the snow-woman’s head but that gal was still sporting a huge strawberry smile!

NAR © 2021

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

NAR © 2021

Poems

THE GOAT WHISPERER

Ray’s day wasn’t going so well;
In fact, it had been a lousy year.
Things just seemed to be going to hell
And he felt like shedding a tear.

He and the missus hadn’t been married too long;
They was practically newly wed.
But she kept complaining day and night
‘Bout there being no action in their bed. 

“I’m tired and weary, I is!” Ray exclaimed.
“And I’m dead on me feet at night!”
“Well, how ‘bout giving me love in the morning?”
Said the missus trying to avoid a fight. 

But Ray had an answer for that one, too.
“I got lots of work in the morning
Feeding them cows and pigs and goats.
Now please don’t be giving me no warning.”

So Ray went off to tend to his chores;
A farmer’s work is back-breaking stuff.
Just then he found a note his wife wrote
Stashed in the pocket near his old tin of snuff. 

“I’m making your favorite ploughman’s lunch,
A sandwich prepared with loving care.
I’ll bring it to ya ‘round half gone noon
And you can plough me in the sweet fresh air.” 

Well, Ray got busy and sorta forgot
‘Bout his wife coming round near noon.
So he went to the back of the barn for a nap
But the missus arrived a moment too soon. 

She let out a scream and covered her eyes
For the sight she beheld was too crude.
Right there in the hay like two lovey birds
Lay a goat and Ray in the nude!

NAR © 2021

250 Words

BEWARE THE MALOCCHIO

Rule number one: When you meet your Italian girlfriend’s parents for the first time, which is usually for supper, don’t show up empty-handed. No matter how many times you hear “It’s-a no necessary for you to bring-a anything-a; just the pleasure of-a you company is enough-a”, you bring something.

Believe me, I learned that the hard way. Cara’s mamma insisted I not bring anything; her papa even said they would be insulted if I brought something. In his head, my bringing something meant they weren’t able to provide whatever was needed for a respectable meal.

I wasn’t raised that way. My southern belle of a mother brought her famous peach cobbler to every luncheon she attended. The thought of showing up without so much as a bunch of wildflowers was a cardinal sin.

So when I asked again for what must have been the fifteenth time what I could bring and was told “bring-a nothing”, I brought nothing.

Well, from the moment I arrived at Cara’s house all I got was the ‘malocchio’; as a joke Cara bought me a big red evil eye to hang from my rearview mirror. I didn’t think it was very funny.

When I asked Cara why she didn’t warn me, she said “Everybody knows ‘nothing’ means ‘something’!”

Cara and I have been married six years now. We have three beautiful kids and a nice house. Still, her parents refer to me as that “cheap sum-a-na-bitch-a” who brought nothing.

Go figure!

NAR © 2021

500-750 Words

VAFFANCULO!

So, what brings you here today, Lou?” asked Dr. Patterson.

I can’t sleep, Doc!” replied Lou in despair. “I’m so tired! I haven’t slept a wink!”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that!” laughed the doctor. “Look, Lou. Of all the ailments people discuss with me, the greatest number of complaints isn’t about body aches, irritable bowels, erectile dysfunction or psoriasis: the most talked-about topic is lack of sleep. Falling asleep at bedtime and getting a good night’s rest is a problem that plagues millions so you’re not alone in this. I’m going to ask you some questions; let’s see if we can come up with a solution.”

Lou yawned and nodded in agreement. His wife Marie chimed in. “Maybe you should start by telling the doctor how much coffee you drink every day.”

Ok, that’s an excellent suggestion. How much coffee do you drink, Lou?” asked Dr. Patterson, his fingers hovering over the keys of his computer.

Oh, I guess about eight cups a day and an espresso after dinner. We have one of those – whatchamacallits – Keurig machines. Fantastic things! Just pop in a little plastic cup and brew yourself fresh coffee in thirty seconds!”

Whoa! That’s a lot of caffeine!” the doctor replied in disbelief.” You need to cut back. If you drink that much coffee at least half of it should be decaf. I’d like to eventually get you down to just one cup of regular coffee in the morning. How about alcohol?”

Go ahead, Lou. Answer the doctor” Marie said, giving her husband a nudge with her elbow.

