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!

500-750 Words

IF ONLY


There wasn’t anything particularly special about the guy; he was actually rather ordinary looking but something made me uneasy. He just stood near the entrance, silently watching.

It was the usual Wednesday morning story time in the children’s room of the Lansing Library. Parents running errands could drop off their kids knowing they’d be safe and well-cared-for. The children listened intently as I read “The Adventures of Frog and Toad“.

I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable vibe I was getting from that guy. I caught the eye of my assistant, Grace, and with a slight tilt of my head I motioned toward the man. She glanced over and casually made her way across the room.

With cautious confidence Grace walked up to him and in a quiet but stern tone said “You’ve got thirty seconds to explain to me what you’re doing here”.

The man seemed rattled by Grace’s demand and stumbled over an apology. “I’m terribly sorry! I didn’t mean to alarm anyone. I’m here to pick up my son.”

Oh, really? Who’s your son?” Grace asked.

The man replied “Nathan … Nathan Fletcher. I’m Jacob Fletcher. My wife Emily isn’t feeling well. She asked me to come fetch him. She’s pregnant, you know.”

Yes, Emily. Of course! Such a lovely woman” Grace said. “Sorry to hear she’s ill. She seemed fine when she dropped Nathan off.”

Yes, she was” Jacob agreed. “It’s the morning sickness; it really knocks her for a loop sometimes. Emily said she would notify library security that I’d be picking Nathan up.”

Before Grace had a chance to call the security desk to verify Mr. Fletcher’s story, Nathan spotted his father; the boy was overjoyed to see his dad and happily raced to greet him.

Daddy! Daddy! I’m so glad to see you. Is Mommy here?” Jacob gave Nathan a big hug and scooped him up in his arms.

Hi, buddy! Mommy’s resting. She asked me to come get you.”

Yay! Can we get some ice cream? We can bring some to Mommy, too” Nathan asked, bubbling with excitement.

Sure!” Jacob replied laughing. “C’mon! We better get going.”

Grace looked questioningly at me and I nodded in approval, smiling at the happy duo of father and son.

The two left, hand in hand, Nathan gleefully skipping along beside his dad. All was right in the library once again.

Later that night as I watched TV, the show was interrupted by a news bulletin:

A police alert has been issued for the whereabouts of five-year-old Nathan Fletcher and his father, Jacob. The two were last seen leaving Longford’s Ice Cream on Lansing Street around 12:30 this afternoon. The body of Emily Fletcher, Jacob’s wife and the mother of Nathan, was found in the family’s home this evening by her sister. She had been brutally stabbed to death. Mrs. Fletcher was six months pregnant. At this time police believe Jacob Fletcher is the only suspect in the murder of his wife, unborn child and the abduction of his son.”

I sat in abject horror staring at the TV screen; in the upper right corner was the face of the man from the library.

How could I have made such an unforgivable error in judgement? Oh my God! That poor woman! My heart froze when I thought of Nathan.

If only I’d followed my instincts.

500-750 Words

ON THE ROCKS


Ancient Greek temples dotted the hillside of Agrigento. “Aren’t they magificent, Helene?” I tried engaging my wife of seventeen years in conversation.

Helene always wanted to visit Sicily; now we were finally here but our vacation had been marred by the news of the death of Ruth, her friend since college. Actually, Helene had been depressed ever since Ruth’s cancer was diagnosed two years earlier. She became obsessed with illness and death and every little pain sent her running to the doctor. It had become tedious; I thought a holiday abroad would lighten both our moods.

I don’t like this place, Richard” Helene remarked. “It reeks of death and decay. You can practically see the blood stains on the altar.”

Good Lord, Helene! Why are you allowing your mind to go there?” I questioned impatiently. “Look at the glorious Mediterranean surrounding us. Let yourself be transported to another era.”

I’ve got a pounding headache, Richard. Take me back to the hotel!” Helene demanded.

But we just got here! Look at these fabulous gnarled olive trees. Impressive, aren’t they? Let’s sit and enjoy the view. You’ve always dreamed of coming here, Helene. Enjoy it!

How can I enjoy myself knowing Ruth is gone? She was my dearest friend.” Helene buried her head in her hands, sobbing.

I know it’s difficult but try not to dwell on it. Here, listen to this.” Retrieving a brochure from my pocket, I began to read. “‘In mythology, Agrigento was founded by Daedalus and Icarus.’ Just think of it – these temples have been here since the 5th Century B.C.! The contemporary glass and steel buildings back home can’t compare to these majestic structures!”

Richard, please! You think I give a damn about any of this? It’s meaningless without Ruth. She was the light of my life.”

Helene stared at me with frenetic eyes. I was beginning to believe she was losing her mind.

Your life is meaningless? What about me, Helene? I’m your husband, for crying out loud!”

Oh, come on, Richard! It’s about time we admitted the truth. Our marriage is a sham! And now Ruth is gone! There’s nothing left for me!” Helene turned and started walking away.

Ruth! All you ever talk about is Ruth!” I yelled after her. “You’ve been consumed with her for years! I always wondered but now I know why you were never interested in sex, laying in our bed like a cold fish. You were in love with Ruth, weren’t you?”

Helene started running; I caught up with her, reaching for her arm. She screamed “Don’t touch me, Richard! Just go away and leave me alone!”

Pulling away, Helene ran toward the craggy cliffs. In a horrifying instant she was gone, plunging headlong against the rocks and disappearing into the sea.

Aghast, I stood staring into the abyss. “Goddamn, you, Helene!” I shouted. “Go be with your precious Ruth!”

After a long while alone on the cliffs I walked back to my rental and drove to the hotel. I saw no reason to rush back home. Perhaps I’d head to the Amalfi Coast. Too bad Helene had to end her stay so abruptly.

Poems

OUR ‘ENRY


Commemorated through the region
for his prowess and pugilistic might
was the one and only Henry Cooper,
a champion born and raised for the fight.

He and George were born on the third of May;
the two brawny lads were identical twins.
By the age of fifteen Henry excelled in boxing
with seventy-three out of eighty-four wins.

This proud son of South East London was a giant,
a lefty with a formidable uppercut jab;
cut-prone and no great defensive technician,
yet his glove on one’s jaw felt more like a stab.

Tall, broad-shouldered and athletic,
he cut an imposing figure.
With powerful fists licensed to kill,
his look was of sternness and rigor.

In September ’54 he fought Harry Painter;
it was his very first match as a pro.
The battle took place at Harringay Arena
where Henry soundly defeated his foe.

Our ‘Enry took off like a house on fire,
for nine bouts in a row, no one got in his way.
But he lost number ten on a technical knockout;
how ironic that match was at old Harringay!

Henry bounced back, never one to stay down;
every match for him was compelling and vital.
But he suffered a big loss on February nineteenth;
Joe Bygraves took the Commonwealth heavyweight title.

Henry was no fly-by-night flash-in-the-pan;
undefeated champ for twelve years was he.
Our ‘Enry fought with the greatest and best
including “The Louisville Lip” – Muhammad Ali.

The young champ was still known as Cassius Clay;
the year was nineteen hundred and sixty-three.
A great deal of ticket-selling for this long-awaited bout
created a massive amount of world-wide publicity.

In the fourth round Henry was leading on points,
Ali making little attempt at effective aggression.
Henry felled Ali with a left hook to the body;
“‘Enry’s ‘Ammer” it was called in the profession.

Well, Ali’s manager brought him to the corner,
administering smelling salts banned in the UK.
The prohibited act was witnessed by no one
and a rejuvenated Ali defeated Henry that day.

Decades later a vital extra six seconds
showed up in a long-missing recording.
If all things had been on the clear up and up
the headlines would have had different wording.

For a second time Henry went up against Ali
who was now world heavyweight champion.
Though cut and tired, Henry never hit the canvas;
a TKO was the decision and again Ali won.

Henry won forty out of his fifty-five matches
and in 1971 it was time to hang up his gloves.
But Henry was never really down for the count
and he had a rich life full of many great loves.

Jump back to the late 1950s
when Henry met the love of his life.
A Gina Lollabrigida look-alike
who he courted and took as his wife.

She was dark-haired, petite at just five feet tall
and her name was Albina Genepri;
a waitress at Henry’s favorite restaurant,
a beauty from the Apennine region in Italy.