I’ll have a couple of glasses of my cousin Carlo’s homemade vino while Marie’s preparing dinner. And another glass or two with dinner. Oh yeah, I like a nice sambucca while I’m watching “The Tonight Show” with that Jimmy Fallon. He’s a funny guy!”

The doctor stared at Lou allowing his words to sink in.

What form of exercise do you engage in?” the doctor asked.

Exercise!?” squawked Marie. “The strongest parts of his body are his fingers … from pushing himself away from the dining room table, surfing the net and using the remote control.”

Lou’s eyes shot daggers at his wife. She shrugged. “What? It’s the truth and you know it.”

What about your diet, Lou?” asked Dr. Patterson while eyeing Lou’s sizeable belly.

Diet? I ain’t on no diet, doc! My Marie is a fabulous cook!” Lou exclaimed, making her blush. “She makes everything from scratch, including her pizza, pasta, braciola, arancini – you name it, she can make it. And her ricotta cheesecake? Fuggedaboutit!”

Well, it’s wonderful that Marie’s such a great cook but it sounds like you’re eating a lot of heavy and fattening foods” the doctor replied with concern.

What’s wrong with pizza?” Lou asked incredulously. “It’s the perfect food – something from all the food groups. You got your carbohydrates, your protein and your dairy, right?”

Well, technically, yes but I wouldn’t call it ‘the perfect food’. Dr. Patterson entered all Lou’s information into his computer. “Let me get this straight, Lou. Your caffeine and alcohol intake is off the charts, you eat rich foods and desserts, you spend a lot of time in front of some type of device, you stay up late and you don’t exercise. Is that about right?”

Yeah, I guess” Lou admitted begrudgingly.

Do you realize that everything you’re doing is adversely affecting your quality of sleep? And what about you, Marie! How well do you sleep?”

Who, me? Why, I sleep like a rock” Marie answered proudly.

You’re not kidding! You should hear her snore, doc!” Lou guffawed. “What a racket! It sounds like bocce balls rolling around the court! That’s probably why I can’t sleep!”

Marie huffed indignantly.

You snore, Marie? Sounds to me like you could have sleep apnea – a serious disorder. Considering everything we’ve discussed I’m referring you, Lou, to a life management specialist. And Marie, I’m scheduling a sleep disorder study for you.”

Lou and Marie stared at the doctor in shock.

Can’t you just give me some sleeping pills?” pleaded Lou.

And maybe all I need are some of those nose strips” Marie suggested hopefully.

I’m afraid not. You need to make some serious life changes” replied the doctor showing Marie and Lou out the door.

Thanks a lot, Marie, making me tell the doctor everything!” Lou griped. “This is all your fault!”

Oh, shut up, Lou! You can get your own damn dinner tonight. I’m on strike! And another thing – vaffanculo!”

NAR © 2021

250 Words

BETWEEN CONSENTING ADULTS

Horizontally is the traditional position, Tom. I’m not sure how I feel about this. And you springing it on me after all these years!”

I know this may seem a bit out there, Laura, but honestly – people have done weirder things.”

Maybe so, Tom, but standing up? Let’s face it – this ‘thing’ is really huge and you know it! How will we keep from falling over?”

You’ve never been a scaredy cat before, Laura. You’ll be well protected, wrapped in my loving arms just like a fuzzy little caterpillar in a cozy cocoon.”

But Tom, what will other people think? I can just imagine the look on my sister’s face when she hears about this.”

Other people, Laura? Who cares what they think?! Why should the things we do and the decisions we make in the privacy of our own home matter to other people? Donna and Joe will probably be jealous they didn’t give it a whirl themselves.”

You’re right, of course, Tom, but let’s consider Donna and Joe for a minute. They’ve been in our lives forever. Don’t you think theyll be rather shocked?”

Only if you tell them, Laura. And by then the deed will be done! Hell! They might even want to join in. Donna IS your twin sister, after all; I kinda like the idea of that! The more the merrier! Lord knows, we have plenty of room. Let’s step out of that damn box and throw caution to the wind.”

Thomas Hastings, you’re such a devil sometimes!”

And you love it! What do you say, Laura? You ready to give it a go?”

As usual you’ve talked me into it. I can’t resist you and your wild ideas. Let’s do it, Tom!”

Fantastic! You will not be sorry, Laura. Just get yourself nice and comfy. Hang on, baby. Give me one little second. OK, I’m in!”