Two people who grew up hundreds of miles apart
from similar backgrounds – both working middle-class.
Henry was a cockney bloke from Beckenham in Kent.
When Albina learned English, her accent was like cut-glass.

It was ironic but Albina hated boxing
yet she remained Henry’s strength and his shield.
He constantly asked her to come to his fights
but only one solitary time did she yield.

Henry was known as a prince among men
and a king of the ring in many a fight.
In 2000 he was dubbed “Sir Henry Cooper”
joining the ranks of paladins and knights.

One night on his way to a sporting event
Henry received a call from his son.
“Come back home, dad!” was the pitiful plea.
“Something terrible’s happened to mum!”

Their’s was a love that movies are made of.
Lives full of happiness and very few tears.
They both were the real deal, genuine article
and their marriage lasted forty-seven years.

Albina had suffered a heart attack,
her devoted life had come to an end.
Henry never truly got over the shock
but like a willow he learned how to bend.

Just three years later Our ‘Enry
quietly passed while watching TV.
His son said it was quick and painless;
“He’s with mum now for all eternity.”

He was a lovely gent and a good fella,
a great husband, dad and true friend.
All those dear mates of Our ‘Enry
were loyal right up to the end.

Henry & Albina Cooper
Henry Cooper was the only boxer
ever to be knighted.

Henry vs Muhammad Ali


250 Words

NOWHERE MAN


Vivian looked up from her book and stared at her husband Ray as he fiddled with his iPod. At one time he knew every little detail about that thing; now the device totally confused him. In frustration Ray cursed and threw the iPod across the room.

Fucking thing’s busted!” he yelled.

Vivian sighed and retrieved the iPod, placing it on the table between their recliners. She glanced sadly at Ray who just sat in his chair looking straight ahead. Where was her husband of 55 years? He was gone, replaced by this ‘nowhere man’.

We’ll look at it together after dinner, Ray. I’m sure we can figure out what’s wrong with it” Vivian calmly suggested.

Don’t patronize me, Viv!” Ray shouted. “I’m not a child!”

Sorry, Ray. I was just trying to help. I’m going to make dinner. Soup and salad sound ok to you?”

Whatever!” Ray snapped. “I’m not hungry anyway.”

In the kitchen Vivian wept silently. It was like this ever since Ray’s diagnosis of early onset dementia. She and Ray squabbled over everything. He used to be very handy; now he couldn’t set his alarm clock. When Vivian offered to sort out his meds for him, Ray lashed out saying he could do it himself. He mixed up the dosage and had a terrible reaction leaving him feeling hopeless and helpless.

Ray came into the kitchen and started helping Vivian make the salad, perfectly cutting vegetables and chatting amiably.

The old Ray was back … at least temporarily.

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!”

500-750 Words

RAINBOW BRIDGE


Eric and Sue always knew they’d get a dog someday – not one from the pet shop but a rescue in desperate need of a loving home. When they saw Lily, all chocolatey-brown with big doe eyes, they knew she was the one. She was the sweetest, most gentle dog ever, despite having been abused and terribly frightened most of her life.

Animals know when someone is trying to help them. Lily knew she was safe, happy living in her home on Paradise Place with Eric and Sue. She loved them as much as they loved her.

After six years together Sue noticed that Lily had a little raspy cough and some trouble eating; this worried her. A trip to the vet confirmed her fears; Lily was diagnosed with a rare case of tongue cancer.

Malignant. Inoperable.

How much time?”

Within the year” was the grim answer.

Sue and Eric promised each other two things:
– They would spoil Lily rotten and smother her with love.
– They would never let her suffer or die alone.

The veterinarian decided the best treatment would be medication and radiation therapy. It wasn’t a cure but Lily responded well; she was a happy girl. She loved napping in the upstairs TV room. Upon waking she’d walk to the top of the stairs, stretch and shake her head, dog tags jangling noisily. When baby Julia came along, Lily was so good with her; Eric and Sue never worried when Lily was near the baby.

Eight months later Lily started getting worse. Within days she declined rapidly; she was listless and wouldn’t eat. Eric and Sue were blindsided one morning when Lily began vomiting blood; they knew the end was near for their beloved girl. It’s not like they weren’t expecting this; it just happened so fast and too soon.

At the animal hospital Eric and Sue comforted Lily as the vet gave her a sedative. They whispered loving words and kissed her head. Lily finally relaxed in their arms. Another injection was administered and Lily passed peacefully after just a few seconds.

Eric and Sue were heartbroken. They took the next day off from work to recoup, scrubbing the blood from the carpet and washing Lily’s bed. That night while folding laundry Sue heard a noise upstairs. She thought it was Julia but the baby was fast asleep. Then she recognized the sound: jangling dog tags! Exhausted, Sue knew it had to be her imagination … until she looked at Eric. He was white as a ghost, his gaze transfixed on the staircase. Sue whispered in questioning disbelief “You heard that?!” Eric nodded yes. “That was Lily!”

Logically they knew it couldn’t possibly be Lily but they looked anyway. Then they checked Lily’s leash and collar; of course they were right where they put them the night before. But in their hearts they knew – Lily had come back one last time to her home on Paradise Place to say goodbye and let them know she was ok on the other side of Rainbow Bridge.



Lily
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!

Longer Stories

SEPTEMBER SONG


September 20, 2020

When I was younger I remember my grandparents dancing in the living room to some of their favorite ballads: “I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time”, “As Time Goes By”, “I’ll Be Seeing You”, “You Belong To Me”. They would drink a glass or two of sherry and talk about “the good old days” and how quickly the years pass. There was one song in particular that always made them somewhat melancholy. They’d sit side by side near the fireplace just listening to the words and holding each other close:

When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game”

I was just a kid and I couldn’t understand why a song about weather and time made them sad. That’s the way it is with kids; time means nothing; if someone is 25-years-old, that’s practically ancient! We’d watch shows like “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show”; the actors were probably 40-years-old, if that, but they looked decrepit to us. The concept of aging was nonexistent.

You just blink your eyes once and you’re suddenly in high school. Then before you know it you’re married with kids of your own. Wait a gosh darn minute! When did that happen? Funny how time has a way of creeping up on you. One day you’re sledding down a giant snow-covered hill and the next you’re taking your own kids sledding down that same hill.

Your little Katie with a head-full of golden curls is now a teenager and you hear yourself saying the exact same things your parents said to you. And now your parents are the ones sitting by the fireplace listening to “September Song”.

Then one morning you wake up and it’s Katie’s wedding day. You catch a glimpse of your reflection in the mirror and your wife says how dashing you look, still so handsome in your tuxedo and you tell her she’s radiant in her gown, always the prettiest girl in the room. And in each other’s eyes it’s the truth; you haven’t changed a bit since your own wedding day.

You think about your grandparents, gone for a long time now, and you remember the call you got from your mother last week:

“Oh, dear, we’re just heartbroken over this
but your dad and I aren’t going to be able to make the trip
up to Vermont for Katie’s wedding.
Lord knows, we hate to miss it but we’ll be there in spirit.
Please give sweet Katie-Girl all our love.

You understand; they’re 80-something and need to take it easy. It’s a long trip from Florida to Vermont and they can’t handle the cold weather. Still you feel very sad knowing they’ll miss their granddaughter’s special day.

What a beautiful bride Katie was! Doesn’t her wedding photo look lovely on the mantle next to yours and your parents and your grandparents? Now it’s just the two of you in that old, empty house. Once upon a time, when you and your brothers and sisters were kids, the house was filled with your laughter. But wait – it’s suddenly not so empty and quiet anymore. Where’s all that noise coming from? And you take a peek around the corner; there are your grandkids in the living room near the Christmas tree. There’s some rock and roll song on the record player, the 12-year-old twins are playing “Yahtzee” and your 15-year-old granddaughter is furtively sharing a sweet kiss with her boyfriend under the mistletoe.

C’mon, kids!” Katie calls out from the front hallway. “Your dad’s got the car all packed up and it’s time to go. Say goodbye to Grams and Gramps.” And she gives you both a kiss on the cheek promising to call soon.

It seems like just yesterday but you realize eight years have gone by since you left Vermont and retired to Florida. You think about playing golf but your rotator cuff has been hurting a lot lately and your wife isn’t quite ready to hit the links so soon after her hip replacement. Well, let’s not think about that now. There will be plenty of days for golf. So your pour yourself another cup of coffee and work on a crossword puzzle while your wife knits a blanket for Katie’s grand-baby – your very first great-grandchild.

Now in the evenings you sip sherry in the living room. “There’s nothing good on tv these days. How about we listen to some music? Well, look what I found!” and you blow the dust off an old forgotten record laying on the shelf.

What memories that song brings back!” And you sit holding hands, gazing at faded family wedding photos on the mantle, listening to Sinatra sing:

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September”

And you give your wife a hug and a gentle kiss on the forehead.


Longer Stories

JUST DESSERTS


August 19, 2020

Death comes suddenly to some; for others it takes a lifetime.

It was Good Friday of 1946; Kathleen O’Brien walked through a narrow cobblestone passage way to St. Brigid’s Church. She hated walking by Sully’s Bar with its overpowering stench of booze and abundance of seedy characters hanging around but she was late for services (a terrible habit) and this was a convenient shortcut. She was twenty-two years old – no longer a kid – yet she’d rather die than admit to her mother that she missed the Veneration of the Cross. It was bad enough she was late for everything.

Seeing an unfamiliar man drinking a beer and leaning against the wall outside Sully’s, Kathleen quickened her pace. She heard him chuckle and say “What’s ya hurry, toots?” She walked even faster, opening the side door of the church; it creaked loudly. The elderly priest paused in mid-sentence and made a grand gesture of looking in Kathleen’s direction; he stared at her over his glasses, giving her a withering scowl. Embarrassed, she quickly found a seat at the end of a pew next to Mrs. Callahan who huffed at having to make room for this rude latecomer.

As is the tradition on Good Friday, everyone remained after services for a period of silent prayer. It was a time to reflect and meditate, one of Kathleen’s favorite parts of Holy Week. When the ushers opened the church doors the sense of peacefulness and solemnity was instantly shattered by the loud music and drunken laughter emanating from Sully’s Bar. “Some people have no respect” thought Kathleen angrily. “An Irish pub shouldn’t even be open on Good Friday!

As she began her walk home Kathleen noticed the same man from the bar standing at the corner. Had he been waiting for her or was this just a coincidence? Warily Kathleen took a step when suddenly the man started walking right toward her. She was taken aback as he stood in her path and extended his hand. “Name’s Harry Selkin and you’re one fine lookin’ dame. Ya need somebody like me to walk ya home. It can be dangerous for a good Catholic girl like yourself to be alone in this neck of the woods.”

Where do you get off saying something like that to me?” Kathleen snapped. “And how do you know I’m a good Catholic girl anyway?”

Well, I ain’t no Einstein but I seen ya practically runnin’ to St. Brigid’s like ya pants was on fire and I’m guessinya ain’t no altar boy – not with them gorgeous legs.” Harry replied in a very ‘Bogey’ sort of way. He smiled and his tough guy persona became surprisingly charming. Kathleen found it hard not to laugh just a little at this roguish stranger and she shocked herself by allowing him to walk her home.

Harry and Kathleen were as different as a gorilla and a swan but there was an undeniable chemistry between them and they started falling in love. No one was more surprised than Kathleen; Harry was like no man she had ever met. Sure, he was rough around the edges but she loved how his face lit up like a kid whenever he ate dessert, especially his favorite – homemade apple pie. Kathleen was known for her baking skills and would make a pie for Harry every couple of days.

They had a whirlwind courtship and Harry popped the question, much to Kathleen’s delight – and her parent’s chagrin. At first they tolerated the relationship thinking it would blow over, but the more serious it got the more concerned they became. There was a major obstacle her parents couldn’t overlook – the fact that Harry was Jewish. Kathleen’s father was dead set against Harry, calling him names like ‘Christ killer’ and ‘kike’. He was enraged when Kathleen announced that she and Harry were going to get married with or without his blessing. Her mother was crushed. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Can’t you see he’s no good for you? I don’t trust him at all, Katy girl, not at all!” she warned, crying into her apron. Kathleen hated defying her parents but would not be dissuaded; she was in love! Her father said she was a blind fool and if she married “that good-for-nothing bum” she was dead to him. With a heavy heart Kathleen closed the door of her childhood home behind her and never looked back.

Harry and Kathleen got married in city hall, the judge and his clerk their only guests and witnesses. After a weekend honeymoon in Niagara Falls the couple settled into Harry’s tiny apartment – a walk-up on the fifth floor and almost within arm’s reach of the elevated train. Kathleen was startled by the scream of the locomotive but Harry said she’d get used to it.

The dilapidated condition of the apartment shocked Kathleen but she was determined to turn it into a lovely home for them. She sewed curtains and towels for the kitchen and bought bed coverings from the thrift store. She also bought sacks of apples from the fruit stand to make Harry’s beloved apple pies. She read in her cookbook that it was alright to freeze apples until you were ready to use them – a handy tip Kathleen didn’t know.

Harry worked the graveyard shift as a printer at the local newspaper, seven days a week from midnight till 8:00 AM. His fingers were permanently stained with black ink. The first morning he came home from work and saw the newly decorated apartment, he got angry at Kathleen for spending his hard-earned money on unnecessary things. Uncaring, he left ink stains on the bedspread when he sat down to remove his shoes. However his mood lightened considerably when he eyed the sacks of apples and Kathleen forgave his angry outburst when she saw that boyish grin.

While Harry slept during the day Kathleen cleaned, shopped and cooked. She wanted a vacuum cleaner but Harry said it was too expensive and the noise would keep him awake so she settled for a carpet sweeper. Their only chance to be together was at breakfast and dinner time – and of course for coffee and dessert. Kathleen suggested a few times that it would be nice if Harry worked during the day so they could be like a normal couple and spend more time together but her words fell on deaf ears.

She also longed for a baby. Each time she thought she was pregnant it turned out to be a false alarm. She saw a doctor who wasn’t very encouraging; he shrugged his shoulders, gave her ambiguous explanations and performed a couple of routine tests. He told her it was just one of those things; not all couples could get pregnant. When Kathleen finally got up the nerve to mention to Harry what the doctor said, he laughed and said it wasn’t his fault she couldn’t get pregnant; “Just ask that sweet little Frenchie I knocked up during the war” was his mean-spirited reply. Kathleen felt like she’d been kicked in the gut. When she cried that she needed something else to fill her lonely days Harry yelled to “go get a job and start earnin’ ya keep around here! Who needs another mouth to feed anyways?” Kathleen was reeling; how could he say such hurtful things? Heartbroken, she eventually gave up on having a baby and found a job as a presser in a shirt factory. The work was exhausting and she still had to maintain the apartment and cook for Harry.

What happened to the guy she married? Harry was constantly annoyed about something or other and drank more now than usual. He got mean when he drank and and Kathleen bore the brunt of his anger. When he demanded sex every night before going to work, she kept her mouth shut but she was silently screaming. This was no way to exist, like a piece of property and not a person. She’d lie awake at night remembering her mother’s warning words. The only thing in her God-forsaken life that she truly enjoyed was baking and she did it all for Harry. She would fantasize about how lovely it would be to have her own little bake shop; she’d make lots of delicious cakes and pies for her large following of loyal customers – not just for her selfish husband. She knew she could do it if she only had the chance.

A few weeks after Kathleen began working she started complaining about backaches and being very tired – probably from constantly lifting the heavy pressing machines at work. Harry, as usual, was unsympathetic and said she better toughen up because no way was she giving up that job.

One morning Kathleen asked Harry if he could bring down the mixing bowl she kept on top of the fridge so she could make an apple pie. He was tired from working all night and wanted to get to sleep but he obliged her at the prospect of dessert. Harry put down his bottle of beer and got the step-stool out of the closet. As he started to climb, Kathleen hoisted a five pound sack of frozen apples, wincing at the pain in her back, and bashed Harry as hard as she could on the back of his head. He fell backwards onto the kitchen floor, his lifeless eyes staring up at the ceiling.

Kathleen hurriedly tore open the sack of apples and dumped them into a pot on the stove. She shoved the empty apple sack into the garbage bag, bunched it all up and threw it down the incinerator chute outside their apartment door. Placing a new bag in the garbage can, she looked at Harry’s body and felt sick to her stomach, vomiting in the sink. She washed her hands and face, then placed a call to the police.