Hello. Thank you for using the live chat app at Tower of Memories. This is Melissa. How can I help you?”

Melissa, this is Tom Hastings. Laura and I have talked about your proposal and we’re ready to take the plunge.”

That’s exciting news, Tom! You won’t regret choosing vertical burial plots here at Tower of Memories.”

NAR © 2020

250 Words

BEST LAID PLANS

On a whim my husband and I decided to ride our bicycles to Shrewsbury. The village was not far – a little over four miles. We would stop for lunch at one of the charming cafes.

It was a lovely Spring day, comfortably warm with a few wisps of clouds. Horses and cows grazed contentedly in the fields. A pond sparkled radiantly in the sunshine. Two swans performed a graceful ballet, their cygnets following closely. An elderly couple cheerfully waved at us as we rode by.

Shrewsbury appeared as we rounded a bend in the road; carefree diners were arriving for lunch. We leaned our bicycles against the fence of a nearby school and walked to a romantic-looking cafe. After a delightful meal we happily strolled to the school to retrieve our bicycles for the ride home.

This was without a doubt the most perfect day we’d ever had!

Without warning the sky started turning grey and the wind began blowing. Arriving at the school we were shocked to discover our bikes were gone; we had no choice but to walk home. Suddenly thunder and lightning crackled in the foreboding sky and heavy rain began pouring down on us. We trudged on, cursing with every step we took.

We were drenched, our shoes covered in mud. Exhausted, we argued terribly about who forgot to bring the bicycle locks. Everything turned into a total disaster and we stopped talking altogether.

This was without a doubt the worst day we’d ever had!

NAR © 2020

500-750 Words

I GEMELLI

Resemblance can be a freaky thing. Supposedly everyone has a doppelgänger; someone out there is a duplicate of you with your mother’s eyes, your father’s nose and that annoying mole you’ve always wanted to have removed. Apparently there’s a 1 in 135 chance that there are several pairs of clones walking around, each completely unaware of the other’s existence.

Speaking of doppelgängers, my husband has an identical twin – exactly the same in every way except their political leanings and choice in women. All their lives people have called Bill by his brother’s name and the same is true of Jim. Even our sons look more like brothers than cousins and have been confusing people for years.

In his late teens Bill had a cyst just below his right eye. After surgery he was left with a tiny, almost imperceptible scar. At last, something to differentiate the twins! A few months later while doing repairs on a boat, Jim turned his head abruptly, banged into a pipe and cut his face. He now has a tiny, almost imperceptible scar in the exact place as Bill. Identical right down to their scars!

My cousin Franco has lived his entire life in Sicily. The first time my family traveled to Europe I was about 14 years old and met my cousin for the first time. The strong resemblance between us was undeniable. We could easily pass for fraternal twins or, at the very least, siblings. It was simultaneously amusing and disconcerting for both of us. Everyone referred to us as “I Gemelli” “The Twins” – so named for the thin tubes of pasta twisted around each other. Fifty-plus years later and our resemblance remains strong; however, Franco has a mustache and beard and I, fortunately, do not!

It’s been said, and scientists concur, that the longer people have a pet the more they begin to resemble that pet. Pure-bred dogs have been matched to their owners by strangers time and time again. I wonder if the same can be said about husbands and wives or perhaps even friends. Apparently, that phenomenon is true. I can’t explain it – I’m not a scientist, just a writer of stories. However, the possibility became quite real when events unfolded at my son’s wedding.

There were many people in attendance, friends and family alike. My sister Rosemarie was one of the guests as was Debby, my next-door neighbor and best friend for the past 35 years. I should point out at this time that while Rosemarie and I have some familial similarities, we really don’t look alike.

Time arrived for the family photo session. The music was playing, people were dancing the Macarena and mingling about. Janet, the wedding photographer was scrambling around trying to wrangle immediate family members for photos. Craning her neck for a better look into the crowded room, Janet turned to me in surprise and said, “You’ve been keeping secrets from me!”

I was rather perplexed by that comment and asked Janet what she meant, to which she replied, “I know your husband has a twin brother but I had no idea you have a twin sister!”

Then it hit me: Janet was talking about my friend Debby who does indeed look a lot more like my sister than my real sister! Many people have said we look like twins and it just so happened, totally by coincidence, that Debby and I were wearing the same dress that day; the only difference was I wore deep purple while Debby chose black.