HELP!” Kathleen screamed into the phone. “My husband fell! I think he’s dead!” Then she calmly sat at the kitchen table and waited, crying over misspent years. The police and ambulance arrived quickly; after examining Harry, he was officially declared dead. Blunt force trauma, they said, obviously from smashing his head on the kitchen floor. Everyone was very conciliatory and sympathetic and they respectfully removed Harry’s body. “If there’s anything we can do, Mrs. Selkin, please let us know” the officers said as they left Kathleen alone in the quiet apartment.

Kathleen cleaned up the kitchen and called her boss at the shirt factory to say she wouldn’t be able to work that day. Her boss barked that if she didn’t come in to work she shouldn’t bother coming back at all. Kathleen simply said “Goodbye”. She put the pot of apples in the fridge and after changing her clothes she went to the funeral parlor to make arrangements for Harry.

When she got home she received a phone call from her doctor. “Mrs. Selkin, I’m calling because your test results came back; you and Mr. Selkin will be thrilled to know you’re pregnant. Congratulations, Mrs. Selkin!” Kathleen swayed in stunned disbelief and grabbed onto the edge of the table. She managed a weak “Thank you” and hung up the phone. “Pregnant” she whispered in awe and her slight smile slowly grew into a broad grin. She gently touched her belly, truly happy for the first time in years.

The next morning Kathleen baked a large apple pie with the same apples she used to bash in Harry’s head. When the pie was done and still warm, she placed it in a box and delivered it to the nice policemen. On the way home she stopped in the little bakery near her apartment and inquired about a job. It was a start, a new beginning for her and her baby.

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NIP TUCK


July 19, 2020

Attribution, retribution, convolution, resolution! All I am saying is give Reese a chance!”

Sprawled out in the stern of our cabin cruiser, my wife Reese drunkenly belted out her version of John Lennon’s hit song. I was piloting the boat on our return trip from a weekend wedding celebration on Catalina Island; Reese’s sister Margaux had gotten married … again.

Like her sister, Reese had a terrible track record in the marriage department. She was on her third husband – recording industry mogul David Hamlin – when we began our affair. I was a confirmed bachelor living very comfortably in an exclusive penthouse in the city. After her divorce I moved into Reese’s mountain-top estate in Bel-Air, California. I had the dubious distinction of becoming husband number four.

I’m Dr. Jeremy Phillips, plastic surgeon to the rich and famous in Beverly Hills; Reese was one of my patients. As her doctor and lover, I learned her deep dark secrets: her expensive cocaine habit, compulsive shopping on Rodeo Drive, her penchant for Grey Goose and an addiction to plastic surgery. She was beautiful in everyone’s eyes except her own. She wanted me to turn her into a goddess, which I did.

When drunk Reese could be either a sexy vixen or a slutty bitch; tonight was definitely the latter. She struggled into an upright position, slowly got to her feet and staggered toward me, one hand grasping the boat railing and the other a bottle of vodka.

For fuck’s sake, Jeremy, why do you always have to wear that ridiculous outfit? You look like a stupid overgrown kid playing dress-up!” Reese slurred. She drained the bottle, dropping it on the deck.

This is proper nautical attire, darling, perfectly appropriate for every occasion” I replied. “But you don’t know the meaning of proper and appropriate. You’re all but falling out of your dress.”

Reese ran her hands up and down her tanned body, laughing as she hiked her dress up around her waist revealing her perfectly sculpted derriere. She wriggled herself between me and the steering wheel and lowered her top; her magnificent breasts shimmered in the moonlight.

What’s wrong, Captain? Don’t you like the way I look? All the other men do” Reese purred tauntingly. “Margaux’s new husband loves every inch of me. He can’t get enough! You know, Jeremy, you always were a lousy lay. Maybe that’s why you got this big bad boat – to compensate for your tiny dick!” and she laughed again.

Darling Reese, you’re nothing but a drunken whore. You disgust me!” I snarled and she reached up to slap my face. I grabbed her wrist and she looked up at my enraged face, her eyes wide with uncharacteristic fear. And in that moment she knew.

I shoved her out of the way and she fell, hitting her head with a sickening thud. Putting the boat in neutral I quickly checked on Reese; she was dead, a large jagged crack in her forehead oozing blood. Carefully I adjusted her dress and looked around the boat making sure nothing was out of place.

We were near Marabella Marina but just out of earshot. Heading for the dock I placed a frantic phone call. “Mayday! Mayday! Emergency on board the ‘Nip Tuck’! We need an ambulance at Marabella. My wife is badly injured. Hurry!”

The police asked me a few routine questions but it was obvious Reese’s death was a tragic accident. My wife clearly had too much to drink; she lost her balance and fell. It happened so fast I couldn’t prevent it … even if I wanted to.

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THE BATTLE OF THE SEXISTS


December 29, 2019

“Debonair, sophisticated and charming” sighed Alice Carter. “Cary Grant and David Niven are so good in that movie. I always loved ‘The Bishop’s Wife’. Such a wonderful Christmas tradition.” 

“And that Loretta Young is some eyeful, too” replied Alice’s husband Ralph. “Those high cheekbones, full lips, tiny waist and long legs – a real looker, that one.” 

“You alway could pick a beauty, Ralph. Well, I better start dinner. I’m making your favorite – sausage and potato casserole.” 

“I hope you made a lemon meringue pie for dessert.” 

“Of course! I know what you like, Ralph.” 

Returning to the den Alice found Ralph was watching the news. 

“Why aren’t there more delightful men on the news, men like Peter Jennings?” 

“Because he’s dead” replied Ralph.

“How about Mike Wallace?”

“Also dead” Ralph reminded Alice. 

“Look at this clown, Glenn Beck, wearing jeans and sneakers on a news program! Give him a beanie and he’d look just like one of those little rascal kids. What ever happened to that nice Matt Lauer?” 

“Fired for sexual misconduct” replied Ralph.

“Good Lord! I don’t believe it! Well, what about Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling and Charlie Rose?” 

“Fired, fired and, oh yeah … fired. Alice, can I please have a moment of peace and quiet to watch the news?” 

“Well, pardon me for living!” she sniffed. “I’m going to check on the sausage casserole.” 

When she returned Alice stopped dead in her tracks. “Oh my God, Ralph! What on earth are you watching now?” 

“It’s all day news, Alice. I didn’t change the channel.” 

“The ‘X Rated News’?? No wonder those poor men got fired. What red-blooded guy could resist floozies like that showing off their goods on national tv? They look like hookers! And look at you sitting there in your underwear, drooling and all bug-eyed. I’m sure as soon as my back is turned you’ll be jacking off to these little twats. Disgusting!” Alice harrumphed. 

“Talk about disgusting – watch your language, Alice! Just be quiet. You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about. I bet you didn’t even know Russia had topless newscasters? These women are professionals. They’re lawyers, professors and judges, not bimbos with sketchy unspecified qualifications who just walked in off the street.” 

“Yeah, they’re highly qualified alright … as cockteasers!” Alice snapped. “Take that one on the end with the dyed blond hair, fishnet stockings and spike heels. Look at how skimpy her dress is. Did they run out of fabric? Her boobs are straining to break loose from her top and the bottom is so short – if she uncrosses her legs we’ll all get to see America’s amber waves of grain! Her family must be so proud!” 

“Woah, woah, woah! That’s enough, Alice. Look, this here is Megyn Kelly. She has a law degree, is a journalist, an author and a world-famous political commentator as well as a news anchor. The dark-haired one on the end is Kimberly Guilfoyle. She’s a political analyst, an attorney and former First Lady of San Francisco. Now she’s dating President Trump’s son. And yes, I’m sure their families are very proud. Besides being absolutely stunning they’re brilliant. Why don’t you just run back into the kitchen like a good girl and let me enjoy my one indulgence.” 

“Indulgence??” Alice countered. “So you admit it’s all about cheap thrills and nothing to do with the news. You’re such a pig, Ralph!” 

“Whatever. How’s that sausage coming, anyway? I’m hungry.”

Alice saw red. “Here’s an idea for you, Ralph. Get Kinky Kimberly to heat up your sausage. I’m sure she’s highly qualified!”

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ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS


November 3, 2019

Papers and leaves were snatched by the gusty autumn wind and scattered about the street like so many pieces of flotsam and jetsam.  It was getting dark and Frederick knew he had to find his wife Helene before something bad happened, before she hurt herself – or worse. Helene had been terribly distraught this morning – more so than usual and judging by the quantity of bourbon missing from the bottle, she was also probably quite drunk. Another horrible fight with his mother, Frederick assumed. 

Shoving his hands into his coat pockets, Frederick hunched his shoulders against the cold harsh wind. As he searched the streets for Helene his mind began to wander back to a time years ago when things were better, back to when Helene was whole. How happy they had been, just the two of them so in love. They bought a cute brownstone soon after getting married, living there blissfully by themselves, making plans for the future. 

When Helene learned she was pregnant they were ecstatic; she even began knitting a baby blanket. Then the miscarriage happened, followed by three more. Four babies lost and a multitude of dreams crumbled and forgotten. Helene had to have a hysterectomy and fell into a depression. No babies ever for the young couple – only the two of them alone in a sad empty house. Frederick urged Helene to consider adoption, but she refused and her depression deepened. How could one woman bear a sorrow so heavy?  

A few months later Frederick’s father committed suicide, due in no small part to his mother’s constant badgering and belittling. Not wanting his mother to be alone and despite Helene’s protests, Frederick moved her in with them. He thought his mother and Helene might provide some companionship for each other but the two women soon began arguing bitterly. Helene could do nothing right in Frederick’s mother’s eyes. She even went so far as to flaunt Helene’s inability to have a baby, goading her on by calling her a disappointing failure. 

As Frederick walked rapidly through the the streets he thought about what had happened earlier. Arriving home from work he found the front door wide open and the house in disarray. Dishes were shattered on the kitchen floor. The phonograph had been knocked over, his mother’s favorite record in smithereens. Frederick called out but no one answered. He ran through the house, stopping at the entrance to his mother’s room; the television was on and she was asleep, curled up in her bed. Helene’s coat and purse were hanging in the front closet but she was nowhere in sight. 

Suddenly Frederick snapped back to reality as he spied Helene at the train station standing perilously close to the edge of the platform. Cautiously he walked toward her and whispered her name. Helene whirled around and Frederick was shocked to see the crazed look in her eyes and the marks on her face. Helene tried to run but Frederick caught her, cradling her in his arms as they walked home. 

When they reached the house Helene began giggling like a little girl and told Frederick she had something special to show him. Bewildered, he followed her to his mother’s room. Helene tip-toed to the bed and threw back the covers, revealing his mother’s bloody body, knitting needles jutting from her neck. Frederick recoiled in horror as Helene began stabbing him repeatedly while screaming maniacally “This is all your fault! You brought her here!! THIS! IS! ALL! YOUR!! FAULT!!!” 

Frederick collapsed to the floor. The last thing he saw was Helene plunging out the bedroom window.

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SYLVIA REPLIED


October 6, 2019

“Walnut, definitely walnut” declared Sylvia Klein. “Look what is says in the brochure”: 

• Honor your loved one by choosing an exquisite solid wood casket. The strong, stately Elite Walnut is a timeless casket that comes with beautiful platinum swing bars and a secure locking mechanism. Like most of our funeral caskets, the Elite Walnut features an Eternal Rest Adjustable Bed and matching pillow. The luxurious silk velvet lining makes this casket an excellent choice: $17,000 • 

“Doesn’t that sound ideal, Lenny?!” Sylvia exclaimed to her husband. 

“$17,000?! What else is in there – the Crown Jewels?! Who pays that kind of money for a casket?! Sylvia, for that amount we can give our grandsons a bar mitzvah feast fit for a king!” 

“Did you see the part where it says ‘adjustable bed and matching pillow’? Oh, Lenny, think how comfortable I’ll be.

Comfortable?? For crying out loud, Sylvia, you’re gonna be dead. D-E-A-D dead! This isn’t a week at the Ritz Carlton! Adjustable bed my ass!” 

“Lenny, why are you acting like an old tightwad? You always said money is just a number. This means a lot to me!” Sylvia exclaimed tearfully. 

“Sylvia, calm down. When have I ever been a tightwad? Our daughters had extravagant weddings. You wanted that chandelier for the dining room which, I’ll remind you, cost a pretty penny. Then there was the Steinway mahogany baby grand and you don’t even play the piano! Then the Jaguar with all the bells and whistles and so many cruises I’ve lost count. Everything you ever wanted I happily gave you but this – this is just a big waste of money!  

“Leonard Klein, how can you say that?! My final resting place and you’re calling it a waste of money! Sylvia wailed.

“Sylvie, I’m sorry. Calm down. Can we please discuss this later?” Leonard pleaded

“Wait, Lenny. You haven’t heard best part. This is a special for Rosh Hashanah – buy one, get one at half price. That’s only $25,500 for two – one for me and one for you!” 

Leonard sighed deeply. “Oy vey, Sylvia, I don’t need all this stuff! Put me in a plain pine box and toss me off the yacht. You can even write on it ‘Leonard Klein sleeps with the fishes’!” 

Sylvia started sobbing. “Oh, Leonard, how can you say such a horrible thing? The thought of you being nibbled on by fish and crabs and God knows what … I could die!” 

Sylvia, please stop crying. I was just making a little joke. If you want this Elite whatever we’ll get it. Ok? You feel better now?” 

Sylvia sniffled and nodded her head. “Oh yes, Lenny! You’ve made me very happy! Now one last thing: I can’t be buried. I’m terribly claustrophobic. The thought of being underground – I’d die! I want to be cremated.” 

Cremated?!” Leonard yelled, pulling his fingers through what little hair he had. “Now you want to be cremated? Are you meshugenah, Sylvia? $17,000 for a piece of firewood?!” 

“$25,500, Lenny” Sylvia replied

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THE BEACHCOMBER


August 25, 2019

I guessed that something was wrong as soon as I saw the look of shocked disbelief on my husband David’s face. 

Babe, what’s wrong?”

With tears in his eyes David whispered “I lost my wedding ring!”  

It was our last night in Cape Cod. After dinner we went for a walk on the beach. There was a lot of seaweed in the ocean from a storm a few days before. We walked along the shore, teasing each other with clumps of seaweed; that’s when the ring must have slipped off his finger. But exactly where we had no idea. We crawled around searching but it was dark and we couldn’t see anything. David was devastated. 

“Hon, I know your wedding ring means the world to you but we can always replace it.”   

“I know, Jess, but it just won’t be the same.” 

Dejected, we returned to our room and went to bed. After hours of trying to get to sleep, I grabbed my laptop and Googled “Will a ring wash ashore after falling in the ocean?” 

Almost immediately there was a *ding* on my laptop … a response from “TheRingFinders.com. It read: “We can help find any lost metallic object on the beach or in the water. Enter your zip code and we’ll get back to you ASAP .” 

I entered the zip code for Cape Cod and 10 minutes later I heard from Rick at “RingFinders”. After explaining our situation, Rick said he’d be at our B&B at 7:00 AM to start his search. Thank God for the Internet! 

True to his word, Rick was already on the beach at 7:00. We ate breakfast on the veranda, never taking our eyes off Rick as he searched everywhere with no luck. It was almost checkout time when he trudged up to the B&B.   

No luck, folks. You’re gonna get socked in traffic if you don’t leave now. I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’m not giving up. I’ll keep in touch with you either way.” 

Disheartened, we checked out and loaded up the car. Taking one last look at Rick, we waved goodbye when we realized he wasn’t waving goodbye … he was waving in excitement. He ran up the beach with his arm in the air, hand clenched in a fist.    

I found it, folks! I found your ring” he shouted. 

We ran to meet him and he grinned as he placed a wet, sandy ring in David’s hand.

The ring was under 11 inches of water and seaweed!

Overjoyed, David hugged Rick and we asked how much we owed him. 

“This is a free service we provide but we gladly accept donations” Rick explained. “Its very rewarding to see the joy on people’s faces when they’re reunited with their precious lost items.” 

I don’t remember how much we gave Rick … that’s not important. What I do remember is David glancing at his ring all the way home and smiling. 

What an experience and certainly an incredible act of kindness. Thanks, Rick!

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SELF-PRESERVATION


August 11, 2019

Settlers or Sellers”, that antiques show is coming on. Wanna watch, Doug?”

Just then the phone rang. It’s our daughter Chrissy talking about how tomorrow’s going to be a gorgeous day and our five grandkids really want us to go to the beach with them. 