I laughed and said to Janet “I really hate to burst your bubble but she’s not my sister; she’s my best friend.” I spotted Rosemarie in the crowd and pointed her out to the photographer. “See the woman in the cream-colored dress? That’s my sister.”

It took a lot of convincing for Janet to accept the fact that Debby wasn’t my twin sister; I think she may still be somewhat skeptical. I wonder: would the same people who matched the pet owners with their dogs match me and Debby as twins?

You be the judge.

Me and Debby
Rosemarie and me

NAR © 2020

500-750 Words

THE BAMBOO CURTAIN

It all came about one day in April. Newly divorced, I had recently moved into a house in the country and was enjoying my morning coffee on the patio. Birds of many different varieties flitted about the bushes and fruit trees in the yard next door. Even a couple of deer and a few rabbits were contentedly munching on the grass. I felt like I was in the middle of a Disney movie and wouldn’t have been at all surprised if the animals started singing!

Looking around my property I couldn’t help but compare my landscaping to that of my neighbor Marjorie. Hers was overflowing with every sort of plant imaginable while mine had a paltry number of pitiful-looking bushes on the verge of death. Right then I began to envision my very own Garden of Eden; there would be shrubs and trees and flowers everywhere, even a few statues and perhaps a water feature. My yard was going to be even better than Marjorie’s!

Perhaps her ears were burning or it was just a coincidence but at that very moment Marjorie turned in my direction. Even from thirty feet away I could see her beady eyes squinting at me. A rather obese woman, she was sweating profusely as she labored in her garden, her ridiculously small bonnet providing little shade to her balloon-like face. I waved to her but she didn’t wave back; either she didn’t see me or she chose to ignore me. Marjorie wasn’t all shits and giggles. Her husband left her for another woman (no big surprise there!) and her grown children lived far away. It seemed like her only joy in life was gardening.

Being a city boy I knew nothing about gardening so I called the local nursery where one could get anything from a watering can to a majestic pine tree. One of the workers came by a few hours later and walked through the property with me, making suggestions as we went along. I told him how much I wanted to spend and gave him free reign to plant whatever he thought best – the more impressive the better.

A few days later the nursery truck arrived at my house. I caught a glimpse of Marjorie peeking through her curtains as my purchases were unloaded and carried into my yard. The landscapers got to work planting everything from small flowering shrubs to walls of bamboo. They put in a birdbath and several animal statues as well as a Japanese-inspired water feature. Before my eyes the once barren desert was now a flourishing oasis. Take that, Marjorie!

My new bountiful yard only spurred her on to do even more planting; every time she added something new, so would I. It became a childish game of retaliation.

Returning home from shopping one day I was shocked to see a police car and an ambulance outside Marjorie’s house; she had suffered a fatal heart attack while working in her garden. Well, there certainly was no love lost between us but I never wished the woman any harm. I hoped whoever moved in next door would treat Marjorie’s yard with the same tender loving care.

A few weeks later I woke up to the screeching sounds of power tools. Unable to see through my dense hedges, I walked to Marjorie’s old place; all her marvelous landscaping was being leveled to the ground! After everything was hauled away a bulldozer began digging a huge hole for a swimming pool. Week after week work continued on the pool. Occasionally I’d see two attractive women talking in the driveway, obviously the real estate agent and the new homeowner.

Finally one August day all was quiet; the pool construction was complete. I had asked my friends Charlie and Frank to come over to help me install my new 80″ flat-screen TV. Afterwards as we sat on the patio enjoying burgers and ice cold beer we became aware of the sound of splashing water and girlish laughter.

Damn kids!” I grumbled, rolling my eyes.

Charlie nearly spit out his beer. “Don’t tell me you don’t know!”

Know what?” I asked. I had no idea what he was talking about.

You dumb son of a bitch!” Frank howled. “You got two super hot chicks living next door to you! You could be savoring some girl-on-girl action right now if it wasn’t for that damn bamboo curtain!”

You mean those two women are a couple?” I asked Frank in disbelief.

Oh yes, my friend. Very much so!” Frank replied cracking up.

Damn! I just couldn’t let old Marjorie win. Hoisted by my own petard!

NAR © 2020

Longer Stories

ALL ABOARD!

Cattle, not people! That’s what it felt like to me when I was riding the subways of New York City. Just when you think another person can’t possibly fit, at least a dozen manage to squeeze their way in. It’s kind of like the clown car at the circus, only not the least bit amusing.