“Ok, honey. Sounds wonderful. We’ll see you in the morning. Yes, we’re looking forward to it.” 

Doug, who had been happily watching “Seinfeld”, was now sitting imperially on the edge of the couch scowling at me. 

“What was that remark ‘’we’ll see you in the morning’’? I don’t know about you, Helen, but the only people I’ll be seeing in the morning are my golf buddies. We’re going to rent a couple of carts, play 18 holes, drink martinis with lunch, talk sports and smoke cigars. I’m begging you, Helen. Don’t take my day away!” 

Oh, don’t be so dramatic! You can play golf any day. When do we get to go to the beach with the kids.” 

“As infrequently as possible!” Doug groused. “And I’d like to keep it that way.” 

“Oh, come on! Summer’s almost over and the kids are so looking forward to a day with us.” 

“And I’m looking forward to seeing my buddies! We’ve had this outing planned for a week. Helen, must I remind you what hell it is going to the beach with the kids?” 

Doug, you’re making it sound horrible.” 

“Helen, my love, it is horrible! We’ve been to the beach with the kids exactly three times. Do you know why? Because it’s HELL!” 

“But Doug, I hate to disappoint them.” 

“And that, my dear, is your Achilles Heel. We start off excited for a great beach day and within an hour it turns into hell. Chrissy brings so much stuff we’re like the Israelites crossing the desert. Who complains the sand is too hot?  Who needs a diaper change? Who drops their lunch in the sand? Who fights over the sand toys? Before you know it, everyone’s crying, they want to go home and our wonderful day at the beach is kaput.” 

And you’re the one crying the loudest, Doug” I laughed

Damn right I am, woman.  It’s a nightmare and you know it! Listen, why don’t I call the guys and suggest our lovely wives join us tomorrow? You haven’t played in months. How about it?”  

The idea was very appealing. “Doug, do they still serve those delicious Celtic Guey Cocktails and Waldorf Salads?” 

“You bet they do! I know they’re you’re favorites. Are we on?” 

We most certainly are on! You call the guys and I’ll call Chrissy. I hope the kids aren’t too disappointed.” 

Doug kissed the top of my head. “Honey, it may not seem like it now but you’re doing us all a favor. The kids will be just fine – and so will we. Now call Chrissy.” 

Feeling just a wee bit guilty, I dialed Chrissy’s number. 

Chrissy, sweetheart. About tomorrow. So sorry to disappoint but your dad just reminded me ……”

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ON THE BRINK


July 14, 2019

“Where to, Mrs. Carmichael? Shall I call for your car?” asked our ever-attentive doorman, Harold. 

Not today, thank you. Just walking up to Brooks Brothers to buy an anniversary present for my husband. It’s our 15th.”[Note to self: stop at your psychologist’s office first]. 

“Congratulations! You have yourself a nice day.” 

I smiled at Harold and walked the short distance to my therapist’s office on Earl Street. Ringing Dr. Brink’s doorbell, I waited for his ubiquitous “Enter!” 

“Welcome, Claire. Last time you were here we discussed your suspicions that Jeremy was having an affair. Why don’t we pick up from there” he suggested. 

Clearing my throat and adjusting my skirt I began. “I’m no longer convinced Jeremy’s cheating on me. I’m not saying that he’s never had affairs but something is different. Things have changed between us. They’re better. Jeremy’s calmer, more attentive, grounded. He’s home every night by 6:00 and we enjoy our weekends together. No more overnight out-of-town business trips and I’m actually happy for the first time in years.” 

“Interesting” Dr. Brink acknowledged. “And to what do you attribute this change in Jeremy’s character?” 

“We had a heart-to-heart the other night and he confided in me that he’s been having panic attacks for quite some time. He finally started seeing a psychiatrist who’s helping him tremendously. He’s on medication and skips lunch twice a week to see his doctor.” 

“And you believe him?” 

I do” I replied, uncomfortable with his skepticism. 

Did Jeremy happen to mention his psychiatrist’s name?” 

Feeling rather nonplused I replied “No, he didn’t and I didn’t ask. Now I really need to go. It’s our wedding anniversary and I have plans to make.” 

“Good luck, Claire. Ever vigilant!” he called after me. 

When I stepped outside there was a chill in the air and leaves were swirling about. That session unnerved me and I lingered for a while smoking a cigarette wondering what Dr. Brink meant when he said “Ever vigilant.” Muttering “shrinks!”, I wrapped my coat around myself and quickly walked to Brooks Brothers. I chose a pair of monogrammed cuff links; they were elegant and ridiculously expensive but I wanted Jeremy to know how proud I was of him. 

Leaving the store I decided to go across the street to our favorite French restaurant and arrange for a special anniversary dinner to be delivered. Looking up my heart skipped a beat and I felt dizzy. 

Exiting the restaurant was Jeremy, his arm around a captivating young woman. They were laughing, embracing and kissing as they walked. 

Disheartened and incensed, I tossed the cuff links into a trash can and hailed a taxi. 

“Where to, your majesty?” The driver was uncouth with a big mouth, both physically and metaphorically. He chomped noisily on cigar and I was sure his breath smelled disgusting. But I bet he never cheated on his wife. 

Just drive” was all I said and he smiled greedily as he flipped the meter. 

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THE DOWER BOX


March 31, 2019

“Course of action for today – tackle the basement!” announced my husband Ned. “Care to join me, Jan?” 

“Why not? I’ve got writer’s block anyway” I replied glumly.

“After you, madame” said Ned, bowing extravagantly.

Seven months ago we moved into our little beach house. It’s in good condition and Ned’s handy so employing a repairman wasn’t necessary. The former owners left a few things behind; it would be nice to find a treasure or two.  After sifting through mostly junk, we decided on a floor lamp, a wine rack and a hammock. 

“Jan, look at this old dower box. Want to store your blankets in it? If not, I can use it for something.” 

“I don’t think so, hon. Looks kinda beat up to me. It’s all yours. What are your plans?” 

“Ah … you’ll see” Ned answered inscrutably.

“Ok, mystery man. I’m heading back up. Have fun!” 

Still putting off writing, I tossed the ingredients for beef stew into the slow cooker for dinner this chilly December night. Glancing out the kitchen window I caught a glimpse of Mr. Sandman, the stray cat who hangs out in the beachgrass surrounding our house. After making a pot of tea I set off to the sunroom, my blank iPad mocking me. 

By the sounds of sawing, drilling and hammering coming from the basement, Ned was having a grand time working on that beat up dower box. A couple of hours later he wandered up, his nose appreciatively sniffing the aroma enveloping the kitchen. 

“Mmm – beef stew! How’s the writing, hon.” 

“Don’t ask. Hey, guess who I saw today. Mr. Sandman.” 

“You don’t say” Ned replied. “I was thinking about him just the other day.” 

I ladled the stew into bowls while Ned sliced the freshly baked bread and poured glasses of pinot noir. “So, when can I see what you’ve been working on?” I inquired. 

Right after dinner” Ned replied. “I think it’s damn good!” 

We finished up and Ned anxiously led me downstairs. “Well, there it is. Mr. Sandman’s house!”  

I was speechless. The dower box now had a front door with a curtain of clear hefty plastic. A carpet remnant covered the floor. A hinged door with a plastic-covered peephole and latch was on the back. There was even a small safety heater attached to the ‘ceiling’. Tilting in the old hopper window at the top of the basement wall, Ned secured it to a beam with a carabiner, then carefully inserted the box into the window opening. It fit perfectly! He anchored the box with a few short bungee ties, opened the back door, slid in a saucer of cat food and latched the door shut. 

“My soulful sensitive man!” I exclaimed, hugging Ned tightly. 

It snowed lightly that night and there were paw prints leading to the dower box. Ned and I exchanged looks of surprised glee, raced downstairs as quietly as possible and peeked into the peephole. A sleepy Mr. Sandman had found his way home. 

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SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER


 November 25, 2018

As we drove down the gravel road to our summer house, I opened the car window and inhaled deeply. Mixed with the  fragrance of lilacs and honeysuckle was the delicious aroma I missed last year. I said to my husband Bill “The blue of pool water. I can almost smell the chlorine!” The pool was still beyond our sight but I saw it clearly in my mind … our private haven … the sensation of floating, feeling all stress evaporate, stillness interrupted only by an occasional breeze. 

Our house is large with floor-to-ceiling windows affording us spectacular views of the distant ocean. Located on a cul-de-sac, there is no traffic and we are invisible from the street.

Last year was the first time we didn’t make it to our sanctuary. 

It all started on June 3rd when Bill fell off a ladder. I was sitting in our den overlooking the backyard and saw him fall. In the seconds it took me to reach him, he was sprawled on the deck, barely conscious, a lump on his forehead the size of a peach. But it was the sickening angle of his leg that made me realize this was serious. 

I called 911, then our kids and we followed the ambulance to the hospital.  Bill had a badly broken femur. Surgery was done that night which would be followed by a lengthy hospital stay and rehabilitation. We all realized our long-anticipated vacation scheduled for June 30th would be cancelled. Priorities. 

Surgery went well and I visited Bill every day, staying all day. At night when I closed my eyes I saw him falling off the ladder. Stress took its toll on me, my arthritic knees screamed in agony and my back began to spasm.

Compounded with Bill’s physical pain was his guilt over “ruining our vacation”. He felt far worse for me, our kids and grandkids, convinced that we were too disappointed to forgive him. Again, priorities.

As Bill began to improve, I thought I would also but my pain became excruciating and I began a months-long regimen of spinal injections to relieve the torment in my legs and back. 

And the year from hell ravaged us, bringing with it more hardship and tragedy than we could imagine – all difficult, some almost unbearable. The most crushing of all was the overdose death of our dear nephew – ripped so cruelly from our lives. We cried in pain, sobbed in anguish. We woke every morning of that hellish year, putting one foot in front of the other, somehow managing to go on. A missed vacation paled in comparison.

Now rebirth … another summer. Driving down the gravel road to our vacation house all I can think about is floating in the pool with Bill, the sun shining down on our battered bodies. The unpacking and settling-in will get done soon enough but right now the warm blue water of the pool and the smell of chlorine is all we need.

300-500 Words

HORSE OF ANOTHER COLOR


September 30, 2018

“Eavesdropper, eh? Terrific odds. He’s a mudder and the track is muddy today. And look at his lineage! Yep, Millie, I predict that’s the winner of Race 9” said Harry Goldman to his wife. She brushed him off with a wave of her hand. “Whatever, Harry Houdini. Not one of your famous magical predictions has paid off yet.”

“All right, Millie. I admit you got lucky today. What’s your secret .. communicating with a horse whisperer?” 

“Oh, zip it, Harry! If it wasn’t for me, we’d be in the poor house. You haven’t won all day! Now be quiet and let me concentrate on my choice for this race.” 

Harry heaved his portly body out of his seat. “Pardon moi, madame. I’m gonna place my bet on Eavesdropper. Then we’ll see who’s got horse sense!”

“You mean horse’s ass, don’t ya?” Millie cackled. “Go on. I’ll be along in a minute .. I’m thinking here.” Snapping her chewing gum, Millie studied the racing form, then traipsed to the betting windows. 

Bets placed, Harry and Millie settled in for the race. “I got a good feeling about this one, Millie!” Harry said excitedly. 

The starting gun shot out and the announced shouted “And they’re off!” 

Eavesdropper took the lead immediately and held on. Anxious, Harry stood to watch. Suddenly the horse in fourth place started picking up steam. Faster and faster, he flew past the other horses and at the last second crossed the finish line just before Eavesdropper. 

The announcer’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker. “What a shocker! The winner by a nose .. Muddy Waters!”  

Harry slumped into his seat. “I don’t believe it! Eavesdropper was a shoe-in.”

Millie, however, was flying high.  “I won again! Good old Muddy Waters. I knew it!” 

Millie, I’m begging you!” “How’d you do it?” 

“Harry, remember how you said Eavesdropper was a mudder? When I saw the name ‘Muddy Waters’, I knew that was an omen.” 

But how did you pick ALL the other winners?”

“It’s the colors! If I like what the jockey’s wearing, I’ll pick that horse.” 

“That’s your strategy?!? COLORS?!? Ok .. who you picking for the last race?” 

Millie looked around surreptitiously and pointed to a name on the card. 

“HIM?? His color is ‘Eiffel Tower Brown’ .. like a turd!” 

“They’re from France, Harry. And you know how I love my Frenchies!” 

“I give up, Millie! Bet it all on ‘Rabelais’!” 

300-500 Words

BALLS TO THE WALL


September 2, 2018

While reading the real estate section, my wife Jen called out to me. “Hey, Eric, check this out. You know that community we love? One of the houses is available, has everything we want plus a big yard and a pool. And get this .. their asking only $275,000! That’s well within our budget!”  

“Seriously?  Those houses usually go for twice as much! Wonder why it’s so low.”  

“The agent’s number is right here” replied Jen. “Let’s call.”  

After talking to the agent, we agreed to meet at noon. When we arrived she explained that the owners had moved out of the country and were anxious for a quick sale. The community was lovely and families were outside enjoying the great weather. The house was even more beautiful than we imagined .. not a thing wrong. We asked the agent to make arrangements for an inspector to check everything out and a few days later he reported the house to be in excellent condition, removing all doubts. 

“Well, babe”, I said, giving  Jen a hug, “looks like we just found our dream house!”  

Two weeks later we moved in and everyone was very friendly. In fact, the guy next door came over and invited us to a community welcoming barbecue that weekend. We knew we were gonna love this place.

The barbecue was fun and later on at home we talked about how nice how neighbors were. In particular, Jen was  surprised by how helpful the men were, “except for that one incident when Barb got annoyed with Gil because his mashed potatoes were lumpy!” she laughed.

As time passed, we couldn’t help noticing that the men were house-husbands while the women went to work. How odd! One night Gil called to invite me to the Friday night poker game at his house and Jen to a ladies night at Susan’s. 

The game was going well when Gil suddenly asked “So, Eric, when are you gonna get your balls snipped? ” Nearly choking, I sputtered WHAT??”  

“Sure! We’re all snipped. Dr. Susan does it .. smooth and rapid. Our wives convinced us life would be much calmer that way .. and it is. Here’s her number.”  

Mumbling excuses, I ran home .. colliding into  Jen running from the other direction. 

“Do you know what they do here?!?”  she asked, horrified. 

I nodded frantically. “And the only things getting cut are our losses! We’re outta here!” 

300-500 Words

DOG DAY AFTERNOON


August 5,  2018

“Windsor, you son on a bitch, get your ass off my lawn! Go on .. get the hell outta here!” 

That was Old Man Jenkins. He and his wife Margaret live next door to us and the source of his rage was none other than our pet bulldog, Windsor. My husband Tom would run out of the house, apologizing profusely. 

“Sorry, Mr. Jenkins! Windsor’s a handful but he’s just playing. He’s really lovable once you get to know him.” 

“Get to know him!? Are you freaking nuts, Peterson? That bastard just crapped on my fruit trees!” 

“Fertilizer, Mr. Jenkins?” Tom suggested sheepishly and dragged Windsor away. 

“FERTILIZER!?! I think you mean shit! 

Hush now, Aaron!” chastised  Margaret. “Using such vulgarism .. why, there’s children next door!” 

“Don’t hush me, Margaret! That damn dog’s a menace! If you can’t control your frigging mutt, Peterson, I’m gonna call the cops. Or maybe I’ll just put a bullet between his beady little eyes.” 

And the kids started crying. 

“Now, Mr. Jenkins, please don’t say that. You’re scaring my kids.” 

“Well, that’s just too damn bad! You solve this problem or I will .. permanently.” 

Tom brought Windsor back inside, promising the kids everything was going to be ok, that Old Man Jenkins was just sputtering angry syllables that he didn’t really mean. 

The next few days we kept Windsor on a short leash. Old Man Jenkins seemed to calm down and busied himself with his fruit trees. 

On Saturday morning Margaret Jenkins approached me in the grocery store. “Thank you, Alice, for keeping Windsor out of our yard. Now Aaron can care for his beloved fruit trees in peace. In fact, he’s been so preoccupied he hasn’t noticed the family of critters living in our wood pile. They’re just so darling, I even named them – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar!” 

And off she went, chuckling surreptitiously. 

Sitting down to dinner later that day, we suddenly heard Old Man Jenkins yelling at the top of his lungs. We never heard him scream like that before so we knew it had to be something awful. Please .. not Windsor! We raced outside, stopping dead in our tracks: there stood Old Man Jenkins, pricked by at least 100 porcupine quills.