The first half of my morning commute from New Rochelle in Westchester County into “the city” was quite pleasant. I’d buy a muffin and a freshly brewed cup of coffee at Britain and McCain’s, then hop on the Metro North New Haven line. At the time I worked on Church Street in the financial district of lower Manhattan. The 7:18 AM train was brightly lit, clean, perfectly climate-controlled and the seats were nicely spread out making for a comfortable and relaxing ride. I’d always see the same friendly faces, fellow suburbanites with their briefcases and newspaper tucked under an arm. A nod or a wave was all that was necessary; no need for casual conversation as everyone was looking forward to a peaceful trek to work. It was all quite civilized. It took 40 minutes to get to Grand Central Terminal where I’d then hustle to catch the subway to Church Street.

Grand Central – an awe-inspiring wonder of architecture and one of the busiest terminals in the world – has always been a whirling hub of activity with harried commuters scurrying about like so many little ants rushing to catch their train. Finding a seat on one of the countless subway trains was a continuous battle. Any shred of human decency was discarded at the terminal doors as people trampled each other in the hopes of securing a place to sit or, at the very least, a spot against a wall on which to lean. If you were unable to find neither seat nor wall, you’d have no choice but to position yourself in the aisles where you could hang onto the hand straps suspended from the ceiling or stand shoulder-to-shoulder like disgruntled sheep crammed in a stall with no place to go. And if anyone should stumble and fall, God help them because no one else would! Livestock on the road to the slaughterhouse; is it any wonder so many people were frustrated and disillusioned by their daily commute and in turn hated their jobs?

Most days there were unexplained delays and the 20-minute ride to Church Street took much longer than that. The unvoiced question dangled in the stifling air: how long will we be stuck this time? People would hang their heads in defeat and heave a sigh of resignation knowing they were at the mercy of the subway puppeteers. I stared at this sign for so many mindless hours I can still recite the entire message in both English and Spanish:

For people with claustrophobia, just being underground is a nightmare; similarly being jammed on a subway is a hellish experience, especially in the heat of summer. The worst part was when the train would stall in the tunnel and all the power would go out – no lights, no air conditioning, no nothing – just the overwhelming conglomeration of the stench of body odor, bad breath, urine and other bodily secretions along with the complaining gripes and groans, pisses and moans of those stuck in the train. And as if that weren’t bad enough, you’d suddenly become aware of the alarming feel of creepy, unwelcome hands fondling your ass or some horny pervert rubbing against you – and you were incapable of moving an inch. I recall being frozen in place praying for the lights to quickly come back on and the train to start up. For any normal person, being groped regardless the situation is a humiliating and despicable ordeal; having it happen while trapped in a dark, crowded, sweaty, smelly subway car is indescribably terrifying – enough to put anyone over the brink. I came close to losing it more times than I care to remember. Crying out “Get your filthy hands off me!” would generally elicit snickering, laughing or the occasional tsk of commiseration and disapproval.

That was the typical morning subway expedition; by the time I arrived at the office I felt like I needed a shower. When the workday was done at 5:00 PM, the mass exodus would begin and the subway horror show would start again. It didn’t take me too long to realize I couldn’t endure these conditions indefinitely and I discovered an unusual survival strategy; I started taking the train four stations deeper into the bowels of Manhattan from Church Street to Canal Street, a 10-minute subway ride in the opposite direction from Grand Central Station and further away from the comfort and serenity of the New Haven Line. My reasoning behind this backwards maneuver was really quite simple: Canal Street was the originating point for the trip to Grand Central and I would always find a seat. If I waited to get on at Church Street the train would already be full. I’d head straight for the somewhat secluded two-seater in the corner. I didn’t care how long the trip took, how crowded the train became or how many times we got stuck; as long as I was sitting in the corner I felt safe. I could close my eyes and pretend to be asleep or hide my nose in a book; I finished quite a few chapters on that 30-minute ride while tucked away in those coveted corner seats.