“Excellent aim, Balthazar!” exclaimed Margaret. “Guess he knows you’re just a mean old ‘prick’, Aaron!”

Old Man Jenkins learned a lesson that day: don’t mess with Margaret; she’s one smart cookie!

300-500 Words

FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!


April 15, 2018

It is raining again’ Rachel thought woefully as she looked out the window of the Manhattan apartment she shared with her boyfriend Jeff. ‘And the weather forecast is for rain all week  and into the holiday weekend!’ She and Jeff talked about getting away for a few days, maybe to Washington DC or to Boston but the weather all along the east coast looked bad. Labor Day weekend was just a few days away and it would be great to escape this incessant rain. 

It is raining like crazy!” exclaimed Jeff as he entered the apartment. “I’m soaked, hon. Toss me a towel, would ya? We’ve been talking about getting away for Labor Day. Why don’t you  check the computer for vacation spots while I get changed? I’ll be back in a sec.” 

“It is raining everywhere” whined Rachel as Jeff returned to the living room. “I thought about going to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or Disney World  but they’re having rain, too.” All evening they checked out various places, with no luck. They were about to give up when Jeff shouted “Whoa, babe! Look what I found on Expedia .. two round trip tickets to Cabo San Lucas for $296 per person and only $200 for the hotel! AND NO RAIN IN SIGHT!! Let’s go for it!”  Rachel threw her arms around Jeff’s neck shrieking “Cabo! Swimming! Mojitos! SUNSHINE! HELL YEAH!!”

“It is raining, babe. Can you hear it? For the first time in ten days I don’t give a damn because tomorrow we’ll be in sunny Méjico! I’m so stoked we made those reservations the other night.” Jeff yawned while Rachel snuggled up against him. “I thought I was  dreaming”, she replied sleepily. “Cabo, here we come!” and they drifted off to sleep. When they woke the next morning, the rain had stopped but it was cloudy and the sky was gray. The Uber picked them up at 8:00 for their 10:00 flight. The closer they got to the airport, the lighter the skies became and by the time they were seated in the plane, the sun was trying to break through the clouds. They arrived in Cabo just in time for cocktails and dinner, watching the glorious sunset from the hotel’s veranda. Very early the next morning Jeff was awakened by Rachel’s crying. “Honey, what’s the matter?” he asked.    

“IT IS RAINING!!” she sobbed. 

300-500 Words

ONE + ONE + ONE


March 4, 2018

Out of the blue the call arrived. It was late and I was beyond tired. We were tempted to let it go straight to voice mail, but Gary thought it might be important. 

“Gary? It’s Alice from the adoption agency. Fabulous news! We have a baby for you and Carol. Can you come by in the morning?”. 

Gary jumped up. “My God! Are you sure?”  Completely convinced that something terrible had happened, I grabbed the phone. “This is Carol Wheeler. Who’s this, please?”  

Not bad news. Just the opposite … elating, top of the world, Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds news! 

ALICE FOUND US A BABY!!! 

“Yes!! We’ll be there! Thank you so much”  I sputtered. 

Dumbstruck, we stood there … then pandemonium erupted. Laughing, crying, hugging, kissing, dancing like lunatics. We didn’t think … or even care … to ask “boy, girl, age”? After eight years of trying to get pregnant and failing miserably, some loving stranger was presenting us with the most precious gift imaginable. 

Collapsing onto the couch, we talked about the past eight years … the failed attempts …  heartbreaking losses … the baby things we collected over the years, now hiding in the attic. 

“Gary, do you realize tomorrow we will be a family of three?”  

TOMORROW!!  

All tiredness forgotten, we raced to the attic for the plastic bins of assorted baby items. There in the corner sat the bassinet, glowing in the darkness – a mystical aura the likes of which I’d never seen before. I believe at that moment I heard angels singing. We reverently carried it down to our room. I leaned into Gary, overcome with elated exhaustion. 

And then the phone rang … again. We stared at it, afraid to answer, convinced it was Alice calling to say the baby’s mom had changed her mind, there would be no happy family for us. 

I reached for the phone and wearily, warily said “Yes?”.  

Carol? It’s  Dr. Shaw. Sorry to call so late but your tests results are back. The reason you’ve been so exhausted lately? You’re three months pregnant … with twins … and everything looks great!”  

Stunned, crying, all I could manage was a hushed “My God. Are you sure?”  

“Absolutely. Congratulations!” 

Gary held me closely and whispered “Shh. Another baby will come along.”  

I giggled. “You’re so right. That was Dr. Shaw. I’M PREGNANT … WITH TWINS!! We’re gonna be a family of FIVE!”

We had won the Triple Crown.

300-500 Words

CHUNK ‘O BURNING LOVE


March 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

300-500 Words

SUPPER’S READY


September 14, 2017

Hard boiled egg whites, cottage cheese, skim milk. Day 1. Brian sighed.

Boiled rice, a mozzarella slice, lactose-free milk. Day 2. Brian cried.

Yogurt, tofu, almond milk. Day 3. Brian died … just a little. 

After receiving the diagnosis “ULCER”, Brian’s wife Ali had been lovingly, carefully packing his lunch. “This must be her White Period”, he thought, wistfully. 

Coworkers averted their eyes as they passed Brian’s cubicle on their way to lunch. Gone were the cheerful calls “C’mon, Brian! We’re going to Smokin’ Joe’s Hot Wings for lunch!” or “Salsa and nachos in the break room, guys!” Oh, the humanity! 

Brian’s computer *pinged*. An email from Ali: “Hi, hon. Hope you’re having a great day. Did you find the Maalox I put in your backpack? We’re having something special for dinner tonight … poached chicken, brown rice and garbanzo beans … hope you’re hungry! Love ya, babe! xo”  

“Ah, Ali’s Beige Period.” Brian stared blankly at the computer screen. “I wonder how many beige foods there are … oatmeal, boiled potatoes, matzoh.” 

Brian put his head in his hands, a solitary tear falling through his fingers onto his khakis. Slowly the wet spot morphed into the shape of a slice of pizza. “What the … ?!” Incredulous, Brian blinked and wiped his eyes. “What’s happening to me?!” Images of devilish cramp-inducing, bowel-seizing delicacies danced ‘round his head … jalapeño poppers, tacos, barbecued ribs.

“The dreaded hunger hallucinations!” Sweating, Brian texted Ali. “Babe. Last minute meeting. Sorry, I’m gonna miss dinner. Love ya!”  

Brian lied. 

Grabbing the bottle of Maalox and a Little Caesars menu from his desk drawer, Brian bolted from his cubicle, giddy as a new dad at the birth of his son. 

“Outta my way, boys, outta my way!!”

And out he ran, laughing and joyfully shouting, “Jalapeño-effing-poppers, baby!!” 

300-500 Words

BLINDSIDED


September 10, 2017

Hard to imagine life without her. When the hell did everything start to unravel?

Now he sat alone in the shell of their apartment, baseball game on the tv playing for no one, nursing his second Dewars. Once upon a time this place was alive with people enjoying one of their famous dinner parties. When he closed his eyes he could hear their friends discussing politics, movies, the crazy tenants on the 2nd  floor … and the sound of her spirited laugh when someone told a dirty joke. 

They were the perfect couple, the envy of all their friends. Theirs was an easy, comfortable marriage – viewing a gallery in SoHo, cycling through Central Park, steamy showers after Saturday morning love-making. They were in sync in their choices of restaurants, paint colors and the biggest decision of all … neither one wanted kids. 

He sat there, head in hands while a thousand thoughts went through his mind. When did he begin having second thoughts? Was it the weekend in Maine spent visiting his sister after the birth of her first baby? Was it watching the kids in the playground across the street? All he could remember was the night he whispered in her ear that he wanted to have a baby. 

She was blindsided. What? No! He was just named partner at Goldman Sachs. She was food editor for Connoisseur magazine. Life was perfect. They had an agreement, dammit! Would she just consider thinking about it? No! How could he spring this on her now? 

Weeks, months went by. She remained adamant, distant. Then one day he came home after work and she was gone. 

Here he sat, alone with his Dewars, ballgame long over, fingering his wedding band, staring at divorce papers. 

It couldnt have happened to a more perfect couple.