For some reason, though, I would inevitably attract the undesirables. Many a ponderous man would wedge himself into the seat next to me, breathing heavily and reeking of garlic. Why, when there were plenty of empty seats, would I end up with Jabba the Hutt plopping down next to me? I would stay put and do my best to cope with a most unpleasant situation. There was also the occasional sicko (although one is more than enough) who would position himself directly in front of me, his manhood at full attention mere inches from my face. Those were the times I prayed for death. If I could have hung myself from one of the ceiling hand straps I gladly would have done so, drifting off into unconsciousness while visions of Lorena Bobbitt danced in my head. Instead I would prop my briefcase vertically on my lap and hide behind it. By some source of divine intervention the lights never went out during one of those close encounters of the worst kind.

It’s been more than 40 years since I worked in Manhattan; I loved my job and the people I worked with but after seven years I’d had enough of the commute. Kudos to those who travel the trains for twenty or more years; I have no idea how they do it! I don’t miss riding the subway one bit and if I have to go into Manhattan these days, I drive. I’ll gladly take on any maniac behind the wheel of a taxi or a truck rather than deal with the neanderthal subway passengers. I’m just thankful my days of riding the New York City cattle cars ended while I still had my dignity and sanity intact.

NAR © 2020

Longer Stories

HINDSIGHT IS 20/20

Did you ever wish you could go back in time to when you were five years old? That’s a reasonable age – old enough to grasp the difference between right and wrong yet young enough to be just a kid having lots of fun; not on the cusp of adulthood so it’s probably a good idea to try not to muck it all up.

If I, a sixty-something-year-old woman could write a letter to my five-year-old self, I might say something like this:

“Hey, you!

There’s a ginormous amount of ‘stuff’ that you’re gonna have to deal with in life so listen up:

• Everything you’ll ever need to know you’ll learn in kindergarten so pay attention.
• Follow the Golden Rule, obey the Ten Commandments and listen to the Beatles because life really is about peace, love and understanding.
• Mom and Dad aren’t the enemy; they’re doing the best they can so cut them some slack.

Right now you’re having the time of your young life. Your days are pretty much planned out. Mom does all the work and there aren’t a lot of demands on you. It’s mostly playing, eating, napping, doing a chore or two, sleeping; repeat tomorrow. Life is good and you’re a happy kid.

Sometimes, though, you’re gonna be so sad all you wanna do is cry and that’s ok; even big people cry. You won’t be sad forever. Other times you’re gonna get so mad you just wanna hit somebody, but that isn’t a good reaction – except if it’s Willie Casa; he’s the bully who lives three houses down. So when he hits you over the head with that plastic gun of his, you’re gonna bop him in the nose. And you know what? He’ll never bully you again.

Speaking of noses, yours is ok right now but in a few years it’s gonna turn into a real honker and you’re not gonna like it. You’ll get teased some and it’ll hurt. But hang in there because the most important guy in your life won’t care about that at all. He thinks you look like Sophia Loren and that’s a good thing.

Mom isn’t comfortable talking about a lot of personal stuff and you’re gonna wake up one morning to discover you’re body’s changing. It happens to all girls and while some of it is pretty yucky, most of it is really amazing. Let’s just say God knows what he’s doing and you’re gonna turn out ok.

When you’re about 13 somebody cool is gonna enter your life, coming and going for a couple of years. He’s a 16-year-old beanpole name Steven Tallarico – Google him. You might feel like kicking yourself because you didn’t run off with him but your whole life would have turned out differently and probably not for the best. Don’t worry. In 1968 you’re gonna go on a blind date and that guy will change your life forever and in the best ways imaginable.

You’re gonna make a lot of mistakes; everybody does. It doesn’t matter who you are in this giant world – you’re gonna screw up and believe me some of your booboos are doozies. You’re gonna hurt people and when the dust settles all you can do is apologize and try to make things right. The important thing is to own your mistakes and take responsibility.

Responsibility. Accountability. Big words with important meanings and so easy to overlook. They’re gonna be important to you and believe me, kid, there’s nothing wrong with that. People won’t always act the way you want them to; try to remember just because YOU think someone should act a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the right way for them. Let it go because it’s wrong to force people to do anything. And don’t let others force you.

Don’t be afraid to smile and make friends but don’t blindly trust people you don’t know. And if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If somebody scares you, scream your head off and run like hell because there are some bad people out there. But there are also a lot of wonderful people and most of the time you’ll be able to see the difference. Sometimes you won’t and people will hurt you. Shame on them! Cut your losses and move on; it’s their problem, not yours.

Nobody’s life is perfect, not even yours. You can own a lot of great stuff but if you don’t have a loving family and friends then you don’t have anything. You will be greatly blessed in more ways that you can count – not by the wonderful things YOU do but by the wonderful people in your life.

Some things I’ve learned along the way:
• Listen to Mom and Dad; they really do know more than you (especially about Woodstock!).
• Go easy with the blue eye shadow; it’s not a great look. And watch out for sloe gin fizzes; they have a way of sneaking up on you and knocking you on your ass.
• Be a friend, lend a hand and don’t judge; you never know what someone may be going through.
• Be respectful – not only of others but of yourself.
• The popular thing isn’t always the right thing and the right thing isn’t always the popular thing. That’s a tough one.
• If you say you’re gonna do something, do it. Be responsible (see above).
• Don’t be afraid to show your emotions and let people know how much you care; it’s how you know you’re alive.
• Be flexible. Things don’t always go as planned.
• You’re gonna have your heart broken more than a few times and you’re gonna break some hearts, too. It sucks but that’s just the way life is.
• Don’t be late. Period. You can’t control the weather or traffic but you can anticipate it.
• Don’t lie or make excuses. Not only does it show poor character – it’s too hard to remember all your tall tales. The truth always comes out.
• Smoking is not cool so cut it out. It’s a disgusting and expensive habit.
• Listen to the Beatles as much as you can; not only is their music just about the best you’ll ever hear, you’ll learn a lot from what they have to say.
• Just be a decent person; it’s really not that difficult.

And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Love, You!”

NAR © 2020

Poems

OH, YE WHO CANNOT COMMIT

I’ve got little patience, I know that it’s true
For people who say “Sure, I’ll do it!
I’ve lots on my plate but this I can do!”
And they never do nothing but shit.

They sign up for that, they sign up for this
With the best of intentions behind it,
But the deadline they always just happen to miss
And they never do nothing but shit.

I talked with a woman a few months back
Who said she liked writing quit a bit.
I gave her the name of a person to contact.
She never wrote back; she was all full of shit.

Then there’s the school coach who wears many hats;
From one sport to the other he’ll flit.
He promised to buy all the baseballs and bats
But in the end he did nothing but shit.

A friend said he’d come over to move my piano;
I took off the front door so it would fit.
The hours went by and my friend was a no-show.
Turns out he was worthless as shit.

My cousin said she would do Christmas dinner;
A stressful undertaking, I freely admit.
We all did our share, Mom’s pie was a winner
But my cousin forgot; she did nothing but shit.

The kids in our school rehearsed for the play;
The secretary said she would schedule it.
A lot of other things seemed to get in her way
And you guessed it; she didn’t do shit.

‘Twas the big wedding day for my sister Doris;
The guests looking ’round for someplace to sit.
But something went terribly wrong at the florist;
There were no lovely flowers. The wedding was shit.

My daughter-in-law joined a poetry group;
Every week she wrote poems to submit.
Soon the size of the group started to droop
And after a while it all turned to shit.

We hired a fellow to paint our new house;
The bright yellow color didn’t suit it.
He bought the wrong paint; it’s called “Dead Grey Mouse”;
Now our house just looks like a pile of shit.

There’s always that loud sloppy drunk at the bar
Who promised his wife he would quit.
He’s done this too often; he’s gone way too far,
But he’s wasted and gives not a shit.

I have a good friend who is constantly late
And I really don’t know how she does it.
She’s never on time for a meeting or date.
We’re all waiting but it doesn’t mean shit.

The guy next door lost another great job
And he swears that he didn’t deserve it.
Well, everyone knows he’s a big lazy blob;
He’s a loser and he’s useless as shit.

Folks love to say when you’re part of a team
You must do your fair share and get with it.
So I work my ass off and it just makes me scream:
“I’m the only one who gives half a shit!”

We placed an advertisement in our local newspaper:
“Free Christmas tree. Brand new. We can’t use it.”
A woman called: “Put it aside and I’ll take her!”
We waited till midnight; she was just full of shit.

I drove my dear friend to the store for a gift.
Her car had a flat; she couldn’t drive it.
“I’ll pay for the parking as a thanks for the lift.”
But didn’t because she was all full of shit.

Why can’t some people just do what they say?
Why’s it always so hard to commit?
Well, you know what? At the end of the day
I guess they were all full of shit.

NAR © 2